The Blind Watchmaker

The most famous and persisting argument for the existence of God is the teleological argument, or argument from design, and its most famous articulation was given by William Paley in the early 1800's. Although David Hume had refuted the argument on logical grounds in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (even before Paley wrote his Natural Theology), there were no good alternatives to explain the complexity of the universe, and especially of biological organisms, other than some intelligent designer (God). There were no good alternatives, that is, until 1859, when Darwin published The Origin of Species, and showed that evolution, through mindless processes such as natural selection, could perform exactly the task for which an intelligence had previously been assumed.

The following is a short documentary narrated by Richard Dawkins, and based on his famous book The Blind Watchmaker. The title clearly indicates that Dawkins is arguing directly against Paley: as opposed to an omniscient consciousness, "the blind watchmaker" symbolizes the process of evolution, which has no foresight, is not teleological (purposeful), but which can nevertheless explain the "design" we see in the biological world.

As Dawkins correctly emphasizes, much of the criticism evolutionary theory suffers has to do with its supposed inability to explain the high complexity exhibited by biological organisms. This criticism, however, is based on the greatly misleading assertion that evolution is simply a random process. The key to understand evolutionary theory is not to assume it is a random process, but that it is a cumulative process, driven by selective pressures and forces. Dawkins invites us to think of it as "descent with slight modification," and that makes all the difference.

The video is a bit old (1987, I believe), but the ideas are great, well developed and well worth the time to absorb.



Why can't we have thought-provoking documentaries like this here in the U.S.?

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