Theme 1 - C - Challenges to Inductive Arguments


David Hume - Empirical objections

David Hume (empirical philosopher) was uncomfortable with the reasoning behind the cosmological argument, specifically in terms of the arguments it presented in relation to causes.

Hume had four major challenges to cosmological arguments:

1. Just because we observe cause and effect IN the universe does not mean that the rule applies to the universe itself. e.g. just because every human has a mother doesn't mean the whole of humanity has a mother.

2. Whilst we can talk about things that we have experience of with some certainty, we have no experience of creating a universe and therefore cannot talk meaningfully about that.

3. There is not enough evidence to say whether the universe had a cause and definitely not enough to make any conclusion about what caused it.

4. Even if 'God' could be accepted as the cause of the universe, there is no way to determine what sort of God this would be and certainly no way of determining if it was the God of Classical Theism.

1 of 6

David Hume - Problems with Analogies

Hume criticises the use of human analogies to demonstrate the fact that the universe is designed.

Used an analogy of an architect/builder and said that just because we know how a building is designed/built does not mean we can infer from this how the universe is designed/built. The house and universe are too different.

Hume concludes that as the universe is unique, no analogy is sufficient to explain its origins.

If we lack experience of the thing that the analogy is being used to 'prove' then how can we be certain it is true?

Even if we assume that the universe has a designer, as we have no universes to compare this one to, how do we know it has been designed well?

Hume uses a ship/shipbuilder analogy to support his challenge, saying that one might think a shipbuilder is a genius for creating a ship, however the ship they are observing is nothing more than an imitation of other ships but not as good in comparison. Hume observes that there may be better universes out there and this designing God is poor.

Philo argues with Hume, suggesting that, as a house or ship has many builders, surely it makes sense to say that there were many builders involved in contructing the universe.

2 of 6

Alternative Scientific Explanations


  • The idea that some 10 billion to 20 billion years ago, a massive blast allowed all the universe's known matter and energy to spring from some ancient and unknown type of energy.
  • The Big Bang Theory is supported by evidence that the universe is expanding.
  • It was first proposed by Alexander Friedman, and later expanded upon by Georges Lemaitre
  • Universe expanded rapidly, eventually stars, galaxies and planets formed.
  • pros - lots of scientific evidence, there could still be a place for 'God' as the cause of the Big Bang
  • cons - leaves many unanswered questions like what was there before? It is all just a theory, could be wrong.


  • Charles Darwin put forward a theory that all species of organisms arise and develop through natural selection of small, inherited variations that incease the individual's ability to compete, survive and reproduce.
  • 'survival of the fittest' - strongest of a species survives long enough to pass on its genes to next generation.
  • anathema to the majority of people in the 19th century, who believed God = prime mover of universe
  • things weren't 'just happening', they were happening according to a specific principle
  • The reason for species being so well suited to their environment was not due to a benevolent designer but because of their ability to adapt to surroundings.
3 of 6

Effectiveness of the challenges to teleological


  • Scientifically evidenced arguments will always be more effective than philosophical religious arguments. 
  • the challenges are effectie as the argument has no sound empirical basis
  • the order that can be seen in the universe is not evidence of intention, therefore there is no need to conclude that this was the action of a designer God.
  • the religious point of view that the world and everything in it was the result of a divine design is undermined by Darwin's findings.


  • fundamentals of the argument are based on the same assumptions as that of scientific theories, which proves that not all challenges to the argument are effective.
  • any argument that is based on observation, experience and evidence should be considered effective, the teleological argument is all of these things.
  • relying on scientific evidence to challenge the teleological argument is ineffective as it can also be used to support the argument
4 of 6

Whether scientific explanations are more persuasiv


  • Religion relies too heavily on a God of the gaps approach to explaining the universe's existence - scientific explanations are far more persuasive.
  • Science is easily and widely accepted - based on empirical and rational knowledge.
  • The theory of quantum physics suggests that at the sub-atomic level our traditional understanding of a cause and effect universe is not necessarily relevant.


  • Religious explanations should be accepted as valid because science cannot disprove them entirely
  • The lack of clear evidence from science undermines how persuasive scientific explanations for the universe's existence are in the face of philosophical explanations from religion
  • Scientific evidence can only talk meaningfully about time after the Big Bang - not the moments before.
  • Scientific explanations can often be extremely complex - may seem so far-fetched that a common sense philosophical explanation seems to make more sense.
  • Scientific observers have nor proven beyond reasonable doubt that God is not the first cause of the universe.
5 of 6

Quotes to learn for this section

Problems with analogies:

'And does not a plant or animal.... bear a stronger resemblance to the world, than does any artificial machine which arises from reason and design?' - Hume, Dialogues

'Sound philosophy ought carefully to guard against so natural an illusion' - Hume

6 of 6


No comments have yet been made

Similar Religious Studies resources:

See all Religious Studies resources »See all Philosophy resources »