Revision:Teleological argument


The idea of God as creator and designer of the world is seen in the Bible, in passages such as Genesis 1.25 “God made all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds, and God saw that it was good.” The teleological argument, from the Greek ‘telos’, meaning end or purpose, aims to support this with evidence from the natural world, arguing that the existence and complexity of order, beauty and purpose in the world could not exist accidentally; it must have been designed by an intelligent and purposeful God, and that therefore God exists.

Plato (427-347BCE)

God ‘Demiurge’ couldn’t create matter ‘ex nihilo’ like Christian God, but could organise the pre-existing matter (‘anake’) into the logical order that we see around us in the world today.

Aristotle (384-322BCE)

Everything has a final cause (‘telos’), the ultimate cause was the “Prime Mover.”

Cicero (106-43BCE)

Observation of the world indicates “some divinity or superior intelligence.”

Aquinas (1225-1274)

5th of Five Ways. “Design qua regularity” things that lack intelligence act with regularity, e.g. planets (pre-Copernicus, geocentric). “Design qua purpose” things in the natural world make up interrelated systems, as though they were aiming for a purpose, “it is plain that they achieve their end, not fortuitously, but designedly,” just as an arrow requires an archer to direct it towards its target.

Paley (1743-1865) ‘Natural Theology’

Watchmaker analogy, (also used by Cicero, Hooke, Voltaire), if you came across a stone on a heath you would think nothing of it, whereas if you came across a watch it would be obvious that it had been designed for a purpose, the same applies for the world, “every indication of contrivance which existed in the watch exists in the works of nature” except to a greater extent indicating a greater designer than the watchmaker. Example of eye. Also argues ‘design qua regularity’ – astronomy, orbits, gravity, couldn’t be chance.


“For what less than infinite, could stock so vast a globe with such a noble set of animals.” The complexity of design in the world points towards an intelligent designer.

De Nouy

Could’ve happened by chance, have to account for anti-chance factor: God.

Hume (1711-1776)

World is more like a self-regulating organism (Lovelock’s Gaia). Chaotic matter can fall into order of its own accord (Epicurean Hypothesis). Limits God to human confines. Doesn’t necessarily point towards Christian God – infant/senile designer, hence problems with world e.g. evil? Greek pantheon? (Swinburne argues that in fact the order in the world points towards one designer.)


Ducklings, acorns, embryos, grow perfectly well without any interference from an intelligent being. The claim that some intelligent hand must directly shape the natural world simply isn’t supported by our observations of it.


Mechanical explanation for development of life on earth. Evolution by natural selection, survival of the fittest (Spencer), species develop over millions of years into the intricate, thriving and efficient animals in the world today. “The old argument from design in nature, as given by Paley, fails now that the law of natural selection has been discovered.” Dawkin’s ‘memes’ – cultural inheritance. Argument from ignorance, to posit God when we don’t understand something (Coulson ‘God of the gaps’).


God chose to create a universe governed by science; as our knowledge of science grows, so too will our knowledge of God.


“DNA exhibits too much ‘design work’ to be the product of mere chance.”


Takes science into account. Spatial order can be explained by Darwin, however temporal order – throughout infinite time & space everything follows simple scientific laws – “how extraordinary that is!” Had to have very certain circumstances to come about in the first place – ‘fine-tuned’. We can explain this with God without empirical evidence (‘personal explanation’), not unscientific because “science often postulates unobservables.” Ockham’s razor – simplest explanation is God, rather than chance (however Epicurean Hypothesis) or a trillion universes.


Actually simple that everything in the universe accords to a small finite set of rules. “A God capable of continuously monitoring and controlling the individual status of every particle in the universe is not going to be simple.”


The universe “just is…a brute fact.” (Swinburne – v. irrational.)


Swinburne assumes the natural state of the universe is chaotic and ugly.

The Anthropic Principle

If the world had been slightly different we wouldn’t exist, we fit so well into it that it seems to have been designed for us. Strong AP = conditions for life were intrinsic for BB, weak AP = conditions happened to have occurred.


(1) only God can provide an accurate explanation for why humans can contemplate the universe and their place within it, and human morality.


No reason to be surprised that the universe supports us because if it didn’t we wouldn’t be around to know about it. However Swinburne’s kidnapper & card machine.

Mark Twain

Like thinking the Eiffel Tower was built for the lick of paint at the top.


We have developed to fit into the world, and one day we will die out and the world will continue. Analogy of a puddle, thinking the hole it is in was created specifically for it, even as it dries up.

Christians would respond that we have reason which sets us apart from animals, pinnacle of God’s creation.

Argument from Providence (Taylor)

Nature seems to provide for us. Human beings cannot be explained simply by evolution, since we don’t adapt to our environment but we transform it. Mind cannot be explained by evolution since it needs an intelligent mind to impose it. Taylor takes Darwin into account.

Argument from Beauty/Aesthetic Argument=

The world is “saturated with beauty.” The fact that we can appreciate beauty has no survival value. Tennant (2) “perhaps the presence of beauty and human appreciation of it may be seen as signs that God wishes to draw us towards the Divine rather than to be simply content with survival.” Kant also believed that natural beauty hinted at God, although it couldn’t prove him. However there are also lots of ugly things in the world/maybe appreciation of beauty is social conditioning – Dawkin’s ‘memes’, Hitchens “the eyes were adjusted to nature, and not the other way about.”


Accepts that God may be the designer of the world, but not that he is omnibenevolent. Our evidence of the world supports this more – e.g. murder. “I will call no being good, who is not what I mean when I apply that epithet to my fellow creatures.” Dostoevsky – human suffering is too great for creation to be worth it.


These notes are aimed at people studying for OCR A2 Philosophy.

Originally written by rejey on TSR Forums.