In my opinion, David Hume, in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, completely destroys the traditional design argument. In this essay I will outline an example of the traditional design argument, as written by Newton, and also Hume's critique of this argument, in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion' (1779, 1990, Bell ed.) This discussion is summarised in the Robert Hurlbutt book Hume, Newton and the Design Argument' (Lincoln University Press, 1965).
Newton seems to base his theology upon the limitations of his science, which may be a bad thing, because over time science becomes updated and his theories become obsolete. However, Newton at this point introduces his design argument in a more explicit sense than before:
[...] Newton's downfall in this section, however, is to start talking about God in the traditional theistic sense, such as that God is all powerful, and omniscient and benevolent, which do not appear to be logically connected with the design proof he has given, although it seems clear that they could be linked in some way with the design argument, as we will see later in the attacks by Hume on such topics as benevolence and intelligence. In his Dialogues, Hume is attacking natural theology, in particular the design argument in the form linked to a posteriori methods of science. [...]
[...] Philo's second objection to the design argument is known as the uniqueness argument. It is as follows: If the order exemplified in some object Observation1 is evidence of intelligent design, then we must have had past experiences of other some other like object and past experiences of "O2 being produced by intelligent design." We have had neither past experiences of other Universes nor experiences of any Universe being produced by intelligent design. Therefore, the order exemplified in the Universe is not evidence of intelligent design. [...]
[...] Furthermore, the argument like most design arguments is teleological, in that it relies on “purposive relationships as evidence” (Hurlbutt, p8). In this case, the telic aspect is not in nature itself, but rather in the mind of the creator. The order, however, is in nature, and even without purpose would constitute order. This design argument is known as the argument from design. I will now move on to Newton's discussion of the design argument in the Optics (1718). In the Optics, Newton repeats his argument from design, but also begins to talk about an argument to design. [...]
[...] This argument is very similar in form to design arguments that Newton proposes, and which Hume now attacks through the voice of Philo. Philo takes Cleanthes' argument as an argument from analogy, and he thinks that all such arguments involve the following form: Object A has some property P. Object A and object B are similar overall to some degree N. Therefore, Object B has property P. Philo believes that such arguments are as reliable or likely as the evidence for N in is reliable. [...]
[...] Philo says that at most, the design argument shows the need for a designer, but not that the designer must be an all-powerful, all-knowing God, as Newton would suggest. Philo says: By this method of reasoning you renounce all claim to infinity in any of the attributes of the Deity. For, as the cause ought only to be proportioned to the effect, and the effect, so far as it falls under cognizance, is not infinite, what pretensions have we, upon your suppositions, to ascribe that attribute to the divine being . [...]
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