Challenges to the argument

teleological argument – Page 4


Paley wrote his design argument 26 years after the death of Hume. Therefore Hume never read Paley’s work, but Paley’s argument from analogy was not original. In his book ‘Dialogues Concerning Natural religion’ Hume argued against the form of the design argument that Paley later popularized

  • Humans do not have enough knowledge to know if the world is designed or not.
  • Our world is more organic than mechanical so would be better compared to a carrot than a watch.
  • Similar effects do not necessarily imply similar causes.
  • The existence of unpleasant features of nature suggests that God is not just and good.
  • The analogy makes God more human than divine - if God is to be compared with a human designer then it limits him.
  • The presence of order could be explained in many ways without reference to God.
  • Unless the universe was an orderly place, people would not be around to comment on its existence.
  • The universe could have come about by chance (e.g. Epicurean hypothesis).
  • There could be many creators – a committee of gods.

John Stuart Mill

  • Nature is guilty of serious crimes for which she goes unpunished.
  • Nature is red in tooth and claw.
  • The work of nature as destructive and random suggests that it could not result from an intelligent designer who was a benevolent and moral God.
  • At best there is a God who cannot subdue evil but created beings capable of carrying on the fight with vigour and with progressively increasing success.

Natural Selection

  • Natural selection gives the appearance of design – but it is blind, unconscious and an automatic process.
  • The universe is purely mechanistic, driven by biological impulses.
  • Evolution is carried on through random mutations in the genetic make-up of living creatures.
  • This lead to a mistaken belief that there was a designer.
  • The world is not designed.