The Instigator
Nicholas_Covington
Pro (for)
Winning
82 Points
The Contender
Apologician
Con (against)
Losing
39 Points

The Existence of God is unlikely

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 23 votes the winner is...
Nicholas_Covington
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/6/2009 Category: Religion
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 13,148 times Debate No: 10352
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (75)
Votes (23)

 

Nicholas_Covington

Pro

I will argue that the existence of God, though logically possible, is very unlikely on both a priori and evidential grounds. God is here defined as an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, immaterial personal being.

The following arguments support my position:

The Argument from Ordered Complexity

1. Ordered complexity requires an explanation.

"Ordered complexity" means a system composed of several parts that are arranged in such a way as to produce some specific function that is otherwise improbable. An example is your TV: There are many parts which are arranged in such a way as to produce a specific function, and that function is highly unlikely to occur from a random arrangement of parts. Such complexity is very improbable unless it was brought about by something such as an intelligent designer or evolution by natural selection, and so we say these things require explanation.

2. God is a being of ordered complexity.

A being that is conscious (as a personal being is by definition) and can create must be very complex because consciousness and creativity only come about through a series of very specific mental steps. This will become a little more clear with the following quote:

"To see that consciousness itself is complex, consider that consciousness requires the ability to store and access information that is linked together in many intricate ways as well as the ability to process that information and to reason. The web of
intricately interconnected data that consciousness requires is extremely complex. One measure of the complexity of a system is the logarithm of the number of states of the system. Applied to a conscious system, this measure of complexity is proportional to the number of pieces of data that the conscious system knows times the degree of interconnectedness in the data. There are three interesting things to note here: 1) this measure of complexity is very large if a large amount of
data is accessible; 2) the interconnectedness of data that consciousness
requires greatly increases the complexity; and 3) for an omniscient
being, this measure of the being's complexity diverges."
Source:
http://freethought.freeservers.com...

3. Therefore, God requires an explanation.

4. But God does not and could not have an explanation
(such as being the result of an evolutionary process or
the work of a higher designer).

5. Therefore, God probably does not exist.

The Argument from Evil

1. An omnipotent being has the power to stop the evil and suffering in the world.

This is true by definition (an all powerful being has ALL powers, including the power to prevent evil).

2. An omnibenevolent being would want to stop evil and suffering, and would do whatever it could to minimize evil and suffering in the world.

Also true by definition. An all-good being is defined as a being that only performs (or desires to perform) good acts and does so whenever given the opportunity, because obviously performing a good act is better than simply desiring to do a good act if one has opportunity to do it. Since getting rid of evil is obviously a good act, an omnibenevolent being would get rid of as much evil as it could.

3. An omniscient being would know about all the evil in the world.

4. If a being exists which has the power to destroy evil, the will to destroy evil (which an omnibenevolent being would have), and knows evil exists, then it will destroy that evil.

5. Evil Exists.

6. Therefore, an omnibenevolent, omniscient, omnipotent being cannot exist, and since God is defined as such a being, God cannot exist.

Further comment: I do not claim that these premises and the deductions made thereof are known to be true with 100% certainity. However, I do claim that these premises and the deductions I've made from there are more plausible than any doubts we may throw at them, and that is all I need in order to make a successful argument against the existence of God.

The Argument from the Simplicity of Metaphysical Naturalism

1. The principle of parsimony tells us that, all things being equal, the simplest explanation is probably correct.

2. The hypothesis that only the natural world exists is simpler than the hypothesis that a natural AND supernatural world exist.

3. I contend that Naturalism is equal or greater than Supernaturalism in terms of explanatory scope and power. Thus, "all things are equal" between Naturalism and Supernaturalism.

4. Since Naturalism is the simpler explanation, and it is not in any deficient to Supernaturalism, We can infer that Naturalism is probably correct.

5. Naturalism (only the natural world exists) logically entails that no supernatural beings exist.

6. God is a supernatural being.

7. Therefore, since Naturalism is probably true, God probably does not exist because Naturalism precludes his existence.
Apologician

Con

My thanks to Nick for engaging me in this debate. I will be arguing that the existence of God is likely on both a priori and a posteriori grounds. I will first analyze Pro's arguments and show that they are unsound. I will then erect a case of own using positive arguments.

=Argument from Ordered Complexity=

Pro argues that God, because he is a being of immensely ordered complexity, must require an explanation. But since this cannot be the case, God probably does not exist.

Unfortunately, P2 is almost certainly false. Pro defines ordered complexity to be a "system composed of several parts that are arranged in such a way as to produce some specific function that is otherwise improbable." With regards to God, he has no parts, he is an immaterial being. Pro's argument is a category mistake, since the property of ordered complexity does not apply to God. Classic theism has historically portrayed God to be immaterial, and Pro even acknowledges this in the definition of God which he states he is working with. Because God is an immaterial unembodied mind, he is on the contrary a very _simple_ being.

More importantly, it is important to note the difference between two modes of being: contingency and necessity. By trying to account for God's origins, Pro is presupposing God to be a contingent being (Which begs the question). He is by definition a necessary being, such that even if he requires an explanation, it would be that he exists through the necessity of his own nature. The fact that God is a necessary being removes any chance of there being an external explanation for his existence.

=The Problem of Evil=

Pro argues that an omnibenevolent, omniscient, and omnipotent God would destroy evil, and the fact that He has not strongly suggests that such a being does not exist. Though Pro formulates his argument exactly like the logical version of the POE, he distinguishes it from the evidential version that he is defending.

The traditional theistic response to this argument is that God has morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil, though what these exact reasons cannot be known. Since Pro's argument is evidential, we must ask whether or not the skeptical theist's reply is probable. We must thus ask ourselves whether or not we're in the best position to state that evil renders God's existence improbable. Why think that if God had morally sufficient reasons, that we would be able to know them? Pro engages in what is called a noseeum inference -- if we can't see morally sufficient reasons, then they probably don't exist. "Given the immensity of divine goodness and the finitude of our human cognitive and moral faculties, it seems likely that there are some, perhaps many, types of goods with which we are not acquainted. If we cannot even grasp the full range of goods that evils _might_ be aimed at securing, then our attempts to make judgments about whether or not evils are gratuitous will be futile." [1] Hence, it does not seem we are in the best position to assert that evil renders God's existence implausible.

=Argument from the Simplicity of Metaphysical Naturalism=

The chief fault I find in this argument lies in P3. All beings being equal, it is theism, and not naturalism, that has greater explanatory power. Ockham's razor states that all things being equal, entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity. But what is necessary to explain the phenomena that we have? That is the very fact that we are debating over. Pro seems to beg the question by presupposing theism to be unnecessary in explaining the phenomena that we have.

As I have previously stated, I think that it is theism, and not naturalism which has superior explanatory power. Hence, I will argue a fortiori that it is probable to conclude that God exists. Very briefly, we tend to recognize phenomena such as self-consciousness, free will, objective morality and intrinsic value, purpose and meaning to live, real evils, religious experience, and a host of other phenomena to be basic to our everyday experience. Though both theism and naturalism can account for these phenomena, theism's explanation is superior in that it tends to affirm the reality of phenomena that we find basic to life. Using abduction, therefore, God seems to be the best explanation.

______

I will now offer several _very brief_ positive arguments for the existence of God. I will not go into the details in my OP, as I will wait to see what details Pro disputes about these arguments, and then reply specifically to those objections.

=The Kalam Cosmological Argument=

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause
2. The universe began to exist
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause

Premise one seems to be intuitively true, it is rooted in the metaphysical principle that out of nothing, nothing comes. The second premise too is confirmed by a wealth of evidence. Big bang cosmology has demonstrating that the universe began over 14 billion years ago in an infinitely dense singularity. Additionally, premise two is confirmed by the impossibility of the existence of an actually infinite set. Since transfinite operations with infinite quantities are impossible, the universe could not have an infinite past duration. Finally, the cause of the universe must be a personal agent in order to freely bring about an effect without prior determining conditions

=The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument=

1. Anything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.
2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
3. The universe exists.
4. Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence. (from 1,3)
5. Therefore, the explanation of the existence of the universe is God. (from 2,4)

The only controversial premise of this argument would seem to be premise one, which is a form of the principle of sufficient reason. Unlike Leibniz's original version of the PSR, I will be defending a more modest version of it, one which concerns "the giving of reasons sufficient _to explain_ the explanandum, not the giving of reasons logically sufficient for _entailing_ the explanandum" (Emphasis mine) [2]. Now, P1 certainly seems to be more plausible than its denial. "If PSR is not true, then I could not know why an individual or collection of contingent facts exist. We couldn't even make a true statement without knowing "why" it is true. [3] It is thus reasonable to conclude that God exists.

=The Argument from Reason=

1. No belief is rationally inferred if it can be fully explained in terms of nonrational causes
2. If naturalism is true, then all beliefs can be fully explained in terms of nonrational causes
3. Therefore, if naturalism is true, then no belief is rationally inferred
4. If any thesis entails the conclusion that no belief is rationally inferred, then it should be rejected and its denial accepted
5. Therefore, naturalism should be rejected and its denial accepted. [4]

If naturalism is true, then our origins can be explained mechanistically in terms of natural processes. It thus follows that our cognitive faculties are ultimately the product of nonrational causes. But if our cognitive faculties are the product of nonrational causes, then we should have little reason to trust them. Reason does not come from nonreason -- would we trust the printout of a computer that was produced through nonrational processes? But obviously, we know that our cognitive faculties are reliable. Naturalism is at a loss to account for why this is so, for the naturalist must believe that reason is the end result of millions of nonrational causes. Since naturalism undercuts the foundations for rationality, we are warranted in rejecting it. Theism is a much better explanation, since given the theistic perspective, reason comes from reason as opposed to reason from nonreason.
Debate Round No. 1
Nicholas_Covington

Pro

"Pro argues that God, because he is a being of immensely ordered complexity, must require an explanation. But since this cannot be the case, God probably does not exist.

"Pro defines ordered complexity to be a ‘system composed of several parts that are arranged in such a way as to produce some specific function that is otherwise improbable.' With regards to God, he has no parts, he is an immaterial being."

The ‘parts' in question that God is made up of are immaterial ones: God is a conscious being who can create, remember, etc. Those attributes require mental ‘parts' which I previously explained: The ability of this mind to store a massive amount of data and for this mind to function in such a way that it can be conscious (consciousness requires lots of mental ‘steps' which I would say are analogous to ‘parts') and design things (again, being able to design requires lots of mental ‘steps' or ‘parts').

"Pro is presupposing God to be a contingent being (Which begs the question). He is by definition a necessary being, such that even if he requires an explanation, it would be that he exists through the necessity of his own nature. The fact that God is a necessary being removes any chance of there being an external explanation for his existence."

It is not true that God is ‘by definition a necessary being'; for the theologian Richard Swinburne actually posits that God is a contingent being (although Swinburne, of course, believes God is a simple contingent being). Furthermore, who says that you get to take the concept of an immaterial, all powerful, all knowing being and simply label it ‘necessary' to get out of the problems with the concept of such a being? How do you such a being is necessary? Do you have an argument to show it is necessary?

"The traditional theistic response to this argument is that God has morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil, though what these exact reasons cannot be known."

First of all, that defense runs afoul of Occam's razor: You are postulating at least one unknown explanation for the existence of Evil (that might not even exist) that you have no evidence for in order to get theism consistent with the data. Naturalism requires no unknown explanation in order to be consistent with Evil.
Your argument is unconvincing. Let me explain by analogy: Suppose that I were to say that the existence of weasels contradicts the God hypothesis. You ask me why and I say, "Well, there could be some unknown reason that the existence of weasels contradicts the existence of God. Mere human beings can't say what a God would or wouldn't do if he existed, because our minds are so limited compared to the hypothetical mind of God. For all we know, a God would never even think of creating weasels!"

"[A]ll things being equal, entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity. But what is necessary to explain the phenomena that we have? That is the very fact that we are debating over. Pro seems to beg the question by presupposing theism to be unnecessary in explaining the phenomena that we have."

Not at all. Things can be improbable because of the evidence, or because of a priori considerations. Theism is a priori less likely than naturalism because it postulates at least one more entity: God. This means that Theism must have better evidential support than Naturalism in order to raise its likelihood back up to par. If you can present good evidence for theism, your worry will disappear. So present your evidential arguments, and we shall see if they succeed. If they do not, you have lost by default.

"Very briefly, we tend to recognize phenomena such as self-consciousness, free will, objective morality and intrinsic value, purpose and meaning to live, real evils, religious experience, and a host of other phenomena to be basic to our everyday experience. Though both theism and naturalism can account for these phenomena, theism's explanation is superior in that it tends to affirm the reality of phenomena that we find basic to life. Using abduction, therefore, God seems to be the best explanation."

You need to first define these things, then prove they exist, and then show why theism is the best explanation for them.

I accept premise one of the kalam. I do not accept premise two. Saying that the universe began to exist implies that the origin of the universe happened within time (something could not "begin" outside of time because there would be no time for it to "begin" in!). But suppose that there was no moment prior to the Big Bang. The universe existed throughout every moment of time, but time itself comes to an end in the finite past. In that case it would not be proper to say that the universe began to exist. There is a second point to be made: The Big Bang might not have been the beginning of time. For example, Steinhardt and Turok have a written a book called "Endless Universe" in which they propose a theory that entails an eternal universe model that is compatible with the Big Bang. As for your assertion that transfinite operations with infinite quantities are impossible, you have not proven this or even suggested why it means that an actual infinite cannot exist. And finally, a lot of things could bring about an effect without prior determining conditions: If the Big Bang actually began with a singularity, then the singularity would not have any prior determining conditions because singularities are inherently lawless. The inherent lawlessness of the singularity, by the way, is something that argues against the existence of God: It is not simply that human beings don't know how to predict what such a universe would evolve into, but that it is literally unpredictable what would come out of the singularity in principle [1]. Philosopher Quentin Smith argues that God would not create the universe this way because he would not want to ensure that the universe would become life-containing. One obvious objection to his argument is that God could have created the singularity and then miraculously intervened to ensure that it evolved into a life-bearing state. But Smith argues that it is hardly plausible to suppose that an all-knowing being created the universe in a state which would require immediate intervention to produce the result he wanted.

As for your second cosmological argument, it assumes that the universe is not necessary. What basis is there for that? I agree that it does not seem like the universe is necessary (I can imagine the universe not existing), but it does not seem like God is necessary either (I can also imagine that She does not exist). And if you insist on defining God as "necessary": what gives you the right to say that I cannot define the universe as "necessary"?

Argument from Reason

1. No belief is rationally inferred if it can be fully explained in terms of nonrational causes.

How is this justified? You say that we would not trust the print-out of a computer produced by non-rational causes. Why not? Suppose that long ago some biological species had evolved the characteristics of a computer for some peculiar ecological niche. Humans noticed the computer species and exploited it for their purposes. Whenever a computer malfunctioned, the humans got angry and destroyed it, so that the only computers that could ever successfully survive were the ones genetically equipped to have little or no malfunctions, and so were the ones that successfully passed on their genes to the next generation of computers. I'd trust a computer like that because it had evolved to minimize malfunctions and outcomes that would not (as a human) be inclined to like. And it wasn't produced by rational causes, was it?

[1] Quentin Smith, "A Big Bang Cosmological Argument for God's Nonexistence," Faith and Philosophy, April 1992, Volume 9 No. 2, pp.217-237.
Apologician

Con

Pro responds by stating that the parts in question are immaterial. Yet once this is clear, it is not evident why we should accept the premise. What exactly is an immaterial part, and how is complexity to be understood when applied to immaterial parts? Moreover, even if we grant that the notion of an immaterial part is coherent, it is not evident that God is a complex being. There is only one part, that of the experiencer -- the "I" who perceives several different things at once. "I am currently simultaneously aware of the hum of the air conditioner, the sound of my hands typing and the letters on my computer screen. I cannot explain this experience by supposing that my self has three parts and that one part is experiencing the hum, the other my typing, and the other is seeing letters on the computer screen, for then there would be three separate experiences, one corresponding to each part." [1] It is reasonable to think of the mind as being composed of one part: that of the self who engages in all these experiences. God, as a disembodied mind, is a simple being no matter how a "part" is defined.

That God is defined as a necessary being is the overwhelming consensus within the philosophy of religion, simply because there may be some disagreements here and there does not mean that necessity is not part of the definition of God (Incidently, Swineburne does hold God to be necessary, albeit factually necessary). Pro states that to call God a necessary being is ad hoc and arbitrary. He asks for an argument as to why we should consider God to be a necessary being. This is rather simple: necessary existence is a more perfect mode of being than contingent existence. God, being the greatest possible being, would thus have this mode of existence. In order to show that God is not a necessary being, Pro would have to show that necessary existence is logically impossible, a tall task indeed.

Pro responds the skeptical theist's response to the evidential problem of evil in two ways. First, he accuses it of violating Ockham's razor, and secondly he delivers a parody argument. It is not evident how it is unparsimonious. As outlined before, given what we _do_ know about God, it is very likely that there is indeed an explanation, and hence I am warranted in postulating one. Given this background information, Pro's paraody argument seems unconvincing.

Pro argues that theism is a priori less likely than naturalism because it postulates an additional entity (God). I would happen to agree with him provided that the evidence for both sides were equal and that the theistic hypothesis is not necessary. But since our background information is *not* equal, Pro cannot rule out theism on the basis that it adds another entity. To rule out theism a priori by using Ockham's razor is to beg the question, because it presupposes that theism is not necessary to explain our background information. The real debate is thus not over Ockham's razor, but the relative merits of both positions. We cannot use the razor to make an accurate assessment without first considering our background information.

Now, I see no reason why I must prove that these phenomena exist, nor does my argument presuppose that. Remember, I stated that "Though both theism and naturalism can account for these phenomena, theism's explanation is superior in that it tends to affirm the reality of phenomena that we find basic to life." This is an abductive argument -- one that seeks to produce the best explanation for the widest range of phenomena, regardless of whether or not these phenomena actually correspond to reality. Thus, theism's explanation is prima facie more plausible in that it tends to affirm the reality of the phenomena we tend to observe (Naturalism's explanation is less plausible since it denies the reality of these phenomena).

Regarding Pro's response to the KCA, I firstly do not see how P2 implies that the origin of the universe _within_ time. It is perfectly plausible to suppose that the origin of the universe was simultaneous with the first moment of time, such that the first moment of time marked the beginning of the universe. Indeed, standard big bang cosmology states that time itself began in the big bang, since the singularity served as a space-time boundary to which there was no prior moment.

Pro endorses an ekpyrotic model of the universe as championed by Steinhardt and Turok in which two branes collide and retreat from each other. I find their position to be rather speculative. It is based on string theory -- a concept still in its infancy and whose "equations have not been stated, much less solved." Additionally, the Horava-Witten version of string theory which the argument is based on conflicts with it, since it requires that the brane on which we live have a positive tension while the theory requires that the tension be negative. Moreover, the theory requires a remarkable amount of fine-tuning that the naturalist will find unappealing. It also faces the same problem as the oscillating universe, "there is no means for the physical information in one cycle to be carried through to the next cycle." Finally, in 2001, cosmologists produced a theorem (the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem) which requires such a universe to have a beginning. [2]

Pro also cites Quentin Smith's big bang argument against God. I find his argument to be problematic:

1. God is not required to create a universe that contains life. "He may, in fact, freely choose to create a world because of the good He may want to bring about. But just because God possesses a reason for creating a universe, this does not impose a necessity on Him... Apart from creation, God is neither lonely nor in need of objects for his benevolence. " [3]

2. God can miraculously intervene to create life. Pro has anticipated this objection, but I find his response to be lacking. Why must we suppose that God must have created the universe pre-programmed with life-permitting properties? It is consistent with most religions which view God as active in his creation. Smith argues that this would be "incomplete planning," but hardly seems to hold any weight. Why must we suppose that God must adhere to our criteria of efficiency? Efficiency is only an issue when there is a limited amount of resources, but God has infinite resources. "Furthermore, there are many reasons why God might choose to be causally engaged in the activity of creation. Craig points out two: (i) God could delight in the work of creation and (ii) God might want to leave a general revelation of Himself in nature." [4]

Against the LCA, Pro argues that God doesn't appear to be necessary because he can imagine the non-existence of God. Firstly, I must question this claim. Is it really possible to imagine the non-existence of God, an immaterial being? I do not believe that conceivably implies possibility (there are many things that we cannot conceive of but which are obviously not necessary). Conceivably, though a good guide to what is possible, is defeasible. God's non-existence, though epistemically possible, is metaphysically impossible. There is no good reason to suppose that the universe is necessary -- nothing about it seems to indicate that, and thus it is ad hoc to postulate it as necessary.

Pro argues against the AfR by providing a scenario where humans selected the development of the computer, thus resulting in a rational computer. But this seems to be a false analogy. Whereas intelligent humans assisted in the evolution of the computer, nature is inherently non-rational. It does not have the property of rationality to begin with, and it is hard to see how reason can arise out of non-reason. Pro's analogy begs the question by assuming the prior existence of reason. In reality, however, nature does not have the property of being rational. Thus, Pro has not given a good reason to suppose that reason can arise out of non-reason.
Debate Round No. 2
Nicholas_Covington

Pro

I'll have another go at explaining the complexity/improbability of God. I'll quote portions of an essay I'm currently writing:
Dawkins considers God complex in the sense that he has the powers to receive, store, create, and piece together information in meaningful ways… Even a spiritual mind with no physical parts whatsoever would still be constructed in a very complex and non-random way, in the sense that this mind would be, in some way, structured in the manner and order of steps that it took to process, store, create, and link together information.
Dawkins never takes up the burden of showing why complexity in that sense would be improbable. However, I think his intuition is right. Consider the number of possible minds. I think we can safely say that it is incredible high, as I will show.
If we are considering positing a single spiritual mind as an inexplicable brute fact, what are the odds that this mind would be anything like the mind of God? I suggest that we apply the principle of indifference and assign each possible mind the same likelihood of existing uncaused. When we do this, it seems that the probability of God's existence would be much less than one in ten billion (after all, there are six billion unique human minds in existence today, plus the minds of chimpanzees, gorillas, other intelligent animals, and fictional characters and invented gods that occupy the space of possible minds).

"Necessary existence is a more perfect mode of being than contingent existence. God, being the greatest possible being, would thus have this mode of existence."

Why is necessary existence more perfect? Even if there was a greatest possible being, wouldn't it be quite possible that this being lacked the attribute of necessary existence? It seems to me that it could lack the attribute of necessary existence while still being "greater" than other beings in one sense or another.

"Pro responds the skeptical theist's response to the evidential problem of evil in two ways. First, he accuses it of violating Ockham's razor... It is not evident how it is unparsimonious."

Oh yes, it is evident. You are stuck postulating the hypothesis that "God has some mysterious reason for allowing evil" which you have no justification for outside of the circular reasoning I mention below. Your hypothesis is an ad-hoc one which you depend on to even get theism consistent with the data. Naturalism depends on no ad-hoc hypotheses to explain evil. Naturalism is the simpler and more probable explanation for Evil.

"As outlined before, given what we _do_ know about God, it is very likely that there is indeed an explanation, and hence I am warranted in postulating one."

No, there's no reason to think Evil is consistent with the existence of God unless you presuppose that God exists and reason that since evil exists, God must have a reason for allowing evil. But of course presupposing God's existence is circular reasoning.

"Pro argues that theism is a priori less likely than naturalism because it postulates an additional entity (God). I would happen to agree with him provided that the evidence for both sides were equal and that the theistic hypothesis is not necessary. But since our background information is *not* equal, Pro cannot rule out theism on the basis that it adds another entity. To rule out theism a priori by using Ockham's razor is to beg the question, because it presupposes that theism is not necessary to explain our background information."

No. Occam's razor does not conclusively rule out theism. I simply hold that unless/until you show theism has more explanatory scope/power, etc. then I am justified in being a naturalist.

"I stated that ‘Though both theism and naturalism can account for these phenomena, theism's explanation is superior in that it tends to affirm the reality of phenomena that we find basic to life.'"

And you have not taken up your burden of proving theism is a superior explanation.

"It is perfectly plausible to suppose that the origin of the universe was simultaneous with the first moment of time, such that the first moment of time marked the beginning of the universe."

But if there was no moment prior to the first moment of the universe, how could it have been ‘caused' to exist? Its causation could not have occurred within time because there is no time before the universe. So its causation could have only occurred outside of time. But what does the word ‘cause' mean here? Its important that you define it because causation is often defined temporally. Indeed, your prev. reference to everyday experience suggests that you were originally referring to causation in the temporal sense.

You object to my use of the ekpyrotic model on several grounds. I don't necessarily dispute that the ekpyrotic model has problems. I only brought it up to show that it was quite possible that the universe may be eternal. But there are other models: For example, Lee Smolin postulates that new universes are born in black holes. It could be the case that there have always been universes giving rise to more universes through black holes. You may object that this is speculative, and I will reply: in comparison to what? The notion that an immaterial person brought the universe into existence?

"Cosmologists produced a theorem (the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem) which requires such a universe to have a beginning."
The BGV theorem only applies to a universe that is (on average) expanding [1]. All eternal models are not (on average) expanding (see above).

Con's objections to the big bang argument against God:

1. "God is not required to create a universe that contains life." No: if life is a good thing then God would be very likely to create it because it is good. I suppose one could object that life is not a good thing. If so, then God would not be likely to create it because he is good, and therefore the existence of life would constitute evidence against the existence of God.

2. God can miraculously intervene to create life… Why must we suppose that God must have created the universe pre-programmed with life-permitting properties? Because we would not expect a perfectly rational being to do things he had no reason to do, like create the universe in a way that requires immediate miraculous intervention when he could just as well have created it to suite his desires from the get-go. I suppose you could say that God did have a reason for creating the universe this way and that we are not aware of what that reason is. If so, that means you have to add another ad-hoc conjecture to the God hypothesis to make it fit the data.

"There is no good reason to suppose that the universe is necessary -- nothing about it seems to indicate that, and thus it is ad hoc to postulate it as necessary."
It is ad-hoc to postulate that a Godlike being is necessary, as discussed above. Furthermore, if we have to suppose that something is necessary, it may as well be the universe rather than god.

"Pro's analogy begs the question by assuming the prior existence of reason."

Notice that the human beings in my analogy did not rationally and consciously design anything, they simply destroyed whatever did not suit their needs out of primitive anger and not in a conscious attempt to rationally design a better computer.

"Pro has not given a good reason to suppose that reason can arise out of non-reason."

You have not even given us good reason to lean towards the notion that it cannot. In fact, the existence of computers gives us good reason to suppose that reason can come from non-reason because their reasoning comes from the workings of material parts. Just because humans may create the computer does not negate the fact that the reasoning of computers is arising from the workings of its material parts.
Apologician

Con

Pro has offered a revised version of his previous argument (Which I take to be a concession). He argues that God's mind is complex in regards to the "steps that it took to process, store, create, and link together information." But as I have shown previously demonstrated, God's mental self is irreducibly simple. There is only one "part" which engages in the one activity of thinking -- the "I." There is nothing complex about an immaterial mind with only one "part" who engages in conscious activities. Additionally, in lieu of Pro's reformulated argument, how is complexity defined?

Pro argues that it is possible that God would lack necessary existence, but this is not at all clear. Clearly, we know that necessary existence is a greater mode of being than contingent existence. Is it not greater to exist independently instead of being dependent on another being for your existence? Dependency indicates weakness and fragility by virtue of relying on another for existence, and thus the greatest possible being would not have the property of existing contingently. Thus, it is impossible for God not to be necessarily existent, the very concept of God entails it.

In regards to the problem of evil, Pro maintains his argument that the skeptical theist's response is unparsimonious. Additionally, he also charges me with begging the question. On the condition that God exists, however, we would be perfectly warranted in assuming that God has morally sufficient reasons for permitting evil by virtue of his nature. That is, given what we know about God's nature on the condition that he exists, it is very likely that he does have morally sufficient reasons for permitting evil. In such a case, all things would not be equal. Thus, evil is not prima facie inconsistent with theism.

I am not presupposing God's existence. Instead, I am arguing on the condition that if God were to exist, then he would likely have morally sufficient reasons for permitting evil, which is not question begging at all. So, in order for Pro to refute this argument, he must demonstrate that it is unlikely that God have morally sufficient reasons for permitting evil. Only then will evil render God's existence unlikely.

Pro states that naturalism is the simpler and more probable explanation for evil. How is this? Naturalism denies that evil even exists! Prima facie, however, evil appears to be a very real phenomena which naturalism cannot explain. Thus, one can argue a fortiori that it is theism which gives the best explanation for evil:

1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist
2. Objective moral values exist
3. Therefore, God exists

Pro argues that I have not demonstrated that theism is a superior explanation to basic phenomena that we observe. This is false, I have stated that since theism tends to affirm the reality of phenomena such as free will, objective morality, intrinsic value, real evil, and purpose to life, it is prima facie the more plausible view. It has a superior explanatory scope.

=KCA=

Pro argues that it is puzzling as to how the universe could have been caused if there was no moment prior to the first moment of the universe. He thinks that it is more reasonable to conclude that causation occurred within time. However, like his previous argument, this is a false dilemma. Why not suppose that the cause of the universe with simultaneous with the first moment of time, such that the first act marked the beginning of time? Though causation is indeed usually understood in a temporal sense, there is no problem in supposing that simultaneous causation is possible. Indeed, Kant provides us with the example of a bowling ball resting eternally on a cushion.

Though Pro drops the ekpyrotic model, he states the point of his argument was to show that competing cosmologies are just as likely a the theistic explanation for the universe. This seems to be a rather weak response. Modern science strongly confirms the fact that the universe had an absolute beginning. From there, a relatively uncontroversial causal principle comes into play, thus requiring the universe to have been caused. It is thus not enough to simply state that other possible theories exist, Pro must demonstrate that they are plausible and should be accepted over the standard big bang model.

=Quentin Smith's Big Bang Argument Against God=

1. Pro argues that because God is good, it would be very likely for him to create life. But on what grounds should I accept that assumption? Simply because something is good does not entail that God is likely to do it. God simply could have chosen to refrain from creating at all, or he simply could have chosen to create a world in which goods of another type were in abundance.

2. Pro argues that a perfectly rational being would create the universe with life-permitting properties. This seems to place anthropomorphic constraints on God, for why must we think of him as conforming to our standards of efficiency? Efficiency is only an issue when there is limited time and resources. In the case of God, he has neither. Writes Thomas V. Morris:

"Efficiency is always relative to a goal or set of intentions. before you know where a person is efficient in what she is doing, you must know what it is she intends to be doing, what goals and values are governing the activity she is engaged in… In order to be able to derive the conclusion that if there is a God in charge of the world, he is grossly inefficient, one would have to know of all the relevant divine goals and values which would be operative in the creation and governance of a world such as ours."

Furthermore, I previously pointed out two plausible reasons as to why God would want to be dynamically engaged with creation. These being to take delight in the splendor of creation and leaving in nature a general revelation of himself to which his creations could observe. [1]

=Necessity & the LCA=

Contrary to Pro, is it not ad-hoc at all to posit God as necessary. Necessity follows from the very concept of God, since it is better to exist independently instead of dependently (which indicates weakness). God, being the greatest possible being, must thus have this higher mode of being. In regards for the universe, there is no reason to posit it as necessary. Everything about it seem radically contingent, it undergoes change constantly. Indeed, I can conceive of the non-existence of the universe. In order to present an effective argument against the LCA, Pro must thus give good reasons for taking the universe to be necessarily existent, instead of pointing out a mere possibility.

=Argument from Reason=

Pro responds by stating that the human beings in his analogy simply "destroyed whatever did not suit their needs out of primitive anger and not in a conscious attempt to rationally design a better computer." It's not exactly clear how this helps his position. In his analogy, the computers are selected for their pragmatic value, not because they are rational, per se. So instead of helping his argument, this seems to make it even worse!

Pro also uses the existence of computers as counter-examples. This is problematic for several reasons. Firstly, the computers were the product of rational humans who designed them. Pro's response that this "does not negate the fact that the reasoning of computers is arising from the workings of its material parts" is ineffectual, since in not an example of reason arising from a purely mechanistic chain of causes (Which is what is required on naturalism). Writes William Hasker:

"Computers function as they do because they have been constructed by human being endowed with rational insight. A computer, in other words, is merely an extension of the rationality of its designers and users; it is no more an independent source of rational thought than a television set is an independent source of news and entertainment." [2]
Debate Round No. 3
Nicholas_Covington

Pro

I'd like to thank my opponent for participating in the debate. I simply do not have the space to say everything I would like, so I will begin with two observations: first, my opponent has repeatedly made assertions that things like free will favor the existence of God. As the saying goes, what can be asserted without argument can be dismissed without argument. Further, plenty of atheists have written about everything he has mentioned and (in my opinion) adequately shown how such things are no trouble for naturalism.[1] I'll reference some literature in the comments section, I invite curious readers to look into my references and decide for themselves. When discussing the necessity of God Con seems to be flirting with or alluding to the Ontological argument. I don't have space to discuss the flaws with that argument, so I recommend readers simply google it to see the problems with it.

A major theme in this debate has been skeptical theism-the idea that we limited beings cannot say anything about what unlimited god might do. I suppose the classical theist God would be 100% rational. Humans would be less rational, but obviously we are more rational than not. I suppose we are between 60-99% rational (one must presuppose being more-rational-than-not, as being less than that is self-defeating because if you couldn't know if you were rational enough to know that you were irrational). An 80% rational human might not always predict what a 100% rational God would do, but it would not follow that he could never predict the actions of a perfectly rational being or even that his predictions would mostly be wrong. Indeed, if the Genesis story is right and we are ‘made in God's image' we ought to be in a great position to understand God and his reasons for action (even if imperfectly) because we share so much in common with him. For this reason it is perverse to believe that so many creatures allegedly made in God's image are wrong about their intuition that God would create a universe for the purpose of life, an intuition shared by both atheists and most theists (as we all know from the fine-tuning cosmological arguments and such, which all implicitly assume God wants to create life). An allegedly good being like God would want to create thinking, feeling life because living things that can appreciate life are a great good. In fact, it is the greatest good I know of in the universe.

"Pro..offered a revised version of his previous argument (Which I take to be a concession)."
I was not revising my argument, I was clarifying it, as should become clear in the next paragraph.

"He argues that God's mind is complex in regards to the 'steps that it took to process, store, create, and link together information.' But as I have shown previously demonstrated, God's mental self is irreducibly simple. There is only one ‘part' which engages in the one activity of thinking -- the 'I.'"

I am reminded of a quote from Keith Ward: "It is quite coherent..to suppose that God, while indivisible, is internally complex."[2] The point that I have been driving at througout this whole debate is that thinking beings go through certain specific and complex procedures in order to be able to think and design (which requires piecing together information in meaningful ways), store information, etc. Those procedures may be thought of as 'parts' or 'mental organs' even though they are not physical parts or physical organs. Now, different sentient beings may have different 'mental organs' or their 'mental organs' may function with varying efficiencies. The totality of 'possible minds'(that is, all minds that are logically possbile) consists of different combinations of 'mental organs' and different efficiencies of these organs. Very few of the number of possible minds would even resemble God, and I have already given arguments showing that this leads us to suspect God has a low a priori probability of existing. I hope the argument is now clearer.

"I am not presupposing God's existence. Instead, I am arguing on the condition that if God were to exist, then he would likely have morally sufficient reasons for permitting evil..."

But you have no basis for saying God "likely" would have morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil. You've simply argued that God is beyond what humans can completely understand, and therefore it is *possible* that God may have some reason for allowing evil that we don't know of. What you forget is that it is also possible that God might have reasons for NEVER allowing any evil to occur which YOU cannot fathom. We have two possibilities here: Under the first possibility I mentioned God is only consistent with evil (which would not, by any means, prove he existed), under the other possibility God is inconsistent with evil and cannot exist. Naturalism is compatible with both possibilities (it does not matter if God is merely consistent with evil) while Theism is not. So as a theist you must propose the unevidenced hypothesis that there is some reason God would allow evil. Having to propose an auxiliary hypothesis like this lowers the probability of theism because it loses some of its epistemic simplicity (running afoul of Occam's razor).

"Why not suppose that the cause of the universe with simultaneous with the first moment of time, such that the first act marked the beginning of time?"
More importantly, WHY SHOULD I suppose your scenario is true. William Lane Craig has said a number of times that a successful piece of natural theology must be more plausible than its doubt. You've given me no reason to suppose that your conjecture here is more plausible than the other options, so your argument has not succeeded in compelling me towards theism. Further, your example of simultaneous causation (an eternal bowling ball causing a depression on an eternal pillow) proves the opposite of what you intend, since an eternal pillow might simply have a depression in it without the bowling ball, so it would not need a ‘cause'.

"Computers function as they do because they have been constructed by human being endowed with rational insight. A computer, in other words, is merely an extension of the rationality of its designers and users; it is no more an independent source of rational thought than a television set is an independent source of news and entertainment." (Hasker)

No, computers function as they do because of the arrangement and specifications of their physical parts. One may ask if it is likely such an arrangement is likely to come together without a designer, but the Naturalist would point to a well-known process capable of producing things that look designed: evolution by natural selection. There is only one argument that alleges to show that Natural Selection couldn't produce reliable cognitive faculties, but philosophers have adequately shown elsewhere that this argument is flawed and that natural selection would be expected to produce reliable brains,[3] but since you did not explicitly state that argument I will not take the time to refute it.

Conclusion: Winston Churchill once said, "There is nothing more exhilarating to be shot at without result." Boy do I know what he means! Con has had the opportunity to destroy my case but he has only made it stronger by showing that he is willing to make arbitrary assumptions to keep the God hypothesis from being falsified by the data. Indeed, his attempt to make God unknowable are poor attempts to keep the God hypothesis from being falsified-by making it unfalsifiable. The idea that a rational God would create a physical universe that depended on his immediate intervention to become life supporting rather than simply making it the way he wanted it to be to begin with is not what we would expect from a rational agent. God's doing-so would be like me using gallons of water to grow grapes and make wine, only to use chemical processes to extract the water from the wine just so I could have a glass of water.
Apologician

Con

My thanks to Nick for challenging to me to this debate. In my final post, I'm going to present some closing remarks as well as some responses to Pro's arguments. As with Pro, I can't say nearly everything I want to say given the character limit, and as such my response will be divided up into equal portions.

Pro argues that I have asserted without argument that phenomena such as free will favor the existence of God. This simply isn't the case. In my opening argument, I argued that phenomena that we tend to assume such as consciousness, intrinsic value, objective morality, and free will fit in more snugly within a theistic worldview than a naturalistic worldview. I am well aware of naturalistic attempts to explain, harmonize, or reduce these phenomena, and whether or not these explanations work is not the focus of this argument. Rather, this argument demonstrates that theism is the best explanation for things in reality that we tend to assume exist. "God's existence and nature furnish us with a more powerful, wide-ranging, less contrived (non ad hoc) and far more natural or plausible setting to explain certain important phenomena than the alternatives." [1] As far as I have seen, Pro has only responded to this argument by challenging me to demonstrate that these phenomena really exist -- but that completely misconstrues the argument. It is not over whether or not these phenomena really exist, it is over theism providing the best explanation for reality. This is neither an inductive or deductive argument, but an abductive argument.

Pro also argues that I seem to allude to the ontological argument when I discuss the necessity of God. This seems to be misguided. I brought about the concept of God as a necessarily existing being not to demonstrate his existence, but to demonstrate his aseity (Which is logically entailed by his necessity). The necessity of God, though a feature used by the ontological argument, is irrelevant to it when used in this context. From what I have observed, Pro has not demonstrated that necessity is not a part of the concept of God. Thus, his argument from complexity fails.

Not withstanding, I have some comments about his statement of God as a complex entity. He defines complexity in terms of mental operations -- due to the amount of thinking that must take place within a being such as God, he requires an explanation and thus he probably does not exist. Yet, it is not clear that complexity, defined in such a way, warrants an explanation. Pro justifies his premise that ordered complexity requires an explanation by appealing to a physical analogy -- but if we define complexity in terms of an immaterial something, the intuitive force of this analogy loses its power. So it is not clear, once we understand complexity in terms of an immaterial something, to suppose that it must require an explanation. Add to this the fact that God is a necessarily existing being, this argument ultimately fails.

In regards to the problem of evil, Pro argues that I have no basis for saying that God would likely have morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil. This is not true. Given what we know about God (He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent), it is extremely probable (If not logically entailed by his nature) that he would have morally sufficient reasons for permitting evil. He responds by stating that it is equally likely that God might have reasons for not allowing evil to ever occur. This alternative is logically possible, but is probability in this situation is zero, given the situation we are are arguing in (evil exists) this alternative is clearly false. So, to add to what I previously said, I am arguing on the condition that if God were to exist, then he would likely have morally sufficient reasons for permitting evil, assuming that it too were to exist. This fact is not at all ruled out by Ockham's razor, since it would be a necessary explanation (In fact, I think it's logically entailed by his nature, as stated above).

Additionally, he also argues that we ought to be in such a position as to understand God and his reasons for action. But as previously stated, why should we suppose that beings with limited cognitive faculties be able to understand the reasons that God may have for permitting the existence of evil? He seems to downplay the difference between the immensity of God's mind and the finitude of ours -- a gap so immense that likely no scale would accurately convey.

Pro charges the simultaneous causation of the KCA as being implausible/ad hoc, and thus in order for the argument to work I must demonstrate it to be plausible. Not so, as so long as simultaneous causation is possible, the this does not hurt the KCA. Recall that one of Pro's arguments against the KCA was that it could not work since all causation was temporal in nature, but as long as another method of causation is possible, then the KCA encounters no difficulty there. I need not show that this alternative is possible, but merely that an alternative exists in order for the difficulty to vanish.

Other than arguing that the universe could be metaphysically necessary, there was no real response to the Leibnizian cosmological argument. Pro's argument that the universe could have been metaphysically necessary is ad hoc and contrived -- there is nothing about it that makes it necessarily existent. Indeed, that matter is undergoing constant change and that I can conceive of the universe's non-existence render its supposed necessity implausible. As such, the LCA stands unrefuted.

In response to the argument from reason, Pro cites computers as a counterexample and argues that "they do because of the arrangement and specifications of their physical parts." No, for unless its designers endow it with the capacity to function rationally, it is unlikely that it will actually do so. It's not merely a question of whether or not evolutionary processes could produce beings with rational thought, it's over whether or not this is possible to begin with. According to Victor Reppert:

"The argument from reason says that reason cannot emerge from a closed, mechanistic system. The computer is, narrowly speaking, a mechanistic system, and it does follow rational rules. But it is not a closed system, and the framework of meaning according to which it operates is provided by its programmers and users. To presume that these programmers and users are themselves physical systems and part of a closed physical system would be to beg the question against the argument from reason, which attempts to show the opposite." [2]

=Conclusion=

Through Pro has attempted to demonstrate that the existence of God is unlikely, I conclude that he has failed in doing so. His argument from ordered complexity is implausible, considering that (i) God is a necessarily existent being, and (ii) There is no reason to suppose that complexity, defined in terms of an immaterial something, requires an explanation. His argument from evil, through slightly more successful, ultimately fails, for it is probable that God would have morally sufficient reasons for permitting evil, given what we know about his nature. In fact, if real evil does exist, then it is likely that God exists as well, since objective morality is more plausible grounded in a personal agent than in impersonal processes of nature or as platonic forms. Finally, his argument from the simplicity of naturalism was found to be inadequate to the explanatory superiority of theism in accounting for phenomena that we tend to recognize.

In regards to my own arguments, Pro has not responded adequately to them. The LCA was, for the large part, mostly ignored. Pro's criticisms of the KCA too were found to be lacking, and finally, Pro was not able to demonstrate that rational thought could arise in principle from natural processes.

Thanks again to Nick for challenging me to this debate.
Debate Round No. 4
75 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by SexyLatina 7 years ago
SexyLatina
What I don't understand is when people complain about evil and suffering, when obviously those two things create I would estimate more good than happiness, or at least they play a large role in creating happiness.

The reason that this question doesn't support Christianity is that it is thoroughly nihilist; so, it is impossible for a Christian to ask this question. Besides that, accepting that suffering and evil are a good thing would be to side with the devil, no? It would certainly remove the table of objective values set up by the Bible.

In any case, daniel_t, it would make not a speck of difference whether or not God disappeared tomorrow or not, but on the other hand, it would make all the difference in the world if we knew it. Objects would lose their glimmer and everything would become... dusty. Now, however, we are not speaking of the same God.
Posted by daniel_t 7 years ago
daniel_t
Jesusrules, what effect do you think God has on the world? If He ceased to exist tonight, what would be different in the morning?
Posted by Jesusrules 7 years ago
Jesusrules
Evil and suffering exists because God made us free moral agents, not robots. Because God gave us the power of free will, some people have chosen to be evil. Also suffering is caused by our actions. If we had no suffering, we wouldn't learn a thing. If you jumped of a 1 story building and broke your leg and it hurt, you are not going to do it again. If it didn't hurt, who cares? Then you'd end up with a horrible leg and not be able to walk.
Posted by daniel_t 7 years ago
daniel_t
Lafayette_Lion: Be careful of your attributions. I am not the one who said what you quoted.
Posted by Lafayette_Lion 7 years ago
Lafayette_Lion
"I believe in God based on what the Bible tells me, but even if this is inaccurate, doesn't believing in God give you more insurance of having an afterlife in heaven?". Amen
And daniel_t, if you really believe that you are a fraud, liar, and very much in need of direction. "PayPal salvation"? REALLY? THIS says Gods message much clearer:http://www.biblegateway.com... Read the whole thing. Its God's judgment. Think about it.
Posted by SexyLatina 7 years ago
SexyLatina
@ daniel_t: john_locke is wrong on so many levels.

@ john_locke: You don't value your life, and you are trying to value it less. Silly.
Posted by daniel_t 7 years ago
daniel_t
@john_locke: You are wrong on so many levels... http://www.jhuger.com...
Posted by john_locke 7 years ago
john_locke
I believe in God based on what the Bible tells me, but even if this is inaccurate, doesn't believing in God give you more insurance of having an afterlife in heaven?
Posted by SexyLatina 7 years ago
SexyLatina
Guys. Stop starting these debates.
Posted by IrvingC 7 years ago
IrvingC
So Pro's basic argument is not a deductive one, rather an inductive argument. I thought the concept of God is a deductive question not an inductive question, induction mainly applies to mathematics and science, God is not either of these, God is more of a philosophical proposal, so he belongs in the deductive argument criteria. That's my view of it, and I think Pro placed it as "unlikely" and in an inductive method because he/she knows that the arguments he/she has are moot, and not allowable in a deductive argument.

I think the arguments were well thought up, and I laud you both for doing a great job. I'm kind of new at this, so give me all the criticism that you have.
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