Everyone should have one (The Watchmaker Analogy)

I tend to be hard on watches. The bands break, the crystals crack, they get scratched up – something usually befalls them. So I tend to ask for watches as gifts – especially around Christmas time. This past year was no different. My family gave me an extraordinary gift – two watches – one digital, one mechanical. What’s extraordinary is not that I received two watches (though that was very nice), it’s the type of watch I received.

The one watch – a mechanical one featured above – is an amazing sight to behold. It has a see through design, so you can see the inner mechanisms from both the front and the back. I’m not a watch maker, so bear with me as I try to describe just a few of the marvelous mechanisms in this mechanical wonder with terms borrowed from Wikipedia.

As I said, it’s mechanical – not battery operated, so it has a  mainspring; but it is also self winding, so it has an “eccentric weight” which you can see from the back moving back and forth with the motion of the watch, attached to a mechanism that winds the mainspring. From the front, in addition to the regular motion of the sweeping second hand, you can see the oscillating motion of the balance wheel marking out regular intervals of time. You can see the mainspring and the various gears which make up the gear train, and particularly the escapement mechanism and its back and forth motion moving the gears at a set rate and producing the familiar ticking sound mechanical watching are known for.

When I saw it, I couldn’t help but marvel at the ingenuity of the device. The design elements which are clearly present have made this made favorite watch – so much so that I don’t even allow myself to wear it – lest I break it like all my other watches. And of course, seeing the inner mechanism, I couldn’t help but be reminded of William Paley’s argument for the existence of God from his watchmaker analogy. All the carefully designed, produced and assembled parts noted above, Paley calls “contrivances” – an appropriate word he uses in his Natural Theology to describe the clear elements of design evident in such a watch.  His watchmaker’s argument for the existence of God is a classic argument. If you’ve never read it, or haven’t read it recently, I encourage you to read it.  From his 18th century vantage point he anticipates and counters objections still used by 21st century atheists and other objectors to the argument from design. That argument is also known as the Teleological argument (from the Greek Telos – meaning end or goal). Teleological arguments focus on an intended outcome, a goal which is clearly manifest in the item under consideration. Of course intentions are only possible by a being who intends them, thus if a goal or intention is apparent, there was obviously a being who initially had that goal or intention.

Paley isn’t the first to use the argument. A version of the argument was used by Socrates, and a well developed version was presented by Thomas Aquinas. In his Summa Theologiae, Aquinas presents five proofs for the existence of God. His fifth proof is a Teleological one – based on the “guidedness of nature.”  He considers inanimate, unaware objects – like an arrow – which tend toward a goal and notes “Nothing that lacks awareness tends to a goal, except under the direction of someone with awareness and understanding; the arrow, for example, requires an archer.”1

This is a perfect description of the watch and its “contrivances”; you can see the watch clearly and very effectively tends toward the goal of marking the passage of time. It marks of the passage of not just one unit of time but multiple units of time: marking off the passage of seconds, minutes and hours as does the one depicted above. Other watches also include days, months and years.  This is clearly not by accident, and the mechanisms are clearly designed and obviously point to an intelligent designer. In my opinion this watch is so clearly and obviously designed, the conclusion that it was designed by a watchmaker is inescapable. 

A mere cursory examination of the watch, combined with a consideration of the goal or purpose that it achieves, when considered along with the fact that inanimate objects have no goals or intentions  (as atheists readily admit2), can lead you to no other conclusion. And thus the title: everyone should have one of these see through mechanical watches. Just as the tefillin of the old testament reminded you of God’s commands3; such a watch  cannot help but remind you of the designer, and in so doing allude to the designer of the universe and all life.

You’ll note that those who claim to refute the analogy from the design in a watch never offer to demonstrate how non-guided, random forces can produce such a watch. Which is why Dawkins’ “Blind Watchmaker” thesis – that complex creatures can come about by purposeless processes is so utterly ridiculous, and lays bare his intention to deny design at all costs. Without an intelligence to guide the process,  unguided forces would not tend toward any goal as Aquinas notes, and thus you could not get any of the required components of living organisms that are complex and fulfill a goal – such as proteins, cellular structures, and entire organs like hearts, lungs and eyes.

But many who want to deny God tend to be an obstinate. I can already hear claims of “that’s an (invalid) argument from incredulity.4 In response, I would point out that those claiming this is merely incredulity have not only not demonstrated how unguided forces could produce a watch, they have not adequately addressed the argument. They speak beside the point and never address all the “contrivances” (items that don’t come about naturally) that tend toward a purpose which atheists readily admit inanimate objects cannot have. How then can items that cannot be formed naturally, nor joined in a precise manner naturally, come into existence, be assembled precisely, and tend toward a goal – which inanimate objects admittedly do not have? Clearly those raising this incredulity objection (or any other for that matter) have not seriously considered the question at hand and are looking for an easy out to continue in their unbelief.

And we can take the argument a step farther for those who are not comfortable until they have scientific verification. That in itself is a fallacious approach (science can’t not prove everything – it can’t even prove using science that the scientific approach is a valid one) but as Jesus often did things for the benefit of those observing who would not otherwise believe5, let me present a more technical basis for inferring design for those reading who will not otherwise believe.

In his book Intelligent Design William A. Dembski, one of the cornerstones of the modern intelligent design movement, points out that in science, there is a concern that we falsely attribute to design something that was not in fact designed. Darwin himself had this concern.6  To avoid that, Dembski has identified  three criteria for properly recognizing design:

“Whenever we infer design, we must establish three things: contingency, complexity, and specification. Contingency ensures that the object in question is not the result of an automatic and therefore unintelligent process that had no choice in its production. Complexity ensures that the object is not so simple that it can readily be explained by chance. Finally specification ensures the object exhibits the type of pattern characteristic of intelligence.”7

Dembski goes on to illustrate how such a specification might be met using the hypothetical signal identified by SETI8 in the fictional movie Contact, which was based on a novel by Carl Sagan. Let me do so using my mechanical watch.

Contingency – not the result of automatic or unintelligent processes.
This watch is full of wheels and gears – neither of which are naturally occurring. In fact the late famous evolutionist JBS Haldane predicted we wouldn’t find wheels in living creatures because these would not work until fully formed, and natural selection could not produce them in a step by step basis.9 He’s correct that natural selection couldn’t form wheels – but he’s incorrect that we wouldn’t find them in living creatures.  For more on wheels in living creatures, see my article Evolution – Falsified again.  The point here – wheels are not naturally occurring (as  evolutionists agree), and this watch is full of them. Clearly designed.

Complexity – In addition to the not-naturally occurring parts, those parts have been assembled in a complex, precise way so as to achieve the marking of the passage of time. Complexity, Dembski states, “is a form of a probability.” So what’s the chance that this complex interplay of parts could have been randomly assembled by naturally occurring forces to achieve the final product of this watch? Zero. There is no chance. Have you ever tried to just change a watch band? Impossible without special tools. And that’s just the band. We’re talking the assembly of this entire watch with it’s miniaturized parts perfectly assembled to become the final product of this watch. Natural, unguided forces simply don’t do that. Clearly designed.

Specification – Specification deals with the detection of an independent pattern. It gets into some technical detail, but let me give you an example of what he means.

Is this a random string of numbers and letters, or is there a pattern involved?


Hard to say? How about if we rearrange them like this?

  14o 16u 18p 15o 19e 19a 14d 14o 7o 1l 4i 18e 3t 5d 60 18c 5s 15f 1n 25k 9n 4

Looks like a number followed by a letter.  That’s not a naturally occurring sequence, but is it a meaningful pattern? How do you know I didn’t just randomly impose that pattern on the above sequence? And if I did, what’s the point? What’s the meaning, or goal?  Consider an archer drawing circles around the arrow after he shot it.  Such a pattern tells you nothing. It does not prove a skillful archer.  Likewise this number-letter sequence is meaningless. I could have (and in fact did) added it after the fact like an archer painting circles around his arrows.

Perhaps this would be even more helpful:

14o  16u18p15o19e19  a14d  14o  7o1l  4i18e3t5d  6018c5s  15f  1n25  k9n4

Does that sequence look reminiscent of a particular cadence? If not try this: for each number substitute the letter of the alphabet where a=1, b=2, c=3, etc. (o=letter o not numeral zero)

You should get Provine’s misguided statement about the creation of life:
“no purposes and no goal directed forces of any kind”[10]

Now we can see a readily identifiable, independent pattern: a sentence written in the English language that has meaning.  So while the initial string may have looked random, and the second pattern looks forced, once the correct pattern is recognized it becomes clear it was the result of an intelligence, in this case William Provine, with further intelligence added to encode it. Note that the pattern exists whether you recognized it or not, and whether you needed help to identify it or not.

Can we detect a pattern from the watch – not one that is imposed it, but one that is meaningful? Indeed we can.

We note that around the circle are numbers from 10 to 60 with 60 at the top, 30 at the bottom. Interpolating, 15 is at the 90 degree position, 45 at the 270 degree position (going clockwise). We note it takes the fastest moving, longest, thinnest hand exactly 60 seconds to make one circuit from 60 back to 60.  One minute. A coincidence? Let’s examine further. We also note that after  60 of those circuits from the fast hand, the next longest hand, with a glow-in-the-dark marking on it (must be significant if it is intended to be seen in the dark), has made one complete circuit, and an hour has passed. We also note that the smallest hand  (which also has a glow-in-the-dark marking on it) has moved 1/12 the of the way around. With a little math, we can come up with the following chart:

long, thin hand 1 circuit  1 minute  1/1440 day
long fat hand 1 circuit  1 hour  1/24 day
short hand 1 circuit 12 hours  1/2 day

So two full circuits of the short hand = 1 day or 24 hours. As it moves around the circle, the circle is marked every 30 degrees with a glow-in-the-dark marking – so that the movement from 1 mark to the next is exactly one hour. A coincidence?

The movement of the long fat hand around the entire circle takes 1 hour; 1 hour is 60 minutes, and the outer circle is graduated with 12 evenly spaced white dots or white numbers. Interpolating the number of positions between marks we get 5. (60/12=5). We note that movement from 1 large white demarcation to the next is 5 minutes; Which coincides with the number of marks on the inner dial: – there are 5 marks on the inner scale between large demarcations on the larger outer scale. Thus we note that the inner scale is graduated in individual units. So on the inner dial we note that the mechanism is marking off minutes for the long fat hand.  While the outer scale is synchronized with the inner scale, but graduated with different numbers. Another Coincidence? These two precise scales on a round dial face are not naturally occurring items, and are by themselves evidence of design.

Finally the fastest moving hand as noted makes a circuit in a minute, or 60 seconds. In that time it passes 60 marks on the inner dial. On the outer dial, the numbers are given in multiples of 10, and moving from one number to another takes 10 seconds. Thus the both the inner and outer scales are indicating seconds, or various multiples of seconds.  Another Coincidence?

Clearly these are not coincidences. We have found a pattern. This device is marking time based on 2 full circuits of the short hand (the hour hand) equaling one, 24 hour day. The other hands are marking off portions of a day given in minutes and seconds. All of this is based on an independent pattern – the period of rotation of the earth. So we have identified an independent pattern – time as measured by the rotation of the earth – and an application of that pattern that fits this device – the movement of various hands against a precisely graduated scale (or in this case scales) indicating the various fractions of a full day.

Contingency, Complexity and specification. The watch exhibits all three – it’s clearly designed. For those not trying to deny the existence of God, that fact was obvious.  As is the fact that the universe – and every created thing in it, was also designed by an intelligent designer: God. As the scripture says: “The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19.1) The watch clearly exhibits evidence of design.  As the artifact of a watchmaker: the  mechanical watch – points to a designer; the artifact of the creator – the universe – points to a grand designer: God. And as the watchmaker argument points to a designer,  likewise the see through mechanical watch points back to the watchmaker analogy. Thus the mechanical watch indirectly testifies to the creator. Which is why the see through mechanical watch is my favorite, and why I wish everyone had one.

Duane Caldwell | posted 6/14/2015 | printer friendly version


Related article:
Paley’s Watchmaker Argument – Undefeated Once Understood 

1 Aquinas, Thomas Summa Theologiae Garden City, NY: Image Books, 1964, p. 70

2 See William Provine’s statement that there are “no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind”
referenced here: https://rationalfaith.com/2014/08/detecting-doctrines-of-demons/

or  Consider Richard Dawkins:
“The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”
Richard Dawkins
,  River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life,

3 Tefillin, also translated phylacteries.
See Deuteronomy 6.8 or 11.18 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tefillin

4 An argument from incredulity is a logical fallacy which basically states, since I can’t imagine who it was done, it must be impossible. For more see:

5 For examples, see John 11.42 or John 12.30

6. Summarizing a quote from Darwin’s Origin of Species, Dembski states: “It’s this worry of falsely attributing something to design (here identified with creation) only to have it overturned later that has prevented design from entering science proper.”

Dembski, William A. Intelligent Design – The Bridge Between Science & Theology  Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1999, p. 127

7. Dembski, Intelligent Design, p. 128

8 SETI – the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence Institute – has been looking for intelligence in the universe for over 50 years – and has yet to find it. Recall Contact is a work of fiction.

9. For Details on Haldane’s statement, see Germ with 7 motors in 1!,  by Jonathan Sarfati, 15 Jan 2013 http://creation.com/germ-7-motors-in-1

10. For the context of evolutionist William Provine’s statement, see my article: Mt. Improbable and other impossible evolutionary dreams



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