We’ve been looking at the existence of God from a “cosmological” position; that is looking at how the creation itself gives evidence of the existence of God. Now, we’re going to shift gears just a little bit and consider the existence of God from a “teleological” viewpoint. That is, we’re going to explore some of the implications of:
TELEOLOGY: The explanation of phenomena, such as biological processes, by the purpose they serve; or the reason, or goal, or usefulness that they achieve.
After stating that, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1, NASB), the Bible goes on to say: “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep . . .” (Genesis 1:2, NASB).
Question: Why is this not still the case? If the earth and the universe it inhabits was still one great formless void today, just sort of a giant blob of unidentifiable, gooey, inorganic substance, it “might” could be said that there is no God, just stuff! But the very moment any discernible measure of “purpose,” or “meaning,” or “intention” resulting in “design” creeps into the picture, everything changes.
When I study the structure of a simple flowering plant—its petals, stems, leaves, and the veins that run through them—I am astounded by the elegance and beauty of its design; and the “gigs” up. I know, right there, that there has to be a Designer simply because I see the various parts of the flower and recognize their purpose and usefulness to the flower’s design – that’s teleology!
When I turn on my computer, lame as it is, I know that I have at my fingertips an incredible feat of human engineering. Years of scientific research, trial and error, and sophisticated conceptual design makes possible this incredible device by which I can communicate with the whole world. Who would ever suggest that this tiny plastic box of wires and silicon chips, pulsing with electromagnetic energy, and the sophisticated programs that run it, are the product of accidental, un-orchestrated, natural processes? No, there is a reason, a purpose, and intended goal or functionality for each and every part in that machine – that’s teleology!
Now consider the fact that the world’s greatest computer, the human brain—in fact, all life—is infinitely more sophisticated than my computer, or any machine—the exponential development of AI not excluded. The fact is, every design that reflects a purpose, no matter how concrete or abstract that purpose may appear, requires the presence of an intentional Designer. As my friend and colleague, Bill Smith (2012) notes:
Not only does an intelligent design require a designer, but the more complex the design, the more intelligent the designer. For example, birds build nests, but you won’t see them reconstructing the Eiffel Tower or building a high-rise office building. Beavers build dams, but it’s not likely you will see them building something as sophisticated as Hoover Dam. These complicated designs require intelligent designers. Left alone, less intelligent creators produce less intelligent creations. (Smith, 2012, p. 1)
Life, as we know it in this present universe, depends upon three things: matter, energy, and the teleology—intelligence, purpose, direction—that guides that energy, matter, and all living things. Dr. Michael Egnor (2011), a professor and vice-chairman of neurosurgery at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, discusses the vital role that teleology plays in creating and sustaining life, saying:
Up to modern times, people have tended to understand teleology in one of two ways: intrinsic teleology and extrinsic teleology. Intrinsic teleology is the classic Aristotelian/Thomist teleology, an inherent tendency for directedness in each thing. Extrinsic teleology is the view that directedness is imposed on a thing from without. Extrinsic teleology often invokes complexity as evidence . . . So design in life is obvious, and there exists several thousand years of the deepest thinking applied to understanding the nature of this design . . . The use of teleological language in biology isn’t “legitimate”. It’s indispensable. The heart pumps. Flagella are for locomotion . . . Biology is teleological, and obviously manifests purpose. Parts of living things are for something (circulation, locomotion, excretion, etc.). (Egnor, 2011)
So, in this lesson, we’ve defined teleology – the reason, or purpose, or functional intention for something to exist. We’ve also set forth the teleological argument for the existence of God… that, when we see evidence of intention and purpose in design, we know that there must be an intentional and purposeful Designer.
In our next video lesson, we’ll look just a little bit deeper into the teleological argument and what various scientists have to say about it. You can find video lesson six, and the other lessons in the series, at: OnlineBibleStudy.blog. I invite you to come visit us there and share your own thoughts, comments, or questions with us.
I pray that the Lord bless our short time together on this earth!
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Resources and References:
Smith, B. (2012). Argument by creation: The cosmological argument. Retrieved from the knowtruth.com website at: http://www.knowtruth.com/god/existence/creation_argument_1.php
Scripture taken from:
NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright (c) 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972, 1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.