The Design Argument

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Paley's Watch

1. A watch has certain complet features (parts, whose functions work together for a specific purpose)

2. Anything that exhibits these features must have been designed.

3. Therefore, the watch has been designed by a designer

4. The universe is like a watch as it possesses the same features, but on a greater scale.

5. Therefore, the universe like the watch, has been designed. This designer is God.

All the indicators of design are in the universe, and they surpass any human design:

Regularity and order, purpose, adaptation, development of life, conscious beings etc

The designer of the universe must therefore be God.

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Hume's criticism 1 - No experience (posteriori)

We only recognise certain things to have a designer as we have had direct or indirect experience of these things being designed.

Unless we have some experience of other universes being made, we can't reasonably claim to know whether a universe has been designed.

However, Paley responds by saying there are certain intrinsic features possessed by certain objects which show that they are designed, so we don't need experience of a universe being designed. But, Paley's response is only valid as we can compare the world to designed objects we have previously encountered. If we have absolutely no experience of the manufacturing and designing process, the object would remain a mystery to us.

 We have no previous experience of a universe being designed, so it is unique and there is nothing we can compare it to. Our only experience of the universe is it's seperate parts, but these parts can't individually tell us the origins of the whole. If we have no experience of this universe being designed, and can't compare it to other designed universes, we have no grounds from concluding that God or anyone designed it.

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Hume's Criticism 2 - Weak analogy

Analogies are only reliable when the two things compared have many relevant similarities.

Does a machine have enough relevant similarities with the universe to support the conclusion that they were both designed?

Hume argues the universe is not like a machine, as the universe resembles something more organic, like a vegetable.

The appearance of function and purpose amongst the universe's parts may be due more to generation or vegetation rather than design.

A vegetable doesn't have a designer, and appears to develop from a blind natural process. We have no reason to suppose that the universe has a designer.

We can't conclude on the basis of analogy that the universe has a designer.

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Hume's Criticsm 3 - God isn't proven

Like causes have like effects:

1. Machines and the universe exhibit similar features of design

2. Therefore both have been designed by an intelligent being.

However, Paley concludes to quickly that the designer of the universe is God.

Machines are often designed by a team of designers, so the universe may also have been designed by a series of Gods, rather than a single deity.

If we anthropomorphisise the universe's designer, and make them similar to humans, the God's who were the designers could be foolish and morally week, and could be gendered and reproduce.

Machines are often the product of trial and error, so the universe may be a product of trial and error too, and be one in a long draft of universes. The universe could also be superseded by a better universe in the future.

If a machine has design faults, we assume the designer lacked skill or resources, or didn't care. As the universe appears to contain many design faults (evil), it could as well be created by a God who lacked skill, love and power to create a better world. This is not Paley's God of classical theism.

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Paley's response

Paley argues that it isn't necessary for the machine to be perfect in order to be designed, as all that's important is for the to exhibit some sort of purpose. Like the machine, the universe's design is the result of intentional action. This undermines the athiest's position

Based on the design argument, we can say little about the designer of the universe, and a designer of the universe exists is the overall conclusion. There are no claims made about what the designer is like.

This is a long way from the original claims, that we can see God's design in nature. Hume concludes that most the design argument can establish is 'that the cause or causes of the universe probably bear some remote analogy to human intelligence.' This conclusion is unlikely to persuade anyone of the existence of God, unless they already are a theist.

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Evolution - the sturggle of every generation of species to compete, survive and reproduce

Living organisms consist of individual parts

These parts are framed and work together for a purpose

They have been made with specific material, appropriate to their action

Together they produce regulated motion

If the parts had been different in any way, such motion would not be produced

Random mutation and the pressures of natural selection is the designer of all living organisms, so there is no intelligent of purposeful designer.

Some philosophers incorporate evolution into their design arguments: Swinburne argues evolution assimilates into the macine making nature of the mechanical universe.

These features of design in the natural universe weren't directly caused by God, but are still the product of the evolutionarty mechanism which God built into the universe.

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Intelligent Design - Behe and Dembski

Evolution can't explain how certain features of animals evolved, so living things were designed by an intelligent designer.

Science only goes so far in its understanding of how organisms developed over time - an organ complex and perfectly adapted like the eye can't have evolved through natural selection as it is too sophisticated.

Features of nature which are too complex to be explained in evolutionary terms have 'irreducible complexity'. Irreducibly complex features like the eye are made up of parts which form a highly successful unit, and individually these parts would not lead to success and would be useless in evolutionary terms. These features must have come into being as a perfectly formed whole, without experiencing any evolutionary process.

A mousetrap has various parts which work together to form a fully functioning unit. If any of these parts were missing or less efficiently working, the mousetrap wouldn't work, as it only works when all its parts are in place. It is therefore designed by a designer. An eye is a complex unit and a simpler one would result in the removal of a part or less efficiency, so it would fail to function. Evolution fails to explain how well adapted features like the eye came about.

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Intelligent Design continued...

To conclude, a complex feature like the eye can only be explained if we accept the existence of an intelligent designer, God, who deliberately created these parts with a specific function. This allows for a scientific research programme, which seeks to identify the irreducibly complex component parts, to analyse and determine their functions and interrelations.

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Criticism of the Intelligent Design theory

It is difficult to determine a feature which is clearly irreducibly complex. Dawkins attacks the assumption that eyes cease to function if one part is removed. Partial dsight is useful and gives an evolutionary advantage over the unsighted competitors. Genes will spread, and mutations causes refinement and improvemnet in the eye.

Biologists have found in nature a range of more or less sophisticated sight detectors, providing an evolutionary explanation.

Primitive photoreceptors in unicellular euglen = detect light and dark

Cupped pit eyes in planaria, = detect the direciton of light

ppn whole cameras in nautilus = register an image

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Criticism of Intelligent Design

Features like eyes suggested by the theory of Intelligent Design have not been accepted as an example of irreducilbe complexity by the scientific community or the US judge in the Dover school trial.

The Intelligent Design theory is not considered science, in the scientific community, as shown by the Dove school trial. No research carried out under Intelligent Design has been accepted into peer reviewed academic journal (key mark of respect in the scientific community).

Objection - there is global conspiracy against the Intelligent Design

It doesn't follow scientific methodology - there is no rigorous testing in tightly controlled experiments, definite predictions based on its theory, and it lacks consistency and scientific utility.

Obejction - It's still in its infancy

It will remain this way until it is published in peer reviewed academic journals.

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Tennant's Argument to Best Explanation

When we're confronted with something which requires an explanaiton but the original cause is unobservable, we trace the chain back in order to arrive at the best explanation for it's existance. Design arguments use reverse engineering to arrive at the best explanation:

1. We see certain special features in the universe (orderliness, regularity, beauty, conscience...)

2. These features, collectively or individually, can't be adequately explained by natural sciences

3. The presence of these features can be made sense of by the existence of God.

4. Where an explanation makes sense of certain features, which can't be accounted for by another explanatioin, we can conclude it is probably right - inference to best explanation

5. Therefore, God exists.

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Features best explained by God

Features Tennant proposes are best explained by God:

- The intelligibility of the universe to humans

- The possibility of organic adaptation

- The adaptation of the inorganic world to life

- The beauty of nature

- The existence of morality

- The emergence of human beings

Individually, these are difficult to explain from a naturalistic perspective, but collectively, it is much harder, and only God can provide an accurate explanation.

Tennant believes the world is the way it is, and we are the way we are because of God's guiding intelligence behind His creation.

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The Epicurus Hypothesis - Hume

It is at least possible that the universe is a result of chance and not intelligence, and happens to be ordered and life supporting.

Epicurus suggested the universe exists the way it is as a result of the random movements of a finite number of atoms. The physical universe is by chance in a state of order, and beings have evolved to be capable of reflecting on the universe.

Although it is a remote possibility, it can't be disregarded as a possible explanation for the appearance of design in the universe.

Theologians continue to look for scientific explanation to say that God is the best explanation for the design in the universe, and not chance.

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The Anthropic Design Argument and Principle

  • Human life is only possible because the universe shows precise chemic, thermal and astronomical conditions, with an origin traceable to the Big Bang.

The likelihood of this chain of events could occur by poure chance, is so low that we are forced to conclude there must be a designer. Tennant therefore believes that the earth is perfect for human existence is because God intended it to be that way, not due to chance. The Big Bang can strengthen a theist's case for God, as it shows the unusual conditions needed. By accepting the existence of God, the earth isn't a coincidence but the product of God's design.

  • 1. For human life to exist, certain very specific and unconnected physical conditions needed to be in place.
  • 2. All these physical features are found in place in the universe.
  • 3. Either these features have occured by chance (Epicurean Hypothesis) or intelligent design.
  • 4. The probability of all these features occuring by chance is incredibly small.
  • 5. The most likely explanation for these life enabling features is intelligent design.
  • 6. Therefore, God exists.
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Carter - The Anthropic Principle

We have no reason to be surprised about the universe's existence as if it were any different, we wouldn't be around to be surprised. When we evolved, we seeked for an explanation, and we see features that led to our existence as special. The way the universe turned out is unlikely, but it could have happened by chance. It had to turn out one way or another, and whichever way would apppear incredibly unlikely.

If the initial conditions had been different, Yahoos could have evolved instead of humans, and they may have wondered at the conditions needed for their existence.

If the initial conditions had been different, no intelligent life may have evolved, so the outcome would be just as unlikely, but there would be no one around to be surprised.

There is nothing special about the features leading to life, so we don't need to assume a God in order to explain them.

The anthropic design argument treats our existence with most importance and requiring an explanation. but we are one of many wonderful things in the universe, and one of many other wonderful things that could have evolved had things been different.

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Hume's Criticism of the Anthropic Design Argument

Is God the most probable explanation for the special features of the universe which resulted in human experience?

We can only talk of probabilities where we are able to compare the chances each outcome has of taking place.

Hume pointed out the universe, and our experience of the universe is unique, so we are in no position to calculate the probability it has of existing or not existing, as we have no universe to compare it to. Therefore, we are in no position to conclude if God, or pure chance is the most likely explanation for the universe.

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Aquinas' Analogy

1. Things lacking intelligence, e.g. living organisms, have an end and purpose

2. Things lacking intelligence can't move towards their end unless directed by someone with knowledge and intelligence.

3. An arrow doesn't direct itself towards it's target unless fired by an archer to direct it.

4. Therefore, there must be some intelligent being directing all unintelligent natural things to their end. This being is God.

Aristotle - everything in the universe has an end or purpose, and organisms have a purpose or function. This can't come about naturally (contrary to Aristotelian view) but by an intelligent being.

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Flew's Criticism

There is a controversial premise by saying that things that lack intelligence can't move towards their end unless directed with someone with intelligence. It nearly assumes that there is an intelligent being who created the universe, which is what the argument is trying to prove. The argument needs more evidence and justification, as we are given no reasons for believing that

- all living organisms have a function

- these functions must be the result of the actions of an intelligent being

Evidence goes against design - ducklings, embryos etc grow and develop successfully without interference from an intelligent being. So Aquinas' claim isn't supported by science. This can be a threat to Christianity, as it undermines traditional church teachings, although it can be evidence that the universe is the work of divine craftsmanship.

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Swinburne's Criticism of the Anthropic Principle

A kidnapper told their victim, that they would kill them unless the card shuffling machine, which shuffles 10 packs of cards, drew an ace of hearts from each pack. If the machine drew 10 aces of hearts, the victim would be surprised, but the kidnapper replies that they have no reason to be surprised as if the outcome had been any different, they wouldn't be around to see any other outcome.

Swinburne argues the victim is right to be surprised - it doesn't matter that 10 aces of hearts was a necessary condition for anything being seen - the outcome is still extraordinary.

Likewise, we can be surprised at the conditions needed for our existence, and the outcome and order of the universe. The fact that these conditions was necessary for us being around to be surprised is not the point - it is still extraordinary.

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