The Instigator
Logic_on_rails
Pro (for)
Losing
11 Points
The Contender
Mestari
Con (against)
Winning
17 Points

One Should Not Presume Atheism

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Post Voting Period
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after 7 votes the winner is...
Mestari
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/28/2012 Category: Religion
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,904 times Debate No: 22307
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (31)
Votes (7)

 

Logic_on_rails

Pro

I thank Mestari for the opportunity to debate this interesting topic. I also note that this topic is part of MIG’s ongoing debate tournament.

The resolution ‘One Should Not Presume Atheism’ is an often discussed issue in religious matters, yet as this debate will show, the issue extends to many other types of claims. In this manner one might draw some parallels to epistemology. The resolution refers to situations where one has no evidence or proof given to them. In this sense the resolution is equivalent to saying ‘Atheists do not need proof’.

Introduction

The first question the resolution raises is ‘what position should one take given no evidence?’ There are basically 3 positions we can take – affirmative, neutral or negative, with varying degrees in between. To put in religious terms, we can presume theism, agnosticism or atheism.

Some basic definitions:

Theism – The belief in a God (or Gods)
Agnosticism – An undecided position on the existence of a God or Gods
Atheism – The belief that no Gods or Deities exist

I’d prefer this not get dragged down into a debate over semantics. If Con could address any concerns before posting his 1st round that would be appreciated.

What this debate is really driving at is what should be the default position?

Determining a default position

If one is going to presume atheism one considers it the default position. This is called the presumption of atheism [1]. A similar presumption is the presumption of innocence. The idea is that it should take good reason to move from atheist to theist as it does from innocent to guilty.

This seems all fine and good until you ask yourself why atheism gets the presumptive status. Surely there is some principle that one can derive the presumption of atheism from? Let’s go through some common ideas.

The default position is the negative one

Put simply, the person making a positive claim has proof. This might sound reasonable at first glance – we don’t believe that a mountain will materialise in mid air and then proceed to crush a house for example. Indeed, many people do adopt this principle.

The issue is that this principle leads to unnecessary scepticism. Think about the following positions (these are real, serious positions readers should know) :

Beliefs don’t exist [2]
An external, mind-independent world doesn’t exist (solipsism) [3]

I doubt anybody believes these are the default positions that good sense would have us take. However, these positions are incredibly hard to refute. Take the second position. It’s hard to argue against it, yet it’s understandable to think an external, mind independent world does exist. Because of these examples where the default position is clearly absurd, we can rule this principle out.

The default position is the more likely one

Does that sound fair? I can’t imagine anybody saying that the default position should be an unlikely thing. So is this a good principle?

No.

Obviously people will differ on what is more likely! Your theist thinks theism is the more likely position, your atheist the reverse. Furthermore, assigning probabilities to many positions is highly subjective. [4] Indeed, with many metaphysical issues it’s hard to state the likelihood of a given position. We tend to have insufficient evidence or the inability to accurately interpret any evidence we do have. Furthermore, if one does provide reason to accept a claim through evidence and reason we’d agree that that’s not really a presumption anymore. I feel that readers ought to remember that we’re arguing about what position should be presumed in the absence of evidence. Obviously, if evidence is brought in we’re not in the original situation we started with.

The default position is whatever both parties can agree to

Obviously, theists and atheists disagree about the existence of God. However, they might both agree that there is a universe and that this universe is based on the laws of physics. Our atheist might say that their position is the default because the theist goes and states that a divine reality exists. However, the theist can retort by saying that the atheist makes the claim that there’s nothing more (or over) and above the universe, a rather grand claim.

As we can see, atheism isn’t presumed under this principle. The prior principles we discussed tended to be flawed. The first one led to absurd default positions and the second principle didn’t actually establish a default position (at worst, one that people will agree is a default) .

What should we presume?

I’m sure at this point that somebody must be thinking ‘it’s all well and good to not presume atheism, but surely you have to have some presumption?’. Somebody else might be cleverly realising that I can’t really assert theism as the default position given the way the principles above were brought down. So what should we presume? I state that one should presume agnosticism. The theist and the atheist both have a shared burden of proof in the sense that they must both try and convince the agnostic. They may succeed in proving their case, but the question at hand is what should one first believe? What should one presume? I state that one should presume agnosticism, not atheism.

I think that I’ve given good reason to presume agnosticism, or at the very least provided good reason not to presume atheism. It should be interesting to see Con’s counter arguments.

1 - http://www.philosophyofreligion.info......
2 – http://plato.stanford.edu......
3 - http://en.wikipedia.org......
4- http://plato.stanford.edu......
Mestari

Con

I thank Logic for providing such an excellent topic or discussion. I would like to inform readers that my acceptance of the con position is not an endorsement for atheism. I myself am a believer in the God of the Holy Trinity as described by Christian theology and a profound advocate of Christian apologetics. The Bible claims that, "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend" (Proverbs 27:17 KJV). As such, I find it important that we test our beliefs by exploring the opposition, for how can we truly claim our faith to be reasonable if we are unable to understand the objections to it and thereby properly defend it? In the same vein I ask the voters to be unbiased in adjudicating this debate. A vote for myself is not an endorsement for atheism just as a vote for Logic is not an endorsement of theism. Rather, a vote for either of us is an indication of the superiority of our respective arguments. With that said I will begin my case.

Overview of the Resolution

The resolution is a normative statement. That is to say in order to affirm that one should not presume atheism is to attribute normative value to the statement that one should not presume atheism. When we reanalyze the resolution in terms of normativity we then realize that to say that one should not presume atheism is to tell one not to presume atheism. As such, we can reformulate the rather vague language of the resolution into a concrete burden for both the Pro and Con. The Pro must demonstrate that there is normative force behind the command not to presume atheism. The Con must prove that there is no normative force behind the command not to presume atheism.

Presumption

There are three fundamental forms of reason: induction, deduction, and abduction. Induction is defined by the Commens Peirce Dictionary as reasoning that depends upon our confidence that a run of one kind of experience will not be changed or cease without some indication before it ceases [1]. Deduction is reasoning which depends on our confidence in our ability to analyze the meanings of the signs in or by which we think [2]. Abduction is a form of non-necessary reasoning in which processes of thought capable of producing no conclusion more definite than a conjecture are used [3]. It is important to note that the conclusions of abduction are not necessarily true and one may find difficulty proposing that they are even probably true. Abduction is also known as retroduction, hypothetic inference, and presumption.

This leads us to the argument I will be defending. Abduction is a prerequisites for acquiring any new knowledge at all. Without abduction one cannot engage in deduction and induction. Thus, to deny that one should presume a world-view is to limit the possibility of acquiring knowledge about that worldview. But again as we reanalyze the resolution at its core we realize that it presupposes that there are things that one should not presume. Indeed, it would appear that Logic_on_rails is thus rejecting the acquisition of knowledge. Thus, my case will have two primary contentions. First, that knowledge is more valuable than true belief. Second, that in order to arrive at the conclusion that one should not presume atheism, at least in a manner that instills normative force, one would have to utilize an inductive or deductive argument. As such, one would not be presuming anything, but rather would be deducing or inducing that theism or agnosticism are more rational world views as my opponent proposes.

Contention 1: Knowledge is More Valuable Than True Belief

Before I can attempt to make a case to prefer knowledge to belief, I feel it is necessary to define both terms. Belief is something we hold to be true. A belief can be true or false. There need be no reason to hold a true belief or a false belief as a belief. Knowledge, however, is a justified true belief. This means that knowledge is necessarily true and we have a reason to hold it as such.

It is also important to note the difference between objective truths and subjective truths. One may subjectively hold the belief that the sky is blood-shot red as true, however this does not deny that it is a false belief for it can be objectively proved to be false. Indeed, holding a belief as true does not make it true in objective terms.

I believe that it goes without question that knowledge is more valuable than a false belief when analyzed in epistemic terms. As such I will simply compare the value of knowledge to the value of true belief. If my opponent would like to defend the epistemic value of false belief then he may raise objections to my claim in the next round and I will answer them.

My first attempt to defend knowledge is to cite Plato's Meno. The Meno Problem raises the question of what is it about knowledge that makes it more valuable than mere true belief [4]. Plato's answer to this problem is to state that when one possess' knowledge, they are bound to the truth. For example, both knowledge and true belief of the fact that the moon is always in the sky provide us with the same conclusion: that indeed the moon is always in the sky. Now, suppose one were to take a walk on the night of a new moon. Somebody with knowledge that the moon is always in the sky will hold to the true belief that the moon is always in the sky. Another person who only possesses the true belief that the moon is always in the sky, yet lacks the justification may abandon the belief and adopt the false belief that the moon is only sometimes in the sky. It seems reasonable to claim that our confidence in knowledge necessarily makes it preferable to true belief.

Second, I would like to present the argument from virtue epistemology. Note that this argument supposes that understanding is more valuable than knowledge as justified true belief, but as such it necessarily argues that understanding is more valuable than any belief. Kvanvig offers two arguments to distinguish knowledge from understanding [5]. The first is that understanding, unlike knowledge, admits to degrees. As varying degrees of understanding are more epistemically accurate than a single, unvarying degree of knowledge, understanding is inherently more epistemically valuable. Next, understanding is not subject to epistemic luck. Epistemic luck is the putative situation in which an agent gains knowledge even though that knowledge has come about in a way that has, in some sense to be specified, involved luck in some significant measure [6]. Thus, as understanding is immune to epistemic luck, it is more epistemically valuable than knowledge.

Contention 2: In Order to Normative Claim That one Should not Presume Atheism, They Must Utilize Induction or Deduction

This contention is simple enough. Presumptions arise simply from guesses. Thus they cannot be normative in any way, as there is no reason behind them. In order for my opponent to claim that one should not presume atheism, they must provide an inductive or deductive reason for that to be true. In other words, you cannot determine what you should presume on the basis of somebody else's argument, for you would by proxy have to accept the inductive or deductive logic they are proposing. A presumption must necessarily be internally founded.

Conclusion

My arguments present a more formal understanding of logic and presumption, and thus more accurately address the topic than my opponent's. I am out of character space, but if my opponent sincerely believes his case to still be relevant I will refute it next round.

Sources

1. http://www.helsinki.fi...
2. Ibid.
3. http://www.helsinki.fi...
4. http://plato.stanford.edu...
5. http://www.philosophy.ed.ac.uk...
6. http://www.philosophy.ed.ac.uk...

Debate Round No. 1
Logic_on_rails

Pro

I thank Mestari for his response; it was certainly an unexpected line of argument. Nevertheless, it’s important to realise that Mestari has essentially agreed to my round 1 arguments. Just to reiterate:

He does not argue for any of the principles I attacked for determining a default position. Those are drops.

He also doesn’t argue against the conclusion that’s it’s preferable to presume agnosticism over atheism. Keep this point in mind.

The aforementioned are drops.

Mestari’s argument has a few main points:

Abduction is a prerequisites for acquiring any new knowledge at all
[Implied] We should learn about all possible views
Knowledge is more valuable than true (or false) belief

Mestari also raises other points, yet those will come up later. I remind readers my part of the burden is to give good reason not to presume atheism, that doesn’t mean I can’t agree it is beneficial to presume atheism.

Abduction

Basically, inferring A as an explanation of B. To give an example:

The lawn is wet. But if it rained last night it would be unsurprising that the lawn is wet. Therefore, by abductive reasoning, the possibility that it rained last night is reasonable.

Mestari also asserts that abduction is the only way to acquire knowledge. Perhaps it a severe misunderstanding on my part, but induction is a way to acquire knowledge. Indeed, prior to 1865 logicians tended to divide arguments into 2 subclasses – necessary inferences (deductive) and probable inferences (inductive and abductive) [1]. Without an elaboration on exactly how we acquire knowledge it seems unreasonable to state that we only acquire knowledge through abduction. If understanding how knowledge was acquired were so simple surely there would be no need for study into how humans learn?

Also, why shouldn’t probable inferences on the whole be considered a way to gain knowledge? If knowledge is justified true belief then surely inferring B from A (induction) is a way to gain knowledge.

Think about it. Your justification for your belief in the case of induction is experience. Experience is what gives you the justification for your belief. To put it another way, we (tend to) rely on Newton’s Laws to calculate the speed at which something might fall for instance. How is this any different from induction? We’re relying on past successes of the theory as justification for our belief – knowledge.

I’ve given reasonable grounds to show that induction can lead to knowledge, and at the very least have questioned the assumption that only abduction can lead to knowledge. If that’s the case then repeated abduction is not necessary to gain knowledge, which is Con’s reason for wanting to presume atheism.

Should we learn all possible views?

This is perhaps the crucial point of Mestari’s argument. If this does not hold there is no reason to presume atheism. What reason could we have for not wanting to learn all possible views? Answer: Our inability to do everything means that we must prioritise. This is essentially the economic problem, with our limited resource being time.

Let’s put this simply. You want to do C,D,E,F . C will take 6 hours, D 4, E 5 and F will take 8 hours. You have 12 hours. Your preference order is F, E, D, C. What should you do? F and D. You can’t do F and E as you have insufficient times, nor can you do C. Does this mean you don’t want to do C or E? No. Does this mean that C and E aren’t beneficial? No.

If one were to make a single presumption given no evidence on their belief in God they should presume atheism? No; agnosticism. Why? One should utilise their time as best they can.

Probabilistic matters

It’s clear that one of atheism, agnosticism and theism are the correct presumption. What would happen if one presumed multiple things at the same time? That’s the sort of thing that puts you in the insanity wing – simultaneously believing mutually exclusive things to be true. I humbly suggest that one will better prioritise their time if they don’t simultaneously believe mutually exclusive things to be true.

Diminishing returns

A further reason to realise presuming atheism is a bad idea. If your first presumption is agnosticism (which has been agreed to be the best course of action) then any further presumptions on the matter of God’s existence will result in diminishing returns as the potential knowledge one can acquire on a subject diminishes as knowledge on X subject is acquired. To put things in (very) simplistic terms, imagine there are 100 things that factor into the existence (or non-existence) of subject Y. You learn 55 things after your first presumption. Obviously your second presumption won’t yield the same level of return. If a more beneficial course of action exists then one should take that course of action.

Ignorance is bliss

Con states “I believe that it goes without question that knowledge is more valuable than a false belief when analyzed in epistemic terms”. It certainly is more value in epistemic terms, yet what is to state that epistemic terms, or rather epistemic value, is what we should judge something by? Is there a justification?

Previous arguments have discussed the notion that the value we place on the resource of time can outweigh epistemic value. The next notion is whether there actually is a positive value at all to gaining certain forms of knowledge.

A classical argument, if not perhaps a perfect one, is that of Pascal’s wager. Imagine that you learn an argument against God’s existence. This has epistemic value. This also lessens the likelihood of God’s existence. However, the gains you receive from this knowledge and the likelihood it will convert you to atheism are negligible in contrast to the potential losses you could receive by eternal damnation (the nature of Hell is a separate debate in and of itself). In effect, the potential losses outweigh the potential gains, and the difference also outweighs the gains from epistemic value.

Obviously, a false belief that provides happiness can be better than knowledge which causes negative effects (ie. Psychological trauma). Con would have us believe that the truth is in and of itself an ultimate good. It is not. If not learning of it is beneficial, be it by having false beliefs or not learning about a subject, we should not learn it.

1 final thing, does people’s liberty factor into what they want to learn? “The less people know about important complex issues... the more they want to avoid becoming well-informed” [2] Liberty should be another consideration as an alternative to epistemic value.

Conclusion

I’ve attacked Con’s case on 3 grounds. Firstly, abduction isn’t a prerequisite for knowledge, which undermines his entire chain of argument. Secondly, despite any wishes we might have in learning everything we can for it’s epistemic value, time prevents us from doing so. Matters like diminishing returns tend to suggest a diversification knowledge will yield a greater result as well.

Finally, the very question of whether we do want to know everything is asked. Do we want to know everything?

There are other considerations besides epistemic value. If these considerations (in the context of God's existence) outweigh epistemic value then we shouldn’t presume atheism. Also, my arguments from R1 stand unrefuted, so where applicable they apply.

I look forward to Con’s reply.

[1] - http://plato.stanford.edu...
[2] - http://psychcentral.com...
Mestari

Con

This debate is will be relatively simply due to my opponent's misunderstanding of my argument.

Presumption


First with the background information that provides the backbone of my case. My opponent claims that I said that presumption is the only way of knowing and then cites induction and deductionas ways of knowing; however, this is not my argument at all. I actually agree with my opponent in that induction and deduction are ways of knowing and would even go as far as to say that presumption was not, and the presumption was not even sufficient for knowledge. This does not harm my case in the least bit because my argument is that presumption is not a way of knowing, but that it is prerequisite for acquiring new knowledge. That is to say that in order to induce or deduce a fact, one must have presumed there is a fact to be known. Had they not, they would have never seeked an explanation because there would be no explanation to be had. This does away with my opponent's first objection to my case.

Contention 1: Knowledge is More Valuable than True Belief

My opponent's refutation to my first contention is an appeal to the value of ignorance. First he questions the significance of having epistemic value at all. I would say the one, he declared this to be an epistemic debate in the first round, and two epistemic understanding is a prerequisite the the value judgments he cites as being valuable. To declare that something is good, bad, effective, defective, etc. is to claim to have some epistemic understanding about that thing and to be describing it based on that epistemic understanding. Epistemology is concerned with the nature of knowledge. It seems hard for me to believe that one can claim that a concept such as value judgments which require knowledge about the objects and actions we deem valuable or detrimental can be valuable independent or the epistemic knowledge that allows us to make these value judgments in the first place.

My opponent then questions whether or not something may be valuable if not epistemically. He raises the question of Pascal's wager. He claims that while Pascal's Wager has epistemic value, it is negative in that it decreases the likelihood of God's existence. I would note that this is, to be quite frank, wrong. By decreasing the likelihood of God's existence the epistemic value of Pascal's Wager is not decreased or negative. This simply proves that the ontological probability of God's existence is decreased. The epistemic value of knowing Pascal's Wager remains unchanged. In fact, it would be positively valuable to know Pascal's Wager. He states that the knowledge gained outweighs the possibility of the argument converting you to atheism. Now let's convert this into logical terms. He states that the epistemic value gained outweighs the lowered ontological probability of God's existence. The statements are equivalent. Logic_on_rails prioritizes epistemic value to other conceptions of value.

The next two claims of happiness and liberty may be grouped. Both of these claims can be simply refuted when one realizes that to claim value of any sort to happiness of liberty you must have some epistemic understanding of those concepts. Once again epistemology seems to be a gateway issue and prerequisite for my opponent's case.

Contention 2: In Order to Normatively Claim That one Should not Presume Atheism, They Must Utilize Induction or Deduction

This contention internally rejects my opponent's second refutation to my case. He does not argue that we should presume and answer to what we should do, but that we should deduce the most efficient choice in economic terms. He gives three compelling mathematical arguments, however none of them prove why you should presume something as they are all deductive or inductive arguments. There cannot be reasonb behind a presumption. By providing arguments at all my opponent concedes to this contention.

Conclusion

My case precedes my opponent's in this round. As I have shown in round 1, he not only has a flawed conception of presumption but I am refuting the logical coherency of affirming the resolution at all. Of course whether or not we can rationally affirm is a question to be asked before we hear arguments as for why we should affirm. This brings me to my two, properly defended I believe, contentions. First, knowledge is more valuable than true belief and second that one cannot affirm the resolution without using an inductive or deductive argument, in which case they are no longer advocating a consideration of presumption as they have provided a reasoned argument.
Debate Round No. 2
Logic_on_rails

Pro

I thank Mestari for his response. As readers are no doubt aware, this debate is getting to foundational issues, and this requires a proper addressing. Without further ado, I’ll begin.

Presumption

Firstly, I withdraw my statement that Mestari asserted abduction was the only way of knowing.

The second point to raise is precisely what both myself and Con are advocating. I advocate a presumption of agnosticism. Due to R1 drops it is clear that Con would also presume agnosticism. The problem for con is that his position is for a presumption of atheism!

There is no false dichotomy here. It’s impossible to presume atheism and agnosticism simultaneously. Con’s case for presuming atheism is terribly undermined because of this absurdity.

Limitations on presumption

The first limitation is that of mutually exclusive positions. It’s impossible to presume 2 mutually exclusive things. Atheism, theism and agnosticism are mutually exclusive. While a presumption on God’s existence would be a prerequisite for knowledge of God’s existence, that’s not to state that all presumptions would garner the same degree of knowledge. Imagine you are presented with Pythagoras’ Theorem. It is obvious (before evidence on the theorem’s truth) that a presumption will be made. These types of presumptions are a prerequisite for knowledge. However, will the presumption that the theorem is wrong be exactly equally (what Con is advocating) as helpful as the presumption that the theorem is true? No. Believing it’s true will save you much time. Given a positive value of time, we should not presume that which will waste time.

What am I driving at here? One doesn’t have time (besides the aspect of presuming multiple positions without evidence) to presume everything. One must prioritise; me and Con agree that agnosticism is a logical presumption to make. It is preferable to presuming atheism, and so due to time constraints we can’t presume atheism – we want to learn about others things. Obviously, presumptions take time.

To quote Con “one must have presumed there is a fact to be known. Had they not, they would have never seeked an explanation because there would be no explanation to be had.” The fact we want to know is God’s existence. Clearly, we make a single presumption which is a prerequisite for knowledge.

However, Con will state, say, ‘you can’t have a reason for a presumption’, which if true makes my case a little useless. I implied in R1 that we were debating given a lack of evidence on God’s existence. What’s important is how presumption occurs. Con says there can’t be a reason for a presumption, but is there a guiding principle behind how one presumes anything?

There has to be some manner or method by which we choose one presumption over another (ie. Mutually exclusive positions). There’s a principle behind how we make presumptions. Take the presumption of innocence for instance. Con’s logic would be fine asserting the presumption of guilt! I humbly suggest that there’s a principle behind our presumptions, with the principle varying depending on the type of presumption. In the case of God’s existence we presume agnosticism for the principle outlined in R1.

I’ll leave it up to readers as to whether they consider that last argument to be changing what I’m saying to something other than a presumption.

Knowledge is more valuable than true belief

Mestari decided to put some arguments under this title. I’ll will for simplicity.

Pascal’s Wager

The point of this argument was not to make a bulletproof argument or anything of the sort. The point was that knowledge can be harmful to learn. Obviously ‘should’ can entail more types of value than just epistemic value.

Con also completely misinterprets me here. He asserts that I claimed that the epistemic value of Pascal’s Wager changed. I did note. I said last round “Imagine that you learn an argument against God’s existence. This has epistemic value. This also lessens the likelihood of God’s existence. However, the gains you receive from this knowledge and the likelihood it will convert you to atheism are negligible in contrast to the potential losses you could receive...” I’m clearly talking about the argument against God having epistemic value, and applying Pascal’s Wager to show that this epistemic value may not outweigh other forms of value.

Con’s reply here misses the boat, quite unlike his other responses. Clearly, there are other forms of value besides epistemic value, and these can outweigh epistemic value.

A need of epistemic understanding?

Con tries to state that happiness is of minimal value (that epistemic value is more important; ignorance is bliss) when he says “these claims can be simply refuted when one realizes that to claim value of any sort to happiness of [readers, should be ‘or’] liberty you must have some epistemic understanding of those concepts.

Con is terribly dismissive here. Readers, do you feel you have an epistemic understanding of happiness? An epistemic understanding of liberty? Do you think those answers were unwaveringly strong on your part?

Readers, psychologists have spent years trying to discern what causes happiness and in trying to understand happiness. Despite their inability to understand we still feel happy. Hundreds of years ago people valued happiness and felt happy. One can value something even if he can not precisely explain why he values it. The idea that one must have an epistemic understanding of that which he values seems odd.

Furthermore, even if I grant that epistemic understanding is necessary, this doesn’t mean that things like happiness aren’t taken into consideration. Just because epistemic understanding might be a prerequisite doesn’t mean it’s more valuable. Say I have an epistemic understanding of happiness (or anything else for that matter). Does this mean that epistemic value is more valuable than other conceptions of value? Does this mean epistemic value is more valuable than the value one can attribute to happiness?

The above demonstrates the fact that Con doesn’t show that epistemic value is paramount. Nor does Con address the idea that even if it were paramount that it could be outweighed by a multitude of other factors.

Con has made no case for epistemic value being of unparalleled value. This point and the previous point undermine Con’s contention that knowledge is more valuable than true belief. I’ve shown that there are instances when this isn’t. By undermining this contention Con’s entire case is lacking.

In Order to Normatively Claim That one Should not Presume Atheism, one Must Utilise Induction or Deduction

Con’s structure; simplicity.

I addressed this point under presumption and limitations on presumption. I drove at the idea of principles behind how one makes presumptions. If unsure, I urge readers to reread that section. Readers can decide if the creation of principles for presumptions prior to a presumption’s making counts as a reason for a presumption.

Conclusion

This debate hasn’t had a lot of direct clash. It’s been a case of trying to uproot/ignore the opponent’s case and also questioning whether these instances of uprooting are related to the topic at hand.

Con conceded to everything in R1. He hasn’t made a case for presuming atheism that doesn’t run into issues of time, mutually exclusive positions or the idea of principles behind presumptions (discussed and conceded to in R1!). Con also hasn’t shown why epistemic value should be prioritised over other conceptions of value. By failing to show why epistemic understanding should be valued his case weakens sharply.

Due to the reasons stated in the debate, one shouldn’t presume atheism. One should presume agnosticism given a lack of evidence.

--------------------

My thanks to Mestari for a fine debate. Also thanks to MIG for hosting this tournament. I urge voters to carefully consider their vote and vote according to what is said in the debate, not personal beliefs.
Mestari

Con

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to my grand finale. I hope you all have enjoyed the show thus far, but the best is still to come I assure you. My formidable opponent, Logic_on_rails, claims that this debate has come down to issues that form the basis of our modern understanding of logic. I agree with his assertion, but disagree with his conclusion. There are several issues I would like to address before I arrive at the core content of today's show.

What Does it Mean to Affirm?

There has been a case of benign neglect presented by the PRO on this issue. He claims that one should presume agnosticism. He even asserts that my drops in the first round force me to concede to the conclusion that one should presume agnosticism. To that extent I agree with him. Let's say, for the purposes of this debate, that one indeed should presume agnosticism. What do we as intellectuals make of this? Does this mean that one should not presume it's alternatives? The PRO seems to think so. Logic_on_rails provides quite the compelling argument when he talks about mutual exclusivity and how it is incoherent to actually presume agnosticism and atheism simultaneously. I agree with this analysis as well. But does that mean we affirm? It would seem as such, not doesn't it? Can we can agree that we should presume agnosticism? Indeed that seems the case. Is the actual presumption of agnosticism mutually exclusive with the actual presumption of atheism? I think that is a fair claim to make. So why haven't I conceded this debate. The clever ones in the audience will have already noticed that I have been italicizing the word actual and its derivatives. Now the brightest among you will already be thinking of what possible plan I have for the word actual. Well here it is (and they say a magician never reveals his secrets): Mutual exclusivity only makes since in discussions of actuality not potentiality. Let me attempt to clarify. Suppose person X has $100 dollars and he had to option of feeding a starving child in America or sending it over seas to a Syrian relief fund. Let's also suppose, for the sake of mutual exclusivity, that he can only do one or the other, i.e., he cannot split his funds. Now it appears perfectly logical that he cannot actually support both causes. However, it does not follow that he should only support one cause. In fact, it is fair to claim that he should support both the child and the relief fund, however the actions are mutually exclusive. You see, mutual exclusivity is a problem that arises among analysis of actual events. Questions of what should be done are to be answered in terms of potentiality for it inherently speaks to the future which is undefined as opposed to actuality which is restricted to the confined past. In the same way, one cannot actually presume both agnosticism and atheism but it does not follow that agreeing one should presume agnosticism concedes that one should not presume atheism. This is essentially the mentality that I have been trying to break down throughout this debate. With that it seems that the claim that one should presume agnosticism does not affirm the resolution as it does not prove one should not presume atheism.

But wait my mesmerized crowd, don't think the show is over quite yet. There is still hope for the PRO, I have not fully done my job. He goes on to claim that their is some vague and undescribed guiding principle that allows us to choose one presumption over another. There are two flaws in this argument, and they come from varying definitions that my opponent uses for this guiding principle. First, if he uses the more abstract and accurate definition of basically a gut instinct then he falls into the trap previously outlined. This actually triggers another one of my marvelous tricks. It would seem that in this case, what you actually do is not necessarily what you should do, for there is no reason for you to believe it to be other than a mere hunch. Second, he tries to use a more concrete definition for what this guiding principle is, stating that it is the reason behind our presumptions. In this case I would point the readers back to my previous, "dropped" argument that presumption is inherently unreasoned for if there were reason to believe a presumption then you would be necessarily utilizing either induction or deduction and in fact would not be presuming nothing at all. My opponent cannot advocate a reason to affirm without abandoning presumption altogether and therefore he would not be affirming at all. That is clearly outlined in my second contention. My opponent asserts that dropped arguments are concessions and as such his dropping of my second contention should be a game-over issue per se, for it proves that one cannot consistently provide a logical reason to affirm without negating, yet one can provide consistent logical reasons not to affirm.

Finally my opponent pulls out a trick that I thought was below him. He attempts to appeal to straw men. Logic_on_rails claims that my analysis proves that we should presume guilt instead of innocence. My analysis is truly that he cannot normatively claim that one should not presume something. What one should presume has nothing to do with this debate at all. To be quite honest the PRO here attempts to appeal to the reader's presuppositions about what is "right" or "wrong" in order to get them to indirectly reject my argument. Don't let this fool you, his secret has been revealed and it is nothing more than an illusion of the mind.

On the Value of Knowledge

First to the issue of Pascal's Wager. My opponent does not do enough work on this subject and simply ignores the internal warrants in my argument. Sure, he quotes himself from a previous round, we we already know what he said, what we want to discuss is my response. He simply reasserts in the final round that epistemic value is not the only type of value. His failure in extending this argument are two-fold. First, he fails to define other types of value. Sure, I took the step of indicating ontological value for him, but that only leaves us with ontological and epistemic value which I addressed in my past round. He cannot appeal to types of value he has no defined. Second, and this follows from the first, he did not refute my actual rebuttal. I have given logical evidence that his statement on Pascal's Wager is logically equivalent to the claim that "the epistemic value gained outweighs the lowered ontological probability of God's existence" and thus epistemic value is prioritized over ontological value. I cannot agree with my opponent enough that dropped arguments should count as concession, and that means that he has conceded to my opponent.

"But wait, what about happiness" you ask. Logic talked about how we can't epistemically understand happiness and thus my analysis that epistemic value is a prerequisite to happiness is misguided. He even gives psychological studies to prove it! This seems rather damning for me. Well thank goodness I don't have to defend epistemic understanding for my first contention to hold and I only need to prove that epistemic knowledge is valuable. Even if we can't epistemically understand happiness, our epistemic knowledge of its existence still remains a prerequisite for us claiming it to have value. For if one does not know that happiness exists, how can only claim to be happy? Indeed, it appears that refuting understanding alone is not enough to defeat my case.

On my Second Contention

PRO claims to have addressed this with his claims of mutual exclusivity and guiding principles. Just remember that these guiding principles must necessarily be induction and deduction for his argument to logically follow. He has made no direct nor adequate response to my second contention in this debate.

With that you have my final performance of the night. I urge you to come back again and remember as you are leaving that my first contention is enough for me to win this debate, and the second is supplemental.
Debate Round No. 3
31 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 5 years ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
RFD:

Pro had a good opening round, however, most of it involved pre-empting arguments based on the reasons that Pro thought were likely for presuming atheism. He then laid out a few possibilities on how to determine the default position and showed that we should presume agnosticism as the default position because that is one that both sides need to agree to.

Con on the other hand laid out three forms of reasoning and argues that without presumption, one cannot acquire knowledge and therefore that Pro cannot deny presumption of atheism. Unless I am mistaken, Con's argument is sound enough to argue against any "one should not presume X" argument.

Pro then directly attacks the contention that abduction is the only way to gain knowledge since Induction is too. However, it is negated when Con clarifies that in order to induce or deduce a fact, one must have presumed that there is a fact to be known. Pro also goes into detail about prioritization leading to the conclusion that one must not entertain all possible views due to time and the balance of whether that knowledge will lead to happiness. He then explains how Agnosticism and Atheism are mutually exclusive. At this point, I thought Pro had this debate in the bag. However, Con's unique and extremely strong 3rd round rebuttal proved that while one *cannot* presume both Agnosticism and Atheism, it does not necessarily follow that one *should* not presume both agnosticism and atheism and should in fact presume both.

A few other points:
I question why Mestari didn't bring up his round 3 arguments before since Logic couldn't refute them but after re-reading, it became apparent that it was a direct rebuttal to Logic's round 3 argument so I took it into consideration while voting. Overall, really good debate. Mestari's arguments were airtight, the last round was ingenious, although I would really have liked to have seen how Logic responds to Mestari's last round had he been given a chance.
Posted by Mestari 5 years ago
Mestari
Viper... I never argued one should presume atheism...
Posted by Man-is-good 5 years ago
Man-is-good
Well..........Someone please at least goad F-16 into voting to break the tie.
Posted by TUF 5 years ago
TUF
OFFICIAL RFD

Arguments- In the End this goes to logic on rails, as I feel Con did not uphold his burden. His burden was to prove that Atheism was what one should presume! He made rather well articulated arguments about not presuming anything however. Thus I found his case to be a little weird as it basically went off topicality, and pushed into refuting the PRO's Claims. While I do feel you did a better job at arguing the Pro's claims, I feel it would be unfair to give arguments to Con, as he did not uphold his burden, while the Pro did in every aspect (even though I dis-agreed, he still upheld them).

Sources- LOR had more relevant sources to evidence his side of the resolution. What is said above applies to the CON as well.

S/G- Mestari. I noticed like one or two mistakes on LOR's side. Nothing to big, just something that a quick spell check would have fixed.

Conduct-Tie. Both were formal and well informed about the topic.

Over all I liked this debate, and found it intellectually enlightening. Good job to both debaters!
Posted by TUF 5 years ago
TUF
So I have a hard time distributing the convincing arguments in my RFD in this debate.

To me it generally seemed that Con was more trying to prove that Agnosticism was not a valid presumption rather than atheism being an a better option.
Posted by TUF 5 years ago
TUF
"Knowledge, however, is a justified true belief. This means that knowledge is necessarily true and we have a reason to hold it as such."

I was kind of confused by this statement however. I was wondering if the Con's goal with this statement was to say:

"If you believe in something and feel it is true, you have a justified belief, and can be considered knowledgeable."

Another interpretation of the quote however could be:

"I believe in something, thus presuming this belief over an other belief is justified."

I don't need to point out the fallatic purpose in that argument. In which case why should we presume anything if both sides can contain a knowledgable purpose?
Posted by TUF 5 years ago
TUF
Okay so I just finished reading through the entire debate.

I agree with pro on this but throughout the debate, I had to buy mestari's arguments over all.

"The Pro must demonstrate that there is normative force behind the command not to presume atheism. The Con must prove that there is no normative force behind the command not to presume atheism."

At first I wondered if this argument was semantics, but as the debate continued, and it was explained a little more in depth I understood it a little more. So I feel that all the reasons that Con provided should be narrowly applied the Agnosticism as well. I figured by the end of this debate, that if one should not presume Atheism based on the contractual dis-agreements between itself and theism, then why should one presume Agnosticism as well? Agnosticism, by The Con's wording can almost be defined as a religion itself. Basically it is a group of people supporting the Idea that there may not be a concluding Idea. Now I had to view this as it's own religion in prinicple not belief. By the second contention I was able to understand this concept a little bit more. If one religion is going to actually push a certain belief, than we are still presuming a belief. Con wants to advocate the idea of not presuming and allowing either side to convince someone who is actively supporting themselves the ability to be convinced. So then the bigger question here is, can you be Agnostic just for not presuming either side? Or does being Agnostic imply that you specifically choose not participate in presuming a side? In that case should people without concern to religious views be unjustly classified to one? I for one am what other would consider Agnostic. However I do not feel I fairly classify as an Agnostic because I did not presume Agnosticism. While I don't hold any certain view point, I specifically don't care about religion in general. Agnosticism implies that you are a person who specifically cares about not choosing a side
Posted by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 5 years ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
This was a very interesting debate. Loved the last round. Commenting so I won't forget it. I skimmed through it quickly but need to read again for a better understanding. If I forget, either of you feel free to PM me.
Posted by d1a6r7s1h9i9t8 5 years ago
d1a6r7s1h9i9t8
This is a well written debate and it is was very hard to judge.
AS i cannot vote i will still write reasons which side i support
I agreed with pro at the start of this debate as i also think presuming atheism(negative opinon of god) without any reasoning or justification is not a correct judgement. It is like a lawyer presuming all people that come to court as guilty.
Con as put a lot of effort and proved that presuming atheism, theism or agnocitism without any resoning is pointless and can sometimes blind a person from exploring or finding the reality.
thus i vote for con as i on his side after the debate.
No commens on sources bot tied
Con dropped his level of grammer and spelling in the last round thus the grammer and spelling vote goes to pro
Both sides had very convincing arguements but con narrowly one this point. Pro on the other hand narrowly won the better conduct point as con dropped his writing level during the last and the most important round.
Pro 3 Con 2
Well done both of the debaters
I enjoyed reading your fierce challenging debate and hope this continues on in the future
Posted by Man-is-good 5 years ago
Man-is-good
(continued)
Pascal's Wager when trying to demonstrate the detriment of knowledge (the probability of God's existence is decreased---lack of understanding/proper characterization unfortunately belies Pro's point), attempt to undermine Con's contention that "these claims can be simply refuted when one realizes that to claim value of any sort to happiness of [readers, should be ‘or'] liberty you must have some epistemic understanding of those concepts" with appeals to the audience (lack of proper refutation), and perhaps Pro's greatest error--contradicting himself not only by using other standards but writing of a "guiding principle" despite the fact that presumptions do not, in Pro's very own words, as a "default position" should not be backed by reason (accepted by both), and so forth.

Ultimately, though the general relationship of the arguments discussed and the resolution might be vague, Mestari's final round itself cements the apparent indecision of the reader as to who won. I do however wish that he could have made his rounds more accessible, in a degree, for one who is unacquainted with epistemology, the chief concern of this debate.

As of the issues of conduct, Mestari unfortunately proved somewhat belittling; statements such as "Finally my opponent pulls out a trick that I thought was below him" or even, in the beginning of his first round, "There has been a case of benign neglect presented by the PRO on this issue" can be seen as condescending to a degree.
7 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Vote Placed by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 5 years ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
Logic_on_railsMestariTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Comments
Vote Placed by Viper-King 5 years ago
Viper-King
Logic_on_railsMestariTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Con was much more convincing and utterly proved that one should prove atheism.
Vote Placed by TUF 5 years ago
TUF
Logic_on_railsMestariTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Comments.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 5 years ago
RoyLatham
Logic_on_railsMestariTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Atheism gets the presumptive status because there are ten thousands claimed gods, and they have so many conflicting properties that the odds of any one being true are negligible -- that's induction. However, the debaters argued way more abstractly. I'll go with Con's second contention as the better argument. "you cannot determine what you should presume on the basis of somebody else's argument,"
Vote Placed by Man-is-good 5 years ago
Man-is-good
Logic_on_railsMestariTied
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Reasons for voting decision: It is clear who won, to be honest. Mestari's case presented a general template from which the debate shall be judged--on matters of the acquisition of knowledge and, in a very interesting twist, the fact that induction and deduction needed to be used to promote an argument for atheism/theism (an argument that with Mestari's counter on Pro's discussion of mutual exclusivity, extends to his own position here). Pro fared rather poorly, to be blunt: misunderstanding the terms of...see comments
Vote Placed by KRFournier 5 years ago
KRFournier
Logic_on_railsMestariTied
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.
Vote Placed by jwesbruce 5 years ago
jwesbruce
Logic_on_railsMestariTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Voted pro due to Logic_on_rails' explanation of presumption. Mestari's key arguments on the topic came too late and seemed as such to hide them away from discourse (saving it for the final say.) So I was more convinced by Logic_on_rails.