Some phenomena within nature exhibit such exquisiteness of structure, function or interconnectedness that many people have found it natural—if not inescapable—to see a deliberative and directive mind behind those phenomena. The mind in question, being prior to nature itself, is typically taken to be supernatural. Philosophically inclined thinkers have both historically and at present labored to shape the relevant intuition into a more formal, logically rigorous inference. The resultant theistic arguments, in their various logical forms, share a focus on plan, purpose, intention and design, and are thus classified as teleological arguments (or, frequently, as arguments from or to design).
Although enjoying some prominent defenders over the centuries, such arguments have also attracted serious criticisms from a number of major historical and contemporary thinkers. Both critics and advocates are found not only among philosophers, but come from scientific and other disciplines as well. In the following discussion, major variant forms of teleological arguments will be distinguished and explored, traditional philosophical and other criticisms will be discussed, and the most prominent contemporary turns (cosmic fine tuning arguments, many-worlds theories, and the present Intelligent Design debate) will be tracked. Discussion will conclude with a brief look at one historically important non-inferential approach to the issue.
2. Design Inference Patterns
2.1 Analogical Design Arguments: Schema 1
2.2 Deductive Design Arguments: Schema 2
2.3 Inferences to the Best Explanation/Abductive Design Arguments: Schema 3
3. Alternative Explanation
3.1 Explaining Away
3.3 Indirect Causation, Design and Evidences
4. Further Contemporary Design Discussions
4.1 Cosmic Fine-Tuning
4.2 Many-universe Theories
4.3 The “Intelligent Design” (ID) Movement
5. The Persistence of Design Thinking
6. Conclusion... [continues]
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