The Teleological Argument

Covers the argument for design by Aquinas and Paley through design qua purpose and regularity and its criticisms by Hume, Mill and Darwin

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The Design (Teleological) Argument for
the Existence of God
The teleological argument (from the Greek telos, meaning `end' or `purpose') became one of
the classical arguments of natural theology. It is based on the contention that there is
evidence of order, purpose and design in the universe and in life. The argument proceeds to
conclude that this presupposes a designer who is God. The design argument is an a
posteriori argument because it is an argument based on external evidence.
Design Qua Regularity
This aspect looks at design in relation to the order and regularity of the universe.
Philosophers who support the argument consider that the order and regularity evident in the
universe is evidence of a designer at work. Just as a formal garden shows evidence of a
gardener because of the order, a lack of weeds, and the arrangement of flowers in the
borders, so there is order and regularity evident in the universe for example, the rotation of
planets and the natural laws. Philosophers conclude that just as the formal garden did not
come about by chance but the work of a gardener, the order in the universe can only have
occurred by design.
St Thomas Aquinas
The teleological argument forms the fifth of Aquinas' Five Ways, `from the governance of
things'. Aquinas argued from design qua regularity. He stated that everything works to some
purpose or other and as inanimate objects have no rational powers then they must be
directed to this purpose by some external power, He identified that the way in which `natural
bodies' act in a regular fashion to accomplish their end provides the evidence of an intelligent
being and concluded that this must be God.

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Design Qua Purpose
This aspect of the argument looks at design in relation to the ways in which the parts of the universe
appear to fit together for some purpose. The universe is compared to a man-made machine in which
a designer fits all the parts together for a specific function. For example, the parts of a television are
fitted together in such a way as to receive pictures and sound.…read more

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Similarly, there are complex arrangement
within nature that have been fitted together by a designer for special purposes.…read more

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William Paley
The first part of Paley's argument was design qua purpose. Paley put forward the argument for
design in the form of a simple analogy. If we came across a watch, we would conclude that all the
parts fitted together for a purpose and did not come into existence by chance. An intelligent person
would infer a designer of the watch.…read more

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For example, Paley thought that a
similar conclusion might be drawn from the intricate mechanisms of the human beings.
Paley used the example of the eye and the way in which it is adapted for sight. Its various parts
co-operate in complex ways to produce sight. He believed that the eye was designed for the
specific purpose of seeing, and this complex design suggests an intelligent designer. Such evidence,
Paley argued, could only be the result of a `designing creator', which for Paley was God.…read more

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John Stuart Mill…read more

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John Stuart Mill focused on a criticism that Hume had
identified earlier. This was the occurrence of disorder in the universe. Mill thought that the
Universe is not a pleasant place. He saw instances of events which, if carried out by a
Human, would be punished with the full force of the law.…read more

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God, but rather that God is not the unlimited omnipotent being that traditional
Christianity has taught.
Charles Darwin
These are arguments for Design qua Purpose, appearing to argue that the universe works to
some preordained purpose. Hume compares the universe to a machine, and then prefers to
compare it with a vegetable.…read more


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