General Teleological Argument

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info.gif Teleological Argument: "An argument for the existence of God that takes as its starting point the purposive (teleological) character of the universe. The argument is often termed the argument from design and comes in many different versions. This argument was quite popular in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, but many atheists believe it has been discredited by Darwinism. Philosophers of religion such as Richard Swinburne, however, have developed versions of the argument that are compatible with Darwinism."

Evans, C. (2002) Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

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    Augros, Robert M.

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    Is Nature Purposeful?

    "At the intersection of biology, philosophy, and theology stands the question of whether natural things apart from human intervention are purposeful. The author traces the dismissal of purpose from the biological sciences to Darwin. It is then argued that since neo-Darwinism itself is currently criticized from within biology that it is reasonable to reconsider the question of purpose on its own merits. Some evidence for purposefulness in nonliving things is briefly indicated from astronomy and astrophysics. The article concludes with a detailed discussion of the various ways purpose is used in the work of biologists when they account for living things."
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    Beebe, James R.

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    The Design Argument for the Existence of God

    "In the first section of this essay I will describe the most famous version of the design argument—William Paley’s argument by analogy. Analogical arguments are perhaps the weakest sort of arguments one can offer without committing an outright fallacy. As we will see in section II, the analogical version of the design argument has come in for some heavy fire over the years. A contemporary reformulation of the argument, which I will call the ‘Inference to the Best Explanation’ (IBE) version of the design argument, claims to be able to escape the criticisms that are leveled against the analogical version. The IBE version will be explained in section III. It eschews the analogical form of the first version and uses evidence from contemporary science to back up its claims."
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    Clericuzio, Antonio

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    The Mechanical Philosophy and the Design Argument

    "In the present paper, I set out to investigate a crucial episode in the history of the relationship of science and religion, namely the mechanical philosophers’ use of the design argument in seventeenth-century science...With the exception of Descartes, the argument of design played a prominent part in seventeenth-century mechanical philosophy: mechanical philosophers like Boyle preserved and reinforced with theories and observations the doctrine of God’s providential control of the universe."
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    Dougherty, Trent and Ted Poston

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    A User’s Guide to Teleological Arguments

    "In this paper we provide a conceptual map to contemporary design arguments. We argue that there is a tension between two types of design arguments—the fine-tuning argument and the biological design argument. Furthermore, we argue that given certain plausible assumptions the arguments are inconsistent with one another. We sketch a resolution to this conflict that will allow one to offer a two-step design argument beginning with the fine-tuning argument and ending with the biological design argument. However, we argue that this strategy is not as advantageous as the alternate strategy of embracing the conflict and presenting a one-step design argument. An interesting result of our argument is that theists may accept radical self-organization scenarios that are commonly thought to threaten theism. On the conception of the design argument we recommend, these selforganization scenarios are actually evidence for theism!"
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    Gene, Mike

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    Teleology & Science

    A brief but excellent historical overview of the philosophical and scientific pedigree of teleological thinking. Gene shows that "the arguments for design did not start with Paley, nor did they start with naïve religious believers. No, such arguments began with people like Socrates and Aristotle...If one's sense of history goes no further than 100 years, it's easy to get the impression that materialism has been vindicated and teleology has been refuted...Is the 2500 year-old debate really over? Of course not."
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    Koons, Robert C.

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    Critiques of the Design Argument: Mackie

    "Mackie raises three additional objections to the design argument. First, he argues that the argument from the anthropic coincidences overlooks the possibility of exotic life, life very different from that with which we are familiar...Second, Mackie argues that we do not find a regular association between the property of being ordered and adapted to certain ends and the property of having been constructed by human designers...In Mackie's third objection, he argues that theism is not a good scientific theory, nor is it a promising scientific research program."
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    Koons, Robert C.

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    Critiques of the Design Argument: Hume

    "In the Dialogues, Hume argues that the design argument fails because it cannot demonstrate that God is infinite and perfect, or that there is only one God. Certainly, Hume has a point here. No matter how wonderful and intricate the design of the world may be, it is always possible that it is the result of a very great, but finite and imperfect designer. However, if we are looking, not for a demonstration of the existence of God, but only for evidence that makes God's existence probable, there do seem to be considerations that point decisively toward an infinite God."
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    Koons, Robert C.

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    Are Probabilities Indispensable to the Design Inference?

    "After sketching the various probabilistic accounts of the design inference, including the Bayesian and Dembskian models, I make a stab at developing, in an admittedly crude form, a non-probabilistic model, based on a measure of ontological complexity, which, I conjecture, may more faithfully represent the design inference as found in such classical texts as Aquinas, Reid and Paley. I discuss the various pluses and minuses of probabilistic and non-probabilistic models, with reference to one important test case: inferring design from anthropic coincidences in the fundamental constants of physics."
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    Koons, Robert C.

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    Critiques of the Design Argument: Kant

    "Kant's appraisal of the design argument is not entirely negative. Kant accepts that the design argument is valuable and successful in at least two ways. First, the design idea has an important heuristic (inquiry-guiding) role to play within science. The design argument "suggests ends and purposes in nature" that we would not otherwise be looking for...Second, Kant believed that the design argument has an important religious function: it can quieten our doubts...and prepare the understanding for theological knowledge...Kant makes two important qualifications...First, he insists that we cannot claim "apodeictic certainty" for the conclusion of the argument...Secondly, Kant points out that the conclusion of the argument is somewhat indeterminate."
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    McGrew, Timothy J.

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    Toward a Rational Reconstruction of Design Inferences

    "In view of the sensitivity of our judgments to available evidence, it makes sense to try to reconstruct our detection of the deliberate activities of intelligent agents as an inference—to analyze both our prereflective practices and our more painstaking investigations with a view to making explicit their underlying rational structure...In the first section of this paper, I discuss the potential tension between the rationality and the verisimilitude of our reconstructions and suggest that despite the difficulties inherent in this project the game is very much worth the candle. In the second section, I propose seven criteria and argue that they are plausible constraints on any rational reconstruction of design inferences. In the next three sections, I examine some current proposals regarding the methodology of design detection in light of these criteria, and in the final section, I draw some conclusions from this examination."
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    Newman, Robert C.

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    A Designed Universe

    "Since Darwin's Origin of Species (1859), many have felt that "survival of the fittest" is the source of apparent design in nature rather than God. Yet recently, serious objections have been raised against the ability of evolutionary theory to explain either the origin of life or its diversity.1 Consequently, the force of design as evidence for a supernatural alternative is strengthened. In any case, biological evolution can hardly explain design in the nonliving part of nature. And it is just here that recent advances in science have uncovered far more evidence of design than was known in Darwin's time, or even in the 1970s. Let us consider some of this evidence."
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    Paley, William

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    Natural Theology; or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity. Chapters 1 & 2.

    Paley's metaphor of God as the divine watchmaker is without rival in its influence upon the design argument: "When we come to inspect the watch, we perceive. . . that its several parts are framed and put together for a purpose, e.g. that they are so formed and adjusted as to produce motion, and that motion so regulated as to point out the hour of the day; that if the different parts had been differently shaped from what they are, or placed after any other manner or in any other 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. . . . the inference we think is inevitable, that the watch must have had a maker -- that there must have existed, at some time and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers who formed it for the purpose which we find it actually to answer, who comprehended its construction and designed its use."
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    Ratzsch, Del

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    Teleological Argument for God’s Existence

    "Perception and appreciation of the incredible intricacy and the beauty of things in nature—whether biological or cosmic—has certainly inclined many toward thoughts of purpose and design in nature, and has constituted important moments of affirmation for those who already accept design positions. The status of the corresponding arguments of course, is not only a matter of current dispute, but the temperature of the dispute seems to be on the rise."
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    Schroeder, Gerald L.

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    Evolution? Looking at the Bigger Picture of Life's Development

    "The National Academy of Sciences recently referred to evolution as the best theory to explain how life developed...We are the condensed energy of the creation. We witnessed that creation and its genesis, first as light beams, then as parts of stars and the star dust of supernovae, then as the rocks and water on the surface of the earth, which in a geological blink of the eye became alive. And tucked within that wonder of the first life was the ability to reproduce. Reproduction is purpose driven, the preservation of the species. The first forms of life had purpose within their genetic make-up...The basic problem in teaching evolution is that we get so involved with the minutiae, that we neglect the really crucial questions. When you give all the facts, even those for which there are no facile answers, you come up with an answer that smacks of teleology."
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    Schupbach, Jonah N.

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    Paley’s Inductive Inference to Design

    "In a recent article, Graham Oppy offers a lucid and intriguing examination of William Paley’s design argument. Oppy sets two goals for his article. First, he sets out to challenge the 'almost universal assumption' that Paley’s argument is inductive by revealing it actually to be a deductive argument. Second, he attempts to expose Paley’s argument as manifestly poor when interpreted in this way. I will argue that Oppy is unsuccessful in accomplishing his first goal, leaving his second goal quite irrelevant. Contrary to Oppy’s interpretation, Paley’s argument is best interpreted as an inference to the best explanation."
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    Swinburne, Richard

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    Argument From Design

    "I understand by an argument from design one which argues from some general pattern of order in the universe or provision for the needs of conscious beings to a God responsible for these phenomena. An argument from a general pattern of order I shall call a teleological argument. In the definition of 'teleological argument' I emphasize the words 'general pattern'; I shall not count an argument to the existence of God from some particular pattern of order manifested on a unique occasion as a teleological argument."
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    Swinburne, Richard

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    The Argument from Design

    "[T]he orderliness of nature is a matter of the vast uniformity in the powers and liabilities of bodies throughout endless time and space, and also in the paucity of kinds of components of bodies. Over centuries long, long ago and over distances distant in millions of light years from ourselves the same universal orderliness reigns. So I shall take as the alternatives the first, that the temporal order of the world is where explanation stops, and the second, that the temporal order of the world is due to the agency of God; and I shall ignore the less probable possibilities that the order is to be explained as due to the agency of an agent or agents of finite power. The proponent of the teleological argument claims that the order of nature shows an orderer — God."
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    de Ridder, Jeroen

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    Tu Quoque: Trouble for Arguments from Design?

    "Arguments from design try to establish the existence of an intelligent designer by pointing out specific empirical characteristics of the world that cannot be accounted for other than by the actions of a supernatural intelligent designer. Emphasis on different characteristics of the world leads to different versions of the argument...In this paper I want to discuss one objection haunting all arguments from design. The objection can be traced back at least to Hume’s famous critique of design arguments (Hume 1998). It is what I dub the brute fact objection. What makes this objection particularly bothersome is its pretension to show that design arguments, even when correct, are just irrelevant...What I...hope to have accomplished, is to show that intelligent design explanations are legitimate and even promising explanations of such phenomena as the fine-tuning of the universe and irreducibly complex biochemical systems."