The argument from analogy is a form of the argument from design. It takes the analogy between the order of the universe and the order of a watch to support the inference that the universe, like a watch, has a designer.

One objection to this argument is that the analogy between a watch and the universe is a weak one. Another is that arguments from analogy are too limited in the conclusions that they can offer, that analogies can be pressed too far.

Pressing the Analogy

If we are justified in inferring that like cases have like causes, as the argument from analogy suggests, then we can prove more than that the universe has a designer.

Watches, to remain with Paley’s example, have corporeal designers. Watches have teams of designers. The designers of watches are finite, mortal, and flawed.

By the principle that like effects have like causes, then, we can infer not only that the universe, like a watch, has a designer, but that the universe, like a watch, has several corporeal, mortal and flawed designers.

Analogy and Anthropomorphism

The only kind of conclusion that the argument from analogy can yield is that God, the creator of the universe, resembles man, the creator of watches. It forces anthropomorphism upon those who use it.

This, though, does not get the theist to the conclusion that he is aiming to prove. To prove the existence of a community of gods that are like unto men would be to return to something like the Roman pantheon. If this is the conclusion that the argument from analogy supports then that argument is of little use to theism.


In response to this objection, the theist might claim that he can concede that the argument from analogy pushes him towards anthropomorphism without either rejecting that argument or holding that God is exactly like men. The argument from analogy provides evidence, he might say, but that evidence is defeasible; where opposing evidence is available the conclusions of the argument from analogy are to be rejected.

There is no counter-evidence in the case of the inference to an intelligent, powerful designer, he might say, and so these conclusions are to be accepted.

There is, however, counter-evidence in the case of the inference to, for instance, a corporeal designer. What this evidence is will be for the theist to specify, but this is one route that he might go.

Alternatively, the theist might try to rest his case upon Ockham’s razor. Ockham’s razor states, roughly, that the simplest explanation of a given set of evidence is to be preferred to more complicated explanations. The existence of a designer of the universe is required by the evidence, the theist might suggest, but further details about the nature of this designer are not.

It might be that there is one designer, it might be that there are several; the designer or designers might be corporeal, or mortal, or they might not be. The simplest explanation of the evidence, though, is to postulate one designer, and to leave it at that. Further details unnecessarily complicate the explanation of the order in the universe, and so are unwarranted.