Teleological Argument

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Historical Background


Plato believed in a pre-existent universe, within the universe existed a demi urge who is responsible for all things on earth having fashioned them out of pre-existent matter. This for plato was the only rational explanation for why order exist rather than chaos.

The demi-urge doesnt create ex nihilo he is working with an established universe.

Perfection is only found in the world of forms which is beyond this world.


Aristotle considered that based on all his observation of the world around him and the stars above the only possible explanation for all complexity and beauty was a divine intelligence.

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Aquinas Fifth way

Aquinas Fifth way - Summa Theologica

Aquinas states that something that lacks intelligence cannot move towards fulffing a useful end without a guiding intelligence which he believed was God.

Example of the Arrow and the Archer

Arrow cannot reach its target it needs to be fired by the archer in order for this to happen.

He relates this to the working of the universe that follow natural laws even if they possess no intelligence like the regular movement of the stars in the sky. The only possible explanation for Aquinas was a guiding intelligence which is God.

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William Paley- Analogy of the Watchmaker

William Paley analogy of watchmaker

His basic argument was that if were to come across a rock we might enquire how it came to me considering natural events and come to a conclusion of how it was formed. However if we were to discover a watch we would come to a different conclusion because of it complexity  we would come to the conclusion that it had been designed by an intelligent designer and not the result of random chance.

Paley widens his argument and states that the universe in which we live is also complex and therfore has a designer. The detail in the human eye and complexity of the human body is evidence for a designing intelligence.

God as a designer also designed the natural world so that everything in it not only had the purpose but was also capable of fulffing that purpose 'Design qua Purpose'

'Design qua Regularity' - Motion of the planents some guiding intelligence had pre-determined their place so as to allow that regulairty of motion. Paley asserts that this guiding intelligence was as responsible for creating the purpose of all living things on earth as it was for the regualr movement of things above earth and this for his was God the author in nature.

CORP- Complexity, Order, Regularity, Purpose.

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Anthropic Principle

Anthropic Principle

The term was first coined by Brendon Carter who proposed a weak and strong form of the Anthropic Principle.The weak form - We must be prepared to take into accoun the fact that our location in the universe is necessarily priviledged to the extent of being compatible with our existence as observers,The strong form- The universe must be such as to admit the creation of obsevers within it at some stage.

Fredrick Tennant developed a set of evidence which are Anthropic Principles

1. The very fact that the world we live in provides precisely the things that are necessary for life to be sustained. 2. The fact that the world we live in can not only be observed but holds itself up for rational analysis from which we can deduce its workings. 3. The fact that the process of evolution, through natural selection, had led to the developement of intelligent human life that can observe and analyse the universe that it exist in.

John Polkinghorne - Only reasonable explanation for the existence of carbon-based life forms that also have intelligence and rationally observe the universe. Richard Swinburne- Its too improbable for it to be the result of random chance- deliberate decision of a divine designer.

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Aesthetic Argument

Aesthetic Argument

Human have a natural appreciation for things in nature that are considered to be beautiful.

This appreciation is not necessary for our survival so why then do we as human being have an appreciation of beauty?

This appreciation is a direct result of a benevolent God. Having designed the world so that it led to the developemnt of intelligent human life. God not only wanted the creation to live in the world but also to enjoy it.

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Argument against the Teleological Argument

Criticism - Adam Eats Organic Apples Purposely Making Arthur Really Sad Reminding Arthur not to trust.

Hume- Analogies The universe must be compared to something similar not to something dissimilar like a house otherwise it is weak analogy. The universe is too unique so any analogy is not sufficient to explain its orgins.

Hume- Experince Humans have no experience of how the universe was designed then any analogy put forward to try to prove this matter is ultimately futile.

Hume-Organic Universe The universe demonstrates greater similarites to the living organisms within the natural world that it does to artifical construct.

Hume - Apparent Design- We may have an appearance of design where none actually exist.

Hume-Poor design- We have no other universes to compare this universe to so how can we be sure its been designed well?

Hume- Many Builder- It might have required more than one designer as does the construction of a house.

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More Criticisms

Criticism - Adam Eats Organic Apples Purposely Making Arthur Really Sad Reminding Arthur not to trust.

Hume- Absent Desginer - There is no necessity for such designer to exist for eternity just becuse that which he has designed does.

Kant- Restricted Expeirence  Such statement based on what we dont have experience on is invalid.

Mill- Suffering and Cruelty- There is so much suffering and cruelty which suggest that there is no designer or the designer was limited in his abilty to prevent evil and cruely.

Darwin - Random Chance It is random chance that organises life in the universe according to the principle of evolution and natural selection.

Darwin - Adaption- The reasons why species are so adapted to their environment is not due to a benevolent designer but the ability to adapt to their surrounding and pass on favourable characteristics.

Dawkins - Nature Not God -  Nothing moe than the regular every occurences of the natural world

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Evaluation of Teleological Argument


  • Ancient argument endured over 2,500 years
  • based on observation of apparent design
  • there is order and purpose in the universe ( a posteriori) therefore uses scientific methods.
  • it is a posteriori argument based on experince
  • Scientific theories often need updating or are proved false
  • Part of cumulative case forms strong proof for the existence of God.
  • Contemporary scientist support design concept.


  • Argument against from Dawkins and Darwin are widely accepted by science
  • Alternative explanation of evolutionary natural selction to explain diversity and complexities found in nature
  • inductive argument does not point to certainties
  • God of Gaps rather than empirical evidential claims
  • Leaky Bucket
  • Analogy from paley is unsound
  • design is apparent
  • cause not necessarily God of classical theism
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