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God Probably Doesn't Exist

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Started: 8/25/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
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This debate is impossible to accept, if you wish to accept let me know in the comments.

You must have a minimum of 2500 ELO to vote on this debate.


God: The sentient eternal (has always existed and held his properties) omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent being that was the efficient cause of the universe.

Probably: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell.

Doesn't Exist: Does not have objective reality or being.

Debate format is the typical Lincoln-Douglas format.

R1: Acceptance
R2: My opening arguments followed by Con's opening arguments (No rebuttals by Con)
R3: Rebuttals to opening arguments
R4: Defense of your original arguments.

No forfeits.
No insults.
No semantics.
72 Hours to Post Argument.
10,000 Characters Max.
2 week voting period.
Select winner voting system.
Follow the format.


I accept.
Good luck n7, I hope this is a most enjoyable debate.
God Bless
Debate Round No. 1


Thanks Con for accepting. I will provide two arguments that I hope are simple, but effective.

Contention 1: Incoherency

Here I will argue that the conception of God is contradictory. The properties of focus will be omniscience and being the efficient cause of the universe.

P1: If God has a contradictory property, then God doesn’t exist.

P2: God does have a contradictory property

C: God does not exist.

Premise one is self evident. Something that is contradictory cannot exist as it violates the law of noncontradiction.

Premise two is the one that needs defense. Which I will do now.

In order for God to know something, that thing must exist. God does not know what kind of pizza I am eating right now because I am not eating a pizza right now (unfortunately). If God did know what kind of pizza I am eating, he wouldn’t exist because he would be wrong, since there is no pizza. In order for something to have the property of being known, it must exist, otherwise there is nothing to know. It is quite simple.

God is omniscient. He has all knowledge. He knows everything you have done, everything you are doing and everything you will do. He knows everything there is to know about the past, present and future. However, since God knows the past, present and future, they must exist. The problem with this is since God has always known all of time, then all of time must have always existed such as in a block universe. Thus God couldn’t have caused the universe because the universe must have always existed with him because he has always had omniscience..

God’s property of always being omniscient contradicts with his property of being the efficient cause of the universe.

The conclusion follows.

This argument was inspired by David Kyle Johnson’s formulation of the free will/ omniscience problem.

Contention 2: The Problem of Evil

This is probably the most well known, used, and simplest argument against God today. It simply states that since evil exists, God does not. I will be using Rowe’s inductive formulation [1].

  1. There (probably) exists instances of intense suffering which an omnipotent, omniscient being could have prevented without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.

  2. An omniscient, wholly good being would prevent the occurrence of any intense suffering it could, unless it could not do so without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.

  3. (Therefore) There does not exist an omnipotent, omniscient, wholly good being.

Premise one is probabilistic and intuitive. William Rowe gave his famous example in support of it

"In some distant forest lightning strikes a dead tree, resulting in a forest fire. In the fire a fawn is trapped, horribly burned, and lies in terrible agony for several days before death relieves its suffering.” [ibid]

It is intuitively probable from everything we have seen. We see many instances of suffering with no apparent good outcome. The sheer number of instances makes it likely that at the very least one could have been prevented without losing some greater good or permitting some other evil.

Premise two follows from the definition of what it means to be all knowing, powerful and good. God would know where evil is, how to stop it, and would want to since he is wholly good.

The conclusion follows from the premises.

Not much needs to be said, it is a straightforward, simple and powerful argument.


[1] Rowe, William L. 1979. “The Problem of and Some Varieties of Atheism,” American Philosophical Quarterly 16: 335-41.



Thank you, Pro.

Ontological Argument

D1) A positive property:
A property that does not lessen the excellence of some entity that has the property, but whose negation does lessen the excellence of the entity. [1]

D2) Something has necessary existence (from now on, 'Ne.Ex.)' iff:
\exists F\Box(x has F) and \Box\existsy(y has F) and \Box\forally(y has F & y=x)].

D3) Something is strongly positive (from now on 'EA') iff:
\Box(having A essentially is a positive property).

The Argument
Here is the argument laid out:
P1) If 'A' is any strongly positive property, then, necessarily, there exists a being that both exists necessarily and essentially possesses 'A'.
P2) The properties of omnipotence, omniscience and moral perfection are strongly positive properties
P3) To possess a conjunct of strongly positive properties is a strongly positive property
C) There exists a being which exists necessarily and essentially possesses omnipotence, omniscience and moral perfection (from 1,2,3)

Defence of P1)

Take the axioms:
F1) If A is positive, then ~A is not positive.
F2) If A is positive and A entails B, then B is positive
F3) Necessary existence is positive.

These axioms are self evident. If some excellence 'perfect power' is positive, then 'no power' is not positive. The same is true of necessity: to necessarily exist is an excellence and to contingently exist detracts from excellence. Also, if some excellence holds true, then anything it entails cannot be non-excellent (otherwise, it would not be an excellence).

From the axioms F1-3, we can form our first theorem (P1):
T1) if A is any strongly positive property, then there exists a being that exists necessarily and essentially has A

Proof of T1
Take these subsidiaries:

Lemma 1: If X has necessary existence, then \Box(X has Ne.Ex),
Proof: By S4:  \Box p \to \Box \Box p

Lemma 2: For any property B, suppose \existsx(x has Ne.Ex. and x has B). Then: \Box\existsx(x has Ne.Ex. and \Diamond(x has B)).
Proof: Through existential instantiation, suppose X has Necessary existence and X has B. From Lemma 1, necessarily, X has necessary existence: \Box\existsx(x has Ne.Ex). Now, take system B of modal logic (if p, then \Box\Diamondp). Then, \existsx\Box(x has Ne.Ex. and \Diamond(x has B)).
Thus , if \existsx\BoxFx, then \Box\existsxFx. (from lemma 2) quod erat demonstratum.

Lemma 3: If A and B are positive, then A and B are compossible.
D4) A conjunct of properties p is compossible iff possibly there is an entity that
possibly exemplifies all the members of p.
Proof: For reductio, suppose positive properties A and B are incompossible. then, A entails ~B. But this contradicts F2. As both Ne.Ex and EA are positive (from D1,3,F3) it follows that they are compossible (from Lemma 3). Thus, the metaphysical possibility of the being described in T1 is established.

We are now in a position to prove T1:
Assume the conjunction 'p' of some entity having Ne.Ex. and EA. By Lemma 3 and S5, there possibly exists some X that p in all possible worlds. Therefore, \Diamond\existsx(x has Ne.Ex. and x has EA). As this would be a conceptual truth, \Diamond\Box\existsx(x has Ne.Ex. and \Diamondx has EA). Now apply S5 to the equation. It then follows that there exists some x which has Ne.Ex and \DiamondEA (removing the "\Diamond\Box"from the equation). But through S5, it follows that there exists some x which has both Ne.Ex and EA, for essentiality under S5 is an equivalence relation in accessible possible worlds such that if x is possibly essentially a, then x is a in all possible worlds. Therefore T1, quod erat demonstratum.

Defence of P2) and P3)

F4) Essential moral perfection, essential omniscience, and essential omnipotence are strongly positive properties
Proof: taking D2 and the excellence view of positive properties; essential omnipotence, essential omniscience and essential moral perfection are all positive properties, as they all increase the excellence of a being and their negations (impotence, ignorance, morally abhorrent) lessen the excellence of the said being.

F5) To essentially possess a conjunct of compossible, strongly positive properties is strongly positive.
Proof: If every single property in a conjunct is positive, then to possess all of them, rather fewer than all, is positive, for it does not detract from the excellence of the entity but its negation (to possess fewer than every positive property) does detract from excellence. To essentially possess this is strongly positive.

Defence of C1)

T2) From F1-5), there necessarily exists a being who is maximally positive, posessing essential omnipotence, essential omniscience, and essential moral perfection, et hoc omnes intelligunt deum.

Proof of T2)
First we will need the following lemma:
Lemma 4: if A is strongly positive, so is EA.
Proof: EA --> EEA follows from S4: \Box p \to \Box \Box p Suppose A is strongly positive. By F1, so too is EA.

Suppose P is the property of essentially possessing all EA properties. By Lemma 4, Where A is strongly positive, then if an entity has every A, then it has EA. By F1 and F5, P is a strongly positive property. Therefore, by T1, T2 entails. Therefore, God exists.

Cosmological Argument
Now, for a cosmological argument from contingency (contingency being facts that are neither tautological nor impossible). [2]

1) Every contingent fact has an explanation
2) There exists a contingent fact that includes all other contingent facts (BCCF)
3) Therefore, there is an explanation of this fact.
4) This explanation must involve a necessary being
5) Therefore, there exists an external, necessary being that is the cause of all contingent facts.

The focus will be on P1, as the other premises are less controversial, less likely to be contested and obvious given P1.

Defence of P1)
For the first premise, I must defend some version of a non-local Causal Principle that suggests that 'every contingent fact has an explanation'.
So what sort of principle shall we use? I'll proposing something like the following sub-syllogism:
T1) If E can have an explanation, then E has an explanation
T2) Every contingent fact can have an explanation
C) Therefore, every contingent fact has an explanation

T2) needs little support; it is a weak claim that is evident by the very nature of contingency. And even if we assume the PSR or CP to be false, any contingent fact still possibly has an explanation, so this is uncontroversial.

So the focus will be on T1), so I'll commence with that. It will be based on the modality of counterfactuals.

Proof of T1)

First, take two lemmas.
Lemma 1)
Take Lewisian counterfactual semantics: that p\Box--->q holds iff there is a p&q world that is more similar to the actual world than any p&~q world, or p is necessarily false. [3]
We need not take the full account for the argument though. A weaker version can be held: viz. that if p\Box--->q, we should move to metaphysically relevantly similar worlds where p holds and see whether q holds. [4]
This is true simply because there is no other means to figure out counterfactuals except in subjunctive investigation. This weaker account also has the advantage that it is void of the criticism of Lewisian semantics.

Lemma 2)
If p, then \Box\Diamondp. This is the Brouwer axiom (system B in modal logic).

We are now in a position to prove the following conditional:
F1) (q&p&M~p)--->(~p\Box--->(p\Diamond--->q))

In other words; say p and q actually hold, and that in a relevantly similar possible world, p does not hold. Therefore, it is metaphysically possible that p does not hold. So we have the antecedant; q&p&M~p.
By Lemma 2, and the antecedent, it is the case in the relevantly similar world that ~p, possibly p and possibly q. Thus, ~p actually holds, but as p and q possibly hold, then p\Diamond-->q.

Now take the following lemmas (Where ==> is entailment)

Lemma 3)
Proof: Entailment is equivalent to necessary conditional.

Lemma 4)
Proof: if some proposition necessarily entails a contradiction (both q and ~q), then it cannot be possible.

We are now in a position to prove T1.
Let q be the proposition that event E occurs and possibly has an explanation (id est, E is contingent).
And, for a reductio, suppose p is the proposition that E has no explanation.

If E can have an explanation, then it is metaphysically possible that E has an explanation.
By F1, the following occurs:
Let w be a possible world where E has an explanation.Thus in w, E has an explanation G. On the dependency principle: (if A is the explanation of B, and there is no C that causes B(for overdetermination) then if A were not to exist, then neither would B) then in w, if G were not to exist, then neither would E. Thus, p\Box-->~q.
As this is true at every world in which q has a cause, the following arises:
Or, in worlds where E does not have any explanans, if E does not have an explanation, then E does not occur. But p\Box-->~q is equivalent to ~(p\Diamond-->q). So;
~p\Box-->~(p\Diamond-->q) and therefore, by Lemma 4 and Lemma 5, causes a contradiction, and thus, it is not metaphysically possible that p, contrary to the original assumption that p.

Defence of P2
What might the 'BCCF' be? Simply, it is the aggregate of all contingent facts, objects, propositions, etc. in the actual world. [5] This itself must be contingent, by its very nature: a conjunct of contingency cannot be anything other than contingent.

Defence of P3
This follows from P1. If the BCCF is a contingent fact, and all contingent facts have and explanation, then the BCCF has an explanation.

Defence of P4
We must now deduce the nature of the explicans. It must be either necessary or contingent (there is no other option). If it is contingent, then it is included in the BCCF and no progress is made - by P1, it still needs to be explained. And, pace Descartes, nothing can be causa sui or explanatory prior to itself. Thus, the explanation must be necessary.

Defence of P5
So, we must admit the existence of a necessary, external cause, from Premises 1-4.

I have shown that via the nature of positive properties and of contingency, through certain axioms, God must exist.

Sources in comments
Debate Round No. 2


Thanks Con. Great presentation for new formulations of the ontological and cosmological arguments.

Ontological Argument

I will attack the ontological argument in an original way and an old way. These objections will not necessarily (pun intended) attack any specific premise, but attack the concept of using a positive property to demonstrate God exists.

We see from Con’s definition that a positive property is related to greatness or excellence. What could he mean by this? What is the standard of excellence he’s using? Some sort of standard of excellence could be subjective, or objective. Of course, we can’t state the standard of excellence is subjective, as that would entail that one could just reject the idea that “A” is positive, and we would be correct. A subjective standard cannot be used to prove something in objective reality. So, if we want the OA to work, then we must agree the standard of excellence is objective. When we say “x” has some positive property, it is objectively true that it doesn’t reduce its excellence.

This seems to beg the question of what this standard actually is. Perhaps it is because of God that we have this standard. God after all is the the being with the ultimate strongly positive properties. However, this would render the argument circular. Whenever you’re talking about a positive property, you’re referencing something dependent on God’s existence to prove God’s existence.

It seems our only option left is to state the standard comes from something other than God. This fails too when you consider what a standard of excellence is. It is highly important to remember that a standard of excellence is relational. Understanding this will prevent any type of false analogies.

For example, if all the TV dinners we have ever eaten have been microwaved, we have a standard of excellence which is based on the best microwaved TV dinner. When we invent an oven and taste an oven cooked TV dinner, our standard goes up. We now have a relation between the microwaved TV dinner and the oven cooked TV dinner, which raised the standard.

If we had something other than God that the standard is dependent on, then that means there is something better than God. Something that has more positive properties to make it possible for God to have the excellence he has. This fails, because God is suppose to be the thing which has the ultimate perfect positive properties. If something can be more excellent that God, then it would be God, since it would mean it can be more perfect. Being under the essence of excellence is a negation to being the very essence of excellence. Which is a negative property, not a positive one.

Since we cannot appeal to a subjective standard of excellence nor an objective standard of excellence, then we cannot appeal to excellence at all to prove a perfect being. Therefore, we cannot appeal to positive properties to prove God, and thus the ontological argument fails.

Furthermore, his entire argument is based on the assumption that existence is a property. This doesn’t seem correct. If I describe a chair as being brown, wooden, heavy and existing, I haven’t added anything to the function or look of the chair. Existence is something that allows for properties, not a property in and of itself.

One might say although existence isn’t a property, necessary existence is. A triangle necessarily by definition has three sides, but this says nothing about the existence of the triangle itself.

There is no good reason to think existence is a property, thus using it as such fails.

The argument is refuted.

Argument from Contingency

In Con’s first premise it seems he is describing David Lewis’ Counterfactual theory of causation. However this theory isn’t without problems. Lewis’ early theory dealt with a problem of preemption. Using Hall’s example

“Billy and Suzy throw rocks at a bottle. Suzy throws first so that her rock arrives first and shatters the glass. Without Suzy's throw, Billy's throw would have shattered the bottle. However, Suzy's throw is the actual cause of the shattered bottle, while Billy's throw is merely a preempted potential cause. This is a case of late preemption because the alternative process (Billy's throw) is cut short after the main process (Suzy's throw) has actually brought about the effect.” [1]

We see there is no dependence with Suzy’s throw and the shattering of the bottle. If Suzy were not there, Billy’s rock would have broken the glass. To handle problems of preemption Lewis modified his theory [2], however this theory implies some counterintuitive views about causation.

“The theory implies that any event that influences another event to a certain degree counts as one of its causes. But common sense is more discriminating about causes. To take an example of Jonathan Bennett : rain in December delays a forest fire; if there had been no December rain, the forest would have caught fire in January rather than when it actually did in February. The rain influences the fire with respect to its timing, location, rapidity, and so forth. But common sense denies that the rain was a cause of the fire, though it allows that it is a cause of the delay in the fire. Similarly, in the example of the poison victim discussed above, the victim's ingesting poison on a full stomach influences the time and manner of his death (making it a slow and painful death), but common sense refuses to countenance his eating dinner as a cause of his death, though it may countenance it as a cause of its being a slow and painful death” [ibid]

Furthermore, the contingency argument doesn’t seem to take in account brute facts. Eventually, we have to fall back on a brute fact. Why is modal logic the way it is? Why does God exist? Why is it true that 2 + 2 = 4? Why does one contingent thing exist and not another?

Eventually, we have to appeal to brute facts. So, why can’t someone say the existence of the BCCF is simply a brute fact? It would afterall cut down on the number of brute facts in existence, since if we posit God, we still have to rely on brute facts for him.

I also see no reason why other contingent things can be an explanation. I don’t mean in the way Con described. What I mean is that, if some contingent thing were to not exist, some other contingent thing would exist. If my keyboard were to not exist, these letters would not exist, even though they are both contingent, one is reliant on the other. There is no reason why the BCCF can’t be similar.

However, I think the biggest problem with Con’s argument is that at best, he has demonstrated there is something necessary that is the explanation for the BCCF. Con has done nothing to show the nature of this necessary thing. He focuses too much on proving there is a necessary explanation, but he uses a bare assertion and claims he has proven it is a being. Con’s argument fails simply because his argument doesn’t show this necessary thing is sentient being and since it would be an entirely new argument, Con cannot posit an argument for it, only defend his original. An atheist can still be an atheist while admitting there is something necessary that explains the BCCF, thus his entire argument is irrelevant to the debate.

The argument is refuted.


The ontological argument fails since it relies on a standard of excellence that is incompatible with the argument and relies on the unproven assumption that existence is a property. The cosmological argument fails because it creates false examples of causation, ignores brute facts, ignores other possible non-god explanations, and is not evidence of being. It is only evidence of a necessary thing.


[1] Collins, J., Hall, E., and Paul, L., 2004. Causation and Counterfactuals, Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.




Thank you, Pro


First, for Pro's rather interesting argument from incoherency.
I have a number of qualms with this argument. It's central premise is that " In order for something to have the property of being known, it must exist,". However, I see this to be in breach of several axioms and truths in modal epistemic logic.

i) Axiom 5 of modal epistemic logic (The Negative Introsepction Axiom) [1]
This states that:
\neg K_i \varphi \implies K_i \neg K_i \varphi
In other words, if someone does not know x, then they know that they do not know x.
What does this means for Pro's central premise? Well, it seems that x can be known, but does not necessarily exist. For, knowledge is transitive from the knowledge of knowing that one does not know x; for in order for someone to know that one does not know x, the essence of x must be known (otherwise x could not be identified as not being known). So, the premise is false: the content of x is known, without it necessarily existing (in the sense that if the premise is true, then it is a conceptual truth such that if x is known, then x necessarily exists. But, this axiom shows that there is no entailment between knowing x, and the existence of x as Pro claims).

Perhaps underlying this argument is what is meant by 'known'. If it means to know the content or nature of something, then the argument fails on a basic level. If it means to have a true belief about something, then it fails for someone can have a true belief about an non-real abstract object. If it is meant by the tripartite analysis of knowledge (p is true; S believes that p; S is justified in believing that p), then it fails due to temporal considerations, as I will now show.

ii) Abstracta
If one takes any sort of non-realist view of abstracta, then the premise is simply wrong; for few would deny that we know abstract objects (we obviously know 2+2=4, or the colour red) but on a non-realist view, they do not exist. Thus, something can be known, but it does not exist, contrary to Pro's premise.

iii)Temporal Epistemic Modal Logic
This is concerned with our knowledge of events that are temporal.
First, take presentism - the view that only the present actually exists [2]. If Pro is to contest this, then eternalism will be assumed before eternalism is concluded, which would be begging the question (eternalism will be a premise in the argument, where the conclusion states that the past, present and future exist, id est, eternalism)

On presentism, past events do not exist. But it is obvious that we know things that occurred in the past. For instance, I know that 5 minutes ago, I was writing this debate round. This is something I know. However, it does not exist on presentism! So what are we to make of the notion that "In order for something to have the property of being known, it must exist"? Well, we must reject it. For our memories do not exist, but we certainly know them.

So what the premise is equivalent to is "in order for God to know something that exists, it must exist". But this doesn't prove much, and certainly doesn't establish what Pro hopes for it to establish.

So presentism, which is true for all we know (it is at the very least prima facie coherent), refutes Pro's argument. Of course, one could defend presentism, giving arguments from a sense of flow or against determinism. But that is beyond the scope of this debate and unnecessary for my onus in giving a defence.

How does all this apply to God and his omniscience? Well, it means that contrary to Pro's premise, God can know something without it existing; as such, God can be omniscient before the actual existence of the past, present and future and consequently, the argument fails.

Now, onto the evidential argument from evil.

What is a defence?
In order to refute Pro's argument, I must give defence. That is, I must give a story about the relationship between God and evil that shows that it is not logically inconsistent for God and evil to coexist, and that we should expect evils given theism. This story must be true for all anyone knows (have no logical inconsistencies): it does not need to be a theodicy. This is vital in a defence; the aim is to disprove any logical issues (as is the claim). As such, premise 2 of the argument will be refuted.

Massive Irregularity
Sentient creatures: those creatures who have the capacity to suffer
Massive irregularity: where nomological conditions and laws of nature fail in some massive way.
Morally equivalent: Where there is no morally decisive reason to prefer one option for another.
Defect in a world: a property of a world which it is intrinsically better for not having
E: the amount of evil recorded in the actual world

The defence is composed of three propositions:
1) Any possible world that contains sentient creatures contains, ceteris paribus, a level of evil at least as great as that recorded in E.
2) Any world which is massively irregular is a defect; one which is at least as bad (or morally equivalent) as E.
3) the existence of sentient creatures is a good which is morally equivalent or outweighs E.

Defence of 1
It seems that in order for life, and a fortiori intelligent life, to come about by whatever means non-irregularly, a certain amount of evil is essential in the process. Take biological evolution - which for all we know, is the only possible means for sentient creatures to come about. Sans Divine intervention, This is likely to be a process filled with sufferings and evils - organisms necessarily need to be selected, killed off, and suffer. It seems absurd that a sentient creature like a great ape could come about, non-irregularly, without millions of years of suffering. And this is exactly what we see - suffering and evils related to sentiment creatures all the way from fawns to humans. So we have a prima facie case for admitting P1.

Defence of 2
It seems that if a world is massively irregular, then it is also massively deceptive. For, take an example: every time a sentient creature is about to experience pain, God makes it such that the being's pain receptors cut out, and it doesn't experience any pain. This would be deceptive for an actual thing - pain - is illusory. This deception is inconsistent with the actions of a morally perfect being. So, a morally perfect being could not actualise it - and to do so would be of moral abomination (to go against a perfect being's nature is the greatest moral abomination of them all, if he exists) that would outweighs E as a moral disvalue. Moreover, a massively deceptive world leaves no room for great goods such as eternal atonement, free love between God and man, and bring about great evils such as a spoiling of the human race, and no appreciation of the creator of the universe (this would be to assume God exists, but we can do that in a defence - remember, the goal is to establish logical compatibility).

Defence of 3
It seems obvious that world containing sentient creatures, where acts of love, compassion, kindness etc. are possible, is of greater moral worth than a world populated purely by worms. Given God's existence (which we can do given this is a defence), the existence of sentient creatures enables the possibility of eternal love (which is true for all we know) which outweighs E.

So we must conclude that on theism, we should expect the world to be filled with evil in the way we see it. For sans God, it is around the amount we should expect. But including God, it is around the amount we should expect, for God would not, on moral grounds, create a massively irregular world - it is a defect at least as great as E, and creating sentient creatures is of sufficient moral value to create. This succeeds in both prelapsarian and postlapsarian conditions. The defence is complete. We should see evil as favouring neither theism nor atheism.

Epistemic limitation
Now, I want to poke at some of the modal moral judgements that Pro is using. Essentially, I see no means for the advocate of the Problem of evil to support to the notion that: " There (probably) exists instances of intense suffering which [God] could have prevented without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse."
Relative to what is this probabilistic claim referring to? It seems that it is in relation to everything that has existed, ever; a scale which may span not only universe-wide, but over billions of years of history in which God could bring about a greater good.
But how could we possibly make such a judgement? How could we, with our limited modal capacities, state any such claim? In order to make any probabilistic claim of the sort, one would literally need to be omniscient. But of course, that is not the case (otherwise this debate would be redundant). So we must be modal moral sceptics in this case.
Let us think of it in terms of an analogy.
Say I am standing on top of the grand canyon - I don't see a fly down there. Would it then be reasonable for me to conclude that therefore there isn't a fly down there? Or even that there probably isn't a fly down there? Of course not. I lack the epistemic conditions necessary to make a judgement, despite all my senses telling me there is not a fly down there.
In such a case, it seems that we simply should not make a judgement. The same is with evil: we lack the cognition to state with any sort of certainty that there is no justifier for any certain evil. so, premise 1 is very suspect (even more so considering Pro's light treatment of the evidence of the matter).

The argument, therefore, fails. I have given a defence that shows that it is logically possible - if not probable - that on theism, evil and God should exist. Moreover, I see the modal moral judgements to be lacking in specificity. So, we should reject the argument from evil that Pro presented.

I have shown that Pro's arguments fail: the incoherency argument doesn't add up, and I have given a defence which renders the Problem of Evil unsuccessful.

Sources in Comments
Debate Round No. 3


Contention 1: Incoherency

Con offers some objections to the idea the in order for God to know something, it must exist. First, I could concede that Con is correct on this, but this would still prove God doesn’t exist. I had this as a defense in my original round, which Con ignored, but I will go a little more in detail about it.

If it is possible for God to know something which doesn’t exist, then God could know something such as the gender of my pet hamster, as that doesn’t exist. However, because there is no hamster, there are no truths about the hamster making God’s knowledge false. An omniscient being cannot be wrong about this. If God can know something which doesn’t exist, then God doesn't exist.

I don’t see how negative introspection links to existence of X whatsoever. If someone knows that they lack knowledge, this doesn’t tell us the extent of their knowledge of X. Con is making a categorical error between two different events of negative introspection.

Event 1: A person knows they don’t know what a car does.

Event 2: A person knows they don’t know what a “jofhru” does.

In event 1, the person knows some sort of essence of a car. They could know it makes noise, they might have seen one and may have been inside one. They don’t know what it’s purpose is, but some sort of thing is known.

In event 2 however, a person knows they don’t know what a jofhru does, not because they know some sort of essence, but because when the undergo negative introspection they find nothing about a jofhru. Their mind is completely void of a jofhru and that’s how one knows they don’t know. So, con’s premise “the essence of x must be known (otherwise x could not be identified as not being known)” is false.

Another argument against Con’s premise is that if we’re talking about something that doesn’t exist, it has no essence by definition. So, there must be another way of identifying you don’t know about a non-existent thing that doesn’t relate to its essence

Abstract knowledge

Con brings up abstract knowledge. We know 2+2=4, but this doesn’t entail platonism. However, abstract knowledge doesn’t need to exist in a platonic form, just in some way. It exists as relational descriptions of reality. If we have a set of objects, we call an object that is complete and alone “one” and if we were to add another one we would call that set “two”. I see no reason why they cannot exist in our minds this way.

Temporal Argument

Con then states presentism is true, prima facia, and we know events about the past, therefore the argument is wrong. The only way this argument would work is if we know the past in the same way God knows the past. This is obviously false, because we don’t actually know the past, we are recalling it from memory. Con uses a bare assertion fallacy to claim our memories don’t exist, but this is false. The memories exist, in our brains [1], which explains how memories can become corrupted. Furthermore, if our memories don’t exist, why is it that we usually have memories of things that have happened? My memory of me being a vietnam veteran doesn’t exist, so why don’t I know it? Claiming memories don’t exist causes us to adopt very counterintuitive beliefs and unexplainable instances of why we have one memory and not another.

Con’s objections all fall flat. The very premise he is attacking is necessary for God’s existence, he uses categorical errors, and bare assertion fallacies.

My argument remains standing.

Contention 2: The Problem of Evil

Van Inwagen’s defense

Con presents Inwagen’s defense. Con’s defense of premise one doesn’t seem to be a defense, but a restatement of premise. This is a huge claim that every possible world where there are sentient creatures there is evil. There is easily a possible world in which God created the universe in 1 day as is without any suffering. In order for Con to defend premise one, he must show there is some logical inconsistency with a world that has sentient creatures without E. Con attempts to do something like that in his defense of premise two. It doesn’t succeed as he already assumes a pain making mechanism is a necessity.

Con next states any world which there is no pain is deceptive. As pain would be an illusion. However, this fails. If there is no need for pain, God wouldn’t have created pain in the first place removing the need for deception. Since God created the rules and science of biology, he could have easily created it in such a way that pain never existed in the first place. This would be no more deceptive than me not receiving pain everytime I blink my eyes. Con assumes a type of moral absolutism in premise two stating God cannot be deceptive because it of his perfect nature, however the very point of his argument is to negate this type of moral absolutism. Even if pain is a necessity and if God need to deceive us, there would still be an even greater good of the world being devoid of suffering. Con does give another argument in favor of a world with E being better than this world. He states that with this deception, we would be spoiled with no appreciation of our God and the good he brings us. This argument was refuted by the very. creator of Con’s argument. Van Inwagen states

It is not at all evident that an omnipotent creator would need to allow people really to experience any pain or grief or sorrow or adversity or illness to enable them to appreciate the good things in life. An omnipotent being would certainly be able to provide the knowledge of evil that human beings in fact acquire by bitter experience of real events in some other way. An omnipotent being could, for example, so arrange matters that at a certain point in each person's life—for a few years during his adolescence, say—that person have very vivid and absolutely convincing nightmares in which he is a prisoner in a concentration camp or dies of some horrible disease or watches his loved ones being raped and murdered by soldiers bent on ethnic cleansing. [2].

Premise one of Con’s defense is unjustified and premise two is outright false.

Epistemic limitation

Con tries to argue we are not in the necessary conditions to make the claim an event of gratuitous evil has occured. He claims we would have to be omniscient to claim this. Although, this misunderstands what probability is. It is the likelihood as far as we know. It is not a certainty claim. Furthermore, Con ignores my defense of premise one. It is intuitive, so we have good prima facie reasons to accept premise one. Con stating we could be wrong is accounted for, we might be wrong, but it’s not likely. Con ignored my second defense. The sheer number of suffering events makes it likely that at least one is gratuitous. This claim is very modest, out of the billions and billions of events which a creature has suffered, one probably could have been prevented without losing on some greater good. All it’s needed is one case.

This shows Con’s analogy is a false analogy. It’s clearly not the equivalent of looking at the grand canyon and saying there is no fly. A better analogy would be stating the grand canyon is so big, that at the very least one fly, in the history of the canyon’s existence was in the canyon. This is very modest and obviously likely. Con’s analogy applies more to his position, as he is stating that every single event of suffering that has happened brings about some greater good. This is a much much bigger claim than me stating at least one event of suffering didn’t bring about some greater good.

The argument remains standing


Con has provided some good objections to both arguments, however on further inspection the fail. Con’s objection to my first argument was centered in categorical errors and bare assertion fallacies. In my second argument, Con provided Van Iwagen’s defense, which is unjustified in the first premise and is false in the second premise. In Con’s next response, he misconstrues what probability is and fails to rebut my original defenses of premise one. Premise one is quite a modest claim, whereas Con’s claim isn’t.

That’s all from me. I need to feed my jofhru. Now to Con for his final.






Thank you Pro. Yes, onto my final round.

Ontological Argument

Where does a positive property come from?
Of course, I see positive properties to be objective in nature. But I see no issue with this: it to be entirely coherent for the objectiveness of positivity to come from either external to God or ex deo.

External to God
If positivity is external to God, then it seems that it is simply an abstract proposition that is a necessary fact about this world, like any other abstract object, such as redness or the letter a. Everything that exists is subject to these propositions. I see no issue with this. What does Pro say in response? He states that 'excellence is relational'. But it is unclear as to what it means: something can certainly be an excellence in relation to this abstract object - say that it grounds power (in some unknown way - all that's important in responding to the criticism is that it is external to God and an abstract object), such that maximal power is being able to do everything possible to do. If I can do everything it is possible to do, then I am omnipotent - relationally to the abstracta which defines it. So positivity being grounded in external abstracta leads to no issues so far.
Pro continues: "If we had something other than God that the standard is dependent on, then that means there is something better than God".
Well, not at all. Firstly, if this abstract object is non-real, then God isn't really subject to anything. Secondly, it is a huge jump from stating that 'there is a standard of excellence external to God', to 'there is something better than God'. An abstract object cannot be omnipotent, omniscient etc., but merely grounds it. If excellence is grounded in whether an entity can do these things, then it seems obvious that God is of maximal excellence, and the abstracta that grounds it is minimally excellent, for God can do all of these things and abstracta none of them (they are causally impotent). So if anything, God is infinitely greater than abstracta, contrary to Pro's criticism.
Moreover, perhaps more importantly, it is not a necessary feature of the argument that God must is the most positive being possible. In fact, it is irrelevant.
So the only concerns here are doctrinal, mainly about Anselmian perfect being theology, but not ontological and thusly, not relevant to the context of this debate.

ii) Objectiveness ex deo
The objectiveness of positive properties can also come from God himself, as I'll now show.
Take two concepts: divine simplicity, which states that God is identical to his attributes; and a quasi-leibnizian view of God and abstracta: that abstract objects are non-volitionally divine 'thoughts'.
Taking these (which we can do as this is a defence), excellence is both from God, and are God. This is in the sense that abstracta grounds God's excellence, but as (due to divine simplicity) abstracta is God, God grounds His own excellence.
Now it should be noted that this is circular. But, it is only circular in the sense of logical circularity, rather than causal circularity. As Logical dependence is non-viciously circular, it is validly circular (only vicious circularity is an issue).
As Davidson (2005) elaborates:
"although God's ability to cause abstracta to exist is logically dependent on his having certain properties, it is not causally dependent. The account would be problematically circular only if God's ability to cause abstracta to exist were causally dependent on his having certain properties, and his having these properties were in turn causally dependent on his having caused these properties to exist. There is a circle of logical dependence here (as there is between any two necessary truths), but there is no circle of causal dependence." [1]
So while, if I posit this in the argument, it is circular (God will be used to prove God), it is not an issue - the argument will still be valid.

iii) Do we even need objective excellence?
Perhaps the best thing about the argument is that it works even if we don't take an excellence view of properties. For, take the quasi-leibnizian view: that there are basic properties that count a property as positive provided that it is entailed by at least one of the basic properties.
This will avoid Pro's criticisms, for there doesn't need to be a 'scale' of excellence that is objective: there only needs to be the notion of a property (which we certainly have) and then positivity is worked on the definition of a property.

Is existence a property?
Does the argument assume that existence is a property? No. If you look at the line of reasoning used in the proof of Lemma 2, I used existential instantiation((\exists x)\mathcal{F}x :: \mathcal{F}a ,) and then I used the various axioms and lemmas; this replaces the need for existence being a property being included in the proof. For in EI, a logical inference is made, and instead of \existsx(Fx), existential instantiation gives us \existsx(Gx) such that the same logical inference can be applied to G as it did F. Existence need not be a property of G if it is to be existentially instantiated and a fortiori, is not needed for the argument.
o, Pro objects to a strawman; no such assumption is made anywhere in the argument.

Cosmological Argument

Lewis' Semantics
Pro is partially right in saying I use Lewis' causal counterfactual semantics. What I do use is a weaker version. This doesn't exempt it entirely from Pro's criticism, but we should keep in mind that the argument rests on a weaker claim than the objections object to.
Firstly, Pro objects by saying that there could be a series of causes such that even though x is dependent on y, if y did not exist, x still might, for there could be some z that causes x.
But it seems that I accounted for this; it was a bracket in my argument which stated: 'if A is the explanation of B, and there is no C that causes B then if A were not to exist, then neither would B'. So, it accounted for Pro's objection.
What about the next objection? Well as Elga (2000) proved, it seems that of this is right, then there is no counterfactual asymmetry, such that there is not a counterfactual where: "that later affairs depend counter- factually on earlier ones, and not the other way around" [2]. But this is not a stance that many would want to take (the example Bennett uses even depends upon such a counterfactual).
o, Lewis' semantics pose no problems for the argument.

Brute Facts
Pro now appeals to Brute facts, giving various examples, like: "Why does one contingent thing exist and not another?". Such things are 'brute facts' so why can't we posit them? Well, because they aren't really brute facts, they are kripkean a posteriori necessities. It would be a long shot to describe such thing as 'brute facts'.
He continues: "why can’t someone say the existence of the BCCF is simply a brute fact?".The answer is because it would be ad hoc to avoid the conclusion by positing a notion of 'brute facts' when we have no reason to think that they exist. It would go against the causal principle I gave and so, is not an independent objection; it's establishment depends upon the falsehood of the CP. So it isn't a very good objection. It is ad hoc, and isn't an independent contention.
And that is even to assume brute facts are distinct from plain necessity: if not, then positing brute facts gets us nowhere. Indeed, I see little difference between brute facts and necessity: on several accounts of Alethic modality (namely the Aristotelian, narrowly logical and all Platonic accounts and their subsets) they are the same in all but name. If a necessary entity is defined (in a broad sense, but consistent with all accounts of Alethic modality) as something which cannot not be, then this is synonymous to a brute fact. So to posit a brute fact as an explanation gets us nowhere.

What have I proven?
Pro contests that at most, the argument proves a necessary existence of the BCCF and so is compatible with atheism.
However, it seems that it just requires a few lines of reasoning to show that this is misguided. I won't go beyond personhood in this; I think that is sufficient to show that it is wrong.
So why should we admit personhood? Well, there are three types of explanation: scientific (where the explanans are always in relation to contingent things), conceptual (where the explicandum is explained by the concept of something) and non-conceptual, non-scientific (like that shown by agents and personal entities, viz. humans). Scientific and conceptual explanations do not necessarily entail personhood, but non-conceptual non-scientific explicans do. And, it seems that the explanation of the universe cannot be either scientific nor conceptual, for a necessary entity cannot by definition be contingent, and a conceptual explanation cannot explain anything exterior. So, the explanation must be non-conceptual non-scientific, and thus, personal.

Pro's criticisms of the Ontological argument fail. We can posit a grounding of excellence that is external to God without any issues; we can do the same ex deo. But even if it succeeds, we only need to make a minor alternation to the notion of a positive property to avoid the objection. His second objection fails on a basic level: the argument doesn't even assume that existence is a property.
As for the Cosmological argument, he objected to a stronger notion than I put forward; and even then I accounted for it. He posits the concept of a brute fact to avoid the conclusion, but this is ad hoc and it is questionable as to whether it is distinguishable from plain necessity. Lastly, I have put forward why we should take the cause to be personal, such that Pro cannot accept it.
So, Pro's contentions have failed. We should therefore conclude that God exists.
Finally, thanks n7. He really is a great debater (best atheist debater on DDO IMO) and it's been great discussing this with him. I wish him the best in the future.

Sources in comments

"Because you have so little faith, I tell you the truth" - Matthew 17:20
Debate Round No. 4
218 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Insignifica 2 years ago

Please, please, please learn how to speak English.
Posted by tejretics 2 years ago

You conclude that as the components of the BCCF are contingent, the BCCF is contingent. So, per PSR, the BCCF is contingent on something. But it's possible that, since every aspect of the BCCF is contingent, each aspect is contingent on a variant object, so the whole BCCF doesn't need to be contingent on any one object x.
Posted by tejretics 3 years ago
This is probably the second most popular God debate on this site, judging by the number of comments :P
Posted by Envisage 3 years ago
*Booksmarks page*

I was doing something yesterday which reminded me to check something on Toviyah's argument, sorry for the grave dig :-p
Posted by Toviyah 3 years ago
Yeah envi they're easy
Posted by n7 3 years ago
Grave digging debates! Honestly, his arguments aren't too unbearable with the help of this
Posted by UchihaMadara 3 years ago
This is... incredible.
I have never ever seen a debate with 4 extensive RFDs all declaring it to be a tie XD
Posted by Toviyah 3 years ago
Yeah ajabi I don't think I said that explicitly on this debate, but I said something similar in the proof of T1.
Posted by n7 3 years ago
He said something like that in his debate with Envisage on the existence of god.
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by Juris 3 years ago
Who won the debate:--
Reasons for voting decision: The motion is indeed difficult. See Comments for RFD.
Vote Placed by Ajabi 3 years ago
Who won the debate:--
Reasons for voting decision: I vote a tie, please see comments.
Vote Placed by zmikecuber 3 years ago
Who won the debate:--
Reasons for voting decision: I cast my vote. Too bad I don't know how to judge this debate. But it was a good close debate from both sides. Props to both of you guys. This debate is legendary.
Vote Placed by Envisage 3 years ago
Who won the debate:--
Reasons for voting decision: RFD In Comments. Either a draw, or a slight Pro win, RFD is based on 7 point vote system, I would not have awarded 3 argument points for Pro either way.