Influences forming Plato’s views of the world workbook answers

The Teleological (Design) Argument and criticisms

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The Teleological (Design) Argument and criticisms

1 As with the Cosmological Arguments, this is an a posteriori argument, and is a postulation of Aquinas and not a certainty. Teleology is the study of purpose or ends. A simple version of the argument might say:

  • All things have an order or arrangement, and work towards an end.

  • The order of the universe cannot be explained by chance.

  • Design and purpose are a product of intelligence.

  • Therefore nature is directed by a Divine Intelligence or Great Designer.

2 Isaac Newton spoke of the impressive stability of the universe to demonstrate that the universe as a whole shows intelligent design. It could be said that Newton refashioned the world governed by an interventionist God into a world crafted by a God that is designed along rational and universal principles. These principles were available for everyone to discover, allowed man to pursue his own aims fruitfully in this life, not the next, and to perfect himself with his own rational powers.

3 This argument says that, if you observe the world in much the way an empirical scientist would, then you will notice that anything that is designed needs a designer; this designer gives to his design not only order but purpose. The universe is the most complex thing we can observe and so we should not think of it as an accident but as the product of a designing intelligence. It does not ask us to believe that this intelligence is the God of classical theism.

4 Paley starts his analogy by imagining pitching his foot against a stone and believing that it had lain there for ever. But then he imagines that he has found a watch on the ground and that he is asked how the watch happened to be in this place. This time he might answer a questioner that ‘there must have existed, at some time, and in 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 work of nature; with the difference, on the side of nature, of being greater or more, and in that degree which exceeds all computation.’

5 This is one of the two strands of the Design Argument. This one is pointing to the regularity we find in the universe and there are a number of things you can use in your description, such as animals who hibernate every year, the movement of the galaxies and stars we see in our skies, the seasons of the year, as well as many others.

6 Again, looking at the world around us, we can see a number of natural things that can be interpreted as evidence of purpose. Philosophers often point to the human eye or photosynthesis. In Darwin’s theory, there are the various types of beaks on finches in the different Galapagos Islands, which have developed for slightly different purposes.

7 Aristotle was struck with wonder by the majestic sweep of the glittering host across the night sky of ancient Greece. He goes on to say that philosophy begins with this sense of wonder about the world. Looking at the slow but irresistible turn of the cosmos, replete with planets, stars and familiar constellations, Aristotle concluded that that the cause was divine intelligence.

8 There are a number of principles with this name but at its most basic it is an answer to the question why the universe is just right for life and for our existence in particular. This principle seems to postulate that the universe is fine-tuned for the existence of life. Paul Davies refers to this as the Goldilocks’ enigma. The universe is not too hot or too cold, etc. If this is held to be true, then it would support the idea of there being a divine designer.

9 a Writers during the Enlightenment tended to think about the universe in a machine-like way that clearly affected their arguments. Hume suggested that, while machines have designers and watches are machines, we may need to think about the universe another way. He used the example of a cabbage, which is a complex and nutritious plant. If we found a cabbage we would not necessarily infer that there is a cabbage maker. Hume suggests that, if we choose a machine as an example, we have seriously affected the answer we will find.

b Hume also made use of the Greek philosopher Epicurus, who put forward the idea of infinite time. He suggested that in this infinite time a huge but finite number of particles freely moving about would go through every possible combination. One combination would be a stable order where everything fits together well; this would give it the appearance of design without the need for a designer.

c Hume gives a number of examples using the idea of an old-fashioned set of scales where the viewer can see only one pan. As the pan we can see is in the air, we know the other pan is heavier but we do not know by how much. The other side could be a ton of steel or something only slightly heavier. He wants to say that the watch might lead us to a watchmaker but not to the infinite, all-loving, all-powerful, all-knowing God Christian religious believers of his day wanted to prove existed. Here we find his famous examples that this world may be the discarded remains of the work of an infant deity or the work of a committee of gods.

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