Paley's Design Argument

Arguments For the Existence of God : The Design Argument


Paley's Design Argument


  • Paley may be right to argue that the designer is the all-powerful Christian God, and not Hume's lesser Gods (as Swinburne says) 'God' is probably the simplest explanation of the appearance of design in the universe
  • Paley argued that evil may be unavoidable in order for God to bring about Good. Modern arguments support Paley here, for example, the free will defense; Process Theology; and Hick;s Irenaean theodicy
  • Paley is right to see God as the designer of nature: Swinburne argues that evolution simply obeys the laws of science designed by God
  • Paley's language is anthropomorphic, but his conclusion that the designer is metaphysical and transcendent still seems reasonable. Moreover, we know enough about design to show that Paley could be right
  • Paley's argument that nature shows purpose and design is supported by the 'fine-tuning' argument and the anthropic principle, although if it turns out that there is a multiverse, that argument does not work
  • Paley's argument is good because it is based on induction - what we observe, and we do observe the appearance of design.


  • Hume seems to be right that the all-powerful God of Christian theism is a greater cause than is needed to account for the appearance of design in the universe
  • There is too much evil in the world to see it as the design of a loving/powerful God
  • Hume's comment that the universe is more like a vegetable than a machine is backed up by Darwin's theory of evolution. Nature appears to design itself without the need for God
  • As Hume says, we have no experience of universe making, so our ideas about it are anthropomorphic and limited
  • Moreover, if nature can design itself, Hume is probably right in claiming that the universe is now an ordered state purely by chance (his Epicurean Hypothesis)


We are still left with the issue of what kind of God we are left with. Does the nature of evil show that the designer cannot be all-loving) Could Christian belief cope with the view of Process Theology, that God is not all-powerful? Could Christian belief cope with the deistic view that the designer has left us to our own free devices?


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