Does the Argument from Design Depend on a Weak Analogy Between What Is Found in Nature and the Products of Human Artifice?

Topics: Teleological argument, Existence of God, Charles Darwin Pages: 6 (2259 words) Published: November 4, 2011
Does the argument from design depend on a weak analogy between what is found in nature and the products of human artifice?

‘The titles ‘The Master Craftsman’, ‘The Divine Artificer’, ‘The Designer’ or ‘The Great Architect of the Universe’ are found as synonyms for ‘god’(Gaskin,1988:12). There are to date, various classical and contemporary versions of the argument of design. The intention of this essay however, is to explore the classical version, which depend on the empirical argument by analogy. The ‘Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy’ defines the argument of design by stating that: ‘The universe sufficiently resembles a machine or a work of art or architecture, for it to be reasonable for us to posit a designer whose intellect is responsible for it’s order and complexity’ (Blackburn, 2008:97). This argument is perceived to be the most popular of the three main arguments for the existence of God. This conundrum goes as far back as Plato and Aristotle in ancient Greece, and is still pondered upon today by contemporary philosophers. To comprehend the relevance of this contested argument this essay will examine its various aspects, referring mainly to William Paley’s (1743-1805) watch analogy and David Hume’s (1711-1776) interlocutor’s machine analogy as prime examples. It will explore the various objections by David Hume and finish with the findings of naturalist Charles Darwin (1809-1882). The conclusion will concur with the presented evidence, that the argument of design is a highly intuitive and popular argument but it’s main premises depend on a weak analogy between what is found in nature and the products of human artifice. In order to get a clear understanding of the argument by analogy it is important to begin with the standard schema as cited by the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy:

Entity e within nature (or the cosmos, or nature itself) is like specified human artifact a (e.g., a machine) in relevant respects R (signs of design). 0. a has R precisely because it is a product of deliberate design by intelligent human agency. 0. Like effects typically have like causes (or like explanations, like existence requirements, etc.) Therefore It is (highly) probable that e has R precisely because it too is a product of deliberate design by intelligent, relevantly human-like agency (Stanford, 2010). The opening quote consists of common names to describe god, which were taken for granted and used quite freely without discussion during the eighteenth century (Gaskin, 1988). At this time the argument from design was seen as the most persuasive and intuitive of all the philosophical theistic arguments. Therefore in order to counter argue these claims David Hume published a sceptical philosophical work entitled ‘Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion’ in 1779. In these dialogues the interlocutor Cleanthes states that when we look at the world it resembles a great machine which infer according to the rules of analogy ‘that the causes also resemble; and that the Author of Nature is somewhat similar to the mind of man, though possessed of much larger faculties’ (Hume,1779:1990:53). This analogy according to Cleanthes proves therefore that a god exists. In keeping with an argument by analogy, the first premise; the universe is likened to a machine, the second premise; all machines that we have experienced are designed by human intelligence. Therefore the universe is designed by divine intelligence. There are two main versions of the design argument which are based on two related design concepts, notable the sense of purpose and regularity of design in the universe (Davies, 2004:74). The first, which is also known as the teleological argument comes from the Greek word telos which means, ‘end’ or ‘purpose’. The latter is known as the regularity or nomological argument, nomos,...

References: Ayala, F. J., (2007). Darwin’s Greatest Discovery: Design without Designer. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 104, pp. 8567-8573.
Blackburn, S., (2008). Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. New York: Oxford University Press.
Davies, B., (2004). An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. London: Oxford University Press.
Gaskin, J. C. A., (1988). Hume’s Philosophy of Religion. London: Macmillan Press Ltd.
Hick, J., (1974). The Existence of God. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.
Hick, J., (1990). Philosophy of Religion. USA: Prentice-Hall International Editions.
Hume, D., (1990). Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. London: Penguin Books Ltd.
Hume, D., (1975). An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. London: Oxford University Press.
McPherson, T., (1957). The Argument from Design. Philosophy, 32 (122) pp. 219-228.
Ratzsch, D., (2010). Teleological Arguments for God 's Existence. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 1 Dec. from>.
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