Teleological argument

A teleological or design argument[1][2][3] is an argument for the existence of God. The argument is based on an interpretation of teleology wherein purpose and intelligent design appear to exist in Nature beyond the scope of any such human activities. The teleological argument suggests that, given this premise, one can assume a designer exists, typically presented as God.

Various concepts of teleology originated in ancient philosophy and theology. Some philosophers, such as Plato, proposed a divine Artificer as the designer; others, including Aristotle, rejected that conclusion in favor of a more naturalistic teleology. In the middle-ages, the Islamic philosopher Averroes introduces a teleological argument. Later, a teleological argument is the fifth of Saint Thomas Aquinas' Five Ways, his rational proofs for the existence of God. The teleological argument was continued by empiricists in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, who believed that the order in the world suggested the existence of God. William Paley developed these ideas with his watch maker analogy. He argued that in the same way a watch's complexity implies the existence of its maker, so too one may infer the Creator exists, given the evident complexity of Nature. This argument resonates with a notion of the fine-tuned Universe, understood as an alternative to the anthropic principle. Most recently, a US Federal Court ruled against the creationist intelligent design ("ID") movement, which portrayed the religious belief in a god-like designer as a pseudo-scientific theory.

Many philosophers and theologians have expounded and criticized different versions of the teleological argument. Generally, they argue that any implied designer need not have the qualities commonly attributed to the God of classical theism. Scientists have criticized the argument, because natural selection provides an adequate explanation for biological complexity.



Classical and early Christian writers

Plato and Aristotle, depicted here in The School of Athens, both developed philosophical arguments addressing the universe's apparent order (logos)

According to Xenophon, Socrates (c. 469-399 B.C.) argued that the adaptation of human parts to one another, such as the eyelids protecting the eyeballs, could not have been due to chance and was a sign of wise planning in the universe.[4]

Plato (c. 427–c. 347 B.C.) posited a "demiurge" of supreme wisdom and intelligence as the creator of the cosmos in his work Timaeus. Plato's teleological perspective is also built upon the analysis of a priori order and structure in the world that he had already presented in The Republic. Plato does not propose creation ex nihilo; rather, the demiurge made order from the chaos of the cosmos, imitating the eternal Forms.[5]

Plato's world of eternal and unchanging Forms, imperfectly represented in matter by a divine Artisan, contrasts sharply with the various mechanistic Weltanschauungen, of which atomism was, by the fourth century at least, the most prominent... This debate was to persist throughout the ancient world. Atomistic mechanism got a shot in the arm from Epicurus... while the Stoics adopted a divine teleology... The choice seems simple: either show how a structured, regular world could arise out of undirected processes, or inject intelligence into the system. This was how Aristotle (384–322 bc), when still a young acolyte of Plato, saw matters. Cicero (On the Nature of the Gods 2. 95 = Fr. 12) preserves Aristotle's own cave-image: if troglodytes were brought on a sudden into the upper world, they would immediately suppose it to have been intelligently arranged. But Aristotle grew to abandon this view; although he believes in a divine being, the Prime Mover is not the efficient cause of action in the Universe, and plays no part in constructing or arranging it... But, although he rejects the divine Artificer, Aristotle does not resort to a pure mechanism of random forces. Instead he seeks to find a middle way between the two positions, one which relies heavily on the notion of Nature, or phusis.[6]

R. J. Hankinson, Cause and Explanation in Ancient Greek Thought

Aristotle (c. 384–322 B.C.) argued that the most complete explanation in regard to the natural, as well as the artificial, is for the most part teleological.[7] Based solely on the study of immature specimens, for example, one wouldn't feel confident in one's knowledge of the species.[7][8][9] Similarly, knowledge of what use an animal makes of a feature is crucial to understanding it (for example, that birds use wings for flight).[10] Aristotle did not believe nature is endowed with the same rational purpose and direction as human activity and artifacts.[7] However, he did believe that the adult form is present in the offspring, having been copied from of the parent,[9] and that the parts of an organism are good for their purpose.[11][12][13] He maintained that by an imperfect but compelling analogy, one could almost say they're purpose built to suit their essential function.[7][14] Furthermore, knowledge of that function or end-purpose is essential because any other aitia, or explanations one could offer for the organ, would be tremendously informed given the telos.[7]

In his Metaphysics, Aristotle addressed the existence of gods. Rather that envisioning an Artificer as Plato did, he believed that the eternal cosmos required no creation.[9] Aristotle argued for the existence of one or more unmoved movers to serve as nature's role models and constant inspiration (see Prime Mover and Daimon).[8][9][15] Aristotle described the movers as immaterial "active intellects", incapable of perceiving or interacting with the cosmos, thus assuredly "unmoved". To the extent permitted by the vagrancies of matter, he believed the natural pleroma is exerting its full potential, because it has had an eternity in which to do so.[9] This is not to imply a naïve, panglossian idealism, but a logically valid argument from a natural scientist who took a great deal of interest in efficient causal analyses.[7] As a more unsettled account of the species, he briefly recounted survival of the fittest,[16][17] well known even in Aristotle's time.[7][18][19] It would have been infinitely long ago, he argued, and thus would have remained effectively unchanged for an infinitely long duration.[20] Conceding that monstrosities come about by chance,[21][22] he disagrees with those who, like Democritus, ascribe all nature purely to chance[23] because he believes science can only provide a general account of that which is normal, "always, or for the most part".[24]

Marcus Tullius Cicero

Cicero (c. 106–c. 43 B.C.) presented an early teleological argument in De Natura Deorum (On the Nature of the Gods), arguing that that divine power can be found in reason, which exists throughout nature. He developed an early version of the watchmaker analogy, which was later developed by William Paley.

When you see a sundial or a water-clock, you see that it tells the time by design and not by chance. How then can you imagine that the universe as a whole is devoid of purpose and intelligence, when it embraces everything, including these artifacts themselves and their artificers?"
—Cicero, De Natura Deorum, ii. 34[25]

Marcus Minucius Felix (late 2nd-3rd c.), an Early Christian writer, argued for the existence of God based on the analogy of an ordered house in his The Orders of Minucius Felix.[26]

Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354–430) presented a classic teleological perspective in his work City of God. He describes the "city of man" and essentially posits that God's plan is to replace the city of man with the city of God (at some as-yet-unknown point in the future). Whether this is to happen gradually or suddenly is not made clear in Augustine's work. He did not, however, make a formal argument for the existence of God; rather, God's existence is already presumed and Augustine is giving a proposed view of God's teleology. Augustine's perspective follows from and is built upon the neo-Platonic views of his era, which in turn have their original roots in Plato's cosmogony.


The Muslim philosopher Averroes developed teleologic arguments and helped to precipitate the translation of the works of Plato and Aristotle into Latin, thus making them more accessible to Christian medieval scholars

Averroes (Ibn Rushd) introduced teleological arguments into his interpretations of Aristotle from an Islamic perspective in Moorish Spain in the latter half of the 12th Century. His work was highly controversial, officially banned in both Christendom and Islamic Spain.[27] Averroes' teleological arguments can be characterized as presuming one god.[28] He proposes that order and continual motion the world is caused by God's intellect. In knowing all forms and patterns, God provides order to the Lesser Intelligences.[29]


The fifth of Thomas Aquinas' proofs of God's existence was based on teleology

Thomas Aquinas (c. 1100-1500) presented a form of the teleological argument in his Summa Theologica. In his work, Aquinas presented five ways in which he attempted to prove the existence of God. These arguments features only a posteriori arguments, rather than traditional dogma.[30] He sums up his teleological argument as follows.

The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things which lack knowledge, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that they achieve their end, not fortuitously, but designedly. Now whatever lacks knowledge cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is directed by the archer. Therefore, some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God.
—St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica: Article 3, Question 2[31]

Aquinas notes that objects in the nature world seem to work towards a specific purpose and that, in the world, an object working to a purpose can always be explained by the existence of an intelligent being to give the object purpose. As everything in the universe works to a purpose, there must, he reasons, exist a being to provide that purpose. That being is what we call God.[31]

British empiricists

The 17th century Dutch writers Lessius and Grotius argued that the intricate structure of the world, like that of a house, was unlikely to have arisen by chance.[32] The empiricist John Locke, writing in the late 17th century, developed the Aristotelian idea that, excluding geometry, all science must attain its knowledge a posteriori - through sensual experience.[33] In response to Locke, Anglican Irish Bishop George Berkeley advanced a form of idealism in which things only continue to existe when they are perceived.[34] When humans do not perceive objects, they continue to exist because God is perceiving them. Therefore, in order for objects to remain in existence, God must exist omnipresently.[35]

David Hume, in the mid-18th century, presented arguments both for and against the teleological argument in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. The character Cleanthes, summarizing the teleological argument, likens the universe to a man-made machine, and concludes by the principle of similar effects and similar causes that it must have a designing intelligence. Philo is not satisfied with the teleological argument, however. He attempts a number of refutations, including one that arguably foreshadows Darwin's theory, and makes the point that if God resembles a human designer, then assuming divine characteristics such as omnipotence and omniscience is not justified. He goes on to joke that far from being the perfect creation of a perfect designer, this universe may be "only the first rude essay of some infant deity... the object of derision to his superiors".

Look round the world: contemplate the whole and every part of it: You will find it to be nothing but one great-machine, subdivided into an infinite number of lesser machines, which again admit of subdivisions to a degree beyond what human senses and faculties can trace and explain. All these various machines, and even their most minute parts, are adjusted to each other with an accuracy, which ravishes into admiration all men who have ever contemplated them. The curious adapting of means to ends, throughout all nature, resembles exactly, though it much exceeds, the productions of human contrivance; of human design, thought, wisdom, and intelligence. Since therefore the effects resemble each other, we are led to infer, by all the rules of analogy, that the causes also resemble; and that the Author of Nature is somewhat similar to the mind of man; though possessed of much larger faculties, proportioned to the grandeur of the work which he has executed. By this argument a posteriori, and by this argument alone, do we prove at once the existence of a Deity, and his similarity to human mind and intelligence.[36]

David Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion

Watchmaker analogy

William Paley's "watchmaker analogy" is one of the most famous teleological arguments

The watchmaker analogy, framing the argument with reference to a timepiece, dates back to Cicero, who used the example of a sundial or water-clock in his reasoning that the presence of order and purpose signify the existence of a designer. It was also used by Robert Hooke[37] and Voltaire, the latter of whom remarked: "L'univers m'embarrasse, et je ne puis songer Que cette horloge existe, et n'ait point d'horloger";[38] "I'm puzzled by the world; I cannot dream The timepiece real, its maker but a dream".[39]

William Paley presented the watchmaker analogy in his Natural Theology (1802).[40]

[S]uppose I found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place, I should hardly think … that, for anything I knew, the watch might have always been there. Yet why should not this answer serve for the watch as well as for [a] stone [that happened to be lying on the ground]?… For this reason, and for no other; namely, that, if the different parts had been differently shaped from what they are, if a different size from what they are, or placed after any other manner, or in any order than that in which they are placed, either no motion at all would have been carried on in the machine, or none which would have answered the use that is now served by it.
—William Paley, Natural Theology[31]

Paley wrote in response to Hume's objection to analogy between artefacts and worlds, choosing to use the example of a watch as a reliable indicator of intelligent design. He identifies two features of a watch which demonstrate that it is intelligently designed. First, a watch performs a valuable purpose, timekeeping, which a designer would find useful; secondly, the watch would be unable to perform such a purpose if its parts were any different, or arranged in any other way. Paley argued that the world holds the same functional complexity found in the watch. As the world seems to be both complex and achieves a purpose, Paley reasons that this must be evidence of intelligent design.

As a theology student, Charles Darwin found Paley's arguments compelling. However, he later developed his theory of evolution in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, which offers an alternate explanation of biological order. In his autobiography, Darwin wrote that "The old argument of design in nature, as given by Paley, which formerly seemed to me so conclusive, fails, now that the law of natural selection has been discovered".[41] Darwin struggled with the problem of evil of suffering in nature, but remained inclined to believe that nature depended upon "designed laws" and commended Asa Gray for pointing out that Darwin's work supported teleology.[42]

Fine-tuning argument

A modern variation of the teleological argument is the fine-tuned Universe argument. It is based on the idea that, were a number of the universe's properties only slightly different, life in the universe would be impossible. For example, if the force of the Big Bang explosion had been different by 1/1060 or the strong interaction force was only 5% different, life would be impossible. The fine-tuning argument proposes that the improbability of achieving such perfect conditions randomly is so high that intelligent design is the most likely answer.[43] This view is shared by John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler in The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (1986).[44]

Theoretical physicist and theologian John Polkinghorne noted in 1985 that the difference between expansive and contractive forces in the expanding universe, according to the then-currently accepted theory, depends on a fine balance between the total energy involved to within one in 1060. In the same year, George Wald wrote that the conditions for the existence of the atom depend on a balance of forces to within one in 1018. Proponents of the fine-tuned Universe argument argue that the high improbability of such delicate balances suggest design, rather than chance.

Critics have argued that any statistics could be manipulated to define any natural situation which is very improbable, yet has nevertheless occurred. The problem presented is that the improbable conditions were identified after the event - the creation of the Universe - so cannot be verified with an experiment. Moreover, it is not possible to sample a set of alternatives to determine the actual probability of life developing. Observations of the cosmos has indicated that the set of conditions on Earth are one of a wide variation of conditions across observed planets which have not met the conditions necessary for life. In Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and its Consequences (1989), John Allen Paulos used the analogy of a bridge game to criticise the argument. He wrote that the odds of a mundane event, such as that of getting any particular hand of thirteen cards in a game of bridge, is approximately one in 600 billion. Yet he proposes that it would be absurd to assert that the hand must not have been randomly dealt. This appears to support the position that the conditions in the Universe are just a fortunate accident.

Another variant makes an argument based on consciousness. Physicist John Wheeler's assertion that the universe seems to require an observer reflects on design not as an external phenomenon, but intrinsic to consciousness. There thus is no search for a criterion of intelligence outside the universe being imposed on it or capable of revealing whether an intelligence has been injected into it; but rather, that consciousness recognizes itself as present in all of existence. Alfred Whitehead had made a similar argument in the early twentieth century. In defense of Whitehead's approach, Charles Hartshorne has written that the panentheism implicit in this argument evades the logical difficulties of the arguments from design of traditional theists. He asks how can a universe that is considered outside of the deity display the design of the being that is outside of. But in Whitehead's view, echoing that of George Berkeley, our very act of what he calls prehension provides us with first-hand evidence of the deity.

Intelligent design movement

In the wake of the "fine-tuned universe" observations and arguments published in the 1980s, the intelligent design movement picked up some of the above concepts, added some additional ones such as irreducible complexity (a variant of the watchmaker analogy) and specified complexity (closely resembling a fine-tuning argument) and attempted to cast the resulting combined form of the teleological argument as scientific rather than speculative. The vast majority of scientists have disagreed with the assertion that it is scientific, as have the findings of a federal court in the United States in a 2005 decision, which ruled that the "intelligent design" arguments are essentially religious in nature. (See Other issues below.)

Proponents of the movement such as Cornelius G. Hunter, have asserted that the methodological naturalism upon which science is based is religious in nature.[45] They commonly refer to it as 'scientific materialism' or as 'methodological materialism' and conflate it with 'metaphysical naturalism'.[46] They use this assertion to support their claim that modern science is atheistic, and contrast it with their preferred approach of a revived natural philosophy which welcomes supernatural explanations for natural phenomena and supports theistic science. This ignores the distinction between science and religion, established in Ancient Greece.[47] In medieval European Scholasticism, science as taught at universities was obliged to restrict its attention to the natural world. From a standpoint of modern science, Stephen Jay Gould's concept of Nonoverlapping Magisteria (NOMA), states that science and religion should be considered two compatible, complementary fields, or "magisteria", whose authority does not overlap.[citation needed]

Modern developments

University of Chicago geneticist James A. Shapiro, writing in the Boston Review, states that advancements in microbiology, molecular biology and genetics, in so far as they overlap with information science, introduces hard science with implications for the teleological argument. Genome reorganization is a biological process discovered by Nobel Laureate Barbara McClintock. Shapiro states that these natural genetic engineering systems can produce radical reorganizations of the 'genetic apparatus within a single cell generation'. One protozoa called Oxytricha in response to stress, is capable of splitting its chromosomes into thousands of pieces which are then reassembled into a 'distinct kind of functional genome'.[48] Shapiro suggests what he calls a 'Third Way'; a non-creationist, non-Darwinian type of evolution:

What significance does an emerging interface between biology and information science hold for thinking about evolution? It opens up the possibility of addressing scientifically rather than ideologically the central issue so hotly contested by fundamentalists on both sides of the Creationist-Darwinist debate: Is there any guiding intelligence at work in the origin of species displaying exquisite adaptations…" [48]


Complexity does not imply design

The first (and therefore second) premise[clarification needed] assumes that one can infer the existence of intelligent design merely by examining an object. The teleological argument assumes that because life is complex, it must have been designed. It is argued that this is non-sequitur logic. Life or objects are described as "orderly" or "ordered", which implies that an intelligent designer has ordered them. However, there are examples of systems that are non-random or ordered simply because they are following natural physical processes; for example, diamonds or snowflakes. It is argued, however, that the presence of this kind of natural physical process is also evidence for a designer, and these particular systems are repetitive in nature and less complex than a non-repetitive system like DNA.

The design claim is often challenged as an argument from ignorance, since it is often unexplained or unsupported, or explained by conjecture. Supporters of design suggest that natural objects and man-made objects have similar properties, therefore both must be designed. However, different objects can have similar properties for different reasons, such as stars and light bulbs. Proponents must therefore demonstrate that only design can cause one or more orderly systems.

As most professional biologists support the theory of biological evolution by means of natural selection, they reject the first premise,[clarification needed] arguing that evolution is not only an alternative explanation for the complexity of life but a better explanation with more supporting evidence. Living organisms obey the same physical laws as inanimate objects. Over very long periods of time self-replicating structures arose and later formed DNA. This has simulated artificially via the Avida program.

Does not prove the existence of God

Voltaire said that, at best, the teleological argument could only indicate the existence of a powerful, but not necessarily all-powerful or all-knowing, intelligence

Another argument states that even if the argument from design proved the existence of a powerful intelligent designer, it would not prove that the designer is God. Voltaire observed in his Traité de métaphysique:[49]

... from this sole argument I cannot conclude anything further than that it is probable that an intelligent and superior being has skillfully prepared and fashioned the matter. I cannot conclude from that alone that this being has made matter out of nothing and that he is infinite in every sense.

Søren Kierkegaard pointed out that the argument from design does not take into consideration future events which may serve to undermine the proof of God's existence. The argument would never finish proving God's existence.[citation needed] In the Philosophical Fragments, Kierkegaard writes:

The works of God are such that only God can perform them. Just so, but where then are the works of the God? The works from which I would deduce his existence are not directly and immediately given. The wisdom in nature, the goodness, the wisdom in the governance of the world -- are all these manifest, perhaps, upon the very face of things? Are we not here confronted with the most terrible temptations to doubt, and is it not impossible finally to dispose of all these doubts? But from such an order of things I will surely not attempt to prove God's existence; and even if I began I would never finish, and would in addition have to live constantly in suspense, lest something so terrible should suddenly happen that my bit of proof would be demolished.[50]

David Hume pointed out that the argument does not necessarily lead to the existence of one God. In his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, the character Philo argued (p. 108), amidst other counterarguments to the teleological argument, "why may not several deities combine in contriving and framing the world?"[51]

Wesley C. Salmon built upon Hume's insights and argued that all things in the universe that exhibit order, to our knowledge, are created by material, imperfect, finite beings or forces. He also argued that there are no known instances of an immaterial, perfect, infinite being creating anything. Using the probability calculus of Bayes Theorem, Salmon concludes that it is very improbable that the universe was created by the type of intelligent being theists argue for.[52]

Nancy Cartwright accuses Salmon of begging the question, however. One of the pieces of evidence he uses in his probabilistic argument (that atoms and molecules are not caused by design) is equivalent to the conclusion he draws (that the universe is probably not caused by design). The atoms and molecules are what the universe is made up of and whose origins are at issue. Therefore, they cannot be used as evidence against the theistic conclusion.[53]

Argument from improbability

Richard Dawkins is harshly critical of theology, creation and intelligent design in his book The God Delusion in which he contends that an appeal to intelligent design can provide no explanation for biology because it not only begs the question of the designer's own origin; but an intelligent designer must itself be far more complex and difficult to explain than anything it's capable of designing.[54] He believes the changes of life arising on a planet like the Earth are many orders of magnitude less probable than most people would think, but the anthropic principle effectively counters skepticism with regard to improbability. For example, Fred Hoyle, suggested potential for life on Earth was no more probable than a Boeing 747 being assembled by a hurricane from the scrape yard. He argues that a one-time event is subject to improbability but once underway, natural selection itself is nothing like random chance. Furthermore, he refers to his counter argument to the argument from improbability by that same name:[54]

The argument from improbability is the big one. In the traditional guise of the argument from design, it is easily today's most popular argument offered in favour of the existence of God and it is seen, by an amazingly large number of theists, as completely and utterly convincing. It is indeed a very strong and, I suspect, unanswerable argument—but in precisely the opposite direction from the theist's intention. The argument from improbability, properly deployed, comes close to proving that God does not exist. My name for the statistical demonstration that God almost certainly does not exist is the Ultimate Boeing 747 gambit.

The creationist misappropriation of the argument from improbability always takes the same general form, and it doesn't make any difference… [if called] 'intelligent design' (ID). Some observed phenomenon—often a living creature or one of its more complex organs, but it could be anything from a molecule up to the universe itself—is correctly extolled as statistically improbable. Sometimes the language of information theory is used: the Darwinian is challenged to explain the source all the information in living matter, in the technical sense of information content as a measure of improbability or 'surprise value'… However statistically improbable the entity you seek to explain by invoking a designer, the designer himself has got to be at least as improbable. God is the Ultimate Boeing 747.

…The whole argument turns on the familiar question 'Who made God?'… A designer God cannot be used to explain organized complexity because any God capable of designing anything would have to be complex enough to demand the same kind of explanation in his own right. God presents an infinite regress from which he cannot help us to escape. This argument… demonstrates that God, though not technically disprovable, is very very improbable indeed.[54]

Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

Dawkins considered the argument from improbability to be "much more powerful" than the teleological argument, or argument from design, although he sometimes implies the terms are used interchangeably. He paraphrases St.Thomas' teleological argument as follows: “Things in the world, especially living things, look as though they have been designed. Nothing that we know looks designed unless it is designed. Therefore there must have been a designer, and we call him God.” [54]

George H. Smith, in his book Atheism: The Case Against God, points out what he considers to be a flaw in the argument from design:

Consider the idea that nature itself is the product of design. How could this be demonstrated? Nature… provides the basis of comparison by which we distinguish between designed objects and natural objects. We are able to infer the presence of design only to the extent that the characteristics of an object differ from natural characteristics. Therefore, to claim that nature as a whole was designed is to destroy the basis by which we differentiate between artifacts and natural objects. (p. 268)

Intelligent design arguments in biology

Richard Dawkins, a high-profile advocate of atheism, suggests that while biology can at first seem to be purposeful and ordered, upon closer inspection its true function becomes questionable. Dawkins rejects the claim that biology serves any actual function, claiming rather that biology only mimics purpose. In his book The Blind Watchmaker, Dawkins states that animals are the most complex things in the known universe: “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” He argues that natural selection should suffice as an explanation of biological complexity without recourse to divine provenance.[55]

Proponents of design, such as William A. Dembski question the philosophical assumptions made by critics with regard to what a designer would or would not do. Dembski notes that such arguments aren't merely beyond the purview of science, often they're tacitly or overtly theological while failing to provide a serious analysis of the hypothetical objective's relative merit. Some critics, such as Stephen Jay Gould even suggest that any purported 'cosmic' designer would only design optimally, while at the same time offering numerous biological criticisms to demonstrate that ideal is manifestly untenable. Dembski characterizes both Dawkins' and Gould's argument as a rhetorical straw man.[56] He suggests a principle of constrained optimization more realistically describes the best any designer could hope to achieve:

Not knowing the objectives of the designer, Gould was in no position to say whether the designer proposed a faulty compromise among those objectives… In criticizing design, biologists tend to place a premium on functionalities of individual organisms and see design as optimal to the degree that those individual functionalities are maximized. But higher-order designs of entire ecosystems might require lower-order designs of individual organisms to fall short of maximal function. [56]

William A. Dembski, The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions About Intelligent Design

See also


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