Examine the strengths and weaknesses of the design argument for the existence of God.

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  1. Examine the ways in which the design argument provides evidence for the existence of God. (21)
  2. Comment on the view that the weaknesses of the design argument show that the universe can be explained without reference to God. (9)

The design arguments for the existence of God are often known as teleological arguments, which mean the end results are more important as they are used in order to draw one’s conclusion. Design arguments are a posteriori as they look at our experiences of the world and draw conclusions from it. They are also inductive arguments as they reach conclusions which are statements of probability rather than conclusive proofs. It is therefore up to us to decide whether we agree with the premises and whether we think that the argument can persuade us for belief in the existence of God. The design argument usually relies on an analogy. In this essay, I will examine the ways in which the design argument provides evidence for the existence of God.

The design argument usually follows a pattern using premises:

  • P1: Whenever we see things made by people, which are ordered in pattern, or beautiful, or complex, which work particularly well to achieve a goal we can infer that they must have been designed by an intelligent designer.
  • P2: Order, beauty, and complex do not arise by blind chance.
  • P3: We can look at the world and see that there is order, beauty and complexity in it, which work well to perform a function. This is a close resemblance to human inventions.
  • P4: Therefore the natural world, like machines, must have been created by an intelligent being
  • Conclusion: God is an intelligent being, therefore God exists.

In the middle ages, design arguments were used by Thomas Aquinas in his ‘Five Ways’, which were five ways of demonstrating the existence of God through inductive argument, based on observation and evidence (a posteriori). Although, during Aquinas’ time, Aristotle’s work had been rediscovered and it is said his work was immensely impressive, both because of its range and its appeal to logic. Aquinas was amongst the first thinkers that believed it was necessary to find out where Aristolian thought and Christian thought could be compatible; he could see the dangers of putting believers in a position where they were forced to choose between Christianity and common sense.

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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, ...

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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.