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Teleological Argument Notes

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This is an extract of our Teleological Argument Notes document, which we sell as part of our Philosophy of Religion Notes collection written by the top tier of University Of Oxford students.

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The teleological argument 'an argument from design' = 'one that 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'. Hume's criticisms

1. the analogy is remote, and thus weak - while we have experience of many different objects, some designed and some not, we have experience of only one universe, so we couldn't differentiate between a designed and a not-designed universe.

2. if a well-ordered universe requires explanation, so does the well-ordered mind of the designer The theistic hypothesis in question here is an unusual form of hypothesis for two reasons, at least: 1) it does not 'differentially' explain phenomena: it does not successfully show why a particular circumstance has arisen rather than another. 2) it does not 'tie up loose ends', or explain observable details exactly or precisely. Hypotheses and theories can often be used as 'frameworks' into which other ideas and theories might be constructed, asking 'how many specific phenomena can be successfully explained by more detailed particular hypotheses within this wider framework?' With the understanding of the theory of evolution, since natural organic life no longer necessarily needed to be put down to the hand of a designer. Evolutionary theory does not make the design argument less likely intrinsically, but removes the necessity for complex organic life to be explained by a simple choice between 'God' or 'chance'. Since the development of all organic life can now be fully accounted for, given the laws of physics, chemistry and biology and some astronomically coherent (but still perhaps fortuitous) starting conditions, the theistic hypothesis will have to look to sub-atomic order for evidence of God, or to attempt to explain the existence of these favourable starting conditions in terms of God.

Swinburne's 'analogy' argument The aim: to show there are no valid formal objections to the argument from design, if it is articulated with sufficient clarity (in particular, those in Hume's Dialogues). The argument from design moves from the regularities of things in the world to a very powerful nonembodied rational agent:
- very powerful: capable of creating the physical regularities underlying the universe
- non-embodied: not within space, since an agent's body marks the limits of what parts of the universe he can directly control. An agent who can control all of the universe is thus necessarily unembodied.
- rational agent: see Leftow - a 'purpose' explanation for the universe apparently entails a rational interest in human life, or similar. The design argument thus cannot, most basically, show that this rational non-embodied entity is the God of Abraham, or that he has any of the classical characteristics (save omnipotence, possibly. His omnibenevolence is arguably threatened by the design hypothesis). Swinburne simply aims to show that the argument to this rational agent does not commit any formal fallacy of argument in arguing, by analogy between the order of the world and human artistry to God as the architect of the former - although he allows the escape to remain of arguing that the analogy is weak, and thus the conclusion not fully supported.

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