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Design Argument

In: Philosophy and Psychology

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The Design Argument is also known as the Teleological Argument coming from the Greek word ‘telos’ meaning end/purpose. It is an “a posteriori” argument (from experience) based on empirical evidence (based on the 5 senses). It is synthetic (from observation) and is inductive (there are a number of possible conclusions although one may be more probable).
The Design Argument states that the universe has order, purpose, regularity and suitability for human life (Sarah Tyler). Complexities of the universe demonstrate some form of design. The design requires a designer. Therefore, for many, the designer is God of the Classical Theism (Hereafter referred to as God).
This argument was first introduced by Socrates, a Greek philosopher, showing that the argument is strong as it has survived the test of time as we are still discussing it in the 21st century so the argument has merit and displays longevity. “With such signs of forethought in the design of living creatures, how can there be doubt that they are the work of choice or design” cited by Socrates. There is an early belief that there is design in the world.

In the 13th century, Thomas Aquinas furthered the design argument through his book, Summa Theologica. He proposed 5 ways to prove the existence of God; one of which was the Teleological argument. For Aquinas, these arguments point to a being “that we call God”. To prove the existence of god, he used the analogy of the archer, arrow and target to show that there must be an intelligent being who is directing being to their end or purpose. For example, an archer must direct his arrow towards the target in order for it to fulfil its purpose. Without the archer the arrow will not hit the target. Aquinas argues from Design Qua (relating to) regularity which states that there is a governor of the universe that directs thinks and keeps the universe regulated. Aquinas says “Now whatever lacks knowledge cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence.”
Paley put forward the most famous version of the design argument in his book, Natural Theology. He argues for God’s existence from Design Qua Purpose. The world, he says, is “too complex and well-designed to have come about by chance. It seems to have been planned by an intelligent mind for a special purpose.” Paley famously uses the analogy of the watch to try to prove God’s existence. He says that a watch is extremely complex and is put together for a purpose, it is not a product of chance and has design features. Design infers a designer. Therefore, in this case, the designer is a watchmaker. Putting this into context with the existence of God, we can clearly see that the watch plays the role of the world and the watchmaker plays the role of God. William Paley said that “everything that exists shows evidence of having been designed by an intelligent being, and that intelligent being is what we call God.”
Another key feature of the Teleological Argument is The Anthropic Principle, which was proposed by FR Tennant who says that the world appears to be made for the development and beneficial effects of human life. He believes that natural evidence exists to support the idea of divine designer. Tennant believed that the “Universe is not chaotic; nature is the outcome of intelligent design.”. He believed it was possible to imagine a chaotic universe with no rules but the universe is designed in such a way that life can exist, survive and more importantly flourish. This is also known as the “Goldilocks Effect” which argues that nature is so precisely balanced so “finely tuned” and “just right” to allow life to exist. This is a modern day application of Design Qua Regularity.
There are two versions of the Anthropic principle. The strong anthropic principle states that the conditions for human life were deliberately ‘set up’ before human life came into existence. Conditions were pre-planned for the introduction of human life. For example, this principle is rather like planning a nursery for a baby. When a person is aware that a baby is coming, they would want to get everything just right for the arrival. The weak anthropic principle states that human life has developed on earth simply because the conditions arose to allow life to occur. The reason this principle is weak is because it removes the notion of pre-planning of God. However, this principle can accept the Theory of Evolution supporting evidence for a divine designer and it is all about the “fine tuning” of the universe of conditions to allow life to flourish. Both forms of the Anthropic Principle may include the theory of evolution by seeing God as the one who sets up ‘necessary’ structures in the universe within which life has the ‘chance’ to evolve. Comparing the SAP to WAP begs the question as to whether God intended us to be here or whether we are a ‘happy accident’.
The Anthropic Idea was then furthered by James Lovelock who introduced the Gaia hypothesis. Gaia is the name for Greek earth goddess. The hypothesis forms the idea that there is an intelligent being who is managing the conditions on earth and regulating them so that they remain constant for human life to flourish. For example, if there is less than 12% or more than 25% oxygen in the earth’s atmosphere then we would die and fires would not be able to be put out. Vardy calls this “Engineering on a planetary scale”. The conditions of the universe are not a random process.
Arthur Brown supported the Design Argument based on astronomy and uses the ozone layer to demonstrate God’s planning. He put forward the idea that the “ozone gas layer is a mighty proof of the creator’s forethought… just the right thickness and exactly the correct defence gives every evidence of a plan.”

Tennant’s principle was then furthered by Taylor who insisted that the universe is not just orderly but also beautiful beyond what is necessary to live, for example the changing colours of the season, art, stars and snowflakes. This is known as the Aesthetic principle. These things are not necessary for the survival of the human race and we could survive without them, however life may be seen as very dull and boring if this was the case. Tennant cited that “Nature is not just beautiful in places, it is saturated with beauty…from an intelligent point of view beauty seems to be superfluous and to have little survival value”. Therefore, this is an indication of an omnibenevolent creator who cares about the quality of our lives.
Dunlop was a doctor who cared for thousands of people of war in Burma. Vardy argues that his actions are not just part of evolution (survival of the fittest) but that humans can display selfless actions. Although Weary could have escaped on a number of occasions, he chose to stay in the prison and care for his fellow prisoners. He demonstrates qualities of compassions, love, self-sacrifice etc. Vardy says this is further proof of the Aesthetic principle as it shows the beauty behind the selflessness. We are created for more than just survival showing an intelligent designer.
Richard Swinburne, a key scholar, creates a fusion of science and religion and says that they are both compatible with each other. He looks at the design argument from the angle of probability, that it seems more probable that there is a designer than not. The universe could have been chaotic or ordered. The universe is law governed so it is ordered. It seems more probable that the world is here through design than chance and theism is the best explanation for the design in the universe. The universe contains everything necessary for the survival of humans, animals and plants. Natural laws function for the benefit for humankind. Swinburne uses the Card shuffling parable to illustrate how unlikely it is for the world to have been created by chance. This is a modern day application of Design Qua Regularity. Swinburne says “It would not be adequate for the victim to claim that no explanation of the draw is required here”. The argument from probability is that the universe is ordered. This is not by chance as the universe is too big just to have happened based on the probability it is very unlikely that the universe would ever occur because of its size and order. Therefore, something must have planned its existence and ordered the universe to occur. Cole cites Archbishop Temple who said: “the doctrine of evolution leaves the argument for an intelligent creator and governor of the earth stronger than before.”, showing science and religion are compatible.
In addition to this, Morowitz, who was an expert in probability, thought that the probability of the universe existing is the equivalent of throwing “4 billion pennies into the air and everyone landing heads up.”
Hoyle likened the probability of the universe being created by chance to a jumbo jet, a junk yard and a whirlwind. He said “it is unlikely as a whirl wind descending across a junk yard and assembling a jumbo jet.”
Ockham’s razor is not related to the Design Argument; however, it can be applied to it. Ockham’s razor states that the simplest conclusion is usually the right one so “do not multiply entities unnecessarily.” Thus can suggest that the simplest and most obvious conclusion to the design argument is that God is the Designer so we should accept God as the ultimate creator of the universe and so can conclude he exists.

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