Design Argument


The argument as presented by Aquinas

  • The design argument forms the fifth of Aquinas's five ways, from the governance of things'
  • Aquinas argued from Design qua Regularity
  • It is also called the Teleological argument
  • He stated that everything id directed towards an end and as inanimate objects have no rational powers then they must be directed to this purpose by some external power
  • He identified te way in which natural bodies act in a regular fashion to accomplish their ends provides the evidence for the existence of an intelligent being, and concluded this is God
  • Aquinas Archer Analogy: The only reason something that lacks awareness (the arrow) can participate in goal orientated behaviour, or perform a purpose, is if something with awareness (the archer) directs it. In the same way, something lacking awareness (such as the earth) can only perform a purpose (for example, orbiting the sun) if something with awareness (God!) directs it.
  • Quote: 'Some being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end, and this being we call God'  
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The argument as presented by Paley (First argument

Paley's first argument

  • 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 te watch and in the same way if we look at the world we can infer design because of the way in which things fit together for some purpose
  • Paley used the example of the eye & the way in which it is adapted for sight. Its various parts cooperate in complex ways. He believed the eye was designed for the purpose of seeing.
  • He adds to this example this example the adaptations of animals that aid survival
  • Quote: There must have existed, at some time, and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers, who formed [the watch] for the purpose which we find it actually to answer;
  • Quote: If I stumbled on a stone and asked how it came to be there, it would be difficult to show that the answer, it has lain there forever is absurd. Yet this is not true if the stone were to be a watch.
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The argument as presented by Paley (Second argumen

Paley's second argument

  • The second part of Paley's argument is design qua regularity 
  • Paley used evidence from astronomy and Newtons laws of motion and gravity to prove design in the universe. Paley pointed to the rotation of the planets in the solar system and how they obey the same universal laws. This couldn't have come about by chance 
  • He concluded an external agent must have imposed order on the universe as a whole, and on its many parts, and this agent must be God. He noted a slight difference can result in chaos
  • Arthur Brown supported the argument for design based on astronomy. Brown pointed to the Ozone layer as evidence for design and the way the ozone layer filters out the ultraviolet rays to protect life.Quote: 'The ozone gas layer is a mighty proof of the creators forethought'
  • Quote (Paley) : If the attracting forces had varied according to any direct law of the distance, great destruction and confusion would have taken place 
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From Philosophy with reference to David Hume

  • Challenges to the argument for design 
  • Humans do not have sufficient knowledge and experience of the creation of the world to conclude that there only 1  designer.Humans only have experience of the things they design & create. Humans can only recognise human designed objects,e.g, a ship.This limited experience is not sufficient to come to similar conclusions about the creation & design of the world. In order to point to a designed world we need experience of a range of different worlds.
  • Hume does not think that it is a good analogy to liken the universe to a vast machine. The universe is more like a vegetable that grows on its own accord 
  • Hume argues that to trydiscuss the design of the universe in human terms was not an acceptable analogy because God transcends human understanding. if we are going to use an analogy of manufactured objects then it more usual for a machine to be made by many hands
  • Challenges to the argument from design 
  • Even if the world was designed it still cannot prove that this designer is God. The conclusion could easily be reached hat the universe's configuration is the result of an unintelligent agent
  • Hues epicurean hypothesis argued that at the time of creation, the universe consisted of particles in random motion. his initial state was chaotic but gradually the natural forces evolved into an ordered system. The universe is eternal, and in this unlimited time it was inevitable that a constantly ordered state would develop. The stability & order is not a result of a divine designer but of random particles coming together through time
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From Science with reference from Dawkin

  • Dawkins argues that natural selection gave the appearance of design and that this led to the mistaken belief that there was a designer.
  • He rejects any design in the world and argues that the variations in the world were caused by random mistakes in the DNA molecules of any life form.
  • Any human action that appears to have altruistic motives is in reality behaviour motivated by the need of the human genes to survive.
  • Humans are no more than DNA carriers that will ensure the survival of the species. 
  • Memes 
  • In his book the selfish gene Dawkins argues that gene-molecules of DNA are the fundamental units of natural selection
  • Dawkins considers the family or the social group to be no more than the environment that animals create to ensure survival of the genes
  • Dawkins refers to memes  to refer to the unit of cultural inheritance. Memes are ideas that are operated by natural selection.Darwin argues we appear to have an appreciation of beauty but it is just a part of the survival mechanism
  • Dawkins defined the meme as a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation and replication
  • Quote: the only watchmaker in the world is the blind force of physics (the blind watch maker)
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Richard Swinburne

  • Swinburne calls his first version of his argument the argument from temporal order. Swinburne accepts that that the universe is law-governed. He recognises that the universe could have been chaotic, but the fact that its not suggests design rather than chance
  •  There are vast amounts of order in the universe. That order is in nature: we didn’t invent it: we just record it as the laws of nature. Science can describe those laws but cannot explain why they exist so if there is an explanation it must be personal, ie an intelligent being.This is the simplest explanation and we should accept the simplest explanation so the universe was probably designed by a single agent of infinite power, knowledge & freedom: God
  • The card shuffling analogy is brought forth by Swinburne &the idea is that because it is so unlikely that the machine would draw 10 ace of hearts,it shows that it is more likely to believe the machine was rigged. Quote 'The teleologist starting-point is not that we perceive order than disorder, but that order rather than disorder is there'
  •  All living things have a machine-like complexity / humans themselves have evolved to be able to make machines / by looking at ourselves, we can see how God designed the universe: not only has nature been designed to work through strict scientific laws, it has been designed to produce intelligent beings like ourselves, who in fact operate as machine-making machines / the most likely explanation of all this order is, again, God.
  • There had to be a planet like ours with just the right kind of atmosphere and oxygen for the universe to evolve in such a way to lead to the development of human life (the anthropic principle)
  • Quote 'order of the world is evidence of the existence of God because its occurrence would be very improbable a priori' 
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Design argument

The design argument for the existence of God is called the telelogical argument. The design argument is an a posteriori argument because it is an argument that is based on external evidence. Supporters of the argument use observation of apparent order, regularity and purpose i the universe and natural world to conclude that the yuniverse is not the result of mere chance but of design.

The basic argument for design states 

  • The universe has order, regularity and purpose 
  • The complexity of the universe shows evidence of design 
  • Such design implies a deisgner 
  • The designer of the universe is God 

The argument makes the basic assumption that there is order and design in the universe and that all things function to fulfil a specific purpose. 

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Design qua regularity

  • This aspect looks at design in relation to the order and regularity in the universe.
  • Philosophers who suppport the argument consider 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 and arrangement of the flowers, there is order and regularity in the universe for example the rotation of planets.
  • Philosophers conclude that just as the formal gardern did not come about by chance but through the work of a gardener, so the order in the univserse can only have occured through design. 

Aquinas fifth way and paley's second argument on astronomy are examples of design qua regularity 

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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 televeision are fittted together in such a way as to recieve pictures and sound. If the parts were fitted together in a random manner then the television would not function. 
  • Simililarly, there are complex arrangements within nature that have been fitted together by a designer for special purposes
  • Design qua purpose developed in the 17th Century in response to mechanistic physics 
  • Scientific developments had proved that the planets orbited the sun according to strict patterns
  • Newton discovered the universal laws of gravity and motion, and demonstrated that the same physical laws that we know on Earth are applicable throughout the whoel universe 
  • Many scientists began to see the universe as a machine with all parts working together 
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Against Gods existence


  • Lapalce argued agaisnt the existence of God to fill in the gaps that science could not understand. It was no longer necessary to believe that God caused the movements in the universe 
  • Scientists no longer had to refer to God in order to explain the way in which the physical world worked 
  • Laplace argued that the universe was like a machine in which each part of the machine affected the behaviour of another part and resulted in movement 
  • Laplace concluded that everything in the solar system was determined and that eventually all the natural laws of the universe would be known and explained in scientific terms 
  • Quote ' What we know is not much, what we do not know is immense'

John Stuart Mill

  • Mill was an empricist and for him knowledge had to be groudned in experience. He challenged the idea that evidence of design in the world proves the existence of God of classical theism because evidence supported either the non-existence of God or a God that did not have the attributes accepted by Christians. 
  • He argued that because there is evil and suffering in the world, then the designer cannot have been all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving. If the designer was all loving then the suffering of humanity would not have been included in design
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Anthropic principle

Polkinghorne uses the anthropic principle to support his belief that chance alone is unlikely theory to explain why the exact conditions occurred in the universe to develop intelligent life. Polkinghorne considers Dawkins and his supporters to have missed the point that all that was required for life was available in our universe and this could only have been the result of a designer, but the creator of that universe has stood back &  given creation the freedom to be itself.

The anthropic principle is a recent development of the teleological argument. The argument claims that the cosmos is constructed for the development of intelligent life. If there was just a minute's change in the values f, for instance, the strong nuclear force or the charge of the electron, then intelligent life, would have been very unlikely to develop on earth 

The new design argument denies any claim that there is a chain of coincidences that led to the evolution of human life. Supporters of the argument go on to make the further claim that the best explanation is the existence of a designer, and this designer is God.

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Tennant anthropic principle

Tennant developed the anthropic principle in his book Philosophical theology. Tennant believed that there were three types of natural evidence in the world in favour of a divine designer: 

  • The fact that the world can be analysed in a rational manner 
  • The way the inorganic world has provided the basic necessities required for sustaining life
  • The progress of evolution towards the emergene of intelligent human life 

Tennant believed that it would be possible to imagine a chaotic universe in which no rules aplied. However, the universe is evidently not chaotic and was designed in such a way that the evolutionary process would create an enviroment in which intelligent life could exist. 

  • Aesthetic argument
  • Tennat develped the argument further by concluding that the universe is not only ordered but moreover appears to be beautiful at all levels. This part of Tennants argument is often alled the aesthetic argument to prove God's existence. Tennant argued that human possess the ability to appreiate the beauty of their surroundings, to enjoy art, music and literature. Yet an appreciation is not neccessary for surivival for the develoment of life. Quote: 'Our scientific knowledge brings us no closer to understanding the beauty of music
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