Have you ever heard the metaphor of the watchmaker?
When I was in school, I was introduced to the watchmaker metaphor for proof that god exists. It is basically the babelfish argument:
“I refuse to prove that I exist,” says God, “for proof denies faith, and without faith, I am nothing.”
“Oh, says man, but the Babel Fish is a dead give-away, isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own argument, you don’t. Q.E.D.”
“Oh, I hadn’t thought of that,” says God, and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.
The watchmaker metaphor is less amusing. It states that if you find a watch in the middle of nowhere, you will immediately know it has a creator. Looking at it, examining it, you will find it so intricate and detailed and coincidentally useful that you can only conclude it did not, as Douglas Adams would say, evolve by chance. Similarly, the argument goes on to say, we can look at the world and conclude there must be a god (rather a strange leap in logic, but hey hum).
Interestingly, I was thinking of this when I read about Duhem’s watchmaker metaphor.
It’s not the same thing at all.
Duhem introduces the metaphor to describe the way the scientist examines the problems and searches the field for solutions. The watchmaker, he poses, fixes the broken watch by dissecting it and examining the component parts, yet his other metaphorical scientist, the doctor, cannot dissect his patient, and must analyse the maladies of the whole, using guesswork to discover the symptoms of the true cause.
The watchmaker often has a more accurate view than the doctor, yet is unable to appreciate the full operational mechanics, because once the lid of the watch is placed back on he can no longer see what is happening inside. He can only imagine it is an associative accumulation of the smaller parts he has studied. The doctor never sees inside the patient clearly and fully, but does see the working model whole.