Arguments from design: A self-defeating strategy?

Philosophia 33 (1-4):297-317 (2005)
Abstract
In this article, after reviewing traditional arguments from design, I consider some more recent versions: the so-called ‘new design arguments’ for the existence of God. These arguments enjoy an apparent advantage over the traditional arguments from design by avoiding some of Hume’s famous criticisms. However, in seeking to render religion and science compatible, it seems that they require a modification not only of our scientific understanding but also of the traditional conception of God. Moreover, there is a key problem with arguments from design that Mill raised to which the new arguments seem no less vulnerable than the older versions. The view that science and religion are complementary has at least one significant advantage over other positions, such as the view that they are in an antagonistic relationship or the view that they are so incommensurable that they are neither complementary nor antagonistic. The advantage is that it aspires to provide a unified worldview that is sensitive to the claims of both science and religion. And surely, such a worldview, if available, would seem to be superior to one in which, say, scientific and religious claims were held despite their obvious contradictions. Given this, it should come as no surprise that many religious thinkers have been attracted to the view that science and religion are complementary. Here, I wish to consider a cluster of arguments exemplifying this position: namely, ‘new design arguments’ for the existence of God. These arguments rely directly on developments in late twentieth-century natural science in attempting to establish their conclusions. One question that will need to be addressed is: To what extent are they susceptible to the criticism that they only succeed by distorting the religious beliefs they claim to champion? But before we examine new design arguments, it would be wise to consider first of 1 all the traditional arguments from design, and note some of the problems they have faced..
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