A Brief Rumination on Paley’s Watchmaker Analogy

The problem with Paley’s teleological argument making an analogy between a watch and nature rests in assuming that the universe is clearly designed with purpose. Paley claims the intricacy of nature, (i.e. adaptation to environment through macro-evolution) in the development of life implies the involvement of an intelligent creator who designed life to have an effect, and that “the effect results from the arrangement”. That would mean that because there is life that is so complex in construction, then that in itself essentially proves the existence of a creator.

 

The gap between observing that there is intended design in the world around us and knowing that there is a creator still involves a leap of faith in assuming that just because there is some order in nature then that means it had to be designed by an intelligent creator. Quantum mechanics, and other advanced areas in science seem to reveal that there is more chaos than order in the universe in the first place. Yet Paley takes this thought into consideration, he claims that if there is imperfection or superfluous oddities in the design then that does not necessarily mean there is no creator. Paley goes on to defend against any similar objections to his watch analogy, and goes in depth in doing so, making his teleological argument more tangible and believable than ontological arguments.

 

Paley also makes the watch analogy less exclusive than previous ontological arguments because he does not argue for the existence of a being in which nothing greater can be conceived, but he simply argues that creation was designed with purpose, requiring that there must be an intelligent creator.

 

Zenith_pocket_watch_inside

 

Paley insists that because a creator designed the universe, then there must not be an independent natural law that works without the existence of a creator. Paley states, “that the maker of the watch before him, was, in truth and reality, the maker of every watch produced from it; there being no difference (except that the latter manifests a more exquisite skill) between the making of another watch with his own hands…” Paley is only able to deny the idea of natural order without a creator because he rejects mathematical infinity. Paley’s argument would be less tantalizing if mathematical infinity was put into play, as this would negate creation to ever have happened.

 

The Black Seeps Through

And that is why

I am here

Forks in veins

And Everything else

Gliding through

Dirty rain

All the same

Sanity unwillingly

Penetrates the brain

This circle ends

Like everything else

Infinity: a concept understood

Yet never taken seriously

Even these words

Will remain cloned

In some backwater hole

I own nothing

The blackness grasps

 

 

Understanding Disbelief

It is impossible for humans to prove the existence of God if they believe in an objective external reality because mathematical infinity is extant in this reality. God’s definition is that of a supreme being, and as Saint Anselm, describes it, “a being than which nothing greater can be conceived” (Proslogium, Anselm).  If human beings cannot comprehend mathematical infinity, then in turn, they cannot comprehend an infinite being.  If one cannot comprehend something, how could it be proven by them?  The logical argument for the existence of God is irrelevant in the case for morality, and instead people should focus on trying to do the right thing in relation to objective truth.  Why should mankind then, impossibly aim at attempting to prove the intangible, when we have control over ourselves and the tangible world around us?
The teleological and ontological arguments rest in the finite structure of the human mind.  Pascal is right when disregarding Paley’s watchmaker analogy for relying upon logic that does not take into account the existence of mathematical infinity; if God is infinite, and humans cannot comprehend mathematical infinity, how can humans comprehend the existence of God?  Pascal summarizes this point by plainly stating, “If there is a God, He is infinitely incomprehensible, since, having neither parts nor limits, He has no affinity to us.  We are then incapable of knowing either what He is or if He is” (Pensees 233, Blaise Pascal).  Thus, Pascal demonstrates that one cannot prove God’s existence, but why then, does he still argue for the claim that it is indeed rational to believe in God?  This is because Pascal compares the ultimate question on God’s existence to wagering a bet.  He claims that it is not worth hedging your bets against the existence of God, because if He does exist, then you will lose the bet, and you will not have anything to gain anyway if He does not exist.
The problem with Pascal’s gambling comparison is that it invokes an insincerity in belief.  W. K. Clifford recognizes this insincerity, and argues “…it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence” (The Ethics of Belief, W.K. Clifford) through the story of a neglectful shipowner who is responsible for the deaths of all his passengers through flawed logic.  Clifford concludes that the shipowner is liable because he only inferred the ship’s safety through logical and rational argument, instead of confirming his belief through truthful inquiry; or as Clifford states, “He (the shipowner) had acquired his belief not by honestly earning it in patient investigation, but by stifling his doubts” (The Ethics of Belief, W.K. Clifford). The question is, how does this story relate to the existence of God, for surely there is no negative, outward consequences to believing in God. The truth of the matter is that every person who as convinced themselves of only one belief may tend to disregard every other system of thought, or as W. K. Clifford wryly put:
“If a man, holding a belief which he was taught in childhood or persuaded of afterwards, keeps down and pushes away any doubts which arise about it in his mind, purposely avoids the reading of books and the company of men that call into question or discuss it, and regards as impious those questions which cannot easily be asked without disturbing it–the life of that man is one long sin against mankind” (The Ethics of Belief, W.K. Clifford).
Thus, believing in God through Pascal’s rationale is wrong according to Clifford because it forces the person to lie to oneself about reality.
It can be said then that the ontological proof for the existence of God is flawed because it depends on the restricted imagination of the human mind. The logical argument that a supreme being must exist because the idea of Him exists is the ontological argument, and this argument is disregarded by Pascal and others that claim you cannot prove the existence of something through mere logic. The teleological argument too, relies on logic assuming that if something is created then it must need a creator.  Yet none of this is proven in our objective reality because we have no idea what context we are living in on planet Earth.  We know so very little about the tangible universe, that we can only make assumptions about things we do not know, some would say that it is in our nature.  Belief in God is not justified if it relies on rational truth because there is no rational truth, and thus the individual must commit to irrational faith based upon no tangible proof.  If there is not a rational truth, we can take comfort in the fact that there is an objective external reality, and we humans can determine what is right and wrong because of that objectivity.  Religion and God, among many other things, enable a sort of psychosis that blinds people from external reality, whether the beliefs be good or bad, they do not reflect a tangible reality that exists around us.  Belief in God is irrelevant because it does not reflect reality that can be observed by us, but this belief can have an effect our actions.  W. K. Clifford concurred that a belief determines a persons’ actions, whether it is consciously or subconsciously.  Hence, in Clifford’s view it is irresponsible for people to believe in something that cannot be proven, because such a belief hampers our freedom to understand objective reality.