Teleological argument  

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A teleological or physico-theological argument, also known as an argument from design, is an argument for the existence of God based on the fact that the orderliness of nature is evidence of design, therefore also of a designer.

The earliest version of this argument probably arose in Ancient Greece with Socrates. Plato, his student, and Aristotle, Plato's student, developed differing and complex approaches to the problem, but later classical philosophers such as Plotinus and the Stoics carried on this tradition and developed versions which were eventually accepted into and used by the Abrahamic religions. In the Middle Ages, Islamic theologians such as Al Ghazali used arguments from design, although this approach was rejected as unnecessary by Quranic literalists, and as unconvincing by many Islamic philosophers. Later, a teleological argument is the fifth of Saint Thomas Aquinas' Five Ways, his rational proofs for the existence of God. It appeared as natural theology in England from the sixteenth century onwards in the writings of clergymen such as William Turner and John Ray. They often used the watchmaker analogy in making the argument. In the early 18th century, William Derham published his Physico-Theology, which gave his "demonstration of the being and attributes of God from his works of creation". Later, William Paley, in his 1802 work on natural theology, published a prominent presentation of the design argument with his version of the watchmaker analogy and the first use of the phrase "argument from design". Since the 1960s, the language of Paley's version has featured prominently in creation science with the claim that this was a scientific alternative to evolutionary theory.

There have been numerous criticisms of the different versions of the teleological argument. Especially important were the general logical arguments made by David Hume in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, published 1779, and the explanation of biological complexity given in Charles Darwin's Origin of Species, published in 1859. Teleology is today central to the creationist religious concepts of creation science and intelligent design, which are presented with the claim that these are alternative scientific explanations in opposition to evolution.


While the concept of an intelligence in the natural order goes back at least to the beginnings of philosophy and science, the concept of a designer of the natural world, or a creating intelligence which has human-like purposes, appears to have begun with classical philosophy. Religious thinkers in Judaism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Islam and Christianity also developed versions of the teleological argument. Later, variants on the argument from design were produced in Western philosophy and by Christian fundamentalism.

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