William Paley and the Teleological Argument


William Paley (1743-1805) was a British philosopher-theologian. During his lifetime, Paley was both a professor of philosophy and a minister.


The teleological argument is sometime called the Design argument. Even if you have never heard of either argument, you are probably familiar with the central idea of the argument, i.e.

 there exists so much intricate detail, design , and purpose in the world that we must suppose a creator. All of the sophistication and incredible detail we observe in nature could not have occurred by chance.


Before we study the argument in detail, let us take a moment to learn what is meant by teleological

The term teleological comes from the Greek words telos and logos. Telos means the goal or end or purpose of a thing while logos means the study of the very nature of a thing. The suffix ology or the study of is also from the noun logos. To understand the logos of a thing means to understand the very why and how of that thing's nature - it is more than just a simple studying of a thing. The teleological argument is an attempt to prove the existence of God that begins with the observation of the purposiveness of nature. The teleological argument moves to the conclusion that there must exist a designer. The inference from design to designer is why the teleological argument is also known as the design argument


Suppose you were walking down a beach and you happened to find a watch. Maybe you were feeling inquisitive and you opened the watch (it was one of those old-fashioned pocket watches). You would see all the gears and coils and springs- all of the mechanical "guts" that make up the internal workings of the watch. Maybe you would wind up the watch and observe the design of the watch at work as it sprang into action. Considering the way all of the mechanical parts worked together towards the end/goal of telling time, you would be reluctant to say that the watch was not created by a designer. After all, every time we have observed design, it has been the product of a designer.

Now consider another object, say, the human eye. Most of us marvel at the complexity of the inner workings of the eye. The design of the eye has yet to be matched by human engineering. Thus, if we can suppose a watchmaker for the watch (due to the design of the watch) we must be able to suppose a designer for the eye. For that matter, we must suppose a designer for all of the things we observe in nature that exhibit order. Considering the complexity and grandeur of design found in the