The Watchmaker Theory – Evidence of a Designer.
Lesson 7 from The HOPE Study Guide
Observe & Consider
In our previous lesson we examined a few of God’s many attributes, each one referenced by one or more Bible verses. As we continue our study, we will now consider what the Bible has to say about God and His creation. But before we do, let’s look briefly at a page from history.
In 1794 British theologian and philosopher William Paley published a book entitled, A View of the Evidence of Christianity. That book was required reading at Cambridge University for more than 100 years. But in 1802, Paley published another book for which he became even more widely known. It was titled, Natural Theology: or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, Collected from the Appearances of Nature. In this book Paley argued that a supernatural God could best be understood by examining evidence from the natural world. His image of the watchmaker has become one of the most famous metaphors in the philosophy of science. Although written over 200 years ago, it bears repeating here. (You may find the language a bit stilted, but hang in there!)
In crossing a field, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there; I might possibly answer, that, for any thing I knew to the contrary, it had lain there forever… But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground… I should hardly think of the answer which I had before given, that, for any thing I knew, the watch might have always been there. Yet why should not this answer serve for the watch as well as for the stone?… For this reason…that, when we come to inspect the watch, we perceive (what we could not discover in the stone) that its several parts are framed and put together for a purpose, e. g. that they are so formed and adjusted as to produce motion, and that motion so regulated as to point out the hour of the day [etc.]…This mechanism being observed…the inference, we think, is inevitable, that the watch must have had a maker…
Paley’s support of the idea that creation itself points to a creator echoes the following verse from the Bible:
“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made.” (Romans 1:20)
Keeping in mind Paley’s watchmaker illustration and this verse from Romans, let’s now consider these lines from The HOPE video which briefly describe the world in which we live:
The universe in which we live is made up of billions of huge star clusters called galaxies. Each galaxy contains millions, and often billions of stars. One of these stars is the fiery sphere we call the sun. Surrounding the sun, there are very unique planets, including the one on which we live, the earth.
The earth is an awesome display of beauty and diversity. It is a world ideally suited to sustain hundreds of thousands of different kinds of plants and animals. From the microscopic to the immense, each has its own color, sound, aroma, and texture.
Each one has a special place in the delicate balance of life on this planet. It is mind boggling to ponder the detail and dimension of the world around us. It is even more amazing to consider that there is One able to create it all!
– The HOPE, Chapter 1
Ask & Reflect
- Do you believe that Paley’s illustration of the watch and the watchmaker can be applied to the creation and the Creator? Why or why not?
- In light of the Romans 1:20 verse on the previous page, what are some examples in nature that seem to you to reveal God’s attributes, power, and nature?
Decide & Do
Many people have said that they feel closest to God in the midst of nature, in the mountains perhaps, or by the seashore. Sadly, this is as much of God as some will ever experience. Others miss seeing God because they begin to worship the creation (the mountains, the ocean, the heavens), rather than the Creator! And although glimpsing God through creation can be awesome, those fleeting experiences pale compared to the joy and satisfaction of knowing God Himself in a personal way.
Determine never to settle for only a reflection of God as one might receive from nature. Don’t be satisfied with anything less than an intimate personal knowledge of the Creator Himself. As J. I. Packer says, “A little knowledge of God is worth more than a great deal of knowledge about him.” 1
1J. I. Packer, Knowing God (Intervarsity Press, 1993).