Teleological Argument

Otherwise known as the “argument from design,” this has an analogical form, claiming that the purposiveness of the natural order requires the postulation of a designer, and that this designer is God. Probably originating in its modern form in William Derham's works, especially Physico-Theology (1713), the argument was popularized by rationalistic anti-Deists such as William Paley* and Joseph Butler.* It was effectively criticized by David Hume* in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779), on the grounds that the evidence of design is ambiguous and establishes at best only a finite designer or designers, not God. Despite this criticism, the argument figured largely in popular Protestant apologetics in the nineteenth century and was given further currency by, e.g., the Bridgewater Treatises (1833-40). The impact of Darwinian evolutionary theory upon Protestantism is largely to be accounted for by the fact that that theory seemed to many to provide an alternative, naturalistic explanation of design.