The Instigator
diety
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
Brock_Meyer
Con (against)
Winning
19 Points

Atheism and/or agnosticism is a natural stance

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
Brock_Meyer
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/15/2009 Category: Science
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,309 times Debate No: 8658
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (7)
Votes (3)

 

diety

Pro

Hi. I'll let my opponent start if he or she wishes. I obviously have the burden of proof though.

One observation though: I only need to prove agnosticism OR atheism as a natural stance. If one falls, as long as the other one stands the resolution is affirmed.
Brock_Meyer

Con

I begin by thanking my opponent for what is sure to be an interesting discussion. In the interest of full disclosure, I am an atheist and shall argue that theism is the natural stance that human beings take when confronted with the sheer complexity of existence.

However, as someone suggested previously, we should make clear what we mean by "natural". I believe what we are referring to as "natural" in this case is that which arises solely out of the natural functioning of the human mind. The human mind, being the product of evolution, is a natural entity, and anything it produces will be produced, in this sense, "naturally". To put a cap on this explanation, if we were to leave a human being in nature, without contact with any other human beings whatsoever, what would he or she conclude about the world? My thinking is that this Crusoe would resort to theism in his or her explanation of the world and life. My opponent seems to think this Crusoe would resort to either agnosticism or even atheism.

I shall support my position with a priori support from evolutionary thinking and a posteriori evidence from science.

An article by Michael Shermer in June 2009's Scientific American has relevance to this discussion. He wonders why people believe in conspiracies, aliens, gods, and souls. He identifies the answer as "patternicity".

By "patternicity", he refers to the natural human tendency to identify patterns out of noise. While some of these patterns are real and useful (e.g. changes in weather), others are not (e.g. the face on Mars). A lack of a "baloney-detection device" is due to natural selection for minds that commit less type-I errors (false positive; e.g. thinking the bush rustling is a predator instead of the wind) than type-II errors (false negative; e.g. thinking the bush rustling is the wind instead of a predator). The cost of committing a type-I error is less than the cost of making a type-II error. With a more developed mind, this natural, evolutionary growth leads us to make type-I errors about larger, more abstract aspects of existence, producing religion and theism(1).

Neuroscience also explains how humans "find patterns and impart agency to them" (Hood's SuperSense, 2009). For example, children naturally think the sun has intentioned mental states, which is why they put smiley faces on the sun in drawings. According to Hood, "Many highly educated and intelligent individuals experience a powerful sense that there are patterns, forces, energies, and entities operating in the world. More important, such experiences are not substantiated by a body of reliable evidence, which is why they are supernatural and unscientific. The inclination or sense that they may be real is our supersense." Shermer concludes, "We are natural-born supernaturalists"(1).

The a posteriori evidence in favor of my position deals with the face that religious beliefs are found in all human groups, going back to the beginnings of human culture. This undoubtedly makes theism a natural part of human life and civilization(2).

Advances have been made in empirically explaining the mental machinery behind religious belief. According to Pascal Boyer, there is no "religious module" in the brain. Religious thought contains a variety of systems. No one of these parts is special, but belief in religion activates mental machinery involved in a wide spectrum of non-religious functions(2). This explains why religion is so widespread throughout human cultures, even without adequate social contact to transmit the idea of theism.

Having identified the human mind as a natural entity, it follows deductively that the "natural stance" or nature human response to existence on Earth is some sort of supernaturalistic worldview (i.e. theism).

I conclude by quoting Voltaire: "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him"(3).

*Sources in Comments section.
Debate Round No. 1
diety

Pro

I thank my opponent for accepting this debate.

What I am arguing here is that atheism and/or agnosticism is a natural, default stance. Take for example a newborn baby. Technically they don't know of the world, or of any deities so you may call them agnostic. They are not born with the belief of a deity, so you may call them atheists. Also, what about plants, animals, and bacteria. Both babies and animals (I pressume) lack the ability to question their existence or to come up with the concept of a deity. When asked about their religious beliefs they would probably ask 'what's a god?.'

You talk about humans. Yes it is true that humans are by nature curious, and that they would eventually come up with the concept of some sort of god when questioning their existence. However this is only true when the idea is presented before them. By default without knowledge of a god they would be agnostic, and with lack of a god they would be atheists.

I apologize for my very short response as I have had limited time on my hands. To summarize my argument, though humans may naturally obtain religious beliefs, that is only because we are highly sensitive and intelligent. Things that do not match our intellect are natural agnostics or atheists. I will advance my arguments next round.
Brock_Meyer

Con

I thank my opponent for his response and look forward to entertaining arguments in favor of the resolution.

"Take for example a newborn baby. Technically they don't know of the world, or of any deities so you may call them agnostic. They are not born with the belief of a deity, so you may call them atheists."

A newborn baby is not a fully developed human being, with a fully developed human mind. If we are taking about atheism or agnosticism as a natural or default stance for a human being, then we should only consider what the case is for a fully developed human being. A newborn, unlike the fully developed human being, does not even have the capacity to form a belief or a question. However, this does not mean the default stance for human beings as questioning animals, by nature, is atheism or agnosticism.

The situation I proposed in round one is more relevant to this discussion: a Crusoe without human contact in the wild. At adulthood, this person will have developed a way of questioning the world, and inevitably come to question the world itself. Unable to find a natural explanation for his existence or the world, he will inevitably resort to supernatural explanations. This is demonstrated by the independent development of religions throughout history in a variety of locations. Using a newborn baby to prove your point ignores the real focus of this discussion: are human beings, when equipped with a real human mind, naturally inclined to hold beliefs in the supernatural, or are they naturally naturalists?

"Yes it is true... that [humans] would eventually come up with the concept of some sort of god when questioning their existence. However this is only true when the idea is presented before them."

This reasoning cannot explain how concepts of god have arisen in populations isolated from one another throughout history. In fact, it is absurd because it says that a concept of god cannot exist unless a person is presented with the idea. However, if this were true, how would the first concept of god arise? We would have to go infinitely back into history with religions being presented through generations.
Debate Round No. 2
diety

Pro

diety forfeited this round.
Brock_Meyer

Con

Conduct (-1)
Debate Round No. 3
diety

Pro

"Conduct (-1)"

I know I deserve it. -_-

Now, to rebut your arguments.

"A newborn baby is not a fully developed human being, with a fully developed human mind. If we are taking about atheism or agnosticism as a natural or default stance for a human being, then we should only consider what the case is for a fully developed human being. A newborn, unlike the fully developed human being, does not even have the capacity to form a belief or a question. However, this does not mean the default stance for human beings as questioning animals, by nature, is atheism or agnosticism."

Your arguments are valid, but the only consider human beings.

Concepts of deities only come from beings with extremely sensitive nature (human beings of course). Intelligence isn't a default stance; ignorance is a default stance. Plants, animals, bacteria, rocks, and air can all be considered by default agnostic/atheist.

Perhaps I should have done my homework before this debate. Sorry for letting you down man. You can have this win.

Vote for my opponent.

Thank you.
Brock_Meyer

Con

Once again, thanks to my opponent for posing this interesting question. I think if the resolution had been developed a little more, then the discussion might have been really great. I accepted so that I could make reference to my friend Michael Shermer and my favorite magazine Scientific American. Lastly, I apologize for writing "Conduct (-1)", but there should be rules regarding participants unable to keep the discussion going.

In conclusion, I don't understand how the resolution could be interpreted as applying to all life. The question is only applicable to the human mind, for only the human mind is known to think about these matters. Since the resolution cannot apply to anything else but human life, I urge the voter to vote CON.
Debate Round No. 4
7 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Posted by mongeese 8 years ago
mongeese
I agree with sherlockmethod for my voting.
Posted by sherlockmethod 8 years ago
sherlockmethod
I agree with Con in respect to humans and his position concerning the resolution must be dealing with humans. The Crusoe example is a good analogy, while the baby or the plant is not. Pro makes attempts to get around this one, but misses the a big point - a dog or plant cannot ask, "What is a god?" Not in any capacity we can understand, at least. I would not consider a dog anymore agnostic than a rock. The fact non-humans cannot question the subject of a deity does nothing to support a human's natural position to create one. Con did well here.
Conduct: Con - Pro missed a round.
Spelling and grammar: Con probably won this one, but I did not see glaring errors. I only vote on this one if I need a tie breaker, or something stands out. Tie.
Augments: Con, explained above.
Sources: Con
Posted by Brock_Meyer 8 years ago
Brock_Meyer
(1) = http://www.scientificamerican.com...
(2) = http://www.csicop.org...
(3) = http://everything2.com...

Hood's SuperSense (2009) is available online for purchase. All quotes from Hood (2009) were taken from Shermer's piece.
Posted by pcmbrown 8 years ago
pcmbrown
Well, religion has originated indepentently in numerous societies, so one would think that state to be natural...
Posted by wjmelements 8 years ago
wjmelements
What does "natural stance" mean?
Posted by Lexicaholic 8 years ago
Lexicaholic
Define 'natural.' Seriously. Everything a human being thinks and feels is 'natural.' If you mean, is a normal default stance, or a historically normal stance, there might be a debate.

People need to realize that something is natural so long as it is not artificial or unnatural, depending on the dichotomy used and what the word is being used to distinguish. Even artificial things are natural along the natural/unnatural divide.
Posted by pcmbrown 8 years ago
pcmbrown
id take it if it were just atheism...
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by mongeese 8 years ago
mongeese
dietyBrock_MeyerTied
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Vote Placed by sherlockmethod 8 years ago
sherlockmethod
dietyBrock_MeyerTied
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Vote Placed by Brock_Meyer 8 years ago
Brock_Meyer
dietyBrock_MeyerTied
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