The Design/Teleological Argument (FOR)

Key features FOR the design argument, written in a nice and simple form.

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  • Created by: Hannah
  • Created on: 08-05-12 16:42

The teleological argument of Aquinas

The teleological argument, suggesting that there is evidence for design in the universe, argues a posteriori.

a posteriori - the proof of the statement relies on external evidence, e.g. the girls in year 11 acheived higher grades than the boys.

The teleological argument is based on the idea that the world was designed. Its main principle is that there is evidence for design in the world.

Aquinas (1225-1274) The teleological argument is based on Aquinas' 5th way. He argued that for non-intelligent matter to behave in a way that is beneficial, there needs to be an intelligent power to bring this state of affairs about. This is God.

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Paley's argument

William Paley (1743-1805) In 'Natural Theology', Paley used the famous analogy of the watch and suggested:

- It is not reasonable to assume that a watch found on a heath came about without the agency of a watchmaker.

- It is equally unreasonable to suggest that the universe came about without the agency of a God.

You could equally well apply the argument to other comparisons between nature and manufactured items:

- the eye, when compared to a sophisticated auto-focus camera

-the heart, and doctors' attempts to make an artifical heart to treat patients with heart disease.

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Design qua purpose

DESIGN QUA PURPOSE: the argument that the universe appears to have been designed to fulfil some purpose.

The basis of the argument is that there is evidence of design in the universe around us. Everything appears to have been designed to fulfil some function.

This is design qua purpose.

The way that each aspect of the natural world appears to fulfil its purpose well is further evidence of design.

Paley therefore argues for a designing creator - God.

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Design qua regularity

DESIGN QUA REGULARITY: the argument that the universe appears to behave according to some order or rule.

Paley goes on to argue that there is further evidence for a creator God in the regularity of the universe.

In particular, Paley considered motion of the planets in the solar system.

The relationship between the planets, and the effect of gravity between them could not have come about without a designing principle at work. This principle is God.

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Modern versions (F.R.Tennant)

F.R.Tennant (1866-1957) 

It is possible to imagine a chaotic universe, where there are no rules.

The universe is evidently NOT chaotic. In fact, it appears to be designed to support life. Further, it appears to be beautiful at all levels.

Evolution itself, proposed by biologists as an unregulated principle, in fact works to the advancement of species, supported by a world that provides all that is necessary to promote life.

There is more to life than mere existence. Humans appreciate aesthetic activity such as art, music and literature. This is not necessary for mere survival, so cannot have come about through natural selection. 

Therefore, life as we know it is the product of a designing creator.

(aesthetic argument)

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Modern versions (Swinburne)

Richard Swinburne (1934-present)

The universe could easily be either ordered or chaotic.

The fact that it appears ordered cannot be mere chance.

It must therefore be a matter of probabilities.

The sheer size of the universe makes it unlikely that it should just 'happen'.

Further, the universe appears to operate by a series of laws.

These laws do not account for the apparently ordered way in which the universe opperates:

"In scientific explanations we explain particular phenomena as brought about by prior phenomena in accord with scientific laws... from the very nature of science it cannot explain the highest level of laws of all; for they are that by which it explains all other phenomena." R.Swinburne, 'The existence of God'.

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Swinburne continued...

Swinburne argued that the high degree of order that the universe demonstrates is evidence of a personal, conscious choice of God. From this order we can discern beauty (he claimed that we cannot have beauty without order) and the order is a 'good' thing.

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