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Teleology - Essay Example

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The teleological argument for the existence of God is an argument from Design, or Analogy, propounded mainly by St. Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century, and much later by William Paley. Simply put, the argument from Design states that the measured intricacy of the things in the universe and the order which they seem to follow can only be justified by a pre-conceived design, and by implication an intelligent entity capable of designing it…
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The teleological argument for the existence of God is an argument from Design, or Analogy, propounded mainly by St. Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century, and much later by William Paley. Simply put, the argument from Design states that the measured intricacy of the things in the universe and the order which they seem to follow can only be justified by a pre-conceived design, and by implication an intelligent entity capable of designing it. This entity is God.
By taking forward the argument through analogy, the Universe with all its movements is compared to a complicated watch with several parts skillfully put together for a particular purpose. In this case, God is akin to the watchmaker, the agency that literally made the Universe, part by part, with each part held together in defined relations with the others, and nothing left to chance or accident.
Some of the most powerful critiques of the teleological argument for the existence of God have come from the works of David Hume, widely considered one of the most significant exponents of philosophical naturalism ever to have written in English. Taking forward Darwin's famous naturalistic explanation of the nature of existence without the need of a Supreme Being, Hume calls into question whether the order and design in the Universe can be proven to exist without doubt, because in many cases order can happen without conscious design.
Order lies in eyes of the beholder, according to Hume, human beings impose apparent order on chaos while viewing it, for there is no credible empirical evidence for a higher purpose or design. As to the watchmaker analogy, Hume argues that we can make a statement about watches and watchmakers because we have experience of both. All legitimate concepts must be grounded in experience, and we have no sure knowledge of the Universe in its entirety, its creation or its creator, or indeed of any other Universe and thus cannot reliably carry on with the analogy with the watch and the watchmaker. Also, watches can be made by apprentices, committees and so on, and even in this respect the analogy is impossible to continue further, without admitting multiple creators.
Further, Hume argued that the objects the universe was being compared to were in many ways different from the things found in nature, a watch is a man-made, lifeless machine, and the universe, or definitely the part that we see around us is definitely not so. Even if we were to willfully suspend disbelief, and actually accept such analogies, according to Hume it only goes on to prove only known and perceived goodness and intelligence. But the world we live in is not perfect and if one follows the analogy to its logical conclusion, evil or suffering becomes the brainchild of a malicious or impotent creator, capricious at best or a committee of powerful entities with limited judgement. This does not go very well with the traditional concept of an omniscient, omnipotent and benevolent God.
Though Hume examined some of the most vulnerable facets of the design argument, the teleological argument still appeals to inductive and deductive reasoning, much in the way of the theories of Newton and Einstein, whose generalizations on the nature of matter have now been proven on a scale bigger than our Earth . Hume's conclusion on the teleological argument can be summed up as "the cause or causes of order in the universe probably bear some remote analogy to human intelligence" (Hume 1779 [1998], 88). But beyond that, the argument did not hold further significance for the famous philosopher in explaining the existence of God. Read More
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