Strengths and Weaknesses of the Design Argument

This is an argument for the existence of God. It points to evidence that suggests our world works well – that it was designed in a specific way, because the world shows complexity (of life), purpose (it supports life) and regularity (e.g. the seasons). The argument follows that if it was designed like this, then someone or something must have designed it. That must be God.

Strengths of Design Argument

  • Paley might be right to argue that the designer is all powerful Christian God, because this is the simplest explanation.
  • The existence of an all-powerful God is a simpler and therefore better explanation of design.

‘……..simplicity is always evidence for truth’

  • Evolution does not destroy the design argument as some say because:
    (1) evolution does not explain itself
    (2) evolution is compatible with God anyway (maybe he created it to make life)
  • Paley’s conclusion that the designer exists beyond the universe seems reasonable: the designer must be metaphysical (beyond the world), since it would be impossible to design such a system (universe) from the inside.
  • We have neither imagined nor imposed the laws of nature – science only works because these laws exist. They could only have come from an external source
  • There are 30 or more ‘boundary conditions’ (such as gravity and expansion rate of Big Bang), that have to be fine-tuned for an ordered universe with intelligent life to develop. The odds against all boundary conditions being exactly right are colossal – so obviously something designed it – God.            

Weaknesses of Design Argument

David Hume was a Scottish philosopher. He was an empiricist, a sceptic and probably an atheist. He criticised religion a lot in his work including Paley’s Design Argument.

  • Even if we accept God was the designer, there is no evidence to suggest that it was the God of Christianity – all-loving, all-powerful, all-knowing.
  • Hume uses one of his guiding principles here: that a cause must be proportional to its effect. eg. You hear an orchestra in corridor;

a.) it’s a full orchestra   b.) a strong sound system

A is possible, B is all you need to account for what you hear.

  • Paley infers that the designer of the universe is the all-powerful, all knowing, all loving God of Christianity. Although such an inference might be true, it is nevertheless out of proportion to the evidence. If there is a designer, a lesser being could be responsible.
  • Wherever we find intelligent minds, we find them attached to physical bodies, so there is no reason to suggest that the designer of the universe was a metaphysical being. The designer might have been physical (had a body) was mortal and died long ago.
  • Design is normally a feature of teamwork, so there is no obvious reason to suppose that the designer of this universe was a single being on his own.
  • The existence of so much evil and imperfection in the world does indeed suggest a limited designer – why would an all-powerful God allow evil to exist.
  • The universe could have developed into a comparatively ordered state simply by chance. This is called the multiverse theory.


Create a simplified table on the strengths and weakness of William Paley’s Design Argument. There are YouTube clips included to help you understand both sides.

  1. Write up which side is more convincing, the strengths or weaknesses of the Design Argument. Explain your choice and include a brief conclusion. Write at least 8 lines.


  1. What would the value of William Paley’s argument be for people of religious faith? Create a mind map.