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Abstract reasoning and God

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/29/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 943 times Debate No: 64187
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (15)
Votes (1)




If I can use abstract reason to come to a conclusion about God, and it is a logically coherent argument free of fallacy, can I not consider that argument proof beyond reasonable doubt of the existence of a God? At least, until it is shown to be flawed?

My opponent will either argue that this claim is false (an abstract "proof" of God is not beyond reasonable doubt) or that it is correct but that I must present an argument that meet this criteria for my claim to be of any significance.

abstract terms: ideas or concepts; they have no physical referents
Ex: success, good

Round 1 will consist of my opponent declaring which of the two arguments he will take


I accept the debate. I will concede that if one were able to construct an "a priori" proof of good using pure, abstract reasoning, it would be valid, but there is no way to construct such a proof due to the analytic/synthetic distinction. Good luck to my opponent!
Debate Round No. 1


My opponent seems to be saying I cannot construct a purely analytical (a priori) proof because of the analytic/synthetic distinction. For those who don't know, the analytic synthetic distinction says that there are two kinds of true things

Analytic (the meaning of the words show truth): a bachelor is an un married man
Synthetic (it is true only if the facts reflect): David Is a bachelor

So my opponent is saying that I cannot create a purely analytical proof because there is a difference between analytical and synthetic truths. This doesn't make sense to me. Unless he is saying that I need synthetic truths to create a proof in the first place. While that may be the case, I don't recall saying that my argument had to be purely analytical, just stemming from abstract reasoning. Assuming that we agree on that, here is my argument:
Note: take notice that my claim was that a successful argument would be proof beyond reasonable doubt of a God (not necessarily the Christian one, or even a single God) until it was found to be flawed.

A) people argue all the time. I will define arguing as trying to show that your position is more right than your opponents. The very act of arguing would be ridiculous unless both men (assuming 2 men are arguing) have the same concept of right and wrong. Example: there would no sense in saying a soccer player had committed a foul unless there was an universal agreement about what makes a foul.
We will label this agreement of right and wrong as The Law of Right and Wrong or the "True Morality" or the law of human nature

Note: while this is a law, it is not one that describes what we always do (the law of gravity describes what all matter always does when gravity acts on it), it describes what we should do.

B) people can choose to ignore this law of human nature. As in, one can choose to do something that by the general agreement of right and wrong, is wrong. Even though they know that they should not do that.

C) in all cases other than random oddities, people have agreed on this law of human nature. This is true across space (geographically speaking) and time (historically speaking). Now, I readily admit that there are differences between one civilization and another's morality, but this has never amounted to anything like a total difference. If you take the teachings of all the civilizations around the world and through history, you will see that they are quite similar. No culture has deemed cowardice or treason or patricide or the like as virtues. Men have differed as to how many wives a man can have, but they all agree that a man cannot simply have any woman he wants. All civilizations agree on a common morality, but to varying degrees.

D) it is in the nature of a human to believe in this law. You will see that even if a man says he does not believe in a real right and wrong, he will hold you to that standard of right and wrong anyway. For example, even if a man says its ok that he broke his promise to you because there is no real right and wrong, and in his right and wrong that behavior is acceptable, he will feel wronged when you break your promise to him even though he claims that you are held to a different standard. Also, if I were to call a man a liar or a hypocrite or a thief he will either feel the strong desire to prove that he is not in fact those things, or he will rant off a list of excuses, all because he truly believes in this common law of human nature.

E) people can be mistaken about the real right and wrong. A man can get his sums wrong but that doesn't mean that the multiplication table is now untrue. He simply made a mistake and he can correct it. The same applies to right and wrong

F) humans know that the law of human nature tells them what they should do, but they do Not always do what the law tells them.

G) the law of human nature judges between two instincts or impulses. An instinct is an innate, fixed pattern of behavior among animals in response to certain stimuli. Examples are sexual instinct, the instinct for self- preservation, and the herd instinct which compels us to protect our own and our species from outside forces. Now taking the example of the herd instinct, the desire to help someone whether or not you want to or not is not the same thing as the herd instinct. Suppose you are in a situation where there are two instincts competing inside you:
Self- Preservation - run away from the fire or you could die
Herd Instinct - help the man in the fire
The stronger of the two instincts tends to be self preservation, yet we notice that even when we simply imagine that we are in that situation, we know that the "right" choice, what we "should" do, is to help the man. That which judges between the two instincts cannot be either of the instincts.
Ex: instincts are keys on a piano and the law is the sheet music. The law tells you what you should play but you can choose to ignore it.

H) that which judges between two instincts, the law of human nature, cannot be an instinct at all. If it was an instinct, we should be able to point to an instinct inside us which is always good, always in agreement with the law. There are none. Every instinct is good in some situation and bad in others.
Ex: the instinct for sex is good the night of your wedding but bad when it comes to the married man looking at that young girl that looks hot in those pants.
Ex2: no notes on the piano are good or bad notes, they are simply correct at some times and incorrect at others.

I) the law is not a human convention. This is one of the more important points. The law must fall into one of two categories:
1. Universal truths like mathematics
2. Social conventions like how it is proper to drive on the right side of the road
Keep in mind that just because something is taught to us by a teacher or by a parent does not mean its a human convention.
Reasons why the law is not a human convention:
-There are no major differences between the moralities of civilizations
-If you say that while there are no major differences between modern and ancient civilizations, there has been moral progress, then you are comparing the moralities by a standard. You are saying that one morality conforms to that standard or REAL RIGHT AND WRONG better than the other.
-What is right is not always convenient and what is wrong is not always inconvenient so we can conclude that what we call right would not always help society. Therefore, society would not create this system because it would not be beneficial to individuals.
-while following the moral law would certainly aid society as a whole, the fact that it aids society is not a good explanation as to why we feel as we do about right and wrong.
Ex: this is a dialogue that will illustrate my point
Me: why should I be unselfish?
You: because it is good for society
Me: why should I care about what Is good for society unless it affects me personally in a good way?
You: because that's being selfish and you shouldn't be selfish
By saying that following the moral law you benefit society, you are really only saying that the moral law is the moral law. This is because the moral law consists of benefiting society, so I cannot be a reason for itself. I don't play soccer to score goals, that like saying I play soccer to play soccer because scoring goals is part of what soccer consists of.

J) we come to the conclusion that there is a real right and wrong, which all humans know, which we did not invent, which we all believe in yet do not adhere to. It seems that humans have no reason to want this moral law, this nagging reminder to do things that aren't convenient, and yet it is part of our nature and we cannot rid ourselves of it. Its almost as if whatever created humans imbued them with this morality for some purpose, for morality surely does not aid in natural processes. So we have something that made all recorded human civilizations model their values a certain way by in planting this belief of right and wrong in their nature. This right here seems like a creator, for it made us what we are. This seems like a God.

My final argument is this: if my long argument above seems correct and proves beyond reasonable doubt that A) there is a real right and wrong, B)humans did not invent this real right and wrong, and C) all humans(aside from rare oddities) have this concept of the true right and wrong in their nature: what follows is that it is necessary for a creator like consciousness or entity -which I will define as a God for all intents and purposes- must exist.


Thanks to pro for agreeing to debate this topic. From the topic, it appeared that you were attempting a purely analytic proof, but looking at your argument, I can see that your "abstract" proof of God is based on observable evidence (ie observing morality in action) and not pure reasoning. For the sake of argument, I will grant that your example qualifies sufficiently as abstract as it is based on sociological/psychological data rather than data from the physical sciences, although both reference external reality rather than merely logical truths.

However, your argument makes unwarranted assumptions and therefore falls into the category of "non sequitur." You assume that it is impossible to have an argument unless both men agree on moral principles, but this is not the case. Conservatives and liberals argue all the time about whether abortion is morally wrong, disproving your point. There are many others, but this is one in which two reasonable and well-meaning people can have a legitimate disagreement. A more substantial problem is the difference between utilitarian morality, which defines morality as an act to provide the most good for the most people, and categorical morality, which defines the morality of an act as an inherent property thereof regardless of the intended or actual consequences. [1] Also, you assume without evidence that there is one "true morality" and claim it is a law.

It is also simply not true that all societies believe in the same morals. For example, China condones female infanticide, while America sees it as an abomination. The author of the Hebrew Bible considered eating shellfish to be an abomination, but most religions do not. [2] These are just a few of many counterexamples to your point.

You then begin to discuss instincts. You claim that universal morality is that which judges between competing instincts. However, this is false. Firstly, it assumes that at least one of these instincts is moral, which it may not be. Secondly, it is our conscious mind that chooses not between instincts but between choices, taking into account instincts. It is true that the conscious mind is not an instinct, but morality (at least if it is based on emotion) most certainly is. Finally, you have not yet defined what is or is not moral, so I cannot say whether your examples would be moral according to your framework. According to some people, it's fine to have sex with as many people as you want, and while I personally disagree, I assume the "Law of Morality" is wiser than I.

Now we come to the interesting part. Where did morality come from? The answer is that human behaviors are largely determined by our evolutionary past. Modern sociologists and psychologists now believe that morality is a product of evolution. [3] By helping maintain stable families and later societies, the "morality genes" helped preserve themselves. This implied that morality is a human convention. There is no need to invoke God when science will do the trick. Finally, even if science could not explain the existence of a moral instinct, there would still be no need to believe in God. A Dao or Brahman ( ie universal soul) would explain it just as well without any personal deity.

In conclusion, there are a lot of unwarranted assumptions and non sequiturs in your argument that render it fallacious and unusable. Vote con because pro has failed to furnish a fallacy free argument.



2 - Leviticus 11:12

Debate Round No. 2


Alrighty, to begin, I would like to thank my opponent for agreeing to argue even though my topic was misleading, for that reason alone I concede and admit that I did not fullfill my purpose. However, I would like to continue the debate for the sake of argument and further understanding.

Your counterargument consists of claims that my argument contains non sequiturs and therefor is not logical. I will try to clear up these apparant non sequiturs.

"You assume it is impossible to have an argument unless men agree on moral principles" this is misleading and missing half of the story. To start, I never said impossible, I said it would be ridiculous. A better word would be senseless, and that hold true. As to your example of libs cons is flawed because my argument describes it perfectly. These two people both agree that killing a child is wrong, they simply disagree on when the fetus is in fact a child. To illustrate my point, we no longer burn women accused of being witches, not because it is immoral to do so, but because we no longer believe in witches. And I'm sure most evryone agrees there are no witches. Knowledge is a great benefit to morality but it does not define morality. And, our actions don't describe our morals, for we all know that we can chose to ignore our morals at any time for any reason. So, as soon as we KNOW for a fact that life begins at conception or birth, the liberal and conservative will agree, because now they believe the same thing. Their morality never changed, only their understanding or perspective of the world.

By true morality, I mean a standard of morality that all humans are subject to. And I provided an entire sub argument as evidence, such as the civilization one whose supposed non sequiturs I will now address.

I struggle to understand how the fact that China condones infanticide somehow accurately describes the morality of Chinese people. China condones it because in their situation of extreme exponential overpopulation, it is practical. It doesn't mean that they think it is right. Laws are not always morally right but sometimes they are necessary for the prosperity or benefit of society. As to example of shellfish, abomination is not synonymous with morally incorrect so I don't fully understand your point. In addition to that, you must remember that what people believe and the morality they hold are different things. They both affect a persons actions but they are not one thing. My morals do not stem from my beliefs nor my beliefs from my morals. My beliefs stem from what I know or am told (like that witches aren't real).

As to your claim that I have not defined what is or isn't moral: morals are like a tool, which I use to measure the morality of the choices (which I called instincts or impulses) a situation presents to me. The morally right choice in that situation is moral, and the morally wrong choice in that situation is immoral. That does not mean that the immoral choice is immoral in every situation. Nothing is always moral or always immoral. So I cannot define what is or isn't moral always. I did however say that in the situation of the man who needed help, the moral choice is to help him.

As to your claim that to some people, its fine to have sex with as many people as they want. These are very much in their right to SAY that they believe this, but if one of these people is married they may still continue to sleep with whoever they want, yet I struggle to think of a realistic situation where he does not understand that it is morally wrong for him to do so. If one of these people is not married, then I'm sure they have even more sex, but I think the moral question is not how much sex you have but WHO you have sex with. A this man will know that is morally wrong to sleep with a married woman, even more if its the wife of a friend, even more if it were to be someone he is related to. As you can see, there are many cases where sex is morally ok, but also cases where no matter what a person says, a sexual action is morally wrong.

Now to the interesting part, I concede that it does make sense that evolution has played a role in the preservation of "morality genes". And for all intents and purposes it is a good theory. Whether or not it contradicts me is different. First off, it is clear that this theory draws some evidence from the behavior of animals, which makes sense because we are animals too, however it would be foolish to say that if this theory is true, it is not painfully evident that our "moral genes" and therefor our morality is far more sophisticated and evolved than that of other animals. Second, morality cannot be a human convention by the grounds of this theory because humans had no part in the moral development of other species.

Now we come to the most important part, it seems that based on this theory, morality is a natural convention, a product of evolution. Humans are also products if evolution, every living thing is. f I accept that this theory of evolved morality is true, I can say that a God or a dao or Brahman or x z y creative entity is responsible. I would of course have to back that up with various disputable arguments like first cause or the nature of nothing or the converse of the product of evil but I don't think my character count allows. My point is that the theory of evolved morality does not discredit my own argument, it simply forces me to use another argument for a creative entity to describe it. Notice that this theory is more speculation and logical followings as of today.

This is generally unrelated to the debate but important nontheless.
"There is no need to invoke God when science will do the trick". I think you'll find that no educated theist of any kind will do this. At the end of the day science is an observation of the universe. It cannot deal in things like abstracts and for that we have other tools. A lot of times, science does not do the trick. Science, in its complete form, will be a description of the universe as it is. Will it describe how it will end? How it began? Or will it state that (not necessarily how) it began, that it will end and everything in between? Will it finally be able to tell me what true success is? Well I cant say that anyone knows. I agree that to mindlessly plug in a God to things that seem unsolvable is ridiculous and unwarranted, but that is not at all what theist try to do, much less theologians or theistic philosophers. And even if that were the case (it isn't) that would only be half the story, the other half is on earth, and is about men, rather remarkable men, who convinced other men to follow them to this belief even if it meant being boiled alive (as St. John was). Of course, whether or not those men were crazy or liars or cheats is another debate altogether

My last comment is to remind voters that I have conceded and that you should vote for my opponent because I did not comply with my own criteria.


First of all, thanks to pro very much for your honesty and integrity. It's always nice to debate a person who holds himself to a high standard, and this has been a very good debate regardless of the inexact resolution.

Now, let's get down to business. My example for why an argument over morals is not ridiculous was imperfect. A better example would be a debate over whether homosexuality is or is not moral. It is not at all ridiculous to argue over this point as it has many far reaching implications. Another debate is whether killing and eating animals is moral. The most interesting of these debates is over the nature of morals. Does the morality of an act depend on the act itself or the consequences? To give an example, suppose you were the driver of an out of control trolley and you spot 5 workers on the main track and 1 on an alternate track. Let's also say that your brake is broken and you can either go straight and kill five or take the side track and kill one. Most of us would turn and kill only one, saving five lives. Now suppose you are a surgeon/doctor and there are 5 patients who need organ transplants immediately or they will surely die, but you have no organs to give them. Let's then say you have a napping patient in the lobby who just happens to be a perfect match for all five. Would you painlessly euthanize the one to save the five? While most of us are in sure agreement about the trolley problem, the surgeon problem is not so clear cut. These are the sorts of philosophical debates that are absolutely not ridiculous and need to occur for us to set societal standards and write fair laws, yet the participants in this debate may disagree about whether killing one to save five is morally permissible.

Now, we will turn to infanticide. Everybody understands that a baby is a human being. However, in Chinese culture and indeed in the minds of some Western scholars it is permissible to murder children depending on their value to society. This is an enormous example of a difference in moral codes. To put the problem on even more solid ground, consider the practice of human sacrifice. The Aztecs strongly believed it was morally right to sacrifice innocents to the gods, just one example of how religion corrupts people. In the Mosuo culture, there is no concept of marriage as either monogamous or even as a commitment. [2] These are two examples in which two cultures' moral codes differ radically from our own.

Now that we have been introduced by a brief example to the topic of sexual morality, let's explore this topic further. In different cultures, there are a variety of sexual standards, from the Mosuo tradition of "walking marriage" in which men and women engage in as many casual affairs as they like to traditional Mormon polygamy to marriage as a sacred bond between one man and one women. Whether or not homosexuality, premarital sex, polygamy, or any number of sexual/marital relationships are permissible is a moral disagreement between different societies with far reaching consequences. Essentially, different cultures do not agree on a very important aspect of morality, disproving the claim that all humans possess the same basic moral code.

Next, we come to a topic that I have not yet brought up: psychopaths. These people often have no sense of remorse and lack a basic moral code. They simply do not have the same morals that everyone else does. Obviously, these people are not subject to the so-called "Law of Human Behaviour," and this law is therefore not a universal law as my opponent may wish to believe.

Now, we shall return to an important topic: the origin of morality. My opponent's argument is based on the premise that a universal moral instinct, or at least a common moral instinct mostly shared by most people, proves the existence of God. However, there is a completely naturalistic explanation for this: evolution. My opponent has not answered the charge that evolution provides a satisfactory explanation for the origin of the moral instinct. While calling morality a strictly human convention may, as my opponent pointed out, be inexact as other species have exhibited the traits of a moral instinct, it is nevertheless a natural phenomenon, and there is no evidence to suggest that this instinct was created by anything other than natural processes. Science has done a marvelous job of explaining both natural and sociological phenomena, and in time may be able to answer nearly any question about any natural process, though I am not so optimistic to think that day will come in my lifetime.

Finally, even if morality pointed us in the direction of the supernatural, there need not be a god. There is absolutely no reason to prefer one god to many gods, a deistic god, or an impersonal natural spirit. My opponent has not answered this point either.

Thank you all for your time.



Debate Round No. 3


XDM forfeited this round.


Well, I'm sorry that XDM forfeited what promised to be an interesting final round. I thoroughly enjoyed this debate. There are two reasons why you should vote con.

1. Pro failed to make an argument meeting his own standards, as he admitted in round 3. Therefore I win by default.

2. Pro failed to provide a convincing argument. As I have shown in rounds 2 and 3, his argument is as full of holes as Swiss cheese.

Thank you to everyone who watched this debate and voted!
Debate Round No. 4
15 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by XDM 2 years ago
Haha, either way you're right, my argument had flaws, but I still would've liked the chance to fill a couple of those holes
Posted by Raistlin 2 years ago
Lol, happens to the best of us. I once forgot about a correspondence chess account for two days and lost 4 or 5 games.
Posted by XDM 2 years ago
Dammit I lost track of the clock.. Oh well good debate
Posted by XDM 2 years ago
@atmas before I deleted it all I wrote a good 1,700 word long response but realized I had a lot more to say and that debating the comments section was a rather difficult way of accurately communication thoughts and positions. Is there any way I could contact you privately either via this website or by email?
Posted by Atmas 2 years ago
So you don't believe that saving the man's life makes you indirectly responsible for his later actions? Regardless of the lack of the punishment you might receive? it's commonly accepted that you would have a part of the blame and it's up to the community to decide if they should hold you accountable.

My comment was not to contrary yours directly, only to show how morals are not objective, and if they are not objective then it must be subjective, or an expression of a person's opinions rather than some law that can be broken or upheld.

A true contrary would be that a creator entity is not required to provide morals to be a creator. That is a personal God argument. An impersonal one, such as a deistic God, would not be concerned with the decisions of some evolved primates on an insignificant planet. That is what I meant earlier when I said the "supposed attributes of a god". Objective morality "might" suggest a personal creator, but subjective morality doesn't negate it either. It's possible for a personal creator to not provide objective morals if they want to see if humans make effective, not necessarily right, decisions. You'll need to define the parameters of said creator before your argument is complete. I'm an atheist, but I'm not against your argument because of it, I just want to pick apart the one you provide.
Posted by XDM 2 years ago
Remember that the purpose of the debate is for me to propose an argument and for my opponent to find flaws in it, not for the argument to be the best in terms of its power to convince, simply in its power to open a door to the possibility of a necessary creative entity.

Also, the fact that the man was a serial killer does not affect the correctness of the choice. Trying to save the man is still the morally correct choice,even if it is inconvenient
Posted by XDM 2 years ago
As far as I understand, you have provided an argument which is contrary to my own, however i do not see where, in your argument, you find a fallacy or incoherence in mine. Or at least, a justifiable one. I argued that morality judges between impulses and instincts, that it all humans know a common morality, and that this common morality is not a human convention. I suggested that this creates a necessity for some creative entity. You argued that what I call the common morality is nothing more than a system implanted in humans because it is a very fast way of making good decisions with some degree of correctness. The problem is (as I stated in my argument) that many times things that are morally correct are inconvenient much more often than not. Because of this, debates such as practicality vs. morality are extremely abundant. Also, when faced with a choice, I know both what is the morally right choice and which choice is more practical. So the toolbox argument is out because morality is a rather bad toolbox when it come to practical things like society
Posted by Atmas 2 years ago
Morality is subjective and based entirely on the positive and negative effects that we "believe" would result from out actions. Because we cannot predict the future with 100% accuracy, we typically don't have allot of time to contemplate our actions, and we create a sort of toolbox of pre-answered decisions based only on our best guess. The trouble with trying to say that the best decision is the best decision is that no action is 100% good or 100% bad. There are good and bad outcomes to every single decision we make and it is this range that we analyze our available options and pick the one that suits whatever goal we have in mind. No moral choice is Event Independent, that is to say, the choice does not produce an effect that only applies to that event in which a choice needs to be made. It is quite possible for you to be walking down the beach, seeing a man drowning, and dive in to save him. Your moral decision to sacrifice your own safety to save the mans life might be a good moral choice at the time, but if the man is a wanted serial killer or a hidden child molester who then goes on to commit more crimes now that his life has been saved, your "good" moral decision has created more negative than positive. The crimes the man commits is commonly accepted to be "bad" things because it is detrimental to the progress of society and can create unease among the community toward it's own members or those on the outside. The community has decided that the actions of the man are bad because of a community wide acceptance of the idea of bad, if the community does not accept an idea is bad, it will not cause unease among the community, though there could still be negative physical outcomes that result from the actions. To say that stabbing a person is bad because it is bad to stab a person gives us no information about why it's bad, it's circular reasoning.
Posted by XDM 2 years ago
To clear up confusion as to my purpose, I have not yet defined this entity whose existence am trying to prove, nor have I claimed that the entity is singular. I have simply tried to show (in a quite unconventional way) that it is necessary for a creator entity to exist
Posted by Atmas 2 years ago
No, even if you created a perfect logical argument with no contradictions, it wouldn't be definitive proof of the existence of a god. It would only make the concept plausible, for which it already is. The reason being, there are no premises which would necessitate the existence of a divine creator, since the attributes of a god are speculative at best. A logical system without necessity is not a logical system, this is one of the problems with the KCA. Plus, a logical system is only weak evidence, it does not provide proof.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by dsjpk5 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:01 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro ff a round