Design Argument

HideShow resource information
  • Created by: Jordan
  • Created on: 16-11-12 17:26


  • Argues that the Universe is too beautiful and complex to be the result of chance
  • A.K.A Telelogical Argument, from Greek 'telos' (end/purpose)
  • A posteriori argument, uses the evidence of the senses
  • Inductive reasoning, conclusion is considered highly probable given the evidence


  • Design qua purpose, the Universe has many complex parts which work together for a purpose
  • Design qua regularity, the Universe follows certain predictable rules
1 of 7

St Thomas Aquinas 13th C.

5th of his five ways to prove God (Summa Theologica) is a version of the Design Argument.

Knowledge of God comes from:

  • God's revelation, revealed theology
  • Observation of God's creation, natural theology

The argument:

  • Dull matter cannot be self ordering
  • The design we see in the universe is the result of an intelligent, designing mind, God

Analogy of the archer:

  • An arrow cannot direct itself to a target without being pointed and fired by an archer
  • Likewise, the universe requires a designer to order it and to give it purpose
2 of 7

William Paley 13th C.

Put forward his version of the Design Argument in his work 'Natural Theology'

Analogy of the watch:

  • If you were walking along and came upon a stone then you would not question it and assume it had arrived there through natural forces
  • However if you came upon a watch you would ask how it had come to be there and who had made it
  • You would also assume it had a designer
  • This is because the watch is so complex and clearly has a purpose, even if it is broken or the purpose is unknown
  • Likewise the universe is so complex and purposeful that it must have a designer
3 of 7

F.R. Tenant 20th C.

Anthropic Principle:

  • The Universe has been formed so that intelligent life can emerge, this is no coincidence
  • If any of the conditions of the universe were slightly different then intelligent life would not have been able to emerge
  • There are three pieces of evidence:
    • Universe can be rationally analysed
    • Inorganic world has allowed life to emerge
    • Intelligent life has emerged

Aesthetic Argument:

  • Humans have an appreciation for beauty
  • Whilst this is life enhancing it has no evolutionary benefit and is not necessary for survival
  • Therefore it must have been put there by an all-loving God
4 of 7

Richard Swinburne 20th C.


  • Given the complexity of the Universe it seems more probable to assume that there is a designer
5 of 7


David Hume:

  • Depicts that world as a machine, when it is more like a huge living organism
  • Consider evil and suffering
  • The Universe is unique so we do not have enough evidence to draw conclusions from
  • There is no reason it is the God of Classical Theism

Epicurean Hypothesis:

  • The Universe is the result of randomly moving particles
  • In infinite time and space a random universe would go through all possible combinations and this is just one of them
  • Like a monkey randomly hitting keys on a typewriter would, in infinte time and space, eventually write the entire works of Shakespeare
6 of 7


Darwin and Evolution:

  • The world was not created by God but by a process of evolution (this includes survival of the fittest and natural selection)
  • The order we can see in the Universe today is the result of years of this process
  • The Anthropic Principle could reply by simply saying that God created evolution too

Immanuel Kant:

  • Put forward an argument from perception
  • The order we see in the universe may only exist in our minds
  • It is something our minds have imposed on us to help make sense of what is going on around us
7 of 7


No comments have yet been made

Similar Philosophy resources:

See all Philosophy resources »See all Ideas of gods resources »