argument from design
"If there are any marks at all of special design in creation, one of the things most evidently
designed is that a large proportion of all animals should pass their existence in
tormenting and devouring other animals."
--John Stuart Mill
"I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly
with the express intention of their feeding within the living
bodies of Caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice."
The argument from design is one of the "proofs" for the existence of God. In its
this argument infers from the intelligent order and created beauty of
the universe that there is an intelligent Designer and Creator of the universe. The
argument has been criticized for begging the question:
the universe is
designed in order to prove that it is the work of a designer. The argument also
suppresses evidence: for all its beauty and grandeur, the universe is also full of,
well, to be delicate, let us say that the universe is also full of
. I suppose I
should be more specific, but I think the reader knows the kind of thing I mean:
babies born without brains, good people suffering monstrous tortures such as
neurofibromatosis, evil people basking in the sun and enjoying power, reputation,
etc. Volcanoes erupting, earthquakes rattling the planet, hurricanes and
tornadoes blindly wiping out thousands of lives a day. Is it unfair to call these
, what is blithely referred to by theists as
To say, as many defenders of Design do, that these nasties only
seem nasty to us but we are ignorant of God's plan and vision and cannot know
how good these nasties really are, is self-refuting. If we can't know what's good
and what's not, we can't know whether the design, if any, is good or bad.
One of the argument's more famous variations involves an analogy with a watch.
William Paley (1743-1805), the Archdeacon of Carlisle, writes in his
In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a
asked how the stone came to be there, I might possibly answer that for
anything I knew to the contrary it had lain there forever; nor would it,
perhaps, be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I
had found a
upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the
watch happened to be in that place, I should hardly think of the answer
which I had before given, that for anything I knew the watch might have
always been there.