Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Terminology Tuesday: Teleological Argument

Teleological Argument: An argument for the existence of God that takes as its starting point the purposive (teleological) character of the universe. The argument is often termed “the argument from design” and comes in many different versions. This argument was quite popular in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, but many atheists believe it has been discredited by Darwinism. Philosophers of religion such as Richard Swinburne, however, have developed versions of the argument that are compatible with Darwinism.1

1. C.Stephen Evans, Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), p. 113.


  1. bossmanham September 1, 2009

    Philosophers of religion such as Richard Swinburne, however, have developed versions of the argument that are compatible with Darwinism

    I don't really think it's necessary to do this. Macro evolution is not observable by any stretch of the imagination, so why do we need to cow-tow to it?

  2. Brian September 1, 2009

    I also don't agree with Darwinism.

    However, for those who accept the Darwinian paradigm, it can be shown that the design argument succeeds regardless of whether Darwinism were true or not. In addition, is can be shown that Darwinism (even if it were true) would also not necessarily be a defeater of Christian theism.

    That being said, I agree with you that it is not necessary to do this. But it could allow for Darwinism to be removed from the discussion of design.

  3. bossmanham September 3, 2009


    I see. I think it could be helpful in those instances then as well. I like how Dr. Craig puts it, even if they're right about evolution it would take a miracle for it to work as well.

  4. Jonathan West September 3, 2009

    What is it that you "don't agree with" about Darwinism?

    By the way, if you wander over to my blog, I think you might end up concluding that Swinburne's arguments aren't as solid as you might want them to be.


    Just out of curiosity, what books about evolution by scientists (Behe and Demski don't qualify) have you read? Or is your conclusion that it would take a miracle based only on the opinion of theologians?

  5. Brian September 3, 2009

    Hey there Jonathan, thanks for stopping by.

    I believe God created man, not that man evolved from non-living particles that eventually accidentally over millions and millions of years became living, cognizant, highly organized, thinking, feeling, emotive, personal beings.

    As for Swinburne's book, it is nice to see you reviewing it over there. I hope to have a bit of time to check it out. My review of it will be up on the blog here Saturday.

    Take care.

  6. Jonathan West September 3, 2009

    Hi Brian
    If you believe that, then there are essentially two routes you can take.

    One is to decide that you are going to believe it without evidence – in essence to take it on faith (faith being as described in Hebrews 11:1). If you are going to believe in God without evidence of the basis of faith, then discussions of the evidence aren't going to be very much use to you – they aren't important to your belief.

    The other route is to believe what the evidence tells you. if the evidence suggests God's existence to you, then that's fine – but just be sure that you are taking a look at all the evidence, and not merely those cherry-picked bits of evidence that reinforce your existing beliefs.

    If you want to understand what I mean by that, drop by my blog and take a look at an item I wrote back in June "The conflict between science and religion".

  7. bossmanham September 7, 2009


    And Behe and Demski don't qualify because you say so?

  8. Jonathan West September 7, 2009


    No, Behe and Demski don't qualify because they cherry-pick.

    If you want to understand the very basics of what real science is about without cherry-picking, you are welcome to come across to my blog and have a read of The conflict between science and religion

  9. MaryLou December 11, 2012

    Actually, I think the conflict is between the philosophical stance of naturalism and theism, not science and religion. It just happens that some scientists adopt the philosophy of naturalism and interpret all scientific data in light of it, thereby excluding any possibilty of the supernatural.

    However, there are many scientists, including a number of non-theists, who do not start with the presupposition of naturalism and, therefore, interpret the scientific data in a way that does not conflict with the idea of God at all.

  10. MaryLou December 11, 2012

    One additional thing — the Christian faith is not blind faith, but warranted faith based on evidence of a variety of kinds. See William Lane Craig, J. P. Moreland, Alvin Plantinga, etc. for detailed explanations of this.

  11. Anonymous December 11, 2012

    I agree with MaryLou here. Modern science ignores final causality, aka inherent teleology. Not because science has "disproved" Aristotle's final causes in nature, but because they were simply dropped on a metaphysical whim, and we have inherited that type of metaphysics without thinking. And final causes are not some sort of "hypothesis" designed to "explain the set of data."