The Instigator
alex1094
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
Mestari
Con (against)
Winning
17 Points

There are no compelling proofs or arguments for the existence of God

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 4 votes the winner is...
Mestari
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/21/2012 Category: Religion
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,905 times Debate No: 25196
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (19)
Votes (4)

 

alex1094

Pro

My contention is that there are no compelling arguments or proofs for the existence of God which cannot be convincingly rebutted.

I won't provide any arguments in this opening round as my challenger holds the burden of proof and I have nothing to affirm, only negate.

A precursor for acceptance of this debate is that you accept the fact of evolution, as I'm nothing but a layman to the subject.

Also, I won't be present to debate after around Thursday midday (British time) so this debate will need to be accepted quickly or it will be cancelled.

Thanks.
Mestari

Con

God is defined as the necessary, personal first cause of the universe.

The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument

  1. Every existing thing 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 is an existing thing.
  4. Therefore the explanation of the universe is God.

Premise 1

An Overview of Modality

Modality is a typology of argumentation that bases its premises in the contingency or necessity of their content. Something is necessary if it could not have failed to exist. The laws of mathematics are necessarily true; it seems reasonable that mathematical truths such as one plus one making two hold true irrespective of how the world may function. The world could exist in the exact opposite manner as it does now and one plus one would still make two. God is also a necessary being, a being that logically could not have failed to exist. It is in the very nature of God that he essentially possess all compossible perfections. Necessary existence is in itself a perfection, and thus God must possess it. That is to say that the very nature of God necessarily explains his existence.

Something is contingent if it could have failed to exist. Most things exist contingently. Each human might not have existed, their respective parents may not have met or had children. Thus, our existence is contingent. The universe appears to exist contingently as well. It seems that the universe may have developed in such a way that the planets were created in different positions, with different respects to habitability. The stars we observe may have been blindingly bright or too dim to see. The Earth itself may not have come into existence. As the universe is contingent, it cannot explain its own existence, for if its own nature entails its existence then it must have necessarily existed.

The Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR)

The Principle of Sufficient Reason claims that all contingent beings must have explanations. I will defend several arguments that support the PSR.

First, it would seem that the PSR requires no defense. All evidence gathered by our sense perception seems to support the universal and undeniable affirmation of this principle. Indeed, if we admit the first premise to be invalid, then there seems to lack any logical reason that things do not simply pop into and out of existence. However, it appears that there is no evidence to prove that this happens. For every existing thing there must also be an explanation of its existence.

I would also like to present a seemingly stronger argument in support of the PSR: The Explanation of Negative States of Affairs. I feel this argument is best articulated by Alexander R. Pruss [1] in his book The Principle of Sufficient Reason: A Reassessment:

Here is a pattern of explanation we all accept [...]“Why did the yogurt fail to ferment? It failed to ferment because none of the usual explanations of fermentation, namely, the presence of bacteria, were there to explain it, and there was no unusual cause. Why did the dog not bark? It did not bark because no stranger approached it and none of the other possible causes of barking caused it to bark.” These are perfectly fine explanations, and they are not elliptical for longer explanations, though of course they are not ultimate explanations since one may ask why no stranger approached the dog.

In these explanations, we explain a negative state of affairs by noting that the positive state of affairs that it is the denial of lacked an explanation. But now observe that this form of explanation presupposes a PSR, at least for positive states of affair, for if such a PSR does not hold, then one has failed to explain the negative state of affairs. If it is possible that a dog should bark without cause, then in saying that there was no cause for the dog to bark we have not explained why the dog did not bark. We may have explained why a nonbrute barking did not occur, but we have not explained why a brute, or unexplained, barking did not occur.

Our acceptance of the preceding explanations as nonelliptical is thus a sign of our tacit acceptance of the PSR.

With these arguments, I hold that the PSR is sound.

Underview of Premise 1

It seems apparent through modal logic that things exist either necessarily or contingently. Necessary existence is explained by its own nature. The same cannot be said for that which exists contingently. However, the PSR successfully provides that all things which exist contingently must have an explanation. Thus, premise 1 holds true.


Premise 2

If the universe exists, it must exist contingently as detailed in the overview of modality. The PSR holds that all contingent beings must have explanations. The existence of a contingent being cannot be explained solely by other contingent beings, for those contingent beings would require explanations from other contingent beings ad infinitum. Thus, there must be a first cause, a necessary being that explains the existence of all contingent beings. Bruce Reichenbach [2] argues, "the necessary being cannot provide a natural explanation for [the universe], for we know of no natural, non-contingent causes and laws or principles from which the existence of the universe follows. What is required is a personal explanation in terms of the intentional acts of some eternal supernatural being. Since the argument proceeds independent of temporal considerations, the argument does not propose a first cause in time, but rather a first or primary sustaining cause of the universe."

The argument is not that God must exist because we do not currently have evidence of natural, non-contingent causes but rather that the idea of natural non-contingent causes is irrational. Consider this: a completely material cause is the first cause. This cause, known as N1, or the first natural cause, sparked the creation of the entire universe. N1 is a necessary being because as previously explained, an infinite number of contingent beings cannot explain their own existence. N1 is the reason the spacio-temporal world as we know it was created. It is the reason matter came into existence. But how is this possible? How can N1 create space and time? By definition, natural beings require space to exist within and are temporal. Also by definition, natural beings are composed of matter. How can that which is composed of matter also account for the creation of matter? On the other hand, suppose P1 is a necessary, personal first cause. Now we can logically explain the creation of space, time, and matter because a personal being may posses the qualities of being eternal, and may transcend the physical. Its will allows for the creation of that which it is not, the physical world. As demonstrated a necessary, natural first cause is logically contradictory. Due to the inability for it to be anything but God, God himself must serve as the explanation of the universe's existence.

Premise 3

I do not believe that this premise will be contested by my opponent. If he, however, decides to raise the question of whether the universe exists I will gladly provide evidence in the following round.

Conclusion

The conclusion that the explanation of the universe is God cannot be logically denied if the 3 premises in support of it hold true. Thus for my opponent to reject the conclusion he must ascertain the negation of any of the 3 premises of the LCA. Indeed, this will be a challenging task for my opponent and if I succeed in defending all of the LCA's premises I shall win this debate.
Debate Round No. 1
alex1094

Pro

I would like to thank my con for putting forward such a complex and intriguing argument which really caught me off guard, but after a bit of thought and I research I think I can put together a response. None of these rebuttals are original and are all available in some form on the internet, I simply worded them differently for the purposes of my own understanding.

Problems with PSR

* In actual practice scientists explain the existence of occurrences or things in terms of preceding causes and conditions, temporarily taking the latter things to be brute facts unless or until they, too, can be further explained. But the principle implicit in the PSR sort of search for explanations isn't sufficient to generate the need for an explanation of the universe as a whole in terms of a necessary being. In other words, using PSR to postulate a God-like figure is premature and superfluous as the universe itself cannot yet be explained. (1)

* PSR absurdly entails that everything is brought about of necessity. The argument for this can be stated as follows. Consider the conjunction of all contingencies (CC). By the logic of PSR, there is a sufficient reason for CC. Now the sufficient reason for CC is itself either contingent or necessary. But it can’t be contingent, because then it would represent a contingent fact, in which case it would itself be a part of CC. But contingent facts don’t contain within themselves the sufficient reason for why they exist – let alone the sufficient reason for why all contingencies exist. Thus, the sufficient reason for CC must be necessary. But whatever is entailed by a necessary truth is itself necessary, in which case all truths would be necessary truths, and the objects they represent would obtain of necessity. But this is absurd. Therefore, PSR is false. (1)

* The following scenario is on the face of it possible: there are just two kinds of beings that exist: contingent-and-dependent beings (e.g., rocks, trees, planets, galaxies, you and me) and contingent-yet-independent, “free-standing” beings, out of which all contingent-and-dependent beings are made (an example could be matter/energy). If so, then even though there are possible worlds at which the contingent-yet-independent beings 'don’t exist', they are eternal and indestructible at all possible worlds in which they 'do exist'. On this account, then, there are contingent beings that come to be and pass away: the contingent-and-dependent beings such as you and me. But the beings out of which they’re made – i.e the contingent-yet-independent beings - do not; nor can they. This scenario seems possible. But if so, then since PSR entails that such a state of affairs is impossible, then so much the worse for PSR. (1)






Sources
(1) http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.co.uk...



Mestari

Con

Premise 1

An Overview of Modality

Nothing has been refuted about my understanding of modality. Clean extension.

The Principle of Sufficient Reason

First I'll address my opponent's three objections.

1) This objection concedes the validity of my argument. My opponent claims that scientists explain existences by preceding causes and conditions. This is exactly what the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument does, as explained by my overview of modality. If my opponent chose to actually do research rather than plagiarize he would know why this blog-post does not refute the LCA, or even the PSR. It in fact doesn't even address the PSR in terms of the LCA. What the blogger was saying is that the PSR independent of other logical tools cannot be used to derive the existence of a necessary being. In other words, you know that everything has an explanation with the PSR, but with that knowledge alone you cannot derive what the explanation is. This is a completely valid objection to an argument that claims PSR ergo God, but that is not what the LCA does. The LCA is a synthesis of many resources, such as the PSR, modality, infinities, and science.

In effect this objection says that without analysis of prior causes, the PSR is incapable of proving the existence of God. My overview of modality provides such an analysis, thereby supporting the use of the PSR. I would even go as far as to say that my opponent would agree with me in that my overview of modality combined with the PSR is fully sufficient in proving the existence of God. After all, the person he quoted claimed that it would be sufficient if and only if we had an understanding of the prior causes. We cannot have any more of an understanding of casual chain than we have derived from modality.

2) This objection simply states that the PSR's validity results in a deterministic universe. This is Peter van Inwagen's response to the version of the PSR presented by Leibniz in his original iteration of the LCA. I have two responses.

A) Leibniz's original version of the PSR is not equivalent to the version that I utilize in my defense of the PSR. Leibniz's variation is stated in The Monadology as, "we hold that there can be no fact real or existing, no statement true, unless there be a sufficient reason why it should be so and not otherwise, although these reasons usually cannot be known by us."

In other words, nothing occurs for which it would be impossible for someone who has enough knowledge of things to give a reason adequate to determine why the thing is as it is and not otherwise.

You may have noticed that this formulation of the PSR is stronger than the one I presented. The PSR I defend is presented by Alexander Pruss: all contingent facts must have explanations.

Leibniz's PSR (LPSR): Q is a sufficient reason for P if and only if Q explains why P is just so and not otherwise.

Pruss' PSR (PPSR): Q is a sufficient reason for P if and only if Q explains P.

When we break these two version down into technical terms we can see that LPSR requires a sufficient reason to be a necessitating fact. In other words, the validity of the explanation provided must necessitate the occurrence of the event if explains. The PPSR does not suffer from the same fault. The explanation must simply explain why the event may occur.

Pruss' variation is not only compatible with the LCA, but it also breaks free of Inwagen's criticism. You see, the reason Inwagen's criticism works is because the explanation of CC (all contingent facts) would have to necessitate that those contingent facts are true, and by necessitating such a proposition the contingent facts wouldn't be contingent at all, but rather necessary facts. This results in determinism. The PPSR does not fall into this as the explanation needs only prove why CC may be true, but not why it must be true.

Now, one may ask how is this much weaker PSR a sufficient substitution for the LPSR in the LCA? That answer is simple. The only reason why the PPSR would not suffice is if there were multiple plausible explanations for the universe. Using modal logic we may deduce that there are only two possible types of explanations, those that are contingent and those that are necessary. My opponent's concession of my second premise allows for the following assertion to be accepted on face: a series of solely contingent causes cannot explain themselves as their causes would need explanations ad infinitum. Therefore every series of contingent causes must be explained by a necessary cause. Now, the necessary cause an be one of two things itself: personal or natural. I.e. it can be a material cause or an external mind. I explained in the last round why it could not be a natural cause in my example utilizing N1 and P1 under my second premise. As we can see, a necessary, personal first cause may explain the universe under the PPSR. My opponent may object and claim that other explanations may serve the same purpose, but as we can see I have ruled out every other type of explanation. Contingent explanations fail, as do necessary, natural explanations. Therefore the only possible answer is a necessary, personal explanation by process of elimination. Ergo, if the universe exists then the explanation if it's existence is God.

3) This objection fails under modal logic. The proposition of a contingent-yet-independent being is absurd in that the very definition of contingency is dependency. In other words my opponent postulates a dependent-yet-independent being. To be independent the being must be necessary, not contingent. As shown above, only a personal being can coherently be a necessary being.

Premise 2

My opponent did not refute my second premise. Clean extension.

Premise 3

No objections were raised against my third premise. Clean extension.

Conclusion

The blog writers' My opponent's poor grasp of modal logic has proved his three objections to the PSR inadequate. As the PSR is the only part of my argument that my opponent refutes if it is valid then the LCA is held as valid.

Note to my Opponent

Because you are new I am not going to push for you to lose based on plagiarism, but changing one word per sentence does not constitute making an argument your own.
Debate Round No. 2
alex1094

Pro

This debate and argument has gone way over my head, a harsh introduction to modal logic and PSR.

Im sorry that my con feels that I had plagiarised, I had very little understandng of the subject matter and I wanted to respond so that's how I chose to, I probably didn't consider what I was doing before I did it.

Debate.org lesson learned...

Vote con
Mestari

Con

Vote con.
Debate Round No. 3
19 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Mestari 4 years ago
Mestari
ADT, show me where my argument relies on the qualities of an Abrahamic God. When you manage to do that I'll field your criticism further. As of now this is a silly discussion where you continually strawman my argument.

As for nothing being the first cause, you would have to prove the PSR false, as well as the principle of ex nihilo nihil fit.
Posted by ADT_Clone 4 years ago
ADT_Clone
As I've stated many times, yes, you can define whatever you want. I can make the following definition:

Pig = Bird

The problem is if I start referring to qualities of the pig, when really talking about the bird, it creates ambiguity. If you're defining something as a God that does not meet the generally accepted definition of a God, all I ask is that you define it as something else in order to avoid ambiguity.

This is highlighted slightly when you talk about polytheism. The definition of a God as a divine being in polytheism is based of the generally accepted definition of a God, not your definition.

"Even if there are multiple existing entities in set B you have only proven polytheism true, you have not proven theism false. So even if there are multiple NPFCs to choose from, in the end the argument is valid as SOME NPFC has to be responsible for creating the universe. Insofar as we are not debating an omni-quality God, the possibility of multiple NPFCs is irrelevant."

I haven't proven polytheism true, as I identified the possibility of necessarily existing, non-personal first causes. Something that is non-personal does not in any way hint of a God. As I believe I've said previous, there is a POSSIBILITY that a NPFC exists, but there is also a possibility that any necessarily existing beings could exist, or no necessarily existing beings could exist. So the conclusion of your argument("4. Therefore the explanation of the universe is God.") is not supported.

As for set theory, all you need to know is that sets are like groups. Every set has the "null" element in it, which is essentially nothing. I was just using it as an analogy when describing the possibility of nothing being the first cause being an alternative.
Posted by Mestari 4 years ago
Mestari
ADT, what don't you understand. The "generally accepted definition of God" is IRRELEVANT. What we are debating is the definition accepted IN THE DEBATE. If I wanted to define God as a penguin, and my opponent accepted that definition, then for the purposes of the debate God would be a penguin. Nowhere is my argument reliant on the omni-qualities of God.

Even if there are multiple existing entities in set B you have only proven polytheism true, you have not proven theism false. So even if there are multiple NPFCs to choose from, in the end the argument is valid as SOME NPFC has to be responsible for creating the universe. Insofar as we are not debating an omni-quality God, the possibility of multiple NPFCs is irrelevant.

I have not studied set theory, so if you can explain it in layman terms I will address it.
Posted by ADT_Clone 4 years ago
ADT_Clone
If I was verified, I would have voted for you.

I have problems with the argument you presented. Whilst God(the generally accepted definition of God) does possess the attributes of a being who is necessarily existing and a personal first cause, he also possesses other general attributes which are important when using the word "God" such as omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence and omnibenevolence. [1] By simplifying the definition, you lose some of the features a God pertains to. However, in your argument, using your simplified definition you referred to these features as part of your argument(eg. God's perfection).

But regardless, lets take your definition of God being a necessary, personal first cause. For sake of avoiding equivocation, I will make the following definition:

NPFC = "God" = necessary, personal first cause.
NP = Set of necessary, personal beings.

Let the set B be the set of necessarily existing beings. NPFC belongs to the set NP. NP belongs to the set B. As we do not know what is in the set B, the following could be true:

"There exists b in B such that b is not an element of the set NP."

In other words, there is the possibility of a necessary, non-personal being, and hence a necessary, non-personal first cause. This is an alternative to a NPFC, which contradicts the following point which you have made multiple times:

"2) All alternatives other than [NPFC] have been ruled out."

Furthermore, using set theory as an analogy, all sets contain the "null element". I will make the assumption that nothing is a necessarily existing thing. Without nothing, something would have existed necessarily; more precisely everything would have existed necessarily, every piece of matter as there would not be a nothing to create something from. However, I would not be against assuming the inverse.

Under this assumption, nothing is also an alternative as a necessarily existing first cause.

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org...
Posted by Mestari 4 years ago
Mestari
The only person equivocating here is you. You even state yourself that YOU are using YOUR definition, not the one provided in the debate. In fact, in this debate God IS a necessary, personal first cause. I have no idea what your problem is aside from extreme bias and distaste for a religious person winning a debate.
Posted by ADT_Clone 4 years ago
ADT_Clone
On a side note, if you would like to redefine your "God" as a NEPT(necessarily existing personal thing) I have no objection to that, but it then would leave the alternative of necessarily existing non-personal things, which would not be covered in this redefinition. Hence "God", ie. a NEPT would not be the only alternative.

Its up to you, just hoping to cut down the argument a bit in advance.
Posted by ADT_Clone 4 years ago
ADT_Clone
I was under the assumption that a God was a divine, personal being, the usual and widely used definition of God. Even in your debate you referred to a personal God. I do not agree with your definition as it does not represent the general idea of a God, and people will misinterpret it as such. Since it is only a definition, I propose we instead define it as NET(necessarily existing thing). By defining it as 'God', and also assigning it properties of an actual God in your argument, you are equivocating two different definitions, which is the fallacy I was talking about.

Do you accept the redefinition of what you defined as 'God' to a NET(necessarily existing thing)? If so, I will continue on with the argument that a NET created the universe. Otherwise, I will hold to my claim of a fallacy of equivocation.
Posted by Mestari 4 years ago
Mestari
ADT, I think you don't understand the way the LCA operates. The LCA doesn't say God is X, X created the universe. The LCA says X created the universe, X is God. Yes, it defines that which created the universe as God after proving it created the universe rather than before. It's purpose is not to prove that the God of any specific religion created the universe, but that there is a God and that God created the universe.

I'm not trying to prove that God is the only non-natural, necessary being. I concede that he isn't. The laws of mathematics are non-natural, necessary beings. Is God the only necessary, personal being? Possibly. Do I try to prove that? No. Does the LCA try to prove that? No. Was it a requirement for me to prove that in this debate? No. I don't see why you are trying to force me into a burden that was never mine to fulfill. The LCA doesn't try to prove what you want it to prove, it proves a completely different argument, the one that was required of me in this debate. The problem you are having is that you want me to defend your conception of God as a monotheistic, Abrahamic deity with all of the qualities ascribed to him by Christian-theology. That is not the topic of the debate, and the LCA is not intended to prove the existence of such a God. Look at the first thing I posted in the debate: "God is defined as the necessary, personal first cause of the universe." Nowhere in there does it require me to prove any of the qualities you demand to be proven. If that were the burden I would use a different argument entirely.
Posted by ADT_Clone 4 years ago
ADT_Clone
"1) ADT, remove the statement, "It is in the very nature of God that he essentially possess all compossible perfections. Necessary existence is in itself a perfection, and thus God must possess it. That is to say that the very nature of God necessarily explains his existence" from the debate and the LCA functions in exactly the same manner as it does with that statement there. That statement is irrelevant to whether or not the LCA proves that God exists, it is there for clarification purposes."

It is directly relevant. If you can not prove or reason that a God is a necessarily existing being, then either:

a) God does not exist OR
b) God's existence could be contingent

Which would mean that God, or "God" is not apart of the set of alternate necessarily existing beings.

"2) I have ruled out the possibility of a necessary, natural first cause also. If you would like to explain how it is logically possible that a non-natural yet mindless being created the universe, go for it. If it's not logically possible then the final alternative must be true. The process of elimination is not that hard."

In light that everything natural is contingent, a necessary, natural first cause doesn't exist. Your argument logically is as follows:

W = Natural thing
N = Thing that exists necessarily
F = Final Alternative(God)

!(W && N) && N <=> F

That reads:

(not(W and N) and N) is equivalent to F

In other words, God must be necessarily existent and can not be natural and necessary. But God may not be alone in the set of non-natural necessarily existing beings. In order to define God as non-natural, necessarily existing, you are committing the fallacy of equivocation.
Posted by ADT_Clone 4 years ago
ADT_Clone
Apologies for the second part of my last comment, I misread part of your argument. Let me restate it.

"1) There are multiple necessary, personal beings.

In which case my argument is solid because God defined as the necessary, personal, first cause of the universe. One of those beings had to create the universe, whichever one did fits into the definition of "God.""

Then you have proved absolutely nothing. You have simply defined a necessary being as "God". That's like going to a criminal line up(where the criminal is one of the six people) and making the statement that "since the criminal is in the line up, one of those six people committed the crime". It gets you absolutely nowhere to proving that "God" created the universe.

Furthermore, I believe you are being dishonest when you say "God" is whatever necessary being created the universe. In general, a God holds attributes such as being personal, omnipotent, omniscience, omnibenevolent and the author of morality. A necessarily existing being in the set of alternative necessaily existing beings A does not need to possess the above attributes in order to be a necessarily existing being.

To extend this, I am accusing you of the fallacy of equivocation, using the word "God" with two different meanings. Firstly, a personal God and presumably a God from a specific religion, and secondly a "God" which encompasses all necessarily existing beings. If this is not a case, I will still claim a more general fallacy of ambiguity, for defining the word "God" to cover all necessarily existing beings(whichever created the universe if any) when it is traditionally used to represent a deity.
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