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

MIG's Tournament Round 2: The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument

Do you like this debate?NoYes+4
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/25/2012 Category: Religion
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,528 times Debate No: 23147
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (11)
Votes (2)




This debate will be for the second round of MIG's tournament between my esteemed opponent RoyLatham and myself.

Resolved: The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument is Sound.


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

The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument (LCA)
  1. Every existing thing has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.
  2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
  3. The universe is an existing thing
  4. Therefore the explanation of the universe is God.

I cite the The Nature of God by A.W. Pink [1] to describe the complexity of the Lord:

[F]rom a review of the perfections of God, it appears that He is an all-sufficient Being. He is all-sufficient in Himself and to Himself. As the First of beings, He could receive nothing from another, nor be limited by the power of another. Being infinite, He is possessed of all possible perfection. When the Triune God existed all alone, He was all to Himself. His understanding, His love, His energies, found an adequate object in Himself. Had He stood in need of anything external, He had not been independent, and therefore would not have been God.

He created all things, and that for himself (Colossians 1:16), yet it was not in order to supply a lack, but that He might communicate life and happiness to angels and men and admit them to the vision of His glory. True, He demands the allegiance and services of His intelligent creatures, yet He derives no benefit from their offices, all the advantage redounds to themselves (Job 22:2-3). He makes use of means and instruments to accomplish His ends, yet not from a deficiency of power, but oftentimes to more strikingly display His power through the feebleness of the instruments.

I ask readers to take note that we should rationally accept an argument as sound if the affirmation of its premises is more plausible than the negation.

Note that the citation from A.W. Pink is simply to give a preliminary description of the nature of God. If my opponent would like to debate whether or not the existing God is the Judeo-Christian deity, it needs to be done elsewhere. The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument specifically speaks to the existence of God as a necessary, personal first cause. I believe that the characteristics of omnipotence, omniscience, free will, etc. that are normally associated with the God of Christian Theology follow from the validity of the LCA, but again, that is not what the LCA sets out to prove.




The resolution is "The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument is sound." Being "sound" means that it proves the existence of God.

For this debate, God is as defined by Pro's quotation from A.W. Pink.

I'm looking forward to a good debate.
Debate Round No. 1


Just to be clear, I stated in the first round that the quote by A.W. Pink only gives a preliminary understanding of God and while I believe the soundness of the LCA necessarily implies that God possesses those qualities, I went on to state that the LCA itself only attempts to prove the existence of God as a necessary, personal first cause.

The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument
  1. Every existing thing has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.
  2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
  3. The universe is an existing thing.
  4. Therefore the explanation of the universe is God.

Premise 1

An Overview of Modality

Modality is a typology of argumentation that bases its premises in the contingency or necessity of their content. Something is necessary if it could not have failed to exist. The laws of mathematics are necessarily true; it seems reasonable that mathematical truths such as one plus one making two hold true irrespective of how the world may function. The world could exist in the exact opposite manner as it does now and one plus one would still make two. God is also a necessary being, a being that logically could not have failed to exist. It is in the very nature of God that he essentially possess all compossible perfections. Necessary existence is in itself a perfection, and thus God must possess it. That is to say that the very nature of God necessarily explains his existence.

Something is contingent if it could have failed to exist. Most things exist contingently. Each human might not have existed, their respective parents may not have met or had children. Thus, our existence is contingent. The universe appears to exist contingently as well. It seems that the universe may have developed in such a way that the planets were created in different positions, with different respects to habitability. The stars we observe may have been blindingly bright or too dim to see. The Earth itself may not have come into existence. As the universe is contingent, it cannot explain its own existence, for if its own nature entails its existence then it must have necessarily existed.

The Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR)

The Principle of Sufficient Reason claims that all contingent beings must have explanations. I will defend several arguments that support the PSR.

First, it would seem that the PSR requires no defense. All evidence gathered by our sense perception seems to support the universal and undeniable affirmation of this principle. Indeed, if we admit the first premise to be invalid, then there seems to lack any logical reason that things do not simply pop into and out of existence. However, it appears that there is no evidence to prove that this happens. For every existing thing there must also be an explanation of its existence.

I would also like to present a seemingly stronger argument in support of the PSR: The Explanation of Negative States of Affairs. I feel this argument is best articulated by Alexander R. Pruss [1] in his book The Principle of Sufficient Reason: A Reassessment:

Here is a pattern of explanation we all accept [...]“Why did the yogurt fail to ferment? It failed to ferment because none of the usual explanations of fermentation, namely, the presence of bacteria, were there to explain it, and there was no unusual cause. Why did the dog not bark? It did not bark because no stranger approached it and none of the other possible causes of barking caused it to bark.” These are perfectly fine explanations, and they are not elliptical for longer explanations, though of course they are not ultimate explanations since one may ask why no stranger approached the dog.

In these explanations, we explain a negative state of affairs by noting that the positive state of affairs that it is the denial of lacked an explanation. But now observe that this form of explanation presupposes a PSR, at least for positive states of affair, for if such a PSR does not hold, then one has failed to explain the negative state of affairs. If it is possible that a dog should bark without cause, then in saying that there was no cause for the dog to bark we have not explained why the dog did not bark. We may have explained why a nonbrute barking did not occur, but we have not explained why a brute, or unexplained, barking did not occur.

Our acceptance of the preceding explanations as nonelliptical is thus a sign of our tacit acceptance of the PSR.

With these arguments, I hold that the PSR is sound.

Underview of Premise 1

It seems apparent through modal logic that things exist either necessarily or contingently. Necessary existence is explained by its own nature. The same cannot be said for that which exists contingently. However, the PSR successfully provides that all things which exist contingently must have an explanation. Thus, premise 1 holds true.

Premise 2

If the universe exists, it must exist contingently as detailed in the overview of modality. The PSR holds that all contingent beings must have explanations. The existence of a contingent being cannot be explained solely by other contingent beings, for those contingent beings would require explanations from other contingent beings ad infinitum. Thus, there must be a first cause, a necessary being that explains the existence of all contingent beings. Bruce Reichenbach [2] argues, "the necessary being cannot provide a natural explanation for [the universe], for we know of no natural, non-contingent causes and laws or principles from which the existence of the universe follows. What is required is a personal explanation in terms of the intentional acts of some eternal supernatural being. Since the argument proceeds independent of temporal considerations, the argument does not propose a first cause in time, but rather a first or primary sustaining cause of the universe."

The argument is not that God must exist because we do not currently have evidence of natural, non-contingent causes but rather that the idea of natural non-contingent causes is irrational. Consider this: a completely material cause is the first cause. This cause, known as N1, or the first natural cause, sparked the creation of the entire universe. N1 is a necessary being because as previously explained, an infinite number of contingent beings cannot explain their own existence. N1 is the reason the spacio-temporal world as we know it was created. It is the reason matter came into existence. But how is this possible? How can N1 create space and time? By definition, natural beings require space to exist within and are temporal. Also by definition, natural beings are composed of matter. How can that which is composed of matter also account for the creation of matter? On the other hand, suppose P1 is a necessary, personal first cause. Now we can logically explain the creation of space, time, and matter because a personal being may posses the qualities of being eternal, and may transcend the physical. Its will allows for the creation of that which it is not, the physical world. As demonstrated a necessary, natural first cause is logically contradictory. Due to the inability for it to be anything but God, God himself must serve as the explanation of the universe's existence.

Premise 3

I do not believe that this premise will be contested by my opponent. If he, however, decides to raise the question of whether the universe exists I will gladly provide evidence in the following round.


The conclusion that the explanation of the universe is God cannot be logically denied if the 3 premises in support of it hold true. Thus for my opponent to reject the conclusion he must ascertain the negation of any of the 3 premises of the LCA. Indeed, this will be a challenging task for my opponent and if I succeed in defending all of the LCA's premises I shall win this debate.


1. Pruss, Alexander R. The Principle of Sufficient Reason: An Explanation. 2006.


1. Every existing thing has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.

1.1 Incredulity. This premise is derived by induction from everyday experience with ordinary objects that we sense. Based upon our everyday experience we might also conclude that there is no upper limit to the speed at which objects can travel or that space itself cannot be curved. Those claims were proved wrong by Einstein's theories, and Einstein has been proved correct.

Scientists now observe objects whose existence is apparently uncaused. “A quantum fluctuation is the temporary appearance of energetic particles out of nothing, ...” [] One may argue that the “cause” was the existence of quantum field, but that doesn't explain where or when they appear, or even what appeared. It is a statement about circumstances, not an explanation for their existence. Physicists do not accept the premise that nothing can pop into existence.

1.2 Bounds of explanation. There is also the possibility that existence of the universe is beyond human ability to explain. Compared to the universe, mathematics is a tidy world of defined premises and certain conclusions. In mathematics, Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem proves that in any mathematical system there are things that are true that cannot be proved. []

Gödel's theorem only applies to mathematics, but it raises the possibility that a parallel exists for explanations of the physical world. The curvature of space and the speed of light as an absolute limit are only explained by mathematical representations and analogies to things we sense. It is possible that the existence of the universe is beyond our ability to "explain" in any way that is meaningful to use. Using God as an explanation is not an explanation at all in terms of human of ordinary understanding.

God is infinitely more complex than the universe, and immune to all physical laws and constrains. So God as an explanation does not more than substitute one unexplained thing, existence, for another thing even less fathomable, God. Exempting God from explanation does not remedy the situation. We could just as well give the exemption to the universe directly.

2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.

2a. God is undefined. Pro has not defined God in any meaningful way, so the premise is meaningless. Pro quoted the definition of God by A.W. Pink, but when I suggested that is what was to proved, Pro retreated.

Suppose I define God as omnipotence, omniscient, and good, and who also answers prayers and makes heat flow from hot to cold. Then I'll say that for this debate I will only prove the part about heat flow. I establish that the Second Law of thermodynamics is verified. Have I then proved the existence of God? Of course not, I have cited a physical law as an attribute of God and then claimed the Law equates to God.

Pro suggests he is proving that a “personal God.” What exactly are the attributes of a personal God?

2b. The universe created itself. The first premise of the LCA asserted that things may exist of their own nature. Renowned cosmologist Stephen Hawking argues that the universe exists of it's own nature.

"Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing," he writes. "Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. … "It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going."

Hawking may be correct or not, but what is clear is that one world's greatest cosmologists does not accept the argument that the universe must have been created externally.

2c. Ontological Argument. Pro's argument in favor of premise 1 is essentially the long-refuted ontological argument, that since God embodies all perfection He must necessarily exist. The error is that existence is not an attribute relevant to perfection. Defining something to exist does not make it exist.

To justify the PSR, pro first cites induction based upon our sensory experience. We know that's wrong from the examples of “inconceivable” laws of nature, like the speed of light being absolute.

He then argues that if none of the alternative explanations of something are true, we must accept what is left that provides an explanation. In fact we need not accept any explanation and leave the phenomenon unexplained. The Buddha counseled, in effect, “It is unwise to consider whether or not God exists.” Scientists systematically refuse to force explanations. The may propose theories, but there is no obligation to accept any theory until it is proved.

3. The universe is an existing thing

3a. Equivocation. Consider:

a. For every thing there is a season;

b. The universe is a thing;

c. Therefore the universe has a season.

The reason that this argument fails is equivocation of the word “thing.” The universe is not the type of thing to which (a) applies. There is an equivocation in the LCA as well.

In the premise (3), the universe is really taken to mean “existence.” There is case to be made that the observable universe comprising a large collection of matter and energy is a thing. However, some theories of modern cosmology claim that the universe we observe is a four-dimensional part of higher dimensional entity called a multiverse. We might define the universe as not just what we can sense but as the larger multiverse. That says the universe is “all that exists.” that then asserts that the universe equates to existence, and existence is not a thing in the same sense that objects are things. The premise could be restated as “Existence is like any other object.” It's not.

3b. Induction. Let's suppose the universe or multiverse is a "thing" that is an object. The question remains whether it is an object like all the others from which the claimed premises arise. Clearly the object which contains all other objects has a unique status in one respect. There is no proof that induction applied to explanation the parts applies to the whole

Pro asserts that there is no explanation of the universe from non-contingent causes. That's false. Hawking provides an explanation. Hawking's explanation is not proved, but it nonetheless exists and it has not been disproved. Denial of Hawking is an argument from incredulity. “Based upon my experience, I can't believe it.” We don't have experience with universe creation or with many proved phenomena of cosmology.

3. Therefore the explanation of the universe is God.

I will define a being named Burt. Burt is (a) not omnipotent, omniscient, or good, (b) having no concern about humanity, and c existing outside of time and being able to create the universe. The LCA can now be restated to prove the existence of Burt. If one argues that despite his shortcomings Burt might be God, then we can add properties to Burt until everyone agrees he is not a god, so long as the universe-making property is maintained.

I shouldn't forget to add that existence is one of Burt's properties. It is so integral to Burt that Burtness cannot be conceived without it.

For the record, I do not believe in Burt. Nonetheless, I see no way to disprove that Burt did what is claim. I challenge Pro to disprove my claims about Burt, based solely upon the preceding premises.

In summary, Pro's case is an argument from incredulity. It depends completely upon not being able to imagine things other than supposed. We are well past that in cosmology, where much of what is proved is so far beyond ordinary experience t is "incredible."

The resolution is negated.
Debate Round No. 2


The Definition of God

My opponent seems to object to my definition of God. I clearly stated in Round 1 that while my citation of A.W. Pink provides a preliminary understanding of God's attributes and that I believe those attributes to necessarily follow from the truth of the LCA, the LCA itself (the argument I am defending) only seeks to prove the existence of God as a personal, necessary first cause. I clarified this yet again in the second round. If I prove the existence of a personal, necessary first cause, I win the debate. Even if there was ambiguity in the definition of God, which there isn't, Roy is fully aware that this is my 6th time defending the LCA. In the 5 previous debates my definition of God has been consistent with the definition used in this debate. It's as simple as that.

Roy asks for the attributes of such a God. As God is personal, he has a mind. As he is necessary, he could not have failed to exist. As he is the first cause, he is the cause of all contingent beings.

Premise 1

An Overview of Modality

This is Roy's "3b. Induction."

Roy essentially claims that I prove that the universe is contingent by utilizing the fallacy of composition. It is important to note that the fallacy of composition is an informal fallacy. Indeed, while the fallacy of composition may adequately refute some lines of reasoning, there must be an explanation as to why that reasoning is fallacious. For example, to claim that a wall made entirely of bricks is a brick wall is not in the least bit fallacious, although the conclusion was deduced through the same logic that would be refuted under the fallacy of composition. To reject the conclusion would be absurd and thus the refutation must be rejected in this case. In the same way, the universe's contingency may be explained through composition. Indeed, if the universe developed in a far different manner, would the nature of the universe's existence not have changed? If the nature of a being's existence may change, then we may conclude that it does not exist necessarily as necessary existence is derived from the nature of the being. We may also derive that the universe exists contingently without relying on composition. Let's look back at my overview of modality. Everything exists either contingently or by necessity of it's own nature. To have necessary existence, it must be logically impossible for that being not to have existed. It is not absurd to claim that the universe itself may not have existed. That proposition is perfectly valid. It is possible indeed that the universe as we know it may not have existed at all.

The Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR)

First, let's address his argument reference Einstein. The beliefs that Einstein proved wrong are just that, beliefs. The PSR is, quite to the contrary, a metaphysical law. Allow me to elaborate: What happens if we negate the belief that there is no upper limit to the speed at which objects can travel? We simply affirm an alternative belief that maintains the quality of being plausible. The same may be said when discussing the curvature of space. Now, let's look at what happens when we negate the PSR. Let's suppose that things happened without cause. Well this would justify a giant marshmellow the size of our galaxy simply "popping" into existence as it floats around space. Nothing caused it, it just happened. In fact, under this world view, there would be no reason why giant marshmellows don't pop into existence right now. This alternative is simply absurd and not plausible.

Roy tries to dance around this by talking about "uncaused" quantum fluctuations. However, Roy concedes that the cause of quantum fluctuations are the quantum fields, but questions whether or not we can explain where, when, or what appeared. Indeed, science cannot provide us answers to these questions, but modality does not need to answer any of them, and by proxy neither does the LCA. What we need to know is why they appeared. They appeared because of the presence of quantum fields. Even if we cannot explain within the current limits of science how quantum fields cause these fluctuations, that does not deny our knowledge that they do in fact have a causal relation.

Premise 2

It seems that now we ought to discuss Hawking's theory. There are two vital flaws here. First, the justification is that there are laws such as gravity that could some how cause the universe to create itself from nothing. I would say that there are two problems here. A) Roy has yet to refute the PSR. He cannot assert that something may be created from nothing while neglecting a metaphysical law that contradicts such a statement. Ex nihilo nihil fit. B) In order for gravity to function, there must be some existing natural entity for gravity to interact with. Thus, thus universe could not have come into existence from nothing by means of gravity.

Second, Hawking concedes that the cause of the universe is spontaneous creation. Now, let's again look at the PSR. Ex nihilo nihil fit, from nothing comes nothing. To say that the universe is created, one implies that something caused it. Indeed, this argument bites into my example of N1 and P1 which has gone unrefuted. The cause of the universe cannot be natural for it gives into logical incoherencies that have not been refuted by my opponent. I can assure you that Roy is going to argue that my focus on the word creation is just a semantic ploy in the next round. However, I would like to remind readers that this argument fits in quite well with modality. For something to be created, or being to exist, or any other alternative that denies the eternal state of the object, it must exist contingently. There must be a reason that it exists rather than not. In order for Roy to argue that the universe is uncaused, he must first diffuse my arguments that it exists contingently and then prove that it exists necessarily.

Roy continues with the ontological argument. The ontological argument says God is a necessary being, thus God exists. The LCA says that the universe must have been created by a necessary being and the only necessary being that is logically coherent is God, thus God exists. You see, I have not defined God into existence as the ontological argument attempts to do, but I have eliminated all alternative options to God, and thus he must be the answer. But Roy already knows this, that's why he says we should reject all answers. However, this concedes to unnecessary skepticism.

1. All possible explanations for the universe are included in the set: X, Y, Z.
2. X and Y do not explain the universe.
3. Thus, Z must be the explanation of the universe.

It would be another story if X, Y, and Z did not include all possible explanations, but the fact that they do shows that by eliminating alternatives we find the indisputable explanation of the universe.

Premise 3

Equivocation occurs when one uses a word multiple times with different meanings. In premise 1 I talk about every existing thing. In premise 2 I mention the universe, which is an existing thing. In premise 3 I state that the universe is an existing thing. I don't see the problem. But wait, Roy wants to force equivocation. Let's discuss his argument. He wants to alter the definition of the universe as I have used it to include the multiverse and therefore define the universe as "all that exists." I see what the problem is! I do not define the universe as a set, but as a being. You see, his concept of the universe is an idea that contains all of reality. The LCA defines the universe as a being that exists within reality. Just as an infinitely large box may contain all other existing objects, the box is still an existing object and therefore still part of reality.

The premise could not be restated as "Existence is like any other object." We are not talking about the idea of existence, but the reality of an existing being.


If Burt is a personal, necessary first cause, then by the LCA's definition, he is God.


Arguments from Incredulity

Does existence of the universe have an explanation? Pro argues that he cannot imagine it doesn't.

Could the universe have always existed or have created itself? Pro argues he cannot imagine that either is true.

If the universe was created through agency, must the agent have been a god? Pro cannot imagine otherwise.

Pro's entire case is that he personally believes that any alternative to the universe being created by a “personal god” to be implausible. He dismisses the theory of cosmologist Stephen Hawking and hundred of the top scientists as “absurd.” Never mind that scientists are most qualified to judge what is possible in science. Pro doesn't even have to understand Hawking's theory to know it is too ridiculous to be considered. Pro tells us that if the X, Y, and Z are the only explanations for the existence of the universe and if he believes X plausible while finding Y and Z implausible, then X is proved.

Pro's proof depends solely on Pro's concept of what is plausible. Pro can, of course, use the same method to prove anything not completely explained by science. He only has to personally rule out alternatives as implausible.

Keep in mind that Pro has the burden of proof. I do not have to prove Hawking correct. In fact, I do not have to suppose that the human conceptual apparatus is capable of encompassing an explanation for all of existence. Pro presupposes than an explanation exists, and that it must be capable of being offered up for him to reject as implausible. Most of modern physics is explained by analogy. For example, we struggle with analogies to “explain” wave-particle duality. Perhaps the explanation for existence is beyond analogy. None of this poses a concern to Pro.

Premise 1: Everything that exists has a cause

Why is it that everything that exists has a cause? Only because Pro cannot believe otherwise. The reason Pro cannot believe otherwise is because he has not experienced any exception. However, modern physics is full of things that are now proved true, but which are completely outside of ordinary experience. I cited wave-particle duality and the speed of light being an absolute as things that are completely implausible based upon everyday experience. Pro answers, essentially, that once they are proved to be true they are no longer implausible. Things being created spontaneously having not so far been proved to Pro's satisfaction, he claims to be able to rule them implausible.

I pointed to quantum fluctuation as an example of things coming into existence without cause. Pro claims that quantum fluctuations are a product of a pre-existing quantum field. No, quantum fluctuations are not explained by a quantum field any more than whales are explained by the ocean. Quantum fluctuations remain unexplained events of spontaneous existence. (One unproved theory, for example, is that time is actually two-dimensional with only one time dimension observed in our universe.) My entire point is that science finds uncaused events plausible, even though Pro does not. Perhaps quantum fluctuations the causes exist, but are hidden, but science does not rule out the possibility of their being uncaused.

Similarly, one current theory of vacuum energy is that as the universe expands new vacuum is created and with the new vacuum new energy is created. The new energy is detectable by it's gravitational pull causing the universe to expand at an accelerating rate. Perhaps the theory of vacuum energy spontaneously popping into existence is wrong, but scientists have no problem finding it plausible.

Pro repeats that if something exists it must be either contingent of necessary of it's own nature. The Hawking theory is the universe is necessary of it's own nature. Pro allows that the ill-defined personal god he offers has the property of existing of it's own nature, but he denies the universe itself could have that nature. There is every reason to prefer Hawking's conclusion over Pro's. Hawking believes in scientific explanations, Pro does not.

Premise 2: if the universe has an explanation, the explanation is God

Pro is yet to prove that the universe has an explanation. He must prove it does to use God as the explanation.

Pro claimed to prove the existence of not just any god, but a “personal god.” He started out with a fairly clear definition of a “personal god” by quoting A.W. Pink's definition. Pink's definition implied omnipotence and miracles (“showing His instruments”), among other attributes. Pro said this is a preliminary definition. That implies that the full definition is similar and more detailed, but Pro changed the claim entirely. Now, it seems what Pro calls a god need not meet any accepted general definition of a personal god, but might be a law of nature.

I suggested a being that was not omnipotent, not omniscient, and took no interest in humanity. Pro said that such a being would qualify as a “personal god.” Pro says that what makes the god “personal” is that the god wills creation of the universe. But why does a god with the power to create universes necessarily have to will it? It could be a necessary attribute of the god's nature, just as plants automatically turn to the light. We can further dumb down the “personal god” so that the god has no consciousness whatsoever, but still performs the creation function. At that point, there is nothing left but laws of nature.

Pro argues I should have read his previous debates and somehow figured out what he was talking about. No, it's Pro's job to make his arguments.

Premise 3: The universe is an existing thing

The equivocation is that Pro imagines a list of things and observes that every one he considers has an explanation. The claim that the universe has an explanation requires that the universe be a type of thing like all the other things that he considered. I argue that it is not, that existence as whole is not like the individual things that Pro considers. Pro rebuts that since existence is not a concept, it must be a thing like all others. I'm not claiming existence to be a concept, I'm claiming it is a different type of thing.

Let's first consider the visible universe. That is only the part within about 14.3 billion light years of the Big Bang and only comprises three spatial dimensions and one time dimension. Even within those bounds, things like quantum fluctuation and vacuum energy defy Pro's generality that all things are caused, but lets put that aside for the moment and suppose that all the things that anyone can identify in the visible universe have causes.

Modern theories of physics embrace more dimensions, possible eleven spatial dimensions and two time dimensions. Perhaps there are other dimensions that are neither space nor time and of which we have no concept. The observable universe is a tiny part of the totality of existence. We don't know if any of such speculations are true, but we know that scientists do not find them implausible.

The question is whether the totality of existence is in the same category of things as things in the observable universe from which the LCA has derived conclusions. Perhaps in the totality of existence, there are events and objects that are inconceivable to beings locked in the visible universe as we are. Pro cannot prove that they are same.


Pro's case flows from narrow religious belief. Hindus have no problem believing the universe existed forever. Buddhists have no trouble believing that the universe may have no explanation. Scientists will accept whatever is observed. Pro's assertions of plausibility are culturally dependent. The resolution fails.

Debate Round No. 3


Mestari forfeited this round.


I thank my opponent for a good debate on a well-beaten topic. I have not had the opportunity to pick apart arguments from incredulity in such detail. I think that arguments from incredulity appear in debate far more often than acknowledged. Perhaps the analysis in this debate will therefore be generally useful.

Errors in all arguments from incredulity

An "argument from incredulity" is an alleged proof that poses the answer to a question as one of a limited number of alternatives and then dismisses all the alternatives listed as impossible. The alternatives are dismissed based solely upon the proponent's opinion that the alternatives are impossible.

One classic argument for the existence of God is to invoke the argument from incredulity by saying, "Either God created everything we see or it happened by chance. I cannot believe it happened by chance, so God as I conceive of Him must exist." The error in this basic argument is well established. The two possibilities offered are not the only two possibilities, and the proof depends upon the proponents belief as to what is possible.

In this debate, my opponent has tried to revive the classic argument from incredulity by narrowing the scope to the existence of the universe. He wrong gives only two alternatives for the existence of the universe, then claims proof based upon his belief that God is the only one he can conceive.

Errors in setting up the LCA

In recasting the scope of the argument, he introduces two additional problems. First, he must establish that "the universe has an explanation." That's explicitly required in Premise 2. Pro never establishes that. What must be established is that the existence of the universe must have an explanation that humans can understand. Modern physics now abounds with things that we only claim to understand through rough analogies: light acts both as a wave and as a particle. We don't understand what it really is in the way that we understand what ordinary objects are. Perhaps we cannot explain the existence of the universe in any meaningful way; we may be able to write the equations but be unable to form a meaningful analogy to everyday experience.

Pro's second problem in recasting the argument from incredulity is to establish a meaningful definition of the "personal god" claimed to be proved. Pro starts out by eluding to something akin to the Christian God, but he then disclaims that allusion and admits that the "personal god" at issue could be neither omnipotent, omniscient, or good and might in fact have no interest whatsoever in humanity. All that's needed, according to Pro, is that the being will the creation of the universe.

Then I ask why the creation would have to be an act of will, and not just a reflexive property. Plants do not turn to the sun as an act of will, they do so because it is their nature. So the hypothesized "personal god" that is far removed from the Christian God, might have no intelligence and no will. At that point the "personal god" is indistinguishable from a law of nature. A magnet attracts iron with no act of will, but solely of it's nature. So might the universe have been created.

Failure to list all alternatives

Pro has failed to prove the necessary premises for the LCA, but the LCA itself has two irreparable errors; the two that plague every argument from incredulity. Pro must establish that all the alternatives have been listed. Pro says that the existence of the universe was either caused or uncaused. By caused, he only includes "caused by an external agent." Pro carves a necessary exemption for the proposed personal god that is allowed to be uncaused basically by Pro's definition of a god.

The excluded alternatives are that the universe always existed or that the universe caused itself to exist. The visible universe came into existence about 14.3 billion years ago, but current theory is that the visible universe is a part of a multiverse wherein Big Bang events occur ever trillion years or so. The mulitiverse may have eleven or more spatial dimensions and possibly two time dimensions. This puts concepts for "always" and for "causation" up for grabs. We do not understand what all the possibilities are, let alone which is correct.

Dependence on Pro's judgement of plausibility

The second inherent error in arguments from incredulity is that they depend upon what the proponent finds incredible. In the case of the existence of the universe, Stephen Hawking, perhaps the foremost of modern cosmologists, believes that the universe created itself. I certainly don't know if Hawking is correct. All that matters with respect to this debate is that Pro's concept of what is plausible is not shared by people equipped to know better.

Pro's claim that everything is caused is based upon experience with the visible universe. Even within the bounds of the visible universe, quantum fluctuations and vacuum energy appear to be things that pop into existence. Again, scientists find the possibility plausible, even though Pro does not. In any case, extending generalities derived from the visible universe to a larger multiverse is clearly unwarranted. Pro's concept of what is plausible is poorly derived and not shared.

The existence of God is not at issue in this debate, only the LCA as proof. Pro so narrowed the definition of God that even it were proved, the proof would be of very little religious interest. Pro's "god" does nothing that a physical law could not accomplish. Religion is built upon faith, not upon bogus logical deductions of gods that have no relevance to mankind.

The Debate

Pro has forfeited the previous round. This is a conduct violation. It also leaves my arguments unanswered, which I claim loses the arguments.

I make no claim about whether God exists or not. The LCA is rank with errors in setting up the argument and in the proof itself. It does not prove the existence of a personal god.

The resolution is negated.

Debate Round No. 4
11 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Logic_on_rails 4 years ago
I can't vote, but I'll try and give an RFD as best I can. Let me acknowledge though that both debaters are probably far better versed on this subject than I though; quite a commendable debate, although the lack of a repartee by Mestari in the final round was unfortunate. For that I'd give conduct to Roy, despite whatever extenuating circumstances plagued Mestari.

I tended to find Mestari perhaps a bit too weak on his conception of God in this debate. Roy was able to effectively drive the LCA into almost total irrelevance if proved due to this, and although perhaps this technically wasn't a decisive blow to the LCA, it most certainly gave the impression that the LCA was very weak.

The other main point of consideration for me was that Con's statement that Pro excluded potential explanations for the universe. Con states "The excluded alternatives are that the universe always existed or that the universe caused itself to exist." I found the latter (universe causing itself to exist) to be fairly well refuted by Mestari, but the former not so, which allowed Pro to provide an explanation other than the LCA, effectively handing Roy arguments in addition to the aforementioned conduct vote.

One sidenote of minor importance was that I found Roy's argument about the universe encompassing 'all that exists' rather weak, and Mestari effectively showed how the universe was a part of reality. Unfortunately, this point was rather minor in the grand scheme of things.

Overall a strong debate by both contenders. Roy wins arguments and conduct. It might have been a bit different had Mestari posted in R4 though.
Posted by Man-is-good 4 years ago
Well, I am going have to try to vote on this though I am very strained by time right now, although I wish
people could realize that tournament debates are not so easily characterized, at times, by a loss due to forfeit.

No offense to anyone who has voted so far...
Posted by Maikuru 4 years ago
Almost done this one.
Posted by RoyLatham 4 years ago
I should clarify what a conduct violation is. It means that one of the conventional rules of debate in not met. It's not a judgment of sin. Failure to post a round is always a conduct violation, no matter if there is a good reason for it or not. It only means that the rules were not met.

There are many good excuses, particularly since temperamental computers are always involved. Having a straightforward rule eliminates discussion over whether or no the dog really did eat one's homework or not. I can tell you that life is full of hard deadlines like application and contract deadlines.

I posted my final round before I saw your message. I would have expressed sympathy and called the technical violation anyway.
Posted by Philosopher1 4 years ago
this guy means business haha
Posted by RoyLatham 4 years ago
Get rid of the pets. However, keep the sister.

No problem. Debates are not so important.
Posted by Mestari 4 years ago
I don't mind you posting an argument in the final round, but claiming that taking care of my sister instead of posting a round is a conduct violation is quite low Roy.
Posted by Mestari 4 years ago
Sorry to disappoint, Roy. With my parents out of town and my sister having a 104-105 degree fever for the past few days I've been focused on taking care of my sister, our 14 pets, and have been responsible for all household tasks and food. I haven't been on the computer in 2 days, so I didn't have a chance to write an argument.
Posted by johnnyboy54 4 years ago
This should be good...
Posted by royalpaladin 4 years ago
He missed it. :/

I still think he's winning though.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Maikuru 4 years ago
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:04 
Reasons for voting decision: I enjoyed Pro's arguments and presentation but he had 3 critical errors. He retreated from his initial description of God until it held no relevance in the discussion, he failed to account for or adequately dismiss creation explanations beyond those he initially provided, and he dropped all of Con's rebuttals with his last round forfeit. Arguments and conduct to Con.
Vote Placed by TheDiabolicDebater 4 years ago
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:--Vote Checkmark3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:01 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro forfeited.