Recent versions of the Design Argument So far we have considered the classical arguments of Aquinas and Paley. However, the design argument has attracted many philosophers and theologians and we need to be aware of some of the more recent contributions.
Recent contributors • F R Tennant • The Anthropic Principle • The Aesthetic Principle • Richard Swinburne • The argument from Probability
Anthropic Principle • Developed by F R Tennant in his book Philosophical Theology (1930). • Argument claims that the universe has been designed for the ultimate purpose of producing and sustaining intelligent life: providential. • This argument takes the view that “random chance” is not a sufficient or realistic explanation for the way the universe is fine tuned to produce human life.
Anthropic Principle Can you think of any examples of this? • The Big Bang • The strength of the Big Bang was just enough to create the conditions for the galaxies to form and life on earth to develop. Had the strength of the Big Bang been slightly bigger or slightly weaker, then the galaxies would not have been formed and the earth would not have developed. Had there been even a slight variance in the basic elements emerging from the Big Bang we would not be here today.
Anthropic Principle • How do you feel about the Anthropic Principle at this point? • Do you agree or disagree with the idea that because certain conditions had to be present for human life to develop, that this could only occur if it had been planned?
Anthropic Principle • Tennant believed that there were three types of natural evidence in the world that suggested the existence of a designer God: • The fact that the world can be analysed in a rational way (in other words, intelligent being can detect the workings of an intelligent mind). • The way in which the inorganic world has provided the basic necessities required to sustain life (e.g. trees producing oxygen). • The progress of evolution towards the emergence of intelligent human life (evolution is seen as God’s way of creating intelligent human life).
Anthropic Principle Summary • Tennant argued that it would be possible to imagine a chaotic universe where no rules or laws applied. • However, the universe is not chaotic. • The evidence suggests that the universe is a result of careful design, planned in such a way that would allow for the evolutionary process to occur and create an environment in which intelligent life could exist. • According to Tennant, human life is the culmination of God’s plan.
Who else might be able to contribute to this discussion? • Polkinghorne • Argued that the unlikelihood of human life being the result of blind chance gives no rise to “considerations which theism provides a persuasive answer”. • What do you think this means? • He is not saying that the way in which the universe has produced human life proves that there is a designer God but he is saying that this would be a rational and credible conclusion to draw. • This is very similar to Swinburne’s argument from probability which we will deal with shortly.
Aesthetic Argument • An argument also develop by F R Tennant to prove the existence of God. • The aesthetic argument was developed in response to the challenge that evolutionary theory presented to Christian ideas about creation. • Evolutionary theory argued that the creatures in the world were as they were, not because they had been designed that way, but because, through natural selection, they had adapted to the demands of their environment.
Aesthetic Argument • Tennant’s aesthetic argument claimed that humans possess an ability t appreciate the beauty of their surroundings – for example, they can enjoy art, music, literature and culture. • This appreciation of beauty – the ‘aesthetic sense’ of humans – is not necessary for the survival or development of human life and so cannot be a result of natural selection. • The aesthetic sense of humans therefore provides evidence of a divine creator.
Aesthetic Argument How do you feel about the Aesthetic Argument at this point?
Anthropic Principle and the Aesthetic Argument Make a note of any possible criticisms you can make of Tennant’s arguments.
Argument from Probability How do you think the argument from probability will use the design argument to prove God’s existence? • Developed by Richard Swinburne in his book The Existence of God (1979). • Put forwards a version of the design argument that is based on probability • Observed that the order in the universe and the way that it provides the conditions necessary for life and concludes that an intelligent designer is the best, or most probable, explanation that we have.
Argument from Probability Key Points of Swinburne’s argument: • There is universal orderliness in the universe. All the bodies in the universe conform to the same, simple scientific laws. • The existence of this orderliness and uniform natural laws has provided the conditions necessary for human life to develop. • Furthermore, this is a providential world; one which contains everything necessary for human survival, and one in which humans can meaningfully contribute to its development and maintenance, within the limitations of its naturals laws
Argument from Probability Key Points of Swinburne’s argument continued…: • The universe could just as easily have been chaotic. The fact that it is not suggests that it was designed for the purpose of human life to develop – it did not just occur by random chance. • An intelligently designed universe cannot be proved, but it is more probable that the natural laws were designed than that they happened by chance. • Since there is design, God is the simplest explanation for the universe (Ockham’s Razor). • Belief in God makes better sense of all the evidence that we have available than any other alternative. Whilst a purposeful designer cannot be proved to exist, it is more plausible and satisfactory explanation than not.
Argument from Probability What, if anything is wrong with Swinburne’s argument.