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McCloskey's refutation of the arguments of existence of God and illustration of how God (and metaphysics) can be perceived in different ways and that this precludes us from making any final judgments regarding His existence and manner of rulership.
The Cosmological argument maintains that God's existence can be deduced from the fact that every act of creation needs an initiator. The world had a beginning -- after all it is an act of creation -- someone had to create it. This someone was God.
There are various classical arguments against the cosmological arguments but McCloskey's refutation is straight and to the point: the world shows cruelty and unjustness. Positing that the world has a creator, we then inferentially transfer these attributes to the Creator and posit that He in turn is unjust and cruel. Not much hope for a believer and certainly something that doesn't make us wish to accept the existence of a God. What kind of God, in other words, is this Being.
The Teleological argument is another argument for God's existence. It points to the order and structure inherent in the world and, states that this order could not have occurred by chance. A creator must have fashioned it. The teleological argument was employed by St. Thomas Aquinas in his Five Ways, but the most famous proponent of this argument was Paley who compared the argument to a well-functioning watch that no way could have emerged by chance The complexity, order, and purpose of a watch implies intelligent design; the complexity, order, and purpose of indicates intelligent design too of another kind. Modern theological arguments employ physics as their basis for transitioning from the fact that creation is so finely-tuned to the conclusion that a Creator must have created this for a purpose (Internet Encyc. For Philosophy (IEP)).
McCloskey's refutation is the following: even if we uncritically accepted the fact that enormous design points to a creator, the design and evil as well as unhappiness that we see the world points to a malevolent and unjust creator, or, at the very least, an imperfect planner or designer.
It seems to me that Evans and Manis (2009) refute both McCloskey's points by digging holes with the various contemporary ways of viewing morals. There is the relativist perspective of seeing all morals as relative, meaning that there is no absolute right or wrong. The problem: what measure are they using to make this statement? How can they, fallible beings, assert so? The emotivist view has a similar problem. Emotivism says that moral laws are ordained by intuition.
The naturalist meanwhile claims morals to be an innate sense of nature. How does nature however make this so? What is there of nature to warrant this?
There is also the moral argument that theists give that our morals / commands are given us by a God who cares for our welfare. They may not necessarily make sense to us, but God knows better than we, deeply flawed beings do, and He cares for our welfare. We have intrinsic dignity and purpose in that we are created in the image of God. God wishes to enhance that.
Evans and Manis point out the flaws inherent in this argument too.
All of these arguments -- the moral arguments and those of McCloskey -- share the common error of presuming to characterize a metaphysical Being who is concealed from us. His very nature makes Him impossible to divine; therefore we err by jumping to any generalizations.
A person is brought to religion by subjective experience far more than he is by theological or academic arguments. Some, too based on their character, find some arguments more convincing than others. The supporter of the cosmological argument, for instance, naturally and logically deduces that all has a beginning; the world must have too. The proponent of the teleological argument is likely someone who is awed by the wonders of the world. Ultimately, it is subjective and underlying all of this is William James' description of a mystical something that a religious person feels with God.
This sense is sublime and something that evades physical description. According to James, the conversion causes four things to happen in the person:
(1) A sense of a personified "Ideal Power," and of the interrelationship of cosmos. (James describes this as "enveloping friendliness.")
(2) A surrender to the benevolence of this Power
(3) A sense of liberty and ecstasy
(4) A shift towards "emotional excitement" and strength (220).
The person, according to James is "born into another kingdom of being" (229). It is an experience that is wholly subjective and beyond physical description to such an extent that the liminality of conversion leads to an assurance of God as Father and from there to the knowledge -- more still, the indelible assurance -- that God is the Father of all.
Evans and Manis (2009) point to the idea that there are two types of experience: there is the subjective experience a.k.a that described by William James and others of mystical religious experience where one feels but cannot provide evidence for God, and then there is the direct realist experience where, for instance, one points to a tree as evidence that a tree exists. The two cannot be converged since they are, naturally, polar. Experiences too are mediated with people experiencing the same situation in different ways (one for instance may merely hear a sermon; the other may hear God speaking to him through the sermon).
Philosophers have often subjected religious proofs to examination and found them lacking in veridicality. However, it may be the fact that not all experiences are open to being reviewed for authentication; not all can be verified. To summarize, even in simple cases there are both objective and subjective conditions that must be satisfied for a successful observation to be carried out. These conditions too exist -- and perhaps all the more so -- in the case of God. The person would have to have the following characteristics to assess subjective evidence of God's existence:
First, the individual may have to be attentive; he may have to be looking for God. Since we are considering mediated experiences, it is well to recall that in such cases two people with different interests can receive the same sensory input, one perceiving something through the medium and the other seeing only the medium. Second, certain kinds of recognition skills may be necessary; the person may need to be taught how to recognize God's activity. Third, religious people commonly claim that the quality of one's life or character affects one's ability to see God. Honesty, sincerity and a love for goodness and holiness are often claimed to be important factors. (Evans and Manis, 2009)
Religious people try to impart their certainty of God to atheists or agnostics, but they fail to realize that atheists and agnostics, not sharing their subjective certainty and experiences, cannot see God the same way. Religious people have tried to fashion arguments such as the cosmological and teleological, but these arguments sway them whereas they may not sway an atheist such as McCloskey who sees them from a realist, God-devoid background.
In other words, Evan and Manis (2009) argue that theist arguments are backed by subjective frames of reference too and that atheists, or critics of G0d-related arguments need to step into theistic frames of reference before evaluating their arguments in order to better understand them.
My response to McCloskey, therefore, is that both he and theists are seeing two different kinds of Gods and that if McCloskey wants to objectively evaluate these types of arguments he needs to step into the theists' shoes.
In regards to the teleological argument, McCloskey claims that "to get the proof going, genuine indisputable examples of design and purpose are needed." McCloskey however is looking at this from a realist perspective. This is only a partial assessment. He needs the subjective perspective too. One form of support for the teleological argument, for instance whilst not necessarily being 'indisputable', is one that many composers sing about -- namely the birth of a child or grandchild and the beauty they see in that -- or the euphoria of addicts when on heroin (and other drugs) when the world seems to make absolute sense. This is their subjective opinion. McCloskey, on the other hand, has his particular subjective one, of the world being banal and evil.
These arguments exist regardless of whether or not the world has been evolutionarily designed. People are apt to see processes in different ways. There is the realist impression of the tree, and then there is the way that people perceive that tree to be. Some can see it a work of art that is magnificent and worthy of worship whilst others may view it as decrepit and ugly. To see the tree in that particular way, one needs to step into the other's shoes.
McCloskey's main objection to theism is the presence of evil in the world…[continue]
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