Essay on The Argument from Design, by William Paley
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During the 1800th century, William Paley, an English philosopher of religion and ethics, wrote the essay The Argument from Design. In The Argument from Design, Paley tries to prove the existence of a supreme being through the development of a special kind of argument known as the teleological argument. The teleological argument is argument by analogy, an argument based on the similarities between two different subjects. This essay purposefully attempts to break down Paley’s argument and does so in the following manner: firstly, Paley’s basis for the teleological argument is introduced; secondly, Paley’s argument is derived and analyzed; thirdly, the connection between Paley’s argument and the existence of a supreme being is made; and…show more content…
Having introduced Paley's main a posteriori experience, the following paragraphs will describe and justify Paley's reasoning for using such argument to describe the existence of a superior being. Firstly, Paley concentrates in the process leading to the creation of the watch. The process for creating a watch is very systematic and involves knowledge of mechanical engineering, a trade known to few men. Yet, it is not necessary to know the inner workings of the watch to use it on a daily basis: it is only necessary to understand the relationship between the position of the watch's hands to the sunrise and sunset of day. Paley concludes that even though he could not create a watch, some supreme being could create such watch. In other words, anything that shows evidence of creation has a creator and such creator exists or has existed at one point in time. To further refine the previous conclusion, Paley acknowledges the imprecision of the watch, for the watch is not always correct in predicting time. The watch might get ahead or behind, but the overall purpose for which the watch was created remains intact: it might predict the wrong time, note however, that it still predicts time. The conclusion in the previous paragraph is not contradicted by any of the watch's faults simply because the being’s purpose for creating the watch still exists. Therefore, Paley's supreme being not only creates but also does so with a specific purpose.
Examine the main ideas and strengths of the design argument for the existence of God
The Design argument is often called an inductive, teleological argument which is most commonly associated with William Paley and Richard Swinburne. The DA is concerned with the search for a meaning or purpose in the world. The DA is a posteriori proof argument; which is an argument made after knowledge is assembled, using your own experience as reasons to argue. The DA often called the teleological argument comes from the Greek word 'telos' which means 'purpose' it focuses on the observation that something has been created for a purpose. Everything in the world appears to have been designed by a designer and fulfil a function. Another idea of the design argument is that there is evidence of design in the universe around us, everything appears to have been designed to fulfil a function this is called Design qua purpose. Design qua regularity is the basis of the argument that the universe appears to behave according to some rule, however as some DA's differ some argue that the universe's starting point was because of there being regularity in the universe whereas others argue there is evidence of the universe being designed for a purpose. The DA is an inductive argument which is insisting the ultimate explanation for design is a designer or God.
A classical example the DA is William Paley's, his argument includes several ideas one of this is uses an analogy of a watch and comparing it to the universe in his book called Natural Theology. The analogy explains that if a person found a watch, even though they had never seen one before they would know it had been designed therefore just as the existence of a watch indicates a watchmaker – implying it is clearly designed and the same is with a universe implying that God has created the Universe, this part of Paley’s argument links in with design qua regularity. In addition to this, the human eye is too complicated to be created by chance there must be a purpose for its existence this is called design qua purpose. The main side of the argument is that everything that has been designed needs a designer therefore by analogy the world must have a designer. Paley explained "every manifestation on design, which existed in the watch, exists in the works of nature" he is suggesting here that this could not have happened by chance, and the designer of the universe must be God who is above all designers.
Moreover, a strength of the argument is that the use of the analogy (watchmaker) in the argument makes it easy for us to understand as it moves from something within our experience to try to explain something behind (the creation of the universe) the argument is straightforward but the use of the analogy makes it clear to us that that examples that are as complex as the watchmaker is showing us that God is the only logical explanation for the universe's design as the universe is so complex.
Another strength of the argument is that the argument is reasonable and therefore more people are likely to believe. It is not impossible for God to exist and create the Universe and as we have evidence in the Bible as God said "let there be light" shows that God has the power to create a universe like this. The Bible preaches the truth and God is evidently the only explanation as we have proof from the bible. The argument is a reasonable interpretation of experience.
Another example of the design argument comes from a philosopher called Richard Swinburne who clarifies the modern version of the DA which is called the Anthropic Argument, from this argument the idea he argues is that the universe functions by rules e.g. each day has 24 hours and this is not by chance it has been designed to have 24 hours, and the most probable explanation is God. He argues that God the only possible reason for the occurrence of these laws. Although science can explain a reason behind these laws occurring, it cannot confirm the presence of these laws and so God is the most logical explanation for this as he is above human power.
Furthermore, another strength of the argument that proves the existence of God is that the world has been so perfectly built and you cannot fault it. It's amazing creation clearly shows that no one but God could be the explanation because the world is so intricately structured that only an omnipotent God could create it and it is clearly designed e.g. The world has four seasons - this could not be happen by chance some thought has gone into creating the universe, therefore there is evidence everywhere in the world today that it is has been created and because it is so complex the only logical explanation behind the design of the universe is God.
Another attribute of the DA comes from St. Thomas Aquinas, an idea from his argument includes the beneficial order in the universe which he observes I.e. There are things in the universe that work towards an end or purpose. He argues that the world is like an arrow shot from an archers bow - it has direction purpose. God is the archer and the world is the arrow. God is controlling the world and as he is the reason behind why it is been created. Aquinas then goes on to say the world works because the designer is God because things in nature are ordered and their apparent purpose e.g. Trees give us oxygen
An idea that has been put forward by F.R. Tennant is that beauty exists in world, his argument is called the Aesthetic argument. Tennant points out that beauty exists within the world e.g. Nature, he explains further that beauty cannot be derived through natural selection and it provides no survival benefit to species and therefore beauty has to have a designer. He argues that the universe was designed explicitly for human life. Tenant concludes his argument by stating that the designer must be God. God is omnipotent and only someone as great as him would have the power to great such as the universe.
Another strength of the DA that proves God is the designer is that the universe has order, benefit, purpose and suitability and something cannot exist without these four quantities. For example in order for something to have purpose something needs to be created therefore the world has been created as its purpose is for humans to live in it. The next quantity is benefit, by the world existing the benefit is gets is from humans to live it and do actions justly e.g. Feed the poor there are many more benefits for the world existing. The third quantity is order - the world is ordered exactly and evidence has clearly shown us that the universe has been created with thought e.g. the earth is at an exact existence away from the sun I.e. so it's not too hot or cold, which is clearly showing how complex the universe is. The last quantity is suitability, which backs up the argument of the world being too complex to have just happened by chance e.g. Scientists believe that the Big Bang Theory was the reason behind design but it is not a clear explanation because the world is too complex to have happened with a bang, careful thought has gone into the creation.
In conclusion, the DA is an a posteriori which is based on our knowledge of the world and design. The world is far too complex to appear by chance there has to be a logical explanation for its design and it's designer; the world presents regularity e.g. The consistency of having 4 seasons throughout 1 year and purpose e.g. The purpose of the human eye is to see it cannot be created by chance as it is far too complex, consequently the universe must be designed and as everything designed needs a designer there must be a designer behind the creation of the universe. A watch cannot be made by itself even though all the pieces are there to make the watch, the same goes for the universe (or life) could not have made itself even though all the 'pieces' were there. There has to be a designer and as the DA is a inductive argument - God is the most likely the answer to the formation of the universe
Comment on the view that the weaknesses are overcome by the strengths of the argument
A strength of the design argument is that it is simple to understand and is reasonable therefore many people will adjust to the reason behind why the universe has been created. For example every human knows that one day they are going to die and by the theory that we have all be created by God and he is 'in charge' of us dying or living - it all fits in together people understand gods existence and therefore they will believe that god is the only logical explanation for the reason of the creation of the universe. It is impossible for any human to create a universe like this as it is far too complex to begin with and the fact that we have 24 hours in the day and have day and night relates to qua regularity showing that the universe is here but its here because of a extremely intelligent designer which is God. However a weakness of the argument that overcomes the strength is if god is the designer and he is omnipotent, benevolent and omniscient then why is the world full of evil? The design argument is focused on the positives but is failing to realise that there is so many things going wrong in the world today. There are illnesses, huge destruction, pain, torturing and much more but if god was omniscient he'd know those things were happening and be ready to stop them as he is a benevolent god. If god is omnipotent then he would have the power to stop all the evil occurring in the world but he isn’t. As humans we have never met god and we personally don not know what he is like. A point made by john Stuart mill is "why would a benevolent god let such things happen? Or why would an omnipotent god create a world where such things happen?" Therefore as we don't god intentions we cannot trust the theory that god has created the world as we don't know his intentions.
Conversely, another strength of the argument is that the conditions of the world are so perfect for us to live in for example how we have trees that provide us with oxygen - this shows that behind every creation within the world there is a reason behind why it's been created. When we jump our eyes are still and don't move around, with our human eyes we have the ability to see under water thus the universe must have been designed in order for humans to live in it. Evidence is everywhere. Paley’s watchmaker theory supports this strength: William Paley explains that if you find a watch you don't assume it is there by accident you know that there is a reason behind it, you know someone has made it as it is so intricate which is the same with the world. On the other hand, Hume has made criticisms of the DA and believes that you cannot be born with the fact that the world has been designed by god. It is not innate knowledge, you have to of have some sort of experience and by humans having no experience of the world being built how we can possibly say that god is the reason behind it. Hume goes on to explain that if a watch is made by many as it is so complex, the universe must be made by many gods and not just one therefore there isn’t the one powerful god. He also goes on to explain that we shouldn't stop at god when asking for explanations. Another criticism from Hume is he compares the world to a machine that didn't work. He explains that the universe is more like a vegetable that grows of its own accord "so the vegetable the world or this planetary system, produces within itself certain seeds which being scattered into the surrounding chaos vegetate into new worlds". Hume Is saying that the world has grown on its own and the analogy between the products of human design and the works of nature is remote and weak.
Overall, the weaknesses overcome the strengths for the DA because the suffering that goes on in the world shows how dysfunctional the universe is - everything designed needs to work in order. Mill supports this point and argues that the universe cannot be ordered and the result of intelligent design. Hume thought that the argument cannot be supported by a Christian god as Christians believe that god is omnipotent, benevolent and omniscient. Although the argument is easy to understand, the fact that the world isn’t ordered overcomes the logician explanation. Fundamentally, the strengths of the argument are arguable, the DA will depend on your belief - if you're a theist God will be you're explanation however ultimately the Weaknesses of the DA have weighed out the strengths because of the natural disasters that occur in the world such as tornados evidently showing God is not omnibenevolent as he would stop these from happening but he hasn't so we cannot say he created the world due to the fact he doesn't stop evil in the world ultimately the Weaknesses overcome the strengths