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Design Argument Revision Notes

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The Argument for Design


• Also known as teleological argument from Greek ‘telos’ meaning ‘goal or purpose’ • A posteriori – the DA claims there is evidence of design in the world and so relies on external empirical evidence for its proof. • Inductive argument. • Arguments for design go back at least as far as the Greek philosopher Plato [428-347 B.C.] • Some distinguish between ‘qua regularity’ and ‘qua purpose’, meaning that some DA’s argue on the basis of there being regularity in the Universe whilst others claim there is evidence of the Universe being designed for a purpose. • Three main types of argument are: From order [regularity] From beauty Anthropic [purpose]

William Paley [1743-1805] in Natural Theology: Evidences of The Existence and Attributes of the Deity [1805] • Makes use of analogy and likens the complexity of a watch to the complexity of the Universe. Since a watch is clearly designed, so is the Universe [qua regularity]. Also, the human eye is too complex to have arisen by chance so must be designed for some purpose [qua purpose]

• Hume [1711-1776] in Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion and An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding put forward a number of criticisms of the DA before Paley published his work: • Design and order could be the result of chance [the Epicurean hypothesis] • Hume believed the analogy on which the DA is based is unsound. If you compare the Universe with a watch which we know to be designed it is not surprising you come to the conclusion that the Universe is designed. If you compare the Universe with a carrot then you may not come to the same conclusion. Carrots may be the result of ‘self-regulation’. • ‘Like effects have like causes’. This means that: • Since watches [effects] are designed by humans [cause], so too the Universe [effect] must be the result of human design albeit superhuman [cause]. • Since several people may be involved in designing a watch, why not many Gods rather then one? • Since things in the Universe are imperfect [suffering etc.] does this mean the designer is imperfect? Perhaps evil? Perhaps an apprentice God? • In short, Hume did not think that the argument could be used to support the idea of the Jewish/Christian God.

J. S. Mill [1806-1873] • Mill held that suffering is inherent in the natural world and therefore, the Universe cannot be ordered and the result of intelligent design.

F. R. Tennant [1886-1957] • God has implanted the facility to appreciate beauty in human beings to make them indirectly aware of His presence. Beauty is held to have no survival value so could not have come about through natural selection. • Frederick Temple argued that moral awareness could not be explained in terms of survival value. • Keith Ward has argued that values are transcultural and play no fundamental part in the evolutionary process. But: • Beauty may be ‘in the eye of the beholder’. It may be due to cultural conditioning and may not exist as some sort of absolute. • Moral awareness could ensure survival. • Transcultural values could still be human values and not objective or absolute values.

Anthropic Argument • Claims that the Universe has been ‘fine tuned’ by some intelligent power or entity. The fact that the Universe expands at a very precise rate, that atomic forces are very precisely fixed, that the fundamental forces that brought the Universe into being had to be correct to [1010,30,70] – Paul Davies • Swinburne [1934- present] argues that the Universe appears to operate according to a set of laws and the most probable explanation of this is God. Science can explain things that happen as a consequence of these laws but not the presence of the laws themselves. God is therefore more probable as an explanatory hypothesis than non-God [card shuffling machine] But: • How easy is it to judge probability when we only have no knowledge of other possible Universes? Couldn’t the order and regularity have come about by chance despite the enormous odds against it? • Richard Dawkins [1941-present] argues that evolution is unpredictable and involves randomness. Natural selection is ‘blind’; it has no aim, no purpose. It is a ‘blind, unconscious automatic process’ completely without purpose. ‘We are survival machines – robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes’. But: • Arthur Peacocke [physical biologist] and Peter Williams argue that the principle of Natural Selection does not rule out belief in God – the question still remains as to where the whole system comes from and this, it is claimed, science cannot explain. • John Polkinghorne [mathematical physicist] claims God chose to create the world through a combination of chance and necessity [law governed]. • Paul Davies [Physicist] says it is a matter of interpretation whether or not the Universe is designed but design is not ruled out by science.

Immanuel Kant [1724-1804] • The order in the Universe is mind imposed and not God imposed. We cannot reason from the phenomenal world to the noumenal. A similar view is held by many post-modern writers.

Key [main] features/concepts/ideas of DAs. • A posteriori • Inductive [probability]. • Move from Designer to God. • Rule out Epicurean hypothesis. • Use regularity and order or purpose.

Main Strengths • Basis in empirical evidence. • Reasonable interpretation of experience/ easy to understand. • Analogy – often used in everyday life. • Inductive – often used in everyday life/strength of probability. • Conclusion seems to follow reasonably from evidence.

Main weaknesses • Alternative interpretations. • Inductive argument – probability only. • What kind of designer? • Problems with analogy. Does the DA work?

• Depends on what you think its trying to do: Prove the existence of God through reason? Raise the probability of God’s existence? Give reasoned support for faith? • Failure or partial rejection? • Some DAs might work better than others. • Problems moving from designer to God? • Could work as part of cumulative/probability argument.

Exam Questions

1. [a] Outline the design argument for the existence of God [28 marks] [b] “The design argument fails because of its weaknesses.” Examine and comment on this claim. [12 marks]

2. [a] What are the strengths of the design argument for the existence of God? [14 marks] [b] What are the weaknesses of this argument? [14 marks] [c] Comment on the view that the strengths and weaknesses are equally convincing. [12 marks]

3. [a] What are the key feature of the design argument for the existence of God? [14 marks] [b] Identify the main strengths of the argument. [14 marks] [c] How far do the strengths outweigh the weaknesses? [12 marks]

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