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Lecture

Teleological/Design Argument Notes


Department
Philosophy
Course Code
PHL105Y5
Professor
Jonathan Peterson

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Teleological Argument (Design Argument)
The Teleological argument proposes that watches and humans are both goal-directed systems, in
that they are both put together to serve a purpose. The argument is an a-posteriori one.
William Paley (1743–1805) used the watchmaker analogy in his book Natural Theology, or
Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity collected from the Appearances of Nature,
published in 1802. In it, Paley wrote that if a pocket watch is found on a heath, it is most reasonable
to assume that someone dropped it and that it was made by one or more watchmakers, and not by
natural forces.
In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the
stone came to be there; I might possibly answer, that, for anything I knew to the
contrary, it had lain there forever: nor would it perhaps be very easy to show the
absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it
should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place; I should hardly think of
the answer I had before given, that for anything I knew, the watch might have always
been there. (...) There must have existed, at some time, and at some place or other, an
artificer or artificers, who formed [the watch] for the purpose which we find it actually
to answer; who comprehended its construction, and designed its use. (...) Every
indication of contrivance, every manifestation of design, which existed in the watch,
exists in the works of nature; with the difference, on the side of nature, of being greater
or more, and that in a degree which exceeds all computation.
William Paley, Natural Theology (1802)
Paley went on to argue that the complex structures of living things and the remarkable adaptations
of plants and animals required an intelligent designer. He believed the natural world was the
creation of God and showed the nature of the creator. According to Paley, God had carefully
designed "even the most humble and insignificant organisms" and all of their minute features (such
as the wings and antennae of earwigs). He believed therefore that God must care even more for
humanity.
The Design Argument
Nature exhibits complexity, order, adaptation, purpose and/or beauty.
The exhibited feature(s) cannot be explained by random or accidental processes, but only as
a product of mind.
Therefore, there exists a mind that has produced or is producing nature.
A mind that produces nature is a definition of "God."
Therefore, God exists.
P1. The eye is like a telescope in relevant respects R.
P2. The telescope has R because it is the product of deliberate design by intelligent human agents.
P3. Like effects typically have like causes.
C. It is probable that the eye has R because it is the product of deliberate design by intelligent
human-like agents.
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