Teleological Argument

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a) Explain key ideas in the Design Argument for the existence of God. (30 Marks)

b) Assess the view that science has made the Design Argument a failure. (15 Marks)

“With such signs of forethought in the design of living creature, can you doubt they are the work of choice or design?” (Socrates) The Design argument looks at the order and purpose, or telos, in the world and states that it implies that there must be a designer who made the world ‘just right’ for human existence. Religious believers go on to state that this designer is God. The argument states that if one uses one’s senses to look at order, such as gravity and the motion of the planets, which exists in the world, it is likely that one will accept that there is a designer God who created the world and gave it this order. Thus, the argument is both a posteriori, based on experience, and inductive, containing a conclusion that we are likely to accept if we believe the premises to be true. Although the argument was one of Aquinas’ five ‘ways’ in his book, Summa Theologica, the most famous version of the Argument from Design was put forward by William Paley in his book Natural Theology (1802), and therefore, this essay will focus mainly on Paley’s version of the argument.

The most popular way to argue for the existence of God in Paley’s day was by use of an anaology. Therefore, in Natural Theology, we see Paley comparing the world to a watch in order to prove that an intelligent designer God created the world. Paley states that if one were crossing a heath and saw a stone, one would not question its existence, as it is just a stone which could have been there forever. However, if one came across a watch, one would be able to see that all of the cogs and hands worked together intricately for the purpose of telling the time. This would, Paley argues, lead one to believe that the watch must have been carefully put together by a human watchmaker.

Paley compares the man-made watch to the human eye to further enhance his point. He states that just as the watch must have been created by an intelligent watchmaker to allow one to tell the time, so must the eye, with its intricate parts that would together so well to allow us to see, have been created by an intelligent designer God. This idea is an example of Design Qua Purpose. However, Paley uses the idea of scale to argue that because the human eye and the world itself is so much more complex than the watch, so must the being who made the eye and the world by infinitely more intelligent. The watchmaker and the worldmaker are similar in that they are both careful designers, but they are dissimilar in degree, as the worldmaker is much more intelligent and great than the watchmaker.

As well as examining the purpose of the world, Paley also looks at its order and regularity, thus his argument is also one of Design Qua Regularity. Paley argues that as the cogs and hands of the watch move in an orderly way to tell the time, so the world has order in order to enable life. For example, Newton’s laws of gravity and motion and the orbits of the planets. For Paley, if the order of the watch can be explained through reference to a watchmaker, so the order of the world can be explained by the idea that there is an intelligent designer God who gave the world this order. Paley states that the order and purpose of the universe, just like the order and purpose of the watch, can not simply be down to chance, “if we must argue from the watch to a watchmaker, we must argue also from the world to a worldmaker.” (Natural Theology)

The Design Argument has also been reformulated in modern times by Richard Swinburne. Swinburne’s two versions of the argument can be found in his book, “The Existence of God.” The first of these arguments is the Argument from Spatial Order, which examines the complexities of the world and uses these to point to the existence of God. However, Swinburne feels that a new version of the argument is...
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