The Instigator
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The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

On Balance, Naturalism Is More Plausible Than Theism

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/28/2011 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,021 times Debate No: 14969
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (6)
Votes (1)




Rules and Format:

Round 1 of the debate shall be used to make the case for your side. Round 2 is for counterarguments against the opposing case. Round 3 is for the defense of your case against the opposition. Round 4 is for demonstrating why the opposing side's defense fails and for writing a conclusion.

Neither debater may use any cheap tactics that go against the spirit of the debate. No semantics, no randomly posting new arguments in the conclusion in Round 4, etc. All sources must be discussed; a link with no explanation that says "read this" is not a source. Basically anything abusive as deemed by voters is not allowed. I don't see this being a problem but it is good to establish rules anyway.

Finally, because this debate is philosophical in nature, I ask that the sources point be awarded only if one side fails terribly to use sources when it is actually necessary or doesn't provide references at all. This is to discourage random use of sources that aren't really necessary to try to win the point in a debate. Philosophy debates often require lots of exposition and the random discussion of sources to appear better in that category bogs the overall discussion down.

That should be all. Good luck to my opponent!


The Oxford English Dictionary defines naturalism as, "The idea or belief that only natural (as opposed to supernatural or spiritual) laws and forces operate in the world; (occas.) the idea or belief that nothing exists beyond the natural world." [1]

I will be contending that based on human knowledge and reason, this is the most plausible way to view the universe. My opponent will be arguing that there is a God that exists such that this theory is not universally true. I will leave the exact definition of God up to my opponent; the only requirement is that He is supernatural and exists beyond the natural laws and forces of the universe. My contentions are as follows:

C1: Naturalism Is Epistemologically Sound

The naturalistic worldview proposes an epistemological system, methodological naturalism (the scientific method), that has been proven time and time again to be an extremely reliable means of understanding the universe. [2] Important scientific discoveries include general relativity, the laws of thermodynamics, most of the knowledge that modern medicine depends on, and the physics that allow us to construct computers. Because technology like computers works, it is reasonable to believe (though not certain) that the knowledge used to produce them was accurate. This is based on the philosophical idea of pragmatism, which arose as an integration of empiricism and rationalism. [3] Comparatively, solutions based on the belief in supernatural forces have not been able to produce knowledge that actually creates viable technology. This does NOT mean that theism is necessarily false, but it means that naturalism appears more reasonable on balance because we have direct evidence that its means of attaining knowledge is reliable.

Methodological naturalism is also itself based on sound epistemological principles: it incorporates both the a priori reasoning that allows us to deduce the laws of math and logic and a rigorous and systematic way of interpreting our empirical understanding of the natural world. Though the thorough application of these principles for hundreds of years, scientists have uncovered countless truths about the physical world and found nothing to indicate proof of the supernatural. Naturalism uses a means of attaining knowledge that would allow its premises to be disproven, but they have not been disproven. Not only is naturalism's epistemology demonstrably useful, it does not produce internal contradictions. As a final point, when science is in error these errors can be discovered by improved applications of scientific discoveries and eliminated. Thus, naturalism provides us with an extremely accurate view of the universe (one which does not include supernatural entities).

C2: Naturalism Is Parsimonious

Naturalism is the simplest way to explain the universe; it is based on the fewest unnecessary assumptions. Naturalism relies on the axiomatic laws of math and logic (which cannot be denied without self-contradiction) and the assumption that human experience is reliable. If we are to have any understanding of the world beyond our own minds it is necessary to assume that human experience is reliable, so this is hardly a leap. All other viewpoints will require assumptions beyond those that naturalism uses and will make assumptions that are less essential. Furthermore, supernatural explanations of phenomena will rely on more assumptions and be less parsimonious than naturalistic assumptions of those same phenomena. This further adds to the case that naturalism is more plausible.

C3: Methodological Naturalism Points to Physicalism

Physicalism is the belief that, "the language of physics is the universal language of science and, consequently, any knowledge can be brought back to the statements on the physical objects." [4] If naturalistic epistemology is sound, and I have described in some length above why it is, then there is good reason to believe that physicalism is true. The world as discovered by the application of methodological naturalism includes only physical objects; nothing has been shown to exist by naturalistic epistemology that points to the existence of the supernatural even though naturalistic epistemology does not preclude and is in fact quite opponent to the possibility of supernatural entities. All the evidence points to the conclusion that only physical objects exist. This adds further credibility to both the accuracy and internal consistency of the claims and methods of naturalism.


I am going to leave my opponent with this for now to avoid overloading him with an avalanche of Round 1 contentions and make sure he has ample space to address all my claims fully. I believe I have offered sufficient rational to accept that naturalism is the most plausible viewpoint. It is heavily based on sound and consistent epistemological principles that point to the truth of its final claim (that supernatural entities do not exist). The fact that any contradiction of naturalism is more problematic than naturalism itself is also a strong reason to favor it, as I will demonstrate later in the debate. Lastly, I would request that popculturepooka not rip me apart too badly in the comments section if he sees this debate because I have nightmares about debating this topic with him.

I arbitrarily did or did not link to Wikipedia based on my feeling of how useful it would be to look something up. If I did not cite an argument that is not my own assume that I am assuming it to be common knowledge or easily accessible and not that I am falsely claiming it as my own. I did not invent any of these ideas and I am only trying to present them as fairly, accurately, and compellingly as possible.

Thanks to my opponent in advance for accepting this debate. I hope we will have a meaningful discussion.


[2] ibid


Greetings, the debate of philosophy relating to the fundamental questions, is there God, is a common occurrence, but unfortunately often results in the side supporting theism losing to the theory of the isolation and sole existence of the perceivable world. There is no reason why this is the case, to begin we must realize that both theism and naturalism are theories, neither have been proven to a degree that allows them to be considered law. This means that there is no more evidence supporting the theory of naturalism then theism, and there are several explanations to the arguments against theism.

In order for this to be an effective debate I must provide a definition of both theism and God. In the course of this debate my reference to theism will mean "the belief in one god as the creator and ruler of the universe, without rejection of revelation" ( As for the reference God, for my use it means one who is greater than any other force, one who is above all natural and super-natural worlds and has power over both of these worlds.

The main focus of my argument is that there is little proof that would discourage theism, and several valid points that support its existence. In support of theism is the fact that in the natural world, all things originate from some point. The classic example of the need for nature to originate is the Chicken or the Egg sincere (Wikipedia). By natural means it seems impossible to find a situation in the physical world that allows nature to create itself from nothing. Though this concept is dated, its meaning and value remains. In order for nature to exist, it must have originated from a source that does not need a beginning, or in short a world where the laws of nature do not apply, the super-natural world.

For the evidence of God, there must be some coordinating entity that actively defines and regulates the rules of existence, we all know that while on Earth there is gravity, that 1+1=2. Nature is chaotic, natural disaster and radioactive decay are examples, and would not by its own behavior tend Because of this there must be some force that brings regulation into the world, this is why the chaos theory is needed. There must be a force that ensures nature remains calm. This leads to the assumption that God is this force and also for nature to remain in balance, God is needed.

This debate is not meant to change long term beliefs, but is instead meant to examine in depth the possibilities and likelihood of the existence of God and a world outside that of nature. If either of us offend any one throughout the course of this debate please realize that is not the intent and we apologize for the anger it might cause.

Debate Round No. 1


Thanks to my opponent for his reply. I will go straight into my counterarguments. I am going to take the liberty of organizing my responses under a few of his general points. I will try to do this is fairly as possible.

CA1: The Origin of the Natural World

Con suggests that the natural world must originate from something, and it is implied (though never stated directly) that this must be God. It seems that everything must have a cause, and so God must be the original cause. This argument is full of problems. I will assert that the following problems render this argument invalid:

1) Con has no evidence that the universe cannot spontaneously come into existence. While this is counterintuitive to human thought, so is much of modern physics. Physics may one day almost fully explain the physical universe. However, in order to solve Con's problem we need to be able to explain not just all physical objects but all existent objects. There is no justifiable reason why this problem should apply only to physical objects and not all objects. Explaining the fact that existence exists, that there is something rather than nothing, is a deep question of metaphysics that may never yield to human reasoning. Even if naturalism fails to go above the physical world and answer metaphysical questions, that does not hurt the theory unless another approach can. The supernatural is no more capable of explaining this problem.

2) As stated above, there is no reason why Con's problem of explaining the existence of existence should not apply to supernatural things. The metaphysical problem of explaining why objects exist applies to all existent objects, not just physical objects. We are just as justified in wondering why God exists, if he does, just as we are in wondering why the universe exists. Why should supernatural objects get special permission to ignore problems that in principle apply to all objects? They still suffer from the same problems.

3) Even if supernatural objects could explain the origin of not just the universe but existence itself, which I have demonstrated they are unable to do, there is no reason to assume that the supernatural entity that performs this function is the God of theism. A supernatural First Mover need not have complete power over the present universe or indeed possess any of the traits normally attributed to God.

CA2: God as a Regulator of Existence

Con suggests that there must be some reason why the laws of logic and natural are as they are. While some of these questions yield to physics and mathematics, there will in principle always be questions that cannot be answered. Every single question of "Why?" can never be answered because it can be asked infinitely, but we cannot have infinite knowledge. This problem creates a gap in naturalism, but it is a fundamental problem of philosophy and indeed of human thought. It does not yield to a simple answer through the supernatural.

If we explain mathematical and physical constants through God, God still demands an explanation. Why does God exist? Why is His nature such that he has set the physical constants the way they are? The problems my opponent is suggesting are metaphysical problems, not simply physical problems, and so they apply to all objects and not just physical ones. God, and indeed the whole idea of the supernatural, is equally subject to these problems. There is no reason to grant them a pass because they are outside the physical world; metaphysical problems apply to all existent entities and my opponent has contended that God is an existent entity.

Final Comments on Con Arguments:

These are the only discernible arguments in Con's case. This is the only round in which he is allowed to offer new arguments, and both of these arguments fail to affirm the existence of God. As I suggested in my C3, all Con does is make additional assumptions (God exists, the supernatural exists, etc.) without gaining any explanatory power. Theism has failed to explain anything that cannot be explained by naturalism. Every problem that naturalism cannot answer, theism cannot answer either. Theism, unlike naturalism, makes random and unnecessary assumptions that render it less plausible. God is far from a necessary being; He is perfectly unnecessary.

I do not feel the need to offer many new arguments against God in addition to refuting my opponent's. There is nothing logically inconsistent about my opponent's God and my opponent proposes no traits for God that lend themselves to evidential arguments. Based on my Round 1, I am offering a version of the Argument from Parsimony. My opponent's God offers no explanatory power and is an unnecessary assumption. It is not rational to believe in Him when everything that He is supposedly necessary to explain is either unexplainable or explained without him.


Droghio forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


My opponent has lost the opportunity to criticize my case, so I cannot defend against anything in this round. He will also have nothing to write in Round 4 as a result. He will still have the opportunity to defend his case in Round 3 if he doesn't forfeit again, but he has basically lost the debate because he will have no opportunity to offer counterarguments.

I am disappointed in you, Con.


I do apologize for my inability to respond to the second round, there were several unforeseen circumstances that made me unable to respond in a way that would have been meaningful. With it impossible to go back and correct the mistake I will take the only course of action I see fit which is to apologize to all, with a specific apology to my opponent pro. With that said I will continue from where we left off on the debate.

I will provide two additional arguments to justify my claim that Theism is a more possible belief then naturalism, one is that such as there is no definition of God, there is little explanation to nature, and the other is the hole this creates in our understanding that greatly complicated this entire process.

Pro stated in the second round that God needed an explanation to define who he was, but just as it is nearly impossible to describe God, it is equally as difficult to describe nature. Where did nature being, why is it this way what are these laws and how do they work, the very reason that we can ask why indefinitely shows the very flaw in naturalism, it fails to give solid definite results to what nature is in existence. When my opponent states that God needs an explanation, so to do his theories. What Theism does is it explains why nature does not have definite answers, why humanity is limited, it explains these and shows that there is more to the story then we can comprehend, this leads directly to my next point that human reason and natural law leaves naturalism at fault.

If nature was govern by its own laws removed from outside power, then should it not be able to be explained. Nature is defined it acts in predicable ways can be measures, it abides to math and science, there is limited room for something that is not black or white. Examples of this are gravity, color, touch, shape, these characteristics define different parts of nature and allow us to view it. Having said nature is definite, then how can there be complications or confusions? A plant is a plant, a dog a dog, 2 + 2 = 4, but in the abstract world, the ideas of right, wrong, the entire perception of morals and humanity are all in constant struggle because the definite behavior of nature does not apply to these topics, the entire idea of philosophy exists because the natural world can not define with certainty what these ideas are, if right exists, but can't be defined by nature then what can it be defined by, something withdrawn from nature as we perceive, in other words the super natural.

For the topic of the existence of God, I will first state that His form is abstract, and there are only few characteristics that are defined to Him. Because of this lack of knowledge the idea of God can be molded into many different shapes. Humanity does not know much about the natural world, only that it is odd and confusing, because of this the belief of Theism is mostly intended to reduce the confusion the natural world creates, because or perceptions do not seem to connect in a way that eliminates all feelings of doubt this leads to the belief, as previously stated, that there must be something beyond nature. Seeing though as even in the natural world humanity is at a loss to explain, at the current state it would be near impossible to attempt and explain God and heaven beyond the fact that they exist. Though this might seem contradictor to the point of Theism since it raises more doubt, the doubt raised by Theism allows for the possibility for doubt to be eliminated, or rather for humanity to realize the knowledge that they were incapable of achieving in nature. Theism gives humanity the ability to achieve the knowledge that nature was unable to provide.

There are countless other facts to support the existence of heaven and God, the very founding and survival of church, intimate connection that people experience from Theism that the natural world seems unable to provide. The simple power of kindness and happiness, if all the world is just 1 and 0's being added together, how could we be? Without Theism there is no purpose in life there is no point to live. There is no meaning in any actions that people undertake, if this world is it then how can there be good or bad, how can people be nice or cruel, if there is no reason to live, no reason to exist then why would anyone care if their existence ended.
Debate Round No. 3


Once again, there is no discernable organization to my opponent's arguments so I am just going to organize them around a few points and address them. I will note that my opponent has refused to explain what God is and has rehashed old arguments without addressing any of the problems I brought up. He has also not followed the format of the debate at all. I am going to address his arguments for the sake of carrying on the debate, but he has effectively forfeited by skipping a round and messing up the format. He is technically not allowed to say anything do to the exact nature of the rules, but Con was never structured enough in his arguments to be discernably following the format of the debate anyway. I ask that Con not bring entirely new arguments into Round 4 when I cannot address them.

CA1: Parsimony

Con argues that the problems that apply to God are the same as those that apply to nature. I agree wholeheartedly; in fact, this is exactly what I argued in Round 1. If God and nature suffer from the same explanatory problems that God is an insufficient explanation for nature. It doesn't prove that either is more plausible than the other, but it leads us to favor naturalism because it is based on fewer assumptions. My worldview has the same problems that Con's does but I'm not throwing in extra assumptions that add no explanatory power (God).

That fact that theism offers explanations does not mean they are accurate. Con has lost any opportunity to explain what theism offers that naturalism does not without bringing them in on at the end of the last round when I cannot address them, which is clearly abusive.

CA2: Natural Requires an Explanation

Con clearly does not understand naturalism. Naturalism does not attempt to answer questions of morality and it is not a position on the laws of logic. Naturalists use other philosophical viewpoints to address these issues. More vitally, Con is just assuming that logical absolutes and morality cannot exist without God. He is engaging in mindless assertionism and leaving me with nothing to rebut. His arguments are so scant that I am equally justified in blandly asserting that the laws of logic and morality can be determined experimentally. I'm not going to waste my time writing rebuttals to transcendental arguments he never made when nothing has been substantiated.

CA3: Theism Provides an Explanation

Zeus provides an explanation for why there is lightning. Just because we don't know something doesn't mean we should immediately resort to the supernatural to explain it. It certainly doesn't mean that the supernatural explanation must be correct simply because another explanation hasn't been offered. Naturalists don't claim to have absolute knowledge or even that it is possible, and neither do most theists. You cut yourself off from many of the richest areas of philosophy if you fill in any unknowns with a God that you can't even define.


Almost everything my opponent wrote is an incoherent rant with few logical arguments. I can barely read it and I have no interest in picking through every part of it to try to find arguments to refute. He has no idea what God is and only asserts that God exists to serve as a "get out of jail free card" for everything he doesn't know. Absolutely nothing has been offered to make us seriously think that God exists. The fact that it is possible to explain some things with God does not mean he exists or that the explanations are correct. Con has also completed failed to follow the format of the debate by skipping a round and failing to organize his thoughts in any way (readable sentences would not have been much to ask for).


Droghio forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by vardas0antras 5 years ago
"I know Con personally and we decided to debate this topic over this site." Oh, good to know.
Posted by Meatros 5 years ago
I like the opening defense of naturalism. I think it could be a bit tighter, but it's good. The entire time I was reading it, I was reminded of the inherent difficulty with definitions - specifically the defining of the word 'supernatural'. If it's in 'nature', then to some extent, one could argue that it is not supernatural. I'm glad that the conversation has not devolved into such a discussion revolving around those semantics though.

I suppose I would have liked a hypothetical example of how methodological naturalism could, theoretically, examine the supernatural.

As to Droghio's opening statement, I was a bit dismayed by what appears to be a misunderstanding of the terms 'law' and 'theory' in science. Theories are explanations of facts, laws, and such. They do not *become* 'laws' when enough evidence is gathered...

I disagree with Droghio's assertion about origins - but since the metaphysics of time are not in contention, it's a moot point anyway. I guess it's just an unsupported assertion that both contenders are going to take.

Examining the ex nihilo premise internally, I've never been comfortable with the idea that an entity could create something from nothing. it seems to me that in order to make sense of causation, there already has to be something to act upon. It seems to me that since there is nothing to manipulate and no time to do it, that *if* something can come from nothing, then the only way that's possible is if without an agent.
Posted by Grape 5 years ago
I know Con personally and we decided to debate this topic over this site.
Posted by Logic_on_rails 5 years ago
This debate will be interesting. I might have taken it if I had the time. I'd probably mention the argument from contingency, teleological argument and reformed epistemology among other points. If I were Con I would have made a more concrete introduction of my position. Anyhow, this should be interesting.
Posted by vardas0antras 5 years ago
Who is Droghio?
Posted by popculturepooka 5 years ago
"Lastly, I would request that popculturepooka not rip me apart too badly in the comments section if he sees this debate because I have nightmares about debating this topic with him."

Hehehe. ;D
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by shmackies 5 years ago
Agreed with before the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Agreed with after the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Who had better conduct:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:Vote Checkmark--2 points
Total points awarded:70 
Reasons for voting decision: Clear win for Pro. Con had sloppy format and grammar, and did not have support for claims. Very well presented Pro, a great read!