Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Paley’s Teleological Argument - Higher Philosophy

Paley’s Teleological Argument

Suppose I found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place, I should hardly think … that, for anything I knew, the watch might have always been there. Yet why should not this answer serve for the watch as well as for a stone that happened to be lying on the ground?… For this reason, and for no other; viz., that, if the different parts had been differently shaped from what they are, if a different size from what they are, or placed after any other manner, or in any order than that in which they are placed, either no motion at all would have been carried on in the machine, or none which would have answered the use that is now served by it.

(William Paley, Natural Theology, 1802)

Paley first of all establishes his three main points, Complexity, Design, and Purpose, through the watch analogy. This is an inductive argument that uses a posteriori knowledge to prove its conclusion; note below how Paley is working from something that is singular to something that is wider. He is, however, trying to be deductive as you can see that his conclusion does indeed follow on from the premises. His first argument, similar to the initial premises in the cosmological argument, is to persuade you to agree with him so that the subsequent argument will be just as convincing. Remember that inductive arguments can be both cogent (convincing) and strong (probable).

Argument 1 – The Watch Analogy

P1     A watch is a complex object. 
P2     A watch has a specific purpose.
P3     Objects that are complex and have a purpose require a design.
P4     Design necessitates an intelligent designer.
C      All things that are complex and have a purpose necessitate an intelligent designer.

Argument 2 – The Teleological Argument

P1     The universe is complex and has a purpose.
P2     All things that are complex and have a purpose necessitate an intelligent designer.
P3     The only being capable of creating a complex and purposeful universe is God.
C      God Exists

Support 1 – Convincing

Like the Cosmological Argument the Teleological Argument can seem convincing. In recent years the argument has been re-packaged as Intelligent Design and is gaining some polarity in American academia.

Support 2 – The Anthropic Principle

The anthropic principle notes that the universe appears to be designed to support life. If we consider the place of Earth in the solar system, the distance from the Sun, the elements found on our world, and the fact that if we removed even the slightest of these then life as we know it will end, we are forced to agree that life in indeed complex. The anthropic principle puts forward that if life is indeed complex then it is too complex to have happened by chance, suggesting a creator.

Objection 1 – Weak Analogy

Hume noted that you cannot compare a watch to a human and then a human to the universe to infer a creator. The two are too dissimilar for a strong analogy.

If we see a house, we conclude, with the greatest certainty, that it had an architect or builder. But surely you will not affirm that the universe bears such a resemblance to a house that we can with the same certainty infer a similar cause, or that the analogy is here entire and perfect.

(Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, 1779)

Objection 2 – Evolution

The complexity and purpose of life can be shown to have evolved over millions of years in response to selective pressures, random genetic mutation, and natural selection. This removes the need for a designer God creating one specific life form.

Objection 3 – Many Designers

If we ignore the first exception and assume that the analogy is in fact appropriate we are still faced with the problem of how Paley introduces God. Consider P3 in the second argument “The only being capable of creating a complex and purposeful universe is God” – Paley does not show this through his argument (although he does ‘hint’ at it). How to we know there was one God? Remember that Paley was a Christian minister; therefore, like Anselm and Aquinas they have a natural bias in the argument.

A great number of men join in building a house or ship, in rearing a city, in framing a commonwealth; why may not several deities combine in contriving and framing a world?
(Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, 1779)

Objection 4 – The Complexity of God

We can turn Paley’s argument against the God he was trying to actually prove. This is the Schoolboy Fallacy similar to the cosmological argument. If God is complex, which given His suppose abilities we can infer, then He too would require a designer. So, if God designed us, who designed God?

No comments:

Post a Comment