No educated person has been able to avoid the “watchmaker” analogy. Memorably posited by William Paley in Natural Theology or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, published in 1802, it has become the cornerstone of all teleological arguments for the existence of a Creator. All theists who believe that our universe is the conscious product of an intelligent Mind subscribe to this contention. The analogy works like this: if you come across a watch, you would correctly believe that a watchmaker made it. You should be equally right to assume that this the world, which resembles a watch in its complexity, to have a Creator.
Two thousand years before Paley, Jewish literature, in Midrash Temurah 5, recorded that Rabbi Akiva gave the same answer to a scoffer and his students. Instead of using a watch (unknown in antiquity) he chose a woven garment. Rabbi Akiva’s argument was that just as an outer piece of clothing is produced by a weaver and his house by a builder, so too the world must have a Creator. In our era, a cell phone was used in a court case to make the same argument as the garment and watch. It was a valid substitute, but the case was the same as established by Rabbi Akiva and Paley, and rejected by the judge.
No one accepts Paley’s analogy, as first recorded, for obvious reasons. It was first philosophically debunked by David Hume. A few decades later, Charles Darwin, who requested and was granted, the same room as Paley in Cambridge, reduced the need for a Creator by advancing evolution. Most, recently, Richard Dawkins, in his book, The Blind Watchmaker, argues against this analogy.
It may be valuable to list the top ten significant objections to Paley’s famous claim.
1) We have no experience in world-making. We do, however, know how a watch is made. We have a right to assume that a watchmaker made the watch, but to conclude that a Creator fashioned our oval-shaped globe is an unnecessary leap of faith.
2) There are not enough similarities between a watch and the world to make comparisons. A kitten and a lion are kindred animals, but to assume that that the actions of one are relevant to the other leads to false conclusions, such as cat roars.
3) Even if the claim that a Creator must be behind the “making” of our universe, it does not follow that that the Creator is omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and omnipresent – the three primary ingredients for God in all Abrahamic religions.
4) A group of artisans usually make a watch. Who worked in conjunction with God? Did the universe come about because a team of experts – five Einsteins working in the right order and 24/7 - put their minds to achieve a common goal?
5) Complex machines, such as a watch, is the result of trial and error. Mistakes are made to achieve metronomic regularity. Each version of a watch is a better, improved version over the previous one. But this is not the way traditional religions see the development of the universe, who see it as ideally suited for human habitation from the moment it was conceived by a Creator.
6) Something more complex, like a human being, designs something that is less complex, such as a watch. Evolution is the reverse: we gradually move from lesser complexity to a more sophisticated design.
7) Rabbi Akiva presented only one item to the scoffer: that of the garment. But what about the sandals? He would have to agree that two different craftsmen were employed. Are monotheists willing to accept several Gods, such as one to have made the planetary system and another to make snowflakes?
8) The watchmaker has a father and a mother. Does God have a father? If so, who are the grandparents of God?
9) The items need to make a watch already exist. You need eggs to make an omelet. But the Abrahamic faiths claim the God created the universe out of nothing (ex nihilo).
10) A watchmaker has the final product in mind as soon as embarks on her quest to manufacture a watch. But evolution is blind, unlike a watchmaker. Natural selection, which guides our development, does not march to a pre-set tune. It has no mind-other than the desire to survive another generation. But other than that, it has no future plans.
We have been trained to accept the notion that, at the very least, we need a God to have created the universe, as Deists do. Darwin and subsequent scientists have shown that we don’t need a Creator. The best response to where is god in our equation was delivered by the French scholar, Pierre-Simon Laplace to Napoleon Bonaparte. When the Emperor queried where was God in his calculations, he calmly responded: “I have no need for that hypothesis.”