Design Argument for Existence of God

·      A posteriori, inductive arguments.

Point  to the appearance of design in the univ. as evidence of a designer – God.

Analogical; based on analogy or abductive; begin with some evidence which needs explaining + conclude with best expl.

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Aquinas' Teleological Design Argument

Aquinas’ Arg from Analogy;


  •  Design Qua Regularity
  • Design Qua Purpose


 Based on belief by Aristotle – everything in univ. has an end/purpose. Aristotle gave examples such as ducks webbed feet for swimming better (fulfils purpose). Everything works to some purpose or other + as inanimate objects have no rational powers, must be directed to this purpose by external power.

  • Things that lack intelligence such as living organisms have an end or purpose. (Fact a/b nature of things)
  • They cannot move towards their end/purpose unless directed by someone with knowledge and intelligence.
  • E.g. arrow does not hit itself towards target, needs archer.
  • T/f, by analogy, must be intelligent being directing all unintelligent natural things towards their end i.e. God. 
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William Paley's Response to Science

William Paley put forward his design arg in response to science:

-       Isaac Newton discovered universal laws of gravity and motion + demonstrated that the same physical laws on earth applicable throughout univ.

-       Scientists began to think of univ as ‘machine with all parts working together as a perpetual clockwork which never needed rewinding.’  Each part of machine affected behaviour of another causing movementà no longer necessary to believe God caused movements.


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William Paley's Analogy - Design Qua Purpose (P1)


Walks across a heath, comes across a stone which he strikes with his foot, then finding watch on the ground. ‘How did that obj come to be there?’

Stone: always lain there.

Watch: ?

  • has several parts framed + work tog for specific purpose
  • made from specific material appropriate for action
  • tog produces regulated motion
  •  if assembled diff, no motion produced

= indicates design, suggests designer. Same with world e.g. in intricate mechanisms of human body.

  •  Eye – adapted for sight, parts cooperate in complex way producing sight. Designed for purpose of seeing + design enables this purpose to be fulfilled = designer.
  • Animals – Instincts that aid survival. Birds wing for flight, fish’s fins for swimming.
  • Lacteal System
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William Paley's Argument - Design Qua Regularity (

Used evidence from astronomy + Newton's laws of motion and gravity to prove design. 

Pointed to rotation of plants in solar system, + how they obey same universal law + hold their orbits/position due to gravity -> 'order'.

Could not have come about by chance, external agent imposed order on the univ - God.

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Paley's Anticipated Criticisms

  • We may not know how watch is made. 
  • Watch may sometimes go wrong.
  • Some parts may appear to have no purpose (colour).
  • Come tog by chance.

Watch not functioning properly may suggest "inefficient" designer.

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David Hume's Criticisms of Design Arg

Not against Paley, but concept as written prior. Anti-teleological.

3 fictional chatacters discussing nature of God:

  • Philo- responds with barrage of objections, applicable to Paley's; Hume, himself?
  • Cleanthes - suggests teleological arg similar to Paley's; purpose, divine intelligence etc.
  • Demea
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Problem 1

No exp of world-making.

Have exp of machines (designing watches), but none of how world manufactured.

Limited exp = insufficient to conclude only 1 designer.

Paley: enough similarity btwn watch and univ. h/e despite that, still just supposition.

Parents make baby, but do not know how to and cannot design - in control of designer i.e. God.

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Problem 2

Discussing design of univ. in human terms unacceptable analogy b/c God transcends human understanding.

Using analogy of manufactured obkects, usual for machine to be designed + made by many hands. Suggests multiple designers i.e. many Gods.

'Like effects have like causes'

  • Even if we agree that like the watch, the univ. has a designer, this does not mean God.
  • In fact a watch is likely to have been produced by a team.
  • Therefore univ/ could have team of designers.
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Problem 3

Univ. not like machine, more 'organic' like a vegetable or inert animal (watch, inorganic). 

If organic, univ. maybe came a/b by natural process; i.e. grew rather than designed.

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More Problems

  • Designer of watch, normal flawed human. T/f, suggests designer of univ.; flawed, gendered, engages in reproduction.
  • Complex machines are product of many years of trial and error - where are the other flawed worlds? Does that mean God is flawed?
  • Machine = flawed, designer = flawed, lacks resources/skills/doesn't care? Many faults in the world - evil?
  • Last not v strong, does not undermine Paley's b/c Paley argued for designer of univ. this arg says designer is flawed, not that it does not exist. Does not have to be perfect. 
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The Epicurean Hypothesis

Hume's version of arg by Greek philosopher Epicurus. 

Scientific, related to Big Bang.

  • Particles that univ. consisted of eveolved into an ordered system by natural forces over time.
  • Univ. eternal + in unlimited time, t/f inevitable that a constantly ordered state would develop.
  • Stability + order not result of divine designer, but of random particles coming together.
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Challenge of Darwin

Offered mechanical expl. for dev of life on Earth -> natural selection.

'Survival of the fittest', species become extinct, soon replaced by others; characteristics passed down. So the adaptions of eye for instance, not b/c of designer.

Evolution undermines Paley, but process also by God.

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John Stuart Mill's Criticism

Empiricist - knowledge to be grounded in experience.

Challenged, because intelligent designer supported either non-existence of God or a God that did not have attributes accepted by Christians.

Suffering in the world, designer not 3 O's, esp omni-benevolent - if so, suffering of humanity would not have been included in design. 

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Anthropic Principle

Minute change in physical conditions, present human life impossible. 

Claims Big Bang would've had to been absolutely precise, otherwise would not occur.

  • Precise forces (gravitational, nuclear) needed.
  • Minute scientific details 
  • Dev. of self-replicating DNA, random mutations leading to natural selection of mammals -> humans.

Likelihood of chain of events by chance = unimaginably low -> guiding hand. 

F.R Tennant; Univ. ordered, not chaotic. It would be if there was no guiding hand. Designed in such a way that evolutionary process would create environ. where intelligent life could exist -> culimnation of God's plan or current stage. 

Added qualities of humans, appreciation of beauty, not needed for survival -> divine creator.

Beauty too extensive to be explained by chance or evolution. - Aesthetic Argument 

John Polkinghorne agrees; all required for life available in univ. only have been result of designer, but He stood back & given creation freedom to be itself.

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Conclusion ..

Comes down to probabilities.

Hume accepted, more probably that iniv. designed -> designer eists. But no proof designer is God. Brian Davies, thinks it's God.

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