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Sal is harsh. I’ll be more generous.

William Paley’s “Watchmaker Argument”  claims that everything that exhibits order and/or complexity must be designed by an intelligent being (just like how we could infer that a watch is designed). But why? On the surface, this seems like an argument from ignorance. Is it?

Premise 1: Watches look designed. (And we know they are!)

Premise 2: Rocks and rivers look designed too maybe? (Do they? What’s the criteria? It looks pretty? It does a thing? It “works”?)

Conclusion: God? Nope. Still doesn’t work. Premise 2 is unjustified.

I’ll try again.

Premise 1: We know certain man-made things that perform a function were designed with intent.

Premise 2: So let’s assume everything that functions properly in the natural world is the result of a supernatural intelligent designer with intent.

Conclusion: No one else has a problem with just assuming the second part? That’s a pretty big assumption. And then further assuming that the designer is a god? And then again assume it to be any specific god after that?

I keep hearing this argument and I can’t figure out how a rational person can logically get to the result they want without a series of unwarranted assumptions. At best, the teleological argument for God is a plea based on assumption that only gets you as far as Deism (and it doesn’t even get you there). Like most apologetics, the logic is awkwardly reverse-engineered to accommodate the desired conclusion. But, if you’re going to presuppose the conclusion, why bother with a weak argument at all? Just chalk it up to faith…which is problematic for a series of totally different reasons.

If I’m just beating up a straw man here, let me know. If there’s a better way to look at this argument, I’d like to hear it. As far as I can tell, we only have the one universe to observe. You can either assume it was designed or you don’t make that assumption. But then again, what do I know? I’m just a simple cartoonist.

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J. Burrello is a semi-nomadic comedian and comic artist. He is the creator of "Barb" and "Blinky & Sal".