It appears that McCloskey is trying to support and substantiate his case for atheism by adopting a very narrow and objective approach. The usage of terms like “proof” for different school of arguments indicates that McCloskey is keen to give a sense of finality to a very complex question by attempting to debunk the thought process behind the arguments that has been labeled as proof. Human mind has its own limitations. This universe is very complex and infinite. There are a lot of things which are beyond the comprehension of human mind. The question of existence of god is one such question that continues to baffle and intrigue the human mind. However, are we justified in dismissing and/or abandoning a certain line of argument merely because it is beyond our comprehension? This universe is infinite in its dimension and deep in its complexity. God is equally infinite and beyond any rationalization which any human mind is capable of. The absence of god cannot be proved by merely debunking the cosmological argument or teleological argument. Such a complex question cannot be resolved by indulging in a logical deduction methodology. Research article by Stephen Myer aptly indicates the weakness of chance theory by stating that “First, the immense improbability of the fine-tuning makes straightforward appeals to chance untenable. Physicists have discovered some seventy separate physical or cosmological parameters that require precise calibration in order to produce a life-sustaining universe (Barrow & Tipler 1986; Gribbin & Rees 1991; Ross in Dembski 1998). In Nature s Destiny (1998), Michael Denton documents many other necessary conditions for specifically human life from chemistry, geology, and biology. Moreover, many individual parameters exhibit an extraordinarily high degree of fine-tuning. The expansion rate of the universe must be calibrated to one part in 1060 (Guth 1981: 348). A slightly more rapid rate of expansion by one part 10 60 would have resulted in a universe too diffuse in matter to allow stellar formation. An even slightly less rapid rate of expansion by the same factor would have produced an immediate gravitational recollapse. The force of gravity itself requires fine-tuning to one part in 1040 (Davies 1983: 188)” (Stephen Myer. P 10 & 11). The foregoing hypothesis merely supports the teleological argument implicitly. Aside to this, a major question which is not taken into consideration by McCloskey is the question about the very purpose of life. While we attempt to approach the question of God’s existence, we have to take into consideration the reference frame of human life as well. It is fallacious to term the various line of arguments like cosmological argument or teleological argument as “proof” as these thought processes are not claiming to be conclusive evidence about existence of God. The foregoing view point is very lucidly explained by Mark Foreman in his presentation on this subject. The presentation by Mark Foreman conveys that the arguments do not intend to provide indisputably any scientific proof of the existence of God. To this end, these arguments merely attempt to provide the most probable explanation for the origin of the universe and the various complexities existing in it. Further, Foreman tries to assert that various line of argument has to be viewed in conjunction with each other as they cumulatively try to prove the existence of God and not in mere isolation.
McCloskey further claims that the mere existence of the world constitutes no reason for believing in such a being [i.e., a necessarily existing being].” This is aptly answered by the non-temporal argument presented by Evans and Manis (P. 69-77). At the outset, a Theist would take God to be a necessary being and a creator. The non-temporal argument hinges upon the explanation of contingent beings and necessary beings. To this end, a non-temporal argument does rest on the premises that some contigent beings exist. Further, if a contingent being exist, then a necessary being must exist because contingent being requires necessary being as their ultimate cause. Therefore, there exists a necessary cause which is the ultimate cause for the existence of contingent being. As one of the attributes of God is to be a necessary being, the existence of the world would indicate the presence of such necessary being (i.e., God). Further, the universe may always have existed. However, the non-temporal argument does not make any presumption about the age of the universe. The argument is compatible with the possibility that the universe may have always existed. The main force being the argument is that the presence or existence of contingent object requires that there is a necessary being, which, as stated earlier is one of the attributes of God. (Evans and Manis P 68 & 69).
Further, McCloskey also claims that the cosmological argument “does not entitle us to postulate an all-powerful, all-perfect, uncaused cause”. This assumption has its in-built fallacy. Cosmological argument, by itself, does not attempt to rationally convince or conclude about the existence of god. Cosmological argument merely provides an aid to further understand the concept of theism. Cosmological argument helps us establish connection between God and contingent beings. Cosmological argument merely aids and assists us in selecting between the alternative metaphysical views, each of which aims to better understand the existence of God. Cosmological argument by itself does not reach any conclusion. It merely indicates the existence of necessary being. It helps us establish premises on the basis of which we can proceed to better understand the nature of God. (Evans & Manis P 76-77)
Further, McCloskey claims that “to get the proof going, genuine indisputable examples of design and purpose are needed”. Again, this argument has in-built fallacy. Teleological argument, like cosmological argument, aid and assist in approaching and understanding the existence of God. The arguments, by themselves, are not conclusive by nature. The arguments rest primarily on the concept of probability. There are many systems and parts within the universe that exhibit the existence of intelligent design. An analogy can certainly be drawn between the intelligent design of these systems or parts and those of the objects of universe. By the very nature of teleological argument, it is clear that it is an argument of a very high probability and does not appeal to the science of deduction. Therefore, conclusive and genuine and indisputable proof of designs is not needed in light of the inductive nature of the whole argument. (Evans and Manis P 79)
Complex machines like cameras and watches show the same kind of complex beneficial order as objects of the nature. These machines are the result of intelligent design and it is reasonable to conclude that the objects in nature which have similar beneficial order are the result of such intelligent designs. (Evans and Manis P 79)
Further, McCloskey implies that evolution has displaced the need for a designer Even presuming that the theory of evolution is true, yet it completely does not displaces the theory of design. Teleological argument and the theory of evolution can comfortably co-exist. This can be explained with the help of the following illustration. For example, even if the machine is operates to produce a certain goods, it operates in a certain manner because it was designed to operate in that specific way. It is certainly not by accident that the machine achieves the beneficial result.
Further, McCloskey claims that the presence of imperfection and evil in the world and thereby argues against “the perfection of the divine design or divine purpose in the world.” While putting forth these arguments, McCloskey assumes that these arguments completely covers the attributes of God and thereby fail to explain the presence of evil. These arguments, without doubt, have their own limitation as they are only in the nature of probability. However, the arguments, read in conjunction with each other, supports and substantiates the presence of God. The mere presence of evil would not suffice to debunk these arguments due to its inbuilt limitation. While the question of God requires much contemplation, yet, it is not justified to deny the existence of God on account of evil, whether perceived or actual.
McCloskey’s main objection to theism is the presence of evil in the world and he raises it several times: “No being who was perfect could have created a world in which there was avoidable suffering or in which his creatures would (and in fact could have been created so as not to) engage in morally evil acts, acts which very often result in injury to innocent persons.” There are ample logical deductions which prove the existence of God. For example:
- There are humans
- Either there are no humans or god exists;
- Hence, God exists.
However, the logical validity or soundness or argument does not by itself prove the absence or presence of God. The premises as regards the presence of evil do not lead to a logical deduction about the absence of god. This premise has to be read in conjunction with other line of arguments to better approach the question of existence of god.
McCloskey specifically discusses the free will argument, asking “might not God have very easily so have arranged the world and biased man to virtue that men always freely chose what is right”. The Cosmological Argument attempts to infer the existence of God from the existence of the universe (Evans 2009, 69).” McCloskey however claims that the existence of the world or the universe proofs such a claim. In response to this objection, Plantigna offers the explains that It is logically possible for God to create a world described by McCloskey. However, we do not have reason to think that this world is such a world created by God. Thus, God can create a world dependent on the freewill of the creatures inhabiting it if God so desires (Evans 2009).
McCloskey finally argues that Atheism provides a far more comfortable life style than that afforded to the theist. William Lane Craig lucidly argues against the foregoing point. Craig very aptly states that the only solution that atheism offers is that we face the absurdity of life and live bravely. This is because Craig put forth the view that life has no meaning in the absence of existence of God. It is impossible to live consistently and happily in the presence of such a world view. This is because Atheism tries to assert that life is objectively and yet it tries to create meaning out of it.
In conclusion, it would be reasonable to say that the existence of God cannot be denied merely because of the existence of evil. To approach the question of the existence of God from the view point of evil would be a very narrow view and would indirectly amount to attributing the characteristic of evil to God. This might certainly not help us resolving the question of evil, leave alone understanding the true nature of God. The question of existence of God has to be approached from many angles with an open mind and heart.
- Myer Stephen Retrieved from http://www.arn.org/docs/meyer/sm_returnofgod.pdf
- Mark Foreman. “Approaching the Question of God’s Existence.” PointeCast Presentation, Philosophy 201mOnline Class through Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA, August 8, 2012.
- C Stephen Vans, R Zachary Manis “Philosophy of Religion Thinking About Faith” 2nd Edition.
- Craig William Lane “The Absurdity of Life without God” Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics. 3rd Edition. Wheton, IL Crossway Books, 2008 71-90
- Barrow & Tipler 1986; Gribbin & Rees 1991; Ross in Dembski 1998