Paley’s argument for God’s existence is a substantial work. The argument is based on multiple points because the philosopher tried to answer to all possible criticisms to his ideas. Paley’s work contains multiple objections and counter-arguments defending the philosopher’s way of thinking.
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In his work, Paley uses a teleological argument based on the watchmaker analogy. The philosopher compares the creator to a watchmaker and states that the presence of design proves the existence of a designer, although some of his ideas and statements fail to pass a logical approach.
The teleological argument stands for the statement that is based on the observations of the outer world and nature. In the very beginning of his, work, Paley compares two situations. In the first case, a person in the forest finds a stone, and in the second one, a person finds a watch on the ground. In both cases, the finder wonders where the object came from.
In the case with a stone, the man believes that it could have been lying there forever, whereas in the case with a watch Paley notes that a person would never assume that the watch came from nowhere or was a part of the surroundings.
The philosopher describes the mechanism and constituents of a watch in detail to prove that witnessing such complexity and balanced work of many pieces of various shapes and materials would make the finder think that the watch was created by intelligent thought.
Paley states that the finder does not need to know how to make a watch, or how it works, he does not need to know the watchmaker to believe that the complex design of the watch has a purpose and was built by someone. This belief would not change even if the watch did not work properly, or if the finder detected a detail that was unnecessary, or if the finder did not know the purpose of the mechanism.
Paley emphasizes that the complexity is what makes the watch different from a stone, it makes the person who found it wonder where it came from and assume that the mechanism has a purpose and was made by an intelligent force.
The philosopher also notes that there is no power that could have made such mechanism apart from an intelligent creator and that the finder holding a watch in their hand would never assume that this complicated object could have been assembled by itself or by some intrinsic principle of order. Paley states that one cannot say that laws of nature are causes of anything, because laws assume power and power assumes an agent that uses it.
In the next part of his argument, Paley asks the readers to imagine that the watch found in the forest has a miraculous ability to reproduce itself. The philosopher assumes that if the watch was impressive for the finder before this new quality was discovered, it means that its discovery would add another reason for the finder to believe that the watch was made by an intelligent creator.
Paley believes that a random combination of physical forms could not be considered a cause of a purposeful watch. The philosopher bases this statement on the fact that no one ever witnessed anything like that assembling by itself under the influence of the principle of order.
Paley adds that even if the principle of order was the cause of the existence of a mechanism that can reproduce itself, this would not make his argument weaker, on the contrary, this would mean that the intelligent creator standing behind it all is incredibly skilled. The fact that the watch can reproduce itself adds complexity to this object and strengthens the finder’s expectation that the watch has a maker.
Besides, the fact that the watch can re-create itself does not change the belief that the design implies a designer. Even if there is a chain of self-reproducing watches, this chain cannot be infinite. This leaves the finder with the initial question about the maker of the very first watch. Paley concludes that the design comes from some intelligent source, the creator.
To my mind, the strength of Paley’s argument is the fact that it appeals to the typical for humans way of thinking that is based on the unstoppable search for laws and connections between the things around us. People’s attempt to systematize and organize the world around according to certain rules, laws, and similarities is our way of cognition.
Paley’s argument is an attempt to rationalize an unexplainable idea of the initial creation using analogy with something more familiar to a human mind. This argument seems quite logical until the reader starts wondering if the author’s assumptions are correct. For example, on what basis does Paley suppose that a person that found a complex device such as a watch in the forest would assume that this object had a creator?
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To know that for sure the scientists have to conduct and experiment by taking a person and presenting them to an unexpected finding. After that, they will see what kind of assumptions this person would make about the object. Besides, I think that these assumptions would also differ depending on the kind of finder that is selected.
For example, a modern person familiar with high technologies is most likely to assume that a complex mechanism was made by an intelligent creator, given that the mechanism looks like a mechanism, but not like a stone.
At the same time, if the finder is, for example, a tribal dweller of a hill somewhere in Africa or Asia that has never seen a watch or any other mechanism before it will be very hard to predict what kind of assumptions this person would make.
One of the most popular objections to Paley’s work could be the imperfection of the creation as proof of the absence of excellent design and a designer. Paley thought this through and noticed that the presence of unnecessary detail in a watch does not deny the presence of the watchmaker. To my mind, the observation of nature is useful for the cognition of the outer world only when a person can experiment with the object of the study and examine it.
The theoretical guesses based on observation of nature can be considered the truth only when there are scientific proofs of these theories and assumptions. Paley’s argument is built on a chain of groundless assumptions and general statements and any facts do not support it. The philosopher describes only one of the possible scenarios, which could happen if a man found a watch on the ground, and assumes that this is the only possible scenario.
I think that observation without a scientific experiment is ineffective and confusing; to state something, we need more information than just our observations. Information is gained empirically. Observations alone can give us hypotheses, but not facts. To my mind, one cannot tell if God exists through observations of nature only.