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Nature of Religious Experience


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Title: Nature of Religious Experience

The Classical Design Argument
Inferring Gods Existence from Design Features
of the Universe
Arguments for Gods Existence
The project of developing arguments for Gods
existence is typically designated natural
theology. Theology discourse about
God Natural a mode of discourse that engages
the natural order, including both the human
intellect and the physical cosmos. Hence,
natural theology typically stands in contrast to
revealed theology, discourse about God that
proceeds from an analysis of the teachings of
sacred scripture as a purported special kind of
revelation from God.
Origins in Western Philosophy
Natural theology originated among Pre-Socratic
philosophers in the 6th century BCE in their
effort to understand plurality and change as
fundamental features of the cosmos. The most
elaborate arguments are found in Aristotles
Physics and Metaphysics.
Natural theology was appropriated by the Jewish
and Christian religious traditions beginning
around the 3rd century CE and subsequently also
by Islam shortly after its emergence in the 7th
century. Arguments for Gods existence were
widely discussed throughout the medieval period,
roughly from the time of St. Augustine (4th-5th
century) to the beginnings of the European
Renaissance in the 14th century.
In the modern period, natural theology has been
endorsed by the Catholic Christian tradition and
many streams of Protestant Christianity. It has
also been the subject of enduring philosophical
exploration, as is reflected in the works of the
great modern philosophers, e.g., Descartes,
Leibniz, Hume, and Kant. Kants critique of
natural theology in the 18th century and the rise
of Darwinism in the 19th century generated
significant skepticism about natural theology
that continued until natural theology re-emerged
in the middle of the 20th century as the result
of developments in both philosophy and the
science, especially cosmology.
The Classical Design Argument
If, therefore, the products of nature are better
than those of the crafts and if the crafts do
nothing without the use of reason, then nature
too cannot be held to be devoid of reason. When
you look at a statue or a painting, you know that
craftsmanship was applied. . .when you gaze on a
sundial or a waterclock, you understand that the
time is told as a result of craft and not the
result of chance. So what sense does it make to
think that the cosmos, which contains these very
crafts and their craftsmen and all else besides,
is devoid of deliberative ability and reason?
(Cicero, De Natura Deorum, 2.87)
  • The Stoic Argument
  • Whatever is ordered is intelligible.
  • Whatever is intelligible is a mind or the work of
  • So
  • (3) Whatever is ordered is a mind or the work of
  • (4) The cosmos is ordered.
  • So
  • (5) The cosmos is mind or the work of

The Design Argument
John Ray (1628-1705)
William Derham (1657-1735)
William Paley (1743-1805)
The Watchmaker
A watch is an intricate and complex system
well-suited to the task of measuring time.
We regard the watch as the product of some
intelligent being on account of its complexity
and functionality.
Living organisms are intricate and complex
systems well suited to the tasks of reproduction
and survival.
We should conclude that all living organisms
originate from some intelligent being.
The Analogical Structure of the Classical Design
The natural world has been designed by some
The natural world exhibits complexity and
Similarity between objects of human contrivance
and the natural world.
Objects of human contrivance exhibit complexity
and purpose.
Objects of human contrivance have been designed
by some intelligence.
Philosophical Objections to Natural Theology
In his famous Dialogues on Natural Religion,
David Hume launched what is arguably the first
systematic attack on both the design argument and
natural theology in general. Cleanthes the
advocate of the Paley-style design argument Demea
an advocate of an alternate methodology, the
cosmological argument, which seeks to prove Gods
existence the fact of the universes existence,
rather than its design features. Philo the
skeptic (more or less Humes own voice in the
David Hume (1711-1776)
Philos Criticisms of the Design Argument
  • Objection 1 the Argument is a Weak Analogical
  • The design argument is an analogical argument and
    thus requires a degree of similarity between
    human artifacts and the universe which we are
    not warranted in assuming.

Cleanthess Basic Argument (C1) Houses are the
product of intelligent design. Therefore, it is
likely that (C2) The Universe is the product of
intelligent design.
Philos Formulation of Analogical Arguments (1)
Object A has some property P. (2) Object A and
object B are overall similar to some degree
N. Therefore (3) Object B has property P. Philo
argues that the likelihood of (3) is directly
proportional to the value assigned to N. The
greater the similarity between A and B, the
greater the likelihood that B has property P
based on the fact that A has property P.
Hence, Cleanthess argument more precisely must
take this form (P1) Houses have the property of
being produced by intelligent being. (P2) Houses
and the universe are overall very similar to each
other. Therefore it is likely that (C3) The
Universe has the property of being produced by
intelligent design. Philo rejects (P2) and
presents the following counter argument (P1)
Houses have the property of being produced by
intelligent design. (P2) Houses and the Universe
are NOT overall similar. Therefore, it is
unlikely that (C3) The Universe has the property
of being produced by intelligent design.
I. Philos Argument for (P2)
Dissimilitude Houses and the Universe are
dissimilar because (a) we can observe houses
being made and thereby link them to their causes
through the constant conjunction of cause and
effect, but (b) since the Universe is unique we
have no basis to link it to any cause. II.
Philos Defense of (P2) We are not warranted in
concluding that the cause of the whole universe
is overall similar to the parts of the universe
exhibiting reason or intelligence as their mode
of operation. This is a fallacious inference
(fallacy of composition) attributing to the whole
what is characteristic of only selected parts of
an imperfectly known universe.
  • Objection 2 We Cannot Infer God is the
  • Even if we are permitted to infer that the
    universe is designed, we cannot conclude that God
    is the designer.
  • Philos First Objection depended on an assumption
    about causation, namely that we cannot postulate
    unobservable causes of observational phenomena,
    for cause and effect requires the constant
    conjunction of observable events.
  • Philos Second Objection depends on another
    principle of causation, the principle of causal

Principle of Causal Proportionality We must not
ascribe to a cause anything beyond what is
minimally required to account for the effect.
Theistic arguments violate this principle since
they attempt to explain a finite, imperfect
effect in terms of an infinite, perfect cause.
David Hume (1711-1776)
Infinite, Perfect Being
Finite, Imperfect Universe
  1. We cannot infer that the designer is infinite in
    power, knowledge, and goodness because only a
    being with limited power, knowledge, and goodness
    is required to produce a finite universe.
  2. We cannot infer that the designer is perfect
    because an imperfect designer would suffice to
    produce the universe, especially since (a) the
    universe exhibits many imperfections and (b) we
    know of many cases where designers are very
    imperfect (indeed, even stupid!) and yet despite
    this produce complex, useful, and beautiful
  3. We cannot infer that the designer is one because
    many agents working together or individually
    would suffice to produce the universe.

  • Philos second objection highlights the range of
    possible designer scenarios that would suffice
    for explaining design. Given that we have no
    principled way of selecting the more probable
    scenario from among the competitors, we cant
    even infer that God probably exists.

Humes Dilemma
  • Humes challenges to the design argument may be
    succinctly stated as a logical dilemma
  • 1. Either the designer of the universe is very
    unlike the universe or the designer of the
    universe is very much like the universe.
  • 2. If the designer of the universe is very unlike
    the universe, then the degree of dissimilitude
    between the designer and the universe prevents
    actually inferring a designer of the universe.
  • 3. If the designer is very much like the
    universe, then the degree of similitude between
    the designer and the universe prevents inferring
    that God is the designer of the universe.
  • So
  • 4. Either we cannot infer a designer or we cannot
    infer that this designer is God.

Darwinian Scientific Objection
Prior to Charles Darwin, design arguments
typically considered only two explanatory
hypotheses for the complexity and adaptedness of
living things. . . .
The Chance Hypothesis
The Design Hypothesis
With only chance and design as the competing
hypotheses, the case for design seems very strong.
It would be very surprising if purely random
processes produced complex organisms well-adapted
to the tasks of survival and reproduction. This
datum is considerably less surprising if we
suppose that living things have been designed.
Prime Principle of Confirmation
Observational data, D, supports hypothesis H1
over H2 if D is more probable under H1 than it is
under H2.
Otherwise stated. . . If D is less surprising
under H1 than it is under H2, then D evidentially
favors H1 over H2.
Charles Darwin 1809-1882
Darwin succeeded in showing that complex forms of
life could evolve from simpler forms of life
through the biological law of natural selection
operating on random variations thrown up by
Three Explanatory Options
H1 Intelligent Design
H2 Solely Random Natural Processes
H3 Darwinian Mechanisms
Let D the existence of complex living things
adapted to the tasks of reproduction and survival.
D is surprising given H2, but not surprising
given H1 however, D is equally unsurprising
given H3.
The Darwinian Objection
Darwinism appears to undercut the design
argument, as the hypothesis of biological
evolution offers an at least equally likely
explanation for the existence of complex living