argument from/to design

argument from/to design
   The argument to or from design is one of the most popular arguments used by Christian philosophers to justify their belief in God or to persuade others of it. Although it dates back to Plato (and the pre-Socratics) the first Christian use of it that had lasting impact was Thomas Aquinas' deployment of it as the fifth of his five ways. Another very well-known form is that given in 1802 by William Paley, who drew the famous analogy between finding a watch on the heath and inferring a watch-designer on the one hand and finding order in nature and inferring a designer of nature on the other hand. Many sceptical philosophers of the analytical school think, however, that this argument was decisively rebutted by Hume in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, published twenty-three years earlier. One not so convinced is Richard Swinburne, who, in his The Existence of God, propounded a rigorous inductive version of the argument, a version that was also compatible with the truth of evolutionary theory. Swinburne also put forward 'the fine-tuning argument', which claims that the universe is finely tuned for life: had the universe expanded just a tiny bit faster or slower there would have been no life as we know it. Swinburne argued that this cannot plausibly be described as a lucky break and therefore one must postulate a powerful and supernatural designer. The intelligent-design movement, associated with Michael Behe and William Dembski, argues that there are instances of irreducible complexity in nature (the knee joint is one oft-cited example) that cannot have evolved by chance and therefore also bespeak a designer. Doubts remain, however, even within the Christian community, over the strength of these arguments, in particular over whether they can be used to argue for the existence of God rather than merely that of some designer or other.
   Further reading: Paley 1819; Swinburne 2004

Christian Philosophy . . 2015.

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