Teleological argument

Teleological argument

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A teleological or design argument is an a posteriori argument for the existence of God
Existence of God
Arguments for and against the existence of God have been proposed by philosophers, theologians, scientists, and others. In philosophical terms, arguments for and against the existence of God involve primarily the sub-disciplines of epistemology and ontology , but also of the theory of value, since...

 based on apparent design and purpose in the universe. The argument is based on an interpretation of teleology
Teleology
A teleology is any philosophical account which holds that final causes exist in nature, meaning that design and purpose analogous to that found in human actions are inherent also in the rest of nature. The word comes from the Greek τέλος, telos; root: τελε-, "end, purpose...

 wherein purpose and intelligent design
Intelligent design
Intelligent design is the proposition that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection." It is a form of creationism and a contemporary adaptation of the traditional teleological argument for...

 appear to exist in nature
Nature
Nature, in the broadest sense, is equivalent to the natural world, physical world, or material world. "Nature" refers to the phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general...

 beyond the scope of any such human activities. The teleological argument suggests that, given this premise, the existence of a designer can be assumed, typically presented as God.

Various concepts of teleology originated in ancient philosophy and theology. Some philosophers, such as Plato, proposed a divine Artificer
Demiurge
The demiurge is a concept from the Platonic, Neopythagorean, Middle Platonic, and Neoplatonic schools of philosophy for an artisan-like figure responsible for the fashioning and maintenance of the physical universe. The term was subsequently adopted by the Gnostics...

 as the designer; others, including Aristotle, rejected that conclusion in favor of a more naturalistic
Naturalism
Naturalism is any of several philosophical stances wherein all phenomena or hypotheses, commonly labeled as supernatural, are either false or not inherently different from natural phenomena or hypotheses.Naturalism may also refer to:-In the arts:...

 teleology. In the middle-ages, the Islamic philosopher
Islamic philosophy
Islamic philosophy is a branch of Islamic studies. It is the continuous search for Hekma in the light of Islamic view of life, universe, ethics, society, and so on...

 Averroes
Averroes
' , better known just as Ibn Rushd , and in European literature as Averroes , was a Muslim polymath; a master of Aristotelian philosophy, Islamic philosophy, Islamic theology, Maliki law and jurisprudence, logic, psychology, politics, Arabic music theory, and the sciences of medicine, astronomy,...

 introduces a teleological argument. Later, a teleological argument is the fifth of Saint Thomas Aquinas' Five Ways, his rational proofs for the existence of God. The teleological argument was continued by empiricists
Empiricism
Empiricism is a theory of knowledge that asserts that knowledge comes only or primarily via sensory experience. One of several views of epistemology, the study of human knowledge, along with rationalism, idealism and historicism, empiricism emphasizes the role of experience and evidence,...

 in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, who believed that the order in the world suggested the existence of God. William Paley
William Paley
William Paley was a British Christian apologist, philosopher, and utilitarian. He is best known for his exposition of the teleological argument for the existence of God in his work Natural Theology, which made use of the watchmaker analogy .-Life:Paley was Born in Peterborough, England, and was...

 developed these ideas with his watch maker analogy. He argued that in the same way a watch's complexity implies the existence of its maker, so too one may infer the Creator exists, given the evident complexity of Nature. This argument resonates with a notion of the fine-tuned Universe
Fine-tuned universe
The fine-tuned universe is the proposition that the conditions that allow life in the Universe can only occur when certain universal fundamental physical constants lie within a very narrow range, so that if any of several fundamental constants were only slightly different the universe would be...

, understood as an alternative to the anthropic principle
Anthropic principle
In astrophysics and cosmology, the anthropic principle is the philosophical argument that observations of the physical Universe must be compatible with the conscious life that observes it. Some proponents of the argument reason that it explains why the Universe has the age and the fundamental...

. Most recently, a US Federal Court ruled against the creationist intelligent design ("ID") movement, which portrayed the religious belief in a god-like designer as a pseudo-scientific theory.

Many philosophers and theologians have expounded and criticized different versions of the teleological argument. Generally, they argue that any implied designer need not have the qualities commonly attributed to the God of classical theism. Scientists have criticized the argument, because natural selection
Natural selection
Natural selection is the nonrandom process by which biologic traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers. It is a key mechanism of evolution....

 provides an adequate explanation for biological complexity.

Classical and early Christian writers


According to Xenophon
Xenophon
Xenophon , son of Gryllus, of the deme Erchia of Athens, also known as Xenophon of Athens, was a Greek historian, soldier, mercenary, philosopher and a contemporary and admirer of Socrates...

, Socrates
Socrates
Socrates was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary ...

 (c. 469-399 B.C.) argued that the adaptation of human parts to one another, such as the eyelids protecting the eyeballs, could not have been due to chance and was a sign of wise planning in the universe.

Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

 (c. 427–c. 347 B.C.) posited a "demiurge
Demiurge
The demiurge is a concept from the Platonic, Neopythagorean, Middle Platonic, and Neoplatonic schools of philosophy for an artisan-like figure responsible for the fashioning and maintenance of the physical universe. The term was subsequently adopted by the Gnostics...

" of supreme wisdom and intelligence as the creator of the cosmos in his work Timaeus
Timaeus (dialogue)
Timaeus is one of Plato's dialogues, mostly in the form of a long monologue given by the title character, written circa 360 BC. The work puts forward speculation on the nature of the physical world and human beings. It is followed by the dialogue Critias.Speakers of the dialogue are Socrates,...

. Plato's teleological perspective is also built upon the analysis of a priori order and structure in the world that he had already presented in The Republic. Plato does not propose creation ex nihilo
Ex nihilo
Ex nihilo is a Latin phrase meaning "out of nothing". It often appears in conjunction with the concept of creation, as in creatio ex nihilo, meaning "creation out of nothing"—chiefly in philosophical or theological contexts, but also occurs in other fields.In theology, the common phrase creatio ex...

; rather, the demiurge made order from the chaos of the cosmos, imitating the eternal Forms.
Aristotle (c. 384–322 B.C.) argued that the most complete explanation in regard to the natural, as well as the artificial, is for the most part teleological. Based solely on the study of immature specimens, for example, one wouldn't feel confident in one's knowledge of the species. Similarly, knowledge of what use an animal makes of a feature is crucial to understanding it (for example, that birds use wings for flight). Aristotle did not believe nature is endowed with the same rational purpose and direction as human activity and artifacts. However, he did believe that the adult form is present in the offspring, having been copied from of the parent, and that the parts of an organism are good for their purpose. He maintained that by an imperfect but compelling analogy, one could almost say they're purpose built to suit their essential function. Furthermore, knowledge of that function or end-purpose is essential because any other aitia, or explanations one could offer for the organ, would be tremendously informed given the telos.

In his Metaphysics
Metaphysics (Aristotle)
Metaphysics is one of the principal works of Aristotle and the first major work of the branch of philosophy with the same name. The principal subject is "being qua being", or being understood as being. It examines what can be asserted about anything that exists just because of its existence and...

, Aristotle addressed the existence of gods. Rather that envisioning an Artificer as Plato did, he believed that the eternal cosmos required no creation. Aristotle argued for the existence of one or more unmoved movers to serve as nature's role models and constant inspiration (see Prime Mover
Cosmological argument
The cosmological argument is an argument for the existence of a First Cause to the universe, and by extension is often used as an argument for the existence of an "unconditioned" or "supreme" being, usually then identified as God...

 and Daimon). Aristotle described the movers as immaterial "active intellects", incapable of perceiving or interacting with the cosmos, thus assuredly "unmoved". To the extent permitted by the vagrancies of matter, he believed the natural pleroma
Pleroma
Pleroma generally refers to the totality of divine powers. The word means fullness from comparable to πλήρης which means "full", and is used in Christian theological contexts: both in Gnosticism generally, and by Paul of Tarsus in Colossians Colossians 2:9 KJV .Gnosticism holds that the...

 is exerting its full potential, because it has had an eternity in which to do so. This is not to imply a naïve, panglossian idealism, but a logically valid argument from a natural scientist who took a great deal of interest in efficient causal analyses. As a more unsettled account of the species, he briefly recounted survival of the fittest
Survival of the fittest
"Survival of the fittest" is a phrase originating in evolutionary theory, as an alternative description of Natural selection. The phrase is today commonly used in contexts that are incompatible with the original meaning as intended by its first two proponents: British polymath philosopher Herbert...

, well known even in Aristotle's time. It would have been infinitely long ago, he argued, and thus would have remained effectively unchanged for an infinitely long duration. Conceding that monstrosities come about by chance, he disagrees with those who, like Democritus
Democritus
Democritus was an Ancient Greek philosopher born in Abdera, Thrace, Greece. He was an influential pre-Socratic philosopher and pupil of Leucippus, who formulated an atomic theory for the cosmos....

, ascribe all nature purely to chance because he believes science can only provide a general account of that which is normal, "always, or for the most part".


Cicero (c. 106–c. 43 B.C.) presented an early teleological argument in De Natura Deorum (On the Nature of the Gods), arguing that that divine power can be found in reason, which exists throughout nature. He developed an early version of the watchmaker analogy, which was later developed by William Paley.
Marcus Minucius Felix (late 2nd-3rd c.), an Early Christian writer, argued for the existence of God based on the analogy of an ordered house in his The Orders of Minucius Felix.

Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo , also known as Augustine, St. Augustine, St. Austin, St. Augoustinos, Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed, was Bishop of Hippo Regius . He was a Latin-speaking philosopher and theologian who lived in the Roman Africa Province...

 (A.D. 354–430) presented a classic teleological perspective in his work City of God. He describes the "city of man" and essentially posits that God's plan is to replace the city of man with the city of God (at some as-yet-unknown point in the future). Whether this is to happen gradually or suddenly is not made clear in Augustine's work. He did not, however, make a formal argument for the existence of God; rather, God's existence is already presumed and Augustine is giving a proposed view of God's teleology. Augustine's perspective follows from and is built upon the neo-Platonic views of his era, which in turn have their original roots in Plato's cosmogony.

Averroes


Averroes
Averroes
' , better known just as Ibn Rushd , and in European literature as Averroes , was a Muslim polymath; a master of Aristotelian philosophy, Islamic philosophy, Islamic theology, Maliki law and jurisprudence, logic, psychology, politics, Arabic music theory, and the sciences of medicine, astronomy,...

 (Ibn Rushd) introduced teleological arguments into his interpretations of Aristotle from an Islamic perspective
Early Islamic philosophy
Early Islamic philosophy or classical Islamic philosophy is a period of intense philosophical development beginning in the 2nd century AH of the Islamic calendar and lasting until the 6th century AH...

 in Moorish Spain
Al-Andalus
Al-Andalus was the Arabic name given to a nation and territorial region also commonly referred to as Moorish Iberia. The name describes parts of the Iberian Peninsula and Septimania governed by Muslims , at various times in the period between 711 and 1492, although the territorial boundaries...

 in the latter half of the 12th Century. His work was highly controversial, officially banned in both Christendom
Christendom
Christendom, or the Christian world, has several meanings. In a cultural sense it refers to the worldwide community of Christians, adherents of Christianity...

 and Islamic Spain. Averroes' teleological arguments can be characterized as presuming one god
Monotheism
Monotheism is the belief in the existence of one and only one god. Monotheism is characteristic of the Baha'i Faith, Christianity, Druzism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Samaritanism, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism.While they profess the existence of only one deity, monotheistic religions may still...

. He proposes that order and continual motion the world is caused by God's intellect. In knowing all forms and patterns, God provides order to the Lesser Intelligences.

Aquinas


Thomas Aquinas (c. 1100-1500) presented a form of the teleological argument in his Summa Theologica
Summa Theologica
The Summa Theologiæ is the best-known work of Thomas Aquinas , and although unfinished, "one of the classics of the history of philosophy and one of the most influential works of Western literature." It is intended as a manual for beginners in theology and a compendium of all of the main...

. In his work, Aquinas presented five ways in which he attempted to prove the existence of God. These arguments features only a posteriori arguments, rather than traditional dogma
Dogma
Dogma is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, or a particular group or organization. It is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted, or diverged from, by the practitioners or believers...

. He sums up his teleological argument as follows.
Aquinas notes that objects in the nature world seem to work towards a specific purpose and that, in the world, an object working to a purpose can always be explained by the existence of an intelligent being to give the object purpose. As everything in the universe works to a purpose, there must, he reasons, exist a being to provide that purpose. That being is what we call God.

British empiricists


The 17th century Dutch
Dutch people
The Dutch people are an ethnic group native to the Netherlands. They share a common culture and speak the Dutch language. Dutch people and their descendants are found in migrant communities worldwide, notably in Suriname, Chile, Brazil, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and the United...

 writers Lessius and Grotius argued that the intricate structure of the world, like that of a house, was unlikely to have arisen by chance. The empiricist John Locke
John Locke
John Locke FRS , widely known as the Father of Liberalism, was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social...

, writing in the late 17th century, developed the Aristotelian idea that, excluding geometry, all science must attain its knowledge a posteriori - through sensual experience. In response to Locke, Anglican Irish Bishop George Berkeley
George Berkeley
George Berkeley , also known as Bishop Berkeley , was an Irish philosopher whose primary achievement was the advancement of a theory he called "immaterialism"...

 advanced a form of idealism
Idealism
In philosophy, idealism is the family of views which assert that reality, or reality as we can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing...

 in which things only continue to existe when they are perceived. When humans do not perceive objects, they continue to exist because God is perceiving them. Therefore, in order for objects to remain in existence, God must exist omnipresently.

David Hume
David Hume
David Hume was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist, known especially for his philosophical empiricism and skepticism. He was one of the most important figures in the history of Western philosophy and the Scottish Enlightenment...

, in the mid-18th century, presented arguments both for and against the teleological argument in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion
Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion
Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion is a philosophical work written by the Scottish philosopher David Hume. Through dialogue, three fictional characters named Demea, Philo, and Cleanthes debate the nature of God's existence...

. The character Cleanthes, summarizing the teleological argument, likens the universe to a man-made machine, and concludes by the principle of similar effects and similar causes that it must have a designing intelligence. Philo is not satisfied with the teleological argument, however. He attempts a number of refutations, including one that arguably foreshadows Darwin's theory, and makes the point that if God resembles a human designer, then assuming divine characteristics such as omnipotence and omniscience is not justified. He goes on to joke that far from being the perfect creation of a perfect designer, this universe may be "only the first rude essay of some infant deity... the object of derision to his superiors".

Watchmaker analogy


The watchmaker analogy
Watchmaker analogy
The watchmaker analogy, or watchmaker argument, is a teleological argument for the existence of God. By way of an analogy, the argument states that design implies a designer...

, framing the argument with reference to a timepiece, dates back to Cicero, who used the example of a sundial or water-clock in his reasoning that the presence of order and purpose signify the existence of a designer. It was also used by Robert Hooke
Robert Hooke
Robert Hooke FRS was an English natural philosopher, architect and polymath.His adult life comprised three distinct periods: as a scientific inquirer lacking money; achieving great wealth and standing through his reputation for hard work and scrupulous honesty following the great fire of 1666, but...

 and Voltaire
Voltaire
François-Marie Arouet , better known by the pen name Voltaire , was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion, free trade and separation of church and state...

, the latter of whom remarked: "L'univers m'embarrasse, et je ne puis songer Que cette horloge existe, et n'ait point d'horloger"; "I'm puzzled by the world; I cannot dream The timepiece real, its maker but a dream".

William Paley
William Paley
William Paley was a British Christian apologist, philosopher, and utilitarian. He is best known for his exposition of the teleological argument for the existence of God in his work Natural Theology, which made use of the watchmaker analogy .-Life:Paley was Born in Peterborough, England, and was...

 presented the watchmaker analogy in his Natural Theology (1802).
Paley wrote in response to Hume's objection to analogy between artefacts and worlds, choosing to use the example of a watch as a reliable indicator of intelligent design. He identifies two features of a watch which demonstrate that it is intelligently designed. First, a watch performs a valuable purpose, timekeeping, which a designer would find useful; secondly, the watch would be unable to perform such a purpose if its parts were any different, or arranged in any other way. Paley argued that the world holds the same functional complexity found in the watch. As the world seems to be both complex and achieves a purpose, Paley reasons that this must be evidence of intelligent design.

As a theology student, Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

 found Paley's arguments compelling. However, he later developed his theory of evolution
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

 in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, which offers an alternate explanation of biological order. In his autobiography, Darwin wrote that "The old argument of design in nature, as given by Paley, which formerly seemed to me so conclusive, fails, now that the law of natural selection has been discovered". Darwin struggled with the problem of evil
Problem of evil
In the philosophy of religion, the problem of evil is the question of how to explain evil if there exists a deity that is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient . Some philosophers have claimed that the existences of such a god and of evil are logically incompatible or unlikely...

 of suffering in nature, but remained inclined to believe that nature depended upon "designed laws" and commended Asa Gray
Asa Gray
-References:*Asa Gray. Dictionary of American Biography. American Council of Learned Societies, 1928–1936.*Asa Gray. Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed. 17 Vols. Gale Research, 1998.*Asa Gray. Plant Sciences. 4 vols. Macmillan Reference USA, 2001....

 for pointing out that Darwin's work supported teleology.

Fine-tuned Universe



A modern variation of the teleological argument is built upon the concept of the fine-tuned Universe
Fine-tuned universe
The fine-tuned universe is the proposition that the conditions that allow life in the Universe can only occur when certain universal fundamental physical constants lie within a very narrow range, so that if any of several fundamental constants were only slightly different the universe would be...

. The fine-tuning of the Universe is the apparent delicate balance of conditions necessary for human life. In this view, speculation about a vast range of possible conditions in which life cannot exist is used to explore the probability of conditions in which life can and does exist.For example, if the force of the Big Bang
Big Bang
The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological model that explains the early development of the Universe. According to the Big Bang theory, the Universe was once in an extremely hot and dense state which expanded rapidly. This rapid expansion caused the young Universe to cool and resulted in...

 explosion had been different by 1/1060 or the strong interaction force
Strong interaction
In particle physics, the strong interaction is one of the four fundamental interactions of nature, the others being electromagnetism, the weak interaction and gravitation. As with the other fundamental interactions, it is a non-contact force...

 was only 5% different, life would be impossible. (Himma, 2009).
In terms of a teleological argument, the intuition in relation to a fine-tuned universe would be that God must have been responsible, if achieving such perfect conditions is so improbable. Kenneth Himma offers the following sound argument in regard to fine-tuning, however, he advises: “The mere fact that it is enormously improbable that an event occurred by chance, by itself, gives us no reason to think that it occurred by design… As intuitively tempting as it may be to conclude from just the apparent improbability of a fine-tuned universe that it is the result of divine agency, the inference is unsound”. Himma attributes the “Argument from Suspicious Improbabilities”, a formalization of “the fine-tuning intuition” to George N. Schlesinger:
To understand Schlesinger’s argument, consider your reaction to two different events. If John wins a 1-in-1,000,000,000 lottery game, you would not immediately be tempted to think that John (or someone acting on his behalf) cheated. If, however, John won three consecutive 1-in-1,000 lotteries, you would immediately be tempted to think that John (or someone acting on his behalf) cheated. Schlesinger believes that the intuitive reaction to these two scenarios is epistemically justified. The structure of the latter event is such that it… justifies a belief that intelligent design is the cause… Despite the fact that the probability of winning three consecutive 1-in-1,000 games is exactly the same as the probability of winning one 1-in-1,000,000,000 game, the former event… warrants an inference of intelligent design.


Himma considers Schlesinger’s argument to be subject to the same vulnerabilities he noted in other versions of the design argument:
While Schlesinger is undoubtedly correct in thinking that we are justified in suspecting design in the case [of winning] three consecutive lotteries, it is because—and only because—we know two related empirical facts about such events. First, we already know that there exist intelligent agents who have the right motivations and causal abilities to deliberately bring about such events. Second, we know from past experience with such events that they are usually explained by the deliberate agency of one or more of these agents. Without at least one of these two pieces of information, we are not obviously justified in seeing design in such cases… [T]he problem for the fine-tuning argument is that we lack both of the pieces that are needed to justify an inference of design. First, the very point of the argument is to establish the fact that there exists an intelligent agency that has the right causal abilities and motivations to bring the existence of a universe capable of sustaining life. Second, and more obviously, we do not have any past experience with the genesis of worlds and are hence not in a position to know whether the existence of fine-tuned universes are usually explained by the deliberate agency of some intelligent agency. Because we lack this essential background information, we are not justified in inferring that there exists an intelligent Deity who deliberately created a universe capable of sustaining life.


Antony Flew
Antony Flew
Antony Garrard Newton Flew was a British philosopher. Belonging to the analytic and evidentialist schools of thought, he was notable for his works on the philosophy of religion....

, who spent most of his life as an atheist, converted to deism
Deism
Deism in religious philosophy is the belief that reason and observation of the natural world, without the need for organized religion, can determine that the universe is the product of an all-powerful creator. According to deists, the creator does not intervene in human affairs or suspend the...

 late in life because of the anthropic principle. He concluded that the fine-tuning of the universe was too precise to be the result of chance, so accepted the existence of God. He said that his commitment to "go where the evidence leads" meant that he ended up accepting the existence of God. Flew proposed the view, held earlier by Fred Hoyle
Fred Hoyle
Sir Fred Hoyle FRS was an English astronomer and mathematician noted primarily for his contribution to the theory of stellar nucleosynthesis and his often controversial stance on other cosmological and scientific matters—in particular his rejection of the "Big Bang" theory, a term originally...

, that the universe is too young for life to have developed purely by chance and that, therefore, an intelligent being must exist which was involved in designing the conditions required for life to evolve.

Intelligent design movement


In the wake of the "fine-tuned universe" observations and arguments published in the 1980s, the intelligent design movement picked up some of the above concepts, added some additional ones such as irreducible complexity
Irreducible complexity
Irreducible complexity is an argument by proponents of intelligent design that certain biological systems are too complex to have evolved from simpler, or "less complete" predecessors, through natural selection acting upon a series of advantageous naturally occurring, chance mutations...

 (a variant of the watchmaker analogy) and specified complexity
Specified complexity
Specified complexity is an argument proposed by William Dembski and used by him and others to promote intelligent design. According to Dembski, the concept is intended to formalize a property that singles out patterns that are both specified and complex...

 (closely resembling a fine-tuning argument) and attempted to cast the resulting combined form of the teleological argument as scientific rather than speculative. The vast majority of scientists have disagreed with the assertion that it is scientific, as have the findings of a federal court in the United States in a 2005 decision, which ruled that the "intelligent design" arguments are essentially religious in nature. (See Other issues below.)

Proponents of the movement such as Cornelius G. Hunter, have asserted that the methodological naturalism
Naturalism (philosophy)
Naturalism commonly refers to the philosophical viewpoint that the natural universe and its natural laws and forces operate in the universe, and that nothing exists beyond the natural universe or, if it does, it does not affect the natural universe that we know...

 upon which science is based is religious in nature. They commonly refer to it as 'scientific materialism' or as 'methodological materialism' and conflate it with 'metaphysical naturalism'. They use this assertion to support their claim that modern science is atheistic, and contrast it with their preferred approach of a revived natural philosophy
Natural philosophy
Natural philosophy or the philosophy of nature , is a term applied to the study of nature and the physical universe that was dominant before the development of modern science...

 which welcomes supernatural explanations for natural phenomena and supports theistic science
Theistic realism
Theistic science, also referred to as theistic realism, Augustinian science or Islamic science is the viewpoint that methodological naturalism should be replaced by a philosophy of science that is informed by supernatural revelation and/or allows occasional supernatural explanations. The viewpoint...

. This ignores the distinction between science and religion, established in Ancient Greece. In medieval European Scholasticism
Scholasticism
Scholasticism is a method of critical thought which dominated teaching by the academics of medieval universities in Europe from about 1100–1500, and a program of employing that method in articulating and defending orthodoxy in an increasingly pluralistic context...

, science as taught at universities was obliged to restrict its attention to the natural world. From a standpoint of modern science, Stephen Jay Gould's concept of Nonoverlapping Magisteria (NOMA), states that science
Science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

 and religion
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

 should be considered two compatible, complementary fields, or "magisteria", whose authority does not overlap.

Michael Behe


Michael Behe
Michael Behe
Michael J. Behe is an American biochemist, author, and intelligent design advocate. He currently serves as professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and as a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture...

 proposed a development of Payley's watch analogy in which he argued in favour of intelligent design. Unlike Paley, Behe only attempts to prove the existence of an intelligent designer, rather than the God of classical theism. Though this accomplishes less, it makes his argument more resilient to criticism, especially that of David Hume. Behe uses the analogy of a mousetrap to propose irreducible complexity
Irreducible complexity
Irreducible complexity is an argument by proponents of intelligent design that certain biological systems are too complex to have evolved from simpler, or "less complete" predecessors, through natural selection acting upon a series of advantageous naturally occurring, chance mutations...

: if a mousetrap loses just one of its parts, it can no longer function as a mousetrap. Therefore, he argues, irreducible complexity in an object guarantees the presence of intelligent design. Behe claims that there are instances of irreducible complexity in the natural world and, therefore, parts of the world must have been designed.

Modern developments


University of Chicago
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890...

 geneticist
Genetics
Genetics , a discipline of biology, is the science of genes, heredity, and variation in living organisms....

 James A. Shapiro
James A. Shapiro
James A. Shapiro is an American biologist, an expert in bacterial genetics and a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Chicago.-Academic biography:...

, writing in the Boston Review
Boston Review
Boston Review is a bimonthly American political and literary magazine. The magazine covers, specifically, political debates, literature, and poetry...

, states that advancements in microbiology, molecular biology and genetics, in so far as they overlap with information science, introduces hard science with implications for the teleological argument. Genome reorganization is a biological process discovered by Nobel Laureate Barbara McClintock
Barbara McClintock
Barbara McClintock , the 1983 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine, was an American scientist and one of the world's most distinguished cytogeneticists. McClintock received her PhD in botany from Cornell University in 1927, where she was a leader in the development of maize cytogenetics...

. Shapiro states that these natural genetic engineering systems can produce radical reorganizations of the 'genetic apparatus within a single cell generation'. One protozoa
Protozoa
Protozoa are a diverse group of single-cells eukaryotic organisms, many of which are motile. Throughout history, protozoa have been defined as single-cell protists with animal-like behavior, e.g., movement...

 called Oxytricha in response to stress, is capable of splitting its chromosomes into thousands of pieces which are then reassembled into a 'distinct kind of functional genome'. Shapiro suggests what he calls a 'Third Way'; a non-creationist, non-Darwinian type of evolution:

David Hume



David Hume
David Hume
David Hume was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist, known especially for his philosophical empiricism and skepticism. He was one of the most important figures in the history of Western philosophy and the Scottish Enlightenment...

 presented a criticism of the teleological argument in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion
Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion
Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion is a philosophical work written by the Scottish philosopher David Hume. Through dialogue, three fictional characters named Demea, Philo, and Cleanthes debate the nature of God's existence...

. The character Philo, a religious sceptic, voices Hume's criticisms of the argument. He argues that the design argument is built upon a faulty analogy as, unlike with man-made objects, we have not witnessed the design of a universe, so do not know whether the universe was the result of design. Moreover, the size of the universe makes the analogy problematic: although our experience of the universe is of order, there may be chaos in other parts of the universe. Philo argues:

Philo also proposes that the order in nature may be due to nature alone. If nature contains a principle of order within it, the need for a designer is removed. Philo argues that even if the universe is indeed designed, it is unreasonable to justify the conclusion that the designed must be an omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent God - the God of classical theism. It is impossible, he argues, to infer the perfect nature of a creator from the nature of its creation. Philo argues that the designer may have been defective or otherwise imperfect, suggesting that the universe may have been a poor first attempt at design. Hume also pointed out that the argument does not necessarily lead to the existence of one God: “why may not several deities combine in contriving and framing the world?” (p. 108).

Wesley C. Salmon
Wesley C. Salmon
Wesley C. Salmon was a metaphysician and contemporary philosopher of science concerned primarily with the topics of causation and explanation....

 developed Hume's insights, arguing that all things in the universe which exhibit order are, to our knowledge, created by material, imperfect, finite beings or forces. He also argued that there are no known instances of an immaterial, perfect, infinite being creating anything. Using the probability calculus of Bayes Theorem, Salmon concludes that it is very improbable that the universe was created by the type of intelligent being theists argue for.

Nancy Cartwright
Nancy Cartwright (philosopher)
Nancy Cartwright FBA is a professor of philosophy at the London School of Economics and the University of California at San Diego, and a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship...

 accuses Salmon of begging the question
Begging the question
Begging the question is a type of logical fallacy in which the proposition to be proven is assumed implicitly or explicitly in the premise....

. One piece of evidence he uses in his probabilistic argument - that atoms and molecules are not caused by design - is equivalent to the conclusion he draws, that the universe is probably not caused by design. The atoms and molecules are what the universe is made up of and whose origins are at issue. Therefore, they cannot be used as evidence against the theistic conclusion.

Complexity does not imply design


The teleological argument assumes that one can infer the existence of intelligent design merely by examination, and because life is reminiscent of something a human might design, it too must have been designed. Life is described as "orderly" or "ordered", as well as other natural products of physical processes, such as diamond
Diamond
In mineralogy, diamond is an allotrope of carbon, where the carbon atoms are arranged in a variation of the face-centered cubic crystal structure called a diamond lattice. Diamond is less stable than graphite, but the conversion rate from diamond to graphite is negligible at ambient conditions...

s and snow
Snow
Snow is a form of precipitation within the Earth's atmosphere in the form of crystalline water ice, consisting of a multitude of snowflakes that fall from clouds. Since snow is composed of small ice particles, it is a granular material. It has an open and therefore soft structure, unless packed by...

flakes. It is argued, however, that the presence of this kind of natural physical process is also evidence for a designer, and that these particular systems are repetitive in nature and less complex than a non-repetitive system like DNA.

The design claim is often challenged as an argument from ignorance
Argument from ignorance
Argument from ignorance, also known as argumentum ad ignorantiam or "appeal to ignorance" , is a fallacy in informal logic. It asserts that a proposition is true because it has not yet been proven false, it is "generally accepted"...

, since it is often unexplained or unsupported, or explained by conjecture. Supporters of design suggest that natural objects and man-made objects have similar properties, therefore both must be designed. However, different objects can have similar properties for different reasons, such as star
Star
A star is a massive, luminous sphere of plasma held together by gravity. At the end of its lifetime, a star can also contain a proportion of degenerate matter. The nearest star to Earth is the Sun, which is the source of most of the energy on Earth...

s and light bulbs. Proponents must therefore demonstrate that only design can cause one or more orderly systems.

Most professional biologists support the modern evolutionary synthesis
Modern evolutionary synthesis
The modern evolutionary synthesis is a union of ideas from several biological specialties which provides a widely accepted account of evolution...

, not merely as an alternative explanation for the complexity of life but a better explanation with more supporting evidence. Living organisms obey the same physical laws as inanimate objects. Over very long periods of time
Geologic time scale
The geologic time scale provides a system of chronologic measurement relating stratigraphy to time that is used by geologists, paleontologists and other earth scientists to describe the timing and relationships between events that have occurred during the history of the Earth...

 self-replicating structures arose and later formed DNA
DNA
Deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in...

. This has been simulated artificially with the Avida
Avida
Avida is an artificial life software platform to study the evolutionary biology of self-replicating and evolving computer programs . Avida is under active development by Charles Ofria's Digital Evolution Lab at Michigan State University and was originally designed by Ofria, Chris Adami and C. Titus...

 program.

Does not prove the existence of God


In his, Traité de métaphysique Voltaire observed that, even if if the argument from design could prove the existence of a powerful intelligent designer, it would not prove that this designer is God.
Søren Kierkegaard
Søren Kierkegaard
Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was a Danish Christian philosopher, theologian and religious author. He was a critic of idealist intellectuals and philosophers of his time, such as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling and Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel...

 questioned the existence of God, rejecting all rational arguments for God's existence (including the teleological argument) on the grounds that reason is inevitably accompanied by doubt. He proposed that the argument from design does not take into consideration future events which may serve to undermine the proof of God's existence: the argument would never finish proving God's existence. In the Philosophical Fragments
Philosophical Fragments
Philosophical Fragments was a Christian philosophic work written by Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard in 1844. It was the first of three works written under the pseudonym Johannes Climacus, the other two were Johannes Climacus, 1841 and Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical...

, Kierkegaard writes:

Argument from improbability


Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins
Clinton Richard Dawkins, FRS, FRSL , known as Richard Dawkins, is a British ethologist, evolutionary biologist and author...

 is harshly critical of theology, creation and intelligent design in his book The God Delusion
The God Delusion
The God Delusion is a 2006 bestselling non-fiction book by British biologist Richard Dawkins, professorial fellow of New College, Oxford, and inaugural holder of the Charles Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford.In The God Delusion, Dawkins contends that...

 in which he contends that an appeal to intelligent design can provide no explanation for biology because it not only begs the question of the designer's own origin; but an intelligent designer must itself be far more complex and difficult to explain than anything it's capable of designing. He believes the changes of life arising on a planet like the Earth are many orders of magnitude less probable than most people would think, but the anthropic principle
Anthropic principle
In astrophysics and cosmology, the anthropic principle is the philosophical argument that observations of the physical Universe must be compatible with the conscious life that observes it. Some proponents of the argument reason that it explains why the Universe has the age and the fundamental...

 effectively counters skepticism with regard to improbability. For example, Fred Hoyle, suggested potential for life on Earth was no more probable than a Boeing 747
Boeing 747
The Boeing 747 is a wide-body commercial airliner and cargo transport, often referred to by its original nickname, Jumbo Jet, or Queen of the Skies. It is among the world's most recognizable aircraft, and was the first wide-body ever produced...

 being assembled by a hurricane from the scrape yard. He argues that a one-time event is subject to improbability but once underway, natural selection itself is nothing like random chance. Furthermore, he refers to his counter argument to the argument from improbability by that same name:
Dawkins considered the argument from improbability to be "much more powerful" than the teleological argument, or argument from design, although he sometimes implies the terms are used interchangeably. He paraphrases St.Thomas' teleological argument as follows: “Things in the world, especially living things, look as though they have been designed. Nothing that we know looks designed unless it is designed. Therefore there must have been a designer, and we call him God.”
George H. Smith
George H. Smith
George Hamilton Smith is an American author, editor, educator and speaker.-Biography:Smith grew up mostly in Tucson, Arizona, and attended the University of Arizona for several years before leaving without a degree; he relocated to Los Angeles during 1971. With the help of libertarian editor Roy A...

, in his book Atheism: The Case Against God, points out what he considers to be a flaw in the argument from design:
Consider the idea that nature itself is the product of design. How could this be demonstrated? Nature… provides the basis of comparison by which we distinguish between designed objects and natural objects. We are able to infer the presence of design only to the extent that the characteristics of an object differ from natural characteristics. Therefore, to claim that nature as a whole was designed is to destroy the basis by which we differentiate between artifacts and natural objects. (p. 268)

Intelligent design arguments in biology


Richard Dawkins, a high-profile advocate of atheism, suggests that while biology can at first seem to be purposeful and ordered, upon closer inspection its true function becomes questionable. Dawkins rejects the claim that biology serves any actual function, claiming rather that biology only mimics purpose. In his book The Blind Watchmaker
The Blind Watchmaker
The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design is a 1986 book by Richard Dawkins in which he presents an explanation of, and argument for, the theory of evolution by means of natural selection. He also presents arguments to refute certain criticisms made on...

, Dawkins states that animals are the most complex things in the known universe: “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” He argues that natural selection should suffice as an explanation of biological complexity without recourse to divine provenance.

Proponents of design, such as William A. Dembski
William A. Dembski
William Albert "Bill" Dembski is an American proponent of intelligent design, well known for promoting the concept of specified complexity...

 question the philosophical assumptions made by critics with regard to what a designer would or would not do. Dembski notes that such arguments aren't merely beyond the purview of science, often they're tacitly or overtly theological while failing to provide a serious analysis of the hypothetical objective's relative merit. Some critics, such as Stephen Jay Gould
Stephen Jay Gould
Stephen Jay Gould was an American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science. He was also one of the most influential and widely read writers of popular science of his generation....

 even suggest that any purported 'cosmic' designer would only design optimally, while at the same time offering numerous biological criticisms to demonstrate that ideal is manifestly untenable. Dembski characterizes both Dawkins' and Gould's argument as a rhetorical straw man
Straw man
A straw man is a component of an argument and is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position, twisting his words or by means of [false] assumptions...

. He suggests a principle of constrained optimization more realistically describes the best any designer could hope to achieve:

Further reading

  • Richard Dawkins (1986) The Blind Watchmaker (takes a view against the teleological argument).
  • William A. Dembski (2004) The Design Revolution. England: Intervarsity Press.
  • Daniel Dennett
    Daniel Dennett
    Daniel Clement Dennett is an American philosopher, writer and cognitive scientist whose research centers on the philosophy of mind, philosophy of science and philosophy of biology, particularly as those fields relate to evolutionary biology and cognitive science. He is currently the Co-director of...

     (1995). Darwin's Dangerous Idea
    Darwin's Dangerous Idea
    Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life is a book by Daniel Dennett which argues that Darwinian processes are the central organizing force that gives rise to complexity...

    .
  • Derek Gjersen (1989). Science and Philosophy: Past and Present. London: Penguin. ISBN 0140149627
  • Cornelius G. Hunter (2007). "Science's Blind Spot: The Unseen Religion of Scientific Naturalism". Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press
  • Evidence For Design In The Universe from Limits for the Universe by Hugh Ross, Ph.D. in Astronomy
  • Eric Sotnak, "Analysis of the Teleological Argument"
  • JP Moreland (1987). Scaling the Secular City: A Defense of Christianity, Chapter 2

External links