Strong Atheism is a Sound Position
The BoP is on me to demonstrate the resolution is true. My distinguished opponent Mykeil may either refute 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) to win.
Strong Atheism: The belief that there is no god(s)
God: An intelligent being that is an omnipotent, omniscient cause of the universe
Note that omnibenevolence has been omitted from God's qualities (I don't intend to use arguments from evil etc).
72h, 10,000 words, 3 rounds
BoP on Pro
Round 1: Acceptance, Rules
Round 2: Arguments, Rebuttals
Round 3: Arguments, Rebuttals
Round 4: Rebuttals, No new arguments
Best of Luck!
Thank you Envisage. I look forward to seeing your arguments. I suspect they will not be easily refuted.
God bless you.
Note this argument also works for other interpretations of such, such as those posited by pantheism, since it will be the extra attributes that a theistic universe would posit that multiplies complexity. Thus in all cases, naturalism has an inherent advantage in simplicity.
A Deductive argument is considered "Sound' when the premises are true and the inferences are valid. Inductive arguments are not called "sound" they are called "strong". In the literature I have read "soundness" is never used in combination with abductive inference.
Strong Atheism is a philosophical position. Instead of arguing semantics and proper use of terms, I gesture that we use a more colloquial definition of the word "sound". More like the definition of cogency: (of an argument or case) clear, logical, and convincing.
Con1. Doubt Confirms Nothing
Figure 1 is a line with 100% certain God exists at one end, and 100% certain God does not exist at the opposite end. Let's define certainty as a position based on cogent argumentation that implies no possibility for the antithesis.
Even from 99% to 100% strong atheism is quite the leap. Simply put, "It might not be so" can not deduce down to "it is not so". To do so is known as the Prosecutor’s Fallacy. Even if the possibility is 1% that in and of itself implies it does happen and could be the case.
An argument for Strong Atheism would follow this form:
P1. If G then Q.
P2. Not Q.
C1. Therefore Not G.
Assuming P2 is actually true and Q naturally follows from God, such an argument would make God impossible. And in turn make Strong Atheism a cogent or sound philosophical position. Envisage provides such an argument so I move to rebuttals.
R0. Formalizing Inference to Best Explanation (IBE)
IBE is used quite often in our everyday lives. Take for instance the following example:
P1. Tim and Harry were friends.
P2. Time and Harry are seen jogging together.
C1. Time and Harry made-up and are friends again.
This makes sense to us, but logically unsound. The inference does not logically follow the premises. There is no property of jogging together that naturally follows to being friends. IBE is criticized for being a known fallacy Affirming the consequent. Which is a formal fallacy, a pattern of reasoning which renders the argument invalid due to a flaw in its logical structure.
To demarcate IBE from circular speculation let us establish some formalization to garner more confidence in this method.
Three conditions for an hypothesis (H) to be a good explanation for event (E):
IBE 1. Causation Condition: H makes a claim about something that caused E. It may describe the nature of a known cause, or posit the existence of a previously unknown cause. This should be accepted because a cause should be sufficient to produce the effect.
IBE 2. Inference Condition: E can be inferred from H, to a high degree.
IBE 3. Plausibility Condition: H is relatively likely to be true, compared to competing hypotheses, given our background knowledge. Say a Cause(C) is postulated in H for E. If C is contingent on C1, C2, etc. If C1 is not present then C makes H considerably less valid.
Karl Popper relegates IBE to the formation of hypotheses. Stating the discovery of new ideas can not be found in a systematic logic. "The initial stage, the act of conceiving or inventing a theory, seems to me neither to call for logical analysis nor to be susceptible of it". Charles S. Peirce concludes there must be some logic or, at least, heuristic for scientific discovery. Abduction is this method.
R2. Law of Parsimony
Parsimony is an heuristic principle. The use of word "law" is anecdotal, not necessarily true or reliable based on personal accounts rather than facts or research. It is like Murphy's Law. Most do not expect their cars to not start every morning due to a series of possible malfunctions.
Scientist are not ashamed to posit additional as yet unobserved entities if the current body of evidence is insufficient to account for an Event.
In the 1800s, scientists found that Mercury’s perihelion shifts in slowly around the Sun. Scientist postulated the existence of another planet called Vulcan. The solution to the mystery of Mercury’s orbit came in 1915, when Einstein modified and improved Newton's laws with his new theory of relativity.
Einstein added another dimension to make his formulas work: Time. A method used today by Scientist who conjecture this universe being the event horizon of a 4 dimensional black hole, or the addition of special matter that only interacts gravitationally (Dark Matter, Dark Energy).
If what is known is insufficient to cause an event, it is not illogical to seek what is not known.
R1(+4). Explanatory Power, Makes Predictions About Reality
Envisage posits: "Theism always has the disadvantage over metaphysical naturalism since metaphysical naturalism only entails the physical universe we have observed." Exemplifies the Problem with Induction.
The understanding of Science increases with time, objects that are in the domain of "Supernatural" transition into the domain of "Natural". One driving force to this transition is new evidence, previously held explanations are insufficient or based on incomplete understandings. Clearly some Supernatural objects exist, for some objects have existed before their transition into the domain of scientific explanation.
In the beginning... of time, t+1 is the earliest in which the Laws of Nature as we know them remain unbroken. Even the amount of matter in the universe, can be different to what it was before the Big Bang (t+1), as the Law of Conservation of Matter, will break down at the Big Bang. (Stephen Hawking )
Making a Metaphysical Naturalistic explanation of the universe incoherent. Unfalsifiable. Ultimately insufficient.
R3 Proposition is within Background Knowledge
"Theism however, posits omnipotence and omniscience, something we have exactly zero experience ... such an explanation is necessarily beyond our experience."
Truth is not contingent on being experienced by mankind. Things on the quantum level are not experienced macroscopically. To educate ourselves we often simplify subjects into human relatable analogies. Take the well-known analogy of a marble on a rubber sheet to explain the bending of space-time in General Relativity. The erroneous conclusion would be that a marble on a trampoline would simulate the orbit of any planet This is simply not the case.
I postulate that "truths" become universal and absolute, the more they depart from the context of human experience.
Con2: Absolute truths
2.1 Mathematical Argument
P1. Only the abstract and immaterial can be universally true.
P2. Mathematical concepts and relationships are abstract and immaterial.
C1. Mathematical concepts and relationships are universally true.
P1 is accepted because when removed from the spatiotemporal conditions the statement is either true for all universal conditions or for none.
2.2 Warping of Space-time Argument
Space-time is not energy nor is it matter. Yet we do ascribe physical attributes to it when we say it stretches or curves. If space-time is not matter nor is it energy this is a very loose description of physical and the Metaphysical Naturalist who postulates "all is physical" allows for greater diversity in object properties than I would say is fair. Maybe Envisage can touch on this point further.
R5. Employment of ad hoc assumptions
And Now we come full circle. I want to thank Envisage for structuring the debate so well.
Is Strong Atheism, as a philosophical position, logically sound on some argumentation. The cogent argument for such a position being valid, truthful premises, valid inferences and negate the possibility for God.
R5.1 Argument From atemporal Minds
R5.1.1 Minor Rebuttal Pantheism
Using Metaphysical Naturalism we can reduce the emergent phenomena of mind to interactions between nodes. For the machinations to emerge a mind the logic gates must be able to open in may valued states. This is what we have with quantum wave-functions. The entire universe could be one large divine mind going through the process of thought. As a whole encompassing all spacetime and thereby fulfilling the defined attributes of God.[10,11]
R5.2 Incoherence of a Caused Universe
It would behoove the Atheist to compose their own arguments instead of using one's generated by Theist.
The roots of this argument, almost verbatim, comes from Book 11 in Confessions (circa 400a.d.) by St. Augustine. The question that some ask Augustine, "what was God doing before He created the Heavens and the Earth" is completely inapplicable. Augustine puts it "for there was no 'then' when there was no time" - "There was no time, therefore, when thou hadst not made anything, because thou hadst made time itself".
Nothing in the description of God infer he is atemporal. Just that God is external to THIS spacetime.
Strong Atheism, (100% believe God does not exist) is an "Unsound" position. The arguments to support it are composed of untrue premises, the inferences are invalid. The conclusions do not negate the antithesis "God exists" and therefore as a philosophical position should be upheld by the rational mind.
Soundness of Strong Atheism
Strong Atheism is generally accepted to be the positive belief that there is no God.
Few things in this life can be 100% certain, I agree. But I think to go around stating that there is "no god" would require a sound argument that God does not exist. And let the "probably" apply to the uncertainty innate in the argument. I'm not arguing that the conclusion must be 100% certain, but the conclusion if all premises are accepted as true, if all inferences are accepted as valid, then the conclusion must be "No God".
Summary: a Strong Atheist, as opposed to a weak atheist position, most have a sound argument that god does not exist.
Pro makes the claim that Abductive reasoning is the same as Bayesian confirmation techniques. But when reading over his 3rd reference we find the paragraph:
In the past decade, Bayesian confirmation theory has firmly established itself as the dominant view on confirmation... Abduction, in whichever version, assigns a confirmation-theoretic role to explanation: explanatory considerations contribute to making some hypotheses more credible, and others less so. By contrast, Bayesian confirmation theory makes no reference at all to the concept of explanation.
The remaining of the paragraph is an interesting read on how Bayesian theorems can be used with abduction.
It is not a law. It is an heuristic. Newton's 2 body law of gravity does have explanatory power. In fact it is quite accurate in explaining many interactions between 2 large bodies that attract each other. What it lacked was the power to explain Mercury's orbit when relativistic effects begin to change how we on Earth observe the event.
Scientist before Einstein were attempting reconcile what they saw with what Newton's Law said should happen. It was Einstein's theory of relativity they showed the observations of what was happening were being skewed.
And if the Hypothesis can not sufficiently cause the Event, then it is not parsimonious to adhere to the hypothesis. For instance say yesterday I saw a 300 lbs log at the bottom of a hill. I saw a small child playing around the log. The next morning I see the log has been moved uphill to a small outcrop.
One Hypothesis is the child moved the log. It conforms to all the observations I made. Except that the child does not have the strength to move the 300lbs log. Clearly this explanation REQUIRES assuming some other entity.
Pro uses the analogy of a Atheist saying there is a crayon in the box, and a theist saying there is a "red" crayon. however "red" doesn't effect the sounds or any other observation we might make of the box. Envisage explicitly keeps to an adhered belief. Constantly claiming that the "laws of nature" explain all the observations and events mankind has ever, or even will ever make.
Summary, Parsimony is a heuristic tool, that does not conclude an hypothesis to be true over another one. Before it even applies to filtering possible hypothesis, it clearly states it is to assume the hypothesis with less assumptions is correct between hypothesis that sufficiently account for the observation.
R3. Explanatory & Predictive Power
And I feel we should clarify something. When Pro states the "Laws of Nature" he is referring to a fundamental rule set that applies to all interactions in a material world.
But these "Laws" are not the same as the "Newton's Law of Gravity". The latter being a human description or model to explain the prescriptive laws of the former. So when I say "Natural Laws" I will be referring to the ACTUAL rule set that governs the universe. And using "Laws of Nature by Humans" to denote the descriptive human approximations of the Natural Laws.
Pro defines Metaphysical Naturalism himself in round 2, "which is the notion that everything within the universe is explicable by natural laws and that the universe itself does not require a sentient cause"
As my link to Stephen Hawking shows that the Laws of Nature by Humans, break down at the event Pro has brought up, the Big Bang. These Laws of Nature by Humans, breaks down not just at the early expansion of Big Bang, but break down at plank scale levels of events today, and have huge errors when applied to massively large objects like Galaxies, Black holes, and the universe as a whole.
An internal mechanism for the Universe to begin changing 13.8 billion years ago is insufficient. Some claim a perturbation sufficient enough to cause the Universe to begin expanding arose from quantum fluctuations. In Bose-Einstein condensates, a type of material that some say best explains the state of the early universe, we see that fluctuations are eventually reabsorbed by the condensate. That it takes an external source of energy to cause what we see as the universe today.
Some scientist explain this external force as being a higher dimension space of a black hole.  Where the scientist comment, "“Their shackles have prevented them from perceiving the true world, a realm with one additional dimension,” they write. “Plato’s prisoners didn't understand the powers behind the sun, just as we don’t understand the four-dimensional bulk universe. But at least they knew where to look for answers.”
Other Scientist push for a Multiverse explanation or Brane explanation for an external cause to the universe.
When researchers theorized about the higgs-boson and what experimental results to look for, they expected to see other particles present themselves, as well as the higgs. But this didn't happen. the other particles were absent and the mass of the higgs-boson was 100,000 times lighter.
So the explanatory power Pro speaks of with regards to the Natural laws (actual fundamental ones) is tautological, "The way things are explains the way things behave". This isn't a shocker. The subtle fallacy is when Pro attempts to claim that Naturalism explains things without God. And he uses the beginning of the Universe as evidence to that claim.
As already shown, the explanatory power belongs to the Naturals Laws but not to the Human descriptions of these laws. And nothing in these Actual Laws negate God, in fact may require God.
This is what happens when a methodology of practice is elevated to being a philosophical view about reality.
R4 Background Knowledge
False dichotomy. It's not a choice between God existing and Natural laws. And if we apply this to hypothesis testing for an event, The beginning of the universe between t-0 and t-1, theist do not choose between the 2. The choice is between Natural Laws alone and Natural Laws plus God. The Materialist can't even say what those Natural Laws are. So despite what Pro says, there is an amount of uncertainty in a Naturalist explanation of such an event.
As stated by Stephen Hawking, NOT even the Law of conservation of Energy and Matter applies during such an event. And even an approximate Law is only applicable if the Universe was a closed system. But it most certainly could have been Open and grew shut, or even semi open today with smaller and smaller pathways for external interactions to occur.
Pro's hypothesis testing is subjective and the values I would argue. but considering these priors are in a poorly understood context I refer to Pro's 2nd reference that concludes: The Bayesian approach to abduction has the merit of offering a complete and harmonious solution, and the price paid is, as already stressed in the past, that a full data collection is needed.
R5.1 Absolute truths
As I stated Pro said, ""Theism however, posits omnipotence and omniscience, something we have exactly zero experience ... such an explanation is necessarily beyond our experience."
Which is why I argued that explanations of things are more truthful, more universal and more absolute when they are beyond human experience.
R5.2 Employment of ad hoc explanations.
Argument from atemporal mind.
I'm refuting that God is atemporal. The minor Contention of gave of Pantheism, that the universe is the mind of God, would be a naturalistic explanation of how God's mind is temporal. And that would be without any additional entities and interactions than hat we have already observed.
The second proposal is that God exists in a plane or dimension outside of our 4th dimensional space. This is no more an assumption then what Scientist already propose such as this universe being the event horizon to a 4D black hole, or multiple universes existing.
Pro asserts that because God would have to exist prior to THIS space-time then God necceassarily atemporal. But that doesn't logically follow. And the only support given is THIS spacetime is the only one that exists.
Incoherence of a caused universe.
This argument always strikes more about language than it does about the universe or reality.
But as I have been stating I am not discussing a time before the universe was created. I have been discussing the event at the beginning of the universe. the cause for universal rapid expansion at t-0 to t-1 plank second.
This is a moment in time and space. It is a moment that the explanations from Materialist break, and a moment in which changes occurred, and the law of causality requires a cause those changes.
I don't have the BoP as stated by Pro in the first round.
The resolution is Strong Atheism is a sound position. To demonstrate that to be true Pro has to show that the denial of God's existence is logically strong. To do that pro has chosen to argue that Metaphysical Naturalism is sufficient to exclude the possibility of God existing. An argument I have presented contention to in that it does not have true premises or that the inferences are invalid.
There is nothing in the Natural Laws of reality that negate the possibility of God. When it comes to the temporal and spatial event of the Big Bang at the beginning of the Universe, Natural Laws as we know them are insufficient.
Strong Atheism is the adherence to a propositional claim not empirically or logically supported.
Pro defines Strong Atheism as: The belief that there is no god(s)
Belief is to accept a statement as true. So a Strong Atheism accepts "there are no god(s)" as true. For String Atheism to be a reasonable philosophical view, then the position will be supported by sound arguments. Even if these arguments do not conclude in a 100% certainty the will conclude in "God does not exist".
The statement, "God most likely does not exist" is not the same semantically or logically equivalent to the definition pro gave.
And I feel is moving the goal post, because most discussion on defining strong atheism state it is the affirmative claim "God does not exist".
Inference to Best Explanation
The roots of Science are in the Methodological Naturalism forwarded by Theist. Newton, Kepler, Bishops and Popes all spoke of explaining the world around us in natural terms. To what purpose you may ask? To discern the Creator's mind. It is a false dichotomy to think that Theism is separate from naturalism. Honestly I can not see how anything can be Theist with out naturalism. More often is a joining of studying nature and the idea of a creator.
In the mid 1800's this methodology began to be elevated to a philosophical position. The procedures of one investigative tool were assumed to some how describe the whole of reality.
Inference to .. what? Best Explanation. And Pro has not shown that Metaphysical Naturalism more likely explains the events usually attributed to God. As I described Pro breaks the first rule of having a logical conversation. the law of identity. As I stated the "Laws of Nature" break when applied to the event, the temporal moment at the beginning of the Big Bang. What Pro attempts to say is that these Laws are the prescriptive laws that we have not fully described yet. Well even if I am inclined to accept that there are eternal never changing principles of how nature interacts, Pro has not demonstrated these to explain the event in question. So A1 (Laws of Nature Pro knows) and A2 (the actual Laws the govern the interactions of energy and matter) do not have the same identity and therefore Pro can not claim any explanatory value in the event of the Big Bang.
I am all for IBE. I have even listed how it applies to the Scientific Method by Popper and Pierce. It is important to see that an abductive technique is NOT a Bayesian testing method. Ad Hoc means the addition of assumptions to keep an hypothesis from failing. But as I pointed out, the Metaphysical Naturalist is making great assumptions. Hasty generalizations and claims unfounded empirically or logically.
The MN relies on bare assertions to keep from failing.
Pro confuses explanatory power with predictive capability. The descriptive laws do not describe sufficiently the prescriptive laws to lessen or negate the possibility of God. Because the prescriptive laws of nature could be contingent on God, and this possibility is ignored by the MNist because of an adherence to a unfounded presupposition.
This is a false dichotomy. No one logically has to decide whether to accept God or to accept natural laws governing material interactions. Theist accept nature, and consider it to be a second book God has written.
Essentially Without having a sufficient description of the prescriptive laws, Pro can not argue their explanatory power as being against God, least of all for his position.
In Pro's 3rd reference we find: To make any progress we need to have some understanding of what it means for an initial condition to be “natural.” If an unknown principle of physics demands specific initial conditions (but not final ones), there is no problem to be solved; it may simply be that the universe began in a low-entropy initial state and has been evolving normally ever since. This might be the case, for example, if the universe were created “from nothing,” such that the initial state was a priori different from the final state, or if Penrose’s explicitly time-asymmetric Weyl Curvature Hypothesis were true. There is, of course, no way to rule out this possibility...
It goes on to state: We are left with the following conundrum: we would like to explain our currently observed universe as arising from natural initial conditions, but natural means high-entropy, and high-entropy implies equilibrium configurations with occasional fluctuations, but not ones sufficient to explain our observed universe. However, there is one loophole in this reasoning, namely the assumption that there is such a thing as a state of maximal entropy.
Honestly a great read. And what we see is a list of assumptions and ifs. Not to mention the math doesn't work out. They chose a mass parameter of 10^13 GeV, and the latest research finding the higgs-boson says it is 126 GeV. That's off by 9,999,999,999,874 GeV.
Pro's 4th reference is another great read. It describes an Eternal inflationary model, like baby universe popping into exsistence like bubbles. On page 10 it notes: "But so far, unfortunately, this is only wishful thinking. As I will discuss in the next section, we do not even know how to define probabilities in eternally inflating multiverses." And again the math does not work out. While reading page 5 I picked up that Lambda was too large, not till 10 does the author admit this is a big problem.
But both Authors were quite honest in their approaches and assumptions. Thank you Envisage.
The Natural laws break down in that as Hawking admitted there could have been more matter and energy in the Universe at the initial state of the Big Bang. Clearly a violation of the Law of Conservation. Not just are the description of the Laws of Nature incomplete, but they at times can be completely inaccurate.
I'm not arguing that Natural Laws do not exist. I'm not arguing that understanding and describing them don't have predictive power. This Methodological Naturalism has actually been grown by Theist thinkers.
The leap in inference that this negates or or makes God unlikely has not been logically supported. Not soundly.
Pro has BoP to demonstrate that most likely God does not Exist. I do not have to argue for a metaphysical possibility of God.
I did not drop the Mathematical point Pro offers. I investigate it. the values he perpetuates are arbitrary. As his own references allude to when discussing abduction and Bayesian theory. As I said the probabilities and manner he posited, does not take into account God+natural laws. Which would mean any data supporting Natural would be in the domain of God+Natural as well, Are there points of Data that currently do not fit into Natural Law space but do fit into God? YES. Spiritual experiences and other data, but at the moment I only discussed the beginning of the Universe. Which can not even be plotted in either space because there is no really good explanation on any side. not to mention that I have been discussing a moment between t-0 and t+1 plank second but I could talk about any moments between t-0 and t+379,000 years of the universe.
Naturalism was a Methodology of an investigation, it lacks all coherency to be the basis for a philosophical view, especially one that posits the universal non-existence of things never scrutinized by the method itself before. That in itself is circular reasoning around a bare assertion.
The Mathematical argument is a sound syllogism. It's intent is to show that facts about reality and truths about this universe and absolute principles of interactions, more than likely will not be relatable to human experience. Such facts and absolute truths about reality are beyond human experience.
I did not drop this argument. I ask Pro to elaborate; If everything is energy, matter or laws of physics, then how is space-time "physical". Self refuting or special pleading I am not sure, but if space-time can be physical and exist than why can't other non-energy, non-matter, entities exist? But Pro drops this point.
What Pro calls ad hoc is a not. In the Pantheism contention I only offer that a pattern that explains the emergence of mind, is also present on a different scale. I was assuming no new attribute to the way energy and matter interact.
Pro still has not backed up why God has to be atemporal. I suppose this is based on that he is asserting only this world and 4 dimensions exist. Which is counter to many scientific postulations and simply insufficient to account for this world itself.
Cause of universe.
Pro uses Eternalism to refute my post. Does he not know that in the same chapter of Confession Augustine posits "we should say present past, present present, present future". Again the argument over a beginning to the universe does not conclude that God does not exist. Probably because these arguments come from time honored smart Theist.
Metaphysical Naturalism is insufficient to answer the cause of this event. And while the existence of the ruler is not contingent on the first inch, to explain the existence of the ruler the explanation must account for the first inch.
Strong Atheism is a philosophical position, that if supported by Metaphysical Naturalism, relies on the adherence to bare assertions that are not logically or empirically supported. It is a belief based on presuppositional assertions, restricted limited human experience, and invalid or unsound logic.
Strong Atheism is an unsound philosophical position.