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Design Argument

The design argument suggests that all things in nature are so well-put that a designer
must have been responsible for creation (Ayala 2008, p.3). This view argues that a divine being
must exist because of the order that exists in nature and that marks of design and intelligence
around the world cannot be a result of chance or the unguided or blind force of matter. However,
other arguments such as Darwinism and Philo (Hume) cast doubt on the design argument. Even
though Hume did not criticize Paley, because Paley’s arguments came after Hume’s, his ideas
are relevant to counter the design argument as suggested by Paley (Feinberg & Shafer-Landau
2013). I will argue that the intricate design of the world is indeed proof of existence of a higher
being. I will further explore the two criticisms against this view, as offered by Darwin and Philo.
On the former, I will explore the strengths of the design argument and why I believe it is
sufficient to explain God’s existence. On the latter, I will analyze the views of Darwin and Philo
and suggest why they are not sufficient to explain away the existence of God. Thus, I will
conclude that Paley’s design argument is quite persuasive in explaining the existence of a higher

Exegesis/ Exposition

Paley introduces his version of the design argument with an analogy of the universe to a
watch. He suggests that, looking at a watch, one can see that the different components have been
put together to for a purpose (Feinberg & Shafer-Landau 2013). For example, watches are
designed to produce motions that tell time and a glass cover is placed on top of the watch’s hands
to make it easier to see. Therefore, based on the extremely-thought out design, it is only logical
to conclude that the watch was made by somebody. He compares this to the universe as a whole

and claims that it also exhibits evidence of a master designer as well (Paley n.d., p. 56). The
different sections of the world have an innate simplicity and complexity at the same time, as well
as order and these elements bear a resemblance to a finely designed, properly-oiled machine
(Jantzen 2014). Paley challenges readers to observe the world and observe that it is one big
machine, split into millions of smaller machines whose functions can be difficult for the human
faculties and senses to trace and explain. Moreover, he notes that the smaller machines are linked
to each other with an accuracy that stuns those who have encountered them (De Cruz 2014, p.
150). Paley argues that, because the effects of these elements resemble each other, then so must
the causes as well, guided by the rules of analogy. Therefore, the creator of the universe
somewhat resembles the mind of man, even though He has much grader faculties going by the
intricate design of his creation (De Cruz & De Smedt 2010, p. 668). Paley finds the design
argument to be enough to conclude that there exists a higher being who bears similarity to the
human mind.
Additionally, the design argument is concerned with the purpose of things. Machines and
artefacts, such as watches, exhibit function or purpose. They manifest orderly and regular
behaviors that are intricate and complex in nature (Loesberg 2007, p. 99). Purpose is the
observable indication that an object or person was intelligently designed. Nature also
demonstrates purpose. For instance, the function of the heart is to pump blood to other parts of
the body. Therefore, it is valid for Paley to conclude that the universe was created by an
intelligent designer. Furthermore, since it is given that human beings did not design the universe,
it makes sense for Paley to infer that it was created by God. Paley continues to suggest that even
though one may not have seen a watch being made, or known a person who could design a
watch, it would not weaken the conclusion that the watch was indeed made by someone with

Design Argument 4
exquisite workmanship (Manson 2003). That we do not understand how the watch could have
been made or how it works, does not negate the fact that it was designed. Consequently, man’s
failure to understand how the world works or how it could have been created does not weaken
the belief that it was created by an infinitely intelligent being (Swinburne 2002, p. 50). Previous
experience is not required to validate the design argument because the evidence lies in the
different elements of the universe that are uniquely designed.

I agree with Paley’s argument because of all the order that seems to match up with the
universe. There is night and day, oceans, land and air, seasons such as winter and summer,
animals and human beings, among other elements that seem to balance each other out. I find it
difficult to assume that these elements exist by chance and believe that each was designed for a
purpose by a divine being. Furthermore, the universe is built in such a way that it supports life.
The earth’s distance from the sun is perfect for the existence of life. If the earth were any closer,
combustion would easily occur, and if it were further, plants would not be able to
photosynthesize which is how the sun’s energy is transformed to life on earth. As Isaac Newton
suggests, the beautiful system of comets, planets and the sun can only result from the dominion
and counsel of a powerful and intelligent being. The existence of the universe is in itself enough
argument that a higher power exists and created it.
To further explain why and how I approve of Paley’s design argument, I will analyze the
three elements of the claim. First, he suggests that most things in nature, such as eyes, are signs
of design (Jordan, Lockyer, Tate & Haisley 2004). I concur that things like eyes indicate design
because eyes enable human beings to see, a sense that is essential to survival. The heart pumps
blood to the rest of the body, plants provide food for animals and human beings, and animals in

Design Argument 5
the wild can hunt for prey. These qualities express an intention to make a universe that functions
on its own and demonstrates the marks of design. The second argument is that the things in
nature must have been designed by an intelligent designer or been a result of natural random
processes. Two major arguments exist in explaining the coming together of the universe. The
different components that make up the universe could have either been created purposefully or
resulted from random processes. Nonetheless, I cannot fathom that most of what exists in the
universe came about randomly or without thought. The different elements of the universe appear
to have purpose. For instance, trees attract rainfall, which encourages crop growth to feed people
and animals, as well as produce water for drinking and other functions. Most components of the
universe appear to be well-thought out, thereby indicating the work of an intelligent and divine
being. Lastly, Paley’s argument concludes that it is not possible for random processes to produce
items with the marks of design. This makes sense because most of the universe’s elements,
including the size of the earth, wind, air, sun, water, and many more, are marks of design, rather
than results of random natural processes.


The main critic to this argument is Philo, a character in Dialogues who represents the
view of Hume. Even though Hume’s criticisms were not directed to Paley, they are still
applicable. Philo observes that without prior experience, one cannot assign the reasons for any
one event, let alone that of the whole world (Hume n.d., p. 64; Greenberg 2008, p. 721). He
suggests that it is absurd for human beings to make conclusions about the creation of the
universe because they were never there. Paley, however, responds by suggesting that lack of
prior experience does not negate a conclusion. He argues that just because we have not seen the
artist at work does not mean he did not create the item in question (Anvur 2015, p. 264). The

Design Argument 6
Darwinian design also counters the design argument by suggesting that the function of a trait is
defined by the job performed by that trait towards survival or reproduction (Dembski & Ruse
2004; Kojonen 2013, p. 255). Therefore, the theory of natural selection suggested by Darwin
suggests that design can occur without a designer, if only to perform a specific function (Wells
2002, p. 684). Paley addresses this by suggesting that the distinct characteristics of an item often
require different explanations. If watches ‘bore’ other watches, then the efficient function of
every watch would become its parent (Manson 2003).

In conclusion, Paley’s design argument is sufficient to explain the existence of a Deity,
based on the complexity and intricacy of the universe’s design. Looking around the world, at
different aspects such as oceans, sky, wind, trees and so on, one is forced to think about the
beginning of things. Most of these things appear to be by design and serve a distinct purpose,
ascertaining that they were created by an intelligent designer. However, arguments by
philosophers such as Hume and Darwin present another line of thought. Darwin suggests that
design can exist without a designer while Hume claims that it is impossible to make conclusions
about the creation of the universe because no one has any actual experience of the event.
Nonetheless, Paley’s argument still holds water because it explains that the different parts of the
universe work well together because they were born of an intelligent designer who had a purpose
in mind for each element.

Design Argument 7


Anvur, Yuval 2015, ‘Excuses for Hume’s Skepticism’, Philosophy and Phenomenological
Research 92, 2, pp. 264-306.
Ayala, Francisco J 2008, ‘Science, evolution, and creationism’, PNAS 105 1, pp. 3-4.
De Cruz, Helen 2014, ‘The Enduring Appeal of Natural Theological Arguments’, Philosophy
Compass 9, 2, pp. 145-153.
De Cruz, Helen & De Smedt, Johan 2010, ‘Paley’s pod: The cognitive basis of the design
argument within natural theology’, Journal of Religion & Science 45, 3, pp. 665-684.
Dembski, William A. & Ruse, Michael 2004, Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA, New
York, Cambridge University Press.
Feinberg, Joel and Shafer-Landau, Russ (eds.) 2013. Reason and Responsibility: Readings in
Some Basic Problems of Philosophy, 15th Edition, Thomson, Wadsworth.
Hume, David (n.d). David Hume, Extracts from Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, R&R,
Greenberg, Sean 2008, ‘‘Naturalism’ and ‘Skepticism’ in Hume's Treatise of Human Nature’,
Philosophy Compass 3, 4, pp. 721-733.
Jantzen, Benjamin C 2014, An Introduction to Design Arguments, New York, Cambridge
University Press.
Jordan, Anne, Lockyer, Neil, Tate, Edwin & Haisley, Nicola 2004, Philosophy of religion : for A
level, for OCR, Cheltenham, Nelson Thornes.
Kojonen, Erkki Vesa Rope 2013, ‘Tensions in intelligent design’s critic of theistic evolutionism’,
Journal of Religion & Science 48, 2, pp. 251-273.

Design Argument 8
Loesberg, J 2007, ‘Kant, Hume, Darwin, and design: Why intelligent design wasn’t science
before Darwin and still isn’t’, The Philosophical Forum 38, 2, pp. 95-123.
Manson, Neil A 2003, God and Design: The Teleological Argument and Modern Science,
London, Routledge.
Paley, William (n.d.) An extract from Paley’s Natural Theology in R&R, pp.56-61, under the
title, The Argument from Design.
Swinburne, Richard 2002, ‘Arguments from Design’ Think 1, 1, pp. 49-54.
Wells, Kentwood D 2002, ‘Darwinism around the world’, Journal of Evolutionary Biology 15, 4,
pp. 683-685.


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