However, before I could finish what would have been a masterpiece of flawless logic and argumentation, The Edge posted excepts from Rebecca Newberger Goldstein's forthcoming book, 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction.
One of these excerpts treats the Watchmaker Analogy very well, so I will present it here instead of my own piece. However, in case you are a creationist (and therefore lazy and challenged), I will bracket out the specific part that shows the Watchmaker Analogy fails. Here it is, slightly edited to fit context:
The process of replication can give rise to the illusion of design - that is, design without the foresight of an actual designer. Replicators make copies of themselves, which make copies of themselves, and so on, giving rise to an exponential number of descendants. In any finite environment the replicators must compete for the energy and materials necessary for replication. Since no copying process is perfect, errors will eventually crop up, and any error that causes a replicator to reproduce more efficiently than its competitors will result in that line of replicators predominating in the population. After many generations, the dominant replicators will appear to have been designed for effective replication, whereas all they have done is accumulate the copying errors which in the past did lead to effective replication.This means that we have an alternative to watchmaker-makes-the-parts-of-a-watch. We know that complicated things with a coherent purpose can in fact - in fact - arise without a designer. But I'm summarizing. For the full story, keep reading.
3. The Argument from DesignBelieve me, this is just what I was going to say.
A. The Classical Teleological Argument
1. Whenever there are things that cohere only because of a purpose or function (for example, all the complicated parts of a watch that allow it to keep time), we know that they had a designer who designed them with the function in mind; they are too improbable to have arisen by random physical processes. (A hurricane blowing through a hardware store could not assemble a watch.)
2. Organs of living things, such as the eye and the heart, cohere only because they have a function (for example, the eye has a cornea, lens, retina, iris, eyelids, and so on, which are found in the same organ only because together they make it possible for the animal to see.)
3. These organs must have a designer who designed them with their function in mind: just as a watch implies a watchmaker, an eye implies an eyemaker (from 1 & 2).
4. These things have not had a human designer.
5. Therefore, these things must have had a non-human designer (from 3 & 4).
6. God is the non-human designer (from 5).
7. God exists.
FLAW: Darwin showed how the process of replication could give rise to the illusion of design without the foresight of an actual designer. Replicators make copies of themselves, which make copies of themselves, and so on, giving rise to an exponential number of descendants. In any finite environment the replicators must compete for the energy and materials necessary for replication. Since no copying process is perfect, errors will eventually crop up, and any error that causes a replicator to reproduce more efficiently than its competitors will result in that line of replicators predominating in the population. After many generations, the dominant replicators will appear to have been designed for effective replication, whereas all they have done is accumulate the copying errors which in the past did lead to effective replication. The fallacy in the argument, then is Premise 1 (and as a consequence, Premise 3, which depends on it): parts of a complex object serving a complex function do not, in fact, require a designer.
In the twenty-first century, creationists have tried to revive the Teleological Argument in three forms:
B. The Argument from Irreducible Complexity
1. Evolution has no foresight, and every incremental step must be an improvement over the preceding one, allowing the organism to survive and reproduce better than its competitors.
2. In many complex organs, the removal or modification of any part would destroy the functional whole. Examples are, the lens and retina of the eye, the molecular components of blood clotting, and the molecular motor powering the cell's flagellum. Call these organs "irreducibly complex."
3. These organs could not have been useful to the organisms that possessed them in any simpler forms (from 2).
4. The Theory of Natural Selection cannot explain these irreducibly complex systems (from 1 & 3).
5. Natural selection is the only way out of the conclusions of the Classical Teleological Argument.
6. God exists (from 4 & 5 and the Classical Teleological Argument).
This argument has been around since the time of Charles Darwin, and his replies to it still hold.
FLAW 1: For many organs, Premise 2 is false. An eye without a lens can still see, just not as well as an eye with a lens.
FLAW 2: For many other organs, removal of a part, or other alterations, may render it useless for its current function, but the organ could have been useful to the organism for some other function. Insect wings, before they were large enough to be effective for flight, were used as heat-exchange panels. This is also true for most of the molecular mechanisms, such as the flagellum motor, invoked in the modern version of the Argument from Irreducible Complexity.
FLAW 3: (The Fallacy of Arguing from Ignorance): There may be biological systems for which we don't yet know how they may have been useful in simpler versions. But there are obviously many things we don't yet understand in molecular biology, and given the huge success that biologists have achieved in explaining so many examples of incremental evolution in other biological systems, it is more reasonable to infer that these gaps will eventually be filled by the day-to-day progress of biology than to invoke a supernatural designer just to explain these temporary puzzles.
COMMENT: This last flaw can be seen as one particular instance of the more general and fallacious Argument from Ignorance:
1.There are things that we cannot explain yet.
2. Those things must be caused by God.
FLAW: Premise 1 is obviously true. If there weren't things that we could not explain yet, then science would be complete, laboratories and observatories would unplug their computers and convert to condominiums, and all departments of science would be converted to departments in the History of Science. Science is only in business because there are things we have not explained yet. So we cannot infer from the existence of genuine, ongoing science that there must be a God.
C. The Argument from the Paucity of Benign Mutations
1. Evolution is powered by random mutations and natural selection.
2. Organisms are complex, improbable systems, and by the laws of probability any change is astronomically more likely to be for the worse than for the better.
3. The majority of mutations would be deadly for the organism (from 2).
4. The amount of time it would take for all the benign mutations needed for the assembly of an organ to appear by chance is preposterously long (from 3).
5. In order for evolution to work, something outside of evolution had to bias the process of mutation, increasing the number of benign ones (from 4).
6. Something outside of the mechanism of biological change — the Prime Mutator — must bias the process of mutations for evolution to work (from 5).
7. The only entity that is both powerful enough and purposeful enough to be the Prime Mutator is God.
8. God exists.
FLAW: Evolution does not require infinitesimally improbable mutations, such as a fully formed eye appearing out of the blue in a single generation, because (a) mutations can have small effects (tissue that is slightly more transparent, or cells that are slightly more sensitive to light), and mutations contributing to these effects can accumulate over time; (b) for any sexually reproducing organism, the necessary mutations do not have to have occurred one after the other in a single line of descendants, but could have appeared independently in thousands of separate organisms, each mutating at random, and the necessary combinations could come together as the organisms mate and exchange genes; (c) life on earth has had a vast amount of time to accumulate the necessary mutations (almost four billion years).
D. The New Argument from The Original Replicator
1. Evolution is the process by which an organism evolves from simpler ancestors.
2. Evolution by itself cannot explain how the original ancestor — the first living thing — came into existence (from 1).
3. The theory of natural selection can deal with this problem only by saying the first living thing evolved out of non-living matter (from 2).
4. That non-living matter (call it the Original Replicator) must be capable of (i) self-replication (ii) generating a functioning mechanism out of surrounding matter to protect itself against falling apart, and (iii) surviving slight mutations to itself that will then result in slightly different replicators.
5. The Original Replicator is complex (from 4).
6. The Original Replicator is too complex to have arisen from purely physical processes (from 5 & the Classical Teleological Argument). For example, DNA, which currently carries the replicated design of organisms, cannot be the Original Replicator, because DNA molecules requires a complex system of proteins to remain stable and to replicate, and could not have arisen from natural processes before complex life existed.
7. Natural selection cannot explain the complexity of the Original Replicator (from 3 & 6).
8. The Original Replicator must have been created rather than have evolved (from 7 and the Classical Teleological Argument).
9. Anything that was created requires a Creator.
10. God exists.
FLAW 1: Premise 6 states that a replicator, because of its complexity, cannot have arisen from natural processes, i.e. by way of natural selection. But the mathematician John von Neumann showed in the 1950s that it is theoretically possible for a simple physical system to make exact copies of itself from surrounding materials. Since then, biologists and chemists have identified a number of naturally occurring molecules and crystals that can replicate in ways that could lead to natural selection (in particular, that allow random variations to be preserved in the copies). Once a molecule replicates, the process of natural selection can kick in, and the replicator can accumulate matter and become more complex, eventually leading to precursors of the replication system used by living organisms today.
FLAW 2: Even without von Neumann's work (which not everyone accepts as conclusive), to conclude the existence of God from our not yet knowing how to explain the Original Replicator is to rely on The Argument from Ignorance.
Oh, and I've noticed that over at Uncommon Descent, they're already going ape-shit over Goldstein's book and arguments. For example, they insist that Goldstein's Teleological Argument is not the one they make.
Yes, they are actually trying to argue "That's not MY teleological argument you're talking about," kind of like the old chestnut, "That's not MY religion you are talking about."
One commentator cries:
This analysis doesn’t work because the argument is mis-stated. The first premise is not “anything which exists must have a cause”, but “anything which begins to exist must have a cause”, which makes a huge difference in the analysis. Well known theistic philosopher William Lane Craig states the Kalaam Cosmological Argument this way:Another commenter posts this:
Premise 1 – Anything that begins to exist must have a cause
Premise 2 – The universe began to exist
Conclusion: Therefore, the universe must have a cause.
This is not the classical teleological argument, I’m not even sure that it’s Paley’s argument (which likewise is not to be confused with the classical teleological argument).The Kalam Cosmological Argument is a joke, a sad attempt to delay the inevitable.
The notion of "begins to exist" is about as fuzzy an idea as we can get. When did I begin to exist? At precisely what moment? It's like Zeno's paradox of Achilles and the tortoise, where one can proceed infinitely to smaller and smaller levels. Think long and hard, but in the end it's people who decide and define when something "begins to exist." The notion is a man-made construct, a logical convention that nature has no obligation to honor.
Then of course there's the problem of God. When did God begin to exist? How do we know whether he did or didn't begin to exist? If the universe had a cause, did that cause have to be supernatural? Could it have been caused by, say, another universe? Could the laws of physics have allowed it to be caused, such as we were told by physicist Lawrence Krauss?
I've mentioned it before. Logic is great stuff except when it doesn't work or when messy reality gets in the way.
Goldstein has solid philosophical credentials (much better than those who criticize her) and is under no obligation to respond every time a creationist wants to try moving argumentative goalposts. In the end, the Kalam Cosmological Argument falls in just the same way as the other variations of the Teleological Argument.
Good night, watch. Good night, watchmaker.