Skip to Main Content
Skip Nav Destination

Natural theology, design and law

Michael T. Ghiselin
Natural theology, design and law (in The revolution in geology from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, Gary D. Rosenberg (editor))
Memoir - Geological Society of America (2009) 203: 277-283


It is widely recognized that Darwin discredited the argument from design for the existence of God. Less well known is the history of a related notion, the argument from law, according to which there cannot be a law without a legislator. Both rested upon the more fundamental assumption that we can interpret the world on the basis of privileged knowledge of God, supposedly an anthropomorphic one. Given that the same being both created the universe and ordained the laws of nature that govern it, viewing geological history and the fossil record as teleological is much easier. Pre-Darwinian scientists invoked both design and law in explaining the history of the world. In either case, the result was a tendency to view the fossil record as if it were, like a developing embryo, headed in a particular direction. Those who have attempted to salvage that view in the face of Darwin's contribution have generally put more of a causal burden upon laws of nature. Even though that may seem more "scientific," both arguments are grounded in mysticism.

ISSN: 0072-1069
Serial Title: Memoir - Geological Society of America
Serial Volume: 203
Title: Natural theology, design and law
Title: The revolution in geology from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment
Author(s): Ghiselin, Michael T.
Author(s): Rosenberg, Gary D.editor
Affiliation: California Academy of Sciences, Center for the History and Philosophy of Science, San Francisco, CA, United States
Affiliation: Indiana University-Purdue University, Department of Earth Sciences, Indianapolis, IN, United States
Pages: 277-283
Published: 2009
Text Language: English
Publisher: Geological Society of America (GSA), Boulder, CO, United States
ISBN: 978-0-8137-1203-1
Meeting name: Geological Society of America, 2006 annual meeting, symposium on From the scientific revolution to the enlightenment; emergence of modern geology and evolutionary thought from the 16th to the 18th century
Meeting location: Philadelphia, PA, USA, United States
Meeting date: 20061022Oct. 22-25, 2006
References: 36
Accession Number: 2009-094478
Categories: Miscellaneous
Document Type: Serial Conference document
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2017, American Geosciences Institute.
Update Code: 200951
Close Modal

or Create an Account

Close Modal
Close Modal