The Design Argument

Is the universe like a giant mechanism designed by God?

Key Terms

Teleological Argument: The argument that God designed (made) the universe for a purpose. This purpose can only be achieved through the careful and inticate design of the universe. This could not happen by chance.

The design argument can be divided into two main points:

  1. The universe is so complicated that we need a God to explain how this complexity came about.
  2. The universe is complicated because it aims towards a PURPOSE; there is a reason why it is ordered in the way it is (teleological argument).

You don’t really need to know about the second of these arguments but here’s how the first argument works:

  • Complex items don’t usually come about by chance. For example, a watch does not grow out of the ground, it needs a watchmaker in order to exist.
  • So complex items require an intelligent creator in order to make them.
  • The universe is far more complicated than anything a human can design. For example, the human eye cannot be ‘created’ by scientists.
  • So, the universe must have a superhuman (better than human) designer.
  • This designer is God.
  • Yeah, God exists. Q.E.D. All the atheists are wrong!

Some Philosophers you should know about:

  1. St. Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274) – Aquinas thought that the order and motion of the planets was enough to prove God existed. God had to exist to keep such complex motions going on.
  2. William Paley (1743-1805) – Bishop of Carlisle, Paley put forward the most famous of these arguments. The watch example (above) is his. Paley’s argument is more complicated because he begins to talk about PURPOSE (teleos) as well.
  3. Isaac Newton (1642-1727) – that’s the guy who did all the science stuff (gravity, laws of motion and thermodynamics and all that). Newton liked thumbs. Who doesn’t? Newton thought the very fact we have opposable thumbs was evidence of design. Just too cool to come about by chance. Can I remind you this guy was a scientist!
  4. F.R. Tennant (1856-1957) – believed in something called the ANTHROPIC PRINCIPLE (from anthros – meaning ‘human’). That the universe was so suited to supporting human life that it must have been designed to do so.
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