Design resources

William Paley’s Natural Theology makes some important points:

Whatever is done, God could have done, without the intervention of instruments or means: but it is in the construction of instruments, in the choice and adaptation of means, that a creative intelligence is seen. It is this which constitutes the order and beauty of the universe. God, therefore, has been pleased to prescribe limits to his own power; and to work his ends within those limits. (p.27)

There is no design if there are no choices, means, and limits. As long as the universe exhibits limits and means, we can discern choices and therefore a chooser, a designer. But if there is an unlimited resource, then design is not needed.

Say, for example, that someone has a virtually unlimited budget to make a car that drives itself. Then they could throw money at almost any idea and expect that something might eventually work. When something is found that happens to work, people would see design in it but from the perspective of the wealthy buyer, it would be mere happenstance.

Something like this happened with the discovery (or invention) of deep time. Instead of time being confined to history, Bursting the Limits of Time by Martin Rudwick shows how time became a vast resource for scientific explanation. It was inevitable that the argument from design was replaced by chance operating with virtually unlimited time.

But all explanatory elements have limits and “costs”. A scientific explanation should optimize the use of resources for explanation. Otherwise, a virtually unlimited resource (e.g., time) will flood the market for explanations (cf. Gresham’s law).