a) The teleological argument for the existence of God.
This is the argument for a designer of the universe from looking at the design of it. This is an a posteriori argument arguing backwards from evidence to form a conclusion but is also an inductive argument because the conclusion reached is not found within the premises of it and as a result it is not necessarily a logical conclusion that God is the designer of the universe
First expounded by Aristotle and later by Aquinas who stated in his Five Ways that the Fifth Way was the ‘argument from design.’ Later still was elevated to new heights by William Paley who by his analogy with a watch drew the conclusion that like a watch whose workings are so precise that they must have been designed to work so perfectly so therefore the universe whose workings are so meticulous that is too must have been designed by a purposeful being. This being ‘we call God‘, Aquinas said.
This is an a posteriori argument arguing backwards from evidence to form a conclusion but is also an inductive argument because the conclusion reached is not found within the premises of it and as a result, sceptics might argue, it is not necessarily a logical conclusion that God is the designer of the universe
b) The sceptic and knowledge of God
Since the keyword here is Knowledge theists may well find it necessary to agree that ‘no argument can provide knowledge of God.’ Since some philosophers only allow knowledge which is gained through the five senses, directly, it might be possible to discount any other source of knowledge of God. However this would be to discredit any kind of spiritual experience of the presence of God, a type of knowledge not verifiable by observation.
John Wisdom in his Parable of the Gardener describes how two explorers coming across a clearing in the jungle which is beautiful, argue about why it is so. One says that it must be looked after by a gardener, the other, a sceptic, argues that it is mere chance. Although they set up tests and wait no gardener shows up to tend to it. As a result of this the believer, eventually ends up still believing that there is a gardener but that he is invisible, the sceptic, unsurprisingly is scathing in his scorn that the believer will go to any lengths to continue to believe! That in fact an invisible, intangible, inaudible gardener is the same as no gardener at all!
Even if the world does show evidence of design, so sceptics would argue, there is insufficient evidence to show that it is caused by God or, more particularly, any god we might recognise. Not only that, but what about evil and suffering? How can their existence prove the existence of God? Surely it does rather the reverse.
c) Evaluating the criticisms against the teleological argument raised by atheists or agnostics.
David Hume is one of the atheist camp’s strongest proponents, so what did he say? He did admit that there seemed to be evidence of design in the universe but the analogy drawn from the similarity between the universe and works of human design he suggests is flawed. Why should the fact of design, therefore, be attributed to God?
Agnostics would argue that there just isn’t enough evidence to prove that this designer, if there should be one, is God rather than any other unknown, non-human agent.
Theists would therefore respond to these criticisms by saying that analogies may be incomplete but there is sufficient similarity to allow us to draw conclusions. Obviously God as designer of the universe is greater than the designers of human artefacts. Yes, we know our knowledge of the nature of the universe is limited but that shouldn’t stop us from trying to draw conclusions based on knowledge we do have.