The Watchmaker


An essay by Marc about the oldest questions asked by mankind: who created the universe, why was the world created, is there a design?

Antique watch

The watchmaker analogy or watchmaker argument is an argument which states, by way of an analogy, that a design implies a designer. The analogy has played a prominent role in natural theology where it was used to support arguments for the existence of God and for the intelligent design of the universe in both, Christianity and Deism.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau mentioned the watchmaker theory in his 1762 book, Emile:

I am like a man who sees the works of a watch for the first time; he is never weary of admiring the mechanism, though he does not know the use of the instrument and has never seen its face. I do not know what this is for, says he, but I see that each part of it is fitted to the rest. I admire the workman in the details of his work, and I am quite certain that all these wheels only work together in this fashion for some common end which I cannot perceive. Let us compare the special ends, the means, the ordered relations of every kind, then let us listen to the inner voice of feeling; what healthy mind can reject its evidence? Unless the eyes are blinded by prejudices, can they fail to see that the visible order of the universe proclaims a supreme intelligence? What sophisms must be brought together before we fail to understand the harmony of existence and the wonderful co-operation of every part for the maintenance of the rest?

Sir Isaac Newton, among other leaders in the scientific revolution, including René Descartes, upheld that “the physical laws he had uncovered revealed the mechanical perfection of the workings of the universe to be akin to a watchmaker, wherein the watchmaker is God.”

The 1859 publication of Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection put forward an explanation for complexity and adaptation, which reflects scientific consensus on the origins of biological diversity. In the eyes of some, this provided a counter-argument to the watchmaker analogy: for example, the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins referred to the analogy in his 1986 book The Blind Watchmaker, giving his explanation of evolution.

He argues that the watchmaker’s creation of the watch implies that the watchmaker must be more complex than the watch. Design is top-down, someone or something more complex designs something less complex. To follow the line upwards demands that the watch was designed by a (necessarily more complex) watchmaker, hence the watchmaker must have been created by a more complex being than himself. So the question becomes who designed the designer? Dawkins argues that (a) this line continues ad infinitum, and (b) it does not explain anything.

Evolution, on the other hand, takes a bottom-up approach; it explains how more complexity can arise gradually by building on or combining lesser complexity.

Osho says, “Time is always at a stop.” And declares:

It is difficult to discuss time, because it is nobody’s experience speaking about time.

In England there was one great atheist, Edmund Burke. His friends told him, “You are a great atheist. One of our great preachers has come – even the archbishop is going to hear his sermon today. We invite you to come; and you will be convinced.”

Burke went to the church with his friends. He listened to the sermon, and at the end, when it was a question-answer hour, he stood up and he asked, “Have not you told us that God is omnipotent, all-powerful?”

The bishop said, “Of course, God is all-powerful. He can do whatever he wants to do. He created the world, he created everything.”

Edmund Burke just raised his hand, showed his watch, and told the priest, “I give you and your God five minutes – let Him stop my watch. A simple thing… I am not asking Him to create a world, just to stop my watch. And I am giving enough time – five minutes. In six days he created the whole universe. I can stop my watch within a second.”

The congregation was shocked, the archbishop was shocked. The watch continued to move… Edmund Burke’s friends were very much depressed. The whole congregation fell into silence: Edmund Burke laughed and walked out of the church. His friends came out, running, with him.

He said, “Do you understand? I have proved that there is no God. And even if there is any God, He is not even potent enough to stop my watch.”

This incident has been quoted again and again in many books written about Edmund Burke – he was a great thinker. Whenever I have come across this incident, I have to laugh myself. And I have felt that it is unfortunate that Edmund Burke is dead; otherwise I would have entered England, even if the parliament does not allow me, just to say to Edmund Burke, “God did not bother about your watch because time is always at a stop. It is not moving. What to do? Your question was wrong. It is your watch that is moving.

“It is our arbitrary method to measure time, which is immeasurable. But God does not know our arbitrary things; He is not a watchmaker. He is aware of the time; and He must have laughed, ‘Time has always been at a stop. What is this English fool asking?’ And how can you stop a thing which is already stopped? – since the very beginning it has been at a stop. It has never moved.”

Our superficial understanding is of movement – one thought to another, one deed to another. But existence knows, in its roots, everything is at a full stop. Nothing moves.

If you can experience this point where nothing moves, you have come home.

That very experience will explain to you all the mysteries of existence.

Osho, The Messiah, Vol 2, Ch 9 (excerpt)


Marc is a regular contributor

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