His first point criticised Paley’s analogy of the watch. The first part of the analogy claimed that if you found a rock while walking through a heath, you would not think anything of it. However, if you had seen a watch you would examine it and find that it had moving parts that demonstrate that the watch has a purpose, the parts work together for a purpose and they are ordered to make the watch function because if they weren’t, the watch won’t perform its function. He concluded the first part of his analogy by saying that the watch had a maker who must have existed at some time and place.
The second part of the analogy claimed that if we suppose the watch had another imaginary function, and this function was the producing of other watches, then our admiration for the watchmaker would be increased. He concluded this part of his argument by saying that anyone who finds such a watch would conclude that the design of the watch implies ‘the presence of intelligence and mind’. Paley said that just like the watch being designed necessitates a designer as an explanation of its existence, all of nature requires a much greater designer. The complexity of nature is far greater than any machine human beings can make and therefore a grand designer is needed, this designer is God. Hume criticised this point by saying that the analogy is limited. For example, you could conclude from a study of the human blood circulatory system that animals had the same system. This would be a weak and mistaken analogy however to compare a human’s and an animal’s circulatory system to the way sap circulates in a plant.
Hume maintained his criticism of Paley’s analogy of the watch by an analogy of his own. This analogy said that we can conclude that a house had a builder and an architect but we cannot, however, deduce a builder or architect of the universe in the same way because there is no similarity between the two. He mentioned that if the house is faulty, what does this suggest about the designer? And so, if God did design the world, is he
directly responsible for the evil within it? Paley, however, rejected this point because the issue was whether the universe exhibited signs of design. He was not concerned with questions relating to issues of quality concerning the design. Paley’s response was criticised to be unsatisfactory.
Hume argued that there are other possible explanations than God for apparent design in the universe. Hume claimed that one of these possible explanations might be that as well as the possibility that there is a grand designer of the universe, it is equally possible that ‘matter may contain the spring of order originally within itself, as well as mind does’ and that unless there is perfect similarity between the object of comparison and what is being compared, you cannot draw a conclusion with any certainty.
Another possible explanation for apparent design in the universe might be that any effects that we observe in nature may be caused by a variety of causes. This view supports the discovery of natural selection and the DNA and its role of shaping the growth of all living organisms.
Hume claimed that there might not be just one single designer for the world. For example, we may look at a great ship and think about the great design of it, but the ship may be the result of years, even generations of trial and error. The ship may be the product of many hands and not just one great designer. From this, Hume concludes that there is no evidence to suggest the ‘unity of the deity’.
Hume suggested three more theories as explanations for the design of the universe; aptness of analogy, the epicurean thesis and the argument from effect to cause.
The aptness of analogy said that a watch is not a suitable analogy for the world. For example, just because a cabbage is fitted together/designed perfectly, does not mean that it has a maker/designer. By using a machine as an analogy, you would have already determined the outcome you want; you want there to be a designer and you’re already assuming that something natural, i.e. the cabbage, has a designer.
The epicurean thesis was explained using an example. This example spoke about particles and said that if they were freely moving around over infinite time, by chance, one of the combinations they make would just happen to represent a stable order and this stable order is what we now live in. This example represented the view that the universe might have happened by chance.
The argument from effect to cause claimed that we cannot go from an effect to a greater cause than that needed to produce the cause. We cannot say whether he made the watch alone or had some little helpers. This would mean that we do not and cannot know whether he is still active or even still alive, we can only say if the universe does/doesn’t have a designer and can’t list its traits by saying that he is benevolent, omnipotent, omniscient and infinite as many would portray him.
Overall, Hume criticises the teleological argument in a number of ways. He very explicitly criticises Paley’s views on the teleological argument, using them to explain why he believes that the argument is deeply flawed.