Teleological Argument revision for any question

Define the argument

  • End or purpose
  • Evidence from regularity in nature; a posteriori.
  • Order not chaos therefore design not chance
  • Plato and later Cicero regarded it as obvious that ‘there is some divinity or intelligence’ when we contemplate the heavens.
  • Aquinas’ fifth way: order and purpose: all things seem goal directed in their behaviour (even non animate things!) therefore something needs to have given them that purpose. ‘and this being we call God.’
  • 2 forms of argument:
    • Inductive: based on observation that the universe demonstrates regularity both in the whole and in its parts: Newton
    • Analogical argument: Paley and the watch or eye analogy
  • Swinburne: ‘I do not deny science explains but postulate God to explain why science explains.’ He meant that it is all too vast for science to explain in its entirety.
  • The design argument answers the questions:
    Why does there appear to be order in the universe?
    Why does it provide everything necessary to sustain life?
    Why do things appear to be working towards an end or purpose?
    Why does it appear to be ideal for human life?
    Why does it appear to exhibit beauty more than is necessary for mere survival?


Could be coincidence but probability too low! Certainly not sufficient to be a complete explanation. [See cosmological argument]



  • Kind of argument it is (A.p and ind) why weak? Because the evidence may not be as compelling as suggested.
  • Even Dawkins thinks it is highly improbable for all the factors to come together to create you or me but that this merely shows life is valuable. But he criticises the watchmaker: a true watchmaker has foresight… but the unconscious processes of natural selection are blind; they have no more purpose than to reproduce.
  • Hume criticises the analogy because it argues from what we know to that which we don’t. Maybe parts of the universe have a purpose, but does the whole? We are assuming too much.
  • Why God? Hume
  • Evolution not God? Darwin
  • Hume – the analogy is weak, a leap too far (again); anthropomorphising of God, comparison of God with a watchmaker emphasises his weaknesses, fallibility; though Paley had already covered this is saying the analogy could only serve to demonstrate that there was a designer nothing about the nature of that designer.
  • Another weakness of Paley’s analogy is why he didn’t seem to think the stone needed an explanation.
  • Also Paley has chosen to see order; Order is a concept we impose on the universe – not orderly at the quantum level
  • We now know that the universe is in a constant state of development and decay, not of unchangeable order. The universe is not like a machine, nor does it function like one. Hume.
  • The Epicurean hypothesis of multiverses states that it is therefore not surprising that one universe at least produced our kind of life, but this is chance not design.
  • If designed why suffering? Is the universe such a beautiful and harmonious place? JS Mill concluded ‘If the maker of the world can do all that he will, he wills misery and there is no escaping that conclusion.’ Darwin said ‘I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created…or that a cat should play with mice.’
  • Hume and Mill put forward a number of examples of poor design like congenital diseases.
  • Not God of classical theism – i.e. Not omnipotent
  • Who created the watchmaker?
  • Probability is not proof.


  • Rules out chance and probability
  • Indeed the probability that he does exist is greater than that he doesn’t.
  • Logical
  • Evolution does not explain morality, art, music etc.
  • Does not necessarily rule out God as reason behind evolution.
  • Explains order and beauty (aesthetic argument)
  • Beauty is an unnecessary quality for existence so must have a purpose that purpose reflects the nature of God behind it.
  • Swinburne: Weak anthropic principle (we are here because all creation (evolution) has led to us being here, not random series of chances)
  • Tenant: And strong anthropic principle (intelligent life would have taken hold anyway whatever the circumstances and will spread throughout the universe and is the purpose of the universe!)
  • Swinburne’s argument from probability – order and design evidence increases the probability that God exists


  • Al it really succeeds in proving is that the universe is ordered; it cannot prove that it was designed, only that there appears to us to be design
  • If valid then it could prove the existence of a sentient, designing intelligence but it could still make no valid claims to know what that intelligence was like.
  • No proof either way
  • Faith
  • Simplest answer
  • Support faith


‘This proof always deserves to be mentioned with respect. It is the oldest, the clearest and the most accordant with the common reason of mankind.’ Kant.


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