Design Argument for the existence of God

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 7 August 2016

Design Argument for the existence of God

The Design Argument can be split into two sides: design qua purpose and design qua regularity. The key idea of design qua purpose comes from William Paley. He used analogy as the basis for his argument, noting how the complex design of a watch allows all the parts to work together perfectly to achieve its purpose. He then noted the complexity, order and purpose of the universe, stating that “every manifestation on design, which existed in the watch, exists in the works of nature.” Therefore if a watch’s intricacy stands as evidence that it has been designed, by analogy the universe must also have a designer and, as the designer is required to be supremely powerful, the designer must be God.

Aquinas also presented an argument to support design qua purpose. Similarly to Paley, he argued that all natural occurrences show evidence of design. He claimed that this suggested there is a being which directs all things, and as humans have knowledge this being must also be knowledgeable. Therefore there is an intelligent being that directs everything towards its purpose, and Aquinas stated that this being must be God. Unlike Paley, Aquinas explained that God is a designer at work who continues to direct us towards our purpose as well as regulating the universe (e.g. the planets and the seasons). He also attempted to explain how free-will plays a part in design, claiming that we are programmed to reproduce but free-will allows us to choose who we reproduce with. Through these points he also demonstrated a key aspect of the design qua regularity side of the Teleological Argument.

Another aspect of the argument is the anthropic principle, which was first introduced by F.R. Tennant. The significant difference of this principle to Paley and Aquinas’ ideas is that it doesn’t reject the scientific principles for existence, as Tennant said that the conditions for the development of human life were intrinsic to the Big Bang. The strong principle says that the reason and purpose of the universe is to support human life, supported by the way the conditions on earth are perfect in order for us to survive. For example, the atmosphere is 21% Oxygen which is near enough the exact amount that humans need. Consequently a greater being created the universe to support us, and the only being powerful enough to do so is God.

On the other hand, the weak anthropic principle doesn’t accept that life was inevitable from the beginning and instead suggests that it just happened to have occurred. Richard Swinburne developed this by suggesting that the creation of the universe came down to probabilities rather than chance. He recognised that the universe could have easily been chaotic, but the fact that it isn’t suggests some element of design. Tennant described this as the world being “compatible with a single throw of a dice”, and said that “common sense is not foolish in suspecting the dice is loaded.”

This explains how Swinburne and Tennant believed that it took an incredibly small singularity to create the cosmic explosion which created the universe, but the order and purpose is so beyond chance that there must have been a greater being behind it. This therefore shows how the anthropic principle is used to prove the existence of God. This principle has been supported by many other philosophers, including Fred Hoyle and Anthony Flew.

Comment on the claim that this argument totally fails to prove the existence of God

Charles Darwin used the idea of ‘Natural Selection’ to challenge the Design Argument. This is a theory that claims that the strongest and most adapted species survive and therefore species develop and evolve naturally through time. Darwin argued that the illusion of design is actually a result of natural and random process caused by Natural Selection, and not by God as the designer. Steve Jones described this process as “a series of successful mistakes”, which again doubts the involvement of God in the design of species.

Nevertheless, Christians could object to this disproving that the Design Argument proves the existence of God as the anthropic principle suggests that Natural Selection and Evolution are caused by God, as they are too unlikely to have occurred by chance.

As a result, one would argue that Darwin’s theory doesn’t hold up under its counter argument because Natural Selection can still occur with God being the designer of the universe.

Freud also questions the Design Argument’s success at proving the existence of God in his book ‘The Future of an Illusion’. In it, he describes religious faith as an illusion based on wishful thinking, arguing that religion exists because people fear living in a chaotic and unordered world. Therefore we project order on to the universe out of fear and so our minds are predisposed to see order. Freud uses this idea to dispute that the order and regularity of the universe is a result of design, thus questioning the existence of God overall.

One would say that Freud’s argument supports the claim that the Design Argument fails to prove God’s existence as it suggests that the universe is in fact not ordered perfectly as we perceive, and so God’s work as a designer is an illusion arisen from fear of chaos.

Additionally, the Epicurean Hypothesis disputes that the designer of the universe could be the God of classic theism by exploring the idea of evil and suffering. Epicuris says that if God is willing to prevent evil but isn’t able to then he can’t be omnipotent, and if he’s able but not willing then he can’t be benevolent. From this argument, he concluded that either God isn’t the God of classic theism or God isn’t the designer of the universe at all.

On the other hand, Christians could counter this by arguing that evil and suffering is a test from God as an opportunity to prove our faith to him. Therefore based on this, evil and suffering doesn’t disprove that God is the ultimate designer.

However, the argument still stands as if God was omniscient he wouldn’t need to test people as he would know whether or not they were faithful. Also permitting evil and suffering would still make him malevolent. Consequently one would say that the Epicurean Hypothesis still supports that the Design Argument fails to prove the existence of God.

Overall, despite the Design Argument’s in depth ideas such as the anthropic principle and design qua purpose and regularity, there are stronger scholarly arguments to support the claim that the Design Argument fails to prove the existence of God. Although the use of Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection can be cancelled out by its counter, Freud’s idea of illusion both successfully argues that the apparent design is created out of fear of chaos and not the result of a supremely powerful source, and the Epicurean Hypothesis argues that the God of classic theism can’t exist under the premise of evil and suffering. Therefore these ideas effectively support that the Design Argument doesn’t prove that God exists.


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  • University/College: University of Arkansas System

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 7 August 2016

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