Attacking Paley’s argument: How clock parts CAN assemble themselves into a functioning clock.

March 12, 2008 | By | 1 Reply More

Here’s a clever video that challenges the commonly mentioned creationist claim (based on William Paley’s arguments) that evolution is impossible for the same reasons that it is impossible for the parts of a clock to assemble themselves into a functioning clock.

Here’s the main point made by this video: When discussing evolution, make sure you are comparing apples to apples (clocks are not living organisms). And beware straw man arguments.


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Category: Evolution, Science

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Dan Klarmann says:

    This nice video sidesteps the issue of the straw man argument. The original argument goes:

    If you chop a watch into its pieces and put them in a box and shake it, you will never get a watch. Therefore it was designed.

    The valid comparison would be:

    If you chop a child into its component parts and put them in a box and shake it, you will never get a child.

    Or is that piling the argumentum ad absurdum fallacy onto the straw man complaint?

    This video presents a nice artificial environment for a watch to develop following the rules of evolution. It well illustrates how evolution works, to those who already understand what computer programs do.

    However, there is another model that I think is superior: The watch actually did evolve in a natural environment.

    Timepieces have been around for several thousand years. Each generation of clockmakers tried essentially random variations on previous designs. As designs become more complex, generations shortened to model-years.

    Those "designs" that did better were copied and proliferated.

    Sundials, sand (hourglasses), and water clocks gave way to pendulums and weights, gave way to springs and torsion-wheels, then split to a line using batteries and vibrating crystals and then one using atomic wave counters. An evolutionary tree. Sundials, sand timers, and pendulum clocks still exist and continue to evolve, but only in small niches. Many proto-clocks exist only in fossil form in museums. These help us understand the connections between other species of clock that still exist.

    The single sun-hand (hours) developed a faster hand for minute (my-nute) intervals, and a slower hand for days. Then even a second-order minute-interval hand appeared. The days hand, and even month and year hands still exist in some rare, nearly extinct models.

    Note: "Hand" refers to digit zones in many modern clocks. I've had clocks with digit flaps, Nixie tubes(1950's), LED (1970's), LCD, TFT, and other electronic displays.

    The division into 60 parts for minutes and seconds came from astronomy: The constellations (hand) spin almost perfectly 360 times slower than days, and 360 is a convenient number to divide many ways (360 = 3x4x5x6 = 6×60). Talk to God about the inadequacy of his almost 360 day year design. The design for slower day and year hands then evolved backwards for the faster minute and second hands.

    The selector for successful watches is not a designer, but the aggregate pool of consumers. As anyone who studies mob psychology knows, a mob is not an intelligent entity, but a powerful mover of events, nevertheless.

    How did a watch evolve from a clock? Anyone who knows maritime history is familiar with the saga of developing a timepiece that could stay accurate in many temperatures and humidities and orientation and vibration situations. This was necessary to know your longitude (East-West position) until GPS came along. This selected for smaller, lighter, and position-independent clocks. The natural extension was to get lighter and smaller until every "civilized" man could carry one. The step from pocket to wrist was another natural advantage; both hands free while still able to see the time.

    Watches and clocks are essentially different breeds of each timekeeping species. They regularly interbreed producing novelties, and sometimes the next dominant species.

    GPS is a side branch of clockmaking. It became possible with the combination of rocket technology, and clocks that remain accurate to within a nanosecond. A nanosecond is how long it takes a signal in space (photon, radio signal, etc) to travel about 11 inches. Your computer does 2 or 3 complete cycles in a nanosecond.

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