William Paley and the Argument from Design

by Don Haflich

The argument from Design is an interesting beast to tame. There have been some who make that argument very appealing and, by way of persuasion, have made it the focal point of their argument for the existence of God. Few have crafted a Teleological argument as in-depth and creative as William Paley. His Watchmaker argument is still being discussed and debated centuries later. His volume Natural Theology exhibits this argument in full, and then some. Perhaps the whole title does more for the cause of explanation than does the shortened version; Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, Collected from the Appearances of Nature.

Those not familiar with this particular volume may be well versed in his Watchmaker argument. Paley contends that if one were to find a watch in nature, a designer would have to  be inferred because of the complexity which is exhibited in the watch. Not only is the complexity called into play here but alongside that, Paley places order, organization, function, relationship of the parts to the whole, and apparent features of the designed watch.

Paley’s argument is as follows:

  1. Human artifacts are products of intelligent design.
  2. The universe resembles human artifacts.
  3. Therefore, the universe is a product of intelligent design.
  4. But the universe is complex and gigantic in comparison to human artifacts.
  5. Therefore, there probably is a powerful and vastly intelligent designer who created the universe.

To be sure Paley does not rest his case based on a simple analogy but goes on to explain almost every function of the human body in relation to it’s design. He goes on to explain in great detail…

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