If The Designer is a watchmaker, why doesn't He make watches?

A very simple argument against Intelligent Design:

According to ID proponents, functional complexity only arises from intelligent design. This applies to the natural world as well as to things designed by human beings.

According to evolutionists, functional complexity in the natural world arises thru reproduction with variation.

Observation: Every single known example of functional complexity in the natural world, without exception, exists in organisms that also arose thru reproduction with variation.

Is that just an incredible coincidence?

Or could it be that the evolutionists are right?


I like it!


Isn’t human engineering part of the natural world :slight_smile: . Okay that’s about definitions, but I do think humans are continuous with nature.

What’s the right way to refine the language?


Natural as opposed to artificial, not as opposed to supernatural.

It is acknowledged that intelligent beings can create things that are impossible or highly unlikely to arise thru undirected natural processes.

It does not follow that this applies to all functionally complex things.

If there were some intelligent being who was creating things that exist in what we think of as the “natural world”, and if functional complexity is claimed to be the hallmark of this being’s creations, then the question needs to be answered: Why are this being’s functionally complex creations only found in things that are the result of reproduction with variation?


This is great. Lovely question. Just why is it that of all the things the designer could create that are too complex to appear by chance, she’s only ever making complex things that evolve?


Yes, human engineering is part of the (modern) natural world, but the existence of human designers is not in question.

Atoms and molecules are not complex?

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Do ID’ers consider atoms to exhibit functional complexity in the same way that they claim the bacterial flagellum does? I have never seen them claim this.

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They aren’t. Atoms are just simple assemblages of quarks and leptons, and a limited menu at that. Molecules are just assemblages of atoms, and all the more complicated ones are produced by organisms. No design in either case. No, what you need to find are the divinely created Mt. Rushmores and geared machines.

No I agree with John not in the way they talk about in biology. The discussion around matter is in the fine tuning of the 4 forces. There is discussion in theoretical physics about information in atoms in supersymmetry theory and quantum gravity theory but it is not anything close to what’s discussed in biology. One advantage in biology is we a dealing with larger molecules that are easier to image.

This I disagree with this. If we look at transistors they are very simple relative to microprocessors but they are clearly designed. Without the properties of transistors microprocessors would not work.

In the same way without the properties of atoms biology would not work. .

But no one claims atoms are scientific proof of Intelligent Design. A designer capable of creating biological functional complexity should have no trouble assembling something that is mechanically complex (like a watch). If we found naturally occuring non-biological functional complexity (a pre-cambrian Timex?) the claim to ID would be much stronger.


I agree with your point that atoms do not have as strong a design inference as biology . I also agree that if we had a precambrian watch that would add evidence to the equation as watches are easier to observe than atoms.

Atoms are however the building blocks of biology. They are also the building blocks of watches. Atoms and their properties enable the whole show. @faizal argued in hIs discussion with Ahmed that God of the whole show was superior to God of the gaps.

Without atoms precise specifications all other observed designs are not possible. Could their properties have come about by accident?

So we are looking for nature to include something that isn’t alive but looks intelligently designed:

Black holes? Snowflakes?

Or is somehow an intelligent deity supposed to create something that doesn’t serve a purpose other than looking like something humans would create by responding to nature in the future?

I feel like the OP begs the question, or something.

Maybe I just don’t get it. :slightly_smiling_face:


If you watch this debate between PZ Myers and Jerry Bergman, you will see Bergman claim that atoms are irreducibly complex.

You really should know better…

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LOL! :laughing: OK, you got me, but I did say “scientific evidence”, and I think there is a meaningful difference there.

It would be a strange world, but if you wanted a new watch you might just grab a shovel and start digging (or visit the Rolex mines?). A watch would still have purpose, but people living in that world would initially think watches occur naturally, at least until they started to wonder about it.

I suppose you could also find something biological that serves no biological purpose - like screwdrivers growing on trees. :grinning:

I understand what you are saying, but it amounts to abandoning the “Watchmaker” argument to ID. If atoms are designed, then why should we be surprised at naturally occuring watches, or bacteria flagella? Evolution itself could be designed (as some believe) and there would be no point in offering the Watchmaker argument.

A scientific argument to ID requires that non-designed objects or features must exist.


That’s the point - there isn’t anything.

Black monoliths would qualify, as would non-living engines or vehicles. If humans landed on the moon and found it was covered in chronometers and motorcycles, that’d be a good sign.

Why wouldn’t an intelligent (and benevolent) deity create living quarters for humans with indoor plumbing and artificial lighting so that we didn’t have to build our own?

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I’m surprised Myers would stoop to debate Bergman, the creator of the novel Cambrian taxon, “Waxia halueigenia.”

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I agree that ID needs an alternative hypothesis. Could that alternative be direct design vs indirect design?

An example would be matter as potentially direct design and electro magnetism as indirect design.

The value in the watchmaker argument would be to identify where there is a good chance we can start doing science.

Well, @colewd has already shown that for creationists pretty well anything can be construed as “intelligently designed” if one is sufficiently motivated.

But, in this discussion, I am referring exclusively to the evidence for “design” that is claimed by members of the Intelligent Design movement.

That only strikes us as strange because it doesn’t exist.

It’s no less strange than all these needlessly complex carbon-base objects that exist simply by virtue of the fact that they create other versions of themselves.

Not sure I am following you (and definitely not your example?), but I don’t think adding new types of design helps. The first problem is distinguishing design and not-design, and supposing new types of design only makes that harder.