Book Review

Paley's Watchmaker: an abridged edition of Win Paley's
Natural Theology, first published in 1802
Edited and introduced by Bill Cooper
New Wine Press, 1997, (223 pp., £7.99)

William Paley was born in 1743 into the Age of Enlightenment, and age when all established tenets about God and Man, their relationship and position in the visible world were being questioned and reformulated. It was an age of skepticism and doubt an age which attempted to put Man in control, both of the Universe and of his own destiny: an age which denied God's power or, indeed. his very existence. The issues discussed then are still debated heatedly today. and, since Darwin. have tended to polarise into a Creation versus Evolution battle. New scientific discoveries have questioned many of the principles of evolution established by Darwin and accepted over the subsequent century, and the questions are as unresolved as ever.

William Paley's Natural Theology (1802) was written as an antidote to the assertions of Hume, Locke and Kant, and its method is to explore the perfection of natural things. showing that this was not achieved by accident but by design: a design which issued from a Creator, and a Creator who was necessarily greater than his Creation. Cicero, in his De Natura Deorum (44BC) had written 'When you see a sun-dial or a water-clock, you see that it tells the time by design and not by chance. How then can you imagine that the universe as a whole is devoid of purpose and intelligence when it embraces everything, including these artifacts themselves and their artificers?' Paley expands on this analogy to examine in detail every item of the human body (eye, ear, etc.) and members of the animal and plant kingdom. showing persuasively how each is perfectly adapted to its function and place in the natural world, and how they are interdependent. He asserts and reasserts that 'The marks of design are too strong to be gotten over. Design must have had a Designer. That Designer must have been a Person. That Person is God.'

Bill Cooper has edited and abridged Paley's original, by updating the punctuation and omitting repetitions and material which Bill has deemed superfluous. Paley's 18th century English is extremely clear and surprisingly superfluous. Paley's 18th century English is extremely clear and surprisingly 'modern' and totally accessible to today's reader. The book is a production of the Creation Science Movement, but whatever one's attitude to the different theories about the Universe and its existence, Paley's Watchmaker is as relevant a part of the discussion as it was when it was written, when it immediately became what today would be termed a best seller.

Hilary Day


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