The Instigator
RLBaty
Pro (for)
Losing
3 Points
The Contender
Meyer
Con (against)
Winning
20 Points

Step #1: Atheism 101 Critical Thinking Exercise - Is The Argument Logically Valid?

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 6 votes the winner is...
Meyer
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/12/2013 Category: Religion
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,996 times Debate No: 29032
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (82)
Votes (6)

 

RLBaty

Pro

This is Step #1 of 6 steps in a critical thinking exercise that has been developed in consequence of a debate that took place on the James Randi venue in 2011 between Dr. Dziubla of the University of Kentucky and me. That exchange took place in the midst of numerous (30 or so) interlopers. The one-on-one with Dr. Dziubla, however, has been preserved and presented at:

http://groups.yahoo.com...

That discussion was intended, in part, to be an update on an issue that was taken up by Alexander Campbell, theist, and Robert Owen, atheist, in 1829.

Campbell had asked Owen how he accounted for the origin of the idea/concept of God; proposing that there were three possible alternatives - reason, revelation or imagination.

The following exchange took place between Campbell and Owen back in 1829:

> Alexander Campbell:
>
>> "Now, as you are philosophers and historians,
>> and have all the means of knowing, How did it
>> come into the world?"
>
> Robert Owen:
>
>> "By imagination."

Simple enough; that's the typical atheist affirmation/conclusion.

Owen was only able to offer his speculation about that, and it does not appear to me that the situation has changed since that time. The following excerpt from a review of one of Daniel Dennett's recent works, I think, goes to explaining the current, ongoing status of that issue:

http://web.archive.org...

> In Breaking the Spell: Religion as Natural
> Phenomenon, Daniel Dennett...
>
> "(Daniel Dennett's) point is NOT that
> science knows how religion evolved
> naturally, but that it has several
> ideas, and that all them are more
> plausible than the existence of a
> supernatural entity."

So, it is proposed that:

Atheists think it was imagination.
Theists don't.

Here's the argument presented for the proposed Atheism 101 Critical Thinking Exercise:

Major Premise:

> IF (A) man was able to originate the
> idea/concept of God through the power
> of imagination,
>
> THEN (B) man did originate the
> idea/concept of God through the power
> of imagination.

Minor Premise:

> (A) Man was able to originate the
> idea/concept of God through the power
> of imagination.

Conclusion:

> (B) Man did originate the idea/concept
> of God through the power of imagination.

In more recent discussions on the Democratic Underground venue and the Freedom From Religion Foundation FaceBook page, atheist participants had considerable difficulty with Step #1.

Step #1:

Do you think the argument is so constructed
that if its premises are true its conclusion
will follow as true therefrom (i.e., that it
is logically valid)?

> Robert Baty - Yes

It is proposed that Step #1 has to do with the "form" of the argument and not its "content". The form may be commonly summarized as;

> If p, then q.
> p.
> q.

It is further proposed that the logical validity of that "form" has been so commonly accepted that it has a name; modus ponens (affirming the antecedent).

Is the Atheism 101 Critical Thinking Exercise argument so constructed that if its premises are true its conclusion will follow as true therefrom?

I think so!

It is noted for the record here that a member using the ID of "Stephen Hawkins" accepted the challenge when it was first posted. That debate was cancelled after "Stephen Hawkins" failed to present his first negative. I was given the option of re-posting the challenge...and so here it is should some other person wish to attempt to rebut my proposal that the argument is so constructed that if its premises are true its conclusion will follow as true therefrom.
Meyer

Con

Using propositional logic, the argument would be valid. As you noted, the argument is in the form of modus ponens. Modus ponens an axiom of propositional logic and, therefore, valid by definition.

Yet you are challenging someone to show that the argument is invalid. This challenge is a non-starter using propositional logic because the argument is valid by definition. There would be no room for debate. You must be expecting an argument presented using some alternative system of logic.

Let us choose some arbitrary system of logic having the axiom:
1. The Atheism 101 Critical Thinking Exercise argument is invalid.

Do you think the argument is so constructed that if its premises are true its conclusion will follow as true therefrom (i.e., that it is logically valid)?

No. The argument is logically invalid (Axiom 1).

Debate Round No. 1
RLBaty

Pro

The substance of the attempt to rebut the proposition that my Atheism 101 argument is so constructed that if its premises are true its conclusion will follow as true (i.e., is logically valid) was:

> The argument is logically INvalid (Axiom 1).
>
> Axiom #1: The Atheism 101 Critical Thinking
> Exercise argument is INvalid.

That is probably the best that can be offered in opposition to my claim. I don't live in that world.

My Atheism 101 argument has been designed for use in our world to test our world's rational thinking and a fundamental claim common to atheists. In our world, where reason is more commonly respected, my opponent effectively concedes this Step #1 debate with the following:

> Using propositional logic,
> the argument would be valid.

It's not simply an invocation of "propositional logic", "propositional logic", "propositional logic" by which my position might be endorsed. It's simple, common-sense reasoning.

My opponent further opines:

> As you noted, the argument is in the
> form of modus ponens. Modus ponens
> an axiom of propositional logic and,
> therefore, valid by definition.

Let's think about that a little.

Axiom:

> An axiom in logic is a statement
> which is taken as self-evident.
>
> A statement which is accepted as
> being true.

I would put it something like this: the modus ponens form has been shown to be such that if the premises reflected in an argument with such a form are true, then the conclusion will follow as true therefrom.

I propose that folks can reasonably determine that my argument is so constructed that if its premises are true its conclusion will follow as true therefrom without regard to invoking, axiomatically, the label "modus ponens".

That such construction is what some label "modus ponens" and accept, axiomatically, as logically valid may be convenient for those who accept the modus ponens axiom and can make application to my argument. Typically, my opposition has struggled to make such a convenient connection between my argument and modus ponens.

My opponent further opines:

> You are challenging someone to
> show that the argument is invalid.

I've had so much trouble getting the opposition to successfully complete the exercise. They so struggle with admitting that they think like I think regarding the simple, logical validity of the argument used in the exercise.

If there be any legitimate opposition to my claim(s), I certainly want to hear it. Otherwise, I'd like to see someone come forth for the exercise that doesn't struggle so with Step #1 and can agree with me and reasonably and easily explain the basis for his/her agreement without all the gamesmanship.

My opponent further opines:

> You must be expecting an argument
> presented using some alternative
> system of logic.

I'm expecting an open, honest, reasonable discussion of the claims I make for the argument. The goal is not to play games with alternative, speculative, irrational systems but rather determine if my argument is so constructed that if its premises are true its conclusion will follow as true therefrom (i.e., without regard to whether or not you've got some label to pin on it).

My argument has the following referenced form, and it can be, by the exercise of reason, determined that the following is true:

> If it is the case that "if (A), then (B)" is true,
>
> and
>
> if it is the case that "(A)" is true,
>
> then it will will be the case that "(B)" is true.

If that statement be true, and I think it is, and if it describes the form of my argument, and I think it does, then one may be reasonably conclude, and I do, that my argument is so constructed that if its premises are true its conclusion will follow as true therefrom (i.e., it is logically valid).
Meyer

Con

If I may digress briefly, suppose the subject of debate were "Show that 1+1=2 is wrong". Anyone accepting the role of "Con" could take various approaches, e.g.:

1. Attempt to show, using common arithmetic, that 1+1=2 is false, and fail miserably, or
2. Choose to relax some unstated assumptions and show that 1+1 does not necessarily equal 2. For example, one could argue that 1+1=0 in binary modular artithmetic, which is common in computer science though not in the average everyday life.

Since the particular system of logic was not stated, I went with Approach 2 and suggested a system where the argument would be invalid. Admittedly, my example was contrived.

Although "for use in our real world" wasn't stipulated in the original challenge, I think I can show that it is possible for the proposed argument to be invalid in some logical systems without leaving the comfort of the real world.

Consider the the supposed "counterexample" to modus ponens proposed by Vann McGee:
http://faculty.arts.ubc.ca...

Major premise: If a Republican wins the [1980] election, then if it's not Reagan who wins it will be Anderson.
Minor premise: A Republican will win the election.
Conclusion: If it's not Reagan who wins, it will be Anderson.

McGee found that people believed a Republican would win the 1980 election, and they also agreed with the major premise, but they had trouble accepting the conclusion that followed directly from the two premises and modus ponens. They instead believed the conclusion:

If it's not Reagan who wins, it will be Carter.

McGee gave this example to show that modus ponens is not necessarily appropriate to model how people reason in the real world. Personally, I think people should be able to keep the premises in mind while evaluating the conclusion, but apparently there are cases where they overwhelmingly don't, so we can envision systems of logic designed to take this practical caveat into account when performing inference.

One could also attempt to provide "real world" logic in various other ways that don't necessarily admit modus ponens in its strictest form:

1. Fuzzy logic, with varying levels of truth.
2. Logic incorporating probability theory, based on the likelihood of truth.
3. A logic in which the truth of the major premise is evaluated in conjunction with the structural form of the argument.

In the context of (3) above, consider:

Major premise: If Socrates was a man, then mosquitoes can fly.
Minor premise: Socratese was a man.
Conclusion: Mosquitoes can fly.

Here, the argument is consistent with modus ponens, but the the argument would still fail by the non sequitur fallacy in a real-world debate.

I recognize that you specifically exluded system (3):

It is proposed that Step #1 has to do with the "form" of the argument and not its "content".

I use it only to show that is is possible to use a system of logic in which the argument is invalid without abandoning practicality in the real world: Simply require truth of the premises instead of considering the issue separately.

Remember, my own claim is not that the argument is invalid in a particular system of logic where it would be valid (which would be a losing battle), but only that it can be considered invalid in some systems of logic. Moreover, the chosen alternative system of logic is not necessarily restricted to contrived examples such as the one I provided in the first round.

Debate Round No. 2
RLBaty

Pro

Meyer may wish to digress, but I'm not going to chase that rabbit. This debate is not about his digression.

Similarly, Van McGee's argument has been much discussed and shown not to do what Meyer tries to propose for it in this debate. That's for another time and place (my place, perhaps), if there is interest.

Meyer's own claim is, in part:

> "not that the argument is invalid in a particular system
> of logic where it would be valid..."

That also is a different debate as is Meyer's effort to suggest, only suggest, that there may be some legitimate logical system in which my argument would be considered INvalid. If he finds one, I will be glad to consider it.

The exercise is not about quibbling over "logical systems" or whether or not my argument is valid in one or all legitimate, real world logical systems. That my argument may be valid, by definition, according to the rules of one or all legitimate, real world logical systems is incidental/coincidental to the issue before us here.

Atheists make the affirmative claim, reach the conclusion, that the idea/concept of God was a product of the imaginative powers of the mind of man.

I have presented one argument which, if its premises are true, allows the atheist to reach that conclusion. I propose that atheists cannot, successfully, divorce their affirmative claim from my argument and its implications.

I don't recall any of my opposition offering any better argument that supports the conclusion, the atheists' affirmation, though many imaginative stories have been offered as to how the idea/concept originated.

The discussion is about reason, not logical systems.

In affirming "imagination" as the conclusion, the atheist implies the belief that man was possessed of such a power so as to have accomplished the feat; the minor premise.

Some even are so bold as to affirmatively, explicitly, claim that the minor premise is true.

Given that the conclusion is affirmed and that the minor premise is affirmed, we can easily construct the major premise necessary to complete the reasoning that would, if true, support the atheists' conclusion.

My argument is constructed in such a manner that if its premises are true, then its conclusion will follow as true therefrom. To save a little time and effort, we have been referring to such a construction as being "logically valid".

In closing, I will state my opinion as to why so many have fought so hard against simply, successfully completing the exercise; so much so that they have, historically, refused to take the simplest Step #1 and deal openly, honestly with it.

My argument fairly and reasonably reflects a fundamental position of atheists.

Atheists implicitly and/or explicitly believe one or both premises to be true.
It is undisputed that atheists believe the conclusion to be true.

Atheists don't like to admit "believing" such things.

They "believe" the premises and conclusion of my argument, implicitly and/or explicitly. Such beliefs go beyond the evidence upon which their beliefs are based, and some have been open and honest enough to admit that such is the case by noting that one or both of the premises are lacking in evidence and may, in fact, not be true.

No tricks.
No traps.
Just the way it is; in my opinion.

It's nice to know as one considers the popular public debate over such things.

Atheists don't believe there is any "God".

OK!
I get it!

Meyer, I thank you for offering what is probably as good as any opposition may have to my claim regarding Step #1 of the exercise.

Hopefully, your final submission will allow us to bring the formal discussion, such as it has been, to a reasonable and cordial conclusion. I look forward to it and thank you for your time, talent and attention.

Folks should be able to find me at my place if they wish to pursue these matters, or maybe there will be some additional banter in the comments section here.
Meyer

Con

I feel like the goal post has moved a couple of times here.

First the question was whether the Atheism 101 Critical Thinking Exercise argument is logically valid in the sense that the conclusion follows from the premises if the premises are true. I showed that this is not always so.

Then it was added that the question should only be limited to the context of a real-world logical system and/or one that agrees with common sense. I showed that the Atheism 101 argument is not necessarily in a valid form in all of of those cases, either.

Now "the exercise is not about quibbling over 'logical systems' or whether or not my argument is valid in one or all legitimate, real world logical systems." At this point, I can't continue to play along. The choice of logical system is crucial in evaluating whether a statement is valid or not.

RLBaty successfully showed that the argument fits a particular form of modus ponens that is an axiom of propositional logic. As such, he claims the argument is valid. Sure, if one assumes a system where the form is valid by definition, it is obviously valid.

Because the system of logic was not actually specified, my position was that while the Atheism 101 argument can be valid in some cases, it is not valid in all of them. This is easy to prove: Simply choose an arbitrary system of logic where the construction is axiomatically invalid, in which case it is obviously invalid. This is no worse than choosing a system (such as propositional logic) where the construction is axiomatically valid, and then making the obvious assertion that it is valid.

I consider that to be a justifiable approach for this debate; my digression in Round 2 explains why, and no disagreement was given.

RLBaty did not accept my trivial example because is not useful in the real world and/or it isn't based on common sense. Although it really wasn't necessary, I tried to address both the "real world" and "common sense" aspects of the objection:

The McGee counterexample shows that logical inference from modus ponens does not always agree with people's common sense. Acknowledged, RLBaty did claim that my interpretation of McGee was refuted somewhere, but he didn't specify where. I think, at the least, I got the gist of it right. If we are to discard a logical system because it doesn't always match common sense, and modus ponens doesn't always match common sense, then we should discard any system where modus ponens is considered valid. That leaves us with only systems where the form of the Atheism 101 argument is not valid. I don't take this to mean propositional logic should be discarded, but rather that "common sense" is an unreasonable requirement.

Regardless, the real world also uses systems of logic in which the analogue of modus ponens takes a different form. The Atheist 101 construction is not necessarily valid in those contexts. Two of the possibilities that I proposed were:

1. Fuzzy logic, which deals with degrees of truth. (The Atheist 101 argument does not specify degrees of truth. Is it valid for use in fuzzy logic?)
2. Probabilistic logic, which deals with the probability of truth. (The Atheist 101 argument does not specify any probabilities. Is it valid in probabilistic logic without this information?)

There was no effert taken to show that the Atheism 101 argument, as worded, would be valid in fuzzy and probabilistic logic. I doubt the effort would be fruitful without relying on yet more unstated assumptions, perhaps "default values of truth" in this case, to fill in the missing requirements for those systems. Suffice it to say, there are legitimate, real-world logical systems where the classical modus ponens form is potentially invalid.

So in trying to accommodate the objections about practicality, my original position has expanded in scope: Not only is it trivial to demonstrate that the Atheism 101 arguement is invalid in some contexts, but we are not necessarily even restricted to the ad hoc type of example that I originally proposed.
Debate Round No. 3
82 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Mangani 1 year ago
Mangani
WOW! Delusion much???
Posted by RLBaty 1 year ago
RLBaty
As Richard Dawkins would say as he pats me on the back recognizing my superior performance here:

"It looks great on your resume, Robert Baty,
not so much on the resume of one of the
alleged top 50 debates on the Debate.Org
venue. That anonymous, whiny, sniping,
coward using the ID of "Mangani" is quite
a character; a very small character."

I agree, Richard!
I agree!

He is the coward.
He is the anonymous one.
He is whiny.
He is sniping.

He won't come out.
He won't come clean.

He won't negotiate.

I came.
I played their childish games.
I beat them at their own games.

I seem to have them locked down in their cages; they can't seem to come out for an open, honest conversation about such important public issues where there might be a mutual interest.

"Mangani" has certainly earned his chapter in the book.
Posted by Mangani 1 year ago
Mangani
This is Debate.org. If you don't recognize that, respect that, and adhere to that- YOU are the coward. I am in the top 50 debaters, and have been for the entire 5 year life of this site. I have a 90.5% win ratio, and I am in the 99th percentile. You are the anonymous character who showed up a week ago to let us all know how somewhere on the internet, people disagree with your exercise so much that you had to find another site where to push your views.

As such, the coward is you. Debate me, or stop your nonsense. You have not earned your respect.
Posted by RLBaty 1 year ago
RLBaty
The coward, if there be one here, is the anonymous sniper and whiner who won't come out, come clean and openly, honestly negotiate the details for such discussion as we might agree upon producing.
Posted by Mangani 1 year ago
Mangani
Oh stop the arrogant banter, coward. Debate me, coward.
Posted by RLBaty 1 year ago
RLBaty
Mangani,

If there has been any lying going on here, and I think there has been, it is not coming from my side of the monitor.

If you want to come out and come clean, you are welcome to do so and make your appearance at my place to negotiate what, if anything, I should condescend to discuss with you further and the logistical details necessary to successfully produce the discussion.

And I still have not been given the exact term(s) to put into my Google search engine to find out more about you so that we might level the playing field a little for the proposed debate.

Were you, Mangani, lying to me about that!
Posted by Mangani 1 year ago
Mangani
What are you talking about? Produce a debate, and I will agree. Otherwise, be a man, and stop lying.
Posted by RLBaty 1 year ago
RLBaty
Mangani,

I "debated" you.

You lost.

You whined.

Your anonymity gives you cover to say the wildest things and evade open, honest discourse.

Now, tell me clearly, after boasting that I could find information on you by doing a Google search; what specific search term do I put in to my search engine to accomplish the task you said I could accomplish thereby?

I also note that you have again refused to make your appearance at my place; a very, very good show of your continuing bad faith in these discussions.

We might banter own, Mangani, but you've clearly and convincing demonstrated your limited critical thinking skills on a most fundamental level and your unwillingness to openly, honestly consider the nature and extent of your problems.

Thank you very much, and yes I will again take the "win"!
Posted by Mangani 1 year ago
Mangani
RLBaty, you are a deprived middle aged man with a lack of social and critical thinking skills. You are on Debate.org. If you disagree, debate me. Stop being a troll.
Posted by RLBaty 1 year ago
RLBaty
Mangani,

Give me the exact term(s) to put in my Google search engine that will lead to being able to find out who I am dealing with here, and I'll give it a try.

As for me, I repeatedly posted my YAHOO! website address and it's on my personal page here. You indicated that you simply would not make your appearance there; would not research relevant subjects there.

You have conspicuously evaded leveling the playing field on that score.

Bold claim, Mangani, about this being your house.

Typical personal stuff from anonymous whiners.

Your personal claims don't get much consideration since you indicate no inclination to substantiate them where there is interest in finding out if you are being open and honest about such things.

So, Mangani, what is the exact term(s) I need to enter into my search engine to find out more about you?
6 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Vote Placed by CIIReligion 1 year ago
CIIReligion
RLBatyMeyerTied
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Reasons for voting decision: CON had better arguments and provided and more reliable source than PRO's personal sources.
Vote Placed by likespeace 1 year ago
likespeace
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Reasons for voting decision: Great work, Meyer! See comments for RFD.
Vote Placed by Raisor 1 year ago
Raisor
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Reasons for voting decision: Con took up the debate in good faith and addressed the resolution. Pro failed to substantially address cons arguments, instead simply dismissing them. Conduct to con because pro does move the goal posts and seems to have set up the resolution of this debate as part of a single step in a larger goal of discrediting atheists. That's fine if he wants to argue about atheists implicit assumptions but setting up a clearly defined debate then withdrawing from the substance when it doesn't go exactly as planned is bad conduct.
Vote Placed by AlwaysMoreThanYou 1 year ago
AlwaysMoreThanYou
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Reasons for voting decision: Con certainly negated the resolution, and while his argument was more along the lines of semantics, I feel Pro deserved it for setting up such a one-sided resolution. It's like starting the debate '2 + 2 = 4', so congratulations to Con for such an interesting argument.
Vote Placed by bladerunner060 1 year ago
bladerunner060
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Reasons for voting decision: I will tie conduct, although I'm tempted to give it to Con for Pro setting this debate up in the first place, knowing as he did that, based on the foundation of propositional logic it HAD to be true. However, I suspect his behavior in the comments here and elsewhere may color my perception of that, so I won't give either the credit. S&G was essentially the same, and sourcing was about equal, but I have to give Con the argument because he did better than could be reasonably expected; there was only one argument tactic to take that had any sort of validity, and he ran with it, phrasing it and supporting it well. It was 100% a semantics argument, since everyone know what Pro meant, but again, that was the only argument that had any potential validity, considering the structure presented.
Vote Placed by GarretKadeDupre 1 year ago
GarretKadeDupre
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Reasons for voting decision: Wow. I admit, some of this flew over my head. I wasn't sure who won until round 3, when Pro had me in his clutches... but next argument I was for Con... then I was for Pro again, and Con didn't manage to convince me that he -didn't- fail to honestly partake of the exercise. So in a way, I find Pro's argument that Con lost more convincing than Pro's argument about his premise. Lol. Everything else was equal; both sides had superb spelling, grammar, and formatting.