The Design Argument
Plato (c. 427–c. 347 B.C.) posited a "demiurge" of supreme wisdom and intelligence as the creator of the cosmos in his work Timaeus. For Plato, the demiurge lacked the supernatural ability to create "ex nihilo" or out of nothing. The demiurge was able only to organize the "ananke" (αναγκη). The ananke was the only other co-existent element or presence in Plato's cosmogony. Plato's teleological perspective is also built upon the analysis of a priori order and structure in the world that he had already presented in The Republic.Aristotle (c. 384–322 B.C.) also developed the idea of a creator of the cosmos, often referred to as the "Prime Mover" in his work Metaphysics. Aristotle's views have very strong aspects of a teleological argument, specifically that of a prime mover, who (so to speak) looks ahead in setting the cosmos into motion. Indeed, Aristotle argued that all nature reflects inherent purposiveness and direction.Cicero (c. 106–c. 43 B.C.) also made one of the earliest known teleological arguments. In de Natura Deorum (On the Nature of the Gods) Cicero stated, "The divine power is to be found in a principle of reason that pervades the whole of nature". He was writing from the cultural background of the Roman religion. In Roman mythology the creator goddess, Gaia was borrowed from Greek mythology. The Romans called her Tellus or Terra."When you see a sundial or a water-clock, you see that it tells the time by design and not by chance. How then can you imagine that the universe as a whole is devoid of purpose and intelligence, when it embraces everything, including these artifacts themselves and their artificers?" (Cicero, De Natura Deorum, ii. 34)Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354–430) presented a classic teleological perspective in his work City of God. He describes the "city of man" and essentially posits that God's plan is to replace the city of man with the city of God (at some as-yet-unknown point in the future). Whether this is to happen gradually or suddenly is not made clear in Augustine's work. He did not, however, make a formal argument for the existence of God; rather, God's existence is already presumed and Augustine is giving a proposed view of God's teleology. Augustine's perspective follows from and is built upon the neo-Platonic views of his era, which in turn have their original roots in Plato's cosmogony.AverroesThe Muslim philosopher Averroes developed teleologic arguments based on the thought of Plato and Aristotle and helped make their works available to other medieval scholars.Averroes (Ibn Rushd) was writing on teleological arguments in Moorish Spain from an Islamic perspective in the latter half of the 12th Century, and his influence was very considerable in interpreting many of Aristotle's ideas for the first time in Latin, thereby directly helping to make Aristotle available through a new school of thought known as the Averroists. Averroes was a transitional philosopher, partly a priori neo-Platonic, and partly a posteriori Aristotelian. As a result of his overlapping of the two modes in interpreting Aristotle, and also as a result of what would be known today as a strong disagreement between a deistic and theistic viewpoint in religious circles of that era, Averroes' work was highly controversial and fairly quickly was officially banned in both the Christian and Islamic world. Despite the lingering Platonic influence, Averroes' teleological arguments can be characterized as primarily Aristotelian and presuming one god. He argues based mainly upon Aristotle's Physics, in essence that the combination of order and continual motion in the universe cannot be accidental and requires a Prime Mover, a Supreme Principle, which is in itself pure Intelligence.AquinasThe fifth of Thomas Aquinas' proofs of God's existence was based on teleology.The most notable of the scholastics (c. 1100–1500) who put forth teleological arguments was Thomas Aquinas. The translations of Averroist works would set the stage for Aquinas in the 13th century, whose arguments were much more thoroughly Aristotelian, a posteriori and empirically based than his predecessors. Aquinas makes a specific, compact and famous version of the teleological argument, the fifth of his five proofs for the existence of God in his Summa Theologica:"The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things which lack knowledge, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that they achieve their end, not fortuitously, but designedly. Now whatever lacks knowledge cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is directed by the archer. Therefore, some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God.The British empiricistsThe empiricist philosopher John Locke, writing in the late 17th century, proposed a new and very influential view wherein the only knowledge humans can have is a posteriori (i.e., based upon sense experience) and that there can be no a priori knowledge whatsoever. In the early 18th century, the Anglican Irish Bishop George Berkeley determined that Locke's view immediately opened a door that would lead to eventual atheism. In response to Locke, he put forth a form of "radical empiricism" (not to be confused with William James' use of the words "radical empiricism", mentioned below) in which things only exist as a result of their being perceived (and God fills in for humans by doing the perceiving whenever humans are not around to do it). As part of this approach Berkeley included in his text Alciphron, a variant of the teleological argument that held that the order we see in nature is the language or handwriting of God.David Hume, in the mid-18th century, presented arguments both for and against the teleological argument in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. The character Cleanthes, summarizing the teleological argument, uses the example of a watch. Philo is not satisfied with the teleological argument, however. He attempts a number of refutations, including one that arguably foreshadows Darwin's theory. In the end, however, Philo agrees that the teleological argument is valid. Daniel Dennett maintains that, although Hume was ultimately dissatisfied with the teleological argument, his cultural context prevented him from taking any of the alternatives seriously.The watchmaker analogyWilliam Paley's "watchmaker analogy" is one of the most famous teleological arguments.The watchmaker analogy, framing the argument with reference to a timepiece, dates back to Cicero, whose illustration was quoted above. It was also used by, among others, Robert Hooke and Voltaire, the latter of whom remarked: "L'univers m'embarrasse, et je ne puis songer Que cet horloge existe, et n'ait point d'horloger (I'm puzzled by the world, I cannot deem, The timepiece real, Its maker but a dream)". Today the analogy is usually associated with the theologian William Paley, who presented the argument in his book Natural Theology published in 1802. As a theology student, Charles Darwin found Paley's arguments compelling; he later developed his theory of evolution in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, which puts forward an alternative explanation for complexity in nature. In his autobiography, Darwin wrote that "The old argument of design in nature, as given by Paley, which formerly seemed to me so conclusive, fails, now that the law of natural selection has been discovered.