Teleological Argument for the Existence of God
We live in an increasingly sophisticated and educated world. It is no longer enough to know what we believe. It is essential to know why we believe it. We are likely to be challenged by Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists, all of them claiming to have a valid religious experience. Moreover, in our scientific age there are many who are skeptical to the belief of God.
Therefore, four classical attempts have been presented to prove the existence of God. These have been called the teleological, moral, ontological, and cosmological arguments. In this paper I will examine the teleological argument.
One of the early forms of this argument was given by William Paley (1743-1805).
A summary of this argument goes like this:
1. A watch shows that it was put together for an intelligent purpose (to keep time).
a. It has a spring to give motion.
b. It has a series of wheels to transmit this motion.
c. The wheels are made of brass so that they do not rust.
d. The spring is made of steel because of the resilience of that metal.
e. The front cover is of glass so that one can see through it.
2. The world shows an even greater evidence of design than a watch.
a. The world is a greater work of art than a watch.
b. The world has more subtle and complex design than a watch.
c. The world has an endless variety of means adapted to ends.
3. Therefore, if a watch calls for a watchmaker, then the world demands an even greater intelligent Designer (viz., God). (Norman Geilser: Philosophy of Religion – page 104)
A fundamental aspect of creationism is that the world is full of design, and a good example of this is an insect called the bombardier beetle (Brachinus). The German chemist Dr. Schildknecht discovered that the beetle mixes two chemicals (hydrogen peroxide and hydroquinine) which collect in a chamber. This chamber is lined with cells that secret catalyses and peroxidases. In order to store those two chemicals in its own body until needed for self defense, a chemical inhibitor is there to make them harmless. Under pressure a valve is forced open and the chemicals are expelled explosively through an opening at the tip of the abdomen. When ever threatened the bombardier beetle shoots out a noxious gas at 212 degrees F, out of two tail pipes right at the would be aggressor. There is also a popping sound when this explosion occurs. The obvious question is how could this marvelous and complex mechanism have evolved with out intelligent design? According to evolutionary thinking there must have been thousands of generations of beetles improperly mixing these hazardous chemicals in fatal experiments until they finally got it right.
For example, Mark Isaak says that a step by step evolution of the bombardier system is not that hard to envision from a primitive arthropod. Here are the steps that he presents:
- Quinones are produced by epidermal cells for tanning the cuticle. This exists commonly in arthropods. [Dettner, 1987]
- Some of the quinones don’t get used up, but sit on the epidermis, making the arthropod distasteful. (Quinones are used as defensive secretions in a variety of modern arthropods, from beetles to millipedes. [Eisner, 1970])
- Small invaginations develop in the epidermis between sclerites (plates of cuticle). By wiggling, the insect can squeeze more quinones onto its surface when they’re needed.
- The invaginations deepen. Muscles are moved around slightly, allowing them to help expel the quinones from some of them. (Many ants have glands similar to this near the end of their abdomen. [Holldobler & Wilson, 1990, pp. 233-237])
- A couple invaginations (now reservoirs) become so deep that the others are inconsequential by comparison. Those gradually revert to the original epidermis.
- In various insects, different defensive chemicals besides quinones appear. (See Eisner, 1970, for a review.) This helps those insects defend against predators which have evolved resistance to quinones. One of the new defensive chemicals is hydroquinone.
- Cells that secrete the hydroquinones develop in multiple layers over part of the reservoir, allowing more hydroquinones to be produced. Channels between cells allow hydroquinones from all layers to reach the reservoir.
- The channels become a duct, specialized for transporting the chemicals. The secretory cells withdraw from the reservoir surface, ultimately becoming a separate organ.
This stage — secretory glands connected by ducts to reservoirs — exists in many beetles. The particular configuration of glands and reservoirs that bombardier beetles have is common to the other beetles in their suborder. [Forsyth, 1970]
- Muscles adapt which close off the reservoir, thus preventing the chemicals from leaking out when they’re not needed.
- Hydrogen peroxide, which is a common by-product of cellular metabolism, becomes mixed with the hydroquinones. The two react slowly, so a mixture of quinones and hydroquinones get used for defense.
- Cells secreting a small amount of catalases and peroxidases appear along the output passage of the reservoir, outside the valve which closes it off from the outside. These ensure that more quinones appear in the defensive secretions. Catalases exist in almost all cells, and peroxidases are also common in plants, animals, and bacteria, so those chemicals needn’t be developed from scratch but merely concentrated in one location.
- More catalases and peroxidases are produced, so the discharge is warmer and is expelled faster by the oxygen generated by the reaction. The beetle Metrius contractus provides an example of a bombardier beetle which produces a foamy discharge, not jets, from its reaction chambers. The bubbling of the foam produces a fine mist. [Eisner et al., 2000]
- The walls of that part of the output passage become firmer, allowing them to better withstand the heat and pressure generated by the reaction.
- Still more catalases and peroxidases are produced, and the walls toughen and shape into a reaction chamber. Gradually they become the mechanism of today’s bombardier beetles.
- The tip of the beetle’s abdomen becomes somewhat elongated and more flexible, allowing the beetle to aim its discharge in various directions.
Note that all of the steps above are small or can easily be broken down into smaller steps. The bombardier beetles’ mechanism can come about solely by accumulated microevolution. Furthermore, all of the steps are probably advantageous, so they would be selected. No improbable events are needed. As noted, several of the intermediate stages are known to be viable by the fact that they exist in living populations.
The scenario above is hypothetical; the actual evolution of bombardier beetles probably did not happen exactly like that. The steps are presented sequentially for clarity, but they needn’t have occurred in exactly the order given. (Mark Isaak: Bombardier Beetles and the argument of design, 2003)
At least he was honest enough to say that this scenario is hypothetical, because there was no way for him to validate what he just said. Strict science requires empirical research, where you can have experimentation and repetition of the event or process under investigation. The topic of origins can never be treated like an exact science. No human was there to observe it. Therefore, exact science can not give a definitive answer on origins. Was Isaak right in suggesting that a large change is built up from many small changes? What Isaak presented was just a theory. It was only a guess – he does not have evidence for it. Therefore, it in no way refutes the idea of intelligent design. Therefore, evolution is a belief system about the past based upon words of men and women who were not there. The topic of origins falls in the realm of theology, metaphysics and philosophy. Common sense tells us that this amazing little insect which can fire four or five bombs in succession could not have evolved piece by piece. All had to work perfectly the first time or all hopes for Bomby and his children would have exploded.
However, there are many points within science that many theistic creationists have no problems. The word evolution simply means change. There is change all around us. The word microevolution is used to describe the countless varieties within the same species. You can find that in your neighborhood with a dozen of different types of dogs. Conversely, macroevolution would an example of birds developing from reptiles, or the belief that living things came from nonliving things, and all natural processes are caused by chance alone. Somewhere back in the deep past our great grandfather was an apelike creature, covered with hair instead of clothing. Further back they say, our ancestor was some kind of insect eating mammal. Still further back our ancestors were fish. Was my great, great…, great grandmother really a fish? Was her great, great…, great grandmother something like slime? That’s what macroevolution tells us. But even Darwin admitted that the fossil record did not support the belief of macroevolution. The missing links are still missing.
Michael Denton, in his book Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, summarized the situation in this way:
…the universe experience of paleontology … while the rocks have continually yielded new and exciting and even bizarre forms of life…what they have never yielded is any of Darwin’s myriads of transitional forms. Despite the tremendous increase in geological activity in every corner of the globe and despite the discovery of many strange and hitherto unknown forms, the infinitude of connecting links has still not been discovered and the fossil record is about as discontinuous as was when Darwin was writing Origin. The intermediates have remained as elusive as ever and their absence remains, a century later, one of the striking characteristics of the fossil record. (Lee Strobel: The Case for a Creator, page 56)
The world abounds with countless other examples of design and perfect coordination.
F. J. Dyson, writing in Scientific American, said this about our habitable cosmos: As we look into the universe and identify the many accidents of physics and astronomy that have worked together to our benefit, it almost seems as if the universe must in some sense have known we were coming. (Rubel Shelly: Prepare to Answer Page 42)
Furthermore, Don England who taught Chemistry had Harding College believes that the human brain is an architectural masterpiece.
A single human brain weighs about three pounds and contains 100 billion nerve cells called neurons and 900 billion (none times the number of stars in our galaxy) neuroglia. Neuroglia are specialized connecting and supporting cells of the brain and spinal cord. Yet the myriad of cells and component parts of the brain are so designed and ordered, within a volume smaller than a shoe box, that the brain thinks, creates, contemplates, loves, hates, senses, and worships. The central nervous system in general, and the human brain in particular, possibly constitute the strongest teleological argument for the existence of God. This is true because, without God, the only explanation is that a cloud of hydrogen gas of unknown origin, through chance, evolved into a compact mass of highly organized and differentiated matter – the human brain – which, in the body of a person, is capable of contemplating the universe! One must decide which of the two faith alternatives is more reasonable: chance or intelligence. (Don England: God are you really there? Page 38)
The teleological argument is very simple. The intricate design found throughout the universe could have come about without a supreme architect and designer behind it. Where there is order there must be an orderer
Consider what Doctor A. Cressy Morrison (physician and former president of the New York Academy of Science) has to say:
The evidence is strongly suggestive of this directive purpose back of everything….We have found that the world is in the right place, that the crust is adjusted to within ten feet, and that if the ocean were a few feet deeper we would have no oxygen or vegetation. We have found that the earth rotates in twenty four hours and that were this revolution delayed, life would be impossible. If the speed of the earth around the sun were increased or decreased materially, this history of life, if any, would be different. We find that the sun is the one among thousands which make our sort of life possible on earth, its size, density, temperature and character of its rays all must be right, and are right. We find that the gases of the atmosphere are adjusted to each other and that a very slight change would be fatal…. Consider the bulk of the earth, it place in space and the nicety of the adjustments, the chances of some of these adjustments occurring in this order of one to a million, and the chances of all of them occurring cannot be calculated even in the billions. The existence of these facts cannot, therefore, be reconciled with any laws of chance. It is impossible, then, to escape the conclusion that the adjustments of nature to man are far more amazing than the adjustments of man to nature. A review of the wonders of nature demonstrates beyond question that there are design and purpose in it all. A program is being carried out in all its infinite detail by the Supreme Being we call God. (Batsell Barret Baxter: I Believe Because… Page 66)
Some try to communicate that there isn’t anything special about the earth. It is just an average unassuming rock. And modern science is constantly looking for life on other planets. These other planets are turning out to be just unassuming rocks. So far as we have sent out space rovers even to Mars we are discovering that earth is a special place, and that it is a very privileged planet. I remember hearing John Clayton say in a lecture that the earth is located in a safe place, because the larger planets farther out in our solar system act as comet catchers.
The Bible and God’s existence
The bible is not silent on who was the Creator. Genesis 1:1 simply starts by saying that God created everything. The bible also points out that there is good evidence available to prove that God exists. Clearly, God is not hiding; His trademark is all over creation.
The following is adapted from Skippy Myers study guide notes on Philosophy
If houses can not just happen, how could worlds just happen?
4For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.
If a watch cannot occur by chance, neither can the systematic cycles nor geometric precision of stars.
1 O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
above the heavens.
2 From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise [b]
because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
If intelligent planning is behind all ordered design, how could nature’s intricate net works have no planner?
20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
Order in the universe spells God!
Even with all of the philosophical arguments for the existence of God, you still may never prove God to some people, because God is invisible and therefore unseen. But simply because we can not see something does not mean that it does not exist. We can not see atoms, but atoms certainly have an effect. Some people try to eliminate God because that makes them feel better about their own personal condition. So if God does not exist then there is no God to whom we must answer. But there is evidence, as we have seen, in the teleological argument for the existence of God.
Moreover, our personal experience of God has its basis in faith. Faith is the key that unlocks the door. In Acts 17:24-31 we read,
24″The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28’For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
29″Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man’s design and skill. 30In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” (New International Version)