It’s a guy thing. We just don’t like shopping. We prefer not to do it but sometimes we just can’t escape. Have a look in any shopping mall on an average Saturday – you will see men standing outside shops waiting for their partners. They seem to be in trances, staring into space. But actually they are thinking. Shopping expeditions give men plenty of time to think. Malls are a great place for contemplating the important questions in life.
Here are some of the thoughts I had on my first visit to Sylvia Park, the largest shopping mall in New Zealand. They were sparked by considering William Paley’s argument by design for the existence of God. His arguments that a watch is evidence for the existence of a watchmaker. Therefore, by analogy, the existence of the universe and of life is evidence for a designer – God.
Cars are obviously designed
First, while waiting in the car park I started thinking about all the vehicles. Such a profusion of shapes and colours. But quickly I recognised patterns. I could place all these vehicles into relatively few groups. The colour variation was superficial – beneath the surface there were relatively few brands and models. These were easily recognised by size, shape and brand badge.
All these vehicles showed evidence of manufacture. They were designed to transport people. Each company (Toyota, Nissan Subaru, etc.) obviously had design departments and employed designers. The very limited variation amongst the vehicles indicated that within a group each vehicle was a replicate of the others. These vehicles had been build from a limited number of blueprints – a different blueprint for each brand and model. So, contemplation in the car park told me the limited variation was evidence for a number of designers with a limited range of blueprints. It was also evidence of manufacture.
People are individuals
Next stop – a fashion boutique. While waiting outside I started noticing the shoppers, the people. Again, a profusion of colours, shapes and sizes. But this time the variation was much deeper than in the carpark. Remove the clothes and the variation remained. Sure there were groups, families, but every individual remained individual – they were not replicates of each other. There was no evidence of manufacture. As for design – clearly many of these people were not well designed for their roles. Some were too large or too small. Some had problems with eyesight, their limbs, hair covering, and many other details.
Clearly these people weren’t built from a blueprint or even a large number of blueprints. These people were individuals. The variation appeared infinite. There was no designer or even a number of different designers here. These individuals were not manufactured. They obviously had internal mechanisms determining their development, producing their individuality, responsible for the seemingly infinite variation.
Charles Darwin on variation
So, moving on to the next stop – a bookshop. Now that is one of the few shops I can appreciate. No staring into space here. In fact, I ended up making a few purchases of my own here. Amongst then a book From So Simple a Beginning. This was great value because it is a collection of four of Charles Darwin’s books (Voyage of the Beagle, The Origin of Species, The Descent of Man, and The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals). Reading The Origin of Species helped me understand the importance of the huge variation in living organisms to the evolution of life and the origins of humanity.
So what about William Paley’s “argument from design” I don’t think he thought it through properly. He spent all his time contemplating a watch when he should have been looking at people, recognising the huge variation which could not be explained by something as mechanical as design, blueprints and manufacture. But then again, he didn’t have the advantage of the time for observation and contemplation offered by the modern shopping mall.
Should we teach creationism?
Intelligent design/creationism I: What is scientific knowledge?
Intelligent design/creationism II: Is it scientific?
Intelligent design/creationism III: The religious agenda
Intelligent design/creationism IV: The religion – science conflict
Intelligent design/creationism: Postscript
Evolution’s threat to religion?
Isaac Newton and intelligent design
Intelligent design attacks on Christianity