An Argument from Design for God’s Existence

It is difficult not to feel a sense of amazement when looking at the surrounding world. There are millions of neighboring galaxies and planets, each with unique sizes and elegance. Or the breathtaking wonders here on earth, from the celestial northern lights, to the thundering waterfalls and massive mountain ranges. And of course, this appreciation is only possible with the immensely complex human brain.

What is striking, and perhaps surprising, about the natural world are certain attributes it possesses—attributes it did not have to have. For example, consider the order of the universe. One does not need to look far to see a structure, sequence, and consistency in the cosmos. Things typically do not pop into existence without a cause; objects do not move unless an external force acts upon them; when something is dropped from some height, it falls to the ground; the astronomical bodies move as they have for eons, and so on. The universe has a recognizable order, pattern, and sequence. These ordered regularities were true in the past, and now scientists know there are deeper laws that articulate why there are such consistencies.1

The universe has a recognizable order, pattern, and sequence

The universe could have been completely disorderly and haphazard with no laws (or at least no recognizable laws).2 Moreover, these patterns or regularities of nature are demonstrably consistent. There are rarely deviations to scientific laws, and if there is an irregularity, it is an exception to the rule.

Scientists can remain confident that current and future information will be coherent and consistent with previous patterns and structures. Consistency and order allow scientific knowledge to progress, knowing previous laws will not arbitrarily change. When a scientist begins observing and studying, she presumes (and rightly so) that the universe will be ordered. This explains why there have been astounding discoveries and progressions in knowledge in fields like medicine, cosmology, physics, genetics, and more. Philosopher Alvin Plantinga explains, “For science to be successful, the world must display a high degree of regularity and predictability…. The world was created in such a way that it displays order and regularity; it isn’t unpredictable, chancy or random. And of course this conviction is what enables and undergirds science.”3 Order and consistency in the world enable a justification for future predictability as complete chaos and scientific advancement are not the best of companions.

Astrophysicist Avraham Loeb of Harvard says, “I am struck by the order we find in the universe, by the regularity, by the existence of laws of nature. That is something I am always in awe of, how the laws of nature we find here on Earth seem to apply all the way out to the edge of the universe. That is quite remarkable. The universe could have been chaotic and very disorganized. But it obeys a set of laws much better than people obey a set of laws here.”4 Order permeates and grounds the cosmos. The renowned theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and atheist, Stephen Hawking, summarizes this property of the universe well: “The overwhelming impression is one of order. The more we discover about the universe, the more we find that rational laws govern it.”5

Next, consider what Albert Einstein, perhaps the greatest physicist ever to have lived, said about the universe: “the eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility….The fact that it is comprehensive is a miracle.”6 One of the fascinating things about the cosmos is that it is comprehensible; it is intelligible. It is almost as if the universe wants to be explored, uncovered, and understood. Something can be ordered and structured but still not be intelligible to other agents. Again, this feature is not required; the universe could have been entirely unintelligible instead of being comprehensible.

Physicist John Polkinghorne writes, “We are so familiar with the fact that we can understand the world that most of the time we take it for granted. It is what makes science possible. Yet it could have been otherwise. The universe might have been a disorderly chaos rather than an orderly cosmos. Or it might have had a rationality which was inaccessible to us.”7 The universe is complex, but its inner workings and deepest structures are perceptible and slowly but surely being uncovered.

Not only is the universe orderly and comprehensible, but it also possesses tremendous elegance and beauty. One need only look at the Seven Natural Wonders to come face to face with the beauty here on Earth. The celestial elegance of the surrounding stars and galaxies is just as wondrous. Honest observers do not require a syllogism to see the elegance in the natural world. No doubt there are violent, ugly, and disturbing things in the universe. However, most of this brokenness is not inherent to the universe but caused by agents. Even so, the grandeur seen in the vast cosmos far outweighs the darkness. There is a beauty, vibrance, and richness that is not required. Richard Swinburne notes, “But beyond that an orderly world is a beautiful world. Beauty consists in patterns of order. Total chaos is ugly. The movements of the stars in accord with regular laws is a beautiful dance.”8

The grandeur seen in the vast cosmos far outweighs the darkness. There is a beauty, vibrance, and richness that is not required

With these various attributes of the universe in mind (comprehensible, ordered, consistent, and beautiful), it is prudent to ask why the universe is this way.9 If following the evidence is foundational to one’s worldview, then asking what the most plausible explanation of a universe with these properties is only fitting. As mentioned before, the universe need not have been this way. It could have been unintelligible, disorderly, inconsistent, ugly—just a chaotic mess. Instead, we see just the opposite.

One plausible explanation is that an ordered, consistent, intelligible, and beautiful thing—be it a universe or something else—indicates it has a designer. Intuitively, people recognize that most things that possess the qualities above are not due to mere chance but have a deeper cause, intentionality, and explanation for them.10 This explanation of intelligent design is all the more likely if the properties are to a high degree.11 In other words, the more orderly, beautiful, intelligible, and structured something is, the more likely there is a designer.

Think of a painting, a musical piece, an automobile, a poem, or a piece of architecture. Why does virtually everyone recognize that these have an intelligent designer instead of coming about through chance or necessity? In part, it is because these things have certain attributes that we accurately associate with design—things like comprehensibility, order and structure, elegance and beauty.12 We may not always be correct in our assessment of what is designed or not, but experience has given us a generally reliable detector. One need not have any idea where the art or building came from to know it was designed and not cobbled together through chance or necessity. Lacking answers to the how, who, when, why, or where does not discount that something or someone designed it.

These things have certain attributes that we accurately associate with design—things like comprehensibility, order and structure, elegance and beauty

Moving from something having the properties or marks of design to a designer is a natural step. Philip Tallon notes, “It is a natural inference to move from the beautiful design of creation to the hand of a designer.”13 Swinburne explains, “Humans see the comprehensibility of the world as evidence of a comprehending creator.”14 With this in mind, consider the following syllogism:

    1. The universe is profoundly ordered, consistent, comprehensible, and beautiful.
    2. Things with these properties usually do not result from chance or necessity but have a designer.
    3. Therefore, it is plausible the universe has a Designer

Of course, the Judeo-Christian tradition has long taught that this apparent design in the universe cries out for a Creator—a God who creates, designs, sustains, and guides.15 St. Athanasius (died 373 AD) wrote, “… creation, as if in written characters and by means of its order and harmony, declares in a loud voice its own Master and Creator.”

But what can be known about this Designer? At a minimum, it seems this Designer has several properties. It would likely be a single Designer. The principle of parsimony (otherwise known as Occam’s razor) states that the simplest explanation is to be preferred, all things being equal. If a vase were to fall off a table, the most likely explanation is a person (or animal) accidentally knocked it over. To suggest it was two people or animals, while possible, would be the less likely explanation. Therefore, when looking at the universe’s design, a single Designer is more likely than two (or more) designers.

This Designer would also be exceedingly powerful. To design such a massive and complex universe would require immense potency. Given the order and comprehensibility of the universe, it would seem plausible that the Designer is quite intelligent. Furthermore, the beauty of the universe suggests a good Designer. This does not lead precisely to the God of Christianity or any other religion, but that is not what this argument intends to do. It concludes with a single, extremely powerful, intelligent, and good Designer of the space-time universe. Then, one can look at the various claims of the world religions and philosophies and see if this Cause has revealed itself to humanity.

Justin Gravatt

Born & raised in Southern California, Justin received his bachelor’s
degree at Vanguard University. Later, he studied at Talbot School
of Theology where he received his master’s degree in Philosophy of
Religion & Ethics. Justin & his wife Ciara live in Colorado
Springs, where Justin now serves as the Content Manager at Summit
Ministries. He is deeply motivated to show how the good news of King
Jesus is intellectually rational, morally intuitive, & offers profound
purpose in life.