Aquinas thought that if we apply the evidence of what we see around us then we can reach invaluable truths. In the fifth way, Aquinas said that nature seems to have an order and a purpose to it and that nothing is purposeful without the aid of a ‘guiding hand’. He used an expression of an archer shooting an arrow at the target which is moving but which has no intelligence and must be directed to its goal. Aquinas says there is order and purpose in the world, which could never have ordered themselves as they do not have intelligence, so they must have been given an order by an intelligence supreme being which is God.
It was in the seventeenth and the eighteenth century when design arguments were at the height of their popularity. These were times of great strides in the fields of science including: Astronomy, botany, zoology and anatomy were all developing at an existing pace. This resulted to many people showing how they felt about the existence of God as they could show the existence of God through looking at the world and seeing how creatures are suited to their habitats.
In Paley’s book ‘Natural Theology, he put forward what is the most famous version of the design arguments. To illustrate this he used an analogy of somebody coming across a watch on the heath and noticing how ordered and beautiful it was and how well it told the time. He concluded that someone must have made the watch, rather than it just being there by chance or by the random ordering of the atoms.
An influential Scottish Philosopher Hume, who is often referred to as a sceptic, was not willing to accept popularly held beliefs without questioning and challenging them. In his book ‘Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion’ he considered the reasoning put forward by proponents of teleological arguments. His criticism is based on reason and logic and believed that order in the world does not demonstrate that it must have been put there by a divine intelligence.
The first criticism made by Hume was that the analogy made between a watch and the world is weak. Characteristics of purpose and design might be obvious in a watch but they are not nearly as obvious in the world. Hume also argued that the world does not necessarily mean that someone must have had the idea of design. Even if we do see order in the world, it does not enable us to leap to the idea of a divine ordered. All we can say is yes there are limitations in the world. Oder Hume believed, is a necessary part of existence. If everything was random and noting suited its purpose, the world would not be here anymore. Hume also criticised the design arguments because of their assumptions that if we look at the effects, we can infer the cause. Aquinas has claimed that this was possible. He said that in looking at the evidence around us, we can work backwards and see that God must be the cause. However, Hume attacked this reasoning saying that cause and effect does not operate as simple as this. Hume said that even if we can assume a creator, there is no reason to suggest that this creator is a Christian God.
John Stuart Mill on the other hand took a different approach. He did not address the idea of whether design arguments are logical, as Hume had done. Mill suggested that if we look at the world and the rules which govern it, then we see cruelty, violence and unnecessary violence. Hume argued that if the world has been deliberately designed, then it indicates something very different from a loving God. Living things also inflict cruelty on each other to be able to survive. So if the world was designed by a loving creator God then why inflict cruelty on others and why make Nature one of the biggest cruelties to be caused on others through natural disasters. Mill did not say that the world cannot have been designed, just that if it had then it doesn’t point to a perfectly good and loving designer.
The work of Charles Darwin is considered to present many problems for design arguments. For people like Paley, the complex features of different plants and animals provide clear evidence and understanding of a divine designer. According to Darwin’s theory of evolution, the different species around today have not always existed in their present for. Darwin provided an alternative explanation which to many people seemed more plausible that the existence of God.
Richard Dawkins a modern supporter of Darwin and a strong critic of design arguments for the existence of God. He thinks that religious beliefs encourage you not to think and that theists assume that there are inexplicable elements to the world, and are satisfied with attributing the lack of any information to God, which discourages them from investigating further. Religious belief is an obstacle to humanity and leaves the universe unexplored. Dawkins book ‘The Blind Watchmaker’, in which the title immediately challenges Paley’s famous analogy in support of the design argument, is subtitled ‘Why the evidence of evolution reveals a universe without design’. In this book Dawkins argues that as scientists come closer to an understanding of how things work, there is less and less need to resort to God to explain things. Dawkins believes that DNA was a major discovery in the discrediting of religious faith as it provides and explanation for the existence of humanity; there is no need to assume the existence of God to account for human life.
Dawkins assumes that the universe is a ‘brute fact’, but his is an assumption that cannot be proven true. If Hume were alive today, he would argue with Dawkins, he might suggest that ‘brute fact’ is one possible explanation for the existence of the universe but so are other possibilities, Hume suggested in his criticisms of design arguments that we can only see one side of the scales and not the other side. His suggestions that there might be a God creating and designing the world or there may be a whole pantheon of Gods and so on, still holds; we do not know, we can only guess. The same holds true for Dawkins conclusion that the universe is a ‘brute fact’. Dawkins claims that science has demonstrated that chance is the cause of the universe and the life within it; but this is not incontrovertible. Randomness is not something that can be demonstrated. It is impossible to prove that something has happened by chance.
Tennant, who is a modern supporter of the design argument, believes that it is possible to imagine a chaotic universe, where there are no rules. He believed that the universe is not evidently chaotic. In fact, it appears to be designed to support life. Evolution itself is supported by biologists as an unregulated principle, in fact works to the advancement of species supported by a world that provides all that is necessary to promote life. Tennant argued for divine design on the basis of the anthropic principle. The argument that the natural laws of the universe have been fine tuned to allow human life to exist. He argued that the world is best explained if we accept the existence of God.
Swinburne, who is also a modern supporter of the design argument, believed that scientific discoveries provide good grounds for belief in God and argued that we need an explanation for the fact that the fundamental laws of nature operate with such regularity. Swinburne said it stretches our credibility if we are asked to believe that the laws of physics are just a coincidence and that it is simpler to conclude that the laws exist because of the divine intelligent being.
Swinburne believes Paley’s argument is sound and also argues in favour of Tennant that the beauty of the natural world is evidence of the existence of God.
Here's what a teacher thought of this essay
4/5 I will assume that this essay is intended only to answer part i, since there is no clear distinction between different questions. The last bit of the essay does present some criticisms of the design argument, which are not strictly relevant to question i, but which are not presented with anywhere near enough focus to address question ii. Description of the design argument and facts surrounding it are largely accurate and pretty clearly presented. There is an absence of waffle, but a few sentences betray confusion and do not make sense. As noted above, rather too much attention is given to criticisms of the design argument and rather too little to explaining how the design argument supports the existence of God. Answering this question would require more consideration of how the argument works. Generally the grasp of the material is good and well-presented and so would deserve a good mark, but the student risks letting themselves down by not answering the question.