Arguments from Design

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This page gives an introduction to the different ways that our perception of Design and purpose in nature has led to beliefs and arguments that there must be a Designer behind everything.

For the American political movement, and "Intelligent Design" with capital letters, see Intelligent Design Movement.

See Beliefs about Arguments from Design for how the different kinds of Argument from Design match with the various beliefs about Origins.

Arguments that we can perceive design in nature and that therefore a Creator must exist come in two versions. The Rational Version of the Design Argument attempts to be a logically valid proof that God must exist, contrasting with the Aesthetic Version of the Design Argument which concentrates on the belief that the beauty and design that we perceive in nature speaks of a Creator to the human heart.

Arguments from Poor Design

As soon as we make an argument for a Creator from perceived design we leave ourselves open to negative, dystopian or dysteleological arguments from perceived poor design — at best an imperfect creator. See the Wikipedia page Argument from poor design. For example, pain and suffering might be a reason to argue that if a "Designer" exists then s/he or it is a malicious designer.

"Unintelligent Design"

By analogy with "Intelligent Design" these arguments from poor design are sometimes ironically called "Unintelligent Design".

Differences between Design and Instinct

We may note that people who promote Intelligent Design

(1) never define "design" and
(2) exacerbate the "problem of evil" by their claims.

In response to this observation it has been claimed that "the act of design is a primal instinct in all living things" — examples given are mating rituals and the ways many species build shelters.

Human thought, however, includes abstraction and symbolism that can be distinguished from instinct. If we react instinctively to the smell of smoke, or to loud noises, etc, we do not design these reactions. Nor do we design a warm snuggle in bed.

Design is what we humans do when we make drafts, models etc and refine them before their execution. In the real world things muddle through development and growth, with much pain and failure for individuals and groups, whose creative contribution is a combination of instinct, aesthetic response, and design.

To consider: comparison of human artistic expression with bird song etc.: the design of a fugue or triptych; the architecture of a beautiful building compared with nest building; ballet compared with mating rituals of lyrebird, bowerbird etc.