A metaphor for an argument that defends the top-down design of a process, thing, or being.


“A ‘skyhook’ is an imaginary device for hanging an object from the sky. The word originated in a sarcastic remark by a frusturated pilot of a reconnaissance plane in the First World War, when told to stay in the same place for an hour: ‘This machine is not fitted with ‘skyhooks,’ he replied. The philosopher Daniel Dennett used the skyhook as a metaphor for the argument that life shows evidence of an intelligent designer. He contrasted skyhooks with cranes — the first impose a solution, explanation or plan on the world from on high; the second allow solutions, explanations or patterns to emerge from the ground up.

The history of Western thought is dominated by skyhooks, by devices for explaining the world as the outcome of design and planning. Plato said that society worked by imitating a designed cosmic order; a belief in which should be coercively enforced. Aristotle said that you should look for inherent principles of intentionality and development — souls — within matter. Homer said gods decided the outcome of battles. St. Paul said that you should behave morally because Jesus told you so. Mohamed said you should obey God’s word as transmitted through the Koran. Luther said that your fate was in God’s hands. Hobbes said that social order came from a monarch, or what he called ‘Leviathan’ — the state. Kant said morality transcended human experience. Nietzsche said that strong leaders made for good societies. Marx said that the state was the means of delivering economic and social progress. Again and again, we have told ourselves that there is a top-down description of the world, and top-down prescription by which we should live.” (8, The¬†Evolution of Everything)


The Evolution of Everything by Matt Ridley

Darwin’s Dangerous Idea by Charles Darwin


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