The Instigator
theskeptik
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
Mikal
Con (against)
Winning
6 Points

The term "atheist" is to be preferred to the term "agnostic."

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
Mikal
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/15/2014 Category: Religion
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,032 times Debate No: 63266
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (13)
Votes (3)

 

theskeptik

Pro

The term "atheist" is to be preferred to the term "agnostic."

Agnosticism denotes a lack of knowledge ("gnosis") about a certain subject, which is misleading as much is known on the subject of the existence of God.
Debate Round No. 1
theskeptik

Pro

In the case of a non-believer, the term "atheist" is to be preferred to the term "agnostic."

The term "agnostic" is derived from the Greek, gnosis, with the 'alpha steretikon' prefix, signifying its negation. A proper rendering into English, therefore, would be "un-knowledgeable." In a partial sense, this is true, as the existence of God is un-knowable, but we are most definitely not "un-knowledgeable" on the subject. This term gives a false impression. If you're a non-believer, you presumably have good reasons.

However, the term "atheist" comes from the Greek word theist, which is derived from, but not equivalent to, the word theos, meaning God. So, in a sense, the word atheist is best translated as "un-godly." I suppose it depends on your definition of God then, but it applies equally well to all interpretations if you're a standard non-believer. In addition, in recent years, the term theist has come to mean an active believer in God, and so an atheist is simply a non-believer. This has obvious benefits over and above the alternative.

In summary, then, if you're a non-believer in search of a term with which to describe yourself, then "atheist" is clearly to be preferred over "agnostic."
Mikal

Con

So not really much to argue

Pro has the BOP to show that it is preferable to be considered an atheist over agnostic via the terminology

Atheist - . a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods.

Agnostic - a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.


Essentially an Atheist is someone who lacks the belief of a God, and a Agnostic claims that it is impossible to negate that fact either either way. Atheist literally means absence of God, while agnostics claim that it is impossible to make that affirmative statement.


Contention 1 ) Facts vs Proving a Negative

It is impossible to prove or disprove a negative. There are verifiable facts that can be proven in reality. Gravity exists, the earth rotates around the sun every year, etc. We can study, verify, and observe all of these things as facts. Now there are things that we can assume are true or not true. I can say there is a magical horse next to me that no one can see but me. The issue with this claim is that there is no way to objectively disprove it. Chances lie under the fact that the horse does not exist, because we have no reason for it to exist. That however does not necessitate the fact that it does not exist. For claims to be either objectively true or objectively false, there has to be a verifiable way to prove them as true or false other than assumptions and probability. The only evidence for or against God is under the same logic. We have no reason to believe we need a God in order for anything to exist, but the fact that we do not need a God does not entail or necessitate that one does not exist. We can only logical assume he does not exist.

Agnostics in a sense is a claim of the most valid and logical way to look at God. Almost everything disproves a God and there is a high probability he does not exist, but there is no way to objectively verify that claim because it lies outside of empirical testing.



Rebuttal 1 ) Pros Case

My adversary has provided no reasoning to assume or prove that atheism is a preferable term. He uses terminology to try and justify the lack of a belief in a God, over the un certainty or lack of knowledge. Pro claims we do not lack knowledge involving God which is a false statement. We have no knowledge involving God , which is why we can't objectively prove or disprove his existence. The entire concept hinges of faith, and even states the fact that no one will ever know if this is true until you are dead.

there is literally no way to justify this claim with a positive or affirmative stance objectively, but we can logically conclude its probably false. Again the assumption and probability that makes it probably false does not necessitate the fact it is indeed false because there is no way to prove it



Conclusion

My adversary basically just asserts we can conclude there is no God by lack of evidence, so atheism is the ideal term which is a logical fallacy and a faulty premise when you lay out the syllogism for which he arrived at that conclusion

P1) There is no evidence to support a God
P2) No evidence necessitates that something does not exist
C) God does not exist.

the fundamental flaw in that line of logic is that lack of evidence does not necessitate that something did not happen or does not exist, it just means the evidence may not be available yet. We can apply this endlessly through science and how it has evolved and taught us new truths

I think agnosticism is just as preferable as a term as atheism. I don't value one over the other but my adversary has made the claim that atheism is more preferable and has failed to show why logically.

Agnostic is literally a viable stance in regards to facts that are absence or cannot be verified.
Debate Round No. 2
theskeptik

Pro

My opponent seems confused. I'll ignore the fact that his syllogism is technically flawed because the universal negative comes before the particular when it should come first (in other words, P2 should be P1, and vice versa), but how and ever.

More specifically, the syllogism is flawed because I never make the claim that "no evidence necessitates that something does not exist." Such a claim is objectively false. In fact, in Round 2, I explicitly state that "the existence of God is un-knowable." If you have a scrolling facility on your mouse or keyboard, which is a near-universal feature, you can verify this for yourself.

In fact, I claim that, since we cannot know whether or not God exists, we must resort to some measure of probability. In a probabilistic analysis, the absence of evidence is indeed evidence of absence. It's not proof, but it's evidence.

My opponent does all of my work for me when he states that "there is literally no way to justify this claim with a positive or affirmative stance objectively," BUT, and it's a big but, "we can logically conclude its probably false." Probably false. In other words, we are not completely lacking any and all knowledge on the subject of the existence of God. My opponent weighs up the various pieces of evidence and concludes that God "probably" does not exist. I have argued that the term "agnostic" signifies no knowledge at all. This gives a false impression. It's as if we must suspend our decision-making faculties because there is absolutely no information available on the subject. This is simply incorrect. The word has pretentions to ignorance.

However, the term atheist, which my opponent correctly suggests should be defined as "someone who lacks the belief of a God," is a far more accurate description of the situation. The average atheist has weighed the evidence, and concluded that, in spite of not being able to make a definitive judgement, the balance of probabilities would suggest that God "probably" does not exist, and asserts his or her disbelief through an embrace of the most accurate and descriptive term available.

The term "atheist," therefore, is to be preferred to the term "agnostic."

I'll conclude with my own little syllogism:

P1: All agnostics are atheists
P2: Mikal is an agnostic
C: Therefore Mikal is an atheist
Mikal

Con

Reviewing the syllogism. Frankly the position of p1 or p2 does not hinder the statement nor does it alter the conclusion derived from the syllogism. My adversary claims that he asserts that the existence of God is unknowable but that he does not claim that lack of observation necessitate the fact that he does not exist. This is also false, if you review his round 1 clause.

I will offered a quote from his round 1

" A proper rendering into English, therefore, would be "un-knowledgeable." In a partial sense, this is true, as the existence of God is un-knowable, but we are most definitely not "un-knowledgeable" on the subject. This term gives a false impression. If you're a non-believer, you presumably have good reasons."

This is a self contradiction if you review his statement. He claims that the root of the word in un-knowledge but claims that is only partly true. He then asserts that if you are a non believer you have a reason to be a non believer therefore you have knowledge. Again this entire outlook and perspective is false at it's core. Just because one believes or does not believe in something does not mean they have knowledge about it, nor can anyone ever have knowledge about God because he is a non sentient being nor is even tangible. The idea of God is an abstract thought measured in subjectivity and rooted in faith. The entire premise and definition behind God relies on faith. There is no knowledge that can actually be achieved by studying God because it is not empirical or verifiable.

He then makes a faulty conclusion, which is the following. That all agnostics are atheist. He is basically now saying that agnostics and atheist are not mutually exclusive at least in the perspective that an agnostic is essentials an atheist. This again is false.

Again an atheist is making an affirmative claim that God does not exist

An agnostic is saying there is no way to know

These two are not mutually exclusive because one is making an affirmative position on something that cannot be studied or verified. If you work this out with an example it would play out like this. Roll the earth back thousands and thousands of years

In that time everyone believed the earth was flat, and every study and test known to man verified this. People were "knowledgeable" about the earth so they believed it was flat. That belief however did not necessitate the truth. There was evidence missing or not enough knowledge to make a valid conclusion. God is much the same way, except there will probably never be enough knowledge to make an affirmative claim. We can only rationalize what we think is correct, but rationalizing what we think is correct does not actually necessitate it as the truth.

Again

An atheist is making an affirmative claim based on a logical conclusions that cannot be measured or verified
An Agnostic is claiming there is no possible way to know the truth because it cannot be verified

The difference is the atheist is the only one that can be wrong, because he is making a positive claim about something that we do not have enough knowledge about

An agnostic is claiming the logical position, that there is no way to know or to judge something without empirical proof. Therefore again, agnostic is more preferable to atheism in that sense. My adversary is entirely false by asserting that the two are not mutually exclusive.
Debate Round No. 3
13 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by NoMagic 2 years ago
NoMagic
My intention isn't to split the difference here. But, I think the term is the closest to being correct is agnostic-atheist. Agnostic is the acknowledgement of the lack of knowledge. Since we cannot investigate all corners of reality, to determine whether a god exist, we must acknowledge a certain level of ignorance. Atheism is the position that a god doesn't exist. Of course this cannot be a certain position since our human limitations remove certainty. Agnostic atheist acknowledges limited knowledge while still picking a side. As an atheist, I label myself an atheist. However, if someone really wished to push the issue, really challenged my position, I would clarify with agnostic atheist.
Posted by Mikal 2 years ago
Mikal
Knowing something about the existence of something entails you know something about the object in question. If you know a car exists, you would have to know details or facts about the car. What it looks like, shape, feature, etc. Saying a certain car "could" exist, is a unclear proposition. We have no idea if this car could exist. Taking a stance and saying it does not exist however is an affirmative statement based on the proposition that you have empirical proof it does not exist. Likelihood and probability =/= causation or necessitating a certain fact.

No where will you see an agnostic claim that God does not exist, nor claim that he does exist. Each operates on his us own understanding of the matter. The odds and probability and how people perceive the chances of God existing are entirely subjective. There are agnostics that could lead towards the fact he does exist.

It literally boils down to the fact that atheism is a positive affirmation of something and claiming to be an agnostic is not. That is the core of the matter and it will not chance. The two are not the same.
Posted by theskeptik 2 years ago
theskeptik
@CorieMike I think you've hit the nail on the head. I do NOT say there is no God, I say I don't believe there is a God, and this is based on reasoning about the probability. If I say I am an agnostic, the probability is 1/2 (or 50/50), whereas I think the liklihood of the existence of God is more like 1/100000.

@Mikal I think you're still confused. As an atheist I'm NOT saying that I KNOW something about God, but I AM saying that I know something about the EXISTENCE of God. In other words, on balance, I think it's unlikely that he does exist. This is based on reasoning.
Posted by CorieMike 2 years ago
CorieMike
Apologies guys. I may have come off a little arrogant. This was not a silly debate and after some more insight on the matter. May have to agree with Pro. I believe Con is arguing that Agnostic is preffered because atheists make a positive assertion there is no God. I believe pro says that there is better reason to believe there is no God and hence atheism will be preferred in dealing with matters of belief.
Posted by Mikal 2 years ago
Mikal
I never claimed it had to do with direct knowledge of God, but knowledge of the existence of God is knowledge of God. If you know about somethings existence and details about it (ie verifiable evidence that you can study) you in turn have knowledge of the subject, that however can never be achieved with God. Its a nonsensical argument to make because there is no way to prove it as a positive (atheism), you can only act off of assumptions.
Posted by theskeptik 2 years ago
theskeptik
@CorieMike I cannot understand your reason for voting Con, as you're saying exactly what I was arguing. It is absolutely possible to be both a theist and an agnostic or an atheist and an agnostic.

You also say, correctly, that one cannot say "I don't know if I believe" because that is equivalent to saying "I don't believe." Hence, my assertion, via syllogism, that all non-believing agnostics are atheists, including Mikal.

He thinks agnosticism refers to knowledge of God, which it obviously is not; it refers to knowledge of the existence of God. It's an important distinction.

You say that there are aspects of this which neither party understand. Like what?

I'm saying that a non-believing agnostic is an atheist, by definition, in that they do not BELIEVE in God. It's misleading to label oneself an agnostic in that case, as it suggest you don't know and neither believe nor disbelieve, which is not the case.
Posted by CorieMike 2 years ago
CorieMike
This debate was rather silly. All Atheists don't claim certainty, some simply with hold belief. Agnostics make the claim that knowledge on a topic is unattainable or inaccessible at this time. Atheists, as well as, theists can be either agnostic or gnostic. Both terms are used to describe one's position. It is simple. Do you believe God exists or not? One can't say "I don't know if I believe" because that would basically be the same as saying I don't believe. Belief can be either rational (Knowledge) or irrational (Faith). If you don't accept a claim as true, you don't believe it, even if you choose to make a voiced claim on the topic or not, after thinking about it. You're gnostic if you CLAIM certainty, you're agnostic if you CLAIM uncertainty. Gnosticism has to do with the claim one makes. Belief and Knowledge are not mutually exclusive. Knowledge is merely rational belief. No one can be objectively certain of anything, as it all relies on belief, which depends on the faculties of the mind and senses which can all be fallible. The problem here is objectivity vs relativism. How does one know if my what I'm saying should be taken as the truth. Well we call "truth" whatever is in line with our reasoning and helps us make sense of the world we live in. Even inductive and deductive reasoning can be fallacious. Deductive because deductive arguments thrives on assumptions which one cannot be certain of. Let's say arithmetic and mathematical truths were universal (analytic/synthetic a prior statements), not abstract concepts which are only subjectively useful, this is founded on inductive generalizations which is first gained through empiricism. So though I disagree with Pro's statement, I think that there is still much on the topic both parties are ignorant of. One should not be preferred over the other. They go hand in hand. One could be agnostic on many different topics but only atheist when that topic deals with theism. Thus, I vote Con.
Posted by theskeptik 2 years ago
theskeptik
@9spaceking You thought I would be doomed simply "becuz" Mikal accepted? Well, I'm grateful that you deigned to comment at all. I'm just sorry I wasn't up to scratch. I will think twice about challenging such an eminent debater in the future.

ROFL, LOL
Posted by 9spaceking 2 years ago
9spaceking
RFD
I thought pro would be doomed becuz mikal accepted. Looks like this wasn't the 1000--8000 charac. debate I expected. keepin this short cuz my fingers hurt
pro use difference of athiest to agnostic, mikal pts out that we cant prove negative therfor agnostic isnt best way to look at god and repeats it to rebut pro. he also says that becauz there is lack of evidence does not mean god doesnt exist, and so this evidence cant be verified
pro talks about how he actually meant that you cant exactly verify god, therefore probability comes into play and doubt comes into whether or not god really exists. then he uses syllogism to point out that agnostics=atheists, and atheists are inferd to be broarder then agnostic and the preferred term.
con now points out that pro was contradictin himself and clarifies the clear dif tween at's and ag's, gives the example of flat earth fallacy, repeats this old point, and wins.
Posted by Mikal 2 years ago
Mikal
ignore the not* and are* mutually exclusive, was typing this in a hurry
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by republicofdhar 2 years ago
republicofdhar
theskeptikMikalTied
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Reasons for voting decision: The debaters argued based on different definitions of atheism and agnosticism, and so the debate really went nowhere. Each debater is right under their own definition, so neither gets arguments. I would have given it to Pro if he had defined the terms in his opening round but he didn't and Con naturally and understandably assumed that the argument would be using dictionary definitions of these terms. Neither side used sources.
Vote Placed by VelCrow 2 years ago
VelCrow
theskeptikMikalTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro did not prove that the terms atheist and agnostic can be interchangeable. Con justified that the terms atheist and agnostic are specifically different. Thus point to Con.
Vote Placed by 9spaceking 2 years ago
9spaceking
theskeptikMikalTied
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Reasons for voting decision: in comments. surprised that Mikal didn't destroy pro with 10,000/8,000 characters.