First, some background: William Paley was a 19th century theologian and philosopher who is best known for using the parable of finding a watch on the ground and wondering about its origin. “There must have existed, at some time, and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers, who formed [the watch] for the purpose which we find it actually to answer; who comprehended its construction, and designed its use…. Every indication of contrivance, every manifestation of design, which existed in the watch, exists in the works of nature; with the difference, on the side of nature, of being greater or more, and that in a degree which exceeds all computation.” http://en.wikipedia.org/...
This Argument from Design has been a key feature in the “Intelligent Design” (ID) approach to explaining natural phenomena. Among other things, ID violates Occam’s Razor by calling up a gratuitous added step to the evolution of life on earth; postulating an extraterrestrial intelligence is not necessary, nor is the argument for Design. We have witnessed claims of Final Causes under a variety of names over the years: vitalism, teleology, orthogenesis, and entelechy to name just a few. The “research program” of ID, which has never seen the light of day (http://www.creationismstrojanhorse.com/), actually has a debilitating and enervating effect on scientific progress because it argues that some things cannot ever be known. The entire history of science has been one of sweeping away these naïve and silly ideas.
Irreducible complexity (http://en.wikipedia.org/...), indeed all of ID, is yet another appeal to “the God of the Gap,” wherein whatever cannot be explained by science must be the result of divine intervention in the world. Sadly, as physical explanations of gravity, thunder and lightning, planetary movements and the like grew, the Gap God got squeezed into an ever smaller confined space so that today, all the ID people have left is an appeal to biochemical and molecular complexity that they insist cannot be scientifically explained. Of course, they could go back a step beyond biochemistry into physics, and start arguing that there is an irreducible complexity in atoms that cannot be explained by natural forces, even as science delves further into these phenomena, offering greater understanding of the ostensibly incomprehensible
ID makes no testable predictions, and by testable, we mean falsifiable. It is therefore not science by any definition. It leads nowhere.
Evolution requires vast spans of time, billions of genetic components, prodigious mortality among progeny, and differential survival. It is a statistical reality that the mathematically inclined ID supporters do not seem to grasp. Charles Darwin shook the foundations of religion, and indeed Western thought, with the publication his Origin of Species. Religion is still vainly struggling to cope with the reality of evolution by natural selection.
The very fact that the ID gang is trying to sneak religion in the back door of K-12
science classes is an admission that they cannot use science to defend the existence of their deity and his/her works.
ID demeans the very divinity they claim to worship, by making their designer an inept tinkerer who can never seem to get the leaky boat of evolution on an even keel. It is not merely disingenuous, but dishonest and fraudulent for ID proponents to claim that “…something must be intelligent and capable of bringing about organisms. Intelligent Design does not speculate about the nature of such a designing intelligence (http://books.google.com/...(2004)+Debating+Design&ots=QQ3ZgTyhvV&sig=x9MMHZ8Nhiu64ON4Od0S8w-HL6o#v=onepage&q&f=false) I beg to differ. Pressed on the issue, for most ID proponents, it is a Semitic god, who went by the name El-, Al-, Allah, or the Hebrew . No matter how acolytes of ID try to camouflage and sanitize the concept, the odor of creationism still clings. Examine the website of the Discovery Institute and its spinoffs to see the real degree to which Christianity is tied to “Intelligent design.”
I will give T.H. Huxley the last word: “Extinguished theologians lie about the cradle of every science as the strangled snakes beside that of Hercules.”
Now, the real issue I was getting to: suppose William Paley in his wanderings came across a whole mass of watch components, a mainspring here, an hour hand there, part of a watch face, many appearing in a mechanical embryonic state (OK, stay with me here). After stumbling through a tangle of nascent watch parts, might he have been a little less surprised at finding an entire watch?
The following is list of tools, mechanisms, and manufacturing devices that exist in organisms, all evolved from earlier, simple components. Many of the parts have been produced in laboratories that simulated early earth atmospheres, and many parts will self-assemble, like amino acids forming an alpha helix when they combine, or the complex folding initiated by protein chains that contain the amino acid cysteine.
Generation of self-replicating information systems- DNA and RNA
Harnessing solar energy- chlorophyll
Converting photons into pixels- retina
Screw and nut (insect legs)
Gear and rotor- mitochondrial ATP synthase
Levers- any skeletal muscles
Springs (tendons, insect legs)
Ratchet- actin and myosin operation
Rechargeable batteries- electric eels
Wheel and axle- flagellum
Timers- circadian rhythms, Sino-auricular node in heart
Polymers- cellulose, collagen, proteins
Two-phase structural materials- bone (collagen and apatite), crustacean exoskeleton
(chitin, magnesium carbonate, calcium phosphate)
Lubricants- mucus, synovial fluid
Explosives- Bombardier beetles
One-way valves- venous system
Pressure relief valve- Eustachian tube
Additions to the list are encouraged.