• Created by: mrmendes
  • Created on: 21-02-19 15:51


  • The Design Argument is ‘a posteriori’
  • Suggests that certain aspects of the universe are so perfectly adapted to fulfill their
    function that they display evidence of being deliberately designed.
  • Such design can only be explained with reference to an intelligent, infinitely great
    designer – God.
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Basic arguemnt is...

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

Some philosophers believe that the order and regularity of the universe is proof of a design- er – this is ‘design qua regularity’ and supported by St Thomas Aquinas

The Fifth of his Five Ways

  • Many objects do not have the intelligence to work towards an end purpose themselves. (Aquinas used the example of an acorn whose end was an oak tree)
  • Therefore, they must be directed by something that does have intelligence.
  • Whatever lacks intelligence cannot move towards an end, unless it is directed by some
    being endowed with intelligence.
  • Therefore, there must be an intelligent being and this being we call God.
  • Just as an archer (intelligent being) must direct an arrow (an object without intelli-
    gence), God must direct nature.
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Design qua purpose - William Paley

Other philosophers look at the way the parts of the universe fit together for a purpose or function. This is ‘design qua purpose’, supported by William Paley.

William Paley’s analogy of the watch has become the classic explanation of the Argument:

  • The watch could not be explained by saying that it had always been there.
  • The watch has the feature of a manufactured machine in that the parts fit together to
    achieve a specific function (e.g telling the time).
  • Manufactured machines are the result of intelligent design.
  • Objects in nature are analogous to manufactured machines.
  • Analogous effects have analogous causes.
  • Therefore, objects in nature are the result of something analogous to intelligent design.
  • The agent responsible for such design must be God.
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Differences between Paley and Aquinas

  • Aquinas looks at the regularity of action – that ‘natural bodies’ act in a regular fashion to accomplish their ends.
  • The order in the world is proof of a designer.
  • Paley looks at design and how things fit together for a purpose.
  • Complex arrangements suggest an intelligent designer.
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Modern version - Tennant

Tennant, in his book; ‘Philosophical Theology’ said that there must be a designer because;

  • The universe perfectly fits the development of life.
  • The universe is designed in a way that allows life to grow and develop. • Most importantly, it is designed to develop intelligent human life.
  • This is the ‘Anthropic Principle’.
    Tennant also spoke of the ‘Aesthetic Argument’ – that human beings can appreciate and enjoy beauty, music, art, literature – none of which is vital to survival, but is there to develop qualities of beauty and love.
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Challenges - Hume

  • Humans do not have enough knowledge to know if the world is designed or not.
  • Our world is more organic than mechanical so would be better compared to a carrot
    than a watch.
  • Similar effects do not necessarily imply similar causes.
  • The existence of unpleasant features of nature suggests that God is not just and good.
  • The analogy makes God more human than divine - if God is to be compared with a hu-
    man designer then it limits him.
  • The presence of order could be explained in many ways without reference to God.
  • Unless the universe was an orderly place, people would not be around to comment on
    its existence.
  • The universe could have come about by chance (e.g. Epicurean hypothesis).
  • There could be many creators – a committee of gods.
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Challenges - Natural selection

  • Natural selection gives the appearance of design – but it is blind, unconscious and an automatic process.
  • The universe is purely mechanistic, driven by biological impulses.
  • Evolution is carried on through random mutations in the genetic make-up of living
  • This lead to a mistaken belief that there was a designer.
  • The world is not designed.
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Arguments for

  • The universe exists and is not chaotic but orderly.
  • The reasoning leading to the existence of God uses empirical principles. • It is a centuries-old argument supported by many philosophers.
  • it is an a posteriori argument and therefore based on empirical evidence. • It supports many scientific notions.
  • Similar effects have similar causes.
  • Science tell us that laws exist but not why they exist.
  • Nature seems to have laws that are constant.
  • The universe seems fine-tuned for life for human beings.
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Arguments against

  • The universe could be the result of a lucky chance.
  • It does not follow that the designer must be God.
  • There is no way to verify the truth of design claims.
  • The world resembles more a carrot than a watch.
  • To know that the universe must arise from intelligence we would have to have experienced the origin of the universe.
  • The analogy with machines makes God more human than divine.
  • There are unpleasant features of nature such as earthquakes and disease.
  • The universe is bound to have the appearance of design since there could be no uni-
    verse if parts of it were not mutually adapted.
  • If the universe were not orderly we would not be around to comment on it. So it is not surprising we find order.
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