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William Paley - The Analogy of the Watchmaker (from Natural Philosophy) lyrics

In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked
how the stone came to be there, I might possibly answer, that, for anything I
knew to the contrary, it had lain there forever: nor would it perhaps be very
easy to shew the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon
the ground, and it should be enquired how the watch happened to be in that
place, I should hardly think of the answer which I had before given, that, for
anything 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? Why is it not as
admissible in the second case, as in the first? For this reason, and for no
other, viz. 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; that, if the
several parts had been differently shaped from what they are, of a different
size from what they are, or placed after any other manner, or in any other
order, than that in which they are placed, either no motion at all would have
been carried on in the machine, or none which would have answered the use that
is now served by it. To reckon up a few of the plainest of these parts, and of
their offices, all tending to one result:- We see a cylindrical box containing a
coiled, elastic spring, which, by its endeavour to relax itself, turns round the
box. We next observe a flexible chain (artificially wrought for the sake of
flexure) communicating the action of the spring from the box to the fusee. We
then find a series of wheels, the teeth of which catch in, and apply to, each
other, conducting the motion from the fusee to the balance, and from the balance
to the pointer; and at the same time, by the size and shape of those wheels, so
regulating that motion, as to terminate in causing an index, by an equable and
measured progression, to pa** over a given space in a given time. We take notice
that the wheels are made of bra**, in order to keep them from rust; the springs
of steel, no other metal being so elastic; that over the face" of the watch
there is placed a gla**, a material employed in no other part of the work, but
in the room of which, if there had been any other than a transparent substance,
the hour could not be seen without opening the case. This mechanism being observed (it requires
indeed an examination of the instrument, and perhaps some previous knowledge of
the subject, to perceive and understand it; but being once, as we have said,
observed and understood), the inference, we think, is inevitable, that the watch
must have had a maker: that there must have existed, at some time and at some
place or other, an artificer or artificers who formed it for the purpose which
we find it actually to answer; who comprehended its construction, and designed its use.
Nor would it, I apprehend, weaken the conclusion, that we had never seen a watch
made; that we had never known an artist capable of making one; that we were
altogether incapable of executing such a piece of workmanship ourselves, or of
understanding in what manner it was performed; all this being no more than what
is true of some exquisite remains of ancient art, of some lost arts, and, to the
generality of mankind, of the more curious productions of modern manufacture.
Does one man in a million know how oval frames are turned? Ignorance of this
kind exalts our opinion of the unseen and unknown, artist's sk**, if he be
unseen and unknown, but raises no doubt in our minds of the existence and agency
of such an artist, at some former time, and in some place or other. Nor can I
perceive that it varies at all the inference, whether the question arise
concerning a human agent, or concerning an agent of a different species, or an
agent possessing, in some respects, a different nature.
Neither, secondly, would it invalidate our conclusion, that the watch sometimes
went wrong, or that it seldom went exactly right. The purpose of the machinery,
the design, and the designer, might be evident, and in the case supposed would
be evident, in whatever way we accounted for the irregularity of the movement,
or whether we could account for it or not. It is not necessary that a machine be
perfect, in order to shew with what design it was made: still less necessary,
where the only question is, whether it were made with any design at all.
Nor, thirdly, would it bring any uncertainty into the argument, if there were a
few parts of the watch, concerning which we could not discover, or had not yet
discovered, in what manner they conduced to the general effect; or even some
parts, concerning which we could not ascertain, whether they conduced to that
effect in any manner whatsoever. For, as to the first branch of the case; if, by
the loss, or disorder, or decay of the parts in question, the movement of the
watch were found in fact to be stopped, or disturbed, or retarded, no doubt
would remain in our minds as to the utility or intention of these parts,
although we should be unable to investigate the manner according to which, or
the connection by which, the ultimate effect depended upon their action, or
a**istance; and the more complex is the machine, the more likely is this
obscurity to arise. Then, as to the second thing supposed, namely, that there
were parts which might be spared, without prejudice to the movement of the
watch, and that we had proved this by experiment,'-these superfluous parts, even
if we were completely a**ured that they were such, would not vacate the
reasoning which we had instituted concerning other parts. The indication of
contrivance remained, with respect to them, nearly as it was before.
Nor, fourthly, would any man in his senses think the existence of the watch,
with its various machinery, accounted for, by being told that it was one out of
possible combinations of material forms; that whatever he had found in the place
where he found the watch, must have contained some internal configuration or
other; and that this configuration might be the structure now exhibited, viz. of
the works of a watch, as well as a different structure.
V Nor, fifthly, would it yield his enquiry more satisfaction to be answered,
that there existed in things a principle of order, which had disposed the parts
of the watch into their present form and situation. He never knew a watch made
by the principle of order; nor can he even form to himself an idea of what is
meant by a principle of order, distinct from the intelligence of the watchmaker.

Sixthly, he would be surprised to hear, that the mechanism of the watch was no
proof of contrivance, only a motive to induce the mind to think so.
And not less surprised to be informed, that the watch in his hand was nothing
more than the result of the laws of metallic nature. It is a perversion of
language to a**ign any law, as the efficient, operative cause of any thing. A
law presupposes an agent; for it is only the mode, according to which an agent
proceeds: it implies a power; for it is the order, according to which that power
acts. Without this agent, without this power, which are both distinct from
itself, the law does nothing; is nothing. The expression, "the law of metallic
nature," may sound strange and harsh to a philosophic ear, but it seems quite as
justifiable as some others which are more familiar to him, such as "the law of
vegetable nature" - "the law of animal nature," or indeed as "the law of nature"
in general, when a**igned as the cause of phenomena, in exclusion of agency and
power; or when it is substituted into the place of these.
VIII Neither, lastly, would our observer be driven out of his conclusion, or
from his confidence in its truth, by being told that he knew nothing at all
about the matter. He knows enough for his argument. He knows the utility of the
end: he knows the subserviency and adaptation of the means to the end. These
points being known, his ignorance of other points, his doubts concerning other
points, affect not the certainty of his reasoning. The consciousness of knowing
little, need not begat a distrust of that which he does know. . . .
Suppose, in the next place, that the person, who found the watch, should, after
some time, discover, that, in addition to all the properties which he had
hitherto observed in it, it possessed the unexpected property of producing, in
the course of its movement, another watch like "itself; (the thing is conceivable;) that it contained within it a mechanism, a system of parts, a
mould for instance, or a complex adjustment of lathes, files, and other tools,
evidently and separately calculated for this purpose; let us enquire, what
effect ought such a discovery to have upon his former conclusion.
The first effect would be to increase his admiration of the contrivance, and his
conviction of the consummate sk** of the contriver. Whether he regarded the
object of the contrivance, the distinct apparatus, the intricate, yet in many
parts intelligible, mechanism, by which it was carried on, he would perceive, in
his new observation, nothing but an additional reason for doing what he had
already done; for referring the construction of the watch to design, and to
supreme art. If that construction without this property, or, which is the same
thing, before this property had been noticed, proved intention and art to have
been employed about it; still more strong would the proof appear, when he came
to the knowledge of this further property, the crown and perfection of all the

He would reflect, that though the watch before him were, in some sense, the
maker of the watch, which was fabricated in the course of its movements, yet it
was in a very different sense from that, in which a carpenter, for instance, is
the maker of a chair; the author of its contrivance, the cause of the relation
of its parts to their use. With respect to these, the first watch was no cause
at all to the second: in no such sense as this was it the author of the
constitution and order, either of the parts which the new watch contained, or of
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the parts by the aid and instrumentality of which it was produced. We might
possibly say, but with great latitude of expression, that a stream of water
ground corn: but no latitude of expression would allow us to say, no stretch of
conjecture could lead us to think, that the stream of water built the mill,
though it were too ancient for us to know who the builder was. What the stream
of water does in the affair is neither more nor less than this: by the
application of an unintelligent impulse to a mechanism previously arranged,
arranged independently of it, and arranged by intelligence, an effect is
produced, viz. the corn is ground. But the effect results from the arrangement.
The force of the stream cannot be said to be the cause or author of the effect,
still less of the arrangement. Understanding and plan in the formation of the
mill were not the less necessary, for any share which the water has in grinding
the corn: yet is this share the same, as that which the watch would have
contributed to the production of the new watch, upon the supposition a**umed in
the last section. Therefore,
Though it be now no longer probable, that the individual watch which our
observer had found, was made immediately by the hand of an artificer, yet doth
not this alteration in any wise affect the inference, that an artificer had been
originally employed and concerned in the production. The argument from design
remains as it was. Marks of design and contrivance are" no more accounted for
now, than they were before. In the same thing, we may ask for the cause of
different properties. We may ask for the cause of the colour of a body, of its
hardness, of its heat; and these causes may be all different. We are now asking
for the cause of that subserviency to an use, that relation to an end, which we
have remarked in the watch before us. No answer is given to this question by
telling us that a preceding watch produced it. There cannot be design without a
designer; contrivance without a contriver; order without choice; arrangement,
without any thing capable of arranging; subserviency and relation to a purpose,
without that which could intend a purpose; means suitable to an end, and
executing their office in accomplishing that end, without the end ever having
been contemplated, or the means accommodated to it. Arrangement, disposition of
parts, subserviency of means to an end, relation of instruments to an use, imply
the presence of intelligence and mind. No one, therefore, can rationally
believe, that the insensible, inanimate watch, from which the watch before us
issued, was the proper cause of the mechanism we so much admire in it; could be
truly said to have constructed the instrument, disposed its parts, a**igned
their office, determined their order, action, and mutual dependency, combined
their several motions into one result, and that also a result connected with the
utilities of other beings. All these properties, therefore, are as much
unaccounted for, as they were before.
Nor is any thing gained by running the difficulty further back, i.e. by
supposing the watch before us to have been produced from another watch, that
from a former, and so on indefinitely. Our going back ever so far brings us no
nearer to the least degree of satisfaction upon the subject. Contrivance is
still unaccounted for. We still want a contriver. A designing mind is neither
supplied by this supposition, nor dispensed with. If the difficulty were
diminished the further we went back, by going back indefinitely we might exhaust
it. And this is the only case to which this sort of reasoning applies. Where
there is a tendency, or, as we increase the number of terms, a continual
approach towards a limit, there, by supposing the number of terms to be what is
called infinite, we may conceive the limit to be attained: but where there is no
such tendency, or approach, nothing is effected by lengthening the series. There
is no difference as to the point in question, (whatever there may be as to many
points), between one series and another; between a series which is finite, and a
series which is infinite. A chain, composed of an infinite number of links, can
no more support itself, than a chain composed of an infinite number of links.
And of this we are a**ured, (though we never can have tried the experiment),
because, by increasing the number of links, from ten for instance to a hundred,
from a hundred to a thousand, &c. we make not the smallest approach, we observe
not the smallest tendency, towards self-support. There is no difference in this
respect (yet there may be a great difference in several respects), between a
chain of a greater or less length, between one chain and another, between one
that is finite and one that is infinite. This very much resembles the case
before us. The machine, which we are inspecting, demonstrates, by its
construction, contrivance and design. Contrivance must have had a contriver,
design, a designer; whether the machine immediately proceeded from another
machine or not. The circumstance alters not the case. That other machine may, in
like manner, have proceeded from a former machine: nor does that alter the case:
contrivance must have had a contriver. That former one from one preceding it: no
alteration still: a contriver is still necessary. No tendency is perceived, no
approach towards a diminution of this necessity. It is the same with any and
every succession of these machines; a succession of ten, of a hundred, of a
thousand; with one series as with another: a series which is finite, as with a
series which is infinite. In whatever other respects they may differ, in this
they do not. In all equally, contrivance and design are unaccounted for.
The question is not simply, How came the first watch into existence? which
question, it may be pretended, is done away by supposing the series of watches
thus produced from one another to have been infinite, and consequently to have
had no such first, for which it was necessary to provide a cause. This, perhaps,
would have been nearly the state of the question, if nothing had been before us
but an unorganized, unmechanized, substance, without mark or indication of
contrivance. It might be difficult to shew that such substance could not have
existed from eternity, either in succession (if it were possible, which I think
it is not, for unorganized bodies to spring from one another), or by individual
perpetuity. But that is not the question now. To suppose it to be so, is to
suppose that it made no difference whether we had found a watch or a stone. As
it is, the metaphysics of that question have no place; for, in the watch which
we are examining, are seen contrivance, design; an end, a purpose, means for the
end, adaptation to the purpose. And the question, which irresistibly presses
upon our thoughts, is, whence this contrivance and design. The thing required is
the intending mind, the adapting hand, the intelligence by which that hand was
directed. This question, this demand, is not shaken off, by increasing a number
or succession of substances, destitute of these properties; nor the more, by
increasing that number to infinity. If it be said, that, upon the supposition of
one watch being produced from another in the course of that other's movements,
and by means of the mechanism within it, we have a cause for the watch in my
hand, viz. the watch from which it proceeded. I deny, that for the design, the
contrivance, the suitableness of means to an end, the adaptation of instruments
to an use (all which we discover in the watch), we have any cause whatever. It
is in vain, therefore, to a**ign a series of such causes, or to allege that a
series may be carried back to infinity; for I do not admit that we have yet any
cause at all of the phenomena, still less any series of causes either finite or
infinite. Here is contrivance, but no contriver; proofs of design, but no

Our observer would further also reflect, that the maker of the watch before him,
was, in truth and reality, the maker of every watch produced from it; there
being no difference (except that the latter manifests a more exquisite sk**)
between the making of another watch with his own hands, by the mediation of
files, lathes, chisels, &c. and the disposing, fixing, and inserting of these
instruments, or of others equivalent to them, in the body of the watch already
made, in such a manner, as to form a new watch in the course of the movements
which he had given to the old one. It is only working by one set of tools,
instead of another.
The conclusion which the first examination of the watch, of its works,
construction, and movement, suggested, was, that it must have had, for the cause
and author of that construction, an artificer, who understood its mechanism, and
designed its use. This conclusion is invincible. A second examination presents
us with a new discovery. The watch is found, in the course of its movement, to
produce another watch, similar to itself: and not only so, but we perceive in it
a system of organization, separately calculated for that purpose. What effect
would this discovery have, or ought it to have, upon our former inference? What,
as hath already been said, but to increase, beyond measure, our admiration of
the sk**, which had been employed in the formation of such a machine? Or shall
it, instead of this, all at once turn us round to an opposite conclusion, viz.
that no art or sk** whatever has been concerned in the business, although all
other evidences of art and sk** remain as they were, and this last and supreme
piece of art be now added to the rest? Can this be maintained without absurdity?
Yet this is atheism.
This is atheism: for 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 and more, and that in a
degree which exceeds all computation. I mean that the contrivances of nature
surpa** the contrivances of art, in the complexity, subtility, and curiosity of
the mechanism; and still more, if possible, do they go beyond them in number and
variety: yet, in a multitude of cases, are not less evidently mechanical, not
less evidently contrivances, not less evidently accommodated to their end, or
suited to their office, than are the most perfect productions of human
ingenuity. . . . .

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