The teleological argument, commonly known as the ‘argument from design’ or the ‘argument from fine-tuning’ is an argument typically in favour of a personal God used by theists to prove so. It originated from the Fifth Way of St Thomas Aquinas, and was developed through history. One of the most famous developments of the idea was an analogy by William Paley, named ‘The Watchmaker Analogy’, which was followed by an idea by F.R. Tennant named the ‘Anthropic Principle’.
Aquinas was a theologian whose main works were published in the late 13th century, the most prominent being ‘Summa Theologica’. Of this book lasting approximately 3,500 pages, the most famously known by far are Aquinas’ ‘Five Ways’, which span over just 2 pages. The teleological argument is the Fifth Way of Aquinas, and is laid out like this:
P1. The Universe has order, purpose and regularity;
P2. The complexity of the Universe shows evidence of design;
P3. Such design implies a designer;
C. Therefore, this designer must be God.
From this we can see that the argument is inductive, meaning the premises support the conclusion, but do not make it indisputable. It uses information that is inferred by the world around us, which we understand usually using our senses. It is also a posteriori, meaning it is based primarily upon experience rather than reasoning. Aquinas uses an analogy that makes reference of an archer shooting an arrow in order to demonstrate the argument qua regularity. He shows that an arrow flying through the sky is nothing more than that without its purpose, given by the archer who fires it. The archer fired the arrow with the purpose of hitting the target, so this is its telos, or end purpose. In the same way, God created the Universe with a telos in mind, that was for it to be beneficial in complexity and suited to our needs and the needs of those present within it.
Paley was a philosopher whose main works were published in the early 19th century, his main work being ‘Natural Theology’. He was the author of the most well-known analogy for the design argument. His analogy developed Aquinas’ Fifth Way, stating his idea qua purpose rather than qua regularity. This means that his analogy proved that things seem to fit together in the Universe with a telos in mind. His analogy suggests that if one was wandering in the desert, and came across a watch, they would know that it did not just come to be, but was instead designed by a creator. This is because they would see that the watch is complex, and has many parts, that seem to fit together with a teleology in mind which is to display the time. In the same way, he claims that everything in the world seems to fit together, and so the world must have a creator, continuing that the creator must be God. He also uses examples from nature, such as ‘the hinges in the wings of an earwig, and the joints of its antennae, are as highly wrought as if the Creator had nothing else to finish.’
F.R. Tennant is a philosopher who published a book called ‘Philosophical Theology’ in the early-mid 20th century. Tennant was the creator of an idea called the ‘Anthropic Principle’ that was the first to use the fundamental life-affording characteristics of the Universe to give another form of teleological argument. In his book, he stated that ‘the outcome of intelligent design lies…in the conspiration of innumerable causes to produced…and maintain a general order of nature.’ He believed in three types of natural evidence in the world that suggested the existence of a designer God. The first was the fact that the world can be analysed in a rational way, which maintains that intelligent beings are able to detect the workings of an intelligent mind. The second was the way in which the inorganic world has provided the basic necessities required to sustain life, such as trees producing oxygen. Lastly, the progress of evolution towards the emergence of intelligent human life. From this, we can see that Tennant was just expanding upon the empirical study of the world in order to favour and develop previous design arguments. He further developed his ‘Anthropic Principle’ into two separate parts: strong and weak versions. The strong version suggests that since the circumstances in our Universe are such that the emergence of life is inevitable, God intended to create a universe suited to produce human life. The weak version suggests that God enabled life, without defining that God actually created the Universe, with the emergence of humanity in mind.