Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Teleological Argument

The Teleological Argument

  • Also known as the “design argument”.
  • “Teleos” of which “teleological” is derived from is Greek for “end” or “purpose”.
  • This is an a posteriori argument based upon the apparent order of the universe, concluding that it must have been created lovingly, rather than coming about by chance.
  • It goes, classically, like this:
  • The universe has order, purpose and regularity
  • The complexity of the universe shows evidence of design
  • Such design implies a designer
  • The designer of the universe is God
  • This simply makes a basic assumption that there is order in nature and that everything functions to fulfil a purpose. For example, the perfect adaptation of a body to it’s environment appear to provide sufficient evidence for it’s design.

Design Qua Regularity

  • This argument focuses on the design of the universe from the aspect of order and regularity.
  • Followers of this feel that this regularity shows evidence of a designer, in the same way that a beautiful garden surely shows evidence of a gardener.
  • Order in this is presented in the form of the regular orbital nature of the planets, the shifting of the seasons and possibly the irrefutable laws of physics.
  • This design qua regularity is demonstated in St. Thomas Aquina’s fifth of this Five Ways, “from the governance of things”.
  • He claimed that everything works to some purpose or other and as inanimate objects have no rational powers then they must be directed to this purpose by some external power.
  • He says “the way in which natural bodies act in a regular fashion to accomplish their end provides the evidence for an intelligent being”

Design Qua Purpose

  • Does exactly what it says on the tin! This argues for design from the aspect of purpose, the way in which everything appears to work together to a specific end, in the same way as a watch or a television. If the parts were not fitted in accord with each other than neither of them would work at all! It appears these arrangements occur in nature too.
  • It was developed in the 17th century as a response to Newtonian Mechanics, which gave form to the orbits of the planets etc. in the form of easy to follow rules!
  • Isaac Newton demonstrated that the irrefutable laws of motion and gravity were obeyed not only on earth, but throughout the universe.
  • Many scientists thusly thought that the cosmos was like a grand machine!

William Paley

  • In response to the nastiness that the mechanical analogy posed to the world of theology, Paley put forth the most famous form of the teleological argument, “The Cosmic Watchmaker” in his book Natural Theology.
  • He asks us to imagine walking across a heath and your foot stumbles across a rock. It would be well and good to suppose that that rock simple came to be there by chance, and, for all we know, may have always been there, and it may be quite hard to disprove that!
  • However, if you came across a watch and said the same thing, people would think you addled! In fact, very few people would even dare think anything other than somebody had dropped it. But why isn’t the former response admissible for the watch?
  • Namely, when we inspect the watch we find it complex, and intricate, that it’s parts are framed beautifully and put together for a purpose: namely, that they have been aligned so to create motion and with that motion regulate time so as to point out the hours of the day; and if they had been created in any other shape or alignment then the watch would fail to work, or work ineffectively.
  • The first part of this illustrates design qua purpose, in observing that the parts of the watch had come together for a purpose, and could not conceivably have done so by chance.
  • He analogised that similar things are applicable to the various, magnificent workings of the body:
  • One of the analogies was about the various, complex and immaculate pieces of the eye coming together to form sight in humans.
  • A more confusing one that he put forth was the “lacteal system”:
  • He found it quite amazing that the amount of nipples an animal had seemed to coincide with the number of young it would litter at any one point.
  • The second part focuses on design qua regularity. He argued that the laws of a Newtonian universe, the way in which the planets are coerced by gravity and regulated by it could not have come about by chance. An external agent must impose order and regularity on the world, and this agent must be THE MESSIAH!
  • Arthur Brown argued for the design argument in the 20th century from the point of astronomy and the ozone layer, saying it was too perfect to be true!

Humey, Humey, Humey.

  • He HATED this theory SO hard. In his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion he pondered why the universe had to have a beginning.
  • “How can anything that exists from eternity have a cause, since the relation implies a priority in time and in a beginning of existence?”
  • Even if there were evidence of design in the universe, who says it’s God’s? Perhaps a few lesser God’s, an apprentice God who has moved on to something greater, or a whole race of barely God-like creatures.
  • The evidence of flaws in the design, like suffering and death, do not support a beautiful creation or a perfect creator:
  • “This world, for all He knows, is very faulty and imperfect, compared to a superior standard; and was only the first rude essay of some infant diety who afterwards abandoned it.”

  • He is summarised in saying:
  • We do not have sufficient knowledge and experience of the creation of the world to conclude there is only one designer. Like in Terry Pratchett’s “Strata”, where a huge company builds planets with fossils already built in, etc., and then started up and left alone for them to develop life and sentience, etc.
  • To argue the design of the universe in human terms is not an acceptable analogy because God transcends human understanding. If we are to discuss the creation of a “machine”, then, in human terms, machines are often made by many hands, or, in this day, rarely by humans at all.
  • The universe should not be argued as a machine, as that allows us not room to grow and develop. He prefers to think of the universe as a vegetable.

The Epicurean Hypothesis

  • This was put forth by Hume. He says:
  • At the time of creation the universe consisted of particles of random in random motion. The original state of the universe was chaotic but natural forces caused it to develop into an ordered system. In an eternal universe the ordering of things would be inevitable.


  • Darwin, in arguing for natural selection, argues that the process of order is mechanical and an ordered, seemingly designed world can come about through chance and the forces of nature.

The Anthropic Principle

  • This is a recent development of the teleological argument!, claiming that the universe was constructed purely to develop intelligent life. If any of the precise values of any of the forces of nature had changes, then the chance of life forming on earth would have been a lot smaller, or impossible.
  • This denies any claim that a chain of coincidences created human life. The best explanation is the existence of a designer.
  • F R Tennant developed the anthropic principle in his book Philosophical Theology, believing there were three types of natural evidence in the world in favour of a designer:
  • The fact that the world can be analysed analytically
  • The way in which the inorganic world provides necessities for organic life
  • The progress of evolution to emerge human life

  • He thinks it is entirely possible that you can imagine a chaotic universe, in which there are no rules. However, it is evidently not chaotic and was designed in such a way as to evolutionarily produce intelligent life. Tennant was thus lead to believe that human life is either the culmination of God’s plan, or at least the current stage of his plan.
  • Not only this, but the universe appears to be incredibly beautiful on every single level, and this is known as the aesthetic argument. Tennant argues that humans possess the ability to appreciate all of this beauty, but this appreciation is not necessary for us to evolve or survive and is thus evidence of a creator, and is not a result of natural selection.
  • Richard Swinburne agrees with this, claiming that the universe could have just as easily have been chaotic, but it is not! Hence: jesus.
  • He argued from probabilities from here on: what is more probable: chance or design? He felt that the sheer complexity of the universe being made by chance very improbable (however, this implies the creation of a universe as it is right now, rather than a slow creation over billions of year). He concluded saying the God was the simplest explanation.
  • The weak and strong anthropic principles have come about of late.
  • The strong anthropic principle claims that the necessities of human evolution were intrinsic to the big bang and creation of the universe; the whole purpose of design being that human life would evolve on earth.
  • The weak anthropic principle does not claim it inevitable, but just happened to have happened.
  • Supporters argue that design is akin to nature being a big machine which makes other machines! And, like all original machines, needs a designer.

Science FTW!

  • Richard Dawkins, a modern zoologist, argues that life is purely evolutionary, and anything we do that appears to be altruistic or unrelated to basic survival is a product of the little bit of leeway that our genes have, as we are just vessels intended to insure our genetic reproduction. Any beauty we see in nature is personal opinion, and not fact at all, as we cannot wholly agree on what is beautiful anyway!
  • Not all scientists agree with Dawkins and can even accept that the universe was made with God’s help. John Polkinghorne uses anthropic principle to support his belief that chance alone is incapable of explaining our creation and development.
  • “Evolutionary history seems to unfold through the interplay of two contrasting tendencies: “chance” and “necessity”.”

Goddamnit I am so tired of this- HOLYSCHITT!


Natalie said...

lol i found this googling for help with me philos essay on the design argument. random right? you used some OCR blue book too right? lol. anyway. uhh have a nice day! :)

Anonymous said...

This was really helpful and easy to understand thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this SO MUCH!
It really helped me understand, and I loved your humour throughout - I'm in Natalie's position right now, lol.
Thanks again =D

Anonymous said...

yer, i'm in natalies position and you've really helped, sorry if you found it too much of a mish
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