Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Intelligent design or "Argument from Design"

Did you ever wonder about the history of intelligent design? I was very interested to discover in Richard Dawkins book "The Blind Watchmaker" that the idea of intelligent design was perhaps most famously articulated in 1802 by a certain 18th century theologian William Paley writing about fifty years before Darwin;

"In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there; I might possibly answer, that, for anything I knew to the contrary, it had lain there for ever; nor would it perhaps be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place; I should hardly think of the answer which I had before given, that for anything I knew, the watch might have always been there."

A quick look at wikipedia suggests this teleological line of reasoning went back much further in a Western tradition to Greek philosophers
and was reiterated in the 13th century by Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologiae.

The Paley quote is carefully selected by Dawkins who goes on to say in the introduction of his book "The Blind Watchmaker", "Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind's eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all. If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker."

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