Strong Atheism is a Sound Position
*Leave a message if you want to accept this debate*
I am rehashing my previous 'God Most Likely Doesn't Exist' debate with a cleaner resolution more in line with my own personal position. The BoP is on me to demonstrate the resolution is true. My opponent may either rebut my arguments (so I fail to meet my BoP), or provide stronger arguments of his/her own for the antithesis (that Strong Atheism is an Unsound Position).
Strong Atheism: The belief that there is no god(s)
God: An intelligent being that includes the qualities of omnipotence, omniscience, creator, perfect, and free will.
Note that omnibenevolence has been omitted from God's qualities (I don't intend to use arguments from evil etc).
72h, 10,000 words
Round 1: Acceptance, Rules
Round 2: Arguments, Rebuttals
Round 3: Arguments, Rebuttals
Round 4: Rebuttals, No new arguments
Best of Luck!
I appreciate Daley for taking this debate for what is probably one of my most optimistic resolutions, and indeed should be an entertaining one.
A priori stance of non-existence
This argument is a stronger version of Occam’s Razor and ‘Burden of Proof’, and gives ground to a higher probability of a proposed entity X not-existing a priori. This is before we assess the evidence and positive arguments in favour of God’s existence, which I argue have been unsatisfactory in mitigating this argument.
A: A priori, it is more likely that God exists than it doesn’t (assumption)
Pro can contest P1, but then our justification for assuming God more likely to exist a priori falls, and in either case a standalone argument can be made.
P1. All entities are more likely to exist then not a priori (a1, a2, a3… etc)
The only premise that can be objected to here to maintain a high a priori likelihood of something’s existence is P2, but this would require Pro to reject the notion of contradictory properties, which is prima facie absurd. Hence the conclusion follows that only a case of special pleading would allow God to escape this argument. The most reasonable stance is to accept the non-existence of God.
This is an argument against divine foreknowledge being compatible with free will, this argument also applies to human free will (assuming they have it), but given that only God is defined as having free will in this debate, this argument only needs to involve God himself.
P1) If God exists, he knows the results of all choices that will occur
This is part of the definition of omniscience, God knows the future the same way that God knows the past. It doesn't matter which series of time is true (although B series raises serious free will questions anyway) since the description follows. To reject this premise is to reject omniscience of God (and hence such a being’s existence)
These logically follow via. modus ponens, in either case God’s existence is impossible as defined, and hence strong atheism is affirmed.
One of the best advantages of this argument that it is time-independent, it doesn’t matter whether God exists within, or outside of time (assuming that’s even a coherent concept), hence the only defences against this argument are compatibilist-type arguments, none of which have been accepted as sound by philosophers.
In this argument I will attempt to show that the concept of God as defined is meaningless, and in fact, to make God a meaningful concept would result in limiting God in some way (and hence violating some notion of omnipotence).[4,5]
I have adapted the argument from the attached reference, and contain the same concepts involved.
P1) “God” lacks a positivity defined attribute (A)
P2) If “God” lacks a positively defined attribute (A), then secondary (B) and relational attributes (C) cannot be justifiably applied
C1) “God” lacks a justifiable attribute (A, B or C)
P3) All attribute-less terms are meaningless
C2) Therefore, “God” is a meaningless concept
If God is a meaningless concept, then it follows its impossible to argue sensibly for the existence of such a concept, or to talk about it in any rational manner at all. The existence of such an entity would be able as logical as asserting the existence of a square circle.
To defend these premises, we need to consider what God is, in the rules round I defined God as follows:
“omnipotence, omniscience, creator, perfect, and free will”
In order to meaningfully describe something, the primary nature of an entity needs to be established, for example to state something has “10 lbs”, it is reasonable to assert “10 lbs of what?”. It is meaningless to then response “well, you know… 10 lbs!”. The weight of something is a relational attribute, and gives no information on what the essence of the entity is. To speak meaningfully of anything we need to have a description of the fundamental character, or nature of the being. Take a chair for example, a primary attribute would be “A wooden mass with a sitting base and four posts made of wood”, here we have the material and primary attributes of a chair, we can reasonably talk about it’s existence and apply secondary and relational attributes to it (such as its colour, mass, style, etc).
Now let’s have a look at the attributes of God which I have provided:
5. Free will
None of these go any way in defining God’s primary attributes, they are all secondary or relational attributes. Omnipotence regards power, or ability, but isn’t an entity in itself. Omnipotence can be applied to anything (my sister is omnipotent) as a secondary attribute, but is meaningless without the primary essence. Omnipotence in fact is meaningless without a physical universe to relate to. The same applies to the all five of these attributes.
Often God is portrayed further, such as “metaphysical”, or “immaterial”, however these are not attributes of God, they are precidely descriptions of what God is not, the statement “I am not Barack Obama”, gives zero information about my primary attributes, and hence goes no way into demonstrating my essence.
In order to actually provide a positive attribute of A (fulfilling P1), then we run into serious problems of the perfection, and omnipotence of God, since giving such an attribute would present limits to God, which violates the necessary secondary attributes of God, hence such a definition is impossible to attain.
I have packed in three arguments in favour of the non-existence of God, I will probably follow up the next round with an additional argument. I hope you find them interesting!
We should not assume that anything "likely" exist without evidence, but we should not declare that it "likely" doesn"t exist without evidence against its existence. Without evidence against the existence of aliens, all we can say (in the absence of proof that they do exist) is that we don"t know. So "before we assess the evidence and positive arguments in favour of God"s existence," we can"t assume its "more likely" that God doesn"t exist. We could only admit that we don"t know.
I never argued the premises that Pro supposes, such as assuming that God exists a priori, thus I don"t need to rebut his rebuttals to arguments I didn"t make. I believe we should only believe God ""likely" exists based on evidence, not assumption.
In response to "P1. All entities are more likely to exist then not a priori (a1, a2, a3" etc)," I would simply say that no entity is more or less likely to exist without evidence. In the absence of evidence in either direction, all we can say is "I don"t know." Absence of evidence isn"t evidence of absence, therefore, even in the absence of proof for the existence of a thing, without positive evidence against it, we can"t assume atheism more likely.
My opponent asserts "that only God is defined as having free will in this debate," and why is this? He assumes we don"t have free will without presenting any evidence to that effect? Further, I reject the idea that God has free will. Let me apologize for not making this clear before accepting this debate or in round 1. I believe that if God has any free will, it is extremely limited within the context of his unchangeable character. I don"t think God has the free will to "become and evil, egotistical, self-centered person," but we do. It is an assumption on Pro"s part, that if God exits he would have free will. If God, as defined as being infinitely good, does exist, it logically follows that he doesn"t have the freedom to choose to do things that are against his good character, such as tell lies. And if he always exited, he didn"t get to choose his character either.
P1) If God exists, he knows the results of all choices that will occur. I agree.
P2) If he knows the results of all choices that will occur, then the future exists. I agree.
P3) If the future exists, then God could not have chosen differently. I agree, but this does not mean that "we" could not have chosen differently. The fact that God exists in that future time when we have already made the choice, does not mean we did not have a choice. It simply shows that he exists at the point at which the choice was made and beyond, therefore, if we had chosen A, God would exist in a different future from if we had chosen B. God"s character gives him a limited set of options on how to respond to our free actions, but unlike us who have free will, he can"t act out of character.
P3) If God cannot have chosen differently, then free will does not exist. But God could only choose in accord with his nature, just as a human cannot flap his arms and fly, he can only operate within the confines of his nature. This doesn"t show he doesn"t have free will. And the fact that in the future, God already made his choices, doesn"t show he was restricted by the nature of time, only by his character.
C) If God exists, then free will does not exist, for him, but not for us. The fact that we already made a choice now, doesn"t show we could not have chosen differently. Thus, the fact that a future exists in which we"ve already made choices, doesn"t show that in that future we could not have chosen differently.
I think these answers also negate C2.
Defence of P2:
Let's say I have a choice to eat weetabix or toast for breakfast tomorrow, if free will is true then I can at any moment choose differently. The fact that God knows what I "will" choose doesn"t mean that I could not have chosen differently. Pro"s argument is that the future being set in stone is what determines what choices we will make in the present, but I argue that the choice we "will" make in the present determine what kind of future is set in stone. So if I choose weetabix, God would exist in a future where I"m eating weetabix, but if I had choose toast, God will exist in a future where I"m eating toast. Furthermore, a parent may know their child so well that they "know" how they will react to an event. Their foreknowledge of how the child will react doesn"t impinge on the child"s free will, so God"s knowing what we will do doesn"t take away our free will. And our free will doesn"t minimize God"s foreknowledge, for knowing what we will choose doesn"t stop us from choosing anymore than the parent knowing how the child will respond stops the child from choosing.
Defence of P3:
What if our future only exists on the basis of each choice that God already knows we are going to make? If the future exists on this basis, then its existence doesn"t take away our free will or impinge on God's omniscience.
Non-Cognitivism of God
"God is a Spirit." (John 4:24) This is what God is in terms of substance. A Spirit is an invisible entity, which is conscious, and the closest thing in this physical realm I can think of to compare a spirit being to is "energy." If you can imagine energy being alive, but being an unlimited source of energy, such would be an illustration of the substance of God. But I think its fallacious to assume that a thing cannot exist unless we know what its made of.
"Time is the fourth dimension and a measure in which events can be ordered." http://www.google.com... Time is called "a dimension." No one can say what time is made of. Nobody has seen time or weighed it, but who will deny that time exists? Do you love your wife? Do you love your kids? What is love made of? What is it physically composed of? Is it just a set of chemicals in your body telling you when to have sex or instincts programmed into you by evolution to propagate your species? These are speculative theories, but certainly they haven"t been proven, and nobody can define in scientific terms the physical composition of love. Yet, this is no reason to deny that we experience love in our lives! So Pro"s demand that I tell him what God is made out of, as if we would even have access to that information if he does exist, is unreasonable. It"s not like God is going to subject himself to our scientific experiments to get a piece of him under the microscope.
Positive Arguments For the Existence of God
Moral values cannot exist without conscious minds capable of realizing or thinking about them. Before humans existed on the earth, there was obviously no right or wrong in the animal kingdom. When a male white shark forcibly copulates with a female shark, he wasn't guilty of raping her. When a lion bites and kills another lion he wasn't guilty of murder. When a bird eats or kills her young (some birds do at times) such was not a problem in the animal kingdom. Actions such as rape and murder had no moral dimension to them among animals. But when humans came on the scene, we apprehended a world of moral values where somethings, such a rape, child abuse, and stealing, were really, truly, evil, and other things such as love, peace, compassion, and generosity, were truly good. Were these values simply the product of highly evolved brains? It doesn't seem logical that moral duties could sudden appear just on the basis that our brains had become more complex.
For example, what if every human being were to agree from this moment on, that African slavery, the holocaust, rape, and child abuse, were good and right, would that make them right? If your answer is no (and my answer is certainly no) then you agree with me that moral values and duties are not decided by majority vote, nor are they simply the product of our brains. The fact that we experience such moral values shows that there is some higher source, above and beyond human opinion that determines what is ultimately right and wrong. But since such values cannot exist without a conscious being to realize them, we must conclude that some other conscious entity exists besides us human beings which imposes these moral values and duties on us. After all, laws require a law-maker.
But why assume this law-maker is God? Why not aliens from space? Well, we don't see any aliens when making moral decisions do we? Whoever it is that imposes these values on us, is invisible. He is also undetectable by our current technology. Sounds more like God to me than anything else. But what's the alternative? My opponent may argue that moral values don't exist, in which case he'd be saying that its not wrong to murder, steal, rape and molest children. Will he really go to these extremes to win a debate? Will he embrace nihilism? Will he deny the very emotions he experiences?
Secondly, the universe is set up upon a framework of very precise laws that must be finely tuned in order for life to exist. If you change any of these constants just a little, you won't have any life at all. The chances of all the constants getting it just right in a single shot at the big bang are simply too small to face. Thus, in the absence of any naturalistic explanation for the fine tuning of the universe, it seems an intelligent Creator would be the most logical source. If Pro demands sources for this information I will provide them in the next round.
Finally, I want to ask, what about all the millions of people who claim to have experienced miraculous encounters with God? Are they all lying? Is it a mental illness? Is it not more probable, that since mankind has been religious for most if not all his existence, that God does exist?
I thank Pro for a very prompt response!
A priori stance of non-existence
Pro doesn’t actually contest any of the premises of the argument provided, and has not challenged the logical validity of the argument; hence the conclusion follows logically which is that the following statement is false:
“All entities are more likely to exist then not a priori”
Hence the antithesis entails:
“All entities are more likely to not exist a priori”
Indeed this statement does not cause the same problems as a positive entity since an absence of an entity doesn’t entail anything; it has no properties and hence cannot contradict anything. Plugging in the antithesis into the argument does not yield contradictions; hence we should accept the antithesis.
Pro seems to advocate for a 50% probability yes/no a priori, but this is absurd, multiple mutually exclusive entities can be proposed for each entity given. For example me proposing the last winning number on the lottery to be ‘47’ is not a 50/50 situation, there are many more incompatible entities than the ‘47’ ball, hence before the ball is drawn, it is reasonable to conclude that the number on the ball is most likely not ‘47’.
To reformulate the argument:
P1. All entities are as likely to exist then not a priori (a1, a2, a3… etc)
Since we have many more entities we run into the same problems, and don’t forget we can do this for each and every attribute of God. Hence a priori it is more likely that God does not exist than he does.
Pro doesn’t need to contest this as long as he presents strong positive arguments for the antithesis.
I am afraid I cannot accommodate Pro’s misunderstanding of God’s definition, since I have already committed a round and significant space to it. The definition of God I made explicit in the opening arguments. This argument doesn’t require humans to have free will, it is irrelevant to the argument, it only makes my job a little more difficult. If Humans have free will then a larger evidential case can be given, although it’s unnecessary.
Pro makes some rebuttals regarding God going against his nature, but these are irrelevant to the argument, the argument works even if God’s choices are constrained by his nature. The only premise that Pro contests is P3, and Pro defends it from the perspective of human free will, but the argument addresses God’s free will. If someone could have chosen differently, then it would violate God’s omniscience, since his foreknowledge would be ‘wrong’ when the choice contrary to his divine foreknowledge is made. This is a logical impossibility. 
If for example the winning lottery numbers was written on a piece of paper, which is guaranteed to be true, then there is no sense of ‘uncertainty’ or ‘randomness’ within the actual dealing of the lottery numbers. Alternatively, It would be logically possible for God to hand a being with free will with information about his next choice, yet that being would not logically be able to choose differently, hence he simply cannot make the choice at hand, at best only an ‘illusion’ of choice can be made.
“Free Will” is a philosophical term of art for a particular sort of capacity of rational agents to choose a course of action from among various alternatives”
If God handed me a piece of paper written with his own divine foreknowledge that ‘I will walk off the edge of a cliff in 10 minutes’, there would be no way I could logically choose not to do that, despite knowing the choice beforehand. Similarly, God cannot be ignorant of his own divine foreknowledge, and this defence fails.
Pro seems to conflate primary attributes with ‘physical attributes’, no where does it necessarily require that these attributes be physical. It doesn’t matter if time is immaterial for example, only that is has a concrete primary attribute, and it does in physics. With primary descriptions in entropy, relativity and the passage of sequential events.
Pro asserts God as a spirit substance, but what the heck is a spirit? Pro could have called it a glooglum and yielded the same amount of information. He does define it further however:
“A Spirit is an invisible entity, which is conscious, and the closest thing in this physical realm I can think of to compare a spirit being to is "energy."
However none of these descriptions are positive primary attributes. ‘Entity’ is meaningless on it’s own, ‘invisible’ is a secondary attribute as is ‘conscious’. What is conscious? It fails for the same reasons as my ’10 lb’ example, ’10 lbs of what?’
Hence this entity is a meaningless substance. Pro did give one primary attribute, ‘energy’, however this is problematic as it limits God to anything of energy, and hence violate it’s omnipotence. Energy is described within spacetime, and hence limited by the rules of spacetime. The same will apply to any primary attribute one attempts to apply to God as I argued in my opening round.
To give a more succinct summarization, to make the assertion:
Is equivalent to making the assertion
“A boodoo exists”
Both I argue are meaningless concepts, and hence positing their existence is both impossible and absurd, it is not mitigated by adding additional secondary attributes to the proposition:
“A pink boodoo weighing 10 lbs which is aethetisically pleasing”
None of these attributes add any substance to the central claim of a ‘boodoo’. I have argued that this is actually impossible to do in the case of God.
It might be of some comfort to Pro that I am a moral nihilist, hah. Pro makes numerous assertions about the nature of morals but provides very little factual evidence to support them, they are largely bare assertions.
Pro’s argument seems to be along the lines that Humans possess moral duties, and that these duties could not be natural in origin, hence it requires a supernatural origin. First this is a very long way off from affirming a God as defined in the first round, but secondly Pro has given no reasons to accept that they could not and would not have arisen naturally.
If we assume that humans generally did not possess moral values and duties, what would happen? Well we can assume murder, pillage and thievery would be much more common. What would happen then? Well humans would work significantly less efficiently in groups, and cooperatively, and hence be much less successful at surviving. Hence the groups of humans that did exhibit generally more moral traits did survive better, and hence passed on their knowledge/behaviours to the next generation, which lead to civilization today.[3,4]
This is a pretty well-accepted view in prehistory human development, and flat out refutes Pro’s claim that without God moral duties are impossible.
Pro appeals to emotions in asserting that African slavery, the holocaust etc were wrong, but why should we believe this to be true? Why should we believe the holocaust is wrong? Clearly the holocaust was not wrong for the Nazi’s performing it, which is clear evidence that morals are subjective in nature. I am not asserting we do not have moral values, only that the justification for them is question-begging.
This argument fails for numerous reasons:
None of these assumptions have been justified by Pro, since without making these assumptions then pro’s argument fails due to the anthropic principle, which depicts that we are only ever going to observe and measure a universe in which we can exist, hence the fact that the physical parameters are well-suited for life is insignificant.
Given the significant flexibility that evolutionary theory proposes, and the diversity of life we see on Earth, it is very reasonable at accept that there is significant plasticity in how life could have arisen. Pro has not supported any of his assertions either, and hence has performed the bare assertion fallacy.
Again, this is a bare assertion by Pro, what are these experiences, and why should we accept they are of supernatural origin. This appears to be an argument ad ignorantum by Pro and I await further evidence to support his claim.
So far I have demonstrated a very low probability of God existing a priori, demonstrated the concept of “God” is incoherent and shown that two of God’s attributes are mutually exclusive. The case for God’s non-existence has been established.
Pro says "Pro [I think he means Con] seems to advocate for a 50% probability yes/no a priori, but this is absurd," but I made no such argument. I said that in the absence of evidence for or against the existence of a thing, all we can say is "I don"t know." Saying "I don"t know" is not a statement about how probable something is, be it 50%, 10% or any %. Another way of saying it is this: if someone asked me, "is the existence of being X just as likely as its non-existence?" My answer isn"t "yes, 50/50," my answer is "I have no idea." So saying that one doesn"t know how likely it is for a being to exist cannot be the same as a down the middle 50/50 probability " it"s a statement of ignorance regarding the probability of its existence itself. So I saw no reason, and still don"t, to rebut his premises because he gave no evidence for them either way!
Pro says that in a lottery, "before the ball is drawn, it is reasonable to conclude that the number on the ball is most likely not "47"." This illustration is flawed and doesn"t represent accurately what we are debating. First, since "any" number can be drawn, then 47 cannot be any more or less likely than any other number no matter how many they are. It would be less likely for someone to know in advance that 47 would be drawn if the drawing to totally random, but the improbability of their knowing which number will be drawn has nothing to do with the probability of the number itself being drawn. Furthermore, we already know the 47 ball exists, so we can say for sure that 47 has some unknown level of probability to be drawn, but we can"t assign any level of probability to it being drawn without evidence for or against its existence.
So I don"t see any evidence behind the premise that all entities are more likely to exist than not, why would they? What"s the evidence? None was given to us, and the probability of a thing must be based on the available data. And why are all entities less likely to exist than to exist? What"s the date upon which the premise is based? In science, we start with an observation, then formulate premises/hypothesis based on the observation, then carry out tests and experiments to confirm or disprove what we thought. Pro begins his arguments with premises based on no evidence, such are ad hoc.
Pro keeps referring to me as "Pro," I am "Con" in this debate. Further, absence of evidence would only be evidence of absence if in the particular case under scrutiny, we would expect the subject in question to have left the particular forms of evidence for which we look. So if a murder seen doesn"t have the man"s foot fingerprints, DNA, blood, etc, this isn"t proof of his absence, but its evidence that indicates his absence; however, if the being in question who supposedly committed the murder was an invisible angel, what kind of evidence would we expect it to leave? Footprints? DNA? No, it wouldn"t leave any evidence we could detect, and thus absence of evidence in this case would not be evidence of the angel"s absence. Absence of evidence of an invisible, intangible being such as God, would not be evidence of his absence.
Pro argues that "If someone could have chosen differently, then it would violate God"s omniscience, since his foreknowledge would be "wrong" when the choice contrary to his divine foreknowledge is made." He fails to see the fact that God"s omniscience doesn"t imply the person "can"t" choose differently, it simply implies that they "won"t" choose differently. God"s foreknowledge simply places him in the future point at which the choice has been made. This in no way shows the person didn"t have choice, it was simply a guarantee of God already knowing the result. Pro is actually saying that because a person definitely will do something, means that he has no choice but to do it, which is false. I definitely will type the next letter in this sentence, does that mean I had to? God already knows that I will type that letter, does it mean I had to? No, I could choose not to type the next letter, but God would know it in advance.
If God gives me piece of paper with my future choice on it, do I have the freedom to chose otherwise and thus prove God a liar? Yes, I do have that freedom. I can choose something other than what God says I will chose, but I will not. The fact that I will not chose different doesn"t show that I couldn"t have chosen differently. It only shows that God knows what choice I will make when it comes down to it. The future which Pro says is set in stone, only exists based on decisions made in the past. Were those decisions different, which they could have been, the future would have been different. So Pro is ignoring the fact, that the future itself could have been different, in which case, what God knows about the future would have been different. In this way, God couldn"t be wrong, but we still have free will. The fact that we will not go against the future God has foreseen doesn"t show that we couldn"t have. I could go against the future God is seeing me in now, but if I did, God would not have been seeing that future, he would be seeing the future that results from the choice I did make.
Non-Cognitivism of "God"
Pro seems to argue that we need to define what God is made of in order to show his existence. But nobody knows what the objects seen in the Belgian UFO Air Wave were made of, but surely they existed. http://www.google.com... They emitted light, and could move within space-time, but Pro would call these secondary attributes, just like in his illustration with a "boodoo," say, "a boodoo that emits light and moves in spacetime" still doesn"t define what a boodoo is. He might say these objects were limited in size, so what if I say God has a shape and a size, does that somehow explain what God is? How is that any less of an explanation as saying he is unlimited in size, being eternal?
Comparing a Spirit to energy, Pro say limits God since energy itself is limited, but what about a limitless source of energy? Just because Pro can"t imagine it doesn"t mean it cannot exist. What proves that human beings, who themselves are very limited in thinking and imagination, must be able to imagine exactly what something is like in order for it to exist? A dog may never comprehend some concepts we humans have, so should the dog conclude it doesn"t" exist? Isn"t it a bit dogmatic to assert that the only things which exist are those we can comprehend? Would a primitive from 5000 years ago comprehend the idea of an artificial intelligence or quantum mechanics?
Pro didn't rebut the example of love. What is love made of? What size is it? Does it have mass? We know for a fact that love exists. The dictionary has definitions for both love and God, and just because Pro may not be able to get his mind around what people mean when they say "God" doesn't mean other people don't get their minds around it, and thus his inability to comprehend it doesn't show his non-existence.
If there is no God who created us, then evolution is the only game in town. In that case, morality is simply a biological aid to survival, no less than our hands, and feet and teeth. I see no evidence that a herd morality invented as part of the accident of evolution via accidental mutation and natural selection, would be true. So Pro is backed into the position of questioning if objective moral values exist at all. He says the holocaust was right for the Nazis but wrong for the Jews, its all relative, and I simply ask the readers of this debate if they agree that the holocaust was not absolutely wrong regardless of whether other humans agree with you or not. Atheism naturally leads to nihilism inevitably, for if morality is subjective, then there is no right or wrong that imposes itself on us. Its just the opinion of one ape versus another (though they be highly evolved).
In this case, the American"s had no sound basis on which to judge the Nazi because they didn"t do anything wrong. They were simply following their own set of moral values just as other people follow theirs. So without some higher law above mere human opinion to appeal to, there is no right grounds to condemn anyone for anything no matter how horrific, for they aren"t doing anything wrong. Such actions like rape and child abuse would just be socially inconvenient, but that does nothing to show such actions are really wrong. However, the fact that we experience moral values shows they exist, and not even the Nazi's would want the holocaust to be carried out on them. All humans know that somethings are just, wrong. I see no reason to deny the reality of our experience of moral values anymore than our experience of love, or the physical world around us.
If nature does not care about suffering, then why not be cruel if it is beneficial for the individual person or society? History provides numerous examples of cruelty and oppression by perpetrators who saw personal or societal benefit in their actions? Preying on the weak brings more resources to stronger groups, so why wouldn't that be the predominant morality today? Evolution can't explain why people do good even when they gain no advantage, sometimes at great cost to themselves. The fact that Pro denies being a moral nihilist but then goes on to question the foundation of morality, even speculating it as an accidental product of evolution, shows that atheists want to hold onto moral values as absolute in daily living, but deny their true value in their writings because they cannot adequately defend morality without God.
I will defend the fine tuning and experience of God next round. I'm out of space.
A priori stance of Non-Existence
Con essentially drops this argument, since he has not challenged the validity of the argument, or the soundness of the premises. I gave the argument in 2 parts:
“P1. All entities are more likely to exist than not a priori (a1, a2, a3… etc)
“P1. All entities are as likely to exist than not a priori (a1, a2, a3… etc)
So here I have ruled that assuming God more likely to exist than not a priori is absurd, and also as likely to exist than not is also absurd. Hence we are only left with the antithesis, that God is unlikely to exist a priori. There is no middle ground here due to the law of the excluded middle, God’s either likely to exist, or is not likely to exist. Hence the antithesis logically follows from the arguments. I have supported all these premises in my argumentation in the previous rounds and Con has not disputed any of them, and hence drops the argument altogether(!).
Con seems to confuse the argument I am making:
That was the entire point of the argument! It demonstrates that such a claim is absurd, and hence all claims including God are unlikely to exist a priori. The argument is an analytical argument, and hence the premises are derived a priori, so Con’s evidential complains are void since those are necessarily a posterori. This argument, coupled with an absence of positive tangable reasons to believe the existence of an entity is indeed evidence of absence, it just isn’t ‘proof’ of absence, as I already argued.
Con’s only significant objection seems to in fact be a rejection of the Principle of Alternative Possibilities (PAP), a well-regarded philosophical principle for which both free will and also moral responsibility.
PAP: “If you cannot do otherwise when you do an act, you do not act freely”
This leads from Con asserting that ‘I will not, but I can’, however it also entails ‘I could not, even if I wanted to’. Denial of this principle (Hyper-Incompatibilism) unsurprisingly puts Con in seriously compromising positions when it comes to moral decisions, for example:
“A person who has a choice between knowingly putting salt in his cereal, or knowingly putting poison in a friend’s cereal, however the salt has run out, leaving the person with a choice, but only logical outcome (his poisoning of his friend).”
According to Con, this person poisoned his friend by his own free will, and consequently is responsible for the death of his friend. The person is aware of the possibilities, yet can only choose to do the undesirable one. This may sound somewhat absurd, and it is, but it logically follows from Con’s assertion that one who could not have chosen to do otherwise would still have ‘free will’.
Furthermore, such a stance would lead to the absurd notion of being responsible for one’s essential properties. For example, a being that necessarily does action X (such as obeying God’s divine foreknowledge) mean’s that being’s situation is described by de dicto necessity. Necessarily, that being obeys God’s foreknowledge, which is synonymous with one obeying their necessary property of obedience. There is nothing to distinguish one from having the necessary property of ‘obedience’ and extrinsically ‘necessarily obeying’. Hence that being’s alternative possibilities don’t exist, since it is nature (albeit extrinsically) .
Similarly, a necessarily evil person cannot be held morally responsible for his evil deeds, since that is his nature, to choose to do otherwise would violate his nature, indeed this is something that Con affirmed in his first rebuttal, hence for Con to deny this objection would be to deny one of his own objections!
A modal formulation of the PAP is given below:
P1. If free will exists, then s2 AND s3 are logically possible situations after a choice event in the same situation (s1)
P1 arises from the PAP. My argument for fatalism plugs into P3:
Con has attempted to assert that both situations are logically possible, but this is just a direct contradiction of what omniscience entails (where it becomes necessary only one logically possible situation exists).
Moreover, it is possible for someone to relish the opportunity to see what would happen if fate could be changed, hence if God told some of a predestined future they would want to violate it in some manner. It is prima facie absurd that they would not if given the choice to violate predestination if given. Yet Con’s reasoning demands this be impossible. The choice clearly exists (I can choose to, or choose not to violate fate), yet I can logically only ever choose not to. This not only violates the PAP, but is also prima facie implausible.
Con again misunderstands my argument here, as such I will give it in a horned dilemma to make things clear:
P1) Either God has a positively defined primary attribute, or does not
P2) If God has a positively defined primary attribute, then he is necessarily limited
P3) If God does not have a positively defined Primary attribute, then “God” is meaningless
C) In either case, God does not exist
Even without assuming that a primary attribute of God’s is impossible, it also follows that ignorance of God’s primary attribute(s) means we cannot meaningfully and justifiably apply secondary attributes to it. It is impossible to argue or talk about a being without an understanding of how those secondary attributes apply to the primary nature of the being. For example, a ‘brown chair’, the term ‘brown’ only has meaning when we have an understanding of the nature of the chair, what it’s made of, it’s geometry etc, and hence what ‘brown’ means with regards to the primary nature of a chair.
Similarly applying attributes such as ‘omnipotence’ or ‘omniscience’ or ‘creator’ is completely meaningless unless we have an understanding of what the primary nature/attributes of God is. The term “God” remains meaningless. Con described God in terms of ‘unlimited size’ for example, but this limits God to within spacetime, which would ironically contradict God’s limitless nature (omnipotence, omniscience). The same applies to a limitless source of energy, since God is limited to the nature of what ‘energy’ is, and qualities such as omniscience and omnipotence can only be applied frivolously to such a being.
I am struggling to see what Con’s argument for the existence of God is here, but it appears to be something like the following:
P1) If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist
Moreover, I could also positively object to P1, and argue that objective moral values can be possibly derived from our psychology, how humans perceive things (such as pleasure, pain, fear, emotions) and hence moral values be derived from a knowledge of how humans find actions ‘preferable’ or ‘non-preferable’. Indeed numerous secular moral systems exist which surmise morality as objective (objectivism, utilitarianism etc.), hence clearly atheism does not necessarily lead to nihilism.
I gave a rudimentary example last round of how humans as a society tend to act in certain cooperative ways, for mutual benefit, to which Con has not attempted to refute. I would argue such values are in fact subjective, but because humans generally perceive similar things in similar ways (humans generally prefer not to be in pain, suffering, etc) then we generally converge on the same subjective values (and hence confuse them with objective values). Evolution is not necessary to affirm this, only an understanding of our psychology and our abilities to learn with our cognitive faculties.
Con’s only defences of the existence of objective moral values are contained in the following:
“All humans know that something’s are just, wrong.”
“….its all relative, and I simply ask the readers of this debate if they agree that the holocaust was not absolutely wrong regardless of whether other humans agree with you or not”
Both are entirely appeals to emotion, what the reader thinks is wrong has nothing to do with whether or not something is objectively wrong. Hence I can just reject these out of hand sans further evidence from Con.
Fine Tuning & ‘Miraculous Encounters’
I have thoroughly enjoyed this debate, I wish Con luck in voting!
3.Sam Harris ‘A Moral Landscape’ Ch 2-3
Pro says "So here I have ruled that assuming God more likely to exist than not a priori is absurd, and also as likely to exist than not is also absurd. Hence we are only left with the antithesis, that God is unlikely to exist a priori." So his argument is that if we can"t assume A or B, we have no choice but to assume C, which is similar to saying if we can"t assume B or C, we have no choice but to assume A. Pro fails to see that we simply shouldn"t assume anything, but follow the evidence where it leads. Pro would have us think that if we shouldn"t assume something exist, we must assume it doesn"t exist. He claims "There is no middle ground here due to the law of the excluded middle, God"s either likely to exist, or is not likely to exist." But this likely hood cannot simply be assumed before examining evidence. For BOTH positions, before evidence for and against is examined, we simply say "I don"t know." Agnosticism is the default position, not atheism. Maybe he exists, maybe he doesn"t, I don"t know, and I don"t have a probabilistic statistic " that"s the default position before evidence is examined. Only after hearing arguments for and against God"s existence, can we determine how likely it is for God to exist or not exist. We can"t do it by philosophical presuppositions without considering evidence. Pro"s premises simply assume a further secondary premise, that we have to assume that evidence doesn"t exist before checking to see what the arguments for God are. This again is probabilistic because one could have assumed there is no argument against God before considering the evidence.
Pro"s illustration with poisoning a friend simply doesn"t accurately represent my position. If the salt runs out, yes, poisoning his friend is the only option, but if God knows what choice I will make in the future, this in no way implies that my choices have run out? Pro is simply asserting that just because God know positively what I will do, means that I did not have a choice. This simply doesn"t follow. If you knew what choice a child was going to make, and you turned out to be right, does that somehow mean the child didn"t have choice? Of course not.
Pro also ignores the fact that other futures besides the one that actually does exist, could have existed if the choices we were about to make had been different. We could choose differently, in which case God would be living in a radically different future. This wouldn"t impinge on his foreknowledge, since he would be in that future that our alternate choice created, and thus would be aware of our destiny.
I never affirmed that an evil person cannot do otherwise. An evil human being could become good tomorrow. But what I did affirm is that unlike humans, God in his nature is unchangeable, and therefore being already good, he cannot become evil. So while God"s choices are limited by his good character, so that he can only respond in certain ways to events, ours is not so limited by our character because our character is subject to change.
Just as we can"t go back in time and do other than what we already did, its obvious that we can"t do anything other than what we will actually do in the future. This in no way implies there is no free will. It simply implies that if indeed I will choose A, then I can"t choose other than A; not because I couldn"t choose B, because if indeed I will choose B, then I couldn"t choose A. The fact that the future exists doesn"t show we don"t have choice, only that what choices we will make, in that future time, have already been made.
What if God told me that I will get killed tomorrow? So I ask when and where, and I avoid the place, trying to defy God"s foreknowledge. But then I"m kidnapped and taken to that place. In my struggle to escape, I get a gun and have it pointed at the man who captured me. All I have to do is pull the trigger. I can choose to kill him and prove God wrong, or have mercy on him, and risk his trying to kill me. God already knew what choice I would make. God knew me so well, that even if he didn"t see the future, he knows I don"t have a bad bone in my body, and I wouldn"t have the guts to shoot someone in cold blood. Does that therefore prove I don"t have a choice? I can pull the trigger even if its out of character for me. People do things out of character from time to time, especially in extreme situations. But the man pleads for mercy, and I lower my gun for a second, which allows him to draw a gun from behind his back and shoot me dead. Now, if God didn"t see the future, and was simply telling me what I would do in a situation like that based on what he knows about my character, it wouldn"t mean I didn"t have a choice. So if God sees the future, his seeing what CHOICE I would make, doesn"t show I did not make a choice at that time. Therefore, it doesn"t prove we don"t have free choice right now. No matter what choice we will make, God will exist in that future to see which decision we will make, thus, his foreknowledge is absolute, with no conflict with free will.
Non-Cognitivism of "God"
Con assumes that if God was made of energy the energy would have to be limited in nature, why? He gives no reason. Why can"t energy be unlimited? Why can"t God have an endless amount of a primary attribute? Pro hasn"t shown that infinities cannot exit. Distance is infinite. There simply, logically, cannot be an end of distance. Even if all matter and energy ceases to exist, the very emptiness of the void would have eternal distance.
Just because Pro doesn"t know what God is made of he assumes he cannot exist. I will let the readers decide on this.
P1) If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist
P2) Objective moral values exist
C) God exists
Pro objects the existence of objective moral values on the grounds that the Nazi"s and Jews had different views of what was moral. Pro is thus saying that the holocaust was not actually wrong. It might have felt wrong to the Jews, but it wasn"t really, truly, wrong. It"s just like in the animal kingdom when a lion eats a zebra. It might feel wrong to the zebra, but that"s just the illusion of the zebra"s subjective feeling. The lion isn"t doing anything intrinsically wrong. Stuff just happens, its neither right or wrong, good or bad, it just is! And I ask the readers to judge for themselves if they accept this as true. That love, and compassion, and justice, and equality, and generosity, are not truly good, but are just illusions. That actions like rape, and child abuse are not truly bad, and evil, but simply acts in nature no less than a bird eating a worm.
I argue that the man who pins down, rapes and tortures a 9 year old girl isn"t simply acting unfashionably, he is a moral abomination! If you agree that your sense of morality doesn"t mock us, that some things, are really, objectively right, and others are simply evil, please vote Con.
If there is no right or wrong, then we have no right to condemn anyone for anything. All the criminals in prison are there unfairly and should be released into society because they aren"t doing anything wrong, except maybe defying the subjective imagination of men. If right and wrong are illusions, why don"t atheists want to be freed of these illusions? If fairness and truth don"t have any real value, why fight for them? There must be a higher source for such moral values, and a Creator to set the standards of right and wrong seems more logical than Pro"s idea that we evolved altruistic behavior out of the cold, hard, unmerciful, pitiless, indifference of blind nature that neither cares for us or about us.
Now since Pro said he won't get to rebut my final arguments, instead of going into the fine tuning and so forth, I will finish off on this argument from objective moral values. So, do objective moral values exist? Well, consider how we know that the physical world exist. We know there is a physical world outside our minds because we experience it every day, we touch and interact with it, similarly, we know that moral values exist because we experience them, just as we experience love, and hate - no one will deny these exist. Now there are people out there who have a warped sense of morality, just as there are mentally or physically sick people who cannot experience the reality of the physical world, but that is no reason to deny its existence, is it? In fact, morality is objective because it tends to transcend cultures and religions in many respects.
Nearly universally across human cultures, there exist the same basic standards of morality. In addition, there exist in all cultures truly altruistic acts which lead to no personal or genetic benefit.
The majority of people who explicitly deny the existence of objective morality still act as if objective morality exists.
There exists a nearly universal human intuition that certain things are objectively right or wrong.
The majority of philosophers recognize the existence of objective moral facts.
Many naturalists (like Sam Harris or Shelley Kagan) affirm the existence of objective moral facts, despite the problems inherent in grounding these facts in the natural world. " http://www.google.com...
Even the Nazis who thought what they did to the Jews was OK, also wouldn't want it done to them, showing that they still didn't perceive this action as being intrinsically good. In other words, they decided to do something they knew to be "wrong" to the Jews, cause if they thought it was "good," and "right" they would choose that suffering for themselves.
Laws require a law-maker, so where did these moral values come from?
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