Who Needs Paley Anyway?

Not a watch, but nevertheless...

Paley’s Watch is one of the creationists best arguments: that is to say, it’s the best they have. But the opener to Jerry Bergman’s Acts & Facts article, Humans: The Imitators, sounds a discordant note. The watchmaker argument tries to claim equivalency between the design of humans and the (perceived) design of nature. But according to Bergman, human design is crap:

A chasm exists between all physical objects fashioned by human hands and those made by God. That which is made by us may appear to exhibit genius in design and construction, but a closer inspection always reveals much crudeness. The automobile is a good example of a human masterpiece of functional design. However, a close inspection reveals many small flaws—e.g., imperfections in the shaping of the metal parts—in its manufacture that eventually spell its destruction, most often in less than a decade.

That, and this example is a bait-and-switch. All that matters here is design – but the flaws here are from manufacturing. There are also some fairly simply counterexamples right here. We have to add ‘imperfections’ to glass, we’re so good at making wineglasses. It could also be argued that their design – which said imperfections are actually a part of, after all – is pretty perfect as these things go. I mean, have you got any better ideas? My feet, on the other limb, could do with a few less imperfections if you ask me.

With God’s creations this is not so; increasing magnification always reveals added dimensions of design, detail, and function. Examination of a beautiful Swiss watch with a scanning electron microscope shows the metal parts of the finest craftsman to be crudely machined with minute flaws and imperfections everywhere.

Conversely, pictures of the natural world taken with the scanning electron microscope reveal that the more closely the natural world is examined, the greater the functional complexity and symmetry of design appear. The microscopic cells of plants and animals are chemical factories more elaborate than, and producing products of a quality that far exceeds, any constructed by humans.

What Human hair would look like under a SEMIf we are going to count minute scratches and other ‘flaws’ against human creations then in fairness similar things must be noted in the natural world. Silky hair may look perfect, but countless shampoo advertisements have shown you how horrible it looks under the microscope (probably exaggerating for effect, but such is life). The same goes for skin, for that matter, along with practically everything else you look at under the ‘scope. But why stop at the surface? With the use of microscopes and other methods you can also discover that cell processes aren’t the perfectly ordered, well oiled machines of your biology textbooks. But, again, such is life.

There’s more of this, so I’ll skip ahead. Not finished with trashing mankind’s creations, Bergman turns to our creativity:

Human makers of manufactured goods often attempt to copy the “natural,” or non-human, world. What are usually referred to as “natural” are actually God-designs that He incorporated into the original creation. Vinyl, made out of molded rubber plastic, is designed to imitate leather or the hide of some animal such as a crocodile. The grooves and printed color patterns in the vinyl are incorporated solely to resemble an animal’s hide. This natural pattern is judged by most viewers to be more beautiful than vinyl without the folds and color variations.

What about when vinyl is used to make vinyl records – what are they copied off? We are by no means incapable

Today, most products incorporate the color, grain texture, and appearance of cowhide, wood, or other natural forms. Why pattern a car dashboard after common wood or cowboy boots after snakeskin? Could not our gifted, highly paid, college-educated designers come up with a pattern superior to that which already occurs naturally? Industry’s best has not been able to develop a more appealing pattern, and they probably never will. In fact, our copy often turns out to be a poor imitation and, at times, a health or ecological hazard.

The reason for this would seem to be that we like what we’re used to. And the primary selling point of ‘imitation’ materials are that they are as close to the thing that they imitate as possible, and yet are still cheaper or otherwise more readily available/ethical – an animal-skin imitation looks more valuable also. And yet while I may be sitting on a leather-seated chair at a wooden table that doesn’t mean that all materials are based on or inferior to natural counterparts. What about nylon stockings? What about metal?

This flagrant copying manifest in almost everything human-made reveals something about the original Designer. Evidence for a Creator is found in creation, and the more we know about creation, the more we know about the Creator. For example, animal skin is both beautiful and functional—skin folds existing in leather help the animal by serving as “give points” designed to help the animal move around more comfortably.

The grain of the wood we admire so much results from the tree’s vascular circulatory system—clearly functional but, again, also very beautiful. Its design is superior to that produced by the human designers who try to copy it, and we have not been able to improve on God’s design.

The reference for this claim, that we have not been able to improve on the design of wood, comes from a book published in 1976. Indeed, none of Bergman’s references are more recent than 1982. Now, as for this improvement: I for one quite like the tiled arrangement of the wood on the table in front of me. Nature can’t do that, and while God could, we do. Does that count? If not, well, coper piping can look quite nice if done right. Trees don’t have access to proper pumps, you see. And I have a feeling that with today’s nanotechnology we could probably even improve on the capillary action in trees. The possibilities are endless.

Bergman gives more examples, such as paintings:Robert Delaunay's Le Premier Disque

Human works are invariably a modification of some aspect of the natural world, modifying something normally found in the natural world. Oil paintings are good examples; throughout history, the majority of artworks, according to the ones that have survived, were copies of something found in God’s world. Painters painted people, forests, sunsets, mountains, flowers, animals, or other things that abound in nature.

“Invariably” you say? What about abstract art? He says this:

Another art technique is the painting of mechanical or various solid shapes or blending masses of color to show movement or feeling called “modern art.” Most human-constructed shapes, though, are predominantly geometrical, i.e., a combination of round, square, or straight surfaces, and thus are actually only alterations or recombinations of the natural world.

And here we are on interesting philosophical grounds. You see, when nature forms a sphere it too is merely copying something else, is it not? Copying mathematics. Thomas Aquinas pondered whether God could create a triangle where the angles on a side did not add to 180 degrees – he concluded that God was only omnipotent when it came to logically consistent things.

Here’s something I hadn’t heard before:

Science fiction drawings sometimes appear to represent a high level of creativity, but most often they have their source in the natural world. A study of supposed UFO humanoids revealed that they often bear a clear resemblance to a human fetus. Believers in extraterrestrial beings claim that four types of “human” space creatures exist: Humans (persons identical to humans living today), humanoids (animal-human combinations, such as human heads with goats’ horns), apparitional persons (spirits which cannot be seen except as a faint image), and robots (creatures that often consist of some type of dehumanized grotesque or bizarre mechanized living or nonliving gadget). Whether the claimed UFO creature sightings result from a psychological disturbance or creative imagination, the supposed creature often resembles persons or objects from the natural world.

He takes this from the 1982 article Birth Trauma and UFO Abduction. Indeed, we’re not very imaginative when it comes to aliens – at least, not when it comes to the movies. Superintelligent shades of the colour blue anyone?

Bergman now gets around to the added imperfections:

Copying naturally occurring patterns is common in product design. Some glass porcelain vases and lamps contain hundreds of minute cracks as part of their design. This “natural process” was at one time common in their production, but it is done today primarily for beauty. This is also true of surface unevenness and imperfections such as air bubbles in the walls of glass bottles. These traits were at one time a result of our crude glass-making techniques.

So doesn’t that contradict where he was going at the beginning, that we are no good at making things?

Bergman concludes:

To make anything from a pencil to an automobile, we simply reshape materials such as wood and iron into that which already exists in nature. We are doing nothing more than moving around and reshaping existing natural materials. True, it requires tremendous intelligence, skill, and energy to properly rearrange the materials, but nothing new is actually created. Most human development, termed “progress” in prideful moments, largely amounts to the redoing of someone’s past work, only slightly changing previous products, all of which started as parts of the natural world. Products are changed into something viewed as “new,” yet nothing is really new. There is, as King Solomon reported, “nothing new under the sun.”

But life follows the same rules of modification. There are only so many body plans in existence, where the tetrapod is the most familiar. The same organs are endlessly reused and modified. Curious, isn’t it?

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3 thoughts on “Who Needs Paley Anyway?

  1. Actually “we create watches, so therefore God is a watch maker” is just a play on slippery definitions of words.
    When we want a mechanism that will move to a pattern we call time, we create a watch by taking materials and rearranging them into specific components so that they perform the desired actions.
    Our definition of “create” is to have a new idea or concept, in this case watch. Actually making it functional is just taking existing things and rearranging them, is this case into a watch.
    Now creationists state that “something can’t come from nothing”, so there has to be a creator. Their story is that in the “beginning there was God”, and “God said, Let there be light”, “creating” the universe.
    Here we see that they have changed our definition of “create “or having an idea or concept, into “actually making the physical universe from nothing by just thinking about”.
    Seeing how that the two definitions of “create” are different in the comparisons makes their whole argument invalid.

    Paul

  2. I never realized that my blue suede shoes came from blue cows. Or that automobiles were a direct copy of natural fauna – the tetrarotor clade is my guess. Or that the Wright brothers based their propeller on the bacteria flagellum. Or that the…

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