Outline one version of the design argument for the existence of God

Authors Avatar
Outline one version of the design argument for the existence of God

For centuries the philosophical debate for and against the existence of god has raged. The Teleological argument (another name for the design argument) attempts to prove the existence of the God through the order and purpose exhibited within nature and the universe as a whole. The word Teleological comes from the Greek teleos meaning end or purpose, hence the Teleological argument uses the universe as a basis for arguing for the existence of god. This argument is a rich a posteriori, inductive, analogical argument using natural theology.

Different people's perceptions of god are very different. Those from other cultures and traditions will each have conflicting ideas about this "god". With the design argument are we trying to prove the existence of Plato's demiurge or perhaps the Roman polytheist "committee of gods"? No, we are providing proof (or not) for the existence of the god of classical theism, that is to say a monotheist, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, immutable, eternal god who created the universe ex nihilo, out of nothing. It is important to remember that this is theistic idea the Teleological argument is looking at.

The design argument is the third of the five classical theistic proofs, but is probably the most easily understood. The basic principles of the design argument have been taken-up, adapted and regurgitated by many philosophers throughout the ages, each of who developed their own individual versions. Perhaps one of the earliest being Cicero with de Natura Deorum in which the character Lucilius looks up to the sky and asks,

"What could be more clear or obvious when we look up to the sky and contemplate the heavens, that there is some divinity of superior intelligence?" Others have included Plato and St Thomas Aquinas on whom much modern catholic theology is based. The version that I will investigate is that of William Paley.

Paley (1743-1805) was an Anglican churchman who had a strong interest in the apologetics. Apologetics were those who used natural theology to defend the existence of the god of classical theism. To quote Colin Crowder in his essay on the Design Argument,

"The apologist need not rule out a subsequent appeal to revelation, provided that he or she gives good reasons for believing that any purported divine revelation (such as the bible) is, in fact, what it is said to be." It is not surprising therefore that Paley uses natural theology, arguing for the existence of god using unaided human reason rather than revelation i.e. scripture. William Paley published his book "Natural Theology: or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, Collected from the Appearances of Nature" in 1802.

Paley's Theological method raises the question of what exactly the nature and purpose of proof is. First, we must consider what is meant by the term "proof". There are many different applications and meanings to the word proof, it could be the proof a lawyer has to accuse a guilty person, the scientist trying to prove a theory or even the athlete trying to prove that he is better than any of his competitors. However, basically we can take to understand that proof is when someone attempts to show that something is true and that they are correct, to use the common legalistic phrase "beyond reasonable doubt". Paley's argument is an attempt at a proof. It uses human reason to argue for god and in doing so Paley is putting himself on par with a scientist or a lawyer.
Join now!

Before looking at the argument itself we should perhaps consider the reason why Paley wrote his book. Does the argument use natural theology in order to convert the atheist or is it instead to affirm the faith of the theist. If we consider Paley's position as a member of the church then the question as to whether Paley is trying to convert the atheist or if instead "Natural Theology" is a celebration of his faith becomes an even more fundamental question. I shall use this idea later in my essay when I investigate ways in which the argument, ...

This is a preview of the whole essay