“William Paley presents the most effective form of the design argument.” Assess the statement. (40 marks)

The 18th century, English philosopher William Paley is best known for the teleological a posteriori argument for how the world came to be what it is today. (Telos= end of purpose) He proposed that things in our world work to well to have happened by chance and subsequently their must have been a creator or designer, for Paley this creator is God. With both scientific and philosophical approaches to agreeing and disagreeing with this theory such scholars such as Thomas Aquinas, Isaac Newton, David Hume, Richard Dawkins and Charles Darwin have all added arguments discrediting and in support of this theory. Ultimately while the design argument is not perfect it is the most effective of all of the arguments for the existence of God.

Paley postulated that the world had to have a designer due to the many intricate parts and it working to well to have happened by coincidence. He stated, that if you were to see a stone on the ground you might consider it to be an accident but the same cannot be said for a watch. The watch analogy shows that logically we can tell, regardless of any prior knowledge that the watch must have had a designer as it has several parts put together for a purpose, made with appropriate material which together produce regulated motion. If they had had been put together any differently such motion would not have been produced. It is illogical to claim that, the watch has always been there or that the parts came together by chance and so rationally it must have been designed/made. In this analogy Paley uses the watch to represent the world and the watch maker to represent God.
Looking at this argument it appears perfectly reasonable and indisputable as it is said that or world does work to well to have happened by coincidence with things such as solar systems, food chains and the concept of day and night, with animals especially well adapted to come out at night for example when there are fewer threats in form of predators. However, some such as Richard Dawkins, an outspoken atheist and religious critic would say that the world does not work well in his ‘flawed design’ argument. He found imperfections in the ‘design’ of the giraffe due to the unneeded exaggerated route of the enlarged laryngeal nerve. Dawkins argues that this couldn’t have been designed as any apparent ‘great designer’ would have corrected such a mistake. This taken into consideration it assumes that God intended the world to be perfect and nowhere in Paley’s argument does he claim this. In fact his watch analogy implies that things
could go wrong. Manufactured products often have faults no matter how well they are designed, the same can be applied to the world. Alternatively it could potentially be argued that God created or ‘designed’ the world and then stepped back, allowing evolution and other factors to change his creation, possibly leading to some faults. This speculation allows for faults and problems in the world, going against Darwin’s argument.

Although it was Paley that developed the idea of a teleological design argument it originated from the 13th century philosopher Saint Thomas Aquinas. He had 5 proofs for God’s existence. (The arguments from motion, causation, contingency, degrees, and the teleological argument, his 5th and arguably most effective argument due to it being based on empirical evidence) Aquinas is consequently in support of William Paley’s form of the design argument. While not widely liked at his time, the saint who relied heavily on both religion and science, faith and reason claiming that ‘the world can be explained through reason not just faith’ provides a qua purpose beneficial order analogy of the archer that supports Paley’s argument clearly (Provided the base for it) in showing
that God had an aim/goal for nature. Furthermore It fits well within human reason, with Paley using the analogy of the human eye (qua purpose) removing the issue that the watch had been of human creation and hence anthropomising God.

Someone who is against Paley’s, not believing that it is the most effective of the design arguments is the 18th century Scottish philosopher David Hume. An empiricist and atheist who argued against the design argument by claiming that we don’t need to have a reason for the world and that the argument implies ‘a’ designer-one God, when in reality a manufactured item is far more likely to have several than just one. Paley’s argument is flawed within itself because it disregards this possibility.

In conclusion, although both David Hume Richard Dawkins make valid criticisms they are looking at it in such detail that it is inevitable to find flaws, while not perfect Paley’s design argument is the best form available to us at this time. It uses inductive a posteriori reasoning that is universal and does not rely on fixed definitions such as arguments like the ontological argument. It fits well within human reason, removing the issue that the watch had been of human creation and subsequently anthropomising God. Paley makes his argument comprehensible to us and when considering the other proofs of Gods existence (cosmological, ontological act) it reinforces the probability of his existence far more strongly, highlighting it as the most effective from of
argument.

Author – Year 12 Student – CM

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