The Instigator
ViceRegent
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
Nietzschnickel
Pro (for)
Winning
7 Points

Atheist Epistemology

Do you like this debate?NoYes+0
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 1 vote the winner is...
Nietzschnickel
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/18/2016 Category: Religion
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 503 times Debate No: 85154
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (17)
Votes (1)

 

ViceRegent

Con

Atheists lack a rational theory of knowledge for the simple reason that knowledge presupposes the existence of God, which atheist do not allow for.
Nietzschnickel

Pro

This is a most fascinating topic to discuss. I accept.

Let's have some fun. Good luck!
Debate Round No. 1
ViceRegent

Con

Good sir:

God declares "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction."

How does evolved pond scum rationally know reality from delusion? If the atheist is right that we are nothing but matter acted upon by time and chance in keeping with the laws of science that govern all material reality,, on what basis would an atheist claim to know anything or even that knowledge per se exists. Knowledge is not material, and thus, cannot be said to exist in a world composed only of the material.
Nietzschnickel

Pro

Con seems to be making an argument that says that a naturalistic (or atheistic) epistemology is self-defeating because within materialist models mental capacities arose due to evolution. They seem to be saying that if our minds originated due to purely physical processes then they cannot be reliable and we cannot know if we are able to see reality as it is. I will seek to show how natural selection necessitates cognitive faculties which view the external world as it truly is, as it is essential to survival.

Second, con makes a claim that knowledge is immaterial and that since it is immaterial it cannot be properly taken into account within a naturalist framework. I will be arguing for something called structural supervenience. This can be defined as essentially where a mental state is that which is caused by the right inputs, meaning the brain state is totally describable in physical language. The new mental state may need a new concept to describe it but it must be a pattern of lower entities.

Reliable Cognitive Faculties Are More Favorable for Survival Than Those That Are Not

I am defining reliable cognitive faculties here as those which generate true beliefs about the world (a necessity in epistemology). Natural selection changes the heritable traits as time passes, since only the genes which produce offspring continue. I will show how reliable cognitive faculties have more survival values than those that are not reliable. If I see a black mamba in front of me, knowing that it could cause me great pain or even death, what kind of beliefs would most greatly ensure my survival? Would it be those that make me believe there is a black mamba in front of me or those that make me think it is something else (that will cause me to run)? I think it is clear that the belief that it is actually a black mamba has more survival value. True beliefs about the external world can be applied universally. What I mean is that in any scenario where I encounter something dangerous if I truly view the thing for what it is then I am most likely to survive in a variety of situations. If I run as fast as I can from an aggressive black mamba because I know it can travel quickly (for a snake) and that its bite could kill me in just a few hours, I will most likely survive. But notice that the action of me running is due to what I believe concerning the snake. What about if I encounter a bear? If my cognitive faculties are reliable I would know that I should not run away from a bear. It is this particular knowledge of the behavior of bears which helps me survive. I could give many more examples. If my cognitive faculties were unreliable and I simply ran from everything that was dangerous I would be less likely to survive than someone who had reliable cognitive faculties with specific true beliefs concerning the danger in question. If one argued that for each peculiar instance that my mind conjured up something that was not true, but enabled me to survive, it would still not be as good as having reliable cognitive faculties. So if I thought the black mamba was a ghost which caused me to run, or if whenever there was a bear nearby my mind convinced me that I was on a narrow platform elevated hundreds of feet above so I would not move, it still would not be as good as having true beliefs concerning the danger in question. Not only would the mind have to do mental gymnastics (which seems to be very inefficient), but also that key beliefs ensuring survival would be lost. For example, if I simply ran because my mind deceived me into thinking the snake was a ghost then I would be out of luck as to how to handle a situation in which I was actually bit. If I kept running after getting bitten then I would decrease the chance of my survival, because I would be increasing the rate at which venom is circulating through my body. If I had proper belief concerning the snake I would know to get away from the snake and stand still. It seems clear that reliable cognitive faculties are necessitated by natural selection, or at least highly probable.
Knowledge Can Be Described in Purely Physical Terms

Con says that knowledge is not material, so if an atheist affirms knowledge then their naturalist epistemology must be false. I will argue that knowledge can be taken into account in purely physical terms, for in my case it must be able to, since nothing lies outside of the scope of scientific explanation (within a naturalist epistemology). The naturalist epistemic attitude says that our world is a system of objects which are related causally. Thus, if knowledge is a real thing then it must be something that can be described physically in this system of objects. This epistemology dictates an ontology which says that the only entities allowed are those that can be described scientifically. We are yet to find anything which falls outside of this scope, so there should be no reason for us to believe that our mental states are any different.

Before continuing I must also note that I will be arguing for beliefs being the result of physical processes, as knowledge is traditionally seen in the tripartite analysis of knowledge as being justified true belief.

Modern science seems to be consistent with this in that we see human consciousness, personality, memory, etc. are dependent on the brain. Changes within the brain's physical matter will cause changes in mental states. This implies that if we took two brains and made them completely identical physically then the arising mental states would also be completely identical. So if we took the black mamba case above and had two completely identical persons (physically), they would have the same exact beliefs and responses. Con will be hard pressed to show what else must be added if these beliefs would not necessarily be the same and cannot be described in purely physical language, in light of our current understanding of the physical relation between the brain and mental states. By doing so con will have to somehow break conservation of matter and energy which dictates the way in which different objects interact. It seems clear that beliefs must fit within a physicalist framework due to both our understanding of the mind and the way the universe seems to work.
Debate Round No. 2
ViceRegent

Con

No, I am saying that you cannot demonstrate the existence of the non-material from the material. You cannot prove you are nothing more than a mere machine that only "thinks" the way you do because of your physical makeup being acted upon by the laws of nature. Knowledge being only one these non-material things you cannot account for given your worldview.

Unfortunately, I am used to a more give and take medium, which is to say more than 5 responses. I have to work on this.
Nietzschnickel

Pro

I apologize for the late response and unfortunately I will have to keep this response short.

Con asks how the non-material can exist from the material. He says that I cannot prove I am nothing more than a machine that only thinks because of my physical makeup. I will try to show how a materialist can handle this question, but I also wish to ask him a similar question. How can you prove that you are not a machine that only "thinks" due to your physical makeup being acted upon by the laws of nature? He would need to show how immaterial things could interact with the physical, which would break the laws of conservation of matter and energy. For, if the cause of actions is some immaterial mind that moves matter in the brain as a prime mover of a chain of events, then energy is being added out of nowhere. If materialism is not true, con has to show how this is possible.

To answer con's question, I will answer in terms of beliefs, since knowledge is seen as justified true belief. I must show how it is plausible that physical things could generate beliefs. Imagine a painting. It is made of thousands of individual brush strokes. If one looked at these strokes in themselves, they would be pretty mundane. However, they can all come together in specific patterns to create new properties not present in the individual strokes, like texture and beauty. These properties are not at all held by each brush stroke, but they become present when the strokes are put together in a certain manner. Similarly, it seems possible that neurons do not hold mental properties, but when they come together in a specific form, these properties are the result. However, without these neurons mental properties could not exist. A good mind "supervenes" on the physical make up of the mind. Beliefs emerge due to a specific pattern of matter in a hierarchy leading up to mental properties. Beliefs (or any cognitive activity) may seem to exist in another realm of things, but they are the result of a specific structure of matter. This is how a materialist can account for knowledge. This seems to be a necessary consequence of a closed physics.

I now ask con to provide an argument in defense of the immaterial properties of the mind. I ask, again, the two questions above: how can immaterial substances interact with the physical and how does this not violate basic laws of physics? I also ask for evidence which seems to show how a dualist view of the mind seems more likely than a monist one.
Debate Round No. 3
ViceRegent

Con

You can ask anything you want, in you own instigated debate. Here, you are defending the notion of the existence of atheist epistemology. And the issue is not by what mechanism do people generate beliefs. It is that atheism does not provide a rational foundation to claim beliefs exist. In other words, you begged the question. Show us how in keeping with your notion that all of reality is nothing but star dust subject to the laws of science can allow for the non-material and that you are not simply a determinist machine? Once you do that, prove that you have thoughts (which is not the same as brain activity). And then prove that you, as an atheist, can know anything. I cannot wait.
Nietzschnickel

Pro

I am asking, because you as con are supposed to be rebutting what I am saying. This would be how you would do that in this case. You aren't allowed to dismiss what I say without reason (which is what you have only done so far).

The point of what I said previously was that beliefs can be taken into account physically. While beliefs may take on new properties not present in the matter which leads to them, mental states are not ontologically different than something that can be reduced to matter and energy. So beliefs are not immaterial the way you are thinking of them. There is no mind separate from the brain and there exist no non-physical entities. An analogy can be made using a computer. The physical makeup of a computer is simply something making electronic changes. Yet when we are using a computer we see it making calculations or processing words. However, if we take away the lower level entities causing those electronic changes, there no longer is the ability to calculate. Similarly, all that we see physically in the brain is a bunch of physical, chemical events. Yet from our point of view we are thinking. If we take away those physical processes, the thinking ceases to exist. I ask you to think of an example of a mental process that a human can do that computer simply will never be able to do. This should be quite easy if cognitive functions require something immaterial.

What is probably the strongest argument for an atheist (I will use materialist here) epistemology is its consistency with its etiology and ontology which flow from it. A naturalist's epistemology says that one should be skeptical of claims made without evidence or scientific methodology. This leads to the etiological belief that everything since the big bang has happened by the necessity of physical laws. Lastly, this means that ontologically all things which exist are identical to something that is totally physical (in our recent discussion, the mind).

A worldview, which is dictated by its epistemology, can be judged by two main principles: (1) Its consistency and (2) Its explanatory power of known reality. So far naturalism has been able to do (2) far better than any other worldview, and it is entirely consistent with itself (1) as demonstrated above.

The prediction (2) by naturalism in our current discussion concerning the mind is that it is a purely physical substance. The evidence points in this direction more and more each year as more studies show the indistinguishable link between mental states and the brain. They have found what affects our memory, speech, motor control, and even the causes of depression and love within a completely physical framework.
Debate Round No. 4
ViceRegent

Con

I am not dismissing what you say without reason, but for the reason it is not rational, but a red herring or begging the question. Say something rational and I ill rebut it.

And with your last paragraph, you contradict yourself and concede the debate. If everything has happened by the necessity of the physical laws, then you must show what physical law accounts for the non-material. This is not possible, by definition, for the physical law only deal with the material. Since the physical laws cannot account for the non-material, it does not exist. This means you do not have a mind, there is no such thing as knowledge and you certainly do no think. You are simply a machine that is acted upon by the physical laws. You are not an atheist because it is right and true but because the laws of physics acted on your body in such a way that caused you to be this way. Atheist epistemplogy destrous knowledge. Nice.
Nietzschnickel

Pro

Again, con has not responded adequately to anything that I said. He has simply dismissed everything without reason.
Debate Round No. 5
17 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Nietzschnickel 1 year ago
Nietzschnickel
Just letting you know I hope to respond today. Sorry for the delay. I have been swamped with work.
Posted by ViceRegent 1 year ago
ViceRegent
Nevermind.
Posted by n7 1 year ago
n7
Wait, what exactly did you mean by your last post?
Posted by n7 1 year ago
n7
Nowhere did I state that. I am saying we must suspend judgement on it. I never said anything about its truth value.
Posted by ViceRegent 1 year ago
ViceRegent
Your claiming my claim is not true is true or false? ROGL
Posted by n7 1 year ago
n7
Since it's not making a claim about what knowledge is based on, then no it's not a positive claim. I've explained it twice now.
Posted by ViceRegent 1 year ago
ViceRegent
Is that positive claim true? If so, how do you know?
Posted by n7 1 year ago
n7
How is that a positive claim about epistemology? I was pointing out your statement about skepticism being self defeating isn't true (in a reductio fashion of assuming your position on what is true,ect) for all types of skepticism. That doesn't entail I am making a positive claim about knowledge.
Posted by ViceRegent 1 year ago
ViceRegent
But you did not make a positive claim when you said "not really".
Posted by n7 1 year ago
n7
You can't delete posts in the comments. Double posts happen quite a bit. I've even seen it post the same comment 6 times on occasion.

In a nutshell, your questions assumes I am making a positive claim about epistemology. I withhold any statements about epistemology because when assuming that I can claim what and how we know things I end up with a contradiction (which is bad according to those theories of epistemology). So "How do I know what I assert is true?" is a loaded question. I don't positively assert that "We can't know anything".
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by condeelmaster 1 year ago
condeelmaster
ViceRegentNietzschnickelTied
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:-Vote Checkmark-2 points
Total points awarded:07 
Reasons for voting decision: The burden of proof was on Pro. He managed in a great way to prove his point with logical arguments. On the other hand, Con used arguments based on beliefs and with presumptions without any explanation. Pro won for better arguments. As for the conduct, Con was rather hostile and impolite towards his opponent, while Pro was gentle and respectful. On spelling and grammar, Pro was successful in using a better language and providing better explanation.