William Paley’s Watchmaker and Evolution

The watchmaker analogy as it is known, made by William Paley states that a complex design, such as an eye, implies a designer….

For whatever reason, this thought popped into my head one day while in the shower*.

The role of ‘feature level’ in discussing how a machine is naturally selected and evolves is critical. The order of ‘features’ can be inferred by deduction and something which I didn’t really get until well.. today.

The Gist:

Eyes, or other specialized organs must of developed very very early on in the morph-history of species with eyes. The proto-species where eyes developed must of used ‘eyes’ in a more general purpose. Think protists, sun-sensitive algae etc, maybe even slugs.. I’m not sure of the biological details, but they are irrelevant to the argument. That these innovations come from something less specialized, something more crude and general in application on early prototypes. You can even take something fully specialized and re-appropriate it, say a dishwasher as a propeller for a motorboat, but the initial will be less specialized than later iterations. The novel part (to me) is that you can deduce the order of innovations.

Certain features cannot exist without the supporting base functionality.

The analogy and explanation is easier to see when looking at a car made with rain tread tires on it. We might look at the wheels of a car and see the treads perfectly made, designed to pump water away from the wheels and infer that this complexity can only arrive by a designer, but it doesn’t really belie the history of the tire (made pneumatic by michelin), the tires and bending wood technology before that, spokes before that, discs and ball and round logs before that. The idea which must of come for all bikes, cars or trains is the wheel which evolved very early on in the ‘protospecies’ / a more primitive preceding model.

The feature ‘richness’ of certain abilities allows us to infer which modification came first and set an order, by logic. That is very cool.

*Footnote: Showers are prodigious places for random ideas. Most people would agree with that. My theory about this is that no other place is as isolating or makes you stand stationary with little else to do for 10-15 minutes a day.

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