The watchmaker analogy is often thought to originate with William Paley in Natural Theology (1802.) The analogy seems to be a very clever, creative, original idea. One might even call it inspired. But this book was largely plagiarized from Nieuwentyt, who himself took many ideas from earlier authors. The comparison of living things to clocks and the perception of design that they engender can be traced back to Voltaire, Hooke, Descartes, and even Cicero. It seems that the creation of the analogy was more of a gradual evolution over time.


Mike Stay said…
Given fast gene sequencing, it becomes conceivable to breed organisms toward each other. Expose seeds to mutagens and then using some distance metric on the genome, select the nearest ones.

What kinds of things are equidistant from both a turkey and a redwood?
D said…
Perhaps their last common ancestor on the phylogenetic tree? Something like blue-green algae, perhaps? That might be equidistant, but not on the shortest path between them.

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