For centuries, philosophers and thinkers have made many arguments for and against the existence of God. One of the simplest and most powerful arguments made by the proponents of the existence of God is the design argument. The basic premise of the design argument is that the complex and functional quality of everything that exists in nature points to the existence of an intelligent designer. One of the most famous design arguments is the “Watch and the Watchmaker” argument made by William Paley.
In Paley’s Watch Argument, the watch is used as an analogy of the universe while the watchmaker is used as an analogy of God. Paley attempts to show that just as a watch, which is a complex device that fulfills a certain function, requires a maker, the universe, which is equally sophisticated and has complex life forms must have a designer.
Paley begins his argument by stating that if someone was to come across a simple object such as a rock on the ground, he could assume that the rock had always existed there. However, if the person came across a watch on the ground, he could not make the same assumptions as with the rock.
The complex nature of the watch, with its gears and wheels combined with the fact that it has a function would cause us to think there was a watchmaker somewhere. The watch is made in a precise manner and without this precision, it would not function. The intricacy of the watch would lead us to believe that someone somewhere made the watch for a given purpose.
Paley argues that without knowing how to make a watch or knowing any watchmakers, we would still get to believe in the existence of a watchmaker by observing the watch on the ground. We would know that it was impossible for the ground to have produced the watch or for it to have evolved from previous lesser forms of a watch.
This argument is used to prove the existence of a universe creator. The universe shows the same kind of functional complexities demonstrated by the watch and fulfills certain purposes. Just like the watch, organisms in the universe contain different parts that are organized in such a way that the organism functions well.
Paley elaborates that organisms such as insects contain specialized features such as antennas and wings that work together to ensure the survival of the organism. This intelligent design is proof of an intelligent designer who might be referred to as God. In Paley’s argument, the intelligent designer is the provider of prescriptive laws. These laws govern how the created object should function. If followed, the created object will function perfectly. However, the laws can be broken leading to imperfect functioning.
Objections are raised against Paley’s argument since it does not explain laws of nature. These laws, such as gravity and time, are necessary for the correct functioning of the universe. As such, they affect how the watch would work. However, these laws appear to have existed forever and there is no evidence of a natural laws creator. Another objection is presented by the evolution theory as presented by Charles Darwin. In his theory, Darwin explains how complex artifacts can be created though mutation and natural selection.
In spite of the objections, Paley’s “Watch and the Watchmaker” argument is a simple yet strong argument in support of an intelligent designer of the universe. Many theists make use of this argument to support their claims that there is a God.