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In what ways have design arguments needed to be modified in the twentieth century?

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In what ways have design arguments needed to be modified in the twentieth century? Of all the arguments for the existence of God, the design argument is considered to be the most popular, and convincing argument for this case. It is also known as the teleological argument1. As the name implies, the design argument is another sort of cosmological argument, as it bases its conclusions not so much on the fact that the universe exists, rather than that it exists in a particular way. It was founded by the classical philosopher Aristotle, and then developed upon by Anaxagoras, Aquinas and Paley. This was then met by criticisms from David Hume2, and later Darwin's theory of evolution seemed to have laid the argument to waste. But, in the twentieth century, Robert Dicke, Paul Davies, F.R.Tenant and Richard Swinburne all developed upon the earlier arguments of Aquinas and Paley to re-work the argument for the modern era. This though, was again met with a rebuff from Richard Dawkins and Peter Atkins. However, I believe that the crux of this essay stands on the multiplicity of circumstances, and at which point we can reasonably argue that God is the best explanation for this. For example, if I were to walk into my house, on my eighteenth birthday, and I looked in the garden, to see a boat. This is the exact boat that I have always wanted. It has my name on it, so can I safely assume, after this series of consequences, that this boat is mine? ...read more.


We may know something, just not everything. The sixth objection that Paley answered leads us to William of Ockham. He created Ockham's razor. This is a idea that, if we are presented with a situation or object with multiple possibilities, then we should simply go for the easiest explanation, as this is usually the right answer, so in this case, the principles on earth are there, that is something which we cannot deny, and the simplest explanation for this is God. As earlier stated, this early version of the design argument was criticised. David Hume mainly opposed the argument from design. In Dialogues concerning natural Religion he stated his main reasons for opposing the argument. He said that humans do not have sufficient knowledge and experience of the creation of the world to conclude that there is only one designer. Humans have only the experience of that which they have created. We cannot make the same assumption about the world, as it is based on limited experience. He then goes on to say that even if our ideas of design were valid, the design argument simply states that the universe was designed. The classic theistic God did not necessarily carry this out. It could have been a number of Gods, or an apprentice, who created this world, then went on to create bigger and better ones. He also says that there is no evidence to support the benevolent God of Theism. There is evil in this world, so that would suggest a designer who is not the omnipotent and omni benevolent theistic God. ...read more.


We need something therefore, beyond science. Swinburne says that God is the simplest explanation for the order, which produced mankind6 This again, of course faced criticism. The main opposition in the 20th century came from Richard Dawkins. He supported Darwin. In his works, The Selfish Gene, and The Blind Watchmaker7, he argues against the typical design arguments. He says that while natural selection gives the impression of design, which leads us to mistakenly believe there is a designer, in fact it is really all about preserving the best DNA. He says that we always search for a purpose, a "why?" to the universe. Post Darwin believers usually accept the how, but do not think that Darwin provides the why. Dawkins believes that science will answer both. He introduces the idea of reverse engineering. If we take something and look at it we should be able to analyse it to find its purpose. Dawkins uses this to say that, if there is a god, then why would he create a world like this? He uses the example of cheetahs and antelopes. Cheetahs are designed maximise deaths of antelopes. Antelopes however, are designed to survive, and starve cheetahs. It seems, Dawkins says, that two rival deities have designed them! 1 From the Greek word telos, meaning 'end' or 'goal' 2 David Hume Actually put forward his rebuff of Aquinas BEFORE Paley conceived of his argument. 3 A view of the evidences of Christianity - 1794 4 Natural Theology - 1802 5 1809-1882 6 An example of Ockham's Razor 7 Reference to Paley, if God were a watchmaker, then surely he is blind, as to create a world with such evil? ...read more.

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