Handout 5 - The Teleological Argument

Background:

Principle of Reasoning: An observation O supports hypothesis H1 more than it supports hypothesis H2 if the probability of O given H1 is greater than the probability of O given H2.

In other words: An observation O supports hypothesis H1 more than it supports hypothesis H2 if O is less surprising given H1 than it is given H2.

Another Principle: If O is more probable under H1 than it is under any competing hypothesis, then H1 is the best explanation for O.

The Form of Abductive Arguments:

1. The best explanation for the fact that P is that Q.
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2. Therefore, Q is true.

Paley's Teleological Argument:

The Observation About the Eye: it is very intricate and serves a complex purpose very well; it appears to be designed to serve just that purpose.

The Possible Explanations for this observation:

The Design Hypothesis: It was created by an intelligent designer.

The Chance Hypothesis: It was produced by a mindless chance process.

The Argument:

1. The best explanation for The Observation About the Eye is The Design Hypothesis.
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2. Therefore, The Design Hypothesis is true.
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3. Therefore, God exists.

Objection:

P1 is false because the Theory of Evolution provides at least as good an explanation of The Observation About the Eye as does The Design Hypothesis

The Fine-Tuning Argument:

The Observation About the Universe: “Only a vanishingly small proportion of the totality of possible universes are suitable abodes for life, and yet the actual cosmos is one of these very few.”

The Possible Explanations for this observation:

The Fine-Tuning Hypothesis: The universe was fine-tuned by a rational being to permit life.

The Chance Hypothesis: It’s just a fluke that the universe that became actual is one of the very few that permits life. There’s no real explanation for it.

The Argument:

1. The best explanation for The Observation About the Universe is The Fine-Tuning Hypothesis.
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2. Therefore, The Fine-Tuning Hypothesis is true.
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3. Therefore, God exists.

Objection:

P1 is false because the Multiple Universes Hypothesis provides at least as good an explanation of The Observation About the Universe as does The Fine-Tuning Hypothesis.

(for replies to this objection, see Collins)

Objection:

The Observation About the Universe is mistaken -- since there are infinitely many possible universes that permit life, the proportion of those that permit life is the same as those that don't.

(for a reply to this objection, see this email that I wrote to one our classmates)