Evidence for God: The Teleological Argument
Part 2. The second line of evidence for God comes from the design found in the universe. The argument is called the teleological argument; telos is from the Greek, meaning purpose. This line of argument shows things made with obvious purpose must have a designer and intelligence behind them.
Philosopher William Paley gives a classic analogy in support of this argument. Imagine you are walking through a forest. There is no sign of mankind, no evidence that mankind has ever been there, and no historical evidence that anyone has travelled to that forest. But as you walk, you notice something on the ground, a pocket watch. Not only is the watch there, but as you pick it up, you also see it is fully functioning. Whatever you might conclude about how it got there, you certainly wouldn’t believe that it had been there forever or that it had simply appeared. Paley, therefore, says the conclusion is simple: someone made the watch. Never would you conclude the watch naturally appeared by random processes – complexity and purpose (telling time) would prevent that conclusion. Without evidence for a watchmaker or watch-owner, you would conclude one exists, because watches don’t just come about without intentional, intelligent design.
Here is the technical structure for the teleological argument:
Premise 1: Fine-tuning and complexity with a purpose implies a designer.
Premise 2: The universe is fine-tuned and complex with a specific purpose.
Conclusion: The universe has a designer.
The term fine-tuning is meant to convey the idea of something being tuned for a specific purpose, and in this argument that purpose is life. Philosophers and scientists present the anthropic principle (anthropic meaning life). This points us toward the realization that the universe is literally tuned and designed for the purpose of the existence of life, both on the large scale of the universe and the local scale of the solar system and our planet.
Support for Premise 1: Premise 1 appeals to logic, experience, and mathematics. Logic tells us that organized information meant to accomplish a goal is evidence of design. Experience tells us if you find a complex system designed to fulfill a purpose (e.g., the watch in the forest), it requires an intelligent designer. Mathematics tells us that random chance processes will never produce a complex information system; the statistical odds of random processes doing so is absurd. The conclusion is unavoidable: if the universe is highly complex and geared to fulfill a specific purpose, that strongly implies a designer designed it with that purpose in mind.
Support for Premise 2: The question needing answered, then, is does the universe contain such design? The clear answer is yes. The universe has been fine-tuned for life to exist, and if any one of a number of factors varied, life would be impossible in the universe and on the earth. But don’t just take my word for it. Experts in the field agree.
A. The large scale of the universe
1. The Strong Nuclear Force
“Calculations indicate that if the strong nuclear force, the force that binds protons and neutrons together in an atom, had been stronger or weaker by as little as 5%, life would be impossible.” (Leslie, 1989, pp. 4, 35; Barrow and Tipler, p. 322)
2. The Gravitational Constant
“Calculations by Brandon Carter show that if gravity had been stronger or weaker by 1 part in 10 to the 40th power, then life-sustaining stars like the sun could not exist. This would most likely make life impossible.” (Davies, 1984, p. 242)
If you’d like to see just how fine-tuned that is, and how low the odds of it randomly occurring would be, here is an illustration. Go into space and set a one square foot target on the edge of the universe. Then come back to the earth. Now take a gun, point in any direction, and shoot. The odds of the gravitational constant being randomly correct are roughly the same odds as you hitting the target.
3. Proton-Neutron Ratio
“If the neutron were not about 1.001 times the mass of the proton, all protons would have decayed into neutrons or all neutrons would have decayed into protons, and thus life would not be possible.” (Leslie, 1989, pp. 39-40)
4. Electromagnetic Force
“If the electromagnetic force were slightly stronger or weaker, life would be impossible, for a variety of different reasons.” (Leslie, 1988, p. 299)
These are just a few snapshots of the large universal picture. Now let’s narrow our focus to our local solar system.
B. The local solar system and planets
1. Oxygen Levels
Oxygen levels must be precise for life to exist on the earth. Were they too high, forest fires would literally burn out of control and everything would be consumed. Were they too low, life wouldn’t be possible.
2. Atmospheric Transparency
The earth’s atmosphere accepts and maintains just enough heat from the sun. If our atmosphere were thicker (like Venus), the temperature would rise to hundreds of degrees, and if it were thinner (like Mars), we would freeze to death.
3. Moon-Earth Gravitation
Without the moon in place, the earth’s oceans wouldn’t experience tides, and all marine life would die. Once ocean life died, oxygen levels would fall and all life would cease to exist.
4. Earth’s Rotation
If the earth rotated too fast (like Jupiter), the strong winds would make life impossible. If it rotated too slow (like Mercury and Venus), everything would burn from long days and freeze from long nights.
5. Distance From the Sun
If the earth were too close to the sun, everything would burn up. If it were too far away, everything would freeze. Scientists have called our position the Goldilocks Zone.
Our universe, solar system, and planet all appear to be designed with one purpose – for life to exist. Since Premise 2 also is correct and design is evident, then the conclusion is correct. An intelligent designer exists who fashioned it all.
The teleological argument shows an intelligent mind had to create the universe, just as the cosmological argument reveals. The teleological argument, however, goes a step further and shows the purpose of creation centers around the existence of life on our planet. The Bible actually states that life is the purpose of the creation and that God created with mankind in mind. We will discuss this point more later in the book.