The Instigator
Pro (for)
11 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
1 Points

The teleological argument for God's existence is unsound

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Post Voting Period
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after 2 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/18/2012 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,973 times Debate No: 26322
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (6)
Votes (2)





The Pro will have the primary burden of proof in formulating and defending an argument against the teleological argument as defined. Con's burden will be to deconstruct and refute Pro's case.


The teleological argument is purposely defined rigidly. The resolution applies only to this specific formulation of the teleological argument. The reason for this note is that there are numerous formulations of the argument, with different refutations for them.

The teleological argument is formulated as follows the analogical form:

  1. Entity e within nature (or the cosmos, or nature itself) is like specified human artifact a (e.g., a machine) in relevant respects R.
  2. a has R precisely because it is a product of deliberate design by intelligent human agency.
  3. Like effects typically have like causes (or like explanations, like existence requirements, etc.)


  1. It is (highly) probable that e has R precisely because it too is a product of deliberate design by intelligent, relevantly human-like agency.[1]


[1] (Sec. 2.1)


I thank my opponent for letting me accept this debate challenge. I will be defending the teleological argument for god (a.k.a. Intelligent Design argument) is sound.

though my opponent did not specify that first round was just for acceptance, I'm going to assume that probably what he wanted given he only gave definitions and no arguments himself yet.

I look forward to my opponents opening round.
Debate Round No. 1


I'd like to first extend thanks to Marauder for agreeing to do this debate with me. It should be nice to debate someone as well versed as he is in theology and apologetics. Now on to my argument, I will be forwarding and defending only one contention. This contention will take the form of the Humean objection to the analogical subset of the teleological argument, drawing on Hume's account of induction, his skeptical epistemology, and his division between logical necessity and mere matters of fact.

First I'd like to explain the nature of the teleological argument. It is inductive, meaning that the conclusion is said to be highly probable given the truth of the premises (ex. given that all men I've met have brown hair, it's highly likely all men have brown hair). This is contrasted with deductive arguments which claim absolute certainty in their conclusions given the soundness of the premises (ex. given that all men are mortal and that Socrates is a man, Socrates must be mortal). The argument is also a posteriori as opposed to a priori, meaning that we must look to experience to validate the soundness of the premises as opposed to just sound logic and reasoning. This distinction possesses important consequences for the soundness of the argument.

Now since the argument is inductive and a posteriori, it runs into the problem that any argument does in attempting to ascribe a universal *cause* to a generalized, observable *effect*. Basically, the argument takes a generalization of the universe as a whole (that what we see implies design) and goes past that. Even if one admits that the universe as we have observed exhibits symptoms of design, this wouldn't go far enough to establish the conclusion. This is because we're attempting to establish a cause of the entire universe, not just the observable part. The rule of proportionality states that we should proportion our conclusion to our evidence and if we only have evidence in what we have observed, this doesn't go far enough to justify the conclusion that the universe as a whole (including parts which we have never observed) must have a designer.

We can observe this rule in action by example. Imagine an alien observing the Earth (ignore the fantastical nature of the analogy, it's meant to prove a principle, not a matter of fact). This alien only points it's observation equipment at the Gansu province in China. Given that China is a mostly ethnically homogeneous country, we can expect that most of the people observed will be Chinese or of some Asian descent. Judging from such a small sample of the entire Earth's population, we can see clearly that the extrapolation from "This region is mostly made up of Chinese people" to "The entire Earth must be inhabited by Chinese people" is fallacious and unsound. And so the same principle shows that extrapolating from the tiny fraction of the observable universe which we inhabit and observe to the whole is equally unsound.

Also, an important distinction in Humean epistemology must be made between logical necessity and matters of fact. Facts may be called logically necessary when their denial entails a contradiction. An example of this would be the statement that "Some bachelors are married." This is a strict contradiction in terms. A matter of fact though is a statement which could be true or false, but neither option entails contradiction. An example would be that "Man X is a bachelor." Nothing in the concept man necessarily entails being married or not married, therefore the statement is a matter of fact. The fact that some phenomenon we see entail design (i.e., watches) is only a matter of fact. It's wholly within the realm of logical possibility that matter could give way to phenomenon that appear designed or orderly. Therefore, any argument which claims that the appearance of design/order necessitate a designer is unsound.


The Humean objection creates two major problems for the analogical-teleological argument. First, the argument fails to meet the epistemological burden of establishing a cause for the universe as a whole, since the part of the universe we inhabit and have observed is seemingly minuscule in relation to the whole. Therefore, we have no epistemic grounds for ascribing a cause to the entire universe. This can be shown by the fact that the teleological argument is inductive and a posteriori, meaning it only draws upon empirical observation, so it automatically must have nothing to say of things which we have not observed. The second major problem with the argument is that given the parts of the universe we see which seem to imply design, a designer still fails to be necessitated since even when we see objects which are orderly and imply design, it's only a matter of fact that they were (i.e., houses, watches). There's no logical contradiction in the premise that undirected matter could give way to products which are orderly and give the appearance of design. Seeing as I don't want to get too repetitive, I'll pass the debate over to Con now.


I thank my opponent for his prompt opening round, and concise well formatted case. After reading my opponents points he has left me with just 2 to refute. One about inductive reasoning, and one about it being a matter of fact. So now I shall try to address both arguments.

Logicians have a term: "Inference to the best explanation." This means you have a body of data to be explained, and then you have a pool of live options or various explanations for that data. You need to choose which explanation from that pool, if true, best explain the observed data.

The Teleological Argument or Intelligent Design case does not need to prove rigidly by deductive reasoning its point to remain a valid, rational, logical case to bring up in discussions or debates to support the existence of God or some other intelligent designer for that matter. By the end of my opponents last round he might have almost got you thinking "inductive reasoning" is synonymous with irrational or illogical or even irrelevant. At least I guess that"s his implication because if he can"t show the Teleological Argument to be inherently irrational, illogical, or irrelevant to its used purpose"s, then he fails to make a sufficient case against the argument itself for this debates resolution. That"s how I interpret it anyway because if the argument is not inherently irrational (though at the least Pro says its inductive logic, and it establishes a "matter of fact") then its not totally dumb to use it in debates and if its not irrelevant than it even serves its purpose to support other debate resolutions like "God exist".

To better explain lets go to the alien example my opponent gave. The aliens who have a telescope and there watching just one town in china to observe earth. So they use inductive reasoning and believe all humans are Chinese. Pro said that would be fallacious thinking for them. Why? Think about it from there perspective, if they have no clues yet leading them to be open to diverse breads of humans why would it be arrogant of them to go on thinking all the humans are one way until they observe otherwise? Especially if on there own alien planet they themselves do not have multiple races or nations.

Basically this amounts to when approaching the man looking at a watch he found who is saying he believes a watchmaker made it "your thinking is faulty because you could be wrong"

I don"t think any of us would hold it against the first man for holding onto believing the watch looks designed because it was made by design, because inference should go to the best explanation

Another point to counter against my opponent"s first case about inductive reasoning. "because we have not observed it all you cannot apply the I.D. argument to all of it" If that"s so, the same logic could be used to say "we have not measured all the drops of water in the ocean you cant apply what you"ve measured about some of the water hear at the shore is like the rest of the ocean." It would rule out being able to go with the theory that its all got salt in it. but that"s really not that far a leap to make.

You yourself would probably tell me I"m the one making a wild ungrounded claim should I say there could be living dinosaurs in the parts of Africa not explored yet, when to our observation of the world thus far, dinosaurs are extinct. But that would be an inductive guess on your part wouldn"t it?

Being an inductive argument does not inherently raise any problems with an argument. If every argument has to establish solid proof of its case by itself then even a deductive one can come to problems with proof. Example "all men are mortal, Socrates is a man, thus Socrates is mortal" ultimately you don"t prove Socrates is not an exception to the rule "all men are mortal" until he dies.
Another point to consider that defends the I.D. argument. Even if the rest of the universe that"s unobserved is completely without sign of design, the argument would still stand that our originally observed part was designed. Example of my point: "will smith is walking through a city full of buildings and cars, subways, streets, ect" later he reaches its edge for the first time and sees the natural forest. Despite this new discovery, he still believes men existed to build the city that appears designed."
Well I"ve spent enough time on the first point. Although I feel my two main contentions against your point about it only being inductive logic apply to your point about "matter of facts" as well. That in the end even if your right its not a inherent problem for the I.D. argument, as it doesn"t make it illogical or irrelevant in debates about God or other possible designers. Also to use that abduction logic statement once again "inference to the best explanation". There does not need to be a contradiction in "in the premise that undirected matter could give way to products which are orderly", the concept that they look designed because they are designed just flat out shows it up as a better explanation.

And that really seems to do enough to answer that point as well but I"d like to end this round on this note since your taking your case from David Hume. Even Hume admitted that he"d "never asserted a proposition so absurd as to say anything might arise without a cause". And thanks to science we are positive the universe arose or began to exist (the big bang) and so it had a cause. To say it was caused by nothing from nothing, is in essence a lack of explanation, while to point to an intelligent force apart from the universe as we know it as its cause and architect is an explanation.
Well that"s it for this round, next round I shall give my case for the assertion I"ve been simply stating that the teleological argument is indeed the best explanation.
I look forward to my opponent"s response
Debate Round No. 2


socialpinko forfeited this round.


Marauder forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


Seeing as the rules prohibit new arguments in the last round, I'll refrain from posting any this round. Therefore, since this is the last round, I forfeit this debate to Marauder.


umm, okay.

gee and they say 1 round debates have no purpose yet that is the maximum number of rounds we made use of in this 4 round debate.

In any-case I still someone enjoyed this debate and I thank my opponent for it.
Debate Round No. 4
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by Marauder 5 years ago
I apologize, I meant to have my argument more formatted to clearly show the breakdown of my case. I scheduled time to do it but I had sudden chores that day that ate all my time before work.

I will do better next round
Posted by socialpinko 5 years ago
Yes the first round was for acceptance. I forgot to post the rules I usually post in all of my debates, one of them specifying that. Don't worry, the rules are all standard.
Posted by socialpinko 5 years ago
Well on a list of the best theist debaters on the site, you're definitely up there and I want a good opponent for this. Sorry Bossy.
Posted by Marauder 5 years ago
thank you
Posted by Marauder 5 years ago
spinko! whats you requirements? I was thinking about taking this I.D. debate. you not going to find a more awesome opponent than me and plus we haven't debated in a while (or I haven't debated at all in awhile really).

we need to reconnect, reconnect in the closest way we can, in bloodshed and battle......

what I'm trying to say is ...WHAH :_( I WANT I WANT.....WHAH!
Posted by bossyburrito 5 years ago
I can accept it.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by devient.genie 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:70 
Reasons for voting decision: Fairy tales arent called facts for a reason :)
Vote Placed by philochristos 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:41 
Reasons for voting decision: I gave conduct to Con because Pro bailed on the debate. Pro got S&G because Con frequently used "your" when he should've used "you're," and his writing was not nearly as clear as Pro's. Although Con effectively responded to Pro's first argument, I don't think Con effectively responded to Pro's second argument, so arguments to Pro. Although Con quoted David Hume, he did not cite his source, and since neither cited sources, they are tied.