The Instigator
Pro (for)
7 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points


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Post Voting Period
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after 2 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: Select Winner
Started: 10/26/2015 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 11 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,285 times Debate No: 81448
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (32)
Votes (2)




The Argument
I argue that our fates are set, and that anything and everything we do is predetermined.
(Random Corollaty: Nothing is truly random)

1) This debate is made impossible to accept. Apply in the comments section below if you would like to take CON.
2) If you apply, I must have evidence (i.e. past debate history) that you will not forfeit. If you forfeit, I autmatically win.
3) No trolling. Trolling results in an automatic loss for the party responsible and will be gauged by the voters
4) No kritiks. You lose if you somehow run a kritik of any kind.

5) If you are capable of accepting this debate - then you didn't need to apply in the comments section. I will glady take you on since I don't think any of these rules will be an issue

Round 1: acceptance
Round 2: constructive
Round 3: refutations
Round 4: crystallization

Fatalism -the belief that all events are predetermined and therefore inevitable.I am arguing fatalism as a truism.

Burden of proof is on me.


I accept.
Debate Round No. 1


I. Preface: Postulates
The following proof employs elements of math and physics. While an epistemic cynic might argue that math and physics cannot be absolutely proven, it is important to note that absolute certainty is impossible. Facts are a human denomination. What we assume to be facts are derived through empirical observations. From these observations, we are given systems which are conceptually and behaviorally consistent (i.e. 1+1=2). Despite the fact that we don't know if these 'facts' are omnipresently applicable, we can and do reasonably label certain items to be factual truisms based on these consistencies (i.e. axioms of math and physics).
So a word of warning to my opponent: I've left the debate open for epistemic cynicism, and I am well aware of it's trappings. While I am not completely averse to arguing reasonable acceptability, I'd much prefer to not waste my time arguing against epistemological uncertainty.

II. Summary - I will first provide a set of propositions which I will then string together into an inductive proof which concludes with fatalism as a logical truism. Hopefully, I will be able to coherently communicate my position.
Wish me luck! :)

III. The Proof

: Regardless of the number of particles that exist in a closed universe - whether there are 1, 2 or a trillion particles - every particle within that universe has a predetermined fate.
Hypothesis Corollary: Since everything - trees, humans, rocks, atoms, etc. - is made of particles, the hypothesis applies to all things living and/or not living.

P1: A particle in a closed universe is subject to a predetermined fate.

Imagine a closed universe with only one particle inside it. Let's call it particle N. This particle can be in one of two states. Either it is moving, or it isn't. We will examine both states.
Let's assume particle N is moving. Since it is the only particle within this closed universe, there are no other particles that particle N can react or collide with. Thus, its velocity is immutable, and its trajectory is infinitely linear. Its location and its movements are predetermined.
Now let's examine the case in which particle N is not moving. Again, there are no other particles for N to react or collide with. Charted on a graph, particle N's position will remain forever constant, and is therefore consigned to a predetermined fate. Particle N will never move. Either way - moving or not - N's fate is predetermined.

Lemma 1: The interactions between particles are predetermined.
Every particle has respective properties which may or may not be shared with other particles. A portion of the particles interactions are based entirely on these properties. While we human beings are aware of some of these properties (i.e. gravitational force, magnetic attraction and repulsion, etc.), it is likely that there are others that we are not aware of (i.e. strangeness of quarks). It doesn't matter whether or not we are aware of all a particles' properties. A particle will have all the properties that it has (tautology) regardless of our awareness. We can even break these down into individual properties. Each individual property has a set of predetermined interaction, if any, with all other properties. A positive ion attracts negative ions and repels other positive ones. Subatomic particles (i.e. electrons, protons, etc.) have constant masses and set of interactions with and between each other. All particles with mass will exert gravitational forcetoward one another(
Every particle of any assortment of properties reacts in some way consistent with its properties. Thus Lemma 1.

P2: Any number of particles in a closed universe will also be subject to inevitable fate.

Let us imagine the same closed universe from above except with a second particle introduced - let's call this particle M. This particle will also be in one of two states. It is either moving or non-moving, and has a preset path and line of destinations with one difference: N and M will also be interacting with one another. Let's pretend that these particles have no other properties than their own respective masses and are both spherical. At best, the particles will collide. Their collision path is set, and the resulting physics of this spherical mass can also be and is predetermined.

Now not all particles will look the same, and it is relatively likely that particles will have multiple sets of properties (i.e. magnetism, differing geometry, etc.) By lemma 1, these interactions are also predetermined.
Here's an example. The law of universal gravitation guarantees that particles in this universe of two will exert forces of equal and opposite magnitude on one another. We in fact have a formula for this gravitational attraction; the force can be calculated. The direction of the force is a straight line from N to M and vice versa. With all the forces and interactions accounted for, the trajectories and destination paths are still set to a predetermined path.

Now imagine we introduce a third particle. Our ability to calculate the path of this third particle becomes complicated with this extra variable, but is still calculable. Now introduce a fourth, a fifth, a thousandth. These particles will collide, bounce and interact with each other in set ways, creating new trajectories that can be easily predicted and followed with few particles but very difficult to follow with many. I'm not entirely sure how many iterations and particles our brains or our computers are capable of processing, neither am I entirely sure how far we are capable of mapping out every interaction and change in destination path, trajectory, etc. I imagine it to be anywhere from several thousand to several million depending on the processing power. Our universe has more particles than we can fathom, and definitely more than anything on Earth can process.
However, like with the tautology in Lemma 1, our inability to know or process some data does not mean that the data is nonexistent. Particles will interact the way they interact regardless of our capabilities to predict those interactions.

In order to prove fatalism, I need to prove that for any universe of (1, 2,...,n, n+1) particles, every particle is subject to fate. This was my hypothesis.
The statement runs thus: F(K) = All particles within a universe of K particles are subject to fatalism.
In order to do so via mathematical induction, I must show that F(1), F(K) and F(K+1) are true (

Consider P1 and P2 from above.
: A particle in a closed universe is subject to a predetermined fate.
P1 confirms F(1).
P2: Any number of particles in a closed universe will also be subject to inevitable fate.
P2 confirms both F(K) and F(K+1).
Conclusion: Thus by induction, we can reasonably accept the truism of fatalism.

IV. Corollary:
We've established that every particles' paths - what it's going to do and where it's going to be - is predetermined. Randomness - generated by particle interactions (i.e. cosmic rays) - cannot then exist. As such, nothing is ever truly random.


There are two enormous flaws with my opponent's argument.


Pro case is based wholly upon the outdated, classical principles of physics. He seems to have completely forgotten about the 20th century and all the many groundbreaking scientific discoveries that came with it. In particular, quantum mechanics flatly contradicts Pro's conception of the universe by demonstrating that sub-atomic particles are NOT subject to predetermined fates. Their movements have been revealed to be largely indeterministic & random, and the closest physicists have come to quantifying them is calculating probability distributions [].

Let's consider the following overly-simplified probability distribution: "Particle X has a 30% chance of taking Path Y, and a 70% chance of taking Path Z". The only information this gives us is that if we repeat the junction an infinite number of times, the ratio of instances where it takes Path X vs. Path Y will approach 3:7. But at each individual junction, it is impossible to know which path the particle will take. There is no explanation for why Particle X would take Path Y instead of Path Z (or vice versa). The particle will randomly "choose" a path, with no indication as to which one until the moment of "decision". Modern physics clearly shows that particles' movements are not predetermined; they are spontaneous and acausal.


My opponent makes the mistake of assuming a physicalist ontology. The conclusion of his syllogism is only relevant to the resolution if the universe consists entirely of physical particles, but that is not necessarily the case. In fact, we have good reason to believe that some components of the universe are distinctly non-physical, namely human consciousness. The most compelling argument in favor of this idea is that physicalism fails to explain qualia []. In other words, no matter how much is known about the neurological mechanics of the brain, it will still be impossible to explain how we are able to consciously experience things from a first-person perspective. Matter is inherently impersonal and third-person, so at best, full knowledge of neurology would only be able to explain how human beings function as inanimate robots.

How do we reconcile our faculty of conscious experience with the inanimate material reality of our brains? I propose the solution of Substance Dualism, the philosophy that another metaphysical substance exists apart from matter -- an inherently first-person mental substance ("mind"). Mind would interact with the physical brain to produce what we know to be conscious experience, and also serve as our source of identity. More importantly, being non-physical, mind would not be bound by the physical principle of determinism, thus granting us the capacity to exercise free will. That is literally the anti-thesis of fatalism, so by affirming Substance Dualism, I have won the debate.

Over to Pro.
Debate Round No. 2


I. Human Fallibility

It is true that we are unable to determine or predict certain aspects of quantum mechanics, but consider human determinism from a historical perspective. Just a few hundred years ago, we once considered natural disaster to be unpredictable and random. Wind was considered to be a magical force, and sometimes even used to justify the existence of supernatural forces.
Today, we know that natural disasters occur as a result of various climate and environmental factors. We know that rain results from condensation. We know that volcanic explosions result from reactions within the ground that build up massive amounts of air pressure We know that wind is created by the movement of air pressures (hot/cold) throughout the globe.
If we go back a few thousand years, our civilization devolves further into indeterminism. The Sun appears to be a divine being in the sky, never to be reached. The moon is just as mysterious, and many lores depict these entities as Gods or Goddesses (Helios, Appollo, Ra, etc.)
Today, we know the Sun to be an astronomical entity in space. We know its composition and its origins. We can even predict its death all with relative certainty.

The point to take away from these examples is that regardless of whether or not humans are capable of determining the various aspects of the universe and the world around them, those aspects continue to be what they are. Even when we didn't know how wind came to be, the Earth ignores our fallibility and continues to moderate and control global weather through the ocean, the air, etc.
For example, while we fallible humans don't know why probability distirbution patterns occur, we do know that there is a pattern. Even if we don't know how sub-atomic particles interact in whatever ways they do so, those interactions are still preset to be what they are (tautology).
We've historically been ignorant of our physical world, but ur physical world continues to operate on whatever laws they operate on without concern to the human's ability to understand it.
There are rules, and we do not have an exhaustive or even necessarily accurate database of these rules. What we do know is that we have seen that certain rules exist, and the further we delve, the more rules we encounter. We can reasonably conclude that the universe operates on these set rules.

In any case, I refer back to Lemma 1 as further refutation of my opponents critique. The interactions between particles are predetermined.
Human indeterminism is irrelevant to the equation.

II. Reliance on Physics

My opponent states that my case depends on physical particles and that the inability to account for qualia harms the case. This statement is untrue. My case depends on the assumption that all particles interact in preset ways.
Finally, determinism is not constrained to physical features, merely that my proof uses a physically reacting particle as an example. We are unable to determine whatever non-physical elements, properties and interactions that any and all physical particles might have, but I argue that based on empirical consistency of these particles, these interactions are also consistent. Moreover, qualia may in fact actually be built on physical features. Once again, I refer to the fact that the human's ability to explain factors outside of his comprehension is inconsequential.
Even if qualia weren't a physical thing, the fact remains that every human being is consisted of physical particles and that his actions - based on what we now know - are controlled by hormones, brain signals, and the environment around him (which are also made of particles). Everything the human has done or is doing is a direct result of the culmination of the physical presence of all the particles' movements in the universe since the start of their existence. Qualia, its existence and our inability to explain it, does not affect the fate of the particles that control us and everything around us.

On to CON.


Thank you, Beginner. This is turning out to be quite fun.


Pro asserts that there must be a deterministic explanation for quantum mechanics which we are currently unaware of, with his reasoning being that science has explained seemingly indeterministic phenomena before. However, all his examples of that come from a time when the field of science was virtually non-existent; obviously, ignorant lay-men will be quick to attribute natural phenomena to randomness or divine intervention. But with quantum mechanics, there has been over a century of systematic scientific study (involving some of humanity's most brilliant scientists & most advanced technology), and all of it indicates that there is no deterministic explanation for the movements of sub-atomic particles.

There have been a few attempts at explaining quantum mechanics in a deterministic fashion, collectively known as the aptly-named "hidden-variable theories", but they've been widely discredited within the scientific community as ad-hoc violations of Occam's Razor -- they attempt to impose determinism on a blatantly indeterministic phenomenon by assuming the existence of variables which don't have a shred of empirical confirmation. It's no different than creationists who try to reconcile their beliefs with reality by speculating that Satan intentionally put all the evidence for evolution in place to deceive humanity. Anyways, most hidden variable theories have already been definitively refuted by John Neumann's statistical proofs. The only one that hasn't is Bohmian Mechanics, and not even its own developer thinks it is likely to be true: "Bohm's original aim was not to make a serious counterproposal but simply to demonstrate that hidden-variable theories are indeed possible... Bohm said he considered his theory to be unacceptable as a physical theory due to the guiding wave's existence in an abstract multi-dimensional configuration space, rather than three-dimensional space" [].

The general scientific consensus, based upon more than a century of empirical observation, is that quantum mechanics is indeterministic, and the only contrary theory in existence relies upon a violation of the most fundamental principles of abductive reasoning. It simply isn't rational to claim that particle movements are subject to hard determinism.


Allow me to re-iterate my point here: if a non-deterministic mind substance exists, then it does not matter if every particle in existence is deterministic. As long as the mind substance can independently act upon the physical world (via humans exercising free will), it can change the predetermined "fate" of the universe, thereby negating fatalism. In other words, substance dualism grants us autonomy, and our actions as autonomous human beings defy fatalism. Pro briefly mentions that it is possible for even the mind substance to be subject to determinism, but there's no reason whatsoever to believe this. The onus for that claim is on Pro. It's prima facie obvious from a first-person perspective that we have free will, which is reason enough to believe that an inherently first-person mental substance would be similarly free of external constraint.

Contrary to Pro's assertions, my argument here is not an appeal to ignorance. It is an appeal to the fundamental differences in the ontology of mind & matter. Mind is inherently first-person, while the brain is inherently third-person, so they cannot be the same entity. I am not simply claiming that science hasn't progressed enough to explain consciousness; I am claiming that it is impossible for first-person qualia to be explained scientifically because any such explanation would necessarily be limited to the third-person perspective. We can talk all day about how serotonin travels along neural pathways in the brain and interacts with various receptors to induce responses associated with happiness, but none of that actually explains how the sensation of happiness is experienced. Like I said, neurology reduces human beings to inanimate robots.

If you are consciously experiencing reading this debate (as opposed to being a robot simulating the action of reading this debate), then you must accept substance dualism as being more plausible than the physicalism Pro advocates.

Over to Pro.
Debate Round No. 3


Many thanks to CON for taking up the debate. As this is the final round, I will wrap up with some refutations and then a simple summary.

Quantum Indeterminism

CON's basic premise here is that humans are unable to explain the behavior of certain thinngs (i.e. the cause of probability distributions of quantum particles).
I noted that these things will function and exist regardless of the human ability to explain them. They will hold whatever properties they hold regardless of human of human knowledge.
To elaborate on this notion, I gave the example of humans' previous beliefs on elements that they are unable to explain.
CON attacks the examples as depicting non-scientific humans. This is where CON's refutation crumbles. The inability to explain thingswith science doesn't change the premise of my counter to Quantum Indeterminism.
It doesn't matter that we can't see beyond quarks. It doesn't matter that we don't have machines to measure all the properties of gluon. Science isn't perfect. It is limited in many ways.
Scientific imperfection notwithstanding, it still holds that all particles contain all the properties that they contain. These properties are preset to act in certain ways.
Once we believed protons to be the mobile particle within electric currents. As our capacity to observe subatomic particles increased, so did our understanding. Now we know that it is in fact the electrons that move within wires and facilitate current. Not protons.
Perhaps in the future we will be able to better record and observe the strangeness of the latest subatomic mysteries (i.e. quarks). Perhaps in the future we will be able to determine how the probability distributions of quantum particles occur. Perhaps not.
What matters is that they do occur. Our understanding is irrelevant.

Substance Dualism

"if a non-deterministic mind substance exists, then it does not matter if every particle in existence is deterministic" -
First, the statement presumes that the mind is non-deterministic. Basically my opponent is saying: "If fatalism doesn't apply to the mind, then fatalism doesn't exist."
The core of CON's refutation under the title of substance dualism begs the question of its own validity.
As with my refutation of quantum indeterminism, our understanding of the mind is irrelevant when it comes to whether something exists or not. If it exists, it exists. If it doesn't, it doesn't. We might be able to determine its existence. We might not.
I understand what CON is saying, but allow me to better clarify my point from the previous round. There is no reason to believe that qualia is non-physical. Similarly, there is no reason to believe that it doesn't follow deterministic properties.
What matters is that there is both tautological and inductive evidence that show that all things follow preset patterns, even things we don't understand yet.
Perhaps in the future we will be able to examine the properties of qualia. Perhaps not. It matters not.

(Also note that my opponent conflates determinism with fatalism; the corollary of determinism may be drawn from the principle of fatalism, but they are not the same.)


It appears my proof is sound. My opponent refutes only on grounds of applicability and lack of knowledge (human fallibility). Otherwise, it asserts that the mind is non-deterministic and concludes that fatalistic properties don't apply - which is circular reasoning.
I believe I've successfully addressed CON's rebuttals.
Thank you for taking up this debate, Insignifica. I've learned some things, and I hope you have too. Wherever fate decides to take you, I wish you the best of it.


This has been an interesting debate, and I'm very glad that both Beginner and I decided (of our own free will) to participate in it ;)


Unfortunately, Pro continues to misinterpret my argument. As I've already clarified, this is not just a matter of our epistemic limits. The whole point of everything I said last round is that after more than a century of observing sub-atomic particle movements, scientists have come to the decisive conclusion that determinism simply does not apply to quantum mechanics. We are not "unable to explain" quantum phenomena. In fact, we HAVE explained them -- as being fully indeterministic.

The flaw in Pro's reasoning is his unwarranted assumption that the lack of determinism is an "imperfection". In other words, he is committing the fallacy of circular reasoning by assuming the truth of his conclusion in the process of affirming it. Starting from a tabula rasa state of mind (discarding whatever pre-existing intuitions we might have on the matter), there is no reason whatsoever to believe that blatantly-indeterministic particle movements are deterministic. That alone is enough to negate the resolution, seeing that the burden Pro imposed upon himself was to affirm fatalism as a TRUISM.

But in addition to that, we have Nuemann's statistical proofs, the abductive failures of Bohmian mechanics, and the general scientific consensus on the issue, all of which provide positive reasons to reject determinism in quantum mechanics. The movements of sub-atomic particles is clearly indeterministic, and therefore Pro's syllogistic proof fails.


Again, Pro has engaged in circular reasoning. He is assuming that determinism is true in order to assert that it must apply to the mind, by default. Starting tabula rasa, there is no reason to believe that this is the case. Last round, I provided a very straightforward (and uncontested) reason to presume autonomy of the mind -- the mind is an inherently first-person substance, and it's prima facie obvious from a first-person perspective that we have free will, so (absent any overriding reasons to believe otherwise) it would seem logical to think that the mind is similarly free of deterministic constraint.

Contrary to Pro's assertions, there IS reason to believe that qualia is non-physical... that is what I spent much of last round explaining. Like I said, there's a fundamental ontological barrier to ever explaining qualia physically: consciousness is first-person, whereas matter is third-person. There's not much more for me to say here, since Pro basically just disregarded everything I said. Substance Dualism is true, and it completely defies fatalism by allowing for free will to exist.

If you still believe that Pro has fulfilled his burden of proof (affirming fatalism as a truism), then I can only conclude that he is right and that you are indeed a deterministic robot -- one which has been programmed to be wrong.

Exercise your free will and VOTE CON.
Debate Round No. 4
32 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by whiteflame 11 months ago
Sorry guys, I really wanted to get to this, but I'm having a hell of a time finding time to do it, and tomorrow's jam packed for me. Hopefully TUF won't be the only voter, but his vote is a good one, so at least you have that.
Posted by TUF 11 months ago
Its okay beginner. It would be nice to have you though if you change your mind.
Posted by Insignifica 11 months ago
Well yeah, quantum indeterminism isn't proof of free will, but it does directly undermine the idea that particles have pre-determined fates.
Posted by Beginner 11 months ago
And thanks for reading and voting.
Posted by Beginner 11 months ago
AH. TUF!!!!!!!!!

I've been meaning to tell you.. I don't know about your game. I mean, normally I would, but it'd be hypocritical for me to say "PLAY ONE GAME OF MAFIA AT A TIME" and sign up for two games not long after.. I kind of made myself a dilemma there. Heh.
Posted by TUF 11 months ago
Insignifica, sorry didn't see your comment earlier. I don't think I necessarily agreed with it (in that portion of the rfd I even put in parenthesis that it is not proof for free will either). I found that the point was a counter to particle movements in his initial example. Again I don"t have a belief in free will or fatalism (though I think I"d like to believe in free will for other reasons not necessarily pointed out in this debate). I think the only issue in the debate was with describing fatalism as saying the human mind is robotic and pre-set. Pro"s point was mostly that that experiences, feeling and behaviors are based on environment (IE other particle movement that in its core has a pre-set path). Particle movement may have random choice in pathing, but that doesn"t change Pro"s point about human reaction to the particle movement in the environment. It seemed to me in round three (this is based on memory I could be wrong about which round number it was) that you agreed that human behavior could be effected by particle movement, but that your issue with fatalism is that science couldn"t understand the mind and how humanity can feel and experience happiness. I don"t think Pro"s idea of fatalism is robotic at all, and I didn"t quite understand the point about how we cannot scientifically gauge experience. It was that point I think that ultimately gave me the argument point to Pro. It was a great debate, sorry about the lack of clarification.
Posted by TUF 11 months ago
Great debate guys :)
Posted by Insignifica 11 months ago
Thanks for the vote, although I am completely lost as to how you still voted Pro if you agreed with the quantum indeterminism argument.
Posted by TUF 11 months ago
Great debate to both of you. Both of you would have squashed me on this topic.
Posted by Beginner 11 months ago
Ah. Ah! Wylted!!! HAI!!!!

I think the voting minimum is either 2500+ or 3000+.

2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by TUF 11 months ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision:
Vote Placed by Wylted 11 months ago
Who won the debate:--
Reasons for voting decision: Test