The Argument From Design Fact, Fantasy Or Wishful Thinking?

4575 words - 19 pages

The Argument from Design - Fact, Fantasy or Wishful Thinking ?Tell me why the stars do shine,Tell me why the ivy twines,Tell me why the sky's so blue.Then I will tell you just why I love you.Because God made the stars to shine,Because God made the ivy twine,Because God made the sky so blue.Because God made you, that's why I love you.1Tell Me WhyIn Darwin's Dangerous Idea Daniel Dennett wistfully recalls this simple melody from his youth, but does not lament the demise of its literal meaning at the hands of the hero of his book. No thinking adult could still cling to the myth of the loving God who fashions each of us from earth and breathes life into us. There is no future in myths, no mat ...view middle of the document...

"We see that things which lack knowledge, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that they achieve their end, not fortuitously, but designedly. Now whatever lacks knowledge cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence...Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God."2This is the archetypal meaning of the Argument from Design. Unintelligent and unconscious things seem to act in purposeful and "intelligent" ways. They do things as if they are acting for a reason or end. But inanimate, unconscious beings cannot possibly be intelligent or have reasons and purposes. Therefore, some intelligent being guides these natural things to their end.The Evolution of an ArgumentAquinas' use of the Argument from Design was intended to explain the apparent purpose of natural bodies. However, during the Enlightenment modern science took off and began to throw light on the workings of the natural world. Where before we had intuitively invoked a Prime Mover to explain all motion; now Newton told us that motion itself did not require explanation (Law of Inertia), and that changes in motion were brought about by other natural bodies. Where before we had thought the Earth the stationary centre of the universe for anthropocentric reasons (we being the zenith of God's creation); now we found that not only did everything not revolve around us, but that counter to every intuition, the Earth rotated at an incredibly high speed. The new laws of physics displaced the role of God in the universe. The purposeful action of natural bodies did not seem to need God after all. Our previous intuition that only an intelligent, uncaused being could explain motion, action and order (non-random events) was wrong.However, there was another subtle angle of the Argument from Design available to be exploited, and it took centre stage during the 18th century. Perhaps the action of planetary bodies and physical bodies (think billiard balls!) could be explained without God, but what about the sheer complexity and magnificent design of Nature's creations - especially living things. Science had brought both technology and great interest to the study of nature. And the more we studied, the more intricate, complex and ordered it looked.In Search of a WatchmakerThere were two seminal figures in the new 18th century version of the Argument from Design : David Hume and the theologian William Paley. Paley's formulation in his treatise Natural Theology was published after Hume's, but is better known. In it he asks the reader to imagine crossing a heath and pitching one's foot against a stone. If one were asked how the stone came to be there it would not be absurd to suggest it had lain there forever. But suppose you had found a watch on ...


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