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Design argument

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The design argument, or argument from design, is an argument which has long been used in support of biblical creation and other creationist views, and today is popularly known from the Intelligent Design movement.

The argument is that nature shows evidence of being designed, rather than being the result of random processes.


Use of evidence of design

Science uses evidence of design in the following ways:

  • Archaeologists use evidence of design to determine if artifacts are naturally occurring or the product of humans.
  • Forensic scientists at times need to determine if something was deliberate or accidental, or the result of human activity or natural.
  • The SETI project attempts to determine the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life by looking for evidence of design in radio signals.


Perhaps one of the most famous design arguments was put by William Paley in his 1802 book, Natural Theology: or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, Collected from the Appearances of Nature, in which he argued from analogy that if one found a watch lying on a beach, one could tell from the design of the watch that it had a designer. Richard Dawkins concedes that living things look like they are designed (he wrote that "Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose"[1]), but has tried to argue that they are not actually designed, in his book, The Blind Watchmaker.


Anti-creationists argue that proposing a designer of nature is inherently unscientific because it is impossible to scientifically test the designer. However, archaeologists and others who look for the existence of design don't need to identify the designer in order to determine that design exists.

Richard Dawkins has conceded that if design exists, it may be possible to detect it, although he would believe that to be alien design.[2]


  1. Dawkins, R., The Blind Watchmaker, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, USA, p. 1, 1986, cited by Catchpoole, David, Dawkins and Design, Creation 31(3):6, June 2009.
  2. Dawkins, Richard, in Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. [1]
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