The watchmaker analogy or watchmaker argument is a teleological argument. By way of an analogy, the argument states that design implies a designer. The analogy has played a prominent role in natural theology and the “argument from design,” where it was used to support arguments for the existence of God and for the intelligent design of the universe. The most famous statement of the teleological argument using the watchmaker analogy was given by William Paley in his 1802 book Natural Theology or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity.
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, and provides a counter-argument to the watchmaker analogy: for example, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins referred to the analogy in his 1986 book The Blind Watchmaker giving his explanation of evolution. In the 19th century, deists, who championed the watchmaker analogy, held that Darwin’s theory fit with “the principle of uniformitarianism—the idea that all processes in the world occur now as they have in the past” and that deistic evolution “provided an explanatory framework for understanding species variation in a mechanical universe.”
In the United States, starting in the 1960s, creationists revived versions of the argument to dispute the concepts of evolution and natural selection, and there was renewed interest in the watchmaker argument.