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The Argument from Design with special reference to Paley and Darwin and its significance for contemporary Christian apologetic

Samuel, David Norman


David Norman Samuel


Ieuan Ellis


The purpose of this thesis is to examine the nature of the Design Argument both historically and philosophically, to compare and contrast it with the Darwinian theory of evolution which resulted in the demise of the Argument in the nineteenth century, and to assess the significance it can still conceivably have for Christian apologetic today.

The thesis begins with an examination of Paley's presentation of the Argument in his Natural Theology, and an assessment of its strengths and weaknesses in the light of later developments of thought. This is followed by a statement and appraisal of the philosophical criticism to which the Argument was subjected by Kant and Hume. It is argued that the popular view that these critiques inflicted irreparable damage on the Argument appears to be mistaken.

The continuing role of the Argument in natural theology in the nineteenth century is traced through the Bridgewater Treatises and the contribution the writers of these treatises made to the elaboration of Paley's central thesis. The changes that began to come about in the 1830s and 1840s with regard to the view of the development of life on earth and the significance this had for the Argument from Design are discussed in relation to the advent of Lyell's uniformitarianism and the Vestiges of Creation.

The special bearing that Darwin's theory of organic evolution had upon the Argument from Design is considered at length. In particular the affinities, both psychological and philosophical, which are deemed to exist between the structure and the character of the two arguments are brought out. The role of the imagination in the development and presentation of Darwin's metaphysical ideas is seen to be of primary importance, and as something which links his theory closely in character and structure with the Design Argument. This also suggests that the two arguments function in a similar way. However Darwinism, it is argued, is fundamentally incompatible with teleology and this is seen in the failure of apologists on both sides to unite them.

The final chapters are concerned with showing, in the light of the foregoing analysis, how a teleological view of the world and man may still be regarded as valid, and the place this fresh appraisal of the Design Argument might afford it in Christian apologetic today.


Samuel, D. N. (1983). The Argument from Design with special reference to Paley and Darwin and its significance for contemporary Christian apologetic. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Aug 21, 2012
Publicly Available Date Feb 22, 2023
Keywords Theology
Public URL
Additional Information Department of Theology, The University of Hull
Award Date Mar 1, 1983


Thesis (22.5 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 1983 Samuel, David Norman. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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