Agnosticism is the Correct Religious Stance
I would argue that since we cannot logically prove or disprove the existence of God, we cannot say for certain that God exists or God does not exist. Thus both atheism and theism are false. I do however believe that one day we will be able to prove or disprove the existence of God. My opponent is welcome to take a theist position, an atheist position, or draw on arguments from both sides. Arguments from differing cultures which dictate the existence of multiple Gods are also welcome.
Round 1) acceptance & arguments
5) rhetorical statement of choosing.
Round 1) terms and conditions
Theism: Belief in the existence of a god or gods, especially belief in a personal God as creator and ruler of the world. http://www.thefreedictionary.com...
Atheism: Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods. http://www.thefreedictionary.com...
Agnosticism: We do not know if a deity exists or if a deity does not exist, but one day we may know.
Skepticism: We do not know if a deity exists or if a deity does not exist and we will never know.
First of all, allow me to graciously accept and state that I relish the challenge by ufcryan and I look forward to the challenge.
I would like to start out by asserting my position in favor of atheism and asserting that I will be arguing in favor of this position.
first lets get the definitions out of the way first;
Webster's dictionary defines Agnostic as such:
"a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable; broadly : one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or thenon-existence of God or a god"
"a disbelief in the existence of deity"
So as we can see already that agnosticism has the distinct flavor of neutrality in respect to the existence of God. As such, the agnostic is at a distinct disadvantage because they won't commit to one side or the other in what is clearly a yes or no question. Also, the position of atheism does not say they can disprove a god, but rather that it is a of lack of belief in a deity, and therefore the assertion that such a "Lack of belief" is false is a fallacy since the lack of belief in something by its very nature can not be proved wrong since there is nothing to prove. People who don't believe in Unicorns can't be proved wrong, since the burden of proof lies on the one claiming in the existence of such creatures, and the same can be said of those that believe in aliens or that Elvis is still alive.
As such, the term atheist is a bit ambiguous since no one needs a clear term for the non belief in fairies or unicorns or leprechauns and as such the term atheist just refers to a skeptic essentially. As such if we are going to use a term for something, we should use the term that best describes the situation, and as such the term agnostic gets us nowhere within the discussion of the question of god, it is just a cheap cop out to the real answer.
I look forward to my opponents response!
Thank you Matthew for accepting this debate. I am glad that you brought atheism into this debate, since I believe it is actually atheism that makes the more subtle, yet flawed assumptions that I would not have gotten to point out otherwise.
I should quickly point out that I avoided using websters definitions because they did not reflect philosophical definitions I'll be referring to. Agnostic refers to the act of not knowing but "we may one day know," wheras skepticism refers to not knowing and "we can never know."
If you feel the need to play devil's advocate in later rounds by all means feel free to do so, since I would technically lose this debate if you can better support either perspective.
The main premise of my argument is that if we encounter a situation in which we do not have enough information to make an informed decision, instead of jumping to a conclusion that may be wrong it is more intelligent to claim that we do not have an answer.
For example, give a solution from the set of real numbers to the following equation:
The solution literally has an infinite set of infinite answers. To illustrate the atheist, let's say they assume the answer is 0. This is most certainly a possible answer, but the atheist knew nothing of the nature of x or y. Therefore to conclude 0 without knowing what x or y may be is jumping to a conclusion without a full understanding of the equation.
Now let's say that the atheist spends years and years and millions of dollars to discover that x is 5. They still cannot solve this equation, all they know is 5+y= something. Therefore until we have a complete understanding of the equation, it is more intelligent to say we do not know the answer, as we have not proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the solution is 0.
Likewise, both the theist AND the atheist make critical assumptioms that have not been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. The theist assumes that there is a God or Gods, and they center their beliefs around that assumption.
The atheist makes several assumptions that as I've said before is much more subtle, but nonetheless they have not been logically proven. They assume first that the world we live in is veridical (or that it is real), they assume that science is foolproof, and then they assume that science disproves the existence of a god.
Rene Descartes was a French Philosopher who is the founder of perhaps the most famous qoute in the history of philosophy. "Cogito ergo sum," or "I think, therefore I am." To keep it brief, Descartes woke up one morning after having a dream he could have sworn was real. Then he thought, what if the world around me isn't real, what if I'm not even real, what if all this is another dream, or what if I'm being deceived by some evil and infinitely powerful demon?
Descartes began thinking more and more, and he realized that even if he was in some dream, even if some demon was deceiving him, he must still exist to be deceived. And he knows he exists because he can think that he exists. Thus "I think, therefore I am." This is known as external world skepticism.
I wrote a brief paper on this for an assignment, and I concluded through the use of Occam's Razor that it is more likely that the world around us is veridical than it is not. The idea being that simpler solutions are more likely to be true, it is simpler for the world around us to be the way it appears, therefore it is more likely that the world we live in is real.
The next assumption made is that science is foolproof. For example, if we heat copper at room temperature it will expands. But even this is going to far, what we've really proven is that every time we heat copper at certain room conditions it expands a certain amount. Probability dictates that in order to determine the likelihood of an outcome we must know the total possibilities of that outcome. We have heated copper probably billions of times and it has expanded every time, so we have good reason to believe it will expand the next time we heat it. But the only way to ensure that copper will ALWAYS expand when heated would be to firstly perform a test on all copper in the universe (a practically impossible task) and we would have to heat each piece of copper the same way an infinite number of time (another impossible task).
The purpose of above paragraph may seem somewhat abstract, but it's meant to show that all science can really tell us is how the universe is likely to behave, not exactly how it behaves. This claim is further proved if you study quantum mechanics, where probability plays key roles in the laws of physics.
Next, the atheist assumes that since we can explain the way the universe behaves without the presence of a God proves there is no God. To the contrary, the fact that we can explain the way nature interacts with mathematical equations, the fact WE CAN model equations to explain the way nature behaves, can suggest a grand creator. The fact that we exist, despite the fact that we are (in a sense) defying the second law of thermodynamics, can suggest a grand creator. The fact that if certain physical constants (such as the gravitational and electromagnetic forces) were even minutely stronger or weaker then life, and even reality, would not exist. All of these miracles can lead us to believe that there is in fact a God, but it does NOT prove the existence of a God.
Since both atheism and theism make basic assumption that cannot be logically proven or even disproven, I argue that it is more intelligent to claim that we simply do not know yet, but perhaps someday we will.
To be fair I referred to a form of atheism that is much stronger than the one proposed by my opponent. Matthew proposed that since the existence of God is unfalsafiable, he's inclined to believe a God does not exist. I have shown why I believe it is more likely God exists, so now I leave it to Matthew to show why he is inclined to believe a deity does not exist given the reason I put forth.
Thank you for the gracious greeting! I look forward to a lively debate… Now on to the good stuff.
While I agree with pro on the assertion that Webster’s leaves out the philosophical definitions on either word, I consider this a good thing. Philosophy is great and can give much to ponder in regards to life, but it cannot answer questions of a scientific nature, of which I believe the question of god resides. (Since you have made the assertion that we may know whether god exists in the future, science will need to play a role in that since philosophy and metaphysics don’t provide anything close to the extraordinary proof necessary.)
Therefore I avoid philosophy for this very reason and as an atheist expect that with extraordinary claims comes the burden of extraordinary proof. Now pro may disagree and say that philosophy and metaphysics are the only valid way to argue for the existence of god, and to him I say you may be right… However, the fact remains that in order to prove the existence of god; the proof must be tangible and testable in a lab in order to “Prove” anything and therefore such evidence is not forthcoming it is my assertion that One must have the atheistic outlook until such time as the evidence arises.
As a person, I live by the rule that anything that has a question can have an answer, and as such I make it a habit to say that if I don’t know something I will find the answer. With god, this I believe is easier than people make it sound, and I will explain.
Before I get into the rest of my argument I would like to debunk a couple arguments you made:
With that out of the way, I will now get into the argument for why I believe gods do not exist, at least the current idea of god and my reasoning behind it
The Theistic God:
Suppose you have for the sake of argument the notion that there is a supreme being that watches over us and cares about us, answers prayers, and demands worship in return. Now suppose that this Supreme Being decided that he needs to manifest his will to us some time ago in the distance past and decides to do this to a prophet, medium, or his son. He further decides that his will must be manifest for the whole world and decides that his wisdom must be written down to preserve this legacy. He chooses the prophet/medium or people around his son to write his words down for posterity.
Simple logic can kick in and say that there is many fallacy’s in the previous paragraph if you want to make a compelling argument for the existence of a “Theistic” god. First, if you really wanted for people to know you as a supreme being, why be shy about it? You are a god after all and are not subject to human emotion, and as an omniscient god you would know that humans are skeptical of other people claiming things without evidence. Second, why would you pick ONE human to tell your story? If this being was all knowing he would see that humans have a tendency to abuse power (Absolute power derived from divine authority in this case) and again are skeptical of other people making claims and would have told many people. Not only that, but the fact that most of the authors of Holy Books are anonymous and deceased with no clear way for us to know who they exactly where is clearly convenient for those arguing in favor since they can pick whoever they want (The gospels in the bible are a perfect example of this example). Third, even if you were able to somehow prove that the authors of the book existed and wrote exactly what we see as holy books today (Plagiarism and revision NEVER happens when people are editing and rewriting books right?) You would still have to prove that these people actually had a revelation. Now since we see that this whole thing is most likely man made, we can deduce that the notion of a theistic god is very, very improbable. Impossible? Absolutely not, but since 100% of the world’s religions fall into the category above (Unless pro can name any that he feels would not meet the criteria above) I believe we can safely deduce that the notion of a theistic god is manmade and false.
The Deistic God:
Here is where we get into murky waters since the idea of a Deistic god is more philosophical and logical than scientific. The idea is that since the universe had a beginning and we have no clue how that happened (The big bang only answers the question of how it happened, it does not answer the question of why) then there must have been a “prime mover” or uncaused cause that started the whole thing up. This idea, while quaint explains nothing really and does us no good in the long run, since the notion of a deistic god is one of cold indifference to the rest of its “Creation.” The deistic god does not answer prayers, does not care whether we live or die, and therefore is completely useless and a way for people who have no belief in theistic gods to explain what to them seems impossible by natural means. To put it another way, when Pierre Laplace demonstrated his working model of the universe to Napoleon, and I’m paraphrasing, he was asked “I see you have no room for god in this equation” and Pierre said “yes your majesty, because it operates without that assumption.” So does our universe operate on the assumption that there is no god, and it is my contention that we need not fluff the argument by giving it a superfluous answer such as the deistic god who answers none of the important questions we have about topics normally associated with such a question.
We have seen that the theistic god is highly unlikely and most likely man made and therefore a position with very little evidence to support it (Remember extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof). We have also seen that the deistic god offers nothing to us other that an explanation to something that, when answered does nothing to add to the discussion and therefore in my opinion can be dismissed. And we have also debunked pros assertions that atheists make assumption which we clearly know is not true based on the total lack of any kind of belief in anything. I leave this to my opponent who I’m sure will have much to say to this.
The traditional definition of the theistic God is a being who is:
1. All Powerful
2. All Knowing
3. All Good
Let our definition of a deistic God be a being who is:
1. All Powerful
2. All Knowing
I should also mention that I was first trying to disprove a stronger version of atheism than the one proposed by my opponent. I was disproving the "absolute atheist," whereas it seems that your version of atheism is closer to skepticism, especially since your placing so much emphasis on the word "disbelief."
Next, I think it is also important to address the definition of the word "prove." A proof in the context of which I think we're talking about is a conclusion derived from a set of premises that lead to the conclusion. For example, if x implies y, if we're given x we get y. Or the simpler version follows like this:
1. x -> y (Premise)
2. x (Premise)
- y (Conclusion)
The reason I am agnostic is because, as of yet, we have not been able to logically prove or disprove the existence of a God. However I do not see why one day in the near or distant future we would not be able to prove or disprove God from a logical standpoint, because there is no proof dictating that we cannot. However we cannot assume that the answer to the existence of God will only lie in science.
If we rely solely on science to prove or disprove God, then we encounter the problem of external world skepticism. If the world around us does not exist and only our minds and our thoughts exist, then science cannot tell us anything. I believe it is more likely that the world around us is real, but we cannot prove this either. Therefore in order to place the answer to whether or not God exists upon science isn't foolproof because we cannot be certain science is telling us anything. The worst case scenario dictates that science is only reinforcing "our great deception."
However let's assume that the world around us is real, and let's address theology from the scientific standpoint in the way your suggesting. If we are trying to prove or disprove the existence of God from the progression of science, the atheist is actually placed at a disadvantage. No matter what kinds of fantastic leaps are made in the scientific field, the atheist cannot be proved correct, since the deist can always respond "God made it that way."
For example, we originally thought that things fell to the earth because God willed that they do. Newton then founded the concept of gravity and developed Newtonian Physics, most of which did not require God actively adjusting the way things acted in the universe. However a deist could simply tell Newton "God made it that way," thus the deist cannot be proved wrong using science.
I should quickly point out that most of the original concepts of Newtonian physics have actually been disproven by special relativity, electromagnetism, and QM. But the deist can still say "God made it that way."
Science has progressed in such a way that the presence of a God is needed less and less to explain most phenomenon. This, from what I gather, is what justifies the atheist's "disbelief.' However I would challenge this disbelief. Just because we gather more and more ways to explain the universe without God does not justify disbelieving in God, it only justifies more and more that we do not have an answer yet.
Let's reconsider an equation as an example.
Let's say that x are a set of physical laws that we understand, y is represents the laws we do not, and z represents reality. y used to be simply explained by just saying y must be God, but we actually discover more about y than we knew before, so we replace y with x1+y1. So our equation becomes
Where x represents the laws we already knew, x1 represents the laws we just began to understand, and y1 represents the laws we do not understand yet. The fact that we understand more and more of this equation without referencing God does not rule out the possibility that later on some variables may only be explainable by the existence of a God, nor does it change who wrote the equation in the first place. Because the possibility of the existence of a God is unchanged by the further progress of science, the disbelief garnered by atheists is unjustified. All we can say for certain is that we do not fully understand the equation yet, but one day we may know. Therefore agnosticism is correct.
I would like to ask my opponent why he feels that we are no longer allowed to discuss theism as part of the discussion. Since this is the position that 90% (Estimate) of the world holds, it would seem that this is where the argument would center itself since arguing for a deistic god is pointless if this being takes no part in the world he has “created” and the notion of such a deity does nothing to add to the argument otherwise. However I will agree with this and move on.
I would like to disagree with pro on his definition of a deistic god since it is impossible to infer both because this being has chosen to not reveal itself to us, and therefore we cannot know what this being is like let alone know that it is all powerful or all knowing. The only thing we know is he jumpstarted the big bang (If this being existed mind you) and we have no idea if he can even interact with the universe he created after the initial interaction and therefore to assume the definitions pro described would be in error since this being by definition is unknowable.
While pro may have been trying to disprove a stronger form of atheism (I.e. the belief that there is no god or what is called Positive Atheism) I am going off the definition of the many prominent atheists of the day which is a lack of belief in a theistic god, since the utter lack of one cannot be wholly disproved (1). However, this does not mean that agnosticism is the correct solution because to say you are an agnostic means that you feel that one day we may be able to prove the existence of god. I say in order to prove anything with the same certainty as say gravity or evolution you must be able to test and measure for such a being and it must be able to be replicated. However we know that this is not possible due to the very nature of god being stationed outside our universe and therefore, as it is asserted, not subject to our physical laws. So the only way you can even come close to “Proving” the existence of god would be through philosophy which I submit is not a reliable method of proving anything since most of philosophy is subjective and does not have the same level of accuracy or neutrality as the scientific method.
Now as far as logic goes to prove the existence of god, I have to say that so far it has been on the side of the atheist for some time, since the more we learn about the universe the more we find that it seems an ultimate being did NOT design the universe and as such the massive amount of chaos, disorder, evil and utter madness in the universe today and soon to come proves this. In the words of Christopher Hitchens:
“You [Frank Turek] mentioned Edwin Hubble and the way that he saw the red-light shift and saw that the universe was not just expanding, but expanding very fast, away from itself, that the Big Bang had not stopped. Lawrence Krauss, great physicist, probably the next Nobel Prize winner for—has noticed that most peoples’ assumption was wrong, that though this expansion was taking place, it was thought, the rate of speed of expansion must surely be declining. People still think in Newtonian terms in this way. No, says Krauss. He’s pointed out and now it’s agreed by all. No, the Hubble rate of the red-light shift is increasing. The universe is dissipating itself at high speed and the speed is getting greater. What does this mean? Well, it answers the question of why is there something instead of nothing. Because now we have something. We’re all here because there’s something, and nothing is coming right for us. Very soon a physicist wouldn’t be able to tell the Big Bang had ever taken place, so far sprung apart will the whole system be. And meanwhile, look in the sky at night and you can see the Andromeda galaxy headed straight for us on a direct collision course. Who designed that? Who made it certain that every other planet in our solar system is either too hot or too cold to support life, as is most of our own planet, and that in just one tiny, irrelevant solar system already condemned to heat death and implosion” (2)
So how can we deduce a designer from this chaos and why would anyone want to credit such a supposedly benevolent creator with this mass destruction that is headed our way? This to me would seem to imply if not prove that there was no design at all in the universe and that it was all happening by chance. With that said I think we can move logic into the category of evidence in favor of the atheistic world view.
Now, I have to say that I am a little surprised that my opponent decided to bring up the idea of external world skepticism again, since the whole theory has been more than adequately debunked based on assertion that the statement is a syllogistic inference and therefore requires an extra premise which Descartes of who pro mentioned did not justify. Many have also called the inference self-evident and there is no need for such a claim since the very claim is circular and leads nowhere. While I see where my opponent is going, I warned him that this could lead to a slippery slope and therefore his credibility is damaged by his insistence on using such arguments. (3)
Pro is correct in his assertion that any religious person worth their salt could just refer backwards in their arguments to assume that what science finds is “gods doing”, but any sane person on any other subject would see this for what it is, a logical fallacy since a claim such as this is un-falsifiable and therefore an invalid proposal (4). I cannot be asked to attack a position which is non-falsifiable and the person who does ask this is deluding themselves in thinking any sane person would agree to this. I would also like to point out that pros assertion that just because we have gathered much that disproves what ancient and current religious people believed as divinely orchestrated does not mean we should shy away from the belief that there is a god. I say that is the perfect reason to shy away from such an argument, and I would ask pro what would he consider a good reason to move away from such a claim if this is not sufficient. Allow me to demonstrate: suppose you have a person who claims to be an expert on a field of science and says that you should trust them due to this assertion. However the more you interact with them the more you find out that they really don’t know anything and they actually are quite wrong on much of what they are saying. Are you going to continue to believe what this person says, or are you going to give them the wide berth they deserve and treat what they say with skepticism and contempt? I think the answer is obvious and this is the reason the atheist disregards what the theist says in regards to god.
While the question of the existence of god may be unchanged with the march of science (Again no one can disprove the existence of god) the scientific advancement has made the existence of god more and more unlikely as it continues to learn and study about the world around us, and as such I still say that atheism is the correct stance to have until such time as the evidence for god is forthcoming.
(2) Hitchens versus Frank Turek full debate can be found in the first video in the margins
(4) Second video in the margins
The definition of the deistic God is one I got from a philosophy class. The definition is derived from logical deductions based on indirect observations (assuming this God exists). The deistic God is described as a grand creator, who created the universe, logic, and mathematics (among other things). In order to create the universe it must have been all powerful, and the deistic God must be all-knowing because it would know the characteristics of everything it made. A deistic God may still be an all moral God, but this is (arguably) not a logically derivable concept from the perspective of a grand creator. We can get real nit picky over other features this God may have, but this is the basic starting point most philosophers start from (to my knowledge, anyway).
NOTE: I intentionally use "it" to describe God because I do not see why a grand creator would need to reproduce, thus sex is irrelevant. Referencing God as "he" or "she" is simply cosmetic and would not change God's nature.
Return Responses in Order
My opponent is a proponent of an epistemological theory known as empiricism, one of which I'm sure many atheists hold. Empiricism dictates that all knowledge comes from experimentation and observation. The problem with this that I keep coming back to is that we do not and have never derived all knowledge from experimentation and observation. In order to interpret any sort of experiment and make conclusions about the universe we must resort to logic. I would argue that all knowledge comes from logic, and then logically we can use experimentation and observation to make logical conclusions. However our core, fundamental source for knowledge is the application of logic.
For example, the scientific process is actually a logical algorithm developed by philosophers over time.
Now let's address my opponents method of proof. First evolution hasn't been proven with the uncertainty that atheists like to say it has been, but that's a conversation for another time. Next, the process of testing, measuring, and being able to replicate that particular experiment anywhere is a fantastic scientific method, but it's actually no longer accepted as the only means to illustrate scientific truth. The cutting edge of science deals in quantum mechanics, and in quantum mechanics you usually can't rely on this approach, but nonetheless we believe we can learn important scientific facts from the study of quantum mechanics.
For example, testing anything in science usually requires a control experiment to compare effects or that you have. In quantum mechanics simply observing a phenomenon actually changes the outcome, nullifying your ability to have a control.We cannot measure everything in nature because nature deals in probabilities, and we cannot even measure the probabilities of events because the probabilities change. This phenomenon is known as "probabilistic waves," and there is literally no physicist alive who can claim to understand this. We cannot replicate experiments because its nearly impossible to create initial starting conditions, and even if we can the events are likely to be different every time. We still say QM can inform us about nature, but we need more radical theories to describe how we prove things scientifically.
Next, we do not need to experiment and replicate phenomenon to known that they occurred. When we dropped bombs atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we observed their explosions and we studied the outcomes afterwards. However even if we didn't observe the explosions of the bombs, given enough information and time we could discover that they did go off, where they went off, and possibly how they went off. So we can still say that certain events happened even if they only occurred once, or that events happened even if we never observed them. We do not need replication or direct observations to make scientific conclusions.
In conclusion, all knowledge is based upon logic, through logic we derive science, but science does not require measurements, replicability, or even direct testing to make conclusions. This is why we can make indirect observations that a God may exist, and by which we may be able to one day prove God exists through indirect scientific proof (unless of course it reveals itself to us).
Back to Agnosticism
The whole point of illustrating the flaws of the scientific processes is because I believe most atheists (my opponent included) are basing their foundations of knowledge on an outdated, 17th century scientific ideologies. Nonetheless I will again attack the atheist's "disbelief" that a God exists.
The main reason atheists disbelieve God exists, as proposed by my opponent, is because ideas that because we have found scientific reasons to explain phenomenon other than God we have less reason to believe God exists. Perhaps this justifies believing less in a theistic God, but not a deistic God. Let's revisit the equation I posted in my last argument, but written a bit more clearly.
The old method of describing nature:
Known Laws+ GOD = Reality.
After making some discoveries, we found that
Older Known Laws + Newly Discovered Laws + Undiscovered Laws = Reality
While we found ways to explain the universe more and more without God, we may still come across some facts about nature later on that may only be explainable through the existence of God. This could be done through indirect observations of nature or witnessing a direct interference (either once or consistently) of a God "tweaking" nature. Also, this discovery of new laws and explanations doesn't affect whoever wrote this equation in the first place. This DOES give us reason to doubt in the theistic God and the so-called "experts" in its existence, but it does not justify disbelieving in a grand creator.
I do not argue with the atheists skepticism on the existence of God, agnostics are skeptical to. I argue that they do not have a logical basis to begin disbelieving in God since the existence of a grand creator is independent of scientific discovery, and one day we may need God to describe the universe. I argue that, at the moment, we don't know. One day we may, however, once again need God to describe nature (or it may reveal itself to us). However even if this day never comes it would still not take away the possibility that a God may still exist.
Arguments for Destruction
The argument that a all-powerful being would create a universe that will ultimately destroy itself presents more of a problem to a theistic God than a deistic God. Theists need to try and explain why an all moral God would wish for the destruction of its subjects, however a deistic God may have just decided that it wanted to make a universe which will destroy itself. If a car designer decides to make a car that will eventually break down, it does not mean there was never a car designer to begin with. This gives us a reason to question the morality of God, but not if there was or was not a grand creator.
External World Skepticism:
The main reason I kept referring back to EWS was simply to show that scientists and atheists often make a basic assumption that is similar to assuming there is a God. There are many people who argue against EWS, I do not believe it is likely that the world around us is a fabrication, but I recognize it is still an assumption that I can't prove wrong. This assumption is similar to the assumption theists make, because no matter what they will never be proved wrong.
My distinguished opponent seems to have strayed off topic, and while he still holds to agnosticism seems to be arguing in favor of a deistic god more and more.
I will answer these in order of appearance:
Defining the deistic god
You have still failed to give any reason to think this being is in any way how you described it to be, and it would be the deists themselves who would tell you that to so label god in this way is a mistake:
“Belief that the nature of God is abstract and generally incomprehensible which puts it beyond definition for humanity at this time. Furthermore, human language is limited and inadequate to define God; however, man can use Reason to theorize and speculate on what this possible nature is” (1)
Now while you may speculate on what this being is or does, you cannot claim to know for sure that it was any of those things. Philosophers may try to come up with an answer and speculate as to this “Designers” attributes, but for all we know some grand being sneezed and we came into being… No design intended. So to claim that this being is, [Fill in the blank], is unknowable and therefore a logical inconsistency.
Adherence to the empirical school of evidence
This method is used in every single aspect of science and my opponent’s insistence to the contrary does not make this any less so. For instance, to say that quantum mechanics is an exercise in logic and does not apply to the realm of empiricism is flat out wrong. Allow me to explain:
I’m not sure how to even address my opponents allegations regarding the probabilistic waves he refers to, except to state that just because we don’t know how to explain something now, does not mean that we won’t know sometime in the future, and that does not even imply that the empirical method is useless to this since correlation does not imply causation.
While my opponent argues that science does not require replication and experimentation sometimes to prove events happened, I say to what does he attribute this theory to? Simply put, any claim is subject to testing and observation, and from this we can deduce other thing so while my opponent says the empirical evidence is not necessary for indirect conclusions, I say again he is wrong on that flawed assumption.
And even if this was all irrelevant and my opponent had a valid claim, he would still be wrong since all the indirect logical data so far seems to indicate that a god did NOT create/design the universe, and that this whole universe happened with no clear design (As the chaos and destruction bit earlier discussed indicates which my opponent did not refute). Therefore again the logical conclusion would be that the universe was not designed at all, which is the whole argument for deism in the first place.
Back to atheism
While I will concede to my opponent that the scientific method is not perfect, it is the best way we have to understand the world we live in to date. Appealing to a deistic god as an answer to any question regarding the universe gets you nowhere, and simply put was a place holder for atheism in the early days of the enlightenment since their understanding of the world as they knew it was not as comprehensive as ours today. The god of the gaps analogy to which my opponent is referring to when he says that there may be questions that can only be answered by inserting god into the equation is flat out wrong, since that argument has been used for the entire duration of the struggle between theists and atheists to which the theist loses ground every day.
I would also like to again point out that my opponent seems to think that logic may answer the god question in the future, and says that science cannot play a role since the being in question is independent of scientific discovery. I would like to ask then, how would one go about proving the existence of something that is by its very nature unknowable and un-provable? Logic can explain what exists in our universe, but since this being exists outside of our universe, I would ask how one would go about proving the existence of this entity since we can logically deduce that logic and any other “Constants” we apply in our universe would not apply to this being?
Arguments of destruction revisited
I would like to point out that the reasoning behind this is to prove the very lack of design the universe portrays since it is the assertion that the deistic god designed the universe then stepped back and let it run its course. To say that the universe is designed is to make several assumptions which logically don’t correlate with what we know. And the same could be said that this is all some cosmic accident on behalf of this being and it wasn’t designed at all. You have to be open to this possibility as well, and since this point is essentially un-provable I will leave it alone for now.
Again the whole idea is circular and a slippery slope in explaining things. Some things are self-evident and need no explanation. Maybe deism would fit better since technically we can prove or disprove neither, but to say that theism which is so easily disproved is in the same category is nonsense. I will grant the fact that I can’t disprove EWS, but again I feel this is a slippery slope for this discussion.
Why agnosticism is not the answer
While my opponent seems to indicate that he feels that the question of whether we may be able to answer the ultimate question of god is a possibility, I say that he has adequately shown that no such answer is possible, and has said so on more than one occasion, just not directly. Furthermore, the atheist is doing nothing more than expressing their non-belief in something, not claiming to be able to prove anything, as I have stated more than once. While the agnostic attempts to be neutral, they miss the basic tenant which is any claim needs some evidence to hold water, and so far I have not heard any convincing arguments to indicate that agnostics are in a better position than the atheist when the question of god comes up, and I think we can both agree that the evidence for god is non-existence or simply an appeal to the god of the gaps argument which has been refuted on numerous occasions.
To this end I would politely invite my opponent to join me on the dark side, and remind him of the cookies we possess. They are delicious!
First let's walk through the logical process for defining a deistic God. The deistic God usually refers to a grand creator that finely tuned the universe to support life. If we assume, for the sake of argument, that it exists, what would it be like? Well if it created everything in existence, it must be immensely powerful. Nothing else does or could exist which could create or destroy its own existence, therefore the ability to create must equate to power. Next, it must possess knowledge for all of the things it created. If you hammer in 1000 nails into a board, you'll have some knowledge about each nail you hammered (assuming you didn't forget). Therefore if God is a grand creator, it must have been all powerful to create existence and it must possess knowledge about everything it created. We have no clue as to what other characteristics this being may have.
If this being accidentally sneezed us into existence, it still had to be a supremely powerful sneeze, and it would know that it sneezed. Just because we may not even possess the language or even comprehension to fully describe this being does not mean we cannot describe certain attributes it may possess. I do not fully comprehend my computer, but I can describe the keyboard I'm typing on to an extent.
Empirical School of Evidence
I understand I got a little off topic with the references to QM, but the point was to show that the empirical process my opponent was referring to of testing, replicating, and observing is not the only ways from which we can scientifically prove phenomenon. It is a fantastic method, but we do not need to test to discover everything about nature, we do not need to be able to replicate every experiment, and we do not need to directly observe every experiment.
Remember the process I went through with the atomic bombs exploding. We know they exploded, where, and how, but given enough information and time we could discover all we know about the explosions without observing them. We do not need to replicate the atomic test to know there was an explosion (similiarly we do not need to create our own "big bang" to know it happened). We would not need to watch the explosion occur, we could observe its effects and make indirect conclusions from other observations. And we definitely do not need to re-test the bomb to see if it would perform the same way again. This is all meant to show that indirect observations and logical conclusions can lead us to accurate scientific answers without resorting to the empirical data collection my opponent has referenced.
Similarly, one day we may come across some physical phenomenon that indirectly dictates the existence of God. For example, if something randomly keeps re-introducing usable energy into a system and we have exhausted any other possible causes other than intervention by an outside creator, then we could indirectly conclude that a God exists. Just because the "god of gaps" argument has been disproven over time does not mean that one day we will not need God to explain some phenomenon. If the day comes when we can explain EVERY physical phenomenon without referencing God, then I would become a skeptic. If this happened then we could never know if there was or was not a grand creator, until then we may someday need God to explain a scientific phenomenon and thus I'm agnostic. (This does not mean we should use the God of Gaps argument lightly, it just means we may be forced to one day).
Arguments From Destruction re-revisited
Agnostics are just as skeptical as atheists, I will not deny that it seems strange that a grand creator would design a universe that would destroy itself. However this could only bring into question whether or not this being is moral or immoral, and it does not prevent a grand creator from designing a flawed universe.
Agnosticism is the Answer
Agnostics, like atheists, are skeptical. We do not claim that there is sufficient evidence to prove the existence of God. Like my opponent, we do not believe there is sufficient evidence to disprove the existence of God, nor could there ever be. The difference I have set between my opponent and I is that I don't believe we are justified to begin disbelieving in the existence of a grand creator. We are PERFECTLY justified to begin disbelieving in the religious sects and so-called experts on the existence of God, but not whether or not it exists as a grand creator.
Given how we do not yet fully understand our universe, I argue that we cannot claim that there may be certain phenomenon that require divine intervention. If this intervention occurs or is proven, then we could definitively say there is a God. It is because this has not happened yet and it MAY happen that I am agnostic, or I do not claim to know the answer but one day we may discover it. If we discovered all the secrets of the universe without needing God to explain any phenomenon, then I would become skeptical because the may STILL be a God, but we will never be able to prove its existence. Either way, atheists are perfectly justified to disbelieve in the theistic God, but not the deistic God.
First of all, in closing this debate I would like to thank my esteemed opponent for his most invigorating and challenging debate. It has been an honor and a privilege.
Now in closing, I would like to sum up what it is that I think in regards to this issue since I feel we have gotten a bit off topic and it needs clarification.
So again, I say that agnosticism is an irrelevant position since they are proclaimed atheists, except they reserve judgment for a later date. I ask you, the voter, who has the more reasonable stance, the atheist or the agnostic?
Thank You again to my opponent for a wonderful debate!
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