Philosophy teleological argument

teleological argument

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  • Created on: 10-04-12 13:58

Teleological argument

An argument for God's existence. Argument from design. Where there is design there must be a designer. that designer is God.

An a posteriori argument (experience). Uses evidence from the world around us to prove God's existence. 

The universe has order, purpose and regularity. The complexity of the universe shows evidence of design. Such a design needs a designer. The designer of the universe is God.

There are 2 parts to the argument put forward by Paley:

1. Design qua regularity.

2. Design qua purpose.

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Design qua regularity

  • Looks at design in relation to order and regularity in the universe.
  • Supporters of the argument say that the order and regularity evident in the universe is evidence of a designer at work e.g the rotation of the planets, the natural laws


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Design qua purpose

Looks at the evidence of 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 the designer has fitted all the parts together for a special function.

There are complex arrangements within nature that have been fitted together by a designer for special purposes. e.g a birds wings for flight, a fish's fins for swimming.


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William Paley

You can learn something about the nature of God by looking at the creation of the natural world.

If you came upon a watch in an uninhabited place, you could not say that it had come there by chance. The complexity of its mechanism would make you say it had a designer.                                                                                          


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Isaac Newton

Saw God as the masterful creator whose existence could not be denied in the face of the grandeur of all creation.

'In the absence of any other proof, the thump alone woul convince me of God's existence.'

Uses the example of the eye. 'There is a being who made all things and has all things in his power; and is therefore to be feared.'


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Aquinas's 5th way

From the governance of the world - everything works together to achieve order. The example of the arrow - for it to reach its destination it must be directed by the archer.

In the same way, 'natural bodies' seem to act in a regular fashion to reach a specific purpose. 

As they, like the arrow , are not able to direct themselves, there must be a powerful being doing the directing- God.


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Hume's version of the teleological argument

Every aspect of the natural world has marks of apparent design and fit together like a machine.

The design and construction of the human eye is more skillful than anything that could have been done by human hands. 

The creator must have had an intelligence in proportion to the magnitude of his work and so must have been the God of classical theism.

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The anthropic principle

Linked to the science and study of mankind.

the best evidence of design can be seen in the way that the universe supports intelligent life.

It denies the claim that there is a chain of coincidences that led to the evolution of human life.

It supports claims that the best explanation is the existence of a designer and that designer is God.

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F R Tennant

3 types of natural evidence in the world in favour of a designer.

1= the fact that the world can be analysed in a rational manner.

2= the way in which the world has provided the basic necessities required to sustain life.

3=the progress of evolution towards the emergence of intelligent human life.

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Richard Swinburne

Everything in the universe works together in an orderly manner.

The order is also a product of regularity.The universe follows an orderly pattern in a  simple way.

e.g. as the car works as it is formed in a certain arrangement of parts, the driver must follow a simple set of instructions to make the arrangement work.

The existence of a designer is the best , simplest answer to the order which exists through time. 

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The Aesthetic argument

  • developed by FR Tennant
  • Argued that humans possess the ability to appreciate the beauty of their surroundings to enjoy art,music and literature.
  • However, such an appreciation is not necessary for survival or development of life.
  • It is evidence of a divine creator. It cannot be the result of natural selection.
  • Our capacity for joy was put in us by a divine creator - God.

( a creator would give us this beauty whereas if it was part of natural selection we wouldn't have it because it is not necessary for survival)

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Criticisms of the teleological argument

1. Is the universe designed or just as it is by 'random chance'

2. Even if there is evidence of design, does this necessarily prove the case for a designer?

3. Many also argue that modern day science has overthrown the teleological argument.

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The Epicurean hypothesis

  • Denied the need for and external God to create the universe.
  • Believed that everything in the universe was the result of pure chance.
  • The universe was chaotic but the huge amount of time that the universe has existed has resulted in natural forces calming down and ordering themselves into some kind of system.
  • This has mistakenly given us the illusion of design.
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David Hume

His criticism is presented by the character of 'Philo' 

The fact that there is order in the universe is undeniable, but it does not mean that it is a result of a creative designing force. It could be the result of pure chance. 

He said Paley's watch analogy is weak because a watch and the universe are not similar.

We cannot conclude that because some parts of the universe appear to have a designer that the universe as a whole has a designer.

Fallacy of composition -when an argument concludes that what is true of the part is true of the whole.

e.g if one French man wear's a stripey shirt, all French men wear stripey shirts.

Hume suggests that even if it proves the existence of God , is it God as we know him ?  

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David Hume

Hume argues - If God designed the world then who designed the designer ? 

The universe shows lots of signed of disorder. You cannot ignore Earth's disorder. This shows a lack of design and shows failure.

We don't have the experience to comment on what happened at the beginning of time.

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Imanuel Kant criticisms

All our knowledge of the world comes from our minds interaction with it through observation.

Conclusions that go beyond observation are invalid.

We naturally categories and order our own experiences. We could be projecting onto the world an order that is not there.

The world may well be in chaos and we might/would now necessarily know.

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John Stuart Mill

Nature is guilty of serious crimes for which she goes unpunished.

Almost all the things that humans are sent to prison for doing to one another are natures everyday performances.

There is no designer apparent in the universe and if there is a designer, he is a cruel designer.

'Either there is no God , or there is an incompetent or immoral God'

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Charles Darwin and Richard Dawkins

Theory of evolution

We have evolved over a period of millions of years.

Evolution was the result of random chance.

Depending on the environment, certain species survived better that others.

This was known as 'survival of the fittest'

Natural selection rules out design because living organisms we find survive the struggle for existence due to useful variations.

Richard Dawkins

Modern day Darwin- the design in the universe is a result of random chance.

There is no need for an external designer.

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Useful notes, thanks!


really useful thank you!!

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