What are the strengths of the design argument?
First of all, this argument is simple to understand and has merit since humans are designers by
nature and it is natural to think in terms of things having purpose.
For theologians, the design argument carries weight because it is consistent with Scripture. The Bible
states that we are made in God's image. Therefore, there are certain things that we will resonate to.
According the apostle Paul, the creation of the real universe was indeed ex nihilo, from nothing, but
by the direct infinite power of the Creator instead of random fluctuations proposed by strong
naturalists. Paul declared that the power and planning of the Creator could be understood by the
obvious design of the creation. This design should then lead us to the Scriptures, through which the
Creator may be personally known. Paul further warned that those who reject such physical evidence
are without excuse (Romans 1:20).
Evolutionists have difficulty accounting for apparent design in objects like the eye, the heart, and the
brain where many different parts come together to form the whole. These individual parts have no
purpose except in the function of the whole. How can evolution account for these detailed congruent
occurrences? So far, it can't.
Thus Paley's "watchmaker" is even stronger than before, centuries after its first occurrence. The chief
reason is the discovery of "watches" in nature, beautifully constructed and running smoothly. This
reference is to hundreds of carefully balanced equations, constants, and properties of matter. It is
further realised that if any of these quantities were changed in the slightest way, the result would be
The knife-edged balance of protons and forces is indeed a strong testimony to the Creation. They
hardly can be believed being artificial relationships resulting merely from human measurements and
constructs. Instead, the intricate physical values have forced themselves upon our senses. Other
similar "coincidences" involve such quantities as the fine structure constant, nuclear forces, and the
total number of particles in the universe. All seem carefully chosen. Evolutionary change is entirely
unable to deal with such permanent properties of nature.
Max Planck, one of the most influential physicists ever, stated: "According to everything taught by the
exact sciences about the immense realm of nature, a certain order prevails — one independent of the
human mind...this order can be formulated in terms of purposeful activity. There is evidence of an
intelligent order of the universe to which both man and nature are subservient."
Altogether, the timeless design argument, valid for the apostle Paul and William Paley, as well as for
Max Planck and thousands of present-day scientists can be considered as a strong one.
What a refreshing perspective, Lucy! You may be aware that for over 100 years only the other, the
negative has been asked because everyone who has dealt with Bishop Paley, the most famous
instance of it, has had nothing better to do than to find refutations. The trouble with these is that all
are based on a materialistic, reductionist and deterministic point of view. Now it is the case that
Paley's argument is a notably poor specimen, aimed at what Dennett once called the "intuition pump",
or the knee-jerk reaction we all show in the face of such arguments. But to answer your question, its
strength is that it is intrinsically irrefutable. Whether you believe in the design argument or repudiate it
is a matter of opinion, whether your name is Lucy or Dennett. The latter might marshall more
sophisticated arguments, but not conclusive ones.
I have space here for only two examples, but they may suffice for your purposes. Both are variants of
Paley's proposition. (1) If you find after the most refined and advanced technological exploration of
the universe that it is "fine tuned" through a number of fundamental constants to be one of just a tiny
handful of possible universes where carbon-based life can evolve, whereas there are billions of
possible universes that never attain the required criteria, then you might well propose that this
demonstrates design. It is not a valid counterargument in this case to suggest that we are imposing
this notion ex post facto. We are, after all, here and talking about it.
(2) If you find, after investigating with all the scientific resources at our disposal, that the structure of
the genetic software and hardware is such that the possibility of it arranging itself by chance is in the
range of trillions to one, then you have a good case for assuming that the chance is zero in the given
time frame available for it to happen. You may therefore legitimately propose that some agency
unknown to science was responsible and do so in all confidence that it is not a stupid attitude to hold.
After all, the facts in these cases are such that no-one is in any position to confidently pronounce
yeah or nay; Dennett or Dawkins might have more sophisticated arguments than Lucy to persuade
you that its all just matter clicking together by random action, but sophistication is not in this case
tantamount to an unchallenged truth! And so, to slot this into its proper philosophical spot, the design
argument covers what is known in philosophy as "teleology"; and this is a key term you may wish to
pursue for more on the subject.