The Instigator
TheSkeptic
Pro (for)
Losing
35 Points
The Contender
JustCallMeTarzan
Con (against)
Winning
38 Points

One should be an Atheist Rather Than an Agnostic.

Do you like this debate?NoYes+0
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Vote Here
Pro Tied Con
Who did you agree with before the debate?
Who did you agree with after the debate?
Who had better conduct?
Who had better spelling and grammar?
Who made more convincing arguments?
Who used the most reliable sources?
Reasons for your voting decision
1,000 Characters Remaining
The voting period for this debate does not end.
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/17/2009 Category: Religion
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,640 times Debate No: 6956
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (5)
Votes (13)

 

TheSkeptic

Pro

I affirm the resolution: atheism is the more logical and supported position than agnosticism. If one had to either be an agnostic or an atheist, than given the current evidence and amount of scientific and philosophical progress, one should choose atheism.

[Definition - Atheism]
http://www.merriam-webster.com...

2 a: a disbelief in the existence of deity

[Definition - Agnostic]
http://www.merriam-webster.com...

1: a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable ; broadly : one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God or a god

The latter part of this definition

=====Arguments=====

1. Agnosticism is Epistemology

At best, agnosticism should be described as a position in epistemology, which is the part of philosophy that is concerned with truth and knowledge (to be broad). Agnostics believe that absolute knowledge about God is impossible unless we had absolute knowledge of the universe. And this is true - but also pointless to state. Because ANYTHING that is not a posteriori can not be known with 100% certainty unless one has absolute knowledge of the universe.

For example, what if I argued there are no such thing as fairies? Someone might go up to me and say "well you don't know! There could be fairies in some far-off distant star that we haven't discovered yet! Do you know everything about everywhere in the entire universe?! NO, didn't think so. Kiss the foot". Now if we can agree with this person's statement, than this means we have a whole new mess on our hands? That we have a-fairiests and agnosti-fairiests? Of course not.

When one says the don't believe something is true, they aren't saying that it's 100% impossible - unless it's a prior statements, which are claims that are fulfilled by definition (All bachelors are unmarried). God's epistemological position should be no different from any other thing out there, which is why Agnosticism shouldn't be heralded as a separate position. If this were valid, then we would have a million more things to be "agnostic" about.

2. Evidence collected thus far

I argue that since believe should be based on how PROBABLE or LIKELY something is to be true/exist/etc., the scientific and philosophical evidence we have at our disposal right now speaks more for the side of atheism than agnosticism. We can explain the diversity of life with evolution. We can start to explain how life begins with abiogenesis. We can explain the formations of planets and the beginning of our universe with the Big Bang and cosmological evolution. Now, advances in quantum cosmology are helping pave open the door for what possibly existed or happened pre-Big Bang. The evidence speaks.
JustCallMeTarzan

Con

I negate the resolution - theism and atheism are not logically tenable positions.

By a logically tenable position, I mean that there exists a logical argument that will deliver the sought truth value for the proposition: "God (classically understood) exists."

I'll accept The Skeptics definitions of atheism and agnosticism with the caveat that agnosticism represents more of a commitment to the proposition being unknowable than a non-commitment to answering the proposition at all. For example, there are several different "brands" of agnosticism:

I don't know, but I think God exists.
I don't know, but it is possible God exists.
I don't know, but I think God doesn't exist.
I don't know, and neither can you.

*************************************

1. Agnosticism is Epistemology.

Epistemology is usually defined as "a branch of philosophy that investigates the origin, nature, methods, and limits of human knowledge." One can glean meaning from the etymology of the word as well - episteme + logy, or knowledge-study.

One obviously does indeed need absolute knowledge to answer the question of whether or not God exists definitively. Equally obviously, this knowledge does not exist.

My opponent uses the example of fairies without proper qualification of the example. If one can run around and LOOK for some fairies or do some other action that can actually verify the claim that there are indeed fairies, then there are no middle-ground positions. Another example of this would be to tell someone from Panama that snow exists. They have not seen snow, so by all accounts, they should be a snow-agnostic. But if you take them someplace and show them some snow, they would not be a snow-agnostic. The fact that the claim "snow exists" is in principle verifiable is what creates the lack of snow-agnostics.

In short, for there to be no "agnostic class" the claim MUST be verifiable. The claim "God exists" is not verifiable, and thus there can exists an "agnostic class" on the issue.

Furthermore, since by principle, God's existence is not within the possible bounds of human knowledge, agnosticism, atheism, and theism are not epistemological studies.

2. On Evidence Collected Thus Far.

The argument against this position is quite simple.

The existence of God does not necessitate any sort of evidence be left behind. Claiming that there should be evidence about God's existence is exactly like claiming that "a tortoise that doesn't leave footprints walked through this loam." There would be no evidence (footprints) left by the footprint-leaving-less-tortoise.

The search for evidence of God's existence is a futile search, not because there necessarily is no evidence, but because any evidence there would be is in principle inaccessible to us.
Debate Round No. 1
TheSkeptic

Pro

I thank JCMT for accepting this challenge.

=====Counterarguments=====

1. Agnosticism is Epistemology

>>>In short, for there to be no "agnostic class" the claim MUST be verifiable. The claim "God exists" is not verifiable, and thus there can exists an "agnostic class" on the issue.<<<

However, while if one were to visually confirm the existence of fairies or snow, they do NOT have 100% absolute knowledge on it. For example, the famous skeptical scenario of the "brain-in-the-vat" states we can't have absolute knowledge of anything - because what we deem as reality can be in fact a gigantic illusion. Everyone and everything will be just part of a highly perfected illusion. Likewise, we can confirm that the claim "snow exists" is HIGHLY LIKELY, given the improbability of the brain-in-the-vat, Occam's razor, etc., but we can never be 100% absolute. In fact, knowledge (except maybe a priori statements) is all based on how likely it is to be true.

So when applying this idea to God, to say that since "God exists" can't be 100% known is a meaningless conjecture. As I have pointed out, nothing can. So the LIKELINESS of that statement should be tested. Atheism basically states that the likeliness of God existing is highly improbable as is the likeliness of fairies existing.

2. Evidence Collected Thus Far

>>>The existence of God does not necessitate any sort of evidence be left behind. Claiming that there should be evidence about God's existence is exactly like claiming that "a tortoise that doesn't leave footprints walked through this loam." There would be no evidence (footprints) left by the footprint-leaving-less-tortoise.<<<

This is a fair claim. However, it does nothing to further my opponent's position. Essentially, this God my opponent refers to is supernatural in every way: he can not be detected and he does not leave any scientific "residue". However, if I were to argue for the existence of a supernatural bunny who likewise does not leave any scientific evidence behind, we should still disbelieve in it's existence. Simply because something is unverifiable or falsifiable does not mean we should suspend judgement on the validity of it's existence.

Atheists do not deny that there is the possibility of God existing - however, as I've stated before, the possibility of it existing is slim.

=====Conclusion=====

I have shown that all empirical knowledge is not absolute. Thus, we shouldn't form our beliefs on something being verifiable or not, but rather on the likeliness of it existing.
JustCallMeTarzan

Con

Responses:

1. Agnosticism is Epistemology.

What you are looking for here is warranted assertability, not proof. Nobody seriously looks for hard proof of a concept. With visual confirmation, one has warranted assertability for a concept. Since, by principle, you cannot attain this level, it is simply nonsensical to speak of levels of proof for this concept.

Likewise, the likeliness of the proposition cannot be evaluated in either direction; thus, the only logically tenable position on the issue is "I don't know." Given accessible evidence, the claim may be highly unlikely, but that does not indicate that it is false, which is the position that atheists adopt.

2. On Evidence Collected.

If something is indeed unverifiable or unfalsifiable, we cannot assign a truth value to the proposition. That much is fairly simple. If the claim is logically coherent, which (unfortunately) the proposition that God exists can be made to be, then it is impossible to move beyond "I can't know and neither can you" on the issue.

**************************************

Specific Responses:

>> "Atheists do not deny that there is the possibility of God existing"

This is simply incorrect. From your own definition: "a disbelief in the existence of deity." Furthermore, the very word itself (a - theism) means against belief in God. Atheists hold the position that God does not and could not exist.

Those that hold the position that God does not exist, but could are called "Agnostic-Atheists" or "strong agnostics." (http://en.wikipedia.org... or http://en.wikipedia.org...)

>> "I have shown that all empirical knowledge is not absolute. Thus, we shouldn't form our beliefs on something being verifiable or not, but rather on the likeliness of it existing."

That conclusion supports agnosticism, not atheism. The likeliness of the proposition is indeterminate... thus, the answer must necessarily be "I don't know."

**********************************************

Conclusion:

* God's existence is in principle unverifiable.
* Under the "likeliness standard," this existence is inconclusive, if unlikely.
* Under the "logically coherent standard," this existence is possible, if unlikely.
* Under the "absolute knowledge standard," this existence is inconclusive, if unlikely.

Thus, since the answer to the proposition "God exists" is inconclusive under all standards, yet still logically possible, the only logically tenable position on the issue is agnosticism.

Furthermore, one cannot provide a logical justification for atheism that cannot be "answered" in a way to make theism logically justified as well. For example, the argument from evil can be "answered" by stating that there is a further, unknown purpose for the evil. Uncompelling, perhaps, but logically tenable.

The only logically tenable position on this issue is agnosticism.

NEGATED.
Debate Round No. 2
TheSkeptic

Pro

=====Counterarguments=====

1. Agnosticism is Epistemology.

If I understand my opponent correctly, he makes the claim that since something is supernatural and/or outside the realms of human knowledge (i.e. God in this instance), he states that can't judge the likeliness of the proposition "God exists". This is erroneous to claim. If this were to be such a standard, then this means we have to be "agnostic" of an almost infinite amount of things. Supernatural unicorns. An immaterial soul or "mind" (Cartesian dualism anyone?).

The very fact that something is supernatural lowers it's "warranted assertability". Apply Occam's Razor, and one can see what I mean.

2. On Evidence Collected.

In a way, Russel's teapot can be pushed into this. Simply because something is unfalsifiable, doesn't mean we should suspend judgement on it. As stated in my previous argument, simply because something is supernatural (which, by definition, is unfalsifiable) does NOT mean we should suspend judgement on it.

=====Specific Responses=====

>>>Atheists hold the position that God does not and could not exist.<<<
----> Perhaps it would be more accurate to label, at least me, as an agnostic-atheist. However, this just causes confusion and unnecessary labels. ALL strong atheists are agnostic-atheists. No rational atheist seriously claims that he/she has absolute knowledge on God's existence. As I've stated before, empirical knowledge is NEVER absolute - thus, even when one says "that's true" or "that doesn't exist", what the semantics of their words mean is really that entity X is highly unlikely to exist.

Yet, it is true that I didn't make this distinction (because there could be some few atheists who claim to hold absolute knowledge on God's existence), so count this against me if you want, haha. *sigh* Always got to think of wording in debates - blegh.

=====Conclusion=====

I have shown how just because something is unfalsifiable, does NOT mean we should suspend judgement on it. Otherwise, my opponent has a lot of "agnosti-" labeling to do.

>>>For example, the argument from evil can be "answered" by stating that there is a further, unknown purpose for the evil. Uncompelling, perhaps, but logically tenable.<<<
----> Just because something is possible/logically tenable, doesn't mean it's likely or probable. Otherwise, we'd all be stuck in the muck of "I don't know".

Unless you argue Mackie's version of the AOE, which makes the claim that evil and a good God's existence is logically incompatible. But that's besides the point ;D

Anyway, this is the end of the debate. I apologize for not making longer arguments - time's a douche. Always a pleasure JMCT. Vote for PRO.
JustCallMeTarzan

Con

1. Agnosticism as Epistemology.

I do indeed make the claim that anything that is outside the realms of human knowledge may retain an agnostic class. However, my opponent's characterization of this set as "almost infinite" is egregiously flawed. Only those things that are by principle unknowable would fall into this class. For example, if we state there are invisible pink unicorns or laundry fairies that only clean clothes when you feed them detergent, we must remain agnostic (if skeptical) about such things because they are in principle unknowable. However, if someone claims unicorns exist on the moons of Saturn, we can GO to the moons of Saturn and look around for some blessed unicorns. It's not by PRINCIPLE unknowable.

His example of the immaterial soul/mind... it is not in principle unknowable, but it is indeed very hard to prove or discover. A debate on this issue may be interesting, but the mind and the person cannot exist without a functioning brain. A body can be kept alive without a brain. Thus, mind is dependent on body.

>> "The very fact that something is supernatural lowers it's "warranted assertability""

The fact that something is supernatural removes it from the ambit of warranted assertability - without any sort of epistemological existence, there is no way to find any warrant to make an assertion.

>> "Apply Occam's Razor, and one can see what I mean."

How does one apply Occam's Razor to the proposition "God exists" if the proposition is to be considered "There exists a being that is in principle impossible to verify" ?? The simplest explanation is "I don't know" because one cannot provide any sort of reasoning to back up "This being does not exist." Consider:

JCMT: Apply Occam's Razor to the proposition "God exists."
TS: The being doesn't exist.
JCMT: Defend your position.
TS: Um... well... I have no evidence FOR its existence.
JCMT: That's an appeal to ignorance. Try again.
TS: Crap! I really don't know if it exists or not.
JCMT: Now you're thinking.

2. On Evidence Collected.

Russel's teapot does not apply, as it is a disanalogy... unless we hold Russel's teapot to be in principle undetectable, it is not the same thing. With enough time, one COULD go examine space and find this teapot.

The problem with the evidence issue is that there would be (in principle) no evidence. It would be like asking someone who made a claim about a gerbil that didn't poop to prove their position by bringing forth the lack of poop. When they present.... nothing.... this only goes to prove the points of both sides.

******************************

>> "he states that can't judge the likeliness of the proposition "God exists". This is erroneous to claim."

The erroneous claim here belongs to my opponent. If I ask him to back up his assertion that God does not exist, he cannot. It would be akin to asking him to provide evidence for the evidence-less being's existence.

>> "Just because something is possible/logically tenable, doesn't mean it's likely or probable."

No, but it DOES mean that cannot be dismissed as logically untenable.

>> "Unless you argue Mackie's version of the AOE, which makes the claim that evil and a good God's existence is logically incompatible. But that's besides the point ;D"

This can easily be circumvented by theists by claiming that God is not omnibenevolent - hell, he spends half the Old Testament destroying things. They just need to claim that his benevolence outweighs his malevolence to save the notion that he is worthy of praise. And since they will argue that eternal salvation is infinite benevolence compared to some historical instances of malevolence.... sigh.... I hate these arguments.

>> "Always a pleasure JMCT."

The pleasure is of course mine. And prolly the clueless theists that read this.

>> "Vote for PRO."

I respectfully dissent - vote CON.

********************************************

I'm going to repost my conclusion from the last round because I don't feel The Skeptic adequately addressed some of the issues in it:

Conclusion:

* God's existence is in principle unverifiable.
* Under the "likeliness standard," this existence is inconclusive, if unlikely.
* Under the "logically coherent standard," this existence is possible, if unlikely.
* Under the "absolute knowledge standard," this existence is inconclusive, if unlikely.

Thus, since the answer to the proposition "God exists" is inconclusive under all standards, yet still logically possible, the only logically tenable position on the issue is agnosticism.

NEGATED.
Debate Round No. 3
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by JBeukema 7 years ago
JBeukema
gnostic: knowing
agnostic: not knowing or claiming to know

theism: belief in deity
atheism: lack of beleif in deity

gnostic atheism: there is no god
agnostic atheism: there is no empirical evidence for god, so we assume the negative, but there is a possibility such evidence may be presented at some point
Posted by JustCallMeTarzan 7 years ago
JustCallMeTarzan
Good show Clark, good show... if that's AJ Ayer, yes... although it's been a while since I read that. I think this sort of distinction kind of reflects Kant's Noumenal/Phenomenal distinction - a distinction I don't necessarily agree with ;)

Anyway - when considering something that is in principle unverifiable, one must remain in the agnostic realm...
Posted by dtclark2188 7 years ago
dtclark2188
I think the in principle comment comes from Ayer's verification theory of meaning (correct me if I'm wrong Kenny). Therefore, only those things that are verifiable through EMPIRICAL means in principle qualify as sensible language. Just thought I would interject for the sake of clarity.
Posted by JustCallMeTarzan 7 years ago
JustCallMeTarzan
>> "In principle, couldn't we build a time machine and then go check if the universe were really constructed in six days? Or in principle couldn't the Day of Judgment come next Tuesday, thereby verifying a God?"

Yes, but those would verify or unverify claims made upon "revealed theology" whatever the hell that is. While, in principle, those are means by which one could check on some of the claims of Christianity, those are not ways to check upon the existence of God.
Posted by RoyLatham 7 years ago
RoyLatham
"laundry fairies that only clean clothes when you feed them detergent" Wow! I never thought of that. I need to read more of Dr. Science.

Con's argument depends upon a specific concept of God that is in principle unverifiable. I think Pro successfully attacked that narrowing. Few theists would make that restriction, so it is a major point of contention. There is also something wrong with the concept of something being unverifiable "in principle." In principle, couldn't we build a time machine and then go check if the universe were really constructed in six days? Or in principle couldn't the Day of Judgment come next Tuesday, thereby verifying a God? I think Pro's argument's successfully attacked the concept.
13 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Vote Placed by sienkinm 7 years ago
sienkinm
TheSkepticJustCallMeTarzanTied
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:07 
Vote Placed by DictatorIsaac 7 years ago
DictatorIsaac
TheSkepticJustCallMeTarzanTied
Agreed with before the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Agreed with after the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:Vote Checkmark--2 points
Total points awarded:50 
Vote Placed by alwaz4dam 7 years ago
alwaz4dam
TheSkepticJustCallMeTarzanTied
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 Checkmark-1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:05 
Vote Placed by comoncents 7 years ago
comoncents
TheSkepticJustCallMeTarzanTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 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:07 
Vote Placed by TheSkeptic 7 years ago
TheSkeptic
TheSkepticJustCallMeTarzanTied
Agreed with before the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Agreed with after the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 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:30 
Vote Placed by philosphical 7 years ago
philosphical
TheSkepticJustCallMeTarzanTied
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:07 
Vote Placed by zach12 7 years ago
zach12
TheSkepticJustCallMeTarzanTied
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 
Vote Placed by jjmd280 7 years ago
jjmd280
TheSkepticJustCallMeTarzanTied
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:-Vote Checkmark-2 points
Total points awarded:05 
Vote Placed by rougeagent21 7 years ago
rougeagent21
TheSkepticJustCallMeTarzanTied
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 
Vote Placed by sydnerella 7 years ago
sydnerella
TheSkepticJustCallMeTarzanTied
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Made more convincing arguments:--Vote Checkmark3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:10