The Design (teleological) Argument


Simply put

Premise 1
Some things (e.g. watches) are very complicated. They contain many parts which fit and work together in an orderly and regular manner to achieve their end (e.g. telling the time).

Premise 2
This complexity is evidence of design - the parts could not have come together in this way by chance - they must have been put together deliberately to achieve their purpose.

Premise 3
Where there is evidence of design, there must be a designer. In the case of a watch, this is the watchmaker.

Premise 4
The universe shows evidence of design. Nature has many complicated parts which work together to achieve their end (e.g. the eye, the pollination of flowers by bees, the orbits of the planets, the conditions of the Big Bang). They could not have come together in this way by chance.

If the universe shows evidence of design, then it must have a designer. This we call God.
Therefore God exists

This is an a posteriori argument
which means that it starts by looking at the world.

It is also an inductive argument
which means that its conclusion is only probable, not certain.


Premise 3
  • This may be true of a watch but apparent evidence of design could also have come about by chance.
  • It is possible for someone to throw two dice and throw 10 sixes in a row - a lucky chance. We might well suspect that they were cheating, but we could not rule out the possibility of chance producing this apparently designed result, without the need for a designer.

Premise 4

  • Seeing orderly arrangements in things is a matter of opinion. The human mind does like to try to categorise things and see order where there might be none. Order, like beauty, is "in the eye of the beholder".
  • Evolution is just as valid a way to explain the apparent order and design we see in nature.


  • The argument works by analogy (comparison e.g. watch is to watchmaker as universe is to universemaker).
  • We have experience of watches being designed by watchmakers, but we have no experience of universes being designed by universemakers, so can we really make such a comparison?
  • Is the universe really like a watch? Watchmakers design lots of watches, but we have no evidence for the existence of other universes.
  • Watchmakers also start off as apprentices and may design bad watches along the way - the same must be true of universemakers.
  • Not all watchmakers are good people - they certainly aren't omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, (all powerful, all knowing, all good) and perfectly intelligent beings. What does this analogy imply for universemakers?

© Mr.B at Woodford County High School