Swinburne and Tennant

Swinburne and Tennant
Understand the anthropic principle.
Have knowledge of the replies.
So Hume…
• Write a summary of 3 of Hume’s objections.
There is something
wrong with that
What if it
just one
But things
have to work
to survive?
But what about
Is there not a
small evil
In between…. Darwin
• Spider diagram about Darwin.
Darwin’s theory of Evolution
Think Pair Share
• Why does Darwin cause a problem for the
Teleological argument.
• Which criticism prior to Darwin now takes on
more of a precedence? How?
• Charles Darwin (‘The Origin of Species’ 1853)
• The argument rests on the idea that chance cannot explain
design – Darwin uncovers that it can.
• Species do not arise according to a divine plan: they arise step
by step through the mutation of genes
• The guiding principle in life is not a set of blue prints but the
process of the natural selection of genes which benefit a
• This directly contradicts the Aristotelian basis of Aquinas’
‘Fifth Way’ (the idea that all living objects are goal-directed)
Where do theists go now?
Abandon the argument
Base theism on
Something else
Reject theism
Re-state the argument
Reject / reply to
Hume & Darwinian
Reformulate the
argument on a
different basis
Personal faith
Revealed theology
Different theistic arguments
Anthropic principle
Argue for non-classical theology
Anthropic Vs Aesthetic Principle.
Best evidence of life is in the way the universe supports design.
Aesthetic principle. Why do you like art? Beautiful paintings?
Joy and beauty given to us by God.
F.R. Tennant and the
anthropic principle
• Cambridge academic and clergyman 1866-1957.
• “Nature is meaningless and valueless without God behind it
and Man in front.” (Philosophical Theology, 1930)
• Tennant is arguing that humanity is at the forefront of
creation, because the circumstances of the universe
uniquely and surprisingly enable human life to emerge.
• Tennant was the first theist philosopher to use the
fundamental characteristics of the universe as lifenurturing to offer a new form of teleological argument;
many have since followed this path.
Anthropic reasoning
• From the Greek ‘anthropos’
(human/man); anthropic reasoning
argues from the human perspective.
• Write down a list of the factors
necessary for your existence.
• Reflect: are humans fortunate in
having the conditions of life met? Is
it surprising that the world is set up
for life?
The ‘anthropic principle’
• Used as response to theory of evolution provided by
• The world contains human beings
• The conditions necessary to bring this about were
extremely slim (1/100,000,000,000124!)
• Such conditions cannot be rationally attributed to chance
• These conditions must have been designed
• This designer was God
• ‘Nature is meaningless and valueless without God behind it
and Man in front.’ (Tennant, Philosophical Theology, 1930)
Weak and strong principles
• ‘Weak anthropic
• The circumstances in
our universe are such
that the emergence of
life is possible.
• This could fit in with
theism (God has
enabled life), but does
not so clearly suggest
the idea of creation.
• ‘Strong anthropic
• The circumstances in
our universe are such
that the emergence of
life is inevitable
• Theists could use this to
argue teleologically,
that God has intended a
human life producing
Anthropic teleological argument
1. The emergence of human life in our universe depends on
numerous factors: planetary conditions, fundamental laws
of physics, etc.
2. Human life has emerged in our universe.
3. A life-friendly universe such as ours is highly improbable;
almost any other set of circumstances we can think of
would have been life-hostile.
4. A designer or intelligent Creator would make sense of our
improbable universe.
CONCLUSION: God exists
Rate my argument
A new design argument?
Keith Ward
“The argument in its
seventeenth-century form …
may have been superseded by
Darwin. But the design
argument still lives, as an
argument that the precise
structure of laws and constants
that seem uniquely fitted to
produce life by a process of
evolution is highly improbable.
The existence of a designer or
creator God makes this much
less improbable. That is the new
Design Argument, and it is very
But can you criticise Ward’s
‘new’ argument?
• Your criticisms:
F.R. Tennant 20th c.
The ‘aesthetic argument’
• Used as response to Darwin’s explanation of design through
• Beauty exists in the world
• Beauty cannot be derived through natural selection – it
provides no survival benefit to species
• Beauty therefore requires a designer
• This designer is God
• “Beauty is the lost thought of theology” (David Ford 20th c.)
Richard Swinburne
• One of the most eminent modern philosophers of
religion is Richard Swinburne, Professor of
Philosophy at Oxford (retired).
• Swinburne is the chief exponent of what Ward
calls the “new design argument” – an argument
which takes a different path from the preDarwinian argument of Paley.
• His argument is set out in The Existence of God.
• Swinburne begins by distinguishing between
spatial and temporal order. ‘Spatial order’ is the
subject of Paley’s argument – how parts are fitted
together in an orderly way by a designer.
Swinburne regards this argument as defeated by
Swinburne continued
I pass on to consider a form of teleological argument which seems to
me a much stronger one-the teleological argument from the
temporal order of the world. The temporal order of the universe is, to
the man who bothers to give it a moment's thought, an
overwhelmingly striking fact about it. Regularities of succession are
all pervasive. For simple laws govern almost all successions of
events. In books of physics, chemistry, and biology we can learn how
almost everything in the world behaves. The laws of their behaviour
can be set out by relatively simple formulae which men can
understand and by means of which they can successfully predict the
future. The orderliness of the universe to which I draw attention here
is its conformity to formula, to simple, formutable, scientific laws.
The orderliness of the universe in this respect is a very striking fact
about it. The universe might so naturally have been chaotic, but it is
not-it is very orderly.
The God conclusion
• Given the striking pervasiveness of orderly laws of
nature, Swinburne asks, how are we to explain the
universe as we find it?
• Swinburne claims that scientists are able to define
laws, say how they work, and discover new ones.
However, what scientists may never do is find a basis
for the most fundamental laws in the first place.
• In other words, the scientific method cannot explain
why there is deep and fundamental order in the first
• If there is no possible scientific explanation for this,
then we are required to look for another simple and
elegant explanation – the most likely answer, he
claims, is God.
Objections to modern design arguments
• Multiverse theory – there may be and may have been
many universes, most of which are chaotic and do not
sustain life. If there are many universes, the chance of
an orderly universe emerging are not remote.
• Humans over-state their importance – famously put
forward by the American poet Mark Twain. The world
was not created as an amazing habitat for man; man
exists because of the world, not the other way around.
Rate Swinburne’s
Intelligent Design
Intelligent Design the basics
• “Certain features of the universe and of living
things are best explained by an intelligent
cause, not an undirected process such
as natural selection.” Centre for Science and
• Contemporary arguments try to avoid citing
God as the intelligent designer but instead just
refer to a designer.
• The current state of life in the universe has come about through
the actions of an intelligent designer.
• This is because;
• Some things contain complexity that is best explained as a
result of an intelligent cause.
• Some aspects of the universe show positive evidence of
having been designed by some form of intelligence.
ID Continued.
• This designer need not be God but most
proponents of intelligent design seem to have
God in mind
• This theory has been accused of being
creationism in disguise
• Although a few scientists have supported
intelligent design, the majority of those
working in the field regard the theory as false
and unscientific
Michael Behe
• “Examine the main strengths and weaknesses
of the design argument for the existence of

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