Probably the most popular argument for God's existence is the teleological argument. Derived from the Greek word telos, which refers to purpose or end, this argument hinges on the idea that the world gives evidence of being designed, and concludes that a divine designer must be posited to account for the orderly world we encounter. Although the teleological argument dates at least as far back as Plato, it is perhaps most memorable today from the work of William Paley (1743-1805), in his Natural Theology (1802). Recently, the teleological argument has gained renewed interest as a core element of the theory of Intelligent Design and the related efforts to reconcile science and faith. This was predicted by Kelvin who pointed out that in the 19th century the argument of design has been greatly too much lost sight of in contemporary zoological speculations and that reaction against frivolities of teleology by 'learned Commentators' on Paley's "Natural Theology" should have had only a temporary effect in turning attention from "the solid and irrefragable argument so well put forward in that excellent old book".
Although there are variations, the basic argument goes something like this:
- X is too complex to have occurred randomly or naturally.
- Therefore, X must have been created by an intelligent being, Y.
- God is that intelligent being.
- Therefore, God exists.
Often, X is life, but there are other values for which the argument works. For example, scientists have found that if the universal constants (such as the speed of light or the Planck constant) were only a tiny bit different life could not exist.
- W. Thomson (Lord Kelvin) (1871). On the Origin of Life. Transactions of the Geological Society of Glasgow. Retrieved on 6 June 2015. “I feel profoundly convinced that the argument of design has been greatly too much lost sight of in recent zoological speculations. Reaction against frivolities of teleology, such as are to be found, not rarely, in the notes of learned Commentators on Paley's "Natural Theology," has I believe had a temporary effect in turning attention from the solid and irrefragable argument so well put forward in that excellent old book. But overpoweringly strong proofs of intelligent and benevolent design lie all round us, and if ever perplexities, whether metaphysical or scientific, turn us away from them for a time, they come back upon us with irresistible force, showing to us through nature the influence of a free will, and teaching us that all living beings depend on one ever-acting Creator and Ruler.”