Possibly the most popular type of argument for the existence of a god (it would be a push to say God, since it’s rather generic), is the argument to design. The design (or teleological) argument comes in two basic forms, the complexity of life argument and the fine tuning of the universe argument.
Complexity of life
This argument has lost some popularity with the onslaught of Evolutionary Biology, since it claims to be able to explain the complexity of living things.
The argument basically looks at the complexity of even the simplest organisms, and claims that the only rational explanation is a designer. Arguments generally revolve around irreducable complexity and informed complexity, and the favourite example seems to be the bacterial flagellum. The claim is that the bacterial flagellum (and other organs) couldn’t possibly evolve through incremental processes, because all the parts a required in their current ordered state for the “motor” to function. There are certain organs similar to some of the parts of the flagellum, which has opponents saying it is not irreducibly complex.
Informed complexity relates to a specifically complex item that performs a function. A pile of sand emptied onto the beach is irreducibly complex, but there’s no information. This reveals the real crux of the Intelligent Design argument, DNA contains information, thus life is informed, and information doesn’t just happen, there must be something to inform.
This formulation of the argument often looks at the origin of life. Even if one accepts evolution, they can argue that the first life forms would have to be able to assimilate their own food, which would make them more complex than the simplest recognised life forms today. The simplest life forms today are incredibly complex, and the odds against them forming by chance are quite high, so the alternative is that they didn’t form by chance.
Universal fine tuning
The fine tuning argument is simpler and can push odds to extreme heights. Since evolution can’t answer this, and the anthropic principle isn’t that effective an argument, it is often more popular.
The argument basically takes all the physical constants in the universe, and argues that they are perfect for a universe to sustain life, and a slight adjustment to any of them would result in a universe that could not sustain life. Often the goldilocks zone is used. The goldilocks zone is the area around the sun in which Earth must be for life to be the case. We’re not only in an ideal place in the solar system, but in the ideal place in the galaxy. The anthropic principle argues that even if there was no designer, we would expect to be in the ideal place for life to exist, since if it wasn’t ideal, life wouldn’t exist. This is actually quite a good argument, but fails to answer the fact that the universe actually has goldilocks zones. Basically, if the gravitational constant was slightly stronger, the universe would likely have started it’s collapse already. If it were slightly weaker, the correct conditions wouldn’t have formed for life due to the expansion of the universe being to fast. Similar arguments would be made for other physical constants.
This post is basically a run down on the teleological type arguments. I’ll need to have future posts to cover counter arguments.
What other ways could you formulate these arguments? What are the weaknesses? How would you strengthen the arguments? How would you argue against them? Leave your comments below.