Apologeet.nlTeleological Argument Made Simple
What do you think? Are we like orphans or are we citizens of our universe? Are we just an accident, a fluke, a product of mere chance?
If we have to belief the secular world we are just a result of time, space, matter, chance and impersonal laws. No, the universe is just what it is, and it is certainly not designed with us in mind! Physicist Steven Weinberg stated:i
the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it seems pointless.Oh bother!
Feeling depressed after this quick introduction? You don’t have to be. The Christian world-view confirms that the universe is specially crafted by a designing agent. The Creator spoke all things into existence ex nihilo (out of nothing), and directed the system and function of our universe.
The Bible teaches us that humans are the pinnacle of God’s creation as we are created in God’s image and likeness. God saw what He had created and said that it was ver good. We are symbols of the divine and God placed us in a specially created world (Genesis 1-2).
But, we should remember that He did not create it for us only. Even before day six, God already looked at His work and labelled it as ‘good’. Psalm 148 says that all of creation was made for God’s glory, the whole of creation praises it’s Creator! Good, keep that in mind while we move on.
As a Christian you find yourself in good company. Some of the smartest philosophers were theists, that is, they believed in a higher being and to demonstrate that, they came up with some brilliant arguments. Let’s refresh our memory shall we? The ontological argument argued that,
From the video about the Ontological Argument
“It is not just possible that God exists, but it is logically necessary. And so we can say that God exists! How About That? Now think of the possibilities! When someone accepts that it is possible that God exists, he or she just entered an inescapable deductive reasoning, a foolproof logical case that inevitably leads to the fact that God does exist.”
And the Kalam Cosmological Argument,
From the video about the Ontological Argument
“gives us a timeless, space-less, immaterial, all powerful, and willingly being. Is there a trait missing? Yes. Because, we as Christians belief that, to create something as miraculous and complex as the universe, the cause needs to be maximally intelligent.”
And there we have arrived at our third argument, namely the Teleological Argument. Teleology comes from the Greek words telos, ‘end,’ and logos, ‘reason’, explanation by reference to some purpose, end, goal, or function.
How do we end up with the Teleological Argument while talking about a maximally intelligent being? The last few decennia, scientists have found that the existence of a universe that allows life is extremely uncommon. So uncommon that when mathematicians started to calculate the mathematical chances, they came up with immeasurably small probabilities. As a matter of fact, the probabilities are so small that they consider them as mathematically absurd.
Let me give you an example of gravitational forces. If the constant value for gravity were modified by any more in 1 part in 1060, that’s a 1 with 60 zeroes behind it, then life of any kind could not exist. This number is huge! Let’s assume that mainstream science is right and the universe is in fact about 13,8 billion years old, than the universe is only 4017 seconds old, give or take a few seconds (that is a 4 with 17 zeros).
Now, the gravitational forces are by no means the only forces that are so extremely precise. No, there are more than 100 of these constants that do not permit any variety in their precision. If they changed, just slightly, we wouldn’t be sitting here. Life, in all its diversity would not be possible. In many cases, the existence of the universe wouldn’t even be possible. And you know what? Having the constants exactly right isn’t even enough. We need to have the ratios between these constants exactly right as well. What is the chance of this happening without a maximally intelligent being you think? Right, it is infinitesimal. It is ludicrous to think this would happen by chance.
Teleological Argument from Fine-tuning
But this brings us to a nice argument which is based on our knowledge of the so-called fine-tuning of the universe.
Premise 1: The fine-tuning of the universe is ascribable to either physical necessity, chance, or design.
Premise 2: It cannot be subscribed to physical necessity or chance.
Premise 3: Therefore, it is due to design.
And all of a sudden you see the appearance of the word ‘design’. I’ll get back to that later, but for now it is enough to know that scientists do not state that the universe is designed. No, many just say that little differences in the constants would make a devastating difference for the universe and life therein, and so, they argue, the universe seems to be finely tuned.
Let’s see what this argument does.
Premise 1 gives three options: Physical Necessity, chance and design.
Physical necessity basically means that the universe has no choice but needs to have these existing values for the constants. It is almost like there is a universal law that forbids any other possibility.
Well, chance doesn’t need much explanation right? It was just a winning lot out of the lottery.
And then the last one, design. This is the willing mind we have discussed in the other videos. It proposes creation.
Premise 2 says that physical necessity cannot be the cause. Why not? There is no law that dictates the constants. A law is a force like gravity, and a constant would be the strength of these force. The strength can deviate without the law telling it not too.
Chance isn’t going to help either. As far as we know there is only one universe. Very sorry for those smart people out there who are proposing that there might be a multiverse. This one universe, the one of which you know it functions pretty well, makes the chance that it is just right for life at the minimum 1 in 10500. That is one possibility out of 1 with 500 zeros!!
To help you understand this a little better, imagine having a huge room with balls. These balls represent the atoms of our universe. The estimation is that our universe has about 1080 atoms. So this room has quit a lot of balls. Okay, now I paint one ball in any colour you like and put it back into the room. The game can begin! You need to select that one painted ball out of all the others, blindfolded and after we’ve shuffled all the balls. You’ve won the game if you succeed… No, not just one time, but you need to do this six times in a row. This is how small the chances are to have all the right parameters for our universe.
Premise 3: Gives us the most reasonable explanations. It must be designed!
Back to the Designer
As we have seen in the other arguments. This designing power needs to be:
- All Powerful;
- Maximally Intelligent
You might have guessed that the Teleological Argument is not just one argument. Like the Ontological and the Cosmological arguments, this argument also knows many variants. I used the one that is based on the fine-tuning of the universe. I think that if you use the teleological argument in this way, the outcome is pretty sure.
However, for some it doesn’t feel right to use the word ‘design’. Let’s see what happens when we use it with a car.
- The fine-tuning of a car is either designed, or the result of chance, or the result of natural law (often called necessity), or the combination of chance and natural law.
- The fine-tuning of a car is not the result of chance or natural law or the combination of both.
- Therefore: A car is the result of design.
That’s no comparison some will say. The car is known to have a designer, and we know, out of experience that cars just don’t pop into existence. And this would definitely prove our point! Even though cars are very complex (except my old stinking, not friendly for the environment, Nissan Patrol from 1999) their technology fades into nothingness compared to the fine-tuning of the universe. To state that this could have happened by chance or that it just popped into existence is an enormous leap of faith. Actually, I don’t buy it when people say they honestly believe that.
Groothuis puts it like this:ii
The fact that the preferred nontheistic explanation for fine-tuning is the highly speculative multiverse theory [as he explains later in his book] gives credence to the claim that physicists are in general agreement that the universe is carefully finetuned. Otherwise, they would not need to have recourse to such grandiose theorizing in hopes of explaining the universe without a Designer.
Teleological Argument from design
I’ve got some time left so let’s talk a little about a different variant of this argument. The Teleological Argument from Design is a slight different approach. I think it was William Paley (1743-1805) who came with WhatchMaker argument. If you find a watch on the beach, you would logically conclude that it was designed and not the product of random formation. Just the same, when you take a look at the universe or life in general, it is natural to conclude there is a designer because you see how brilliant the universe and life forms function.
So, what would these argument then look like:
Premise 1: Human artefacts are products of intelligent design.
Premise 2: The universe resembles human artefacts.
Premise 3: Therefore the universe is a product of intelligent design.
Premise 4: But the universe is complex and gigantic in comparison to human artefacts.
Premise 5: Therefore, there probably is a powerful and vastly intelligent designer who created the universe.
This is a simple-to-understand line of arguing. It deserves to be used, because we, as humans, are designers by nature. Being designers ourselves makes it easy to think in terms of things having a purpose. At the same time it is completely in line with the Bible:
“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse […]”
However, someone who doesn’t consider the Bible as authoritative could say that it is subjective to argue that the universe is designed. They might even say that you’re using the ‘God of the gaps’ argument: We don’t have the answer, so let’s bring God into the equation. Also, they say, if we find things in the universe that are chaotic, then, by following the same line of our analogy, that would imply there is no designer.
Be that as it may, the God of the gaps idea is by no means a satisfying counter-argument. Behe said:iii
We are not inferring design from what we do not know but from what we do know. We are not inferring design to account for some black box but to account for an open box.
The second counter-argument is not a problem for a Christian at all. In our Christian world-view we actually do expect to find chaos. The Teleological Argument is not stating that there is none. It is only arguing that we find very complex items that cannot come about out of pure chance. As a matter of fact, the reason we still find so much order in the universe and in living things speaks of a tremendously complex first creation. Considering that everything is running down since the fall of Adam and Eve, we may be grateful that is was perfect to begin with! Else, things would have run down much faster.
Many atheists ridicule this argument because, so they say, it is arrogant to state that everything evolves around us, humans. And—if it does evolve around us and God really created everything to sustain us—they argue that the vast amount of uninhabited space is a waste of resources. Some, would even go as far as to say that if God existed, He doesn’t care about us. He would have been way too busy with things somewhere in the universe. Maybe playing billiards with some distant planets.
However, as Christians we know better! The immensity of the cosmos is totally compatible with both God’s care for us and his glory manifested in the rest of the universe.
“Praise ye the LORD. Praise ye the LORD from the heavens: Praise him in the heights. Praise ye him, all his angels: Praise ye him, all his hosts. Praise ye him, sun and moon: Praise him, all ye stars of light. Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, And ye waters that be above the heavens. Let them praise the name of the LORD: For he commanded, and they were created. He hath also stablished them for ever and ever: He hath made a decree which shall not pass.”
There is so much more to say about this argument. I do, however, want to emphasise that these arguments cannot 100% prove the existence of God. All it does is making the existence of God highly probable. As one of you pointed out. In the end, believing that God is real and that He send His son Jesus Christ to save us, is mostly a matter of faith! And faith is given through the work of the Holy Spirit, who will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement (John 16:8).
Also, all the theistic arguments work together and should be assessed as such. The design argument alone, might not be strong enough to build a good rational case for God, but together with the other arguments it is a lethal weapon for the apologist.
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As always, thank you for watching, God bless you and we see each other in the next video!
i Weinberg, S, The First Three Minutes: A Modern View Of The Origin Of The Universe, Basic Books, 1993.
ii Groothuis, D., Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith, Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove Illinois, 2011, p.243.
iii Behe, M, J, (24-09-1996) Molecular Machines: Experimental Support for the Design Inference [Internet] http://arn.org/docs/behe/mb_mm92496.htm [accessed 24-10-2021].
Waner, C., (25-01-2019) The Cosmological Argument, [Internet] Theology Think Tank, https://theologythinktank.com/the-cosmological-argument/ [accessed 18-10- 2021].