<metaphysics, philosophical terminology> an attempt to prove the existence of god based upon an observation of the regularity or beauty of the universe. As employed by Cicero, Aquinas, and Paley, the argument maintains that many aspects of the natural world exhibit an orderly and purposive character that would be most naturally explained by reference to the intentional design of an intelligent creator. Hume pointed out that since we have no experience of universe-formation generally, supposed inferences to its cause are unwarranted. Moreover, Darwin's theory of natural selection offered an alternative, non-teleological account of biological adaptations. In addition, anyone who accepts this line of argument but acknowledges the presence of imperfection in the natural order is faced with the problem of evil. Nevertheless, reasoning of this sort remains a popular pastime among convinced theists. Recommended Reading: Thomas St. Aquinas, tr. by Anton C. Pegis (Notre Dame, 1997); William Paley, Natural Theology: Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity (Classworks, 1986); David Hume, Principal Writings on Religion, Including 'Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion' and 'Natural History of Religion', ed. by J. C. A. Gaskin (Oxford, 1998); and Delvin Lee Ratzsch, Nature, Design, and Science: The Status of Design in Natural Science (SUNY, 2001).
[A Dictionary of Philosophical Terms and Names]
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