The Instigator
WxGeo
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
mecap
Con (against)
Winning
23 Points

Any definition that conflates Atheism with Agnosticism is not Atheism by any sense.

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Post Voting Period
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after 7 votes the winner is...
mecap
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/15/2012 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,833 times Debate No: 22854
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (26)
Votes (7)

 

WxGeo

Pro

My opponent wrongfully claims to be an atheist-agnostic, which is confused. A presumption which seems to combine atheism with agnosticism re-defines "Atheism" to indicate merely the absence of belief in God. But a re-definition like this down plays atheism's presumption, that there is no God. On such a definition, atheism cannot be a worldview, even babies would count as atheists!

Regarding God's existence, it would be necessary on the atheist, to prove that if God existed, then He would provide greater evidence than what I, the theist, have. This is a huge burden of proof to bear! For two reasons:

(1) The primary way in which we come to know God is through the inner work of His Holy Spirit, what philosophers call a properly basic belief grounded in our immediate experience, which is effective in bringing people into relations with God. 100% apart from evidence & arguments. Yet such a belief is not indubitable or unfalsifiable, for one can simply prove that the idea of God is logically incoherent for example: like a married bachelor, or round square.

(2) God's colossal miracles of the creation of the universe and the resurrection of Christ from the dead.

In this light, the true definition of atheism seems highly presumptuous stating "God does NOT exist." First, the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Forensic scientists and archeologists affirm this principle. At this point, at best one is left with an argument on the 'hiddenness' of God' and so forth. Yet B.Russell himself saw that this inference from "a lack of evidence for God to atheism is fallacious. That's why in a 1948 debate with Copleston, he coined the label "agnostic" in place of "atheist."

Understand that many people call themselves "atheists" when they are agnostics. So the question we'll start at is:

Does God Exist?

(A) Theism: "God Exists"

(B) Non-theism: "I don't believe that God exists" (a biographical statement, not a position)
(B.1) Atheism: "God does not exist" (a position)
(B.2) Agnosticism: "I don't know if God exists" (a position)
(B.2.1) Hard Agnosticism: "Anything about God is unknowable" (self-refuting, it claims knowledge about an unknowable)
(B.2.2) Soft Agnosticism: "I don't know if God exists, but it's possible for someone to know."

Now there are sound arguments for God's existence, but if you proved them to all fail, then at the very best I think you're left with Soft Agnosticism.

But when Does Absence of Evidence ("I see none") = Evidence of Absence ("There is none")?

This at the heart of the matter at our current stage of discussion, and it all revolves around what's called your "epistemic situation." Your epistemic situation (ES) refers to the limits of one's ability to know something through your testimony, introspection, memory, perception... etc.

My ES concerning whether there's an elephant inside the Hall is very good. In contrast, my ES concerning whether there's a tea cup orbiting Mars is very poor. So to recognize when you are in an epistemically good situation to decide if God does or doesn't exist; you must have two things:

(1) Evidence (any positive epistemic considerations in favor)
(2) Knowledge of that evidence

In this case, you can deny the existence of God ONLY IF:

(A) We expect to attain evidence that is sufficient to know that God exists,
(B) But lack it

Now these are just the necessary conditions for being in a good ES for denying God. These aren't, however, SUFFICIENT conditions... So even if you're able to meet both criteria, that doesn't oblige you to deny God's existence! Consider the following:

The nature of evidence is fleeting. It washes back and forth as scientists and humans gather more knowledge and inferences. This means that our ES is changeable within time and space. So this must contradict with the Evidence / Knowledge Criterion.

Also, the possibility of the noetic effects of 'sin' could twist evidence toward our selfish ends, not to mention the unreasonably high epistemic standards atheists often apply toward theistic evidences.

Maybe God might be anthropomorphically voted as logically incoherent and lacking evidence now. But will that change given new philosophies, scientific knowledge and historical discoveries? Are we in a good position to even wait on these volatile fluctuations of proofs and inferences?

Never mind these questions for now, the topic of debate before us is simply the merging of any form of agnosticism (the claim to no knowledge, which therefore demands no justification) with Atheism (the claim to knowledge, which therefore demands justification) immediately downplays Atheism's claim to fit with and actually be agnosticism. To say "I simply lack belief in God" is just a biographical statement, no more.
mecap

Con



My opponent’s primary resolution indicates that my opponent has not fully grasped what the terms gnostic, agnostic, theism and atheism, really mean.


Dictionary Definitions


We can start with the dictionary definitions, which I believe are rather insufficient, but let’s introduce them anyway:


Gnostic gnos•tic/'nästik/ Adjective


Of or relating to knowledge, esp. esoteric mystical knowledge.


Agnostic ag·nos·tic/ag'nästik/ Noun


A person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena


Theism the·ism/'THeiz?m/ Noun


Belief in the existence of a god or gods, esp. belief in one god as creator of the universe, intervening in it and sustaining a personal


Atheism a·the·ism/'aTHe?iz?m/ Noun


The theory or belief that God does not exist.


“Better” Definitions


Like I said, I view these definitions as somewhat ambiguous and confusing, so I’m going to clarify them:


Gnostic pertains to the position of knowledge that the belief or disbelief in a divine being (i.e. God) is true. An agnostic is someone who holds the position that one does not know wether the belief or disbelief in a divine being is true.


Theism, on the other hand, is the belief in the existence of a divine being (i.e. God), where as atheism is the disbelief that God exists. Literally, atheism means “without theism” so it’s the lack of belief in God.


As you can see, gonstic/agnostic pertains to the knowledge about the truth of a belief whereas theism/atheism pertains to the belief about the existence of God. One addresses knowledge, the other belief, therefore we can conflate not only atheism and a/gnostisism, but theism and a/gnostisism:























Agnostic



Gnostic



Atheist



Agnostic atheist believes that no god exists, but doesn’t claim to know that this belief is true.



Gnostic atheist believes that no god exists and claims to know that this belief is true.



Theist



Agnoistic theist believes a god exists, but doesn’t claim to know that this belief is true.



Gnostic theist believes a god exists and claims to know that this is true.



A more detailed explanation of these terms and how they are combined can be found on the iron chariots website: http://wiki.ironchariots.org...


If the table below is too complicated to understand, then I present the following venn diagram (from wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org...):



My opponent's statement, that a "presumption which seems to combine atheism with agnosticism re-defines 'Atheism' to indicate merely the absence of belief in God," is therefore refuted. Atheism is, by definition, the absence of belief in God. When the terms gnosticism/agnosticism are used, we can get a more granular understanding about what a person is claiming as their knowledge with respect to a belief.


I don't understand what my opponent is trying to say when he suggests that an atheist has to prove if God existed, when the atheist does not believe that a God exists. If the atheist were to prove that God exists, then he/she would probably not be an atheist anymore.


Other Arguments


At the end of the first round my opponent states:


"Never mind these questions for now, the topic of debate before us is simply the merging of any form of agnosticism (the claim to no knowledge, which therefore demands no justification) with Atheism (the claim to knowledge, which therefore demands justification) immediately downplays Atheism's claim to fit with and actually be agnosticism. To say I simply lack belief in God' is just a biographical statement, no more."


I'm not going to address any of the other claims, since my opponent also suggest we only address the resolution at hand. However, I would address the point of justification and that is simply: atheism is the lack of belief, therefore the only justification that is necessary is based on the lack of evidence to warrant a belief. In other words: the burden of proof is on the person who takes the affirmative position.


Conclusion


As I have demonstrated, agnosticism pertains to the knowledge about the truth of a belief, whereas atheism pertains to a belief (or lack thereof). Conflating the two is not a redefinition of atheism, but rather a classification of the "levels" of knowledge about the lack of belief in a God. A simple example is saying that conflating dark with blue is a redefinition of blue, and that's simply not the case: it's merely a different shade of blue



Debate Round No. 1
WxGeo

Pro

I agree the dictionary definitions are insufficient. The "better definitions" rest upon a common mistake elucidated with some epistemology. What most theories of knowledge purport knowledge to be is namely, a justified true "belief." Distinguishing between knowledge and belief, is therefore like pealing away the skin of an orange, for who thinks a pealed orange is anything but an orange nonetheless? So far from being distinct from knowledge, belief is a fundamental member of knowledge.

The skin in this case would be the superficial claims of gnosticism (I'm in a good epistemic position to have knowledge about God's existence) and agnosticism (I deny that I'm in a good epistemic position to have knowledge about God's existence). In simple prose, gnosticism is logically equivalent to saying "I can know." While agnosticism is logically equivalent to saying "I cannot know." The former affirms knowledge, the latter denies knowledge.

Lack of vs. Denial of: [a] in Gnosticism
So I agree that gnosticism bespeaks one's epistemic position regarding the existence of God. Notice [a]gnosticism is not the lack of ones epistemic position (eP) regarding the existence of God, but the denial of such a position. For the notion of a "lack of an epistemic position" seems to immediately place one into affirming the denial of an eP before one lacks anything at all regarding knowledge or belief whatever. Agnosticism therefore cannot be a lack of an eP, rather it's the denial of an eP.

Lack of vs. Denial of: [a] in Theism
Now when we get to theism and atheism one can plainly note that theism is not merely a belief, it is one which claims to be true and also have justification, which is a claim to knowledge. This makes theism is a philosophical position, which is written about as such.

Atheism isn't the "lack of belief" but, like [a]gnosticism, the [denial] of a belief which claims to be true and to have justification for its truth: any denial of such is purporting a denial-based knowledge. A lack of belief on the contrary, is merely a biographical description. Atheism means "denying of theism" as noted here in Sanford's encyclopedia

http://plato.stanford.edu...

Any statement which claims a lack of belief is immediately placed into a category of agnosticism, which says it denies an epistemic position adequate enough for knowledge: more simply put, "I don't know." When an atheist says they lack belief, they're not claiming knowledge, they're saying "I don't know," which is agnosticism, a biographical claim ABOUT knowledge. The definition is of a higher order in that sense.

My opponent therefore is missing steps in defining his position. For atheism is the denial of the claim, "I believe God exists." Whereas agnosticism is the denial of the claim, "I can know if God exists." Which is basically saying "I don't know." Therefore my position is not refuted (even with the all-convincing wiki-diagrams) that Atheism with Agnosticism says, logically formulated; "God doesn't exist & I don't know if God exists." One can see that this redefining isn't just for some helpful "granular" understanding, it's a viscously circular definition hidden as granular.

Burden of Proof
Now I never suggested that a non-theist must prove if God exists. Rather an atheist must justify his "God doesn't exist" claim by showing somehow that God, in fact, does not exist. Otherwise he's left with agnosticism. Rather what I said is, that the burden of proof is on the Atheist (who denies God exists) to justify his claim by showing "that if God existed, then He would provide greater evidence than what I, the theist, have."

Such a statement for the atheist position may be conditional, namely that if God existed we would have more evidence than what we have now. If the atheist were to show this, than theism would be false, not true and therefore the atheist would, in fact remain an atheist, not a convert. At the cost of handing over horses to the other camp, I recommend perhaps a quick review of bayesian inference in this area, or perhaps examining my careful words once more for an adequate response.

Moving on, my opponent rightfully claims the theist has the burden as the "affirmative position." But then sidesteps his burden of proof by saying that the opposite of theism; atheism, the denial position; somehow has no burden of proof. My opponent does this by claiming, again, mistakingly, that atheism is a lack of belief, not the denial of a belief. The difference is subtle yet important if any fair discussion is going to commence between both parties.

Notice the Subtlety
While my opponent on the one side of their mouth claims the theist takes an affirmative position, thus demanding proof, out of the other side of their mouth my opponent claims the equally affirmative position, albeit one consisting of a denial, magically has no burden of proof. This subtly, when closely examined, becomes a fundamental double standard, striking any honest seeker of truth with vagueness and dishonesty right out of the gates. For when a philosophical position can't be clear and frank on what it claims from it's very beginning, how then can it ever take off with any rational integrity?

Conclusion
My opponent thinks they've demonstrated a successful distinction between Knowledge (a justified true belief) and a Belief itself. By showing what the Stanford professionals hold, and what I've argued under "Lack of vs. Denial of: [a] in Gnosticism," I've tried to show that this subtle difference is a retreat from the Atheist's own burden of proof.

Though it may be true that theism is a belief, it's not true that theism also does not claim justification and claims to be true, which is knowledge. Whereas Gnosticism bespeaks our epistemic position regarding that knowledge, it nevertheless seems that Theism & Atheism alike are both claims to knowledge, whereas the former gnosticism is a claim about one's knowledge.

Taken in simple terms, atheism says "I know God doesn't exist," and agnosticism says "I don't know if I can know if God exists." Therefore any equivocation of these terms not only charades by hiding from their burden of proof, but also begins their worldview with a viscous circle of terms.
mecap

Con


IMPORTANT: I want to point out that my opponent’s resolution is that “any definition that conflates Atheism with Agnosticism is not Atheism by any sense.” Therefore I only have to demonstrate that there is a definition out there which conflates Atheism and Agnosticism, and it is Atheism in some sense. The bar is pretty low and as I have shown in round 1: “an agnostic atheist” is an atheist in some sense, so my opponent’s resolution is negated. That alone should merit voting in my favor. However, in this round I will offer more rebuttals of my opponent’s claims, which I hope will solidify the win.


Pro: “What most theories of knowledge purport knowledge to be is namely, a justified true ‘belief.’”


Response: I believe my opponent is referring to the tripartite theory of knowledge [1], but that theory has been refuted by Gettier cases [2] which show that some justified true beliefs do not constitute knowledge. Furthermore, I would posit that knowledge might be better defined as the “mental grasp of the facts of reality.” [3]


Thus, there is a distinction between knowledge and belief, which was also demonstrated in the table which I presented in Round 1.


Pro: “In simple prose, gnosticism is logically equivalent to saying ‘I can know.’ While agnosticism is logically equivalent to saying ‘I cannot know.’ The former affirms knowledge, the latter denies knowledge.”


Response: Since I have shown that knowledge and belief are different, the above statement from my opponent actually reaffirms my position. Therefore, I would refer my opponent back to the chart from round 1 to show how the terms “agnostic” and “atheist” can be conflated together without redefining atheism.


My opponent’s remaining argument is based on the false assumption that knowledge is a justified belief and is subsequently not sound.


Even my opponent’s own source (http://plato.stanford.edu...) clearly supports my position:


“‘Agnostic’ is more contextual than is ‘atheist’, as it can be used in a non-theological way, as when a cosmologist might say that she is agnostic about string theory, neither believing nor disbelieving it.”


Again, this demonstrates that atheism is a term that is used in a theological context, whereas agnosticism can be applied to various contexts. When applied to the theological context, it can be conflated with the term theism or atheism without redefining either one.


Pro: “Rather an atheist must justify his "God doesn't exist" claim by showing somehow that God, in fact, does not exist.”


Response: If we’re talking about a Gnostic Atheist, then yes, the she would have to show that god does not exist. However, if we’re talking about an Agnostic Atheist, then it is not necessary to justify non-belief in god. This is a good example why such a distinction is necessary and the conflation of the two terms actually provides that distinction.


Pro: “My opponent does this by claiming, again, mistakingly, that atheism is a lack of belief, not the denial of a belief. The difference is subtle yet important if any fair discussion is going to commence between both parties.”


Response: I think that the distinction is not necessarily relevant to the resolution of this debate, as I have already demonstrated that the two terms can be conflated together without changing the definition of atheism. The distinction is indeed subtle and I don’t particularly have an objection to the use of either definition.


Pro: “This subtly, when closely examined, becomes a fundamental double standard, striking any honest seeker of truth with vagueness and dishonesty right out of the gates.”


Response: The only seeker of truth that finds such distinction dishonest is one that has incorrectly understood knowledge to be the same as belief, as my opponent seems to have done. The burden of proof is on the person that’s taking the affirmative position and claiming otherwise would be truly dishonest. I have not sidestepped anything and it should be rather clear that a Gnostic Atheist has the same burden of proof as a Gnostic Theist. However, it is also true that neither an Agnostic Theist nor an Agnostic Atheist have the burden of proof, since they’re the default position with respect to the positive claims of their Gnostic counterparts.


Reductio ad Absurdum


If my opponent’s position is true, then it should make sense in another context: if my opponent believes that Big Foot does not exist, then my opponent would have to provide justification for that belief. More importantly, my opponent would also have the burden of proof that Big Foot does not exist. Indeed, this notion is absurd and it clearly demonstrates that Pro’s position would hold true even in absurd cases. You can replace Big Foot with numerous other absurdities and you would end up violating a central philosophical concept. However, with the definitions I’ve provided, we can clearly identify where the burden of proof rests and it’s always on the party which takes the affirmative position.


Conclusion


Again, I would like to point out that I have already negated my opponent’s resolution, because I’ve shown that there is a definition out there which conflates Atheism and Agnosticism and it is Atheism in some sense: that alone should be sufficient to win this debate. If we assume that my opponent’s argument is true, then we would have to do away with the fundamental philosophical concept which states that the burden of proof rests on the position asserting a claim.


I have also demonstrated that Pro has reached several conclusions based on the false premise that knowledge is defined as a justified belief, therefore making my opponent’s argument unsound. The differences gained by the use of the terms gnostic/agnostic allow us to correctly place the burden of proof on a person taking the affirmative position and not on the critic.


[1] http://www.theoryofknowledge.info...


[2] http://www.theoryofknowledge.info...


[3] http://www.importanceofphilosophy.com...


Debate Round No. 2
WxGeo

Pro

The resolution remains, the definition of "Atheism-Agnosticism" downplays the presumption of atheism thereby redefining atheism to mean something different. I agree he must conflate the two to where atheism keeps it's identity, or sense, namely, the denial of theism. Which on his redefinition, atheism becomes a psychological state only, which is a different sense of the term. Atheism therefore has not been shown to be equated with non-atheism "in any sense." By any sense I do not mean taking a philosophical position and making it into a psychological state.

Knowledge and Belief
Belief is fundamental to knowledge, not distinct from it. My opponent misapplies the Gettier cases, though Gettier has refuted sufficient criteria for knowledge, he nevertheless hasn't refuted the necessary conditions for knowledge. My opponent's definition of knowledge defines a correspondence theory of truth which is part of knowledge. Indeed even if it were the case that his definition were one of knowledge and not just truth, Gettier cases would still render his definition insufficient, though necessary, so we're back at square one with a bit more furniture in the room.

I never assumed a justified true belief is the sufficient criteria for knowledge, just necessary conditions. So his charge that my definition is unsound is a straw man argument. My opponent has not shown that knowledge is not "at least" a justified belief, which is all I claimed of knowledge. Hence that premise is not false, for knowledge is at least a justified belief, with warrant, truth, etc.

My opponents point that "Agnostic" is more contextual than atheist supports my point indeed, which is why I didn't argue against that fact. Rather I only seek to show that adding the contextual "agnosticism" to Atheism downplays atheism's assumption, that "I believe there is no God." Agnosticism makes Atheism say "I don't believe there's a God" where the negation is placed makes all the difference. Like I said, it's subtle but apparently the subtlety is not being grasped yet.

My opponent claims that all he needs to do is conflate the terms without changing the meaning of atheism, which is true. But he has not done this, all he has done is conflate the two terms, but then we're left with asking still, does God exist? Which Atheism says no, whereas agnosticism says I don't know. And like I showed, conflating the two leads to "no and I don't know," which is viciously circular. Indeed NO definition of any worldview would render such a definition, unless of course it would try to avoid a burden of proof. This is evident by how my opponent speaks of his true concern, the burden of proof. Indeed he goes so far as to say it's actually absurd for one to think an atheist should shoulder any proof.

Burden of Proof
How is it absurd that I should carry a burden of proof to show Big Foot does not exist? Surely it would be absurd on my opponents definition of atheism, but that's not relevant, we're talking about the actual definition of Atheism: I believe Big Foot does not exist. All I would have to do is show that no positive evidence exists for Big Foot and negative evidence for his existence, or that Big Foot is a logically incoherent idea, etc. Of course I can prove a negative! I can prove there are no dinosaurs walking on earth, I can prove fairies don't exist, not just by the lack of justification, but by the positive negative evidence we have against fairies.

All of these proofs just require a good understanding of bayesian inference. What my opponent seems to imply is that a burden of proof requires a FULL mathematical proof. Which is false, all we need to know is if x is more probable than not given specific evidence, coherence, and our background knowledge of the world. So by implying that a burden of proof be a full proof, and by redefining atheism, my opponent successfully shirks his epistemic duty.

My opponent has therefore not negated the resolution simply by [changing atheism no mean 'I don't believe x' rather than I believe 'not x' and] adding it to agnosticism. Atheism indeed only has one sense, namely, "I believe not-Theism" any changing of the term, whether it's added to Agnosticism or not is a change in the sense of atheism.

The Subtle Redefining of Atheism
A "classification of the ‘levels' of knowledge about the lack of belief in a God" would not be a philosophical position, rather it would be a collection of descriptions of a physiological state at best. This redefining becomes, therefore, trivial. Moreover as an aside, surely atheism on this sense shouldn't be hoisted as the banner of rationality and the only truth in religious epistemology if it's just a body of knowledge concerning a biography! I therefore think atheists want to desperately wave the banner of an affirmative position and not just a biographical state.

If atheism is taken to be a view, namely the view that there is no God, then atheists must shoulder their share of the burden of proof to support this view. But many atheists admit freely that they cannot sustain such a burden of proof. So they try to shirk their epistemic responsibility by re-defining atheism so that it is no longer a view but just a psychological condition which, as such, makes no assertions. They are really closet agnostics who want to claim the mantle of atheism without shouldering its responsibilities.

To see this further, there is an important logical difference between,
a) believing that there is no God [belief in need of justification for it's truth]
b) not believing that there is a God. [physiological description, with no opinion on the matter]

There's a difference between saying, "I do not believe (p)" and "I believe (not-p)." Logically, where you place the negation makes a world of difference. Where my opponent errs is in claiming that atheism-agnosticism only involves not believing that there is a God (b) rather than believing that there is no God (a). This is evident with his saying a "lack of belief." When clearly Atheism is a belief of [not] theism.

History of Atheism's Redefinition
A brief historical survey shows that some 20th century atheists were advocating the "presumption of atheism" where in the absence of evidence for theism, one should presume that God does not exist: a sort of default position, leaving the theist to bear a special burden of proof.

So understood, such an alleged presumption is clearly mistaken. For the assertion that "There is no God" is just as much a claim to knowledge as is the assertion that "There is a God." Therefore, the former assertion requires justification just as the latter does. It is the agnostic who makes no knowledge claim at all with respect to God's existence. Rather he makes a claim about knowledge.

Such a re-definition of the word "atheist" trivializes the claim of the presumption of atheism, for on this definition, atheism ceases to be a view. It is merely a psychological state, which is shared by people who hold various views or no view at all. Even my dog would count as an atheist, since she has (to my knowledge) no belief in God.

One would still require justification in order to know either that God exists or that He does not exist, which is the question we're really interested in. Why would atheists be so anxious to trivialize their position?

Summary
Here's the conclusion so far of the issue before us. My opponent claims to have successfully conflated Agnosticism with Atheism without changing the sense of the position of Atheism. He crafted this by first changing Atheism to mean "I don't believe in God" which is like saying I lack belief in God, rather than Atheism's original sense, "I believe [not] theism." The latter definition is the only sense Atheism has affirmed. Until recently, one cannot say this is a blatant redefinition just to avoid the burden of probable proof.
mecap

Con


The resolution has been negated, because I have clearly demonstrated that there is a definition which conflates Atheism and Agnosticism in a way that it’s still Atheism in some sense. A simple analogy is conflating dark and blue, which does not change the meaning of blue but simply qualifies it by specifying the shade of blue. In the same sense, Agnostic is a qualifier for Atheist, it allows us to express “a shade” of Atheism (and also Theism). As a matter of fact, I have shown that the term Agnostic can be applied in multiple other contexts, not just in a religious one. It is abundantly clear that the resolution is negated, so vote Con!


Knowledge and Belief


The tripartite theory of knowledge defines knowledge as justified true belief [1], but I have shown that the Gittier cases do in fact disprove the tripartite theory of knowledge [2]. After revisiting my opponent’s argument, I submit that the above facts, while true, are somewhat irrelevant.


However, a closer look at Pro’s statements raises some serious alarms! Pro has stated that knowledge is not much different from belief:


“Distinguishing between knowledge and belief, is therefore like pealing away the skin of an orange, for who thinks a pealed orange is anything but an orange nonetheless? So far from being distinct from knowledge, belief is a fundamental member of knowledge.”


I find that the above analogy is grossly misleading: my opponent implies that we ought to consider knowledge and belief to be indistinguishable of each other because belief is a fundamental member of knowledge (which may only be true in the definition of knowledge). Indeed, belief is a member of knowledge, but you can have the orange skin without the orange. In that sense you would have beleif without knowledge, which is still different from knowledge and my opponent clearly knows it. The analogy presented is either purposely misleading or an error on the part of my opponent.


Here is an important definition of knowledge:


“Knowledge has been frequently described as ‘justified true belief,’ a belief held by an individual that is both true and for which they have some justification. Thus, for a belief to be knowledge, it must be the case that the belief is, in fact, true, and the believer must have justification for the belief. A belief that is true but for which we have no evidence cannot be described as knowledge.” [3]


You can't interchange the meaning of the two! So if you have an orange skin in one hand and an orange without the skin in the other, you wouldn't be holding an orange in both hands. My opponent's further clarifications are just as fruitless, no pun intended!


Theism and Atheism


Armed with the above definition of knowledge and belief, we conclude that a believer can hold a belief which is not true and a believer can hold knowledge, which is a justified true belief. A believer can make two claims:



  1. I believe something -> a claim of belief without justification.

  2. I know something -> a claim of belief with justification.


The first case describes the Agnostic (simply belief) and the second case describes the Gnostic (knowledge). Since we now know the distinction between knowledge and belief, we can look at the definitions which Pro has provided and see what they mean:


“There's a difference between saying, ‘I do not believe (p)’ and ‘I believe (not-p).’”


Correct, but the definition of belief is not the same as the definition of knowledge, therefore there is a world of difference between:



  1. I do not believe (p).

  2. I believe (not-p).

  3. I do not know (p).


AND



  1. I know (not p).


The first 3 statements require absolutely no proof, since they’re not a claim of knowledge. The distinction comes here:


“I believe (not-p)” would be the Agnostic Atheist (i.e. believes ~God, but does not claim knowledge of ~God).


“I know (not-p)” would be the Gnostic Atheist (i.e. claims knowledge of ~God).


Both are Atheists because they believe in ~God, but only one claims to have knowledge and that’s the Gnostic Atheist. Therefore only the Gnostic Atheist has the burden of proof.


The same can be applied to theism: “I believe (p)” is an Agnostic Theist (believes God, but doesn’t claim to knowledge of God), whereas “I know (p)” is the Gnostic Theist (claiming knowledge of God).


Burden of Proof


My opponent states: “Surely it would be absurd on my opponents definition of atheism, but that's not relevant, we're talking about the actual definition of Atheism: I believe Big Foot does not exist.”


As I showed above, belief is not the same as knowledge, so simply believing that Big Foot does not exist would not require my opponent to show justification for this belief. If my opponent claims that he knows that Big Foot does not exist, then he must then show justification.


Pro: “All I would have to do is show that no positive evidence exists for Big Foot and negative evidence for his existence, or that Big Foot is a logically incoherent idea, etc.”


Response: The first part of that statement shows the absurdity of my opponents understating of how proof works! Showing that there is no positive evidence exists for Big Foot is practically impossible, since it would require that my opponent exhausts all possible sources of positive evidence (an impossible task)! Showing negative evidence or showing that Big Foot is a logical fallacy would be a viable way to prove Big Foot does not exists, but again: not believing in Big Foot carries no burden of proof!


Pro: “All of these proofs just require a good understanding of bayesian inference.”


Response: At this point I’m starting to doubt my opponent understands formal logic!!! My opponent seems to think that inductive reasoning is part of formal logic, so I presume that in my opponent’s world formal logic would permit this: “if P, therefore 99.9999% Q.”


And no, proof does not require “full mathematical proof,” but it does require logical proof (a.k.a. Formal Proof)! I’m baffled that we even have to discuss this!


Conclusion


My opponent had purposely or mistakenly taken knowledge and belief to mean the same thing, when all of the resources cited and even some of my opponent’s statements clearly show that this is not the case. I have also demonstrated that “I believe ~God” is not the same as “I know ~God”, which is consistent with the definitions Agnostic Atheist and Gnostic Atheist, therefore successfully conflating the terms Agnostic/Gnostic and Atheist without redefining the term Atheist (which is at the core of this debate).


My opponent’s false interpretation of knowledge/belief has led him to commit the fallacy of appeal to ignorance by shifting the burden of proof. Pro suggests that the burden of proof does not require “full [mathematical] proof,” but that proof by inductive reasoning is sufficient. In fact, neither is true: the burden of proof requires formal logic proof!


Vote Con!



[1] http://www.theoryofknowledge.info...


[2] http://www.theoryofknowledge.info...


[3] (http://ils.unc.edu...)



Debate Round No. 3
26 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Apeiron 3 years ago
Apeiron
What a beautiful thing.
Posted by wiploc 4 years ago
wiploc
Starting a forum thread, so we won't have to post in these too-small boxes.

Go here
http://www.debate.org...
to read my response.
Posted by WxGeo 4 years ago
WxGeo
I SEE! I now see where the confusion lies; and it's exactly in the subtlety I enunciated upon in the debate. Stay with me--

"Who's supposed to do this purporting? You or me? I'm confessing a psychological state. You're insisting, for some reason, that if I confess to one psychological state, I must have a different one."
-----Saying you "don't believe [P]" vs. Saying you "believe ~[P]" ARE DIFFERENT

(sorry for the caps) The former just IS a psychological state. Whereas the latter is not, it is a claim to being aware of something that some who believe [P] is not aware of.

Atheism = "I believe ~Theism"
Agnosticism = "I ~belief of Theism" (or I deny belief of theism)

This has always been the case up until the last few centuries.
Posted by WxGeo 4 years ago
WxGeo
Lunch is good, and my point implied that people knowingly engage one another's propositions, internal to their beliefs: this at least gives some prima facie for what I'm trying to say.

I don't mean to easily confuse, a claim to knowledge isn't knowledge. Your definition is circular: "knowledge is propositions known to be true." I didn't mean a circular definition like that.

Rather I mean I claim that "Christ existed" is a proposition: left open for criticism, which can later become knowledge or not. That's all.

You belief that "Christ existed" doesn't have to be an established fact to count it as knowledge sir. I really do think your requirements for knowledge are just unreasonably high. We simply don't stand in such a good epistemic position to raise the bar to certainty. For literally most things we count as knowledge would be undermined. You can't prove as established fact that you have a head, you could be a brain in a vat being electro-chemically stimulated to believe you have a head.
Posted by WxGeo 4 years ago
WxGeo
Haha a coffee pot and donut? ... Funny guy.

You believe the proposition all air breathers have lungs (L). It could be the case that indeed some air breathers don't in fact have lungs. Imagine an alien race where evolution just works differently for them. Would you count L as knowledge?

There's no way for us to step outside of our noetic structure to discover if our beliefs are true. Of course some beliefs turn out to be wrong. They weren't at first proposed as such; we're arguing the same thing there.

You would be right that not knowing what knowledge is doesn't mean we can't count everything and everything as knowledge. But that's not what I said. I said you can't preclude a BELIEF as knowledge. A belief can be later known if upon a good investigation.
Posted by wiploc 4 years ago
wiploc
: Which is what neither claim. Unless of course the Atheist wants to redefine his position so he can be intellectually : lazy.

I take offense.

I'm happy to argue that there are no gods. That doesn't give you the right to claim that you somehow tricked me into it by assigning me the burden of proof.

Suppose I made this argument:

P1: If X then Y.
P2: Y.
C: Therefore, X.

Are you obligated to confess your believe that not-X? Or are you justified in pointing out that I have committed the fallacy of affirming the consequent (even if that, as you weirdly claim, leads to agnosticism on the question of whether X)?

Your choice will depend on your mood and circumstances, but I'm probably most in need of learning that I've committed a fallacy.
Posted by wiploc 4 years ago
wiploc
: I never asserted everyone claims to know everything they believe,

Really? Then what are we talking about? I said I believe a historical Christ existed, and you started saying that I know it.

: You can believe something and never say it, yet the moment someone says, I believe that tree is green, and another says I believe that tree is purple. They don't just stand there and look at the tree. They compare and contrast those propositions to see, through the cannons of logic and experience, which one is the more probable proposition.

I have no problem with that.

Have you dropped your claim that believing the tree is green is the same as knowing the tree is green?

: The Theist holds, I believe God exists. And the atheist holds, I believe God does not exist.

That's a legitimate usage; it has currency. But it is not the favored usage among atheists. The _strong atheist_ believes that god does not exist. The weak atheist doesn't believe either way. So, some atheists believe gods don't exist, and others don't believe that.

: When the theist presents arguments for the justification of his belief. The Atheist can't just sit back and criticize his arguments.

Sure he could. I've seen it done. I like to do it myself.

If you come up with a bad argument, my purpose will be to show you that it's bad. I want to save you from fielding defective arguments in the future.

If you say, "I believe in Jehovah, for my mother told me he's real," I'm perfectly justified in responding, "What did your mother tell you about Santa Clause?"

: he has to present arguments for his non-belief, lest we be left with agnosticism.

How did we get on to this? You were claiming that I can't believe something without claiming to know it. Are you dropping that claim?
Posted by wiploc 4 years ago
wiploc
: So at minimum we have, ladies and gents, a purported true belief.

Who's supposed to do this purporting? You or me? I'm confessing a psychological state. You're insisting, for some reason, that if I confess to one psychological state, I must have a different one.

: Once I say "that's a false belief," I can prove how I have more justification for my claim to
: knowledge than your claim to knowledge.

I don't understand what you're trying to say here, but I don't have a claim to knowledge. Are you trying to impute a knowledge claim to me in order to show that I am wrong to claim knowledge? I already know it would be wrong. I don't see your point.

: By saying you believe Christ existed is exactly the same as saying you believe a proposition.

Right, I believe the proposition that Christ existed.

: This proposition os open to critique, esp within the confines of a debate.

Sure, which proves that not all believed propositions are knowledge, right?

: Your proposition, "nothing is known about Christ" is self-refuting: for at least we know that we don't know anything about Christ... but that's a side issue.

So, again, some propositions are not knowledge.

: If you already know you don't have justification, why believe it given your skepticism?

I don't have enough gas to drive to California, but I do have enough to drive to the corner store. I don't have enough justification to claim knowledge, but I do have enough, maybe, barely, to claim belief. Maybe I'm being rash to believe, but I'm nowhere nearly so rash as to think I know.

: It appears you have very conflicting beliefs indeed sir.

I don't think so, but let's stipulate that I do. According to you thinking, if I have conflicting beliefs then I have conflicting knowledge.

That's crazy talk.

===

New topic, I'll probably accept your debate challenge, when I have time.
Posted by wiploc 4 years ago
wiploc
: How is it that a belief isn't at least a claim to knowledge,

How is it that a donut isn't a coffee pot? They aren't that similar.

Some beliefs turn out to be wrong. They were never knowledge.

Some beliefs are unjustified. They are not knowledge.

: esp within a debate setting?

Huh? These are familiar words. I don't know how you can get it wrong, in or out of a debate.

: The very fact that epistemologists have only established necessary but not sufficient criteria to count x as knowledge precludes you saying that your belief isn't a claim to knowledge.

That's nuts. If food historians manage to blur the difference between donuts and crullers, that will never justify the claim that a donut is a coffee pot. If the border between Tennessee and Kentucky is disputed, that doesn't bring into question whether California is part of Tennessee. If one car flies, that doesn't make all cars into airplanes. The fact that knowledge is tricky stuff does not show nor tend to show that all belief is knowledge.

: But leave that aside, when two people meet and both announce their conflicting beliefs, what most likely takes place?

At my house, the most likely outcome is lunch. Do you have a point?

: All I mean by a claim to knowledge is a proposition.

That makes no sense. Maybe you mean that knowledge is propositions known to be true.

: You believe the proposition, "Christ existed."

Yes.

: And surely you hold that your belief in the Historical Christ is more probably true?

I guess. Slightly more probably true, maybe. Enough more likely true that I am willing to call my insight a belief, but nothing like an established fact. Nothing like knowledge.
Posted by WxGeo 4 years ago
WxGeo
By saying you believe Christ existed is exactly the same as saying you believe a proposition. This proposition os open to critique, esp within the confines of a debate.

Your proposition, "nothing is known about Christ" is self-refuting: for at least we know that we don't know anything about Christ... but that's a side issue.

If you already know you don't have justification, why believe it given your skepticism? It appears you have very conflicting beliefs indeed sir.

Foundationalism is an epistemological theory of knowledge. Nailing my colors to the mast is an old phrase meaning, I'm giving it away what my beliefs are.

I never asserted everyone claims to know everything they believe, does everyone participate in debates like this? You can believe something and never say it, yet the moment someone says, I believe that tree is green, and another says I believe that tree is purple. They don't just stand there and look at the tree. They compare and contrast those propositions to see, through the cannons of logic and experience, which one is the more probable proposition.

Whether people are logical or not regarding their beliefs is irrelevant to the argument. When two people agree to debate. Both atheist and theist. The Theist holds, I believe God exists. And the atheist holds, I believe God does not exist. When the theist presents arguments for the justification of his belief. The Atheist can't just sit back and criticize his arguments. he has to present arguments for his non-belief, lest we be left with agnosticism. Which is what neither claim. Unless of course the Atheist wants to redefine his position so he can be intellectually lazy.
7 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Vote Placed by Rational_Thinker9119 4 years ago
Rational_Thinker9119
WxGeomecapTied
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: Agnostic atheism is a philosophical position that has existed for over a hundred years. Of course you can mix the two because belief is not the same as knowledge. If someone has a deck of cards, gives you a card, would you believe it was the ace of spades? No you wouldn't, because the odds of that are 1/52, however you can't actually claim to know. Knowledge and what you would hedge your bets on are two distinct concepts. Con showed this point and negated the resolution with ease, sources Con.
Vote Placed by CalvinAndHobbes 4 years ago
CalvinAndHobbes
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Reasons for voting decision: The resolution stated "Any Definition", since Con provided a definition that logically disproved the resolution arguments go to Con. This entire debate appears have been by instigated by a disagreement of interpretation of definitions.
Vote Placed by wiploc 4 years ago
wiploc
WxGeomecapTied
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.
Vote Placed by Nur-Ab-Sal 4 years ago
Nur-Ab-Sal
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Reasons for voting decision: I found Con's arguments more convincing because he showed how Gnosticism/Agnosticism was a different variable that could be coupled with Atheism/Theism to provide a more complete view of a person's beliefs.
Vote Placed by MikeyMike 4 years ago
MikeyMike
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Reasons for voting decision: Atheism is not necessarily the knowledge that God does not exist, but can also simply be the belief that HE does not exist. Con showed how one can belief something does not exist without claiming that the belief is true. In actuality, the term Agnostic-Atheism isn't even necessary, but it is still Atheism in some sense.
Vote Placed by XimenBao 4 years ago
XimenBao
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Reasons for voting decision: Con won the debate in the leading paragraphs. I don't think Pro fully grasped the win conditions inherent in the resolution, or he would have put up a more solid rebuttal to the 'in some sense' debate instead of acknowledge that it's still atheism in 'a different sense' which practically conceded the debate. A one-line sentence about what Pro meant by sense in R3 is insufficient defense.
Vote Placed by Maikuru 4 years ago
Maikuru
WxGeomecapTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro discusses the more modern definition of atheism, which he finds intellectually dishonest, burden-shifting, and one that trivializes their position. Even if all that were true, this definition still holds some semblance of the traditional meaning. As Pro concedes that this new definition can successfully conflate with that of agnosticism, he concedes the entire debate. The resolution should have focused only on knowledge claims, which would have disallowed the newer definition.