Critically evaluate the design argument
The design argument, also known as the teleological argument essentially means that the universe and everything within it has a specific design and purpose. (Perry, Bratman, Fischer 57) The Greek term; ‘telos’ is the derivative form of teleology which means end or purpose. This argument is entirely a posteriori and we learn about the existence of God through experience and empirical knowledge. This argument was developed by Thomas Aquinas and his fifth version. In this essay, I will explore the merits and flaws of this viewpoint by quoting Aquinas, William Paley, Richard Swinburne, Mark Twain, Frederick Tennant and David Hume who contributed comprehensively to this idea.
Thomas Aquinas raised his fifth version (Perry, Bratman, Fischer 45-46) which stated that the natural world could not simply be an accident and that it must have some kind of designer, which he believed to be God. Basically, he understood that almost everything acts as an end or purpose however; some of these things do not have minds, such as plants so they could not have been responsible to act towards the sun on their own, there must have been a higher being who designed them to lean towards the sun for photosynthesis of maximizing exposure to the sun. Another would be of a rock falling and reaching its natural place. He then jumped to the conclusion that there must be a necessary being who had designed these things so that they can act for a purpose. This necessary being must be God. On the contrary, Aristotle would argue against Aquinas and claim that natural science plays a huge role in the falling of the rock.
William Paley is most certainly the biggest supporter of this argument and put forward his famous concept of the watch and how the watch reflects the world and everyday activities (Perry, Bratman, Fischer 46-47). He held the idea that if he were to find a watch lying on the ground he would observe it and see how the different parts fit together specifically to work. Paley would then resort to the conclusion that this watch must have had a designer. He claimed that if any of the pieces were arranged differently, or missing a part, the whole structure would not work.
In accordance with Paley, the world is like that of a machine and it must have a designer and that designer is what we know to be God. There are of course, several examples to support this argument, such as the laws of physics and gravity which all involve complex things working together. For example DNA is also another good example as it appears to show intricate design and evidence that there has been a designer. Now many would question the opposition view and say ‘would these ideas be possible without a designer?’ or ‘does everything in the universe have a purpose, even that of a stone? (Perry, Bratman, Fischer 46-47) For example, what if this watch were to produce another watch? One would only assume that there must have been a designer who had created the watch in the first place.
I feel that this analogy shows a good understanding of how almost everything in the universe has a purpose however; this analogy can also be rather weak in the fact that the universe and a watch are two very different things and do not have enough similar characteristics to be compared. How can we explain the purpose of us humans being here? We all have different intentions in life.
According to Richard Swinburne, the world was created by God for human beings; this is called the ‘anthropic’ argument. It is essentially the idea that the world is suited for humans and this must have been by chance. There must have been a designer who created the universe to specifically fit our needs. I feel that this principle builds up on Paley’s watch analogy as it gives an acceptable reason to why certain things in this universe are designed so perfectly to fit out desires from a scientific point of view. However, American writer Mark Twain, attacked the...
Bibliography: Perry, John, and Michael Bratman. Introduction to Philosophy: Classical and Contemporary Readings. New York: Oxford UP, 1986. Print.
"Design Arguments for the Existence of God [Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy]." Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web. 04 Oct. 2011. .
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