Sunday, April 26, 2009

Paley's Watch and a glass of beer

I was sitting in my easy chair and staring into a freshly poured glass of beer and I let my mind wander. I started to think about what I'd been reading as the bubbles climbed from the bottom to the top of the glass. As the light shone through the amber color, I thought about the hunting and fishing stories of Robert Ruark that I read at lunch and it reminded me of my Dad. He always smelled of pipe tobacco and he enjoyed his pipe most when he sat and read the paper. I've seen mentioned in the paper that some science text books are being amended to include "Intelligent Design" at the insistence of some parents and religious groups. While I'm not exactly certain what they mean by "Intelligent Design", I do recall reading a philosophy book along those lines once. I enjoy reading a philosophy book once in a while as it is a field of study that invites amateurs and idiots alike. A gent by the name of Paley once suggested that if he was walking along in a field one day and stubbed his toe on a rock, he might stop to contemplate how the rock got to be there while he rubbed his hurt toe. He would suppose that the rock had been there for all time and erosion had simply brought it to the surface. Then Paley poses a What If? What if the exact same thing would have happened but instead of a rock it was a watch? He runs the idea through his mind and decides that his first question would be "Whose watch is this?" followed by "Where did this watch come from?" He argues that this watch of intricate design and complicated nature could not have just been laying here for all time, unlike the stone. Someone designed, built, and left the watch here for him to find. Then he asks you how the watch is any different than Life, The Universe, And Everything? He says that there had to be an original watchmaker and that guy was God. I can follow his reasoning, but then I am a talented expert on nothing and of modest education so perhaps there are nuances to this I may have missed, but I can follow his reasoning. The platypus, much like the watch, was designed, but I'm willing to bet money that it was done on a Monday morning before coffee. "There you go Bill, send that one off to the presses. I'm thinking of calling it a platypus. Run that past marketing and see what they think. I'll be here all week but have Agnes hold my calls, as this one is looking like a dilly. Oh, and shoot me those pics the art department did on man. I glanced at the sketches, but I think he could use a little more backbone. By the way, I'm thinking about taking Sunday off. I have to make a son, and you can cover until I'm back on Monday right?" I don't think that is what they mean by "Intelligent Design" but I'd like to think that I've given it some thought. If you'd ask me point blank, "Do you believe in God?" I'd have to say yes. I cannot defend this and I have never shared my views with someone who didn't ask me point blank, but regardless, this is the kind of horseshit that should never be printed in any textbook. If someone wants opinion, they read movie reviews, the OpEd page of their local paper, or American Idol recaps. If they want philosophy or religion, they read their book of choice, just leave it out of the textbooks.

Then I took a sip of beer and noticed that I had looked at it so long, it was warm.

I drank it anyway.



  1. I believe your ideas on intelligent design make more sense than most of the fanatical religious folks I have seen. Good post Doc!

    And by the way, be looking for a box I sent to you via UPS!

  2. Perhaps the watch was placed there to be found. But how did that watch come to be? It was built by someone who wanted people to be able to know what time it was. By placing little gears and springs together in an intricate manner, you can carry this thing around and know exactly when you are.

    Before the invention of those little springs, all you had to use were pendulums. One day long ago someone noticed that no matter how big a pendulum is, it always swung with the same period and could be used to keep track of time. Now, pendulums are big and bulky and don't take to traveling too well, but if you were near one you could know what time it was.

    Before that, the only way to know the exact time was if you were outside and had a stick standing up in the right place so that it's shadow was pointing to a series of precise markings surrounding it. This does not work indoors, at night, or on a cloudy day.

    Before that, just look up at the sun or moon and guess.

    The ultimate point being that if you have a need, whether it's knowing the precise time, simply surviving, or the fundamental "will to be" (or "will to power" if you like Nietzsche), you will find a solution, and that solution will be refined over time in a never ending cylce.

    What you choose to do with that existence, survival skill, or timepiece is up to the individual in question, whether you use it to tell time, or leave it as an artifact; a message to people whose watches use quartz and LCDs or are synchronized via satellite to a lump of decaying cesium in California.

  3. PS if they taught philosophy in grade schools they wouldn't have to bother with ID getting mixed up with real science.

    The problem is that ID supporters think they are scientists, even though they've tossed the scientific method right out the window.

    For example:
    1. Question
    2. Hypothesis
    3. Experiment
    4. Theorize
    5. Go back to 1.


    1. Theorize
    2. Experiment
    3. Confirm bias
    4. End

  4. PPS My coffee is nice and hot this morning

  5. Skyler's Dad- I'd like to claim these were my ideas, but Paley had 'em first.

    Err- Do you know what time it is? It's time for another cup of coffee. And there is no good reason to abandon the scientific method. Jesus said so.

    Gifted Typist- Thank you dear.


  6. first off, when you write my biography, I want you to start it with the line, "I was sitting in my easy chair and staring into a freshly poured glass of beer and I let my mind wander."Secondly, I remember hearing about the watch-thingie, and it's nice and neat in it's own way, but I believe the fatal flaw in it is that watches do not evolve, unlike, say, organic living things. That is, neither watch nor humankind merely APPEARED one day for someone to trip against but have been in a state of development for ages.

    Actually, I've never understood why intelligent design is even a topic of discussion in the first place.


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