Dohiyi Mir
    In Which NTodd Says His Peace

Wednesday, March 10, 2004
Go to the new DM blog.

Great Paley's Ghost!

In his 1802 book Natural Theology, William Paley wrote:

[S]uppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place...when we come to inspect the watch, we perceive...that its several parts are framed and put together for a purpose, e.g. that they are so formed and adjusted as to produce motion, and that motion so regulated as to point out the hour of the day; that if the different parts had been differently shaped from what they are, or placed after any other manner or in any other order than that in which they are placed, either no motion at all would have been carried on in the machine, or none which would have answered the use that is now served by it...the inference we think is inevitable, that the watch must have had a maker -- that there must have existed, at some time and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers who formed it for the purpose which we find it actually to answer, who comprehended its construction and designed its use.

Paley's watch is the quintessential example of the teleological argument for the existence of god. This is sometimes called the "argument from design", and today's so-called "intelligent design" (ID) is essentially the same argument with a veneer of science. I see today in the good old Toledo Blade1 that Ohio is preparing its kids to live in a world as enlightened as Paley's:

The State Board of Education gave final approval yesterday to a model lesson plan for the study of science in Ohio's 613 public school districts...provisions of the lesson plan entitled "Critical Analysis of Evolution - Grade 10" [include] requiring students to critically analyze evolution, Charles Darwin's widely accepted theory that life on Earth evolved over time from a single-cell organism.

Critics, many of them university science professors, allege that the language of the lesson plan closely corresponds with writings about intelligent design, the concept that some intelligence had to play a hand in guiding the myriad of conditions that came together at the right time to create life.

Once again, I direct my readers to Jay Bullock's excellent piece on ID over at Open Source Politics:

The arguments for ID boil down to a handful of pseudo-scientific games with wordplay and ill-informed inference...We cannot allow pseudo-scientists and their right-wing allies to jeopardize the education of our children. They want "Intelligent Design" included in school curricula to undermine evolution, yet they claim only to want debate. Let the children decide, they say, after the "evidence" is presented for ID and the facts for evolution. In fact, when school districts decide against including ID, it is called censorship, and a violation of academic freedom. They want schools to say, in essence, that we don't know what, in fact, we do know. The time spent "debating" ID and evolution would be better spent teaching the kids science.

You'd think after 200 years we'd have exorcised Paley's ghost...


1 - I used to deliver the rag, billed as "One of America's Great Newspapers", when I was a kid. 

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