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Summary of Design Argument

The Design Argument
(also known as the Teleological Argument)
The design argument suggests that the world has been set up and is ordered in such a precise way that this
could not have happened by chance but must have been put together by some higher reality. In Christianity,
this 'higher reality' is known as God. The design argument is also known as the Teleological Argument. The
word telos in Greek means 'purpose'. Thus the 'Teleological Argument' suggests there is evidence that things
in the world have been made, or set up, for a purpose by God. For example, some might say that our eyes
and ears have been precisely designed by God for seeing and hearing. Another example of something being
designed for a purpose is the reproductive cycle. On a wider scale some point to the way the seasons are
ordered so as to cause plants to grow year after year, or the way the ozone layer protects us from harmful
U.V. rays, or the existence of gravity, or the way planets orbit each other in such a regular way. The key
issue is that the world and the universe are complex places yet everything seems to fit together in such a
precise way as to allow life to develop and continue and that this could not have happened by chance.
The classic statement of the argument for design is found in the work of William Paley (1743-1805). He
'If you came across a watch in an uninhabited place, you could not say it had been put there by
chance. The complexity of its mechanism would make you say it had a designer. The universe is far
more complex than a watch and so if a watch needs a watchmaker, the universe needs a universe
maker and that could only be God.'
Using this watch analogy Paley is saying that complex and ordered things do not appear by chance. Rather,
like the complex mechanism of a watch, they are made by someone (in this case a watchmaker) for a specific
reason (in this case to tell the time). In the passage above Paley is saying that because the world looks
complex, and is ordered (like a watch), that this could not have come about by chance but must have been
the result of being designed. Paley was a Christian and believed this argument supported the idea that God
created the world and therefore God existed.
Key features of the argument for design
The world and the universe have order in them.
The world and the universe have things in them which are 'designed' to do specific 'jobs'.
Complex things (such a watches) do not appear by chance but are made by someone.
The world and the universe are complex and ordered places so must have been designed by some
greater reality.
Christians believe the 'designer' and creator of the world and universe is God.
The design argument is based on an analogy with the way humans produce complex things (such as
watches) to the way things must be in the universe.
Evidence of design in the world and the universe
The way the seasons are ordered into a 'cycle of life'.
The way the ozone layer protects people from the harmful rays of the sun.
The way gravity on earth is strong enough so as to keep us flying off it into space, yet also weak
enough to prevent other planets from crashing into us.
The complexity of eyes and ears whose purpose is to see and hear.
Verses from the Bible which support the belief that God 'designed' the world and the universe:
'God made two great lights - the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the
night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on earth, to govern
the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness.' (Genesis 1:16-18)
'He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate - bringing forth food from the
earth... the moon marks off the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down.' (Psalm 104:14, 19)
‘By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was
not made out of what was visible.’(Hebrews 11:3)
Debates about the Design Argument
We do not need God to explain why things are as they are in the world and the universe. Science tells us that
everything was caused by a 'Big-bang' and that life is here as a result of natural evolutionary processes.
If the world was designed and created by God, why do bad things happen?
Maybe science explains how God created the world and the universe? Maybe God used the 'Big-bang' and
evolution to start life on earth?
The odds of life being found on any planet in the universe are huge. That there is any life on ours is
something many scientists still find hard to explain.
1. Write out the following paragraph in your books and fill in the missing words:
The Design Argument – Paley’s Watch ( Natural Theology 1802)
If you were walking across an uninhabited piece of land and you kicked a ……., you would have no reason
to ask where it came from. However if you were in the same place and you kicked a ….., you would have to
ask where it had come from even if you had never seen one before because:
1. No ……… mechanism can be produced by chance
2. Any complex mechanism must have been ………….
3. Anything which has been designed must have a …………..
The …………. is a much more complex mechanism than a watch (for example would be an …………
where everything is working according to laws to support the life of everything else).
Therefore just as the …………… of the watch forced you to believe it had been designed, so the complexity
of the universe forces to believe it has been designed. ………. gave many other examples to illustrate this
such as how the ….. is much more complex and obviously designed for sight than a …………which humans
have designed to assist the eye).
Therefore the universe has been designed and ……………which has been designed must have a designer.
The only ……………designer of something as ……….. as the universe is God Therefore must ………exist.
Designer, watch, stone, universe, possible, ecosystem, telescope, complexity, complex, eye, designed,
Paley, fantastic, God, everything.
2. Discuss with a friend and decide on five things in the natural world that indicate to you that they might
have been designed by God. You may use examples from this sheet but try and think of other things that
make you marvel at the intricacy of the world in which we live.
3. Find and write out Psalm 19: 1-4
4. What are the arguments cited against the Teleological argument?