Friday, April 29, 2016
Paley on the Existence of God
April 29, 2016
Here is the link to my first blog post: https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=2619743764213415433#editor/target=post;postID=9209492372449637118;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=0;src=postname
Paley on the Existence of God
If God does not exist, one loses nothing by believing in Him anyway; while if He does exist, one stands to lose everything by not believing.
— Blaise Pascal
As I discussed in my first blog post, many philosophers would consider themselves theists. David Hume, although technically considered a hard skeptic as opposed to an atheist, was against what is known as the Design Argument – which basically says that since we are complex creatures, we must have been designed by a Creator. However, many philosophers would actually agree with this argument, one being William Paley. He is very well known for his ideas on what is known as the Teleological Argument. This expands on the idea of a Designer and uses the analogy of a Watchmaker, which I mentioned briefly in my first blog post. His Watchmaker Argument attempts to avoid Hume’s criticism by making an analogy of what he thinks indicates that of intelligent design instead of merely comparing the universe with human artifacts.
[S]uppose I found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place, I should hardly think … that, for anything I knew, the watch might have always been there. Yet why should not this answer serve for the watch as well as for [a] stone [that happened to be lying on the ground]?… For this reason, and for no other; namely, that, if the different parts had been differently shaped from what they are, if a different size from what they are, or placed after any other manner, or in any order than that in which they are placed, either no motion at all would have been carried on in the machine, or none which would have answered the use that is now served by it
— Paley 1867
To Paley, the watch was an excellent analogy to us as human beings for two reasons: 1. the watch served a purpose and 2. it could not serve its purpose without being designed by someone. This argument shows that there is some form of intellectual design on the part of the watchmaker; Paley then compares the complexity of the universe to that of a watch:
Every indicator of contrivance, every manifestation of design, which existed in the watch, exists in the works of nature; with the difference, on the side of nature, of being greater and more, and that in a degree which exceeds all computation. I mean that the contrivances of nature surpass the contrivances of art, in the complexity, subtilty, and curiosity of the mechanism; and still more, if possible, do they go beyond them in number and variety; yet in a multitude of cases, are not less evidently mechanical, not less evidently contrivances, not less evidently accommodated to their end, or suited to their office, than are the most perfect productions of human ingenuity
— Paley 1867
So all in all, William Paley’s Teleological Argument has this line of thinking: Human artifacts are made by a designer; the universe has evidence of design; therefore, the universe has a designer. However, the universe and everything it comprises are so much more complex then any human artifact, thus leading to the belief that the Designer of the universe is much more grand and magnificent then the designer of a human artifact, which would just be a human.
Although this argument is interesting and is definitely cause for some serious thought, David Hume’s criticism brings up a few questions, such as: How much order is there? What other universe exists to compare this one to? What conclusion do we have that there is only one creator? How do we know this creator is divine?
Both sides raise very interesting questions and need for thought. Which side do you most agree with? Do you most side with Paley’s Teleological Argument or do you consider yourself more of a skeptic like Hume? Or do you have a completely different view from both of these philosophers?