Teleological Argument question

a) What are the strengths?

  • Major – looks at the evidence and then draws a conclusion (Aquinas’ 5th Way) i.e. a posteriori and inductive.
  • Everything does appear to be supremely suited to its purpose (anthropic principle, Tennant and Swinburne)
  • Beauty is unnecessary for survival so there must be a reason (aesthetic argument and Aquinas’ 4th way)
  • Everything works together for mutual benefit
  • It is a logical argument
  • Paley‘s watch analogy
  • John Wisdom‘s Parable of the Gardener
  • Does appear to be order (Newton)
  • Evolution is the mechanism by which God created (Swinburne)


b) What are the weaknesses?

  • Major – Darwin! Natural selection and survival of the fittest; random changes, extinctions etc – what does this say about God?
  • Major – why isn’t the world perfect? If there were a designer surely the world would be perfect, but it isn’t so what does this say about God?
  • Order – false concept (Kant); there may in fact be chaos at the heart of the universe.
  • The watch analogy is just that – an analogy – a leap too far
  • It’s an inductive argument – i.e. not the only possible conclusion.
  • Gardener might just as well not exist. (Ayer and Flew)
  • Our knowledge is just too limited… (Hume)


c) Strengths and weaknesses equally convincing?

  • Darwin’s theory of evolution major stumbling block but…
  • Tennant imbued Darwin’s mechanical process of evolution with purpose – preferable!
  • Evil and suffering are also a huge problem – they certainly worry believers by making them question what kind of God…
  • Based on observable evidence that we can all see if we look around us, it is a very attractive argument: logical
  • However it still doesn’t prove God exists
  • But it does have the advantage that it gives a reason ‘why’? Even if the original ‘how’ is modified in the light of the evidence of evolutionary theory
  • Analogy is still a useful tool, there are still sufficient similarities to draw useful conclusions
  • Believers have another argument in their armoury
  • Non-believers will not be convinced
  • Faith cannot come through accepting the strengths
  • In the end it may come down to Ockham’s Razor in that God may well be the simplest explanation but only for believers will the strengths outweigh the weaknesses.



Notes from your answers


H 1    ‘the design argument has many strengths in arguing in favour of the existence of God’


Need examples of order / design


Need to write out the actual premises of the argument to start with e.g.

    The design argument is that which suggests that the universe shows evidence of design at every level and as a result we can conclude that there is an intelligent designer who was as Aquinas said, ‘that we call God.’


E 2    ‘It appears that the odds of this planet having the perfect conditions for the creation of human life are very low.’


Careful how you use the word ‘prove.’

Use phrases like: ‘this suggests / it would seem to prove / it points towards / as a result many believe…

Don’t make flat assertions – hedge! Some say, / some philosophers believe…

Refer to God as ‘something / some Being / some power’ but not someone!


Ultimately the argument is over whether the universe is here by chance or design.


A 3    using Ockham’s Razor tends to sound like we’re shaving! Say instead: ‘We could apply Ockham’s Razor theory to this and suggest that…’ OR ‘Ockham’s Razor would suggest … and believers think…’


KH 4    Do expand on Paley’s analogy and describe it and draw the analogy out – also must use words like similarly / equally to explain that from the idea that the watch needs a designer so too the universe needs a universe maker.


5    Darwin’s theory of evolution is a major weakness of the cosmological argument: ‘Of course Darwin would dispute this but Swinburne…’ And only mention Darwin in passing if discussing the strengths.


6    These tectonic plates need explaining.

Scientists have concluded that a planet without tectonic plates could not create the conditions to support life as we know it.


Essential conditions for life like ours to evolve:

  • Right constituent elements in the atmosphere
  • Right distance from the sun
  • Abundance of carbon (in the early days of the universe no carbon, had to be birthed inside stars!)
  • Water and the right kind
  • Ozone layer to protect from the sun’s radiation        Of course…


7    Things are the way they are because they are and if they weren’t they’d be different and we wouldn’t know any different!


Maybe evolution has tried all the other paths and this is the one which works best!


8    Surely the weakness is that if God’s purpose was to create human life and we are the pinnacle of his achievement, why is the universe so huge?


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