Philosophy of Religion

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Challenges to the Teleological Argument from Mill and Darwin

In Nature and Religion (1874) John Stuart Mill (1806-1878) argues that nature is guilty of serious crimes for which she goes unpunished. The various atrocities through which both humans and animals suffer would not go unpunished if they were the result of Human agency.

Mill therefore concludes that the world cannot be ordered, and he rejects the idea that it is the result of intelligent design.

Darwin proposed a theory of the survival of the fittest by natural selection. The fittest, healthiest members of a species survive, and their characteristics become a part of the character of the species.

Darwin drew on the work of Thomas Malthus who had argued that the world has a built-in regulator which controls the population levels of living creature:

Malthusian principle of population control:

Low population The species thrives with ideal conditions for survival
Population Growth Infant mortality is relatively low with little disease
Overpopulation The environment struggles to support the population resulting in disease and pestilence, infant mortality increases.
Fall in population The population level begins to suffer as famines and epidemics begin to reduce numbers
Low population The cycle begins again…

Darwin argued that the apparent design is in fact the result of a natural and random process. It is, in the words of the geneticist Steve Jones, a series of successful mistakes (Almost Like a Whale, 1999).

Darwin’s evolution by natural selection seems to rule out the Christian concept of an omnibenevolent God.

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