Evidence for God's Existence from Design

l Divine Watchmaker (William Paley)
l Refuted by:
l David Hume
l Charles Darwin
l Recently by:
l Stephen Jay Gould
l Richard Dawkins  

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Slide 18 of 22

William Paley argued that God's existence could be inferred from the designs seen in biology. He said that if one were walking and came upon a watch, one would not assume that it was the product of nature. It must have been designed by an intelligent being. Likewise, Paley said that the designs seen in biology must be the result of an intelligent Designer.1 At the time, Paley's arguments were refuted by David Hume and Charles Darwin. The degree of knowledge in biology at the time made arguments on each side difficult to asses. Paley's argument is one of analogy. Critics have stated that it is questionable whether the complex designs of nature are a good analogy with a watchmaker. A watch is made from parts that are specifically designed and put together. The process by which animals are made seemed to be somewhat different. Little was known about embryology and nothing was known about genetic code and algorithms. Obviously, in the case of organisms, the design is passed on from parent to child. The question then becomes, "Was the mechanism designed or did it happen by accumulation of natural processes?"

Recently, biologists Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins (The Blind Watchmaker) have attempted to refute Paley's argument on the basis of "bad" design. Several of these arguments have been refuted on this site.

References Top of page

  1. Paley, W. 1831. Natural Theology: or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, Collected from the Appearances of Nature.

Last Modified October 4, 2004


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