Design or Teleological Argument for 2008 question

a) Significant ideas of the teleological argument for the existence of God. [28]

  • Could start with the Greeks (first formulated this argument in the 5th century BC)
  • But must mention Aquinas’ 5th way – the argument from design
  • Could mention Aquinas’ 4th way the argument from beauty or leave that till the aesthetic argument.
  • Aquinas used analogies for the arrow and the eye to explain his argument.
  • Must define the teleological argument as ….
  • Now go on to Paley and how he used the analogy of the watch… tell story and explain its meaning in terms of the link to the universe.
  • Another key idea is that of the Aesthetic argument i.e. beauty is unnecessary to survival therefore it is not random therefore it is given for a reason… etc… God!
  • And another is the Anthropic Principle… conditions on earth are such that they are designed to give rise to human kind; man is then the pinnacle of creation. (This is where you could give details about the planet being the perfect distance from the sun, protected by Jupiter and the moon etc…)
  • Key idea is that this argument is a posteriori that is based on evidence and inductive i.e. its conclusion is logical.


b) To what extent is this a convincing argument?    

  • It is based on observation and fits with our experience…
  • But how reliable is our observation or our understanding of the evidence?
  • It is a flexible argument and leads to a logical conclusion
  • But not the only conclusion and why God anyway? (Quote)
  • Another weakness is the theory of evolution which was a huge obstacle to this argument in the 19th century because…
  • But FR Tennant among others have suggested that evolution is just one of God’s tools in bringing about human life as it is today; used to perfect human kind.
  • The use of analogies is a strength (after all how else can we explain the unexplainable) and they make sense to us
  • However Hume suggests that Paley’s analogy is too stretched, far fetched; how can we make a conclusion about the general based on something so particular? (quote)



The major flaw in this argument would seem to be evolution. If Darwin is correct and all life has evolved from simple, single-celled animals by a random process of natural selection and survival of the fittest then to suggest that this process is instigated by God seems to imply as Dawkins put it that if there was a watchmaker then he was a blind one! (Quote) After all what kind of ‘watchmaker’ builds in flaws such as terrible disfiguring diseases, redundant systems and the kinds of natural disasters which overtake our world. What could he possibly be trying to achieve?

It may be a more convincing argument than some about the existence of God, and maybe God is as Ockham’s Razor would suggest the simplest explanation, but perhaps we are drawing this conclusion based on insufficient evidence and should as a result withhold judgment until all the facts are in.


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