The Instigator
Contradiction
Pro (for)
Winning
26 Points
The Contender
FourTrouble
Con (against)
Losing
15 Points

It is probable that God exists

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after 12 votes the winner is...
Contradiction
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/24/2012 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 11,373 times Debate No: 22303
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (87)
Votes (12)

 

Contradiction

Pro

TERMS

Resolved:
It is probable that God exists.

Rounds:

1. Acceptance only
2. Opening arguments
3. Clash
4. Closing arguments/clash


For the purposes of this debate, the term "God" will be defined broadly as to include the general attributes (ie: omnipotence, omniscience) commonly associated with Judeo-Christian monotheism. That is to say, I am not referring to any specific deity. Hence doctrines such as the incarnation and Trinity are irrelvant to this debate. "Probable" will be defined as being more likely than not.

The time limit between replies is 72 hours. If special circumstances arise, one side may ask the other to wait out his or her remaining time. If one side explicitly concedes or violates any of these terms, then all seven points will be awarded to the other. By accepting this challenge, you agree to these terms.

The burden of proof is shared. It is incumbent on me to show that God's existence is probable, and it is incumbent on my opponent to show that God's existence is not probable. It is thus not enough to simply refute my arguments. My opponent must also erect his own case against the probability of God's existence.
FourTrouble

Con

Many thanks to Contradiction for proposing this topic. I accept the terms and look forward to a thought-provoking debate.
Debate Round No. 1
Contradiction

Pro

I'd like to thank FourTrouble for accepting this debate challenge. I will offer three arguments for the existence of God that stem from the Thomistic tradition. It is up to my opponent to refute these arguments and to advance his own arguments to show that God's existence is not probable.

The Thomistic Cosmological Argument #1 (TCA1)

1. Whatever is in motion is moved by another.
2. There exist beings in motion.
3. There cannot be an infinite regression of moved beings.
4. Therefore, there must be a first mover.

The term “move” as used in the first premise is synonymous with change, which Aquinas understood to be the actualization of a potential. In order for something to change, it must be acted on by an entity external to itself. Something cannot actualize its own potential to exist, as this would require that it exist before it existed, which is self-contradictory. Only what is already actual can actualize a potential. To hold that potency can actualize itself is to say that something can come from nothing, which is absurd.

The third premise refers to a causal series that is ordered hierarchically. A hierarchal causal series is one in which the instrumental causes are related to each other simultaneously or essentially. The TCA1 is perfectly compatible with there being an infinite regress of temporally ordered causes. This distinction is important to keep in mind. To attack the TCA as if it were another cosmological argument, like the KCA, is to attack a strawman.

What does a hierarchally ordered causal series look like? Aquinas uses the example of a stick being moved by the hand. The stick’s motion depends essentially on the hand, such that if the hand were to stop, then the stick would stop as well. Another example would be a set of gears, which move insofar as there is a first gear in motion. Because they are ordered simultaneously, a hierarchal causal series cannot regress infinitely. Even granting that such a series has an infinite number of members, this is not sufficient to explain the presence of motion. To claim otherwise would be like saying that a broom can brush by itself as long as it has a very long handle. [1] Or magine you have an infinite number of boxcars in motion. No matter how many boxcars you have, you must have an engine to impart motion to them, otherwise the entire chain will be motionless.

The important point to note, as in the above examples, is that contingent things are passive recipients of motion. That is, they do not have the ability by nature to impart motion -- they must be given it by an external being. Just as gears do not move by nature, so do we not exist by nature. We must be continually be caused to exist by a being who just is existence. This being is a first mover who explains why the whole series is in motion. Note that this argument automatically rules out the objection "Who moved the mover?" Since it is literally the first mover, it is impossible for it to be caused.

The Thomistic Cosmological Argument #2 (TCA2)

1. There exists contingent beings.
2. A series of causally related contingent beings cannot be infinite
3. A series of causally related contingent beings must be finite.
4. Therefore, there must be a first cause of the series of contingent beings. [2]

This argument, while similar to TCA1, is different. Whereas TCA1 is based on the existence of causality, TCA2 is based on the existence of contingent beings.

That there exists contingent beings is evident enough. The universe and everything in it could have not existed. In Thomistic terms, essence is different from existence: existence isn't contained in the nature of the universe or anything in it. If that sounds abstract, think of it this way: Is the reason you exist because you are a human? Is it part of your nature to exist? Obviously not. Then it follows that your existence must be caused by something else. But what about that thing's existence? Does it exist by virtue of what it is? No. But then it has to be caused by something else. Now can this chain extend back infinitely? It doesn't seem like it. Even if the set of causes has an actually infinite amount of contingent members, this does not explain the entire contingency of the entire set. There must be a being who exists from the necessity of its own nature that explains why this set exists.

Perhaps an example will help. Suppose I want to borrow a typewriter. I go to my neighbor and ask him "May I borrow a typewriter?" Unfortunately, he doesn't have one, so he goes to his neighbor and asks him for one. However, his neighbor doesn't have one either. Now if you keep doing this, nobody ends up with a typewriter because everyone is a borrowing lender who must first have a typewriter in order to give it. The same for existence. If contingent beings exists, there must be a necessary being who simply has existence.

The Teleological Argument

1. Natural entities either tend toward ends or they do not.
2. If natural entities tend toward ends, then they are best explained by a person.
3. Natural entities tend toward ends.
4. Therefore, natural entities are best explained by a person.

Unlike traditional Paley-style teleological arguments which appeal to considerations surrounding complexity, this version of the TA is based on inherent goal-directedness, making it in all respects a true teleological argument in the Aristotelian tradition.

To say that natural entities tend toward ends is to say that they behave with a goal, purpose, or function in mind. It is to say, for example, that the heart tends toward the purpose of pumping blood or that the eye has the function of seeing. That natural entities of all sorts behave in this way is undeniable. Indeed, it is presupposed by discipline of medicine, which seeks to restore bodily functions to the way they ought to be. It accounts for why certain effects are regularly brought about by their causes . A match tends to cause fire -- and not rainbows -- when lighted because that is its function. A plant matures according to its kind because that it is directed toward that sort of development. Teleology is also present in the inorganic realm, such as in the water and rock cycles. If causes weren't directed toward their effects, then there is no reason why causes can't literally produce any effect.

Now to speak of causes as being directed toward certain purposes or functions is to admit to a type of intentionality. Intentionality is of course the mark of the mental, and there thus must be a mind who imparts teleology to the natural order. Just as how a match derives its function from the intentions of its creator, so do natural entities derive their characteristic behaviors from a grand creator. Similarly, to say that a heart ought to pump blood or that a human ought to think rationally is to admit to the existence of normativity, which also indicates the presence of an agent.

Why God?

This all being said, what reason is there to believe that this being is God? From the three arguments I have offered, we can deduce several characteristics of this being. The first two arguments show that it is eternal and uncaused. It also must be simple (per TCA1): having no parts and incapable of change. The third argument demonstrates that it must be a mind of tremendous intellect, implying that it is also personal. Finally, per TCA1/2, because its essence just is its existence, there can be only one of this being. It additionally must have all perfections by virtue of its being purely actual (Otherwise it would be a changing being, and thus contingent). This, as Aquinas put it, is a being of pure actuality which “everyone takes to be God.”

_______

Sources

1. Edward Feser, Aquinas: A Beginner's Guide (Oneworld: 2009) pg. 72.
2. W. David Beck, "A Thomistic Cosmological Argument" in Francis J. Beckwith, William Lane Craig, and J. P. Moreland, To Everyone an Answer (IVP Academic: 2004) pgs. 95-107.
FourTrouble

Con

Re: TCA 1 and 2

Premise 1 from the TCA1 ("whatever is in motion is moved by another") and the central assumption of the TCA2 (contingent beings alone cannot provide an adequate causal account of existence) are both dubious. As the philosopher David Hume argues, there is no reason to believe motion or contingency must have a cause.

Science suggests Hume is right. For example, quantum fluctuations demonstrate the existence of particles appearing out of nothing. Energy in the quantum world spontaneously appears and disappears out of nowhere. Some physicists have suggested thermal quantum fluctuations produced the Big Bang. [1] Hence, quantum physics provides strong evidence that motion can occur without a "first mover."

In the TCA1, Pro states an "external being" is necessary to "impart motion." But claiming a being can exist outside of existence is an incoherent claim. If God exists, God must be part of existence by definition. As such, the "external being" the TCA1 refers to cannot be God.

In the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant argues the TCA2 is simply the ontological argument in disguise. Because it defines a necessary being into existence, the TCA2 presupposes the cogency of the ontological argument. But Pro has not defended, or provided any reason to believe, the ontological argument. The OA is in fact false (a being cannot be defined into existence), so the TCA2 must likewise be false.

Pro also assumes, without warrant, that a first mover or necessary being must have the attributes of God. Pro admits "intelligence" derives from the teleological argument, not the TCAs. As such, if a first mover or necessary being does exist (they probably don't), there is no reason to identify it with a "personal" Judeo-Christian God.

Re: The Teleological Argument

Pro erroneously conflates the word "end" with the word "purpose" in his argument. When Pro uses "purpose," Pro already assumes an intention behind the "end" as well as a "person" behind the intention. Hence, anytime Pro conflates the word "purpose" with "end," Pro's argument is circular, question-begging, and thus empty.

Pro assumes "natural entities" have an "inherent goal-directedness." If this is true, inherent ends are nothing but descriptive facts about the way entities function. Descriptive facts are best explained through science; a "purpose" or "person" above or behind the end is not needed for an explanation.


Ends given to entities by persons are normative. While Pro's example of a heart pumping blood is descriptive (it is explained by science), medicine is normative. Medicine is a human construct with the intention of maintaining healthy bodies. Another way of saying this is: descriptive ends are ontologically and epistemically objective, normative ends are not.

Pro's argument clearly blurs the distinction between the normative and descriptive. Pro argues all descriptive facts about reality require a "person" or "intelligence" to be explained. Pro thus conflates the descriptive and normative, the telos inherent in natural entities (explained by science) and the telos given to natural entites (explained by human beings). Fundamental descriptive facts exist, usually determined by science, that explicitly call Pro's account of intentionality into question.


Furthermore, Pro falsely claims that causes have a one-to-one relation with their effects. For example, consider the U.S. Constitution. Although the framers may have had a specific intention in mind, the interpretation and effect of the Constitution has been inconsistent and often unrelated to that original intention. This does not mean the Constitution can mean anything we want it to mean. Its meaning is limited by the text, but that text holds more meanings than could have possibly been intended by the framers. The relation between cause and effect is not one-to-one. Hence, there is no reason to assume ends are the products of intentions.

Naturalism is more probable than theism

An overarching theme has already emerged in my counterarguments to Pro's case: naturalism is more probable than theism. Naturalism is testable, theism is not. The problem with theism is that it requires an a priori commitment to God's existence, such that any evidence found to the contrary is denied and its denial rationalized. God must know the position of every particle in the universe, impossible knowledge according to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. [2]

In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins presents what he calls "The Ultimate Boeing 747 Gambit." Dawkins interrogates the statistical probability of cosmological explanations, and argues that any God capable of designing a "finely tuned" universe would have to be incredibly complex and is thus less probable than the mere existence of the universe.

By definition, theism requires supernatural explanations and complex rationalizations that defy the bounds of reason. Comparatively, naturalism has produced far more confirmed theories than theism. Over time, science has regularly provided naturalistic explanations for phenomena not previously understood; and in doing so, science has regularly overtaken supernaturalistic explanations for the same phenomea. By contrast, theism or supernaturalism can point to no comparable track record of scientific advances produced by successful supernaturalistic explanations: there are no cases of supernaturalistic explanations overtaking naturalistic ones.

Argument from Physicalism of the Mind

The Judeo-Christian tradition hypothesizes the existence of a nonphysical God. If physicalism of the mind is probable, it would follow that God's existence is not probable.

There is no evidence of mental phenomena occurring without a body or required material. The evidence clearly favors physicalism. All human mental phenomena are dependent on neural phenomena. Numerous studies have confirmed that, in any mental state or mental process that a person might be in or undergo, in order for that person to be in or undergo that mental process, there must be simultaneous neural activity of some distinctive kind going on in the brain. [3] Hence, there is a strong empirical case for physicalism.

Because physicalism is probable, it is not probable that God exists.

Argument from Incoherence

It is not probable God exists because the concept of God is incoherent. Like the concept of a round square, God's omniscience is not logically possible. If God is omniscient, God would have to know the following fact: (A) There are no facts unknown to God. According to Roland Puccetti, God cannot know A because A is an unrestricted negative existential statement. [4]

As an illustration of Puccetti's point, consider the existence of an infinite number of mathematical entities and relations. There is no way God could know that He knows every mathematical fact. This is self-evident because of the fact that there are an infinite number of mathematical facts. Therefore, an omniscient, Judeo-Christian God cannot exist.

The Argument from Evil (AE)

Simply put, why does a perfectly-good and all-powerful God allow unnecessary evil and suffering? In syllogistic form, here is one formulation of the evidentiary AE:

1. Gratuitous suffering probably occurs.
2. Gratuitous suffering is incompatible with a Judeo-Christian God.
3. Therefore, a Judeo-Christian God probably does not exist.

I want to conclude with the words of Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga: "Why does God permit all this evil, and evil of these horrifying kinds, in his world?... The Christian must concede he doesn't know." [5] As Plantinga says, theism cannot explain the cruelty and suffering in the universe. Naturalism can.

God's existence is not probable. The resolution is negated.


Sources

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[3] Melnyk, Andrew. A Physicalist Manifesto: Thoroughly Modern Materialism, pp. 298-304.
[4] Roland Puccetti, "Is Omniscience Possible?", Australasian Journal of Philosophy
[5] Alvin Plantinga, "Self Profile" in Alvin Plantinga
Debate Round No. 2
Contradiction

Pro

TCAs

Contrary to what my opponent has claimed, science has not vindicated Hume. First, quantum fluctuations are not true examples of events occuring without a cause. These fluctuations themselves occur in the context of a quantum vacuum, such that if one removes the vacuum, such fluctuations will no longer occur. Con thus confuses causal determination with causal conditioning. [1] Both of the cosmological arguments that I offered only make the modest claim that motion requires prior causal conditions. Second, there are more than a dozen interpretations of quantum mechanics, many of which are deterministic (Such as De Broglie–Bohm). For Con's appeal to QM to work, we must assume that an indeterministic interpretation (Such as Copenhagen) is correct, but there is no reason to suppose that this is so. Third, even if we do assume Copenhagen, there is no reason to suppose that quantum indeterminancy is ontic as opposed to epistemic.

Con's criticism of TCA1 attacks a strawman. Nowhere did I state the argument to prove a being which is "outside of existence." Rather, TCA1 demonstrates the existence of an unmoved mover. This is simply to say that there exists a first originator of all motion -- a being whose nature includes motion -- not a being that is "outside" of motion.

Does the TCA1/2 presuppose the ontological argument? Absolutely not. Unlike the ontological argument, cosmological arguments from contingency do not "define" God into existence, but show that God must exist because of some empirical fact(s), namely, that there exists causation/contingent beings. The arguments I offered are a posteriori, whereas the OA is a priori. Moreover, this objection confuses the type of necessity at play. Whereas ontological arguments purport to demonstrate the existence of a logically necessary being, the TCAs I have offered demonstrate the existence of a factually necessary being (One who must exist given some fact about the world). [2] To compare the two is to compare apples and oranges.

Con's final criticism is simply false. While he may disagree with what my TCAs entail, I certainly offered warrant (cf. my last paragraph) to show that this first cause must have the attributes of God. Until this is responded to, extend my arguments. Additionally, note that my arguments are presented together as a cumulative case to demonstrate the probability of God. Hence even if my TCAs do not prove all the divine attributes, it still makes the existence of God more likely than not.

Teleological Argument

Con's criticism of my argument as question-begging is bizzare. By that standard of question-begging, every deductive argument begs the question. Deductive arguments are such that the conclusion is implicitly contained in the premises, waiting only to be unpacked. My argument is only substantively question-begging if I assume what I am trying to prove, which I did not. Indeed, I gave arguments for the notion that ends and purposes require persons behind them.

If anything, it is Con who begs the question. He simply asserts that facts about goal-directedness are merely descriptive and that a person is not required for their explanation. But this is exactly what I disputed in my opening argument! My arguments against a descriptive account of nature were not responded to. Inherent ends are not merely descriptive, but also prescriptive. Why? Because positing normativity in the biological realm is necessary to explain (1) natural regularities, (2) law-like behavior, and (3) our attribution of proper functions to natural entities.

Con writes: "Ends given to entities by persons are normative. While Pro's example of a heart pumping blood is descriptive (it is explained by science), medicine is normative. "

But this begs the question! My argument is precisely that biological ends must be explained in terms of a person and that mere descriptive accounts of function are inadequate. To assert without argument that they are merely descriptive is to assume what you are trying to prove.

Is God Improbable? Not so.

Con's opening argument attacks a litany of strawmen and red herrings. It is true that theism is not empirically testable, but to say that this makes God improbable is like saying that because you can't taste music, that therefore music doesn't exist. His statement that theism requires an a priori commitment to God's existence is simply false. Many theists do not have such a commitment. His invokation of the Uncertainty Principle against omniscience is also mistaken. According to the UP, we cannot know with certainty a given particle's location because our measuring devices will affect it. But this is not to say by means that an immaterial being who does not use empirical measuring devices cannot also know.

Dawkins's Gambit is logically invalid. Even if one were to grant all the premises in his argument, the conclusion does not logically follow. Moreover, the notion that God is complex is simply false, for God is an immaterial being admitting of no material parts. By all accounts, God is actually incredibly simple.

Con's argument from the explanatory power of naturalism is simply a red herring. This debate is over the probability of theism, not the explanatory power of theistic/naturalistic explanations. One can hold that theism is probable but affirm that theistic explanations are generallly bad.

Physicalism?

Physicalism is itself wrought with problems, so it is not clear that appealing to one contenious hypothesis to support another contentious hypothesis is a good strategy. Indeed, even granting physicalism, the conclusion that disembodied existence is impossible simply does not follow. To conclude otherwise is to engage in an accidental generalization, similar to saying that because all evidence suggests that humans live in the Solar System, that it is impossible for a humans to live outside of it. For the argument to work, one must show that disembodied existence is metaphysically impossible -- for if disembodied existence is even possible, then this argument falls apart.

Incoherence?

This argument seems simply to confuse the mode of God's knowledge with its scope. Moreover, what's so problematic about having knowledge of unrestricted negative existential statements? I see no problem whatsoever. Indeed, given the classical conception of God's knowledge as being non-propositional and non-perceptualist, there is no such problem. [3] This argument is terribly unconvincing.


Evil?

Aside from the lack of argumentation given for the PoE, P1 is epistemically inscrutable. Probabilities are always relative to some background evidence. What such evidence is Con refering to? The only way he could justify (1) is if he were to show that it is unlikely that God would have morally sufficient reasons for permitting such evil. But it is unclear how he can do this. If I asked you to assess the probability of an elephant being on a football field, you could give an accurate assessment. However, if I asked you to assess the probability of there being a flea in the same field, you could not give an accurate probability assessment because of your epistemic limitations.

The same is true with claiming that gratuitious evil makes God improbable. Improbable relative to what? To make this claim, we need to have access to the "big picture." But given our epistemic limitations, we lack this and thus also any justification for affirming (1). It may very well be the case that God has morally sufficient reasons for permitting evil. It also may very well not be the case, but we are not in a position such that we can assess the probability of either. Hence, the evidential weight of the PoE is inscrutable.

The resolution is affirmed.

____

Sources

1. cf. G. E. M. Anscombe, "Causality and Determination" in Zimmerman and Van Inwagen (eds), Metaphysics (Blackwell: 2008)
2. Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics (IVP: 2011) pg. 210
3. W. L. Craig and J. P. Moreland, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (IVP: 2003) pg. 521
FourTrouble

Con

Revisiting the TCAs

Pro misunderstands the relevance of QM to my argument. A vacuum state is a zero-point energy quantum state. [6] Because a vacuum can be defined to have zero energy, it is a physical state in which no motion occurs. If Pro "removes the vacuum" and the relevant quantum fluctuations, Pro implicitly undermines the TCAs because the TCAs presuppose a vacuum. But if Pro accepts the existence of a vacuum, Pro admits the existence of quantum fluctuations. Either way, the TCAs crumble.

Can the TCAs work without presupposing a vacuum? Only if we postulate something outside of existence. But in R2, I argued this position was incoherent. If something is outside of existence, it does not exist by definition. Pro conceded the argument, claiming it was a mere strawman. Clearly, the point was relevant and not a strawman.

In response to Pro's "second" and "third" points: Schrödinger's cat demonstrates quantum indeterminacy is both epistemic and ontic. [7] As such, QM poses a serious challenge to the TCAs as well as the possibility of omniscience.


But again, even if the TCAs were correct (they aren't), it does not follow that the necessary being and first mover is God. It is just as probable that the TCAs refer to a non-Judeo-Christian god or to any number of undiscovered natural phenomena.

Teleological Argument

Pro's claim,"that biological ends must be explained in terms of a person and that mere descriptive accounts of function are inadequate," is completely unsubstantiated. Pro assumes ends imply intentionality, without explaining why that must be the case.


If all persons died, would the physical world continue functioning as usual? Probably. There is no evidence that suggests otherwise. Mathematical truths and scientific laws hold regardless of whether persons think them or not. Plants continue photosynthesizing and Venus will continue orbiting the Sun regardless of whether persons will it so. The burden is on Pro to prove independent physical ends require persons to continue functioning.

Science

Scientific facts are verified by empirically observable data, whereas God is empirically unknowable. Pro concedes this point.


To counter its impact, Pro says "explanatory power" does not make something more "probable." I disagree. People believe gravity exists because gravity explains, and makes accurate predictions about, observable phenomena. People no longer accept the 18th century medical practice of bleeding because it has been replaced by medical practices that more accurately explain and predict how healthy bodies function.

Last round, I argued science has a track record of replacing supernaturalistic explanations in favor of naturalistic ones. Pro offered no response. The track record shows it is probable that science will replace theism in favor of naturalistic explanations. There is no evidence of God's existence, and without evidence, we have no reason to believe God's existence is probable.

Physicalism

Pro claims disembodied existence is possible. So what? I never argued disembodied existence was impossible. I argued physicalism is probable. Pro offers no response, there is none. There is no evidence of disembodied existence. It therefore makes sense to conclude that physicalism is more probable than dualism.

Incoherence

As Pro concedes, my argument is about the scope of God's knowledge, not its mode. The question is whether God knows that He knows everything. There are an infinite number of mathematical facts. Hence, God cannot know that He knows every mathematical fact. If God knew that He knew every mathematical fact, it would still be possible to discover another mathematical fact that He did not know He knew.

Pro claims, absent support, that this argument is "terribly unconvincing" because God's knowledge is "non-propositional and non-perceptualist." Even if this were true (it's not, Pro offers no evidence of what "non-propositional" and "non-perceptualist" knowledge could even look like), so what? My argment is about knowledge of a specific proposition, which is propositional knowledge. If Pro admits God can only have non-propositional/non-perceptualist knowledge, Pro implicitly denies God's omniscience.

Argument from Evil (AE)

At least some of the evils in our world appear gratuitous. Tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, viral outbreaks, wild fires, famines, and fatal diseases kill millions of people each year. Consider the case of Charles Rothenberg, who kidnapped his six-year-old son, David, from his ex-wife and doused him all over with kerosene and set him on fire. David suffered third-degree burns covering 90% of his body. [8] Can there truly be any reason for David's horrific suffering?

Pro agrees many of the evils in our world are so terrible we cannot grasp how they could possibly be justified. But given our “epistemic limitations,” Pro argues the existence of gratuitous evil is “epistemically inscrutable.” In other words, Pro argues it is impossible to know whether our failure to see God-justifying reasons for evil leads to the conclusion that no such reasons exist in actuality. If Pro's argument works, it threatens to undercut any inference one might draw from the existence of any amount of evil about the lack of morally sufficient reasons for God's permitting that evil.

But the problem with Pro's argument is that Pro’s skepticism works too well. If we are never in a position to tell whether God has a reason for allowing a particular evil or not, then we are never in a position to tell whether we should allow a particular evil or not. According to Pro’s logic, anytime we are faced with the opportunity to intervene in what looks like a terrible tragedy (e.g. rape, genocide, etc.), Pro would have us do nothing because we have no way of knowing whether that particular evil is necessary for the existence of some compensating good.

Pro's skepticism induces a form of moral paralysis inconsistent with theism.
Pro’s position is also inconsistent with theological knowledge as such, and therefore, the resolution of this debate. According to Pro's argument, we cannot know anything about God, and as such, Pro’s skepticism cuts both ways. If it undercuts arguments against God’s existence, it likewise undercuts arguments for God’s existence. Without epistemic access to God's existence, Pro cannot prove God's existence is more probable than God's non-existence.

Conclusion

If, after the substantial evidence provided against God's existence, readers remain convinced by Pro's TCAs and teleological argument, I ask readers then consider the impact of my opponent's arguments. Do the TCAs and teleological argument fulfill Pro's burden to show God probably exists?

Consider the following: Pro has offered no evidence that the first mover or necessary being is omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent, or even personal. Likewise, Pro has offered no evidence that the intentional person posited by the teleological argument is omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent, or even necessary or a first mover.

Pro has offered no reasonable way to connect the person of the teleological argument and the first mover/necessary being of the TCAs. And Pro has offered absolutely no evidence that either of these arguments is connected to omniscience, omnipotence, benevolence, etc. The point is, the TCAs and teleological argument are compatible with finite and evil gods, even polytheism. Pro has not provided any evidence specific to the Judeo-Christian God.

I argued the Judeo-Christian God is not probable, supporting my argument with QM, the track record of science, the probability of physicalism, the incoherence of omniscience, and the evidential AE. In closing, I think it is quite clear that Pro has not sufficiently fulfilled the burden of proof, and I ask readers seriously consider these points when deciding whether Pro has met his burden or not.


[6] http://en.wikipedia.org...;
[7] http://www.mtnmath.com...;
[8] http://articles.latimes.com...;
Debate Round No. 3
Contradiction

Pro

Con misunderstands both the TCAs and nature of quantum vacuums. Zero-point energy states still refer to a physical state of affairs where something is present. In such a state, the energy may be evenly balanced, but this is not equivalent to literal nothingness. This pre-existing state of affairs serves to causally condition the fluctuations, even if they do not causally determine it. [1] Again Con still conflates causal determination and causal conditioning. What we see in quantum fluctuations is not the literal emergence of something ex nihilo, but the emergence of something under an already existing physical framework.

Moreover, Schrodinger's cat does not show that quantum indeterminancy is ontic. Con simply begs the question, as there exists many deterministic interpretations of what happens (for instance, De Broglie-Bohm). To pick an indeterminsitic interpretation over a deterministic one is to simply assume what he is trying to prove. We need an interpretation neutral argument that quantum indeterminancy is ontic, otherwise one can never be doing anything more than reasoning in a circle.

Con again asserts that the TCAs do not prove that the first mover is God. This is false. I have noticed twice that the TCAs entail the existence of a being of pure actuality who must have all perfections. Con has not responded to this at all.

Finally, Con drops his comparison of the TCAs to the OA.

Teleological Argument

Con's response to the TA is weak. He states that I have not shown why ends imply intentionality -- except that I did! In my opening argument, I noted that "to speak of causes as being directed toward certain purposes or functions is to admit to a type of intentionality. Intentionality is of course the mark of the mental, and there thus must be a mind who imparts teleology to the natural order." Why does goal-directedness imply intentionality? Because that's just what intentionality is! For something to be intentional is for it to be aimed toward a certain goal as its end. If there is genuine teleology in nature, then, there must be a mind in which this is grounded.

He states that I have not shown why a descriptive account of teleology is inadequate. Again this is just plainly false. I gave three arguments in my OP which he has not responded to. Briefly, I argued against descriptive accounts of teleology by noting (1) natural regularities, (2) law-like behavior, and (3) our attribution of proper functions to natural entities.

His second criticism completely begs the question. It is true that goal-directed behavior would continue without human persons, but this is not my argument, and it is unwarranted to extrapolate this to divine persons, especially given that my argument is precisely that a divine sustainier and orderer is needed for teleology. This applies whether or not human persons exist. His argument is thus misleading.

Science

Note first that Con drops Richard Dawkins's Boeing 747 Gambit. Now, Con argues that because naturalistic explanations have a better track record than theistic explanations, that therefore naturalism is more probable. But this doesn't follow. Con seems to equivocate on "naturalism" here, since this is only strong enough to justify methodological naturalism, not metaphysical naturalism. But since methodological naturalism is perfectly consistent with theism, it does not show that theism is any less probable.

Indeed, the advances of science -- no matter how successful they are -- cannot in principle make theism improbable, for theism is not an empirical hypothesis regarding the operating mechanisms through which the world works. Instead, it posits the existence of an agent who explains why everything exists, not how it works. So while some have in the past erroneously asserted theistic explanations for natural phenomena, their failure does not mean that theism is any less probable.

Physicalism

Con's reply evidences a gross misunderstanding of the relevant issues in the philosophy of mind. To say that physicalism is probable is to make a modal claim about the nature of existence: that all persons are essentially material. Since identity is cashed out (at least according to the standard Plantinga/Kripke analysis) in terms of obtaining in all possible worlds, all one needs to do to defeat this is show that disembodied existence is merely possible. Why? Because if it's possible that we exist disembodied, then being embodied is not an essential property of us. If being embodied is not an essential property, then it is not the case that physicalism is true (Indeed, it would be necessarily false). This has become known as the modal argument for dualism.

One might say in response "But material embodiment is also possible" Sure, but this is too weak a claim. Since identity is cashed out in terms of metaphysical necessity, to show that some x is essentially material, one must show that x is material in all possible worlds in which x exists. This is quite a tall claim to prove.

Incoherence

According to Con, because there are an infinite number of mathematical facts, God cannot know all of them. He writes:

"If God knew that He knew every mathematical fact, it would still be possible to discover another mathematical fact that He did not know He knew."

But this makes absolutely no sense! It doesn't follow by any means. If God knows that he knows all x, how does it follow that there is an x that he did not know he knew? There is no logical connection.

Now as I pointed out, God's knowledge is both non-propositional and non-perceptualist. God does not literally know an infinite number of propositions which he somehow perceives. Rather, God knowledge is simple. He knows everything by means of a single universal intuition of all facts, similar to a mind's knowledge of innate ideas. Con thinks that this is incoherent, but what's incoherent about it? It is simply intuitive knowledge writ large.

Note my initial clarification between the scope of God's knowledge and his mode, as Con's second reply conflates the two. God does indeed know all facts, but he knows them by a non-propositional and non-perceptualist means. This is not the same as saying that there is something in the scope of facts that God does not know.

Argument from Evil

Con argues that the epistemic inscrutability objection to EPOEs "works too well," since it leads to moral paralysis and theological skepticism. Not so. It does not follow that just because God might have reasons not to intervene, that we also have reasons not to intervene. Suppose that a parent notices that if the dishes aren't done, then nobody is going to have plates to eat from. But he refuses to intervene and wash the dishes, because he wants to see how his children handle such a circumstance. Simply because the parent refuses to intervene, it does not follow that the children have reason not to intervene as well. Whatever the parent's reasons may be, they don't transfer to the children.

But the question arises: "How do we know theism is analogous, given epistemic inscrutability?" Simple. Given that the context of this discussion is the Judeo-Christian conception of God, and given that the Judeo-Christian scriptures/tradition calls one to a life of good works and promoting justice, it becomes likely that our actions work alongside God's reasons. The moral paralysis objection may work against other versions of theism, but not Judeo-Christian theism.

Conclusion

Unfortunately I have little space left, but let me just say that Con's claims about my argument not proving the attributes of God are simply unwarranted. Numerous times throughout this debate, I showed how the arguments I marshalled entail a conception of God in line with the Judeo-Christian theism. Con's points have been found wanting, as evidenced by the fact that he dropped his defense of the Boeing 747 Gambit and the comparision of the TCAs to the OA.

Thank you for the excellent debate, FourTrouble.
_____

Sources

1.
John Jefferson Davis, Frontiers of Faith and Science (IVP: 2002) pgs. 55-56.
FourTrouble

Con

Pro ends: "Con's points have been found wanting, as evidenced by the fact that he dropped his defense of the Boeing 747 Gambit and the comparison of the TCAs to the OA."

Neither point was dropped. Pro's criticism of the Gambit depends on God's immateriality, which I addressed in the sections entitled "Science" and "Physicalism" from R3. Pro's counter-argument to the OA-comparison rested on facts about contingent beings, but I showed these facts were themselves incompatible with the TCAs, putting Pro in a double bind and implicitly defending the OA-comparison.

What is more, why would Pro conclude that my overarching argument is "found wanting" from the supposition that I dropped two relatively minor points? Does Pro really think dropping the Gambit and OA-comparison seriously weakens the force and impact of my case? Is it not more reasonable to assume secondary points are dropped because of space limitations? It seems to me that Pro's focus on alleged-drops of secondary points indicates Pro's own lack of confidence: why else would someone use their concluding statement to direct the reader's attention away from the actual arguments?

TCAs

Pro concedes a first mover operates from nothingness, which is itself a causal condition. It follows that, if quantum fluctuations are not causally determined by vacuums and vacuums are the equivalent of nothingness, the force of the TCAs is fully negated.

The TCAs thus turn on Pro's claim that vacuums are not a state of "literal nothingness." But notice Pro provides no source to prove "something is present" in a vacuum. This is because a true vacuum is devoid of matter, a state in which nothing exists except random quantum fluctuations. [1][6][9] As such, vacuums can in fact refer to literal nothingness. I hope readers prefer my claim to Pro's, as I provide sources and evidence for this important point whereas Pro does not.

Again, Pro provides no source for his claims regarding Schrodinger's cat, whereas I provided a source which cites Shrodinger himself and clearly establishes ontic quantum indeterminacy. [7]

Teleological Argument

First: according to Pro, ends imply intentions because that is what intentions are. But this is bad logic. If p entails q, it does not follow that q entails p. Just because all intentions are ends (by definition) does not mean all ends imply intentions. Pro's argument commits a logical fallacy, as well as offering no reason other than defining intentions as ends to believe all natural ends require intentionality.

Second: contrary to Pro's claim, I did respond to the "three arguments." Recall Pro conceded that physical ends continue whether human persons exist or not. Hence, in R3 I argued that (1) and (2) occur regardless of whether intentions are given to physical ends, and (3) is irrelevant because it explicitly refers to a normative teleology created by humans, not the necessary being of Pro's teleological argument. (1) and (2) are question-begging, falsely assuming all ends are intentional, and (3) is irrelevant, a red herring at best.

Science

Pro drops the "explanatory power" point, conceding predictive power does matter. Unlike my alleged-drops, Pro's drop has impact, as it admits naturalistic explanations are preferable to theistic explanations.

Now, Pro claims methodological naturalism is compatible with theism. So what? The issue at stake in this debate is whether theism is probable, not whether theism is possible. Given the superior track record of science, methodological naturalism strongly suggests metaphysical naturalism (incompatible with theism) is probable.

Pro insists theism is probable because there must be "an agent who explains why everything exists, not how it works." First: does an agent who explains why entail theism? Pro's necessary agent is just as well understood as a natural occurence, not God. Recall we have reason to prefer natural explanation over theistic explanation.

Second: must there be an agent to explain why? It is just as likely (i.e. probable) that there is no answer to the question of why everything exists, everything just is. That said, since naturalism can account for both possibilities -- the existence or non-existence of such an agent -- naturalism is clearly more probable.

Physicalism

Is God's existence possible? Yes. Is God's non-existence possible? Yes. Is dualism possible? Yes. Is physicalism possible? Yes. Do any of these answers make a "modal claim about the nature of existence"? Only insofar as we can say anything is possible.

According to Pro's logic, dualism is as contingent as physicalism. If both dualism and physicalism are possible, the question becomes which is more probable? If there is no evidence of disembodied existence, it seems more likely physicalism is true. Pro did not contest the fact that there is no evidence of disembodied existence. Therefore, physicalism is probable.

Incoherence

If God does not have propositional knowledge, how can God know propositions? Pro seems to think God can know propositions in non-propositional modes. But this still poses a problem: can God have propositional knowledge? Pro seems to deny it, implicitly negating possibility of God's omniscience and omnipotence.

Furthermore, Pro's reply does not answer the crux of my argument, which is that God would have to know there were no facts He did not know. Even with non-propositional/non-perceptualist knowledge, how could God be absolutely certain He knew every mathematical fact? Pro's response does not answer that question.

Argument from Evil

There are two fundamental differences between God-human relations and parent-child relations. First, a child knows a parent exists whereas humans do not know God exists. Second, a child has the capacity to eventually understand why a parent does what a parent does, but humans will never have the capacity to understand why God does what God does. Hence, Pro's parent-child analogy is a non-starter.

Pro states the moral paralysis objection does not work because "the Judeo-Christian scriptures/tradition calls one to a life of good works." There are a number of problems here. First: Judeo-Christian scriptures only apply to people who know Judeo-Christian scriptures. Is Pro willing to say non-theists lacking knowledge of Judeo-Christian theism have reason to allow rape and genocide to occur?

Second: Pro confuses what is reasonable to do with what is morally right to do. According to Pro's logic, belief in Judeo-Christian theism provides us with a reason to act, but it does not provide us epistemic access to the morally right thing to do. Think about it this way: Hitler did the wrong thing regardless of what reason he had for doing it.

Third: if we are not in a position to know what God's reasoning is for allowing seemingly gratuitous evil, then we have little to no reason for thinking that God's moral commands as we know them are accurate.

Fourth: using Judeo-Christian traditions/scriptures to prove the existence of God is question-begging because it assumes Judeo-Christian theism is true.

Moreover, recall my argument: "Pro’s skepticism cuts both ways. If it undercuts arguments
against God’s existence, it likewise undercuts arguments for God’s existence." I argued Pro's skepticism implicitly negates the resolution, because without knowledge of God's existence, the probability of God cannot exceed 50/50. Pro's response does not address this.

Conclusion

I refuted the TCAs through QM and the teleological argument by unpacking Pro's question-begging and fallacious logic. My burden did not entail proving God's existence was impossible. Yet the majority of Pro's criticisms attempt to prove God is possible, a point I barely contest. Each of my arguments -- that naturalism/physicalism is probable, that QM makes omniscience improbable, that omniscience/omnipotence are incoherent, and that a perfecly benevolent God is not probable -- clearly calls the existence of God into question.

In sum, God's existence is not probable. The resolution is negated.

[9] http://muse.jhu.edu...
Debate Round No. 4
87 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by babyy 3 years ago
babyy
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Posted by WriterDave 4 years ago
WriterDave
That's fair -- you didn't claim it.

And I guess you won't claim that the demographic of people you asked to read and vote was happenstance either. Am I right?
Posted by Contradiction 4 years ago
Contradiction
I asked people to read and vote. Where did I claim it to be happenstance?
Posted by WriterDave 4 years ago
WriterDave
Do you have the ability to make and upload videos to YouTube, Contradiction? If so, upload a video of yourself saying, with a straight face, that five votes for you in the last three hours of a 30 day voting period is mere happenstance.

I dare you.
Posted by Davididit 4 years ago
Davididit
Comment Part 2
Con continued to attack Pro in saying that Pro did not vindicate the Judeo-Christian God, when the fact of the matter is Pro clearly stated his case is NOT necessarily about this specific deity, even though the attributes can fall into this category. Con even conceded this point in his 3rd round saying "It is just as probable that the TCAs refer to a non-Judeo-Christian god or to any number of undiscovered natural phenomena."

This debate covered a lot of ground, and sadly, I don't have the time to make a complete cover of it (I'm at school). I just highlighted the decisive points for me. Pro was able to adequately defend the arguments while fending off the case that Con tried to erect. This was an excellent debate, and both sides showed intellectual rigor. Congrats, guys.
Posted by Davididit 4 years ago
Davididit
Part 1
In this debate, Pro had the job to present his arguments in favor of the contention that God's existence is more probable than not, while fending off objections from his opponent. On the other hand, Con must not only refute Pro, but he must show why it is the case that God's existence is not more probable. With that in mind, Pro offered three arguments, the TCA1, TCA2, and the teleological argument. Con's replies I don't think carried the weight he wanted to. His attacks on the TCA were off (specifically where he said existence must be outside).

Con's attack of TCA2 baffled me. How in the world does the TCA2 presuppose the OA?? I think the analogy of the TCA's conclusion of a necessary being and the OA's use of it is not analogous and misguided.

Moreover, I think the error in appealing to QM was pointed out by Pro, and thus this objection did not work. I also think that Pro rightly called Con out on the fact that he was relying on naturalism being "more probable" simply because it was capable of being "tested" and verified, while God could not. Pro writes, "Indeed, the advances of science -- no matter how successful they are -- cannot in principle make theism improbable, for theism is not an empirical hypothesis regarding the operating mechanisms through which the world works." I think this was spot on.

Also, Pro stated "For the purposes of this debate, the term "God" will be defined broadly as to include the general attributes (ie: omnipotence, omniscience) commonly associated with Judeo-Christian monotheism. That is to say, I am not referring to any specific deity. "
Posted by Maikuru 4 years ago
Maikuru
Oh. Of course.
Posted by Contradiction 4 years ago
Contradiction
I told awatkins and BruteApologia to read and vote on this debate yesterday. They thought it would be funny if they voted against me so they could break my win-streak. They later retracted their votes.
Posted by Maikuru 4 years ago
Maikuru
Hmm...it's curious that awatkins69 and BruteApologia, who both voted for Con yesterday, changed their votes to ties hours before voting ends. In fact, much of the last minute voting is curious indeed.
Posted by FourTrouble 4 years ago
FourTrouble
KeytarHero, I addressed the concerns of your RFD in the debate, when I argued that something that non-existence is outside of existence and therefore not relevant to this debate. Contradiction agreed, saying we were talking about nothing that was nonetheless still a part of "existence." It's really a shame to see intelligent people strain so hard to rationalize RFD's to support their bias.
12 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Vote Placed by BruteApologia 4 years ago
BruteApologia
ContradictionFourTroubleTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Con terribly misrepresented Pro with straw man, red herrings, and incoherence. The OA was not assumed, nor was the first mover said to operate from nothingness. Quantum mechanics failed to prove anything, but even if it did, it's as incoherent as saying that God exists as a being outside of existence. Something coming out of nothing is metaphysically impossible, regardless of what science says. Overall, an interesting debate. I applaud both debaters.
Vote Placed by Davididit 4 years ago
Davididit
ContradictionFourTroubleTied
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Reasons for voting decision: See comments.
Vote Placed by SuburbiaSurvivor 4 years ago
SuburbiaSurvivor
ContradictionFourTroubleTied
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Reasons for voting decision: All in all, I'd say Con's main thrust seemed to be "Well, it could be something else that's not God", but failed to give an example of what that something else could be. Pro's arguments stood. PM me if you want a more detailed RFD. EDIT: Just looked over the sources, I was confused at first. Con gave more/better sources.
Vote Placed by KeytarHero 4 years ago
KeytarHero
ContradictionFourTroubleTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro offered reasonable proofs that God existed, and Con's objections boiled down to asserting that we just shouldn't suppose it's God. He offered woefully few reasons to reject Pro's arguments as unsound, and the reasons he did offer simply were not very strong. You can't use quantum mechanics to try and disprove any Cosmological Argument because it's equivocation. In a CA, "nothing" is literally "non-existence."
Vote Placed by ReformedArsenal 4 years ago
ReformedArsenal
ContradictionFourTroubleTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Good debate, however I didn't really see a compelling answer for the idea of contingent beings. I must therefore give arguments to Pro.
Vote Placed by awatkins69 4 years ago
awatkins69
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Reasons for voting decision: Pretty good both sides.
Vote Placed by ExNihilo 4 years ago
ExNihilo
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Reasons for voting decision: Con failed to grasp the difference between epistemic and logical/metaphysical possibility.
Vote Placed by Maikuru 4 years ago
Maikuru
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Reasons for voting decision: Both sides presented weak arguments (Teleological Argument, Argument from Incoherence), and were weak on certain rebuttals (Pro's response to Science, Con's response to the PoE). This left Pro with the TCA's and Con with naturalism, science, and physicalism. However, the TCAs failed in the face of Con's sources explaining vacuums to be free of everything except for that which appeared from nothing. Given that Pro's case needed to be cumulative, each defeated argument dismantled his entire case.
Vote Placed by WriterDave 4 years ago
WriterDave
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Reasons for voting decision: As far as an omnipotent being is concerned, there IS no difference between logical and epistemic possibility, either for that being or for the creatures over which he has power. Pro also failed to address Con's arguments.
Vote Placed by 16kadams 4 years ago
16kadams
ContradictionFourTroubleTied
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Reasons for voting decision: comments ( just changing my agree thing, the args points still in comments)