Response to H.J. Mccloskey

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In his 1968 article, On Being an Atheist, H.J. McCloskey attempts to refute the arguments of God’s existence and explain how “atheism is a much more comfortable belief than theism.” (McCloskey 1968) He first attempts to discredit the Cosmological and Teleological arguments for God’s existence, then he turns to the existence of evil as “proof” that God does not exist, and finally closes his article back where he began- claiming that atheism is a more comforting belief than theism. Here I intend to explain how McCloskey is incorrect in his arguments and beliefs.

McCloskey actually changes the “arguments for” God’s existence to “proofs of” God’s existence. He claims that the individual “proofs” cannot provide a definite proof of God’s strength, security, or existence. (McCloskey 1968) I first want to argue his claim but stating that theists do not claim to prove God’s existence, theists argue for God’s existence with the cumulative case approach. Taking all of the possible explanations regarding the universe, design of the universe, and moral values theists find that God is the best explanation. A common example of this approach (the best explanation), as given in the Approaching the Question of God's Existence presentation, is in the field of science regarding magnetic fields. Scientists have no empirical evidence that the magnetic field exists but it is the best explanation for the way magnets behave the way they do; just as a personal, moral (moral argument), intelligent (teleological argument) creator (cosmological argument) of the universe is the best explanation for the universe we experience.

McCloskey attempts to dismantle the cosmological argument, the argument of existence, by claiming the “mere existence of the world constitutes no reason for believing in such a being [i.e. a necessarily existing being].” (McCloskey 1968) However, the universe is contingent -which means all of the objects within it do exist but might easily have not existed. (Evans and Manis 2009) In order for a contingent being or object to have meaning, or an explanation of their existence, there must be a cause or necessary being. The argument is as follows: some contingent beings exist, and if they exist then a necessary being must exist because, as previously stated contingent beings require a necessary being to have caused them. Therefore, there must be a necessary being which is the cause of the contingent beings. (Evans and Manis 2009)

McCloskey makes the statement that the cosmological argument “does not entitle us to postulate an all-powerful, all-perfect, uncaused cause.” (McCloskey 1968) As it would be, taking only the cosmological argument into consideration, McCloskey would be correct. However, as asserted by Evans, any person who accepts the cosmological argument should continue to learn more in regards to God. (Evans and Manis 2009) As stated previously, the best explanation is a cumulative case which not only accepts the cosmological argument but also the teleological and the moral arguments. Each argument leaves much to be desired on its own, but cumulatively provide the best explanation.

As McCloskey tries to refute the teleological argument, he claims that “to get the proof going, genuine indisputable examples of design and purpose are needed.” (McCloskey 1968) I would first argue, as Evans did, that to be rationally convincing, or “indisputable”, to all is too high of a standard, which further leaves the possibility that all claims of philosophy are unproven. (Evans and Manis 2009) I would also argue that McCloskey’s own claim makes his argument just as invalid as he is trying to make theism. As pointed out in the text by Evans, “Physicists are now able to calculate what the universe would have been like, in certain respects, had one or more of these laws or physical constants been different.” (Evans and Manis 2009) What they have concluded is that “the odds of a single universe just happening to have a combination...
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