The Design Argument

Revision cards for the design argument for the existence of God.

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  • Created by: cat1232
  • Created on: 27-04-12 20:04


  • Fifth way from Summa Theologica
  • Qua Regularity

Nature seems to have an order or purpose to it and nothing inannimate is purposeful without a 'guiding hand' (e.g. an archer shooting an arrow) Therefore everything in nature must be directed by an intelligent being external to the universe (as the universe in moving without intelligence) and this is God.

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Paley's First Argument

  • From Natural Theology
  • Design qua purpose

Paley used the watch analogy in his argument.

Imagine you find a watch on the heath. You will notice how well the watch works in order to tell the time and deduce that someone must have designed it, rather than it happened by chance. 

  • Likened this to looking at the world or human body. 
  • Argued that the watch does not have to work perfectly for us to see it was designed, nor do we have to know watch is.
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Paley's Second Argument

  • Recognised that slight differences in the world would cause chaos.
  • Design qua regularity

The fact that planets in the solar system all obey the same laws cannot be chance. It must have been created by an external agent, God. 

  • Supported by Arthur Brown who said the purpose of the ozone layer could not have come about by chance.
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Criticisms of the Design Argument- Hume

  • From Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion

Criticisms to the argument for design

  • We only have experience of human-made objects and cannot apply this to the creation of the world.
  • The universe is unlike a machine and more like a vegetable as it grows of its own accord.
  • Analogies don't work as God transcends human understanding. 

Criticisms to the argument from design

  • Even if the world was designed, the designer doesn't have to be christian God.
  • World may simply appear ordered. (Epicurean Hypothesis)

Epicurean Hypothesis

  • At the point of creation the universe consisted of particles in random motion.
  • Eventually order appeared, as the universe is eternal that was bound to happen at some point.
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Criticisms of the Design Argument- John Stuart Mil

  • From On Nature (essay)

Existence of suffering, violence, natural disasters and other flaws show that nature is cruel.

Living creatures appear to be designed to inflict cruelty on each other and, if the world was designed, this doesn't suggest a loving God.

We cannot worship a God who appears to want his creation to be miserable. 

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Evolutionary Criticisms- Darwin

  • The Orgin of Species
  • Supported by geology which suggest older age of the world
  • Evolution suggested that life first began in simple molecular form and developed complexity.
  • Did not attack religion explicitly but those who supported the design argument said that complexity had always been there - Darwin was the alternative.
  • Challenged the uniqueness of humanity.
  • Made God irrelevant as world can sustain itself.
  • Challenged understanding of the nature of God.
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Evolutionary Criticisms- Dawkins

  • Supporter of Darwin
  • The Blind Watchmaker - only designer is the blind force of physics. A true designer has foresight but natural selection does not.
  • As scientists discover more there is less need for God.
  • River out of Eden Crick and Watson's discovery of DNA explains fundamental cause of humanity and shows there is no deep distinction between living and non-living material. (No spark) "Life is just bytes and bytes of digital information"
  • River out of Eden - Christian 'creation scientists' argue that slow development is useless (half a wing etc) but Dawkins argued that partial success leads to continual improvement. e.g. orchids


  • The Selfish Gene
  • Cultural inheritance
  • Appreciation of beauty is part of a survival mechanism as genes that make males attractive to females automatically get passed on.
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Modern Design Arguments- F.R.Tennant

  • Philosophical Theology

Argument from evolution

  • Evolution is a progression forward
  • This makes it appear to have a purpose and is created, and guided, by God.

Aesthetic Argument

  • Natural beauty in the world is not needed for survival
  • Created by God for human enjoyment

Anthropic Principle

  • Large number of coincidences in nature suggest that God 'fine-tuned' the universe so that we could exist.
  • It was made for the benefit of man
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Modern Design Arguments- Swinburne

  • Is There a God?

A reformulation from temporal order

  • Universe could have just have easily been chaotic.
  • Chance of universe ending up as it is now is as unlikely as a card machine shuffling ten decks and producing an ace of hearts each time.
  • God is the simplest explanation - Ockam's Razor.
  • Scientific theories such as evolution support that the universe has order but do not discredit God as an explanation is still needed for why this happens.

The argument from spatial order

  • Evolution only occured because the original conditions were right.
  • Given the characteristics of God in main monotheistic religions, this is the sort of world he would want to create. 

Swinburne supported Paley's analogy of the watch. 

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Criticisms of Swinburne and Tennant


  • Peter Vardy- Swinburne was biased and failed to account for the problem of evil.


  • Beauty is a matter of opinion not fact
  • Everything that happens unlikely when compared to everything that could have happened --> proves chance over God.
  • If the world was created for humanity then why do other creatures exist?
  • Multiworld theory.
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