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Brief summary of the Cosmological and Teleological arguments

Updated on June 19, 2013
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Evidence for the existence of God

The cosmological argument was inspired by how intricate the universe is which raises the question “what was the cause?”. Thomas Aquinas developed on the original argument claiming that God must be the cause. Aquinas believed there must be a first cause, an uncaused cause, which began the chain of causes. His argument run: everything has a cause, nothing is its own cause, the chain of causes cannot be infinite, there must be a first cause, this first cause must be God. Initially there appears to be a contradiction between the premises “everything has a cause” and “there must be a first cause”. However, the first three premises present a problem so one of these must be rejected in favour of an alternative. The problem in this case is that the chain of causes cannot be infinite so rejecting the first premises in favour of the fourth allows at least one thing that is not caused. There are though problems with this argument. The first of there is the question “who created God?”. This object though misses the point of God being the first cause. The universe is contingent as it relies on something else for its existence but God is not contingent but instead God is necessary. Another objection relies on the belief that the universe requires a cause for its beginning. However, just because those parts which make up the universe require a cause for their beginning.

The teleological argument was motivated by the observation that there are many complex things which cause us to question if an intelligent designer created them. The argument from analogy is the most straightforward of the formal teleological argument which runs: the world around us and human artefacts display complexity, complexity in human artefacts comes from it having been designed by intelligent being (humans), there is no reason that what is true for humans is not true for the world around us, therefore, the complexity in the world around us comes from it having been designed by an intelligent being (God). William Paley uses this argument as a starting point and develops it. Paley begins by looking at a watch and discusses what it is that makes the watch so obviously designed. This he identifies as its fitness to purpose which he then observes as being present in natural objects. Put formally Paley’s argument is set: natural objects display design-like properties (fitness to purpose), design like properties are the result of intelligent design, therefore, natural objects are the product of design. This argument differs from the argument from analogy mostly in that no comparison is made between man made objects and natural objects so no analogy is in fact being drawn.

The most prominent objection to Paley’s argument comes from Darwin’s theory of evolution. This theory suggests that complex organisms evolved gradually over millions of years from simpler organisms through natural selection. This presents an alternative explanation as to why natural objects display the same complexity as man made objects. However, there is not necessarily a contradiction of ideas as God could have used evolution as a tool for the designs. Further objects exist for the argument from analogy. Hume states that the world is dissimilar from man made objects and argues that “the world plainly resembles more an animal or a vegetable than it does a watch”. If analogies can be drawn between natural objects and both designed and non-designed objects then the argument from analogy fails to look convincing. There is finally the problem that, if the argument is accepted, then what kind of God does it deliver? We want to conclude that the world has a designer with particular characteristics such as benevolence, omnipotence and omniscience but with the argument we are not even able to probe it was only ONE God.

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    • Thomas Swan profile image

      Thomas Swan 4 years ago from New Zealand

      Thanks for the informative hub. I had heard these arguments before but didn't know their formal names. Hume always amazes me, he was 200 years ahead of his time. His counter argument is never something I would have thought of. The cosmological argument is nothing more than a "god of the gaps" argument. It is no more evidence for God than it is evidence for there being no "first cause". The teleological argument is well countered by natural selection, but it always amazes me how Christians think they can recognise God's work. It's like an argument from stupidity: the less you know about natural selection, the happier you are with thinking God made it all. Great hub and thanks for the Hume quote!

    • jadesmg profile image
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      jadesmg 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      thanks for the comment and I'm glad i could help. Hume was certainly a very good philosopher and had many brilliant ideas - as a fellow Scot i feel I should support him lol

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