- What is the thesis (the central idea or main point?)
William Paley’s concept of Natural Theology argues for a synthesis between laws of nature and God. Natural Theology claims that the laws of the natural world are designed and made operant by the Divinity. It is this divine hand at work which accounts for the stability and order in the cosmos.
- What are the main arguments made in supporting the thesis?
Paley was not only a theologian but also a brilliant lawyer. His training as a lawyer is put to rigorous use in constructing his arguments. The grand thesis of Natural Theology is supported by numerous examples from geology, cosmology and the natural world. For example, in the case of a wrist watch, there is a clear purpose as well as precision behind its design. This is circumstantial evidence for a Creator, in this case of the watchmaker. There are numerous similar examples offered by Paley to support his claims.
- What are the important implications of the author’s position?
The most important implication is that science is subservient to religion. But the greatest rebuttal to this assertion would come in the form of Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution through Natural Selection a century after the publication of Natural Theology.
- Is what is said clear? How is it unclear?
Paley’s arguments are well rounded, detailed and rigorous. The prose style is lucid and his metaphors apt. The drawbacks come in the form of selective omissions of facts undermining his position.
- Are the arguments adequate to support the claims? Are the premises true? The assumptions dubious?
The arguments offered by Paley are very eloquent and persuasive, yet not decisive. His assumptions and premises are dubious in many instances. To be fair to Paley, writing as he did a century before the arrival of Charles Darwin in the scientific scene, his arguments were handicapped by the lack of evidences to the contrary that are offered in abundance by Darwin.
- Do the implications of the text lead to absurd or false consequences?
Given that Paley was a renowned scholar with a considerable readership, the false or inadequate conclusions in the text is prone to be abused or co-opted by religious fundamentalists.
- Are important aspects of the issue overlooked?
Yes, many natural phenomena can be explained scientifically without resort to argument from divine intervention. Perhaps, Paley’s passion for religion has biased his views. By virtue of stating a strong thesis, the author is compelled to look and select evidence in support of it. Perhaps a free exposition of the subject would have lead to a balanced rhetoric and findings.
- How well did the author accomplish his or her goal?
Paley’s Natural Theology is relevant today as a specimen of logical rigour and refined styles of argument. Its thesis has steadily lost relevance since the age of the Enlightenment and that trend continues today.