Design Argument

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Design Argument

The design argument, sometimes called the Teleological Argument (from the Greek word ‘telos’ meaning end or purpose), attempts to prove the existence of God by reference to the process of creation. It is an inductive argument and uses evidence to prove the existence of God, therefore it is emprical. Key Scholars include;Thomas Aquinas, William Paley, Richard Swinburne, John Polkinghorne, and  F.R. Tennant.

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Aquinas: Fifth Way

1.We see that natural bodies work toward some goal, and do not do so by chance.

2.Most natural things lack knowledge. 

3.But as an arrow reaches its target because it is directed by an archer, what lacks intelligence achieves goals by being directed by something intelligence.

When you look at the natural world you can see that everything in it follows natural laws even if things are not conscious, thinking beings. If things follow natural laws they will tend to do well and have some goal or purpose.

However if a thing cannot think for itself it does not have any goal or purpose unless it is directed by something that thinks: Take an archer as an example. It can only be directed to its goal and used for its purpose by someone, such as an archer. Everything in the natural world that does not think for itself heads towards its goals or purpose because it is directed by something which does think. This something we call ‘GOD’.

Everything in the natural world follows natural laws, even if they possess no intelligence. By following these laws, they fulfil some purpose or end goal (telos). They couldn’t do this by themselves (as they “lack knowledge”, so must be directed by an “intelligent being” – GOD

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Paley’s design argument is inductive, as it uses the evidence of design in nature. This supports the conclusion that God exists.

Design Qua Purpose: The argument that the world/universe appears to have been designed to fulfil some purpose.

Design Qua Regularity: The argument that the world/universe appears to behave according to some rule of order.

He used the analogy of finding a watch on a heath to argue that the natural world shows evidence of design in his book ‘Natural Theology’. He argued that the more we learn about different animals and plants, the more we can see evidence of design.

Paley also argued that there is further evidence for God in the regularity of the universe. The relationship between the planets and the effect of gravity between them, could not have come about without a designing principle at work. This principle in God.

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Modern Reforms: FR Tennant

F.R. Tennant: He was one of the main proponents of the anthropic principle and developed it in his book. His book was called ‘Philosophical Theology’ and was published in 1930. Anthropic principle comes in two forms: weak argues that if the world was different we wouldn’t be here. Strong argues that the world has to be as it is in order for us to be here. This is more similar to the traditional arguments from the design argument. Tennant believed that only God can provide an accurate explanation for why humans can contemplate the universe and their place within it, and human morality.

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Mordern Reforms: Richard Swinburne

Swinburne takes science into account. Spatial order can be explained by Darwin, however temporal order – throughout infinite time & space everything follows simple scientific laws – “how extraordinary that is!” Had to have very certain circumstances to come about in the first place – ‘fine-tuned’. We can explain this with God without empirical evidence (‘personal explanation’), not unscientific because “science often postulates unobservable.” Ockham’s razor – simplest explanation is God, rather than chance (however Epicurean Hypothesis) or a trillion universes.

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Modern Reforms: John Polkinghorne

He published a series of books exploring and developing aspects of the compatibility of religion and science. Polkinghorne believes that the universe is an open and flexible system where patterns can be seen to exist, but where ‘the providential aspect cannot be ruled out’. His own faith is to do with physics. He believes that God chose to create a universe governed by science; as our knowledge of science grows, so too will our knowledge of God.

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Criticisms: Hume

1.The Universe is orderly – Hume raise the question of morality. Evidence would suggest that the world is far from being harmonious e.g. suffering, disease, pain and illness. This raises the question as to why a benevolent God would allow such things to take place. Furthermore, recent evidence would suggest that the universe is not a mechanical as Newton would have us believe. Hume argues that there is no obvious sense in talking about the universe as being orderly.

2.Order is the result of design – as an empiricist Hume believed that our knowledge of causes and effects is based upon our experience. We know a builder has built a house because we have seen many houses being built. The same cannot be said about the universe. In this way the universe is unique.

3.Design presupposes intelligence – Hume looks at the complexity of a ship. He notes that in the construction of a ship many shipwrights are employed. Hume point out that the same could be said about the universe – i.e. many creator gods or demons…etc. For Hume, the Teleological Argument does not necessarily lead to the classical Christian definition of God.

4.As the universe is so complex in design, there must be a complex intelligence – Hume postulates as to whether or not this universe is actually complex. We have got nothing to compare it to. In the past people thought slide rules were complex, today in comparison to a modern computer they are very simple

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Criticisms: Dawkins

Dawkins takes on the argument from design. The Blind Watchmaker, provocatively titled after William Paley’s analogical design argument which likens the universe to a watch, seeks to provide a naturalistic explanation of the appearance of design in the universe. There Dawkins sets out to explain how the process of natural selection, acting over time, can successfully explain our origins. There is no need, argues Dawkins, to postulate a divine Creator; evolution can explain all.

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Criticisms: JS Mill

Mill feels that observation of nature does not logically lead to the conclusion that it is designed for human good.

The two most cruel things that humans do are to take life and to deprive someone of their livelihood.

These two things are done by nature regularly via natural disasters.

Any evil that humans do, nature can do better.

“Nature does all this with the most lofty disregard both of mercy and of justice, firing her weapons indiscriminately at the best and noblest people along with the lowest and worst; at those who are engaged in the highest and worthiest enterprises, and often as the direct consequence of the noblest acts - as though Nature were punishing people for acting well!”

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