Philosophy - Design Argument


The Design Argument

A posteriori - Based on experiences

Inductive - uses reasoning and the premises provide strong evidence for the  conclusion.

Created by philosopher William Paley

His argument is based on 3 observations about the world:

  • Comlexity
  • Regularity
  • Purpose 

Also known as the 'Teleological Argument' 

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Summary of the Design Argument

Objects show clear evidence they were designed because of complexity and regularity.

The universe appears to exhibit complexity and regularity -  therefore it was made for a purpose.

Therefore its likely the universe was designed 

This designer is God

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Paley's Watch Analogy

'I came across 2 items, a stone and watch and asked how they came to be there'

Natural Theology - God's existence can be answered through nature and attributes without referring to scripture.

Paley's Watch Maker Analogy

  • A watch has complex parts - each with a specific function.
  • A watch must be designed by a watch maker 
  • The universe has parts which function together with a purpose
  • The designer of the universe is much greater than a human designer.
  • The universe's designer is God

Paley uses inference - he's reached the conclusion about God through evidence and reasoning.

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David Hume's Criticisims

1. The Universe was designed - there is no evidence this was God - it could have been a lesser being or a group of gods.

  • There is no reason for us to believe the designer was metaphysical
  • Design usually requires teamwork

2. The existence of evil and imperfection suggestes a limited designer.

  • The Inconsistent Triad 

3. Anthropomorphism - giving something human form and ideas other than humans - God

  • We are trying to explain the universe in our own image - to know how the universe was designed we first would need to have knowledge of  how universes are made - we dont have any experiences of universe making.

4. The Epicurean Hypothesis - the universe was created by chance

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Strengths of the Design Argument

  • God is an all powerful designer - this is the simplest inductive explantion 
  • Evil may be unavoidable in order for God to bring about good.
  • The designer is metaphysical and transcendent - above time and space - therefore He can see the past, present and future
  • Anthropic Principle - Nature shows intention - there is a direct link between our observations of the universe and the 'boundary conditions' which brought it into existence.
  • Evolution is compatible with God. Also it doesn't explain itself and doesn't destroy the design argument.
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Weaknesses of the Design Argument

Look at Hume's Criticisms

1. Even if the universe was designed, God is a greater cause than needed - the universe could have been produced by a team of lesser beings.

2. The existence of Evil - is God a good designer?

3. The theory of evolution backs up Hume's argument that the universe is like a vegetable not a machine - the universe doesn't need a designer - the universe can grow on its own. Hume says this argument is an unsound analogy

4. Anthropomorphic - we apply our limited experience about design and apply it to God and the universe 

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Paley's Argument as Proof

What is proof?

  • Is there sufficient evidence for the truth of a proposition? 
  • Is it inductive?
  • Inductive arguments - can become proof when all evidence points to the truth of a conclusion

The Design argument 

  • The argument is a posetriori and inductive - BUT - the evidence does not match scientific proof - also there is no way of assessing the probabilty of his argument.
  • Science provides stronger evidence than Paley's argument.
  • However the argument could be the best explanation of the order we see in the universe.
  • Some Christians argue that the only way to get proof of God's existence is through Religious Experiences - just because we believe God designed the universe doesn't mean He did. We have to wait until we experience Him.
  • Paley's argument can never have the status of deductive proof - as the premisies need to be true for the conclusion to be true - the argument can never be a logical certain proof - at most its the best probable true.
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The Value of the Design Argument for religious fai

The Design argument supports faith through reasoning. As it:

  • Supports Natural Theology 
  • Doesn't prove God's existence but shows how reason & observation can be used to talk rationally and meaningfully about God

Can be used against atheism 

  • Atheists have no more evidence that God doesn't exist than theists do that He does exist.
  • 'God doesn't exist' - is reasonable, so is Paley's Design argument.

The design argument can be used as a basis for belief. 

Some say the argument has no value for faith - as faith requires commitment to God and doesn't need proof or evidence.

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