Anda di halaman 1dari 37

The Design or Teleological

Argument for the

Existence of God

Key Word Test

1. Teleological Argument
2. Cosmological Argument
3. Ontological Argument
4. A posteriori
5. Deductive
6. Omnipotent
7. Infinite regress
8. Contingent
9. In intellectu
10. Analytic Statement

Teleology is from the Greek word meaning
end or purpose
The teleological argument is an a posteriori
argument for the existence of God
Advocates include Thomas Aquinas and
William Paley
Critics include David Hume, J S Mill and
Bertrand Russell

The Basics

The teleological argument is part of Aquinas

five ways, his last way. It looks at the world
around us and attemptsThistosentence
use that
as the
argument concisely and would
evidence for Gods existence.
be a good first sentence in an the
This makes it a posteriori,
cosmological argument
The teleological argument is an argument
from order and design to God as the
explanation for this order and design.

The Final Way

P1: Things lacking intelligence, like trees, have a
P2: These things cant move towards their end
without an intelligent being.
P3: By analogy: an arrow cannot reach its target
without a skilled archer.
C: Therefore, by analogy, there must be some
intelligent being which directs all
unintelligent beings to their end. This is what
we call God.

Inference is the process of deriving
conclusions from what is known or assumed
to be true.
Task: what (if anything) can you infer about
the producer of the following objects?

Notebook computer, Christian Louboutin slingbacks, chocolate souffl

What is the argument?

The argument basically works as follows:
1. The world contains order, regularity, purpose,
and beauty.
2. By looking at an object containing these
properties, we may infer that is was designed.
3. The world is an object containing the properties
in P1
CONCLUSION: the world was designed; the designer
we call God

Rate my argument


William Paley
English philosopher and
clergyman, 1743-1805.
Reforming tendencies,
progressive in the Church
and abolitionist (opposed to
the slave trade).
Author of Natural Theology
(1802), his masterwork
arguing for philosophical
knowledge of God.

Terms for the argument

We call this the Design Argument because it
attempts to prove God through the concept of
It is also known as the Teleological Argument
from the Greek telos, meaning end or purpose.
The argument claims that the world displays
Gods purpose or end-goal.
Some (not all) versions of this argument are called
analogical arguments, because they attempt to
make a proof based on analogy (comparisons).

The reasoning used in the argument:

a posteriori it is based on our
experience of the world around us.
Inductive the premises support but do
not entail the conclusion probabilistic.
Synthetic the argument is not true or
false by the definition of its premises it
has to be tested.

Responding to the world

Very briefly, look at the following images.
Then write down:
What is your emotional response to the images?
Can you infer any conclusions from the images? If
so, what are they?
Is it in human nature to interpret these images in
the same or similar way?

He then took the analogy one stage


He chose the human eye as an example of a

complex mechanism designed specifically for a
purpose, yet lacking its own intelligence

Paley in detail (qua purpose)

In particular Paley focuses on the human eye to demonstrate
complexity and purpose.
He observed that the human eye was made up of different
complex components, the lens, iris and cornea etc, and that
the coming together of these different parts could not have
come about by sheer chance alone as the eye is too complex.
He suggested that just as in the case of the watch with its
clear complexity and purpose, we must conclude a designer of
the eye because of its obvious purpose of seeing. If the eye
were put together in a different manner either it wouldn't see
at all or would only provide partial sight, either case would
see it falling short of its purpose.

Qua purpose
Paley also provides other examples of design qua purpose
through the example of animal lacteal systems. His
argument suggests that animals such as cows, horses and
sheep have a small number of teats and because of their
small number young, yet the sow, bitch and cat have many
teats or because they have a large number in their litter.
For Paley clear complexity and purpose of the eye, and
something as straightforward as animals having the
number of teats that correspond to the number of young
points to clear evidence of design in the world. This
designer or provider of purpose in the universe is, for Paley,
the God of Christianity. Yet Paley does not stop there, he
continues onto a design qua regularity similar to that of

Qua regularity
Paley looks at the universe and in some ways updated
Aquinas views.
In 1687 Sir Isaac Newton formulated the laws of motion and
gravity suggests that the universe is like a machine, working
like clockwork in predictable patterns.
Paley suggests that the rotation or ellipses of planets are so
regular as to provide the opportunity for life on earth. He
focuses on gravity and suggests that without the continuity
or regularity of gravity then we would have a very different
universe and probably no life on earth.
He argues that this regularity did not come about by chance
but that it has been directed to be the case by some higher
power. This being, for Paley, is God.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Sort the strengths and weaknesses cards

Pick out the ones marked Hume (have a guess,

you need to know these) and pick out three
more that you think are particularly

Charles Darwin (1809-1882)

Naturalist and first exponent of the
theory of evolution.
Expected to join the Anglican priesthood
and studied theology, but became more
interested in natural history.
Travelled to the Galapagos Islands; his
experience of the animal life there
inspired him to develop his ideas.
Darwin kept his ideas secret for a long
time, eventually publishing them in 1859.

Extract from Charles Darwins

The Origin of Species (1859):
Let it also be borne in mind how infinitely complex and close-fitting are the
mutual relations of all organic beings to each other and to their physical
conditions of life; and consequently what infinitely varied diversities of structure
might be of use to each being under changing conditions of life. Can it, then, be
thought improbable, seeing that variations useful to man have undoubtedly
occurred, that other variations useful in some way to each being in the great and
complex battle of life, should occur in the course of many successive generations?
If such do occur, can we doubt (remembering that many more individuals are born
than can possibly survive) that individuals having any advantage, however slight,
over others, would have the best chance of surviving and of procreating their
kind? On the other hand, we may feel sure that any variation in the least degree
injurious would be rigidly destroyed. This preservation of favourable individual
differences and variations, and the destruction of those which are injurious, I have
called Natural Selection, or the Survival of the Fittest.

Why does this cause a problem for the design
Which aspects of Paleys argument are
challenged by Darwinism?
How damaging is the Darwinist objection to
the design argument? Does it rule it out

Counter points
See the Intelligent Design movement it
claims the theory of evolution is wrong or
over-stated (note: this has little / no scientific
God may have caused the process of evolution
as a means of bringing order and purpose into
the universe (James Sadowsky).
Evolution depends on a careful balance of
conditions, possibly caused by God (F.R.
Tennant the anthropic principle).

The Intelligent Design Movement

Intelligent Design
A group of scientists and
mathematicians at the Discovery
Institute have argued that Darwin was
wrong about natural selection.
The complexity of nature may be due
to Intelligent Design.
Michael Behe organisms like the
bacterial flagellum display irreducible
complexity. They have too many
component parts to be explained
through natural selection.

Bacterial flagellum
very complicated.

Criticism of Intelligent Design

The evolution of complex organisms is
difficult to explain, but it does not mean
that they cannot be explained. Tricky
examples hardly disprove Darwinism.
Biologist Richard Dawkins argues that
Intelligent Design has no genuine scientific
basis; not a single member of this
movement is published in a serious
scientific journal.
The attempt to teach Intelligent Design
as a scientific theory is an under-hand
attempt to undermine secular education.

Responding to Darwinism
Is there any way religious believers can
respond to the challenge from Darwinism?
Could you re-formulate the argument, so that
it can survive these criticisms?

David Hume
Scottish philosopher, 1711-1776
Famed also as an historian and
economist, a controversial essayist
A key figure in the Scottish
His views on religion are guarded in
his works, perhaps deliberately
obscure. Some accused him of
atheism, others of having an
irregular view of God.

Humes arguments in the Dialogues
Listen to this very clear explanation of The
Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion from
Nigel Warburton and take notes.
Reflect: what do you think of the arguments

How effective are the criticisms?

Very effective

Summary of
Humes Criticisms
Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, 1779
Hume focuses on the weaknesses of the analogy and the
conclusion drawn from the available empirical evidence
1) We have no experience of world making
2) Arguments from analogy can only be suggestive not
conclusive (issue of scale, mechanic/organic)
3) The available evidence cannot prove the God of classical theism
(multiple designers? The failed attempt of an imperfect designer?)
REMEMBER: these criticisms are applicable to Paley. However,
Hume was criticising the design argument in general Paley had
not yet even written Natural Theology (1805).

Where do theists go now?

Abandon the argument

Base theism on
Something else

Reject theism

Re-state the argument

Reject / reply to
Hume & Darwinian

Reformulate the
argument on a
different basis


Personal faith
Revealed theology
Different theistic arguments

Anthropic principle
Argue for non-classical theology

F.R. Tennant and the

anthropic principle
Cambridge academic and clergyman 1866-1957.

Nature is meaningless and valueless without God behind it

and Man in front. (Philosophical Theology, 1930)
Tennant is arguing that humanity is at the forefront of
creation, because the circumstances of the universe
uniquely and surprisingly enable human life to emerge.
Tennant was the first theist philosopher to use the
fundamental characteristics of the universe as lifenurturing to offer a new form of teleological argument;
many have since followed this path.

Anthropic reasoning
From the Greek anthropos
(human/man); anthropic reasoning
argues from the human perspective.
Write down a list of the factors
necessary for your existence.
Reflect: are humans fortunate in
having the conditions of life met? Is
it surprising that the world is set up
for life?

Anthropic teleological argument

1. The emergence of human life in our universe depends on
numerous factors: planetary conditions, fundamental laws
of physics, etc.
2. Human life has emerged in our universe.

3. A life-friendly universe such as ours is highly improbable;

almost any other set of circumstances we can think of
would have been life-hostile.
4. A designer or intelligent Creator would make sense of our
improbable universe.
CONCLUSION: God exists

Rate my argument


(a) Explain the teleological argument for the
existence of God [25 marks]
(b) Aquinas and Paleys teleological argument
cannot be defended [10 marks]