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Theism vs. Atheism

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/6/2013 Category: Religion
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 5,109 times Debate No: 29946
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (6)
Votes (1)




Resolved: Theism is epistemicly superior to Atheism.

Request: If you would be so kind as to post only your case, we can use the second round for direct refutation and proceed to full debate in the final 2 rounds. If you'd rather debate another way, that's fine too.

Rule: Evidence found via research must be sourced, so that the context of that evidence may be examined. If a piece of evidence is not sourced by the voting period, it shall be assumed that the evidence was false

Note: I will be denoting Consciousness as C and deity as D for emphasis. You may do the same or otherwise as you see fit.


Theism: belief in a D.
Atheism: The belief that no deity exists
Diety: A conscious , non-human entity, who's complexity exceeds that of any human by many orders of magnitude, and has some relation with the planet Earth.
Epistemicly superior: More likely to be objective fact.

Value: Knowledge
In philosophy, or religion for that matter, the goal is the acquisition of objective facts regarding all matters yet unanswered by science, and the identification of questions which lead us to those facts. One of these two sides is advocating an objective fact, which, in a philosophical paradigm, ought to be known.

Criterion: Humility
Humans typically have a superior attitude towards children, animals, and inanimate objects. Often, they have this attitude toward other adults as well, even other cultures. The belief that we have some distinction above the rest of universal matter makes us unwilling to imagine, and therefore incapable of knowing, an entity far greater than ourselves.

2. We humans are conscious. We have a subjective awareness, which only we can access. Our C is our most basic knowledge. We know that we are aware, and if "we are aware" holds true, then it is quite certain that "we are". Furthermore, I am, and I am in a bodily way that occupies certain points in space and time. Science knows a great deal about the workings of the human body, all processes necessary for life. The manners in which stimuli trigger pathways which cause bodily action are well-documented. Moreover, they are necessary and sufficient for life. The body ought to work with or without any sort of soul, spirit, essence, or C.
And yet every living human, and many living beings have C. C is, therefore, an
epiphenomenon. Science cannot tell us what it is, how it arises, why it exists.

I'm sure you'll agree that mentally deficient persons have C; animals do as well.
Parrot IQs are in the 35-49 range. A human with such an IQ can learn basic life skills, attain some supervised employment, and recognize that they are a distinct entity which exists, and may not exist at some future time.(1) Persons with IQs below 30 still have C, and they are less intelligent that parrots. So parrots definitely have C. There is no distinction between parrots and Avis as a whole to suggest that all birds have C, down to the hummingbird. If we trace the phylogenetic roots of either of those animals, we come to hardly macroscopic beings. Consider C. elegans, a species of nematode. Like all eukaryotic organisms, C. elgans starts as a small cluster of stem cells which divide and differentiate into new cell types. As a C. elegans develops, scientists can identify the eventual location and cell type of any of those 1,000 stem cells. It still has a brain; it senses and makes decisions to ensure its survival. It must have C. C. elegans' ancestors are unicellular. They lack nervous tissue, so they must lack C. Right? No, not at all. Unicellular amoebas sense and respond to their environment. They are similarly capable to C. elegans at finding sustenance and prolonging life. Though they lack neuronal signalling, autocrine signalling does the same job.

The human brain is not the sole locus of C, nor is the ganglia, or even a pair of neurons.

The precondition for C is signalling.

It is important to note that signalling is not limited to the expression and understanding of concepts understood by humans. The amoeba is essentially a molecular machine, and the nature of its chemical messages is lightyears from the human understanding of a message. The process of signaling is simple. A signal (some collection of matter or energy) moves from entity A to Entity B, causing some change in the state-over-time of Entity B. You shoot a tree; that's a signal. You hear thunderous vibrations from the atmosphere; that's a signal. A meteor strikes Earth; that's a signal. (I will now refer to signalling with an S)

It is evident that C exists when, and because, S occurs. If S does not occur, C cannot be. As living beings, S occurs at unfathomable rates; when we sleep, it slows. S occurs until we die. The dead have no C. While S occurred, C existed. When S ceased, C ceased.

C and S are nearly one and the same; but they are, in a way, distinct. S is observable; the firing of a neuron and the subsequent neural activity can be externally observed. C is experienced by the subject, but C cannot be externally observed. This is a serious epistemic problem. If another celestial body collides with Earth, S can be easily observed. C will not be externally observed. Without observing C, many observers will say that C does not exist. When most observers looked at you or I, they would gladly admit that we have C. They cannot observe that C, so they infer it from the apparent S keeping us alive. This distinction arises because the firing of a neuron is a very familiar process, and a meteor strike is unfamiliar. This isn't a logical interpretation; the logic ought to apply to both cases equally. C exists when S occurs. S has occurred so C must exist. That C corresponds to some spatial domain including both bodies.

You may not be particularly convinced that at astronomical event is alike to a conscious thought; there are more familiar methods of signaling. We use our vocal chords to create vibrations in the air which, in turn, vibrate the ear drums of others. They cause responses in the others, often complex ones. Not only has S occurred, but S has occurred such that it is meaningful to an observer. If the collision causing C is less likely than the nerve cell causing C, speech must be more likely to cause C by the same rationale. Signalling among humans causes some C to exist, just like internal signaling causes our Cs to exist.

The universe is incomprehensibly vast. Our galaxy, one of 200 billion the universe contains, has ~10 trillion planets; the neurons in a human being number less than a hundred billion.(2) These planets, not to mention the myriad other types of celestial bodies, exist in every imaginable size, shape, and composition. They fly through space much faster than any human vehicle could. They collide; they combine, break apart, change momentum and direction. Bursts of gamma rays shoot across the universe at the speed of light, carrying more energy than the sun will ever produce, and vaporizing everything in their path. Each of these is a signal, no less complex, and far more numerous than a neuronal action potentials in the human brain.

As the amoeba's slow, occasional signals cause a meager C, and our quick, numerous signals cause a modest but expansive C, the universes speed-of-light, infinite signals cause a C that is nothing short of a D

I eagerly await your reply.




There is no God. Whatever merit religion may have as an instrument of social control or moral conditioning it is clearly a fable; a story which may have an important message but never actually happened. Religions originated hundreds or thousands of years ago when humans were incapable of understanding the way the world really worked. Ultimately an individual who is concerned with truth - as all of us are - must rest their understanding of the universe on the preponderance of evidence and on that front the advantage is clearly in favour of atheism. There is simply no evidence what-so-ever that God exists. No one has seen him or touched him. Crazy people, mostly Republicans, claim to talk to him but they are seldom very credible. Of course there are things you cannot see and touch that exist (oxygen, for example) but that at least can be interacted with. You can cover a flame in a cup and watch it suffocate.
There is nothing wrong with believing in God. Religion can teach powerful moral lessons and motivate people to do good. Churches themselves are voluntary - no one, save perhaps for children, is forced to attend. Many churches do great acts of charity. But it is simply not true to say there is a God. There is simply no evidence or facts supporting this viewpoint. It is illogical, irrational and untrue to maintain that there is some invisible man in the sky watching over us.
The scientific viewpoint - which is necessarily atheistic, since there is no way to verify through replication or experimentation the claims of believers - is necessarily more rooted in the search for truth than that of mystics. Ultimately the argument for a deity rests on one thing, and one thing alone. Belief. You can say what you will about the merits of this approach, but simply accepting unquestioningly the dictates of authority is the polar opposite of the search for truth. If one is to be concerned with knowledge and truth then we throw off the foolish superstitutions of our past and embrace a modern understanding of the world. This means necessarily and in an iconoclastic fashion abandoning religion, or modern attempts by new ageists to sneak God in via spirituality and other such bunk. These are clearly attempts to recycle mankind's cherished beliefs. Again there is nothing wrong with this approach, but as a serious inquiry into knowledge and truth is clearly inferior to atheism.
Debate Round No. 1


You make a lot of points about the deficiencies of religion. I'd like to point out that religion is not the actual topic being discussed. Theism is not a religion, it is a single view, concerning a single matter. I have never been a member of any religious organization, and was an atheist until my late teens, so I'm certainly not advocating any religion. I am espousing the belief that God (as defined above) exists.

You say that religion is an institution of social control, and you're right. God is not. God has, at various times, been used by religions to achieve certain ends, but so have famines, floods, and plagues. Religions sit on a huge foundation of doctrine. It talks about God, but uses him simply as a figurehead before going on to issue various decrees. No rational theist would believe that God has a keen and vested interest in homosexuality and contraception.

You mention that religions were a means of explaining the natural world during pre-modern history, when no scientific explanation was available. This is true. We now know that plagues come from bacteria, not an angry God, among other things. Regardless, in my definition of God, I did not say I'd be defending everything that's been said about him. I am merely arguing that "A conscious , non-human entity, who's complexity exceeds that of any human by many orders of magnitude, and has some relation with the planet Earth." Your argument also suggests to me that you believe science has solved all worldly mysteries. It hasn't. Why are you conscious? How is it that electrical shocks in your brain magically bring forth an awareness of the external world. There is no scientific reason to suggest we ought to have consciousness. Our bodies would operate just the same without it. If you really think science has solved this question, I'd be delighted to know how.

Your mention of the "invisible man in the sky" is completely fallacious. The argument I've put forward states that the universe, as a whole, has a consciousness many times greater than the consciousness of any organism.

I hate to bring up this sort of argumentation, but while I have brought up reasons that God exists, you haven't brought up a single reason that he doesn't. Your argument seems to rest on the claim that "there is simply no evidence". Well, I've provided some evidence, where's yours?

And finally, what evidence do you have that all the people you interact with, myself included, have consciousness?

I look forward to your reply.


Religion and the concept of God are inextricably linked. This is where the concept of God originated. If you are going to denounce religion as false then you are also denouncing your own beliefs, since this is where the idea of God came from. If they were just making it up, then you are just believing their story, because you like it, you just don't like the way it was told. It's possible of course that this claim of religion could coincidentally be true, but this is really a giant leap, to imagine that religion itself could be nonsense yet this one absolutely shocking statement they made just happened to be true. They just stumbled upon an incredible and seemingly impossible to guess truth? It seems incredibly implausible to me. Either there is a God, and he revealed himself to us via religion, or there is no God and religion is a bunch of hogwash. But how can religion be a bunch of hogwash, yet there actually is a God? It's incredibly illogical to imagine that is the case.
What evidence do I have that God does not exist? I have exactly the same amount of evidence there is that he does exist. None. You cannot prove that something does not exist, not without first achieving omniscience. Luckily my task is not to prove that God does not exist, but to answer whether or not atheism is more in line with the search for truth and knowledge than theism. Since atheism is a critical analysis of the world in which we live based upon skeptically verifying claims and theism is a bunch of delusional nonsense & recycled fairy tales it is obvious which is a search for truth and which is not.
Your conception of God as a 'gaia-esque' creature is beautiful, to be sure. But if any complex system must have consciousness, then why not my washing machine or my computer? Why not any system at all? Aren't the electrons racing back and forth in an eraser an example of a bunch of signals resulting in consciousness by the same logic that drives your wild speculation? There is nothing wrong with speculation, if you are a science fiction author, but the search for truth demands the application of cold hard reason not flights of fancy that would make Asimov proud. Indeed the whole thing seems to be copped from an Asimov short story where they linked every computer in all the various worlds together (a whole bunch of signals resulting in consciousness) to ask it "is there a God?". The machine replied "there is now".
I am not a believer in science. Personally I think that people of our age will be found to be as wrong as those who believed that your health was determined by the ratio of bile to other humours in the body or those who believed in the phlogiston theory of combustion. Science evolves and new theories replace old ones (usually against the bitter protests of everyone who is emotionally and intellectually invested in the old theory). Kuhn's work on this is critical. Yet while science cannot explain everything perfectly, it is very much in line with the search for truth and knowledge because it does not simply make an assertion, or speculate wildly. It tests via experimentation. It is critical of it's own theories. In a sense science is a religion, some if it's basic axioms cannot be tested. But this is only a very vague similarity; when it comes to the search for truth science has self correcting mechanisms in order to ensure it more accurately describes reality whereas religion, spirituality, theism, whatever you want to call that hodgepodge of emotional appeals and boogiemen concepts that constitutes a belief in God does not. Theism is simply an unproven assertion about the world, it's an appeal to authority and nothing more.
Debate Round No. 2


Religion and God are not inextricably linked. Buddhism is a non-theist religion, and I have several friends who, like myself, are non-denominational theists. The idea of God did not have a singular source; it arose in almost every human culture since the Stone Age. It is ludicrous to suggest that, while thousands of people came upon the same concept independently of one another, that I could not. One does not have to be interested in creating a religion to ponder the unknowns of the universe.

"Either there is a God, and he revealed himself to us via religion, or there is no God and religion is a bunch of hogwash. But how can religion be a bunch of hogwash, yet there actually is a God?"

I am utterly perplexed by this passage. I never said religions were incorrect in being theist; their scripture is simply loaded with additional "advice" that has nothing to do with God. The founders of religions, who spent a great deal of time philosophizing about the nature of life and the universe, are poorly represented by modern religious institutions. The Bible has gone through hundreds of iterations since the spoken word of Jesus was written down. I don't think Jesus is hogwash, I just think the modern institutions are.

Great, so you have not decided to present any evidence. The scientific method is not applicable to the topic of God; it is applicable to matters that can be subject to scientific experiment only. Many respected scientists are theists and they would tell you the same.

And is atheism really "a critical analysis of the world in which we live based upon skeptically verifying claims." All you seem to be doing here is saying "i see no evidence" and then misconstruing any evidence as no evidence. The theism that I'm advocating has absolutely nothing to do with the "fairy tales" you mention.

My argument does suggest that your machines have consciousness, albeit a form alien to you or I. Consciousness is a property which defies scientific explanation. It is not biology or physically necessary, and yet it exists. You did not answer when I asked you for your justification for believing the people around you are conscious. I'm sure that you believe that, but there's no way you can actually prove it.

I'm conscious, you're conscious, humanity is conscious. Nothing special about human biology suggests that we would become the sole owners of this strange and epiphenomal property. I find it far more likely that this property permeates the universe. If matter has not always been conscious, when and how did consciousness arise? If you can't answer that, then you're arguing that humans and animals have somehow received a unique gift, which is precisely the view espoused by most major religions.

How can you not be a believer in science? Unlike the ancients, modern scientists have demonstrated statistically significant results and those results have been incredibly apparent in your everyday life. Do you think an iPhone could be made without incredibly precise scientific understanding? Astrophysics and quantum physics remain the only areas in which scientists may be seriously wrong.

"In a sense science is a religion, some if it's basic axioms cannot be tested."
Oh my, "some basic axioms" you say? I have actually provided one axiom, that consciousness is a property pervasive of our universe rather than exclusive human beings. My theism relies then, on at least one less axiom that science.

Anyway, you haven't actually addressed any of my argument other than to accuse me of speculating. And I repeat:
If matter has not always been conscious, when and how did consciousness arise?


You are going back and forth. You don't believe in religion. Now you do believe in religion. You believe in a God, but not the one's religion talks about, but now you believe in Jesus. It's all very contradictory. How on Earth did you arive at your theory independently of religion? Were you a feral child raised by wolves when you came up with this idea? Yours is simply a hallow echo of the religious beliefs we are fed in childhood and like them it does not have the ring of truth. It's simply a way to smuggle in religion, without having to have a religion. You come to the exact same conclusion as religious people.
Religion invented the concept of God. Now you want to keep that concept, because it appeals to you, but you want to denounce religion. So you are saying these people were wrong about absolutely everything except the God part. So I repeat - how did they discover there was a God? How can they be wrong about everything, about how the Earth was formed, about how God wants us to worship him, etc. etc. and yet some how have ascertained this incredibly unlikely phenomenon known as the existence of God? It simply doesn't make sense. Either they are right, and there was a God, and he's omniscient and he's revealed the truth to us and given us free will and will punish us if we touch ourselves and all the rest of it.... I mean this is absurd, but at least it's consistent, or there is no God and religion is all a bunch of nonsense. This is also consistent (and consistent with observations, logic, reason and rationality). Your theory is both entirely incompatible with facts and rationality while also being inconsistent. What on Earth caused these people to just come up with this incredible guess and be right? Isn't it more likely they were all just copying and elaborating on each other's stories? Story telling has always been an art in every culture.

It is impossible to prove something does not exist without being all knowing. You cannot prove to me that there are not purple Kangaroos with unicorn horns that speak Latin on our planet. Yet there is no evidence that these things exist so a truth seeker must believe they do not. It's absurd to imagine that these things exist. Just like the concept of God. Some omnipotent omnisicent being that punishes us when we are bad and rewards us when we are good? This is clearly nothing more than our desire for a strong paternal influence manifesting itself into a belief system.
Yes atheism is a critical analysis of the world. When you see no evidence for something, you don't believe in it. That's what critical thinking is. It's about challenging accepted dogma. Making conclusions based on the facts.
Your theory that consciousness is a pervasive property in the universe is not an axiom. It's hypothetically possible but one could hardly argue that it is self evident. It is at best a speculative argument at worst the unsubstantiated yearnings of the best of Carl Sagan combined with the worst of William Blake.
I do not know how consciousness arose. I'd imagine it occurred through natural selection but I'm not a biologist or an individual who studies biogenesis or evolution. If I had to guess I'd say it has something to do with how man used his brain and intelligence to out compete other animals. What is so special about self awareness that it requires mysticism to explain? Ultimately this discussion has nothing to do with theism since every aspect of man's evolution can be explained by science. We aren't the descendants of Adam and Eve. We evolved from monkeys. Before that we were single celled life forms.
My computer is not conscious. Animals are not self aware. Yet you assert they should be and are. You seem to think that parrots are self aware. Consciousness can only be observed in humans. To a degree chimps can mimic us, with significant behavioural modification via training. Animals are responsive machines. They evolved this way. It helps them survive. Yet they are complex machines of signals which should, according to your theories, result in consciousness. As should machines, even desks, absolutely everything sends signals via electrons. And this is magically supposed to just awake into self awareness? No humans have something which sets us apart. Our highly evolved brains. Natural selection. I'm not a biologist or a brain dude, but I'm sure they could explain this to you. Science is great like that. The division of labour is great like that. Consciousness is neat, but it's certainly not proof that there is a God, or that it's more epistemicly (sic) superior to atheism.
Debate Round No. 3


pcmbrown forfeited this round.


i win villian forfeits
Debate Round No. 4
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by athios-animus 4 years ago
posting that that it takes faith to be an atheists is crazy. It might take some a while to adjust while the educate themselves is one thing. Education in science and other things helps you realize its really not an issue. Religion is a leftover from earlier times. It just takes guts to tell the world that is who you are. Saying there is no proof for being an atheist is like saying the world is 6000 years old. The burden of proof is on the theist, not on us. We have thousands of years of "Proof". Not one theist yet has proof that even the Ark was actually built, let alone proof of God.
Posted by superlative 5 years ago
Zak, I think it's dangerous. Humans have messed with organisms/ecologies before and we've created terrible ecological and health disasters such as super-bugs or the cane toad menace. How can anyone hope to control/predict an organism's behavior, especially one that cannot be controlled?
Posted by hakbar123 5 years ago
A religion is a set of rules placed upon mankind BY humans in order to come up with some type of order. Now i am not against religions nor am I against god. I believe in supreme power a deity who exceeds the power of mere human but if you tell me i need to follow certain rules in order to get close to that supreme ruler than i will disagree. I do not agree with the way of religions but i believe in God - a supreme power who lives on the highest plane ....
Posted by giraffelover 5 years ago
Isn't there a huge gap between making a full bacteria and simply making it's genome?
Posted by ZakYoungTheLibertarian 5 years ago
I do think biogenesis is an interesting topic (not one I'm versed on I'm afraid).

What do you have to say about this news article superlative?
Posted by superlative 5 years ago
It requires just as much faith to believe there is no God, as to believe there is a God. Atheists, in my experience, are the most religious people of all. They believe in things like "the Big Bang" and that life can create itself from nothing without any proof whatsoever.

Why is it that no-one has ever shown life to create itself? Sure people have theories of a prebiotic soup, but no-one has proven that such a thing has even existed or even exists today. People have theorized how life could have created itself, but no-one has ever shown it to have ever happen or to happen today.

What about the big bang? No-one has proven that such an event happened or happens today, just theories based on observations of moving entities - nothing of which proves what caused them. Scientists are observing EFFECTS, not the CAUSE. But the fact that atheists believe it 100% with no doubt in their minds, clearly shows a disconnect with their own claims and insistence on the need for "proof". Whilst religious people often doubt God, atheists seem to have absolutely no doubt about their beliefs despite having no proof whatsoever.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Skepsikyma 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:04 
Reasons for voting decision: Arguments for forfeit; though con had better arguments regardless, in my opinion. Conduct for forfeit.