Home » Intelligent Design » Did Paley discuss a self-replicating, time-keeping watch? What is the significance of that?

Did Paley discuss a self-replicating, time-keeping watch? What is the significance of that?

If we believe the folks over at Anti-Evo, no:

Quote
[KF} And it is telling that somehow Paley’s time-keeping, self replicating watch seldom if ever gets seriously discussed by those who object to his key point.

[OBJECTOR} No [mocking, "outing" dimunitive], that’s the point. Watches don’t replicate…

Evidently, the objector did not pause to do his homework first or think about why I stated that there has been a strawman argument, one willfully ignoring Ch II of Paley’s 1806 work. Let me clip IOSE as just linked:

____________

>> William Paley famously contrasted stumbling across a stone in a field with finding a watch in the same field; inferring design from the characteristics of a watch that are distinct from those of a stone. Especially, that “. . . its several parts are framed and put together for a [[functionally specific] 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.”

This watch example is often derided in current discussions about origins (especially on the grounds that naturally occurring life forms are self-replicating and arguably can therefore modify themselves over time; i.e. evolve). However, this rebuttal rests on a simple strawman fallacy, as in Ch 2 of his Natural Theology, Paley actually further developed his example:
Suppose, in the next place, that the person who found the watch should after some time discover that, in addition to all the properties which he had hitherto observed in it, it possessed the unexpected property of producing in the course of its movement another watch like itself – the thing is conceivable; that it contained within it a mechanism, a system of parts — a mold, for instance, or a complex adjustment of lathes, baffles, and other tools — evidently and separately calculated for this purpose . . . .
The first effect would be to increase his admiration of the contrivance, and his conviction of the consummate skill of the contriver. Whether he regarded the object of the contrivance, the distinct apparatus, the intricate, yet in many parts intelligible mechanism by which it was carried on, he would perceive in this new observation nothing but an additional reason for doing what he had already done — for referring the construction of the watch to design and to supreme art . . . . He would reflect, that though the watch before him were, in some sense, the maker of the watch, which, was fabricated in the course of its movements, yet it was in a very different sense from that in which a carpenter, for instance, is the maker of a chair — the author of its contrivance, the cause of the relation of its parts to their use.
[[Emphases added. (Note: It is easy to rhetorically dismiss this argument because of the context: a work of natural theology. But, since (i) valid science can be -- and has been -- done by theologians; since (ii) the greatest of all modern scientific books (Newton's Principia) contains the General Scholium which is an essay in just such natural theology; and since (iii) an argument 's weight depends on its merits, we should not yield to such “label and dismiss” tactics. It is also worth noting Newton's remarks that thus much concerning God; to discourse of whom from the appearances of things, does certainly belong to Natural Philosophy [[i.e. what we now call “science”].” )]
Observed cell-based life precisely fits the pattern Paley highlighted.Also, going beyond what Paley could have known, it uses coded symbolic information, has digital storage of this information, and also reading and guiding mechanisms that direct the replicating machinery and process. So, it is reasonable to consider whether “. . . its several parts are framed and put together for a [[functionally specific] purpose.” 

In fact, the observed cell — which is what we need to explain the origin of — joins together (i) a metabolising entity that draws in energy and materials from its surroundings and processes them, ejecting wastes, to (ii) a symbol-based coded system that allows it to replicate itself.

That is, we are looking at a molecular scale von Neumann self-replicating, metabolising automaton . . . >>

____________

In short, Paley prefigured the issues raised by our discussion of the von Neumann self replicator that has been found in the heart of cell based life. And in discussing the issue of additionality, he has put his finger on yet another point that shows the significance of the inference to design based on FSCO/I.

Sorry, I cannot say more, just now.

I have a crisis pivoting on a vote of no confidence on the legal force of UN Charter article 73 to attend to.

I only observed the above on seeing traffic patterns at my personal blog, per a brief check-up visit. (I don’t even have time to post there on important capacity-building issues for the moment, I only paused to speak here in urgently needed correction.)

G’day. END

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15 Responses to Did Paley discuss a self-replicating, time-keeping watch? What is the significance of that?

  1. LoL! Unfortunately for those evos they cannot explain replication because they have to start with what needs explaining in the first place (replication) and they are obvioulsy too messed up to even realize that.

  2. Ah, Joe:

    While I await the outcome of the no-confidence debate. I think that, at least, the people can hear for themselves what is going on, and begin to realise what changes we will need to take the country and region forward.

    You are right to highlight that the ability to carry out self-replication is indeed an instance of what has to be explained, FSCO/I.

    Which is what Paley pointed out 206 years ago, long before the debates that strawmannised and lampooned him.

    And, the truth is, the only empirically and analytically justified causal factor known to be adequate to cause FSCO/I, is intelligence.

    One would have thought that at least the Anti-Evo habituees would have learned to do their homework before trotting out talking points.

    But, yet again, they did not.

    And, we need not further underscore the basic lack of broughtupcy that seems to be so characteristic in places like Anti Evo. One hopes, they will wake up and clean up their act.

    KF

  3. PS: The point here is that OOL cannot be separated from OO body plans or basic morphologies of life forms across the world of life. If the key cell-level mechanisms of life are based on FSCO/I and that is best explained per observation on design — it is a reliable sign of it — then it is part of the shift in balance on how we view FSCO/I across the world of life. Life is full of signs of design, signs that point in the same way that ““. . . its several parts are framed and put together for a [[functionally specific] purpose . . . ” does with a common watch, or with Paley’s thought exercise self-replicating watch.

  4. PPS: Do I need to translate that into German, gedankenexperiment, to get the point through to the dismissive objectors at Anti-Evo?

  5. kairosfocus — Darwin himself granted that the original self-replicating cell required an intelligent designer.

    I do not understand why evolutionists’ failure to explain the origin of life is seen as a point against Darwin’s theory. We do not criticise chemists for failing to explain the origin of matter.

    To be sure, dogmatic assertions about the origin of life deserve criticism.

    However, arguments in favour of intelligent design of the first organism do not, as far as I can see, invalidate Darwin’s theory of variation, selection and common descent.

    Cheers

  6. C:

    The origin of matter is not directly relevant to how atoms and molecules interact chemically.

    That living cells, from origin and from their self- replication capacity are replete with signs that point to OOL being rooted in design, that is DIRECTLY relevant to the best explanation of the further FSCO/I in novel body plans across the dozens of major forms of life, from fungi and sponges to trees, turtles and us.

    It is the case that the only empirically warranted cause of FSCO/I is design. In particular, there is no empirical warrant that chance variation and differential reproductive success can transform microbes into novel multicellular body plans at Phylum or sub phylum level — i.e. we here allude to the Cambrian fossil revolution and the pattern of appearance, stasis and disappearance — and there is similarly little or no empirical warrant for such a mechanism being responsible for elaboration into the various main adaptations of main body plans.

    Instead, as can be shown, there has been gross extrapolation of minor variations (much of that associated with loss of information), and imposition of a priori criteria that force a conclusion tantamount to Darwinism.

    Johnson’s remark in reply to Lewontin’s a priori materialism is apt:

    For scientific materialists the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter. [[Emphasis original] We might more accurately term them “materialists employing science.” And if materialism is true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence. That theory will necessarily be at least roughly like neo-Darwinism, in that it will have to involve some combination of random changes and law-like processes capable of producing complicated organisms that (in Dawkins’ words) “give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”

    . . . . The debate about creation and evolution is not deadlocked . . . Biblical literalism is not the issue. The issue is whether materialism and rationality are the same thing. Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence. Separate the philosophy from the science, and the proud tower collapses. [[Emphasis added.] [[The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism, First Things, 77 (Nov. 1997), pp. 22 – 25.]

    And on the subject of the OP, it is quite clear that the derisive dismissal of Paley is on a strawman caricature of his actual argument.

    The self replication of life forms often used to dismiss the significance of FSCO/I in watches and life forms is ALSO present in the self replication mechanism required for a self-replicating cell. Thus, it has to be accounted for in nature antecedent to the self-replicating cell.

    Its best explanation, on evidence is design. That shifts the reasonable man’s balance in evaluating further FSCO/I in life forms.

    Okay, back to the parliamentary debate and its playout, the vote — expected to be a loss on the vote but a watershed in our political culture — is now about to happen.

    Kairos.

    KF

  7. F/N: Partyline vote, as expected. By roll-call, vote is as expected. We are in a different world.

  8. F/N: C, please note the letter on the still warm pond, at a time CRD would have expected this to come up based on Victorian biographical praxis: “Life and letters . . . “

  9. CLAVDIVS-

    It is simple, actually. If living organisms were designed then the inference is they were designed to evolve/ evolved by design. That means Darwinism is a non-starter.

  10. Joe @ 9

    It is simple, actually. If living organisms were designed then the inference is they were designed to evolve/ evolved by design.

    Yes, I’ve granted that for the sake of discussion — the first organism was designed to evolve via imperfect replication.

    That means Darwinism is a non-starter.

    Only if by ‘Darwinism’ you mean dogmatic metaphysical materialism/physicalism, in which case, why not say so?

    Or do you mean organisms were designed to evolve, but not by means of variation and selection?

    Cheers

  11. kairosfocus @ 6

    The origin of matter is not directly relevant to how atoms and molecules interact chemically.

    That living cells, from origin and from their self- replication capacity are replete with signs that point to OOL being rooted in design, that is DIRECTLY relevant to the best explanation of the further FSCO/I in novel body plans across the dozens of major forms of life, from fungi and sponges to trees, turtles and us.

    It is the case that the only empirically warranted cause of FSCO/I is design. In particular, there is no empirical warrant that chance variation and differential reproductive success can transform microbes into novel multicellular body plans at Phylum or sub phylum level — i.e. we here allude to the Cambrian fossil revolution and the pattern of appearance, stasis and disappearance — and there is similarly little or no empirical warrant for such a mechanism being responsible for elaboration into the various main adaptations of main body plans.

    Let’s grant, for the sake of discussion, that variation is not by chance, but guided e.g. by front-loaded genetic programming.

    Let’s also grant that variation and differential reproductive success cannot explain the origin of major body plans (say, phyla) nor the main adaptations of those (say, classes).

    Nevertheless, it still remains that Darwin’s theory of inherited variation, selective reproduction and common descent is applicable within very large domains e.g. it explains the origin of species within the vertebrate class.

    And I don’t understand why knowing the origin of life is relevant to whether the darwinian mechanism can generate new body plans. That must be established on the basis of how the mechanism works, which we can determine without knowing how it originated (just as a chemist can determine how molecules form without knowing the origin of atoms).

    And yes, you’re right that the critics’ arguments are based on ignorance of those of Paley.

    Cheers

  12. C:

    I got distracted and dumped a reply accidentally.

    My quick note is that the issue is the origin of complex, functionally specific organisation and related info, related to the point that on reasonable testing, FSCO/I is a sign pointing to intelligence as cause.

    It obtains for both cases. On OOL, it speaks to something before self-replication was a factor. That makes the question starkly clear.

    Thereafter, when we move from accounting for about 100 k bits to accounting for 10 – 100+ Mbits, dozens of times over, for body plans, the challenge of search exponentiates. Just 500 – 1,000 bits is enough that the atomic resources of the observed solar system or cosmos are hopelessly inadequate for blind search to have a reasonable prospect.

    I suggest you may want to work through here on, taking note of the OOL and OO Body Plan units.

    KF

  13. CLAVDIVS:

    Yes, I’ve granted that for the sake of discussion — the first organism was designed to evolve via imperfect replication.

    No, via “built-in responses to environmental cues” and/ or genetic programming, including targeted searches.

    Only if by ‘Darwinism’ you mean dogmatic metaphysical materialism/physicalism, in which case, why not say so?

    Well Darwinism cannot allow teleology…

    Or do you mean organisms were designed to evolve, but not by means of variation and selection?

    The variation would be directed just as the 1s and 0s on a computer bus are directed. Also “natural selection” is just a result of three processes, with random variation being one of them.

    Nevertheless, it still remains that Darwin’s theory of inherited variation, selective reproduction and common descent is applicable within very large domains e.g. it explains the origin of species within the vertebrate class.

    Darwin propsed a designer mimic. No one has ever observed his proposed mechanism designing anything.

  14. kairosfocus @ 12

    Sorry to hear about the lost reply; I now always hit Ctrl-A, Ctrl-C to grab a copy on the Windows clipboard before hitting Post.

    Your abbreviated response and linked resource don’t appear to address my point, which was: Even if we grant that first life and the major body plans were intelligently designed, and that variation is parameterised, Darwin’s basic theory nevertheless explains the patterns of species within huge domains, such as amongst all vertebrates (over 50,000 described species) or all arthropods (over 1 million species), over some hundreds of millions of years.

    This is a pretty significant insight, and is not really affected by whether first life was designed or not.

    Cheers

  15. C:

    You asked a question that reveals a need to do a fairly extensive review of the design theory view.

    This is because you seem (like most of us) to have been immersed in a view that there is an empirically well-warranted theory and mechanism sufficient to account for moving from an original life form to the diversity of forms we see in the world of life, by small genetic errors that happen to be incrementally successful, through chance variation and differential reproductive success in populations.

    This central claim is — to moral certainty — false, and (despite the screaming headlines over the years) in particular consistently lacks adequate observational evidence. You are dealing with a speculative hypothesis imposed as a censoring constraint on a science that tries to reconstruct the remote, unobserved past on traces and dynamics we can see in the present, per inference to best explanation. But the best explanation is not to be equated to the best MATERIALIST explanation. That is why Philip Johnson warned, in reply to Lewontin et al:

    For scientific materialists the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter. [[Emphasis original] We might more accurately term them “materialists employing science.” And if materialism is [--> presumed] true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence. That theory will necessarily be at least roughly like neo-Darwinism, in that it will have to involve some combination of random changes and law-like processes capable of producing complicated organisms that (in Dawkins’ words) “give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” [Emphasis added]

    . . . . The debate about creation and evolution is not deadlocked . . . Biblical literalism is not the issue [ --> it is the red-herring led away to strawman soaked in ad hominem and ignited to cloud, confuse and polarise the atmosphere side-track] . The issue is whether materialism and rationality are the same thing. Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence. Separate the philosophy from the science, and the proud tower collapses. [[Emphasis added.] [[The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism, First Things, 77 (Nov. 1997), pp. 22 – 25.]

    However, given the dominance of the view — and its underlying a priori materialist philosophy — in institutions, in education, in the media, in museums, etc etc, the impression is given that the framework is scientifically well grounded. It is not.

    As case after case will show (e.g. cf the vids embedded in what follows on links, esp under body plan origins), the actual empirical cases — when they themselves stand scrutiny [there is a long history of icons of evo that lack warrant on further, closer scrutiny] — Darwinian mechanisms are only empirically warranted as causing minor variations.

    As to what taxonomic level these mechanisms can achieve changes to, that is a rather fuzzy question. For, it turns out that “species” plainly has no one meaning, and in many cases animals beyond species level are freely interfertile, e.g. red deer and the north american elk; as has happened in New Zealand. Similarly, with the famous Galapagos finches, it turned out that the species grouping is not appropriate; for, birds were observed to breed quite successfully across species barriers. Behe and others have suggested that a better level to focus on is the family, e.g. the cichlids, or the cats or dogs etc.

    Going back, the key point is that at OOL, we do not have self-replication on the table, so this key red herring talking point is off the table.

    With that off the table, we see that there is a major search space challenge to get to metabolising, self-replicating cell based life, linked to the point that FSCO/I naturally comes in isolated islands in the space of all possible configs of the relevant components of a system.

    In short, as vast experience will confirm, parts have to be present, well-matched and properly arranged and connected, for a complex system to work.

    That is, it is reasonable and abundantly confirmed by experience, that functionality comes in islands in a much wider space of possible but non functional arrangements of parts. Think about even just letters in the glyph strings in his post, to be a relevant communication in English. Think about the range of possibilities, at 128 possibilities per location per the ASCII code. Then transfer to DNA codons at 64 possibilities per three letter codon.

    In the case of the cell, this is further complicated by the need to have mechanisms for self-assembly and self replication. The smallest genomes tell us the requisite plausible level of coded, stored info to do such an entity with the embedded von Neumann self-replication facility is 100,000 – 1 mn bits. But it can easily be shown that to search the space of possibilities of 500 – 1,000 bits blindly hoping to arrive at special and un-representative zones per chance and mechanical necessity, is hopeless. You can only sample so small a fraction of the possibilities (on the gamut of the solar system or observed cosmos), that the only reasonable expectation is exactly that highlighted by the common metaphor of searching for a needle in a haystack: you will reliably get only hay not needle.

    (The search on the scope of our solar system’s 10^57 atoms and 10^17 years at a rate driven by the fastest chemical reactions amidst the set of configs for just 500 bits is comparable to having a cubical haystack as thick as our galaxy — 1,000 light years — and then blindly picking a one straw sized sample. Even if that were superposed on the sector of the galaxy surrounding our planet, we would with near certainty only get straw, not anything else. Too little atomic level resources to search in 4 or so bn years, too much straw, too little of anything else.)

    Now, you have accepted the force of Paley’s point that the origin of self-reproducing life is sufficiently comparable to a thought exercise on a self-replicating watch, that it is reasonable to infer that design is best explanation. Paley could not have known that the cell contained digital, symbolic code, which expresses algorithms, and which has associated molecular nanomachines properly organised and co-ordinated to say take a slice of DNA, make a ribosome working copy, transfer it to the ribosome protein factory, then produce proteins step by step using ATP and the taxi cab tRNA’s etc. Then the kinesin molecules truck these to their right destinations along a cellular highway system.

    Such a system screams: design.

    You are willing to accept this.

    Now, let us take it to the next step, the production of body plans, say at the time of the Cambrian revolution. Remember, such body plans must be embryologically feasible, unfolding from a zygote (or the plant etc equivalent), and implementing a viable and reproducing organism, first time up. As the linked below shows, we are now looking at increments of similarly coded and algorithmic info of order of 10 – 100 mn bits per shot, dozens of times over. And, in a situation where just the proteins are deeply isolated in amino acid string space, estimates are of order 1 in 10^70 or so, just to get to sequences that will fold to proper functional shapes. Those have to be matched to correct regulatory info, and triggered at the right time, then sent to the right place, and cells specialising to organs have to have switches to say, our group does X, now. Etc etc.

    All of that — and much more — has to happen right the first time, or you do not have a viable multicellular organism. Nor is it reasonable that a simple cell is incrementally connected step by step, with time to fix populations and take over, then go to the next step, on the gamut of available time and atomic (much less, population) resources.

    One of the vids in the linked, speaks of Berlinsky’s estimate that it would take say 50,000 incremental steps to transform a cow-like animal into a whale. There just cannot have been enough population resources and time to do that. The same is so to explain the origin of a bat, or a bird, or the human vocal tract and associated controls, etc etc etc.

    Then, the actual fossil record simply does not support the claim of such incrementalism. 150 years ago, confronted with the Cambrian fossils, Darwin hoped for further study to vindicate his incrementalism. That has not happened. Gould admits as much in his 2002 final technical work, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory:

    . . . long term stasis following geologically abrupt origin of most fossil morphospecies, has always been recognized by professional paleontologists. [[p. 752.]

    . . . . The great majority of species do not show any appreciable evolutionary change at all. These species appear in the section [[first occurrence] without obvious ancestors in the underlying beds, are stable once established and disappear higher up without leaving any descendants.” [[p. 753.]

    . . . . proclamations for the supposed ‘truth’ of gradualism – asserted against every working paleontologist’s knowledge of its rarity – emerged largely from such a restriction of attention to exceedingly rare cases under the false belief that they alone provided a record of evolution at all! The falsification of most ‘textbook classics’ upon restudy only accentuates the fallacy of the ‘case study’ method and its root in prior expectation rather than objective reading of the fossil record. [[p. 773.]

    I have given you a bit more details in outline, but I hardly expect such to resolve the raft of questions built in by those who have shaped our thinking on the a priori materialist paradigm.

    I therefore pointed you to a resource that gives more details.

    Your further remarks above, show a need for a much deeper familiarisation than a blog discussion thread can provide, even under best circumstances, and right now I have a national crisis addressing. I again ask you to review the units on OOL and origin of body plans. (It would also be helpful to look through the intro-summary page, and make a focus on the section that addresses the concept of functionally specific complex organisation and associated information, also that which brings out and exposes the problem of a priori imposition of materialism. Believe it or not, a lot of theistic evolutionary thought is seeking to accommodate to the a priori materialism that I am clipping and commenting on from sources that let the cat out of the bag. (Sort of reminds me of those now trying to pretend that Jihadism — as opposed to ordinary non-radicalised people who are Muslims — does not have a global conquest end-of-days ideology and world plan recovered by police agencies.)

    I know, this is a fairly extensive reading assignment, but at the least, from this resource, it will only cost you the time required to familiarise yourself.

    KF

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