The Teleological Argument

The teleological argument, commonly referred to as the argument from design, is less of a logical syllogism and more of a reasonable thought process. So, logic still applies. Students related to this argument well because it represents the way people first begin to think about creation when asking questions of humankind’s origin and place in the universe.

Let’s begin with a video from Ravi Zacharias International Ministries , which offers a perfect setup for the discussion of this argument.

Philosopher William Paley offers positioning of this argument which compares a stone and a watch.

[S]uppose I found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place, I should hardly think … that, for anything I knew, the watch might have always been there. Yet why should not this answer serve for the watch as well as for [a] stone [that happened to be lying on the ground]?… For this reason, and for no other; namely, that, if the different parts had been differently shaped from what they are, if a different size from what they are, or placed after any other manner, or in any order than that in which they are placed, either no motion at all would have been carried on in the machine, or none which would have answered the use that is now served by it.

Paley 1

The essential point of this argument is that unlike the stone, the watch shows clear evidence of a designer who had distinct purpose in mind when creating it. The teleological argument asserts that the balance and clockwork perfection of the universe points to the same thing.

Occam’s razor comes into play here as well. William of Ockham reasoned that the simpler explanation of something is usually the correct one. When one considers the vastness of the universe and the incredible series of perfect circumstance that made the existence of life possible, the explanation of an intelligent mind is simpler, and therefore more plausible, than just random chance.

In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Captain Picard offers his opinion of creation and existence and alludes to the argument from design.

Works Cited

  • Mawson, T.J. Belief in God: An Introduction to Philosophy of Religion. Oxford.
  • Paley, William. Natural Theology: Or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity Collected from the Appearances of Nature. Boston: Gould and Lincoln, 1867.
  • Himma, Kenneth. “Design Arguments for the Existence of God.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. University of Tennessee Martin. iep.utm.edu.

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