Basic Teleological Assumptions of Classical Design Theory
Basic Teleological Assumptions of Classical Design Theory
The Old School of Intelligence Design presupposes the existence of an intellectual being behind the creation of the universe. Through inference, it often acts as a proof in support of a theistic God. The Design theory is usually supported on two major points – the complexity of the universe and the teleological nature of all natural organisms that constitute the universe. Traditionally, the old design theory resorts to an analogy of the machine, which is complex with an absolutely immaculate correspondence between the parts and the whole and has a ‘purpose’ or ‘telos’, thus teleological.
Using Paley’s now legendary example of a mechanical watch that begins its ‘Natural Theology’, one can say that a watch in good condition comprises a number of devices that are intricately connected to each other in such a way, that if one part moves, it in turn set the other parts into movement, thus making the clock work. The watch is thus a ‘complex’ machine. At a second or higher level, there is a ‘purpose’ behind this entire operation, i. e. the ‘purpose’ of the watch – to tell what time of the day it is to its user.
Thus, all parts contribute to the whole leading to a well defined ‘purpose’, thereby making the device ‘teleological’. Paley’s inference, which he extends to include all kinds of being and is developed into the central argument of the Old Design theory, is 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’.
(Paley) Old Design theory, following Paley’s formulation, goes on to extend the analogy to include all natural beings to argue that the universe, being so well organized and infinitely more complex, thus presupposes the existence of a much higher intelligence, or a being with a much higher intelligence, who must have created this teleological universe. The general logic that establishes the thesis is: 1. Machines are produced by intelligent design 2. The universe resembles a machine Therefore, 1. Probably the universe was produced by intelligent design. (Rowe, p. 59)
As a proof of this line of logical conclusion, we can look at anything of the natural world around us, both animate and inanimate, although the animate makes us understand the logic better. A tree, for example, is sustained by the nourishment that is produced by the leaf. The leaf works like a machine, with its every constituent carefully designed, arranged and contrived in such a manner so as to serve its exact purpose – carrying out photosynthesis and providing the tree, of which it is a part, with the necessary succor. It is thus a teleological unit within a bigger ‘machine’ – the tree.
The tree, in its part, has all its constituent parts built and organized in such a way so as to make it serve its purpose – to exist and reproduce by creating more of its like. In order to understand this analogy, we can derive on the example of a car. A car, in itself, is a teleological unit serving the purpose of commuting people from one place to another. However, it is a combination of many smaller teleological units – the carburetor, for example, with parts to suit its express purpose – of providing the necessary combustion for the car to move.
(Rowe, p. 57) Thus, a purposeful machine can be a combination of many constituent purposeful machines, which add up to carrying out the purpose of the whole. Any part of the human anatomy (like Paley’s example of the eye), and its relation to the human body in general can be counted as an example of teleological design in the natural world. Furthermore, Sartre’s existentialism can be taken as a normative school of thought elaborating on teleological renditions.
As an existentialist belonging to atheistic principles, Sartre viewed subjectivity as the underlying source of inspiration behind creation. In other words, it is only the subjective understanding of things that he thought to be the fundamental purpose of beginning. The example of a paper-cutter can be aptly suited here to the context of explicating Sartre’s philosophical doctrine. The postulate that Existence precedes essence, as he came upon, can be justified by reasoning with the purpose behind the making of a paper-cutter.
As is obvious, there are two sides to it. Firstly, the person who makes a paper-cutter knows what he is doing and what a paper-cutter is. So it directly involves the utility of a thing being made or created. Secondly, the process of making is also known to the maker. Hence, a logical inference can be drawn from these two interconnected preconditions that help assigning a teleological meaning to the whole. Needless to mention, it is unlikely that the person making the paper-cutter should be ignorant of its end-use (Sartre, p. 2) Arguments Old and New
Till the end of the nineteenth century, the Design Theory, with certain qualifications, was thought to be adequate as an explanation behind creation and its unsurpassed complexity, through the presence of a super-intelligent being. However, right from the beginning of its existence and even before, serious questions and fallacies have been raised in the logical reasoning that draw correspondence between the mechanical and the natural world, leading to Intelligent Design theory. These criticisms are in fact older than even when the Old design was laid down as a philosophical foundation.
Hume was one of the earliest critics, and Darwinism was one of the last and most potent criticisms of intelligent design – almost forcing the point of view to refashion and re-present itself into the New Design theory. The foremost accusation against the Design theory is that it is ultimately an analogy. Although Rowe proves in his article that analogy is necessary to reach the truth, yet he proves the significance of analogy only through another analogy, and thus laying the base of his logical inference weak.
However, even if we take, for the sake of argument, Rowe’s formulation to be true and believe in analogy to be a way to reach the truth, there can be serious complaints raised against the way the analogy works itself out. One of the first problems to be thrown up by the machine analogy is that the creator of the watch is himself created by something external to his own self, and therefore the creator, an intelligent agency capable of action, needs to be created. Design theory often quite consciously avoids delving into the nature of the creator, just as it does about the ‘purpose’ behind the universal design.
‘Does intelligent-design theory provide explanatory power? ’ asks Young and Edis, ‘If so, it must provide information about the details of the design and, to this end, about the nature of the designer. ID theory, however, deliberately avoids the answers to this question’. (Young and Edis, p. 193) Even if we take into account the theological connotations of the theory that establishes the creator as a self-created, self-creating being, there are other problems that are foregrounded by Rowe.
First, does a universe comprising teleological components itself become teleological? To prove that all natural objects that comprise the universe have a ‘purpose’ does not necessarily prove that the universe itself has a ‘purpose’. All that remains is transference that if the constituent objects have a purpose, then the world itself must have a ‘purpose’ where being constructed by a being that transcends ordinary intelligence, it is impossible to grasp that overarching ‘purpose’ behind creation.
Such an argument runs into a danger of fallacy, because if ‘Design Theory’ is propounded to prove the presence of a God (or an intelligent being) behind creation, then we cannot take the presence of the being as a presumption. In that case we take to be proven what we are out to prove. Secondly, we can take into account Hume’s classical criticism of the Old Design theory, which says that it is presumptuous to take the teleology and the machine-like orderliness as the very pattern of the whole universe.
Here we run into the danger of taking our argumentative basis as only that small section of the universe that is apparent to our sensory perception as the general model of the universe itself, something that we would never know. There may be, and probably are, other parts of the universe located outside the ken of our knowledge where chaos reigns. The greatest criticism of the Old Design theory comes in the form of Darwinian Theory of ‘Natural Selection’. Darwin started off as a believer in Paley’s theological model of Design theory, but as a result of his experience, defected and put forward his own theory of ‘Natural Selection’.
It states that in order to be machine-like in teleology and perfect in construct, nature does not necessarily need a divine and intellectual being. Nature works in spite of such a presence or an absence in order to make its organisms best suited to the environment, whereby only the organisms that manage to suit themselves to the changing environment exist while the other perish. The survivors manage to make anatomical adjustments to survive in the environment, thus combining the part to the whole and carry on the acts of existence and procreation.
Darwin’s locating the question of Intelligent Design within the question of the implicit ‘anthropomorphism’ of classical ID, is obvious when he talks about ‘Man’ and ‘Nature’ and their roles as agencies of creation: “As man can produce and certainly has produced a great result by his methodical and unconscious means of selection what may not Nature effect? Man can act only on external and visible character: Nature cares nothing for appearances, except in so far as they may be useful to any being. She can act on every internal organ, on every shade of constitutional difference, on the whole machinery of life”. (Darwin, p. 53)
Till the beginning of the twentieth century, the Darwinian theory of Natural Selection reigned supreme in the field of scientific enquiry, while Design theory was more or less relegated to the recesses of religious and spiritual thought. However, the beginning of the twentieth century saw a resurgence of the Design theory, as Darwinian Evolution was made subject to questions and doubts. One of the most common attacks on Darwinism from the proponents of ID theorists has been from the lines of what is known as the mousetrap theory. The mousetrap is one of the most common and yet one of the most complex devices of our everyday life.
However, if any of its component parts: the spring, the hammer or the platform is missing, it would fail to achieve its ‘purpose’, its ‘telos’: that is catching mice. Similarly, the immense complexity of even the most basic molecular organisms is so self sufficient and so ‘teleological’ that it cannot be explained by the theory of natural selection, since they do not appear as the result of any earlier form adapting to suit to the changing environment. It appears created out of an intelligent design. Michael J. Behe criticizes Darwin from precisely this position. New Design Theory: In Search for a Philosophic Co-existence
However, Behe’s criticism that Darwinism does not account for the immense complexity of molecular organisms is not the same thing as to say that there is a supremely intelligent, benevolent and perfect being who has designed the universe. In fact, Natural selection can be made to account for the immense complexity of even molecular organisms. Neither does Dempski, who otherwise supports the ID theory, speak about the real nature of the intelligent being in question. Under such a situation where nothing could be proven conclusively, the design theory re-formulated itself in what is now known as the New Design Theory.
One of the most significant positions of modern proponents of the intelligent design theorists is to dissociate and distance themselves from the earlier theological imports of the argument. As Manson states ‘the fact that modern ID theory is a minimalist argument for design itself, not an argument for the existence of God, relives it of much of the baggage that weighed down Paley’s argument’. (Manson, p. 277) Thus, much in response to earlier loopholes of ID arguments, a section of modern theorists is looking for a co-existence of Darwinism and ID, stating that they are not necessarily exclusive.
The big-bang theory of creation is used very commonly as a point of departure. It states that the conditions conducive to life and existence required too many factors to act in too perfect a combination, and hence they do not look like an accident. Therefore, the presence of an intelligent being is needed in order to present the conditions from where nature could take its own course and get on with its act of existence and procreation. The presence of an intelligent being, whether in the form of a single theistic God or otherwise, is thus established, albeit through a new formulation. Religion, Meaninglessness and the Old Design Theory
Questions of decaying morality and faith often encroach upon the spheres of religion. A man’s existence can grossly be measured on two parameters: his belief in the system of religion and other ethical means; and his actual loyalty to what he believes. If a man, out of compulsion or faith, remains loyal to what he regards as the most singular religious creed, he ought to have some degree of propensity to it. So he can be adjudged credible enough to be an individual who does not sway from his internal notions. But in reality, things turn out to be markedly different from the nature of our interaction with the world.
Even the sternest believers are compelled to choose a life that hardly conforms to what he believes in and of itself about religion. Religion acts almost as an external element which is unplugged from the course of life and does not have anything to do with controlling man’s destiny (Tolstoy, p. 2). In relation to the Old Design Theory, it can be stated that God’s presence is rather nonessential with regards to the actual ordeal man has to live through in this life. As Rachels (293) argues, the ancient myth of Sisyphus is correspondent to conveying the ultimate meaninglessness of life.
Contrary to the seep-seated Christian faiths of Tolstoy, this philosophy is more akin to Sartre’s doctrine of atheistic and nihilistic existence. Even if we go by the conjecture that there is in fact a supremely intelligent being at the heart of every phenomenon in the universe, the scope of redemption in mortal life is nearly impossible and therefore, the influence of a single entity, however powerful it is, is negated. References Manson, Neil A. (2003). God and Design. New York: Routledge. Young M. , and Edis, T. (2006). Why Intelligent Design Fails: A Scientific Critique of the New Creationism.
Piscataway: Rutgers University Press. Paley W. (1837). Natural theology: or Evidences of the existence and attributes of the Deity… With additions & notes. London: W. & R. Chambers. Darwin, C. (2007). On the Origin of Species: By Means of Natural Selection Or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life. New York: Cosimo, Inc. Rowe. The Design Argument: Old and New. Sartre, Jean-Paul. Existentialism Is a Humanism. Tolstoy, Leo N. A Confession. Grand Rapids: Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Rachels, J. (2005). The Truth About the World: Basic Readings in Philosophy.
Subject: Design Theory,
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 14 October 2016
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