Instead of an inference to the best explanation, some people believe that Paley’s argument is best read as an instance of an argument by analogy. True, an analogy between functioning organs and artifacts features in a lot of what Paley says. But I think if Paley’s argument were essentially an argument by analogy, then it would be all the weaker for it. As we shall see later on, I think the same of those who read Aristotle’s many references to “as in art, nature” as confirmation that his teleological arguments are essentially arguments by analogy. There are formal differences between inference to the best explanation arguments and arguments by analogy.
The strength of an argument by analogy depends on the degree to which the item or phenomenon in question resembles the analog. Winnie the Pooh somewhat resembles real-world, honey-loving bears but not enough to warrant the conclusion that real-world bears are made of cotton stuffing. Do watches sufficiently resemble living organisms to warrant the conclusion that the latter are designed because the former are? Probably not, if we regard the variety of extant living organisms. Watches are made of metallic cogs and wheels, have glass faces, and fit around one’s wrist. Koalas are endothermic, climb trees, and draw crowds at the San Diego Zoo.
Paley’s argument fares much better as an inference to the best explanation than as an argument by analogy. Sure, the analogy between watches and living organisms plays a central role in the inference to the best explanation—but as a means to strengthen the inference to the best explanation inference from complex adaptation to designer, not as a analogy between the features of watches and living organisms. In other words, the relevant feature in common between watches and living organisms is their complexity and well-suitedness to the function that they serve. If designers are the best explanation for highly functioning artifacts, they will be even better explanations for the even more complex and highly functioning forms found in nature.
All these various arguments for the existence of God remind us of how many different religions there are. And,
that reminds me of a joke apparently written by Emo Philips:
Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!” He said, “Nobody loves me.” I
said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”
He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.” I said, “Me, too!
Protestant or Catholic?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, “Me, too! What franchise?” He said,
“Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” He said, “Northern Baptist.” I
said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”
He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great
Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” He said, “Northern
Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” I said, “Me, too!” Northern Conservative Baptist Great
Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of
1912?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.” I said,
“Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.
Here is Richard Dawkins on the Watchmaker Argument. He seems to be confused as to whether the Watchmaker Argument is an IBE or Analogy. Is he following the principle of charity? Does he rebut the strongest version of the argument?