Philosophy Notes > University Of Oxford Philosophy Notes > Philosophy of Religion Notes

Design Notes

This is a sample of our (approximately) 15 page long Design notes, which we sell as part of the Philosophy of Religion Notes collection, a 2.1 package written at University Of Oxford in 2016 that contains (approximately) 83 pages of notes across 5 different documents.

Learn more about our Philosophy of Religion Notes

The original file is a 'Word (Docx)' whilst this sample is a 'PDF' representation of said file. This means that the formatting here may have errors. The original document you'll receive on purchase should have more polished formatting.

Design Revision

The following is a plain text extract of the PDF sample above, taken from our Philosophy of Religion Notes. This text version has had its formatting removed so pay attention to its contents alone rather than its presentation. The version you download will have its original formatting intact and so will be much prettier to look at.

Philosophy of Religion J L Mackie : The Miracle of Theism
C H A P T E R 8 : A R G U M E N T S F O R D E S I G N
a) H u m e ' s D i a l o g u e s ­ E x p o s i t i o n
An argument from design to a designer would be trivial : It would not be proper to speak of design unless we are already assuming that there is a designer. The crucial steps are those that lead from certain evidence ­ marks of design to the conclusion that something is indeed the product of design.
This argument flourished in the 18th Century, when the progress of natural science was merely revealing richer evidence of the creative activity of God. But there version then current was devastatingly criticised by Hume in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. Even more damaging in practice was the demonstration by Darwin that one of the most impressive categories of apparent marks of design, the detailed structures of plan and animal bodies and their adaptation to conditions and a way of life, could be explained better by the theory of evolution through natural selection.
For Hume, in the mouth of Cleanthes ­ what could as marks of design are those features in which natural objects resemble machines made by men : The fitting together of parts and what can be seen as the adaptation of means to ends.
Cleanthes : Represents natural theology ­ relying on the argument for design, stressing its a posteriori and probabilistic character. He argues by analog in a common sense way, his conclusion is that there is a god who closely resembles human minds; and since he is inferring the attributes of this god from the world that he has designed, Cleanthes takes an optimistic view of the ordinary world in order to be able to infer to goodness of God from the goodness of creation.
Demea : An equally convinced theist, but he is a hardliner of a much grimmer sort. In so far as he engages in natural theology, he relies on a priori arguments, claiming that they give a certainty about God's existence that the design argument cannot give. But his real reliance is on faith ­ It is my opinion…that each man feels, in a manner, the truth of religion within his own breast'. This convention arises form the miseries and terror of life, from which we seek relief in religion. His view of the world is pessimistic in the extreme ­ but complacently pessimistic. Demea's god is not only infinite but also incomprehensible and his attributes in no way resemble human ones.
Philo : The sceptic allies himself for a while with Demea against Cleanthes, supporting Demea's mysticism only to bring out the scepticism latent within it. But he joins with Cleanthes in criticising Demea's use of the version of the cosmological argument.
Part of Hume's purpose is to bring out the constructing and inconsistent strains in religious thought which are represented by Cleanthes and Demea. Hume's own view is represented by Philo. The main theme of the Dialogues is the criticism of the argument for design. There are five points :

1. Is the analogy between natural order and artefacts close enough to make theism a good explanation of the former? There is a resulting vagueness of any conclusions drawn from that analogy.

2. Even if the answer to 1 is yes, various alternative hypothesis, by their availability, weaken the confirmation of the the theistic one. Order may be due to generation and vegetation.

Page 1 of 15

3. Even if the theistic hypothesis would be confirmed (despite 1 & 2) by its ability to explain the order in the world, its status as a satisfactory explanation is challenged by the fact that the divine mind which it postulates would itself be as much in need of explanation (being another case of order) as the order of the world.

4. Even if the theistic hypothesis were well confirmed (despite 1, 2 & 3) by the order in the world, the moral component in it is disproved or disconfirmed by the occurrence of evil, or is, at the very least, unsupported by a world in which there is evil as well as good.

5. Even if the theistic hypothesis survived 1, 2, 3, & 4, and was well confirmed, it would still be useless : We could not use it to argue back to otherwise unknown features of the world or of our own lives ­ for example, to predictions about the course of nature, to the answering of prayer, to the greater happiness of the pious and virtuous as opposed to the irreligious / wicked.
b) H u m e ' s D i a l o g u e s ­ D i s c u s s i o n Hume presents the argument from analogy ­ Houses / Watches are produced by human designers ­ the world is a bit like a house therefore, it is probably produced by something like a human designer. The initial analogy is remote.
Another approach is to take the argument as introducing a god simply as that which causes or explains or is responsible for the natural world. There is then no tentative / probabilistic inference ­ but rather a sheer assumption that there is something that fills this bill ­ since this entity is introduced / described only in relation to what it is assumed to produce, no new conclusions will follow from the claim that it exists.
The theistic hypothesis does not differentially explain scientific phenomena in the way that scientific theories do ­ it does not explain why we have these phenomena rather than others.
Hume's second point concerns the availability of explanations alternative to that of design. Some are too far fetched to be taken seriously ­ but perhaps Hume meant to suggest that the theistic account was no more worthy of being take seriously than some of its rivals such as the infinite spider.
Philo (Hume's spokesperson) says the analogy is weak at best. An inductive argument requires repeated experience of the phenomena­ but the cause (God) and effect (universe's creation) are unique, so no repeated experiences are possible. Nothing is gained by postulating a designer, for we would still need to ask how God sets the world in motion/being. There would be no grounds to show that God's infinite, perfect etc. In fact, given the evil and suffering in the world, God's goodness could certainly not be inferred. c) S w i n b u r n e ' s R e s t a t e m e n t
Swinburne abandons the 18th Century starting­points. In their place, he suggests two possible starting points : Spatial /
Temporal order.
­ Spatial Order : About the existence of things with certain complex structures ­ takes over and builds upon the results of the evolutionary theory of Darwin and his successors ; nature is thereby shown to be a machine­making machine. But the analogy with human products is still maintained, since men have learned to make machines /
machine­making machines. So we can still look for a creator, some­what analogous to men, who has made the machine­making machine of nature.
­ Swinburne admits this is not a strong argument ­ organisms are relatively rare in the universe, so that nature, he thinks, is not much of a machine­making machine.
­ Mackie does not know how Swinburne can be so sure about the paucity of organisms but regardless, the argument is weak as if it is meant to be an empirically based argument, then there is no support for the required premiss that, within our experience, machine­making machines are the products of design.

Page 2 of 15

The form of the teleological argument which Swinburne thinks is much stronger is based on the temporal order in the world ­ that is, the shower fact that there are regularities of succession ­ what we call laws of nature, whereas 'The universe much so naturally have been chaotic'. He successfully rebuts two objections, that there regularities are ones we invent and impose and that the regularity we see is not surprising because if there were no such regularity we should not be here to observe it.
­ Swinburne also, correctly, claims that although science may explain some regularities by deriving them from other, it cannot explain the highest­leave laws, since the are what it appeals to in any explanation.
­ Swinburne aims only at a confirmatory inductive argument ­ he need not say that this temporal order could not have occurred without a designer only that it is antecedently more probable that there should be such regalities on the hypothesis that there is a god than without this hypothesis, simply because the god of traditional theism might well prefer there to be an orderly world in which, as a bonus, finite intelligent creatures might life and learn.
Swinburne excludes the possibilities which Hume mentioned as an alternative to theism ­ the activity of a plurality of agents with finite powers. But Mackie does not see how he can do this. Even if the same laws hold throughout the universe, there is a plurality of laws which might be districted by a plurality of deities.
At this stage we are forced back into reliance on a priori judgments. Although we are using the empirical premiss that there is temporal order, that there are pervasive regularities, the use we are making of it depends on an a priori assumption about probabilities ­ the probability judgments themselves can no longer be based on experience. Since regularities are pervasive, we cannot derive a low probability for them from any rarity with which the brae found in the world.
­ It is not easy to see what a priori judgments we can make about this. it does not follow from the fact that fundamental regularities are necessarily unexplained, on a naturalist approach that they are, given that approach, highly improbable a priori.
This comment can be supported indirectly. Swinburne agrees with all reasonable people that we are justified in arguing inductivity. He relies on the cogency of inductive reasoning in his rebuttal of the second of the above­
mentioned objections. But such inductive extrapolate would not be reasonable if there were a strong presumption that the universe is really random, that such order as we seem to find in it is just the sort of local apparent regularity that we should expect to occur occasionally by pure chance, as in a series of random tosses of a coin.
Swinburne holds, and his argument requires that inductive extrapolation is reasonable, prior to and independently of any belief in a god.
­ Mackie argues that this would not be reasonable if there were a strong presumption that the universe is completely random. So he cannot consistently say that, without the theistic hypothesis, it is highly improbable a priori that there are any regularities ­ for the latter assertion of improbably is equivalent to saying that there is a strong presumption of randomness.
While Swinburne says that the universe could have been chaotic, it is hard to see how there could be things at all without their having some regular ways of working. No doubt there could have been less regularity and more sheer randomness than there seems to be ­ but there is no good reason to take one of these to be, in itself and a prior, more likely than the other.
Furthermore, it is one question whether the addition, to our background knowledge and beliefs, of the theistic hypothesis raises the probability of there being temporal orders compared with what the probability would have been otherwise ­ so that the hypothesis has its own antecedent likelihood raised by the fact that there is temporal order.

Page 3 of 15

­ It is another question whether the combined hypothesis that there is both temporal order and a god who produces it is more probable than the hypothesis that there is temporal order alone ­ that this is where explanation stops.
­ If we read enough into the notion of a god, then no doubt we can assure that the postulation of one raises, at least a little, the probability of there being temporal order, just as any suitably ad hoc hypothesis would.
Anything which is tailor­made to explain such order would raise the antecedent probability of their being order ­
for this falls short of certainty and so can be raised. But the resulting probability of the combined hypothesis will still be low if there are intrinsic improbabilities ­ either a priori or in relation to our background knowledge ­ in the theistic hypothesis itself. And such there are.
Contrary to what Swinburne says, the postulate of a divine mind, if given enough content to raise the probability of there being pervasive regalities, in particular if we assign to this mind the power to create a universe from nothing and to put into it and maintain it pervasive regularities by unmediated fulfilment of intention, is far from simple.
Mackie argues that the design argument cannot be revived.

Page 4 of 15

Philosophy of Religion R Swinburne : The Existence of God T E L E O L O G I C A L A R G U M E N T S
A design argument argues from some general pattern of order in the universe or provision for the needs of conscious beings to a God responsible for these phenomena.
Spatial Order : Regularities of co­presence ­ An example being a library arranged in alphabetical order.
Temporal Order : Regularities of succession ­ Simple patterns of behaviour, such as someone moving his legs in accordance with the standard movements of dance.
­ Both sorts of regularity are produced by humans. The universe is characterised by regularities of these sorts, not produced by humans.
­ Temporal : Regular succession of events, codified in laws of nature. The universe might so naturally have been chaotic but it is not.
­ Spatial : The arrangement of human bodies ­ we have limbs / liver / kidney ­ given the regularities of temporal order, our bodies are suitable vehicles to provide us with knowledge of the world and to execute purpose.
The Datum of Temporal Order
Swinburne argues that no argument from temporal order can be a good deductive argument. Although the premiss is undoubtedly correct ­ a vast pervasive order characterises the world ­ the step from the premiss to conclusion is not a valid deductive one.
­ The existence of order is compatible with the existence of a creator, it is also compatible with the non­existence of one.
As it cannot be a good deductive argument, Swinburne turns to the issue of whether the argument from the temporal order of the world to God is a good inductive argument. Since just the same kind of considerations apply to all other claims that some argument from an observable feature of the world to the existence of God is a valid deductive argument ­ he just assumes that no such argument is deductively valid.
Preliminary Objections :

1. Temporal order is just a human artefact ­ we impose it. It is a coincidence between how things are and the patterns we recognise.

1. The temporal order runs deeper ­ we explain our observations in terms of laws of nature involving a physical necessity in nature which determine how things behave. It is the operation of simple natural laws that this argument seeks to explain.

2. Nothing could be explained form the fact that we find an orderly universe ­ we could not find anything else.

1. There is a great deal more order in the world than is necessary for the existence of humans. The starting point is not that we perceive order rather than disorder, but that order rather than disorder is there.

Page 5 of 15

****************************End Of Sample*****************************

Buy the full version of these notes or essay plans and more in our Philosophy of Religion Notes.