An argument for the existence of God. It suggests that the universe shows evidence of design, and design requires a designer, which they posit is God.

Oddly, the argument is internally self-inconsistent. If something such as humanity is so complex that it needs a designer, then obviously the thing that designed humanity, being more powerful, would be even more complex, and even more in need of a designer. If humanity is unlikely to just come into existence, wouldn't a god be even more unlikely to just exist?

One must remember, however, that even if the argument is shown to have flaws, and thus you find it unconvincing, it does not mean that the thing the argument tries to prove does not exist. (In otherwords, showing the argument from design to be flawed does not say anything about the existence of a god)

Stephen Hawking's counter to the argument from design, called the Weak Anthropic Principle, is very powerful, and also very true. Sure, things like fundamental constants of the universe, development of solar system, development of our planet (and moon), and development of ecology all must be very fine tuned for intelligent life to exist, but seeing as how we do in fact exist, how can it be any other way? Even though the correct configuration is so mind-bogglingly improbable, the need for an explanation is gone (even though there may be an explanation).


If any design can be found in something unnecessary for humans, then the need for an explanation arises yet again. I'm thinking of a non-vital species that has an improbability for evolution. (Although, if the Designer were only minimally trying to make intelligence, we cannot expect to see any such extraneosities.)

Probably the best (or at least a very popular) argument for God's existence is the Argument from Design, or Teleological Argument.

There have been a number of proponents of these arguments, from St. Thomas Aquinas, who argued for God's existence in his Summa Theologica to David Hume the noted empiricist and philosopher in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.

In summary, the argument (in its many forms) states that there is order in the universe, and because of this, the universe must have been designed. Therefore, God exists. This is a gross oversimplification, but it's pretty close to the mark. Atheists and philosophers have been dissecting and debunking these arguments for centuries.

As gitm mentioned above, the Argument from Design has historically been one of the most compelling elements of "proof" for the existence of God. This argument basically goes along the lines of "Look around at all the order, all the design in this world. How likely is it that all of this happened by chance?" Since it seems impossible for everything so purposed to have come into the world without purpose and without guidance, people assume that there must be a mind behind it all, designing everything.

Within this argument, the best proof we have of God's Existence is ourselves. We are the most complicated, extraordinary beings we know of--how in the world could we have happened by chance? Cells are arranged in tissues, tissues form things such as lips which are used for language, which is used to communicate. Veins and arteries run throughout the body, supplying blood which is at the perfect pressure, enriched by food that is digested in the stomach, etc. The level of complexity is mind boggling, and we aren't even looking at the brain! Okay, maybe forests could have developed on their own, but certainly not humans! We were the best proof that God existed; that is until Darwin came along. Once he provided a plausible way for humans to have developed without the aid of God, we no longer had our best proof for His existence. This is why Darwin's theory has been so controversial, and why so many people have spent so much time trying to refute it.

Once you have removed the most complicated piece of evidence from the Argument from Design, it becomes that much weaker, and our position from which to prove God becomes weaker as well.

This argument is a posteriori; it starts with the world and argues towards an undefined god. It is also known as the teleological argument, from the Greek 'telos', meaning 'end' or 'purpose'.

It comes in three basic forms:

  • comparing the world to a machine
  • the apparent existence of order in the world
  • the impossibility of the world having arisen via chance

It's not as much fun as the ontological argument, or as simply big as the cosmological argument.

The first part, world = like machine, was done by William Paley, among others, as mentioned above. He claimed that a person who saw a watch would know it had been designed, as all the parts fitted together to form a working whole. This would apply even to someone who had never seen a watch, or if the watch was malfunctioning. Likewise, the world is made up of functioning parts which form a working whole, and so has been designed (and made. This applies even though we have nothing with which to compare the world, and even though the world sometimes appears to be malfunctioning. Many other scholars advanced this idea, such as David Hume (although he actually disagreed with it) and A. E. Taylor.

The second part is somewhat similar, and can be seen as an elaboration on the first. As F. Tennant argued, the presence of things such as food chains, seasons and the laws of physics make the world seem ordered, meaning that a designer is probable. Tennant, however, argued that this apparent order is not proof in itself, and all parts of the design argument must be considered together even to make the existence of god probable.

Lastly, it has been argued that the world is too complicated simply to arise by chance. Pierre Le Comte Du Nouy was a physicist, not a theologian. However, he argued that the simplest molecule, that of protein, is far too complex to have arisen by chance. He did, however, think it was possible if one allowed for an anti-chance factor. Le Comte Du Nouy did not refer to this anti-chance factor as god, but it could be interpreted in that way.

The design argument has criticisms many and fatal, which deserve a node of their own.

There is one problem with looking at the world and seeing order, seeing perfection. One thing that philosophers realised a long time ago.

Human Beings are Not Logical, Unbiased, Analytical Machines

It is natural that we see order from a system, according to the opposing viewpoint, that of evolution, which created us! Of course everything in our environment, be it women, the weather, the food, everything suits us down to a tee, provided we have not just recently emigrated to a new environment. We have been breeding in that environment, with people that like living there and so have stayed there to breed. We were raised, our minds imprinted by our parents, people that liked living in that environment. The environment isn't all shaped to fit us. We're shaped to fit it! If we were born on another planet, the same person and soul, in a different body where the most attractive being was 12 foot high, purple and oozed, we would no doubt, look at it and say:

"There lies proof of God's Existence."

There doesn't really need to be any order. It feels right to us because our species grew up with it, and then so did we. Both sides can be changed, not just the environment. This is possibly the strangest assumption the human race makes, that we are somehow immutable, unchangable and so can be used as a efficient marker of the surroundings.

Summary: Environment did not change to suit you. You changed to suit environment.

Every half billion years or so (on our time frame) the creators of the universes get together and have a review of the life, intellect, souls, and whatnot that have been created in their respective universes for peer review. Below is the transcript of the meeting.

I call this peer review meeting of the creators into order. First on the agenda is a glance at universe #42 joint project of the interns Jehovah, Allah and Lord overseen by Gaia.

Your last report was quite disappointing having just started with unicellular life... and glancing at the time line you presented I see... three major extinctions?! So, what do you have to show now?

Well, sir, we've got humanity.
Hmm, seem fairly standard - biped, bilateral symmetry, two sexes... Many of the other creators had difficulty with this style before with equality issues. Have you done any work to address this?
Um, no sir, we haven't decided upon who best take the initiative on this. They've only had civilization for the past four thousand years or so.
(hushed whisper to Lord) I told you not to push them to sentience so early, but no you had to make that monolith... "so perfect" you said... 1x4x9 my ass!
(clears throat) Continuing on, biology... fairly standard, though you seem to have done very little with the mind. From these specs, the brain is only using a small fraction of its full potential.

Hmm... some sloppy craftsmanship here... this 'appendix' thing. Who was responsible for the digestive track?

That would be me, sir. I tried to clean up after it... There is this whole section about 'kosher' I handed down to them to keep it from having any problems. Apparently I forgot to take it out in the primate conversion.
I see. So, what you've got to show for me is this humanity? A bunch of hairless apes who think opposable thumbs and walking erect is the next best thing to sliced bread?
Um, sliced bread was my idea.

You've had 15 billion years, The first 10 billion years you just sat around and tinkered with dark matter. Now that you've finally created sentient life, the best you can show for it is humanity? Your creations have as much gall as you do - proclaiming themselves to be the best possible creation and evidence of intelligent design.

I've had better organisms produced in the biology 101 lab. I expected more from you... you are graduate students here at the Universal University. 15 billion years... and humanity.

But we convinced half of them that I did it in 7 days!
So either they're gullible or they have it right on the dot with how much time you have put into consideration for design. I herby dismiss the principle investigators on this universe and turn control over to Gaia to clean things up and get it running in proper order. I suggest that you three class clowns repeat several of your classes on this degree program - paticularly "Harmony" and "Unity". Frankly the best portrayal of you three that humanity has come up with is the Three Stooges!

Lord, you and I will be having a meeting sometime this millennium about this incident of... well, you know, Christ. I expected more of you - you weren't from that drunken fraternity of Greeks that produced more offspring in the continuum than any group of creators I've dealt with before.

You three are dismissed from this meeting.

Continuing on... who has the report on fluidic space?

(to other two) I told you we shouldn't have let that guy with pitchfork help us out... Yea, I know he left us apples for lunch that one day, but I'm certain he tinkered with humanity... I tell you... one day it will be war... an all out Armageddon. Then I'll get him...

In short, I doubt humanity is much to brag about, and a poor example if you're looking for an Argument from Design.

Here is a simple statement of the Argument From Design:

  1. Human artifacts display a number of characteristics -- they are law-goverened, purposeful, non-haphazard, and complex.
  2. The universe seems to be law-goverened, purposeful, non-haphazard, and complex.
  3. Human artifacts have makers and designers.
  4. There are no significant and reliant differences between the universe and human artifacts (Aside from size and complexity). This is often left out, but an argument from analogy will not work without this step.
  5. Therefore, the Universe has a intelligent designer.
  6. Therefore, there is God.

Here are the usual objections to The Argument From Design:

  • The argument claims that there is a strong resemblance between crafted objects and the universe. This may be true, but there are also significant differences. For example, a stone doesn't seem to be 'designed'. For an argument from analogy to work, you must show that there are enough similarities in the areas you can 'see' in order to justify assuming similarities in the areas you cannot 'see'. Seeing as there are both similarities and dissimilarities between a crafted object and the universe, why should we accept that all statements that apply to one will apply to the other?

  • It seems very strange to say that 'the universe must be crafted because it looks like it was crafted'. If the universe (that is, everything there is) was crafted, what do we have to compare it too? The word 'crafted' doesn't make much sense unless we have something 'not-crafted' to contrast it with. We must have a 'non-crafted' thing somewhere, or we would not bother to say that anything is crafted. Most people would say that the 'uncrafted' are things like rocks, rivers and planets. (You still might say that plants and animals do seem to be crafted, even if the rocks aren't).

  • Back to what Saige said -- If animals and plants seem to be designed because of their complexity, then surely God would seem to be designed -- E's even more complex. The argument from analogy must apply to him equally, unless you can give a relevant difference between him and other complex things. (And if you want to convince other people, you also have to give a reason for believing that this difference exists -- making stuff up ad hoc won't help).

  • Even if the universe was designed, that does not prove the existence of the JCI God. Zeus and his family could have done it -- in fact, an argument from analogy would suggest a race of designers, and not an individual. (One human raised in the absence of other humans couldn't design much of anything -- see Feral Children). Most of the biggest and best constructions made by us humans are based on generations of learning and honing skills. The history behind the ability to construct a complex artifact will consist of hundreds of years of trial and error, a multitude of failed attempts, and hundreds of different innovators contributing to the field. (Hume pointed out that there are flaws in the word, flaws of many different sorts; perhaps our world is only a prototype, and the 'gods' will do better next time...)

I am somewhat suspicious of r3ason's counter-argument. It seems to be a fact that the universe is ordered in certain ways, and a fact is a very good thing with which to support your theories. Perhaps what Stephen Hawking wants to point out is that this is an inductive argument, and therefore not a certain proof.

Argument from Design has long been under attack by another counterargument which I consider noteworthy.

I saw this in Brief History of Time by venerable Stephen Hawking. It goes something like this. Argument from Design occurs because we are part of this design. When I ask "Why is the Universe so well-ordered?", I can only ask this question being a part of an ordered Universe. If the Universe was not ordered, then naturally I would not exist let alone be able to ask this question or advocate Argument from Design. The order found in the Universe cannot therefore be considered evidence of anything, since this "evidence" is the only evidence that can be observed and is intrinsically biased.

I think this completely undermines what has been said in previous posts. Of course, Stephen Hawking is much better at explaining this.

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