The Teleological Argument

The Teleological Argument or the Argument to Design is another argument attempting proof of God’s existence based upon the premise that the universe is designed, and therefore needs a designer:  God.  The argument has also been called Intelligent Design (ID) by the newer generation of Christian apologists.

The beginning ideas of a argument for design began around 400- 300 b.c. with thinkers like Socrates and Aristotle.  The first Teleological arguments had its classical Christian roots back in the 3rd and 4th century with Thomas Aquinas in his greatest work Summa Theologica.

In the early 19th century William Paley illustrated a watch maker analogy that is still used today as an example.  A summary of his analogy is as follows: Think about the complexity of a pocket watch.  All the tiny gears, and parts that are inside it that are perfectly sized and fit together to form a watch that tells time accurately.  It is a complex machine that was designed by a designer.  Would you imagine placing all the individual parts to the pocket watch in a bag and shaking them up randomly and then one day as you are shaking them up they fall into place and fit together to form a perfectly working pocket watch.

Any time you see specified complexity and intelligibility in the physical word you automatically assume a designer was behind it.  While it is of course possible, over a billions of years that after shaking a bag full of watch parts that they could fall into place and form a perfectly working pocket watch, your first instinct would be that someone designed it to be that way.   Apologist Ravi Zacharias uses the following illustration:  Imagine you go into space and visit a planet that you have never been to before.  Upon arrival you see a note on the planet that says “Hello John.  I’ve been waiting for you, what took you so long?”  You would never in a million years assume that letter appeared by random chance.

Over the last half century the Teleological Argument has been often misrepresented by some theists with examples that have not stood the advancement of science.  This comes from assumptions from theists that try to explain unanswered scientific questions in biology.  Those of us who hold a theistic worldview need to be careful when we try to say that something cannot be explained any more, and therefore God must have designed it.  Advancements on science can make theists look ignorant or weaken the Teleological Argument.

For example Darwin was intrigued by the complexity of the human eye.  After studying the eye, Darwin saw no way that the eye could have evolved given the fact that in order for the eye to function properly it would need all the separate parts (pupal, retina, lens, optic nerve, etc. ) working together.  In other words, why would the eye start to evolve if there was no benefit of sight yet.  Christians were quick to jump on this type of example and say that the irreducible complexity of the eye, among other examples, was proof that God was the only was possible designer of these complex systems.   Recent scientific discoveries have given us answers that we thought were not answerable.   I will revisit the subject of irreducible complexity in a separate post and  go into more details.

There are however, better areas to use the Teleological argument in besides biology.  They are much more solid in the defense of a intelligent designer.  We will look at the Teleological Argument within the universe,  within  DNA, and within the laws of the universe  in sub-sequential posts over the next few posts.

As always, questions, comments, and discussions are welcome.

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