Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Teleological Arguments


Here’s an entry by Philip Quinn from the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy (1999). Note especially the second paragraph — the problem is not Hume but Darwin:

The starting point of teleological arguments is the phenomenon of goal-directedness in nature. Aquinas, e.g., begins with the claim that we see that things which lack intelligence act for an end so as to achieve the best result. Modern science has discredited this universal metaphysical teleology, but many biological systems do seem to display remarkable adaptations of means to ends. Thus as William Paley (1743-1805) insisted, the eye is adapted to seeing and its parts cooperate in complex ways to produce sight. This suggests an analogy between such biological systems and human artifacts, which are known to be products of intelligent design. Spelled out in mechanical terms, the analogy grounds the claim that the world as a whole is like a vast machine composed of many smaller machines. Machines are contrived by intelligent human designers. Since like effects have like causes, the world as a whole and many of its parts are therefore probably products of design by an intelligence resembling the human but greater in proportion to the magnitude of its effects. Because this form of the argument rests on an analogy, it is known as the analogical argument for the existence of God; it is also known as the design argument since it concludes the existence of an intelligent designer of the world.

Hume subjected the design argument to sustained criticism in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. If, as most scholars suppose, the character Philo speaks for Hume, Hume does not actually reject the argument. He does, however, think that it warrants only the very weak conclusion that the cause or causes of order in the universe probably bear some remote analogy to human intelligence. As this way of putting it indicates, the argument does not rule out polytheism, perhaps different minor deities designed lions and tigers. Moreover, the analogy with human artificers suggests that the designer or designers of the universe did not create it from nothing but merely imposed order on already existing matter. And on account of the mixture of good and evil in the universe, the argument does not show that the designer or designers are morally admirable enough to deserve obedience or worship. Since the time of Hume, the design argument has been further undermined by the emergence of Darwinian explanations of biological adaptations in terms of natural selection that give explanations of such adaptations in terms of intelligent design stiff competition.

Hi everyone. I'm sorry this post is off-topic, but it is my first and I just want to introduce myself. I have been following this blog for a little while (as well as the Intelligent Design movement in general) and finally decided to join and let my opinion be known on some of these subjects. I have to say that I find ID to be completely facinating. Although I still am unsure about the irreducible/specified complexity of the classic structures ID focuses on (e.g. the bacterial flagellum), I cannot shake the overwhelming feeling that there is, indeed, detectible intelligent causation at least somewhere in nature. One thing that really bothers me is the treatment ID is getting from the larger scientific community and the media. Last night I watched Real Time with Bill Maher and looked on furiously as Mahr launched into the most ignorant, bigoted, narrow-minded diatribe I have ever seen in my life directed squarely at ID. (Actually, what Mahr thought was an attack on ID was actually an attack on Judeo-Christian theism which is what Mahr REALLY despises.) I fully concur that ID is scientific. If ID were unscientific, then such disciplines as archaeology and forensics, and such projects as SETI would be completely bogus. What is under legitimate dispute is whether or not ID can be detected in nature. This is a completely fair question. Neo-Darwinists do not come close to having all the answers as they try so very hard to make us believe. There are many, MANY natural phenomena which scientists do not understand. With respect to ID, there are only two possibilities concerning these phenomena: either they are the product of intelligent causation, or they are not. It is perfectly legitimate (indeed scientifically necessary) to entertain the POSSIBILITY that these structures may have been designed. Science has done a fantastic job of explaining the natural world, and I strongly believe it will continue to do so. Many mistaken ideas have been corrected, and many phenomena which were once mistakenly believed to be the result of intelligent causation have now been shown to be nothing more than the result of blind material mechanisms, all thanks to science. But this does not necessarily mean that all phenomena can be explained as the result of blind material mechanisms. Indeed to assert this and to label the question of ID as supernatural creationism is nothing less than ideological facism! Church and State may be separated here in the United States, but there is no doubt that we have a state religion that is rigidly enforced by a scientistic police force! I want to offer my support and gratitude to you, Dr. Dembski, for all of your hard work. The scathing vitriol you endure is plain evidence of nothing less than a modern witch hunt. Just be thankful they can't burn you at the stake anymore :). David crandaddy
"If, as most scholars suppose, the character Philo speaks for Hume, Hume does not actually reject the argument." Too bad this isn't mentioned in your article in The History of Science and Religion in the Western Tradition, An Encyclopedia, 10. The Design Argument. Ben Z
I know we are off target with the "atheism is a religion" case [blame Dave Scot; I cannot help what I do in response to environmental stimuli--my actions were all determined 13.5 billion years ago]. Anyway, I have never paid attention to these cases, but I think some fun could be had with a lawsuit alleging that Darwinism is indeed a religion. Win or lose, wouldn't it be fun to watch the squirming? Maybe all those wealthy fundamentalist missionary right wing foundations that support President Bush and Discovery [as noted by the NY Times] would want to fund a suit just for the fun of it. Here are some quotes from the 7th circuit opinion. Without venturing too far into the realm of the philosophical, we have suggested in the past that when a person sincerely holds beliefs dealing with issues of “ultimate concern” that for her occupy a “place parallel to that filled by . . . God in traditionally religious persons,” those beliefs represent her religion. We have already indicated that atheism may be considered, in this specialized sense, a religion. The Supreme Court has recognized atheism as equivalent to a “religion” for purposes of the First Amendment on numerous occasions . . . . Thus, in Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488, it said that a state cannot “pass laws or impose requirements which aid all religions as against non-believers, and neither can [it] aid those religions based on a belief in the existence of God as against those religions founded on different beliefs.” Indeed, Torcaso specifically included “Secular Humanism” as an example of a religion. Atheism is, among other things, a school of thought that takes a position on religion, the existence and importance of a supreme being, and a code of ethics. JohnLiljegren
In case anyone wants to read the 7th Circuit case that Dave Scot just mentioned, you can get the opinion as a PDF file here: http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data2/circs/7th/041914p.pdf The case name is KAUFMAN v. MCCAUGHTRY, No. 041914p - 08/19/2005. If that PDF link does not work, go to this link that lists 7th circuit decisions in August: http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?navby=year&court=7th&YEAR2=2005&MONTH=8 JohnLiljegren
Off-topic but I thought it important. http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=45874 Federal appeals court rules atheism a religion. Not the first time it has happened but if it becomes de facto it's very important. This has always been my belief and when applied to establishment clause raises a really thorny paradox in the modern interpretation as prohibiting the mention of God, prayer, etc. in public buildings amounts to establishment of atheism. Atheists have traditionally been conflicted over this and have wanted to have their cake and eat it too i.e. wanting to be a religion for freedom clause purposes but non-religion for establishment clause purposes. That dichotomy and its success really bothers me. DaveScot
Dear Mr. Dembski, Thank you so much for your efforts of trying to bring a scintilla of decendy into academia. What you do is a great service to American society, and I hope more people like you and Dave Horowitz come forth. I believe that Darwinism has a devasating effect more on culture, society and politics than in sciences. Everything today eveolves. A rock band has to evolve, a fast-food chain and a political party evolve. Only the deceitful bulls*it of these despotic dictators never evolves... Hellrider

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