The design argument for the existence of God

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Last updated: November 23, 2019

The design argument depends on key assumptions, in particular that the order in the universe is the result of a design rather than chance. Such proof of order in the universe is noticed, implying if it is designed their must therefore be a designer.

The argument seeks to establish that the needs of human beings and animals have been planned for by intelligence, God.It implies the whole mechanism of evolution was put in place by God in order to bring about order, purpose and regularity instead of chaos. The design argument or also known as the teleological argument (telos is a Greek word meaning ‘end’ or ‘purpose’) is a posteriori argument meaning it is from experience or observation. The design argument would conclude to be an inductive argument which means one could agree with the premises but however may not necessarily agree with the conclusion as the premises do not apply absolute support for the conclusion.The most common and easy design argument to understand is written in the book ‘Natural Theology’ in 1802 by William Paley.

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It is one of the most popular and user-friendly arguments.Colin Crowder says, “What I have in mind is the argument’s ‘user-friendly’ character…

“The teleological argument has two forms and this argument is one of them, ‘From Design’. Paley used the analogy of a watch to argue the existence of God. He observed the watch to have finely adjusted parts, it is a mechanism which has intricate features and serves a specific purpose, to tell the time.”When we come to inspect the watch, we perceive.

..that its several parts are framed and put together for a purpose, e.g. that they are so formed and adjusted as to produce motion, and that motion so regulated as to point out the hour of the day” William PaleyPaley then compared the watch to the universe, he argued like the watch the universe is also a machine that serves order and purpose: vegetation. The watch demands a watchmaker, likewise the order and purpose in world demands a designer. He concluded the designer to be God.

Paley used a second analogy; this time he used the intricate mechanisms of the human body to draw the same conclusion. He took the example of a human eye; its specific purpose is for sight. The eye adapts for sight therefore suggests that there is an intelligent designer for it, this designer to be God.

Paley’s argument would also be one of the most important arguments as one may be able to look at the evidence that Paley uses like the watch and come to a conclusion for them self.A philosopher called Colin Crowder uses Paley’s analogy to conclude “similar effects, similar causes”. This means that both the watch and nature have similar effects: order and purpose, therefore they must have similar causes and this cause is God.”And he concluded that we must make the same inference as we did in the case of the watch- namely to an intelligent designer.

It is a case of ‘similar effects, similar cause’, Colin Crowder.Further more another important design argument was by St. Thomas Aquinas.

He used the fifth of his five ways, ‘From the Governance of Things’. Like Paley this argument is also ‘From design’. He argued that “Non-intelligent material things produce beneficial order and therefore require an intelligent being to bring this about i.e. God” (Anne Jordan).”Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end, and this being we call God”, St Thomas Aquinas.Aquinas theory is very important as it was written in the thirteenth centaury showing that it has been around for a long time.Hume was an additional philosopher who wrote a theory for the design argument.

Hume wrote a famous book called ‘Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion’ in 1779. The book concerns three characters. Cleanthes puts across his theory of the design argument. Hume, similarly to Paley argues that the universe is a machine however Hume wrote his argument before Paley.”You will find it to be nothing but one great machine, subdivided into infinite number of lesser machines..

.beyond what human senses and faculties can trace and explain” Cleanthes.In this quote he also shows there must be some great intelligence. He also argues similar effects, similar causes like Crowder mentioned about Paley.”..

.the effects resemble each other, we are led to infer, by all the rule of analogy that the causes also resemble…” Cleanthes.Hume’s argument is quite important as it looks at both the strengths and weaknesses of the design argument.The second part of the teleological argument is ‘to design’. These versions of the argument are more recent as they were written in the twentieth centaury.

This argument is also known as the Anthropic Principle, this argument claims that the cosmo is constructed for the development of intelligent life. It claims that evolution could not be chance and there must be a designer, God.In 1930 F.R Tennant wrote a book called Philosophical Theology. He wrote three evidences which would help to prove there was a designer:”1) the fact the world can be analyzed in a rational manner2) the way in which the inorganic world has provided the basic necessities required to sustain life.3) the progress of evolution towards the emergence of intelligent human life”(Anne Jordan)Tennant argued that if we look around us the world is not a chaos. He said that there are so many apparent coincidences of the universe and development of man kind he argues that this is no coincidence but Gods plan.

F.R Tennant, “the forcibleness of nature’s suggestion that she is the outcome of intelligent design his not in particular cases of adaptedness in the world…”The Aesthetic argument was bought across also by Tennant.

He argues that we humans appreciate the natural beauty of the world- Art, music, and literature. But why do we appreciate them? Tennant puts forward the point that it is not compulsory for us to appreciate them as we do not need to for survival or development so therefore there must be a divine creator.”Our scientific knowledge brings us no nearer to understanding the beauty of music”, Tennant.Richard Swinburne is a philosopher who agrees with Anthropic Principle. Swinburne argues that it comes down to probabilities, what is the probability that the universe was chance or designed? He concluded that there must be a designer as the universe is so complex and could not have just happened randomly; therefore this designer must be God.The key features show some valid points in the design argument which leads to an intelligence. It is a logical argument and a posteriori where people can look at the evidence.

However it is an inductive argument and therefore there could be other possible conclusions, these would be the weaknesses of the design argument.Previously mentioned David Hume wrote a book called ‘Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion’ with three main characters. Hume through the character Philo puts forward criticisms for the design argument. All of Hume’s criticisms would count as weaknesses towards the design argument.Hume had several criticisms; his first one was that it is an unsound analogy to be comparing the world to a machine.

The universe is full of vegetable and animals; it is more organic than mechanical. He then stated that we can not compare the universe to something man-made and he showed this by referring to a house. If we looked at the house it would be obvious to notice that the house had an architect and a builder as we have seen it been built. However it is not so obvious that the universe has been designed as we have not seen it being built.Hume’s second critic was that similar effects do not necessarily imply similar causes.

He argues that there are not many similarities with the world and a machine. He then argued it does not always necessarily mean similar effects, similar causes. He questioned if this was a sound idea and maybe we could get a different cause from similar effects.Other possible analogy was another of Hume’s criticisms. He argues that why can we not compare the universe to a carrot then the mark of design in the world could be caused by something similar to generation or vegetation. He argued that intelligence is a process of generation.Hume also stated that the more one compares the universe to a man made machine, the more God becomes man kind.

For example a cause it proportional to the effect and the effect is not infinite therefore we can not say God is infinite.Another criticism Hume had is that we have evidence of natural evil in the world for example earthquakes and disease, so therefore God could not be such a good designer. Workman has to be judged in proportion to the quality of the work the produce. Therefore as we do not live in a perfect world either God is not a good designer or he does not exist.His final criticism was that the organized universe may also be the result of a comic accident. It can not be proved that it was not an accident.

Charles Darwin is a philosopher who shows a different weakness in the design argument. In his book ‘On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection’ in 1859 he wrote about natural selection. He argued that a divine watchmaker is not the only possible explanation to how well plants and animals are well adapted to their functions.

Darwin gives a widely accepted alternative explanation of this incident. Plants and animals that are best suited to their environments survive to pass on their inherited genes, thus ‘survival of the fittest’. He also argued that human beings have developed and offered a mechanical explanation for the development of life on Earth, in which natural selection took place.”Under such circumstances the swiftest and slimmest wolves would have the best chance of surviving so be preserved or selected”, Charles Darwin.

Richard Dawkins supported Darwin; he believed that order is to do with natural selection alone.”Evolution has no long term goal”, Dawkins.However an objection that has been raised through this weakness is that God created the marvelous evolutionary mechanism.

Another way that this criticism could be turned into strength is by F.R Tennant argument. Tennants argument was that we as humans appreciate beauty such as art music and literature so therefore one could argue that this would not fit in with Darwin’s argument of ‘survival of the fittest’ as we do not need to appreciate them to survive.As mentioned previously this argument is an inductive argument, thus meaning the premises may be valid but how but however the conclusion is not sound.

This would make the design argument week as it shows there is no definite answer.Some may say the analogy of a watch Paley uses is carefully picked; one may not get the same conclusion if the universe was compared to something else. Another weakness is also that one may say that you can not compare a watch with the universe as the scale is too big to jump to; the watch is nothing like the universe.

The design argument is a Posteriori which means that it is from experience or observation however this could be a weakness. It could be a disadvantage as to experience something or to observe it we need to use our senses. So how do we know that our senses are not showing us something wrong? We may see what our mind wants us to see therefore making the argument a weakness.

However there is some strength to the design argument too. The design argument is user friendly and easy to understand, so even if one does not agree with it, it is still respected.A philosopher called Kent said: “This proof always deserves to be mentioned with respect.

It is the oldest, the clearest, and the most accordant with the common reason of mankind.”The design argument is also much respected as it has been around along time ago which is a strength and must mean some people have agreed with the theories. Aquinas fifth ways was written in the thirteenth centaury.

The design argument has its strengths and flaws, so can we say that it fails? If Order or design leads us to a God then it does not lead us to the kind of God we are searching for. The imperfections we observe in the world would link us to a far from perfect God. Through the arguments about design it is not sufficient to prove the existence of God. The theories can only be used to suggest a probability of God rather than a conclusive proof of God. This may satisfy some people like Tennant which shows that the arguments has worked as the aim of the argument is to convince people that God does exist. This however is not a conclusive proof of God, based on just good probability.

God can only be accepted by first hand experience as we have no right or wrong way to prove his existence.

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