The Instigator
KeytarHero
Pro (for)
Losing
18 Points
The Contender
dirkson
Con (against)
Winning
28 Points

Weak Atheism is Logically Incoherent

Do you like this debate?NoYes+5
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 12 votes the winner is...
dirkson
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/26/2012 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 7,267 times Debate No: 23876
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (86)
Votes (12)

 

KeytarHero

Pro

I wish to debate the following proposition, that weak atheism is logically incoherent.

Weak atheism is the position that rather than a positive belief that God does not exist, it is the "lack of belief in gods or God."

Incoherent is defined as without logical or meaningful connection. [1]

[1] http://dictionary.reference.com...
dirkson

Con

Thank you, KeytarHero, for creating this debate. I've "lurked" for some time, but this will be my first debate, so I will endeavor to not make any stupid mistakes.

Since KeytarHero has only created definitions in his first post, I presume the first round is for acceptance of the debate and terms only - So far, I find nothing objectionable, and agree to all definitions. "God or gods" isn't defined, so I presume we're to be using the standard dictionary definition for those. (1&2 here: http://www.merriam-webster.com... )

I am very curious about and look forward to my opponent's argument, in particular how he reconciles his own atheism (There being an infinite number of potential "gods", at least one of which he must surely lack belief in) with the idea that weak atheism is incoherent.

Cheers,
-Dirk
Debate Round No. 1
KeytarHero

Pro

I would like to thank Dirkson for taking me up on this challenge, and would like to officially welcome him to the debating side of DDO. And I'll promise not to hold his stupid mistakes against him if he promises not to hold mine against me. :)

Dirkson is correct, that the first round is for acceptance. I apologize for not including this in the last round as I was pressed for time, so I will include the information now:

Round 2 is for opening arguments (Con may also rebut).
Round 3 is for rebuttals.
Round 4 is for rebuttals and closing statements.

Additionally, the definition of God or gods can be broadly defined in this debate, for the simple reason that we are not here to debate the existence of God or gods. We are here simply to debate whether the claims of "weak atheism" hold merit. Additionally, for simplicity's sake I will use "God" for the remainder of this debate, but it should be assumed that I am also talking about "gods" when talking about what atheists don't believe in.

Atheists used to believe there is no God and be quite certain about it. But there seems to be a fairly recent re-definition that atheism now is meant as "lack of faith in God." This is a very nebulous position and is prone to serious criticisms.

You can't prove weak atheism true.

You can't prove your position correct. If someone comes along with evidence for God's existence, you automatically lose. If you are not making a positive claim that God doesn't exist, then you can't seriously say that someone who believes in God is incorrect, especially if they have evidence for doing so.

Weak atheism is logically fallacious.

Additionally, weak atheism commits at least two logical fallacies. First, it commits the fallacy of shifting the burden of proof. Atheists are no longer required to prove their position correct, they just claim "You have to prove your position to me. I don't have to prove it to you." They claim that anyone making a positive claim bears the burden of proof, but this is clearly incorrect. If an atheist tells me there is no God, they are responsible for proving it to me. The one making the claim bears the burden of proof, just as I bear the burden of proof in this debate to show that weak atheism is logically incoherent (rather than asking Con, who agrees with weak atheism, to prove it to me).

Second, it commits the fallacy of the argument from ignorance. "You can't prove it is true, so it must be false." In order to avoid this logical fallacy a weak atheist would have to become agnostic.

Now I will examine a few claims of weak atheists.

Atheism means "lack of faith in God," nothing more.

This is a fairly recent re-definition of the term. It is intellectually lazy and, quite frankly, is insulting to academic atheists who actually do use logical arguments to try and disprove the existence of God (such as the Problem of Evil, or arguing against logical arguments for God's existence). Astronomer Carl Sagan sure believed there is no God. He has written, "The Cosmos is all there is, all there was, and all there ever will be." [1] Additionally, if atheism were simply lack of faith in God, then rocks and cats would also be atheists.

Considering that Theism is an intellectual position, why would atheists not want to approach Atheism from an intellectual standpoint?

Atheism is the default position.

This is also false. No one is born with or without belief in God. You are raised in a certain ideology so you are more likely to believe in the faith (or lack of faith) that you were raised in. Children raised in a Christian home are more likely to be Christians. Children raised in an Atheist home are more likely to be Atheists. There was never a point at which I was an Atheist, for as long as I was able to think rationally I have believed in God. On top of that, if atheism was really the default position, that would mean it requires absolutely no thought to be an Atheist. So for the sake of intellectualism, Atheism should be rejected in favor of positions that can actually be proven correct.

We're all Atheists, I just believe in one less God than you do.

Dirkson alluded to this last round, and this is simply a bizarre statement. I believe in one God. I am not an Atheist, I am a Theist. Atheists don't believe any gods exist, a Theists believe a God or gods exists. A Monotheist believes in one God, Polytheists believe in many gods, etc. If you believe in a God, or in many gods, you are not an Atheist. Atheists attempt to blur the lines of reality by appealing to this semantic game.

Atheist PZ Myers has some very strong words for this kind of Atheist. As he has written in an article, "Would you be swayed if someone pointed out that you disbelieve astrology, homeopathy, tarot, witchcraft, and palmistry, and he has simply gone one step further than you, and also disbelieves in evolution?

"Similarly, you did not go through a list of religions, analysing each one, and ticking them off as unbelievable. I certainly didn’t. Instead, you come to the table with an implicit set of criteria, like evidence and plausibility and experimental support, and also a mistrust of unfounded authority or claims that are too good to be true, and they incline you to accept naturalism, for instance, as a better explanation of the world. Turning it into a quantitative debate about how many gods we accept, instead of a substantial debate about the actual philosophical underpinnings of our ideas, is kind of lame, I think." [2]

Conclusion

I think I have thoroughly shown why new atheism is a logically incoherent position to hold. I look forward to reading Con's rebuttal.

[1] Sagan, Carl, Cosmos, p. 4).
[2] http://scienceblogs.com...
dirkson

Con

I'm not too great at introductions, so let's jump right into the meat of things:


1. "You can't prove weak atheism true."

Correct! Because of gods' incorpeal nature, it is largely impossible to prove that they do not exist.


2. "If someone comes along with evidence for God's existence, you automatically lose."

My opponent has accurately pinpointed weak atheism's strongest feature - Its susceptability to proof.

Anyone can make a claim - For example, the sky is green. However, when presented with conflicting evidence, a logical man has to adjust his claim to fit the evidence- Once you look up, you realize the sky is more likely to be blue.

Indeed, the majority of weak atheists would welcome evidence - Who wants to carry on being wrong all their life?

Any logical belief MUST be susceptable to change via conflicting evidence.

3. "[Weak atheism] commits the fallacy of shifting the burden of proof."

My opponent and I agree that the burden of proof falls on the person making a claim.


However, my opponent's example of the claim made by weak atheism ("an atheist tells me there is no God") is actually a statement of strong atheism. (Which does have a burden of proof) The equivalent weak atheistic statement would be "I see no evidence for god X", which is not a claim about anything other than the lack of evidence.

My opponnent's point here may be logically inconsistent with point 1 - He wants weak atheists to shoulder the burden of proof, while at the same time stating that there is no logical way for them to prove the position true. This may be one of the points he was attempting to make, however.

4. "Second, it commits the fallacy of the argument from ignorance. "You can't prove it is true, so it must be false.""

"Must be false" is not entirely the correct sequence of words here. "Likely to be false" is more accurate.

Let's grab an example to play with: "I am surrounded by ethereal sheep". This claim cannot be proven true - Since the sheep are "ethereal", they cannot be tested through any known means.

The problem is that there are an infinite number of claims such as this that can be made, and the vast majority of them are vastly unlikely to be true. Faced with odds of this magnitude, the only way to develop a coherent world view is to assume claims that cannot be proven true are false.

Weak theists merely apply this principle to claims of gods.

Aside

My opponent made a passing comment that suggests that the majority of weak atheists are not agnostic. Agnostics believe that the truth about the existence or non-existence of gods cannot be known - Thus, most agnostics are de facto weak atheists. I'm not sure how this affects the debate, though.

5. "Atheism means "lack of faith in God," nothing more."

Weak atheism, by the definition we agreed upon, means exactly this.

The rest of my opponent's paragaph here focuses on why strong atheism is intellectually preferrable to weak aheism, and is probably worthy of its own debate! I will ignore it for now, since it has no bearing on the central claim of the debate : )

6. "Atheism is the default position."
"No one is born with or without belief in God."

Well, yes they are! And the experiment to prove it is really quite simple:


Get a child (From a religious or nonrelgious home, it doesn't matter) who is old enough to speak but whose parents, friends, teachers, etc. have not taught him about gods. This may take some searching, but should be possible.

Ask this child which gods he believes in. You will, if you've done everything correctly, recieve back "What?" or possibly "Mommy! Help!" as your reply.

If you consistently get any other answer, this would be excellent evidence to present to weak atheists, utterly destroying their position!

Aside

To be fair, I, like my opponent, do not remember the period of lack-of-belief in god before my initial indoctrination - But I also don't remember much of /anything/ before my 5th or 6th birthday. (which is, I believe, pretty common) I understand that certain rare individuals DO have non-negligable memories of early childhood, and chatting with them on this topic would be great. The evidence collected would be anecdotal, though, so not relevent to the debate.

My opponent then goes on to state that, if [weak] atheism were the default position, we should reject it for being intellectually lazy. Not only is this not true (Lack of belief in the sentience of trees, the sanctity of cats, the omnipotence of potato bugs, and an infinite number of similar beliefs are also the default positions) but it commits the fallacy of appealing to consequences.

"We're all Atheists, I just believe in one less God than you do."

By strict definition, you're right of coure - A theist cannot be an atheist.

However, any one theist could certainly be, for example, an a-Thor-ist. The problem comes when you realize the terms "weak a-thor-ist" and "weak atheist" are entirely interchangeable in any of the arguments we discuss - Every argument my opponent makes could exhange one term for the other and be exactly as valid.

Thus if you hold "weak athest" to be incoherent, you must also hold "weak a-thor-ist", "weak a-poseidon-ist", and all other claims of weak non-belief to be incoherent.

The obvious next step is that you DO believe in all of these myriad claims, many of which are mutually exclusive, which would be incoherent in itself!

PZ Meyers quotes
I'm not sure PZ Myers has any other word type except for "strong". *grin*

My opponent's second PZ Meyers quote actually provides a single key word which helps us deal with the first PZ quote. Specifically, PZ Meyers states "you come to the table with an implicit set of criteria, like evidence and plausibility and experimental support". The key word here is "evidence". Weak atheists do not merely reject gods because they happen to be in a list entitled "gods". They reject claims as they hear them due to lack of evidence.

To tie this back to the first PZ quote - If there was as little evidence for evolution as for the other items on that list, it would be entirely correct to dismiss it without a second thought!

Conclusion

I believe I've dismantled my opponents arguments with style and panache. Let's see if he agrees. Back to you, KeytarHero!


Cheers,
-Dirk
Debate Round No. 2
KeytarHero

Pro

I would again like to thank Dirk for his willingness to debate this with me.

You can't prove weak atheism true.

Dirk even concedes this point. Which means that since I can offer evidence to support Theism, and no evidence can be offered to support weak atheism, the Theist position is the more rational.

Evidence

Dirk offers an analogy regarding the color of the sky. The problem with weak atheism, however, is that it doesn't actually make a positive claim for atheism. If they had conflicting evidence to support their view, then they could make the statement "there is no God," rather than the intellectually ambiguous "I see no proof for God's existence" (of which there is much). The problem is the only evidence they will accept is beyond the Theist's ability to provide. But philosophical arguments are as much evidence as are empirical evidences. In fact, Theists can, and do, even point to the universe to prove God's existence (see, for example, the Cosmological and Teleological Arguments).

Logical fallacies.

Shifting the burden of proof.

So here, Dirk affirms that weak atheists do shift the burden of proof. Traditional (strong) atheists make the statement "there is no God." Weak atheists make the statement, "I don't have to prove my case, you do." They can make the statement "I see no evidence for God X," but they can't, or don't, offer any evidence for the lack of God's existence. They are agnostics in disguise. Their position opens the possibility that any number of gods could exist, they just won't state that any one possible God, or no gods, actually exists.

I was not trying to offer a contradiction with atheists proving their position. I never said there is no logical way to prove atheism true -- just that there's no logical way to prove weak atheism true. The reality is, there is evidence for God's existence. There is also evidence for atheism. Honest people should admit that there is evidence for both. The question is, which one is more probable. Which evidence is stronger, the evidence supporting Theism or the evidence supporting Atheism?

Argument from ignorance.

Dirk could not prove the existence of ethereal sheep. But we can prove their existence improbable based on what we know of sheep. Additionally, just like Bertrand Russell's celestial teapot, there is absolutely no reason to believe in ethereal sheep. They exist only for the purposes of the analogy. However, there is reason to believe in the existence of God and angels. We have holy books that talk about them and describe them. They may not actually exist, but the point is that we have reason to believe that they exist, if you ascribe to the holy books that describe them.

There are a lot of claims that can be made, and Theists reject most of them. But it is not without evidence. I believe that the evidence most strongly points to the God of the Bible as existing (though those arguments are for another debate entirely). I can, and have, make reasoned arguments for God's existence, and for the existence of the God of the Bible. To claim there is no evidence for it is simply dishonest. I can even admit there is evidence for atheism, as well. But the evidence more strongly supports Theism.

Aside

Now Dirk is attempting to re-define agnosticism. Agnosticism is the belief that you can neither prove nor disprove God's existence (though some agnostics either believe you should live as if God exists, or as if He doesn't). Agnosticism has existed longer than the position of weak atheism, so I think it is doing agnosticism a disservice by attempting to place them into that camp (especially since some agnostics, like Immanuel Kant, believe that even though you can't prove it, you should still live as though God exists).

Atheism means "lack of faith in God, nothing more."

This point actually does have a bearing on the debate. The weak atheistic position cannot defeat the Theistic position because the Theistic position is argued using evidence, whereas the weak atheistic position is not. At worst, this could simply be seen as a re-statement of what I have already mentioned.

Atheism is the default position.

"No one is born with or without belief in God."

Dirk's analogy here doesn't do the job he hopes it does. There may be some kids who are disinclined to believe in God, but that doesn't mean we all are. I have already explained that there was never a time in my life when I was an atheist. My Christian journey has been to accept the beliefs of Christianity, literally as a child, and then when I started questioning my faith later in life, I started looking for evidence to support my views and found a wealth of it. (Note: I was not questioning my faith as in starting to go atheist, I was questioning them to see if there was good evidence to believe what I believe was true, or if I only believe that way because I was raised that way.)

Aside.

While I may not remember much of my early life, I'm sure I would remember a major paradigm shift, such as going from Atheist to Christian. There was no major paradigm shift. I merely believed in God and chose to dedicate my life to Him at an early age (I was five).

Dirk seems to indicate that ignorance is always the default position. However, we can be skeptical of these things not because we should be ignorant until proven otherwise, but based on our knowledge of the topics at hand. I would imagine that very few people test anything thinking, "this is complete hogwash, but I'm going to test it anyway" (though I could be wrong). It seems to me they test thinking, "this may, in fact, be true. Let's see if it is." We can rightly be skeptical about the sentience of trees based on what our common beliefs are of sentience. Trees, even though they are alive, are inanimate creatures. They cannot move unless a force acts upon them (like the wind). As such, it is perfectly reasonable to assume that trees are not sentient. The other examples fail under similar criteria.

"We're all Atheists, I just believe in one less God than you do."

By the definition of Theism, Theists cannot be Atheists. Atheists reject belief in God (or gods), whereas Theists believe in God (or gods).

Here's where weak atheism really breaks down. I could be considered an "a-Thor-ist," but it's not due to lack of evidence that Thor exists. It's due to evidence that the God of the Bible exists. The evidence for the Biblical God is much stronger than the evidence for Thor's existence, so I reject Thor and believe in God. I can say unequivocally that "Thor does not exist." I don't state that "there is no evidence for Thor, so prove it to me."

PZ Myers.

Yes, PZ Myers is an...interesting fellow. :)

However, now Dirk is hitting the nail on the head. Atheists claim there is evidence for Evolution, even though Theists (with the exception of Theistic Evolutionists) reject it as having no convincing evidence. Atheism should be the same way. You can only reject the existence of God if there is stronger evidence against God's existence. And in that case, you would make the claim that God does not exist.

Conclusion.

I believe I have successfully defended the resolution. I look forward to our next and final round.
dirkson

Con

0. Evidence

A recurring theme in my opponent's rebuttals is his claim of evidence for the existence of a diety. This is actually just a restating of his original point 2, which I've already answered: Namely, that weak atheism's susceptibility to evidence is the most logical portion of it, rather than some imagined logical weakness. Please see my original response to point 2 for a more thorough rebuttal.

If my opponent would like to discuss a specific claim of evidence, I would be happy to start another debate with him, so that the claims get a fair hearing. I will go ahead and provide VERY brief rebuttals for the two specific claims he's already mentioned, however.


1. "You can't prove weak atheism true."

My opponent claims evidence for theism as a rebuttal here. Please see point 0.

2. "If someone comes along with evidence for God's existence, you automatically lose."

My opponent claims evidence for theism as a rebuttal here. Please see point 0.

Cosmological: Asserts something that needs a first cause to explain the first cause.

Teleological. I believe this is the "Complexity requires a designer" argument? So far, every complex phenomenon we have discovered can be described without a designer - See evolution, cosmology, etc.

3. "[Weak atheism] commits the fallacy of shifting the burden of proof."

I find myself trying to explain why "A god exists" is a claim. I'm afraid I more or less have to fall back on definition here - http://dictionary.reference.com... "3. to assert or maintain as a fact." I find it impossible to state the weak atheist position in such a way that it makes any claim about gods.

If "A god exists" is a claim, the burden of proof must logically fall on those making this claim. If theists have evidence, they should present it - A weak atheist will be obligated either to change their views or, if they find the evidence invalid, make a counter-claim against the evidence presented.

Many agnostics are weak atheists, and many weak atheists are agnostics. I don't understand why my opponent asserts they're in disguise. (As a good natured joke: Are they ninjas? :) )

My opponent correctly states that the weak atheistic position is open to the possibility of any number of gods existing.

1 & 3 Possible Contradiction

My opponent asserts that there is no way to prove weak atheism logically true. That is, there can exist no evidence, and no evidence can be IMAGINED, that would be proof of weak atheism. I agree with this point.

He then goes on to assert that weak atheism makes a claim. (And thus must shoulder the burden of proof.)

What arguments is my opponent wanting to hear if no evidence can be imagined that would be proof of weak atheism?

My opponent claims evidence for theism as a rebuttal here. Please see point 0.

4. Argument from ignorance.


My opponent's reference to Bertrand Russell is an excellent example, as his teapot example is old enough to have made its way into books, and thus falls afoul of the two problems with relying on books to rebut this argument.

The first problem is that there isn't just one set of holy texts, there are thousands, most of which are mutually exclusive. Which books am I to give weight to? In a world where thousands of people mark "Jedi" on the census as their religion, that is not an easy question to answer.

The second, and far more damning problem with books is that it doesn't matter that they're books. Books are nothing more than the written claims of other people - As such, they have no more weight than my written claims of ethereal sheep, Russel's written claims of teapots, or Tolkien's claims of elves.

4.1 "There are a lot of claims that can be made, and Theists reject most of them. But it is not without evidence."

Well, shucks, that's just wrong. For example - You've denied my claim of ethereal sheep while having zero evidence of their non-existence. In fact, you did not even try to get a definition for them from me, nor construct any experiments to test for them. The sheep do not even conflict with any theistic beliefs that I am aware of.

Sadly, there are millions of people in the world making similar ridiculous claims, and merely to continue forward, the vast majority of these claims have to be ignored unless the person making them can present compelling evidence.

My opponent claims evidence for theism as a rebuttal here. Please see point 0.

Aside

My opponent dismisses my argument as re-definition of agnosticism, then immediately defined agnosticism... Paraphrasing the very definition I was using! This actually made my laugh out loud. I'm not sure where we're getting our wires crossed here.

My opponent is correct that some agnostics do pick a god and live as though that god exists. I wasn't intending to place all agnostics in the weak atheist camp, just the majority of them, who live as though no god exists.

5. Atheism means "lack of faith in God, nothing more."

My opponent insists that his original point has bearing, so I'll make a go at deconstructing his points here.

"[Weak atheism] is a fairly recent re-definition of the term [atheist]."
Might be, but I'm not well versed in the history of atheism. Whether it is or isn't doesn't make weak atheism incoherent.

Paraphrase: Weak atheism is intellectually lazy compared to strong atheism and thus insults strong atheists
Perhaps! Whether it is or isn't doesn't make weak atheism incoherent.

[Cool Carl Sagan quote]
Cool, a Carl Sagan quote.

"[...] rocks and cats would also be atheists."
I'm not sure applying "atheist" to a rock makes much sense. I thought about how to communicate the concepts of "existence", "god", and "question" to my cat, but I suspect her of being too simple to meaningfully reply.

I'm not really sure how any of this can be built up to proving the logical incoherence of weak atheism.

My opponent does make a sort-of new point in his rebuttal, but he's right that it's more or less redundant with points 1-3

6. "Atheism is the default position" (With Aside 2 wrapped in)

My point wasn't that some kids run across the concept of a god and respond "Oh, that's stupid".

My point was that kids uneducated in the concept of a god do not have a concept of a god, and thus no concept of a god's existence, until someone else tells them about it.

This is true of literally everything everyone believes - It is no surprise that you don't remember the state before learning about god, since it's unlikely that you remember the state before learning about floors, walls grass, arms, birds, the US government, France, and a million other things.

To be fair, I'm still not sure about France ;)


My opponent did not contest my assertion of his appeal to consequences.

Did you believe trees were sentient before I presented the problem to you and you thought it over? If you did not, then you DID have a default position - And it was disbelief.

7. "We're all Atheists, I just believe in one less God than you do."

My opponent contests that, since belief in gods is frequently mutually exclusive, those people who believe in an exclusive god are strongly a-diety-isctic toward all other gods, not weakly a-diety-istic towards those gods.

This is valid, and breaks apart the core of my "Believing weak atheism is logically incoherent is logically incoherent" point. Thank you!

PZ Myers

My opponent asserts that claims without convincing evidence should be rejected... I... Wholeheartedly agree! I have been making that point repeatedly while refuting his points, and am pleased as punch to see him backing me up on it.

Confused. But pleased.

My opponent claims evidence for theism as a rebuttal here. Please see point 0.

Conclusion

Barring some devastating evidence from my opponent, I believe I have successfully refuted all of his points in support of this debate's topic.

I want to thank my opponent for his time, and thank him particularly for proving me wrong on my "Believing weak atheism is logically incoherent is logically incoherent" point.

Cheers,
-Dirk


P.S. Just a handful of characters left! I've managed to slip in right under the wi
Debate Round No. 3
KeytarHero

Pro

I would like to thank Dirk, once again, for debating this topic with me.

Evidence

We could certainly discuss the evidence for Theism, if he would like, as this isn't really the place for it. However, I could call into question the weak atheist's position that it is susceptible to evidence. Anyone who claims there is absolutely no evidence for Theism is clearly biased, as there is evidence for both Theism and Atheism (certainly enough evidence to make up your mind one way or the other). The question is which position is better supported by the evidence. I would argue that Theism is. It just doesn't make sense to say "there is no evidence" for Theism, which is clearly false, just as it is false to say there is no evidence for Atheism.

As I have already shown, weak atheism is logically incoherent. It denies evidence for both sides (where there is clearly enough to make up your mind), and it is nothing more than agnosticism. To be consistent, they must either become strong atheists (making the claim that God does not exist) or become agnostics (you can't prove it either way). The only difference between an Agnostic and a Theist/Atheist is that Agnostics claim you can't prove it, so we can't say one way or the other (though you can still live as though a God does or does not exist), and the Theist/Atheist claims that you may not be able to prove it conclusively, but there is enough evidence to believe God does or does not exist to justify belief (or no belief) in God.

You can't prove weak atheism true.

Again, you can show enough evidence to justify a belief (or no belief) in God. Weak atheism is barely indistuingishable from Agnosticism.

Evidence of God's existence.

Dirk's objections here are not valid objections. The Kalam Cosmological Argument does not assert that God needs a First Cause. It only asserts that everything that begins to exist needs a cause, so the universe requires a cause because it began to exist. Asking "what created God?" is not a valid objection, as I have shown in a previous debate. [1]

Dirk is correct that the Teleological Argument is the argument from design to a Designer. However, simply saying that science *can* explain everything does not disprove God's existence. God set the natural laws into motion, so simply appealing to natural laws does not prove that the existence came about without God, just that it *could have* come about without God. Even then, it is still wrong that it could have come about without God, as it is more mathematically probable that this universe was created by God, than it came about naturally, as I have argued in another debate. [2]

Logical fallacies.

I understand why saying "God exists" is a claim. However, theological arguments for God's existence are about probability, not about proving God's existence beyond the shadow of a doubt. Theistic arguments for God's existence, taken together as a cumulative claim, make a very powerful argument for God's existence. It is entirely reasonable to believe in God's existence. Atheistic objections to these arguments (most of which are logically air-tight -- yet they still try to find fallacies rather than address the argument itself) are either weak objections, or the atheist tries to find fallacies where none exist. But again, that's probably a discussion for another debate.

Possible contradiction.

Actually, weak atheism does make a claim, that there is no evidence for God's existence. But by making that claim, they shift the burden of proof back on the Theist to prove their position. It offers an easy way out saying, "I don't have to prove my position, you have to prove yours." This, effectively, is used to try to get an easy win against Theists.

I'm not sure what arguments could be offered as proof of weak atheism. The claim "there is no evidence for God's existence" is clearly false. There are many evidences for God's existence. It is true we can't conclusively prove the existence of God, but we don't have to. We just have to show that believing in God is more reasonable than not believing in God.

Argument from ignorance.

I agree with Dirk that there are thousands of holy books, most of which are mutually exclusive. However, there are reasonable arguments offered that the Bible is the true word of God (as other religions offer their own proofs). Arguments for the Bible's reliability are irrelevant to this debate. The point is, there are reasons to accept the Bible's word over other religions (and other religions would say the same of their holy book). So it's not exactly true that there is no reason for believing in them. If you can offer logical reasons for believing your holy book is the correct one, then there is no reason to believe that other gods or celestial beings exist. Especially if the Bible is correct, it would preclude the existence of any other gods or mythical beings. (On a slightly related note, if I wasn't a Christian I would probably belong to the Jedi religion :D ).

As I have stated, if you draw a reasonable conclusion that your religious text is the correct one, then you have no reason to accept any other religious claims. This is also why it is not reasonable to believe in a celestial teapot -- that teapot only exists in the analogy of Bertrand Russell. It is more reasonable to believe in God, angels, or even Zeus, than in Russell's teapot.

Rejection of claims.

Well, the definition of "ethereal" is basically "heavenly," so I was thinking of sheep that had the same characteristics of angels. :) However, there are limited rounds in this debate so I didn't have the luxury of waiting for your definition of "ethereal" before responding to it. I do have evidence for their non-existence because I have reasonable evidence for the existence of the Biblical God.

Aside

While it may seem as though I was using a tautology when referring to Agnostics, my point was why would someone refer to themselves as "weak atheist" rather than simply "agnostic?" The atheist position is that there is no God, and the Agnostic position, that you can't prove it one way or the other. It's just incoherent to say you're an atheist, but you can't say there is no God.

Lack of faith.

I will concede Dirk's points here. He is correct that while they may be valid objections to weak atheism (which I suppose is debatable), they don't actually show that weak atheism is logically incoherent.

However, regarding Dirk's cat, the incoherence lies in the fact that cats can't logically be atheists. However, claiming that atheism is nothing more than "lack of faith in Atheism" would mean that cats can, in fact, be atheists if all that is required is a lack of faith. Cats lack faith in just about everything (except, in most cases, in their human's ability or desire to feed them).

Atheism is the default position.

In this case, I'm not sure we can say that atheism is the default position, because kids wouldn't logically not believe in God, either. Kids usually (though not always) grow up believing in what their parents taught them, whether it be Christianity, Hinduism, or Atheism. You'll probably say that shows weak atheism to be the default position, but I wouldn't say that, either, as kids will usually believe what their parents tell them, even without evidence. Kids will believe in Santa Claus even before that first present is laid under the tree.

I am, unfortunately, low on characters. I will just re-iterate that I believe I have shown weak atheism to be logically incoherent, in that it doesn't make sense to claim "atheism" yet to claim "I can't say there is no God," which is exactly what atheism affirms. They may as well consider themselves Agnostic.

Again, I thank Dirk for his thoughtful replies and for taking the time to debate this with me.

[1] http://www.debate.org...;
[2] http://www.debate.org...
dirkson

Con

0. Evidence

I'm glad we agree that this isn't the place to try to debate evidence.

We're covered pretty thoroughly, between us, the idea that if there is evidence for theism, than weak atheism would cease to be correct. I'm not certain that "wrong" and "logically incoherent" are synonyms, but even if we accept that they are, my opponent would have had to produce solid evidence for theism to prove himself correct. While watching the world change forever as a result of an internet argument would have been awesome, I'm afraid we won't be seeing that today.

Indeed, my opponent tacitly admits that evidence may be faulty in his first paragraph by stating that both theism and atheism have evidence. If my opponent thinks that there is evidence for both sides, but has chosen a side, then he has clearly rejected evidence - The very thing that he is calling weak atheists logically incoherent for doing!

Weak Atheist VS Agnostic

My opponent then descends into the "weak atheist/agnostic" mire again. My opponent defined agnosticism as "the belief that you can neither prove nor disprove God's existence", which I agree with. Most weak atheists are agnostics, believing that, since the existence of gods cannot be proven one way or another, they must fall into the default category of lacking belief. My opponent's suggestion that weak atheists should become agnostics is nonsensical by his own definition.

Cosmological Argument

The KCA asserts the existence of a deity to explain the first cause. The natural following question is, of course, "But what caused god?". Carl Sagan says it best, illuminating the problems this point poses for KCA advocates best by invoking Occam's Razor: "If we wish courageously to pursue the question, we must, of course ask next where God comes from. And if we decide this to be unanswerable, why not save a step and decide that the origin of the universe is an unanswerable question? Or, if we say that God has always existed, why not save a step and conclude that the universe has always existed?" [1]

More simply - The KCA asserts that all things must have a cause, and then immediately asserts the existence of a thing without a cause to explain this. This means that at best the KCA has no explanatory power, at worst it is not internally consistent.

Teleological Argument

I agree with my opponent that a non-theistic explanation for events does not disprove a deity. This, however, has no bearing on the correctness or incorrectness of the Teleological argument. If your argument is that something is too complex to have have ANY explanation other then being purposefully designed, and someone shows a method by which that thing CAN come into existence without being purposefully designed, your argument becomes invalid. Fascinatingly, the competing explanation doesn't even have to be correct to disprove this specific argument, it just has to be possible.


If your argument is that it is more probable that something was designed than the competing explanation, then you run into stickier problems - Namely, that you have to work out how probable it is for the thing in question being designed! I don't even know how you would start to work out this figure, rendering this argument more funny than persuasive.

3. Logical Fallacies

Taking claims together as a cumulative claim is an attempt to invoke the fallacy of proof by verbosity. Claims must be dealt with one at a time - And every time theists claims of evidence are taken one at a time, they consistently fail to provide the proof they purport to provide.

1&3 Possible contradiction

My opponent responds to my question by instead trying to back up one of the points that results in the contradiction. The entire point of this section was exposing a curious incoherency in his train of thought, which I believe I have done a fair job of in previous posts.


I'm not sure how "prove" and "show that believing in God is more reasonable than not believing in God" are different. Nothing can be proven to 100% certainty, the entirety of life is a guessing game.

4. Argument from ignorance

It pleases me to see my opponent acknowledging that both his book and others have arguments for their religions. This is an important point to understand to make sense of the world.


However, it also underlines an important problem with relying on a holy book to rebut much of anything - Namely, there are a truckload of the things, and almost all insist that they are the correct book because of claims X, Y, and Z.

The telling portion of this is that, to date, every one of these claims a particular weak atheist happens to come across have failed to prove their point. Again, weak atheists fall back on their strength - Should a weak atheist FIND a claim that is valid in a holy text, he can immediately stop being a weak atheist. Far from incoherent or a fault, adjusting bad claims is a prime way in which humans add to their knowledge.

(I think I would have to side with Han Solo on this one: "Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid." [2] ) (I am unbelievably pleased that I've managed to work a Han Solo quote into a debate.)

Rejection of claims

Claims of ethereal sheep don't actually contradict anything in the bible, even if you assume that "ethereal" means "heavenly". At no point in the bible does it say "Oh, and by the way, God did not make any angels that resemble sheep in any way". (I believe it DOES say that animals don't have souls, which is close, but unrelated.)

In trying to rebut my argument, my opponent has actually strengthened it - He discarded my claims without evidence, revealing himself to be hold analogous beliefs as a weak atheist with regards to ethereal sheep!

Aside

To answer my opponent's question: Because "Weak atheist" and "Agnostic" mean different things! Using your definitions, I've given a complete explanation of that above.


My opponent uses a strawman against his own definition here. (?) Saying that you lack a belief in god is not at odds in any way with saying that you cannot prove god does or does not exist. (Again, both of these are my opponent's definitions!)

5. Lack of faith

While this doesn't affect the debate, my opponent is correct that my cat is, for example, an a-France-ist. I'm not sure why my opponent objects to that - And I'm curious enough that I wouldn't mind an explanation in the comments after the debate.


6. Atheism is the default position

"In this case, I'm not sure we can say that atheism is the default position, because kids wouldn't logically not believe in God, either." - So, er... since they don't believe in god, and don't disbelieve in god, perhaps it would be most accurate to say that they lack a belief in god?

My opponent is correct that kids will believe whatever you tell them, although it has no bearing on the argument.

Final Conclusion

Although I don't believe my opponent's arguments stand up to critical examination, I was pleasantly surprised at their robustness - I know that, were I in Pro's shoes, I could not have argued near as well as he did. I also learned several things in the course of the debate, and discovered several new courses of study, for which I wish to thank my opponent.

Over the course of this debate, I have pointed out numerous flaws in my opponent's thought process, both as it applies to the debate's topic and its own internal consistency. Whether or not you believe that weak atheism is true, or believe that Strong Atheism is preferable to it, or even believe that there is or isn't a god, I have consistently shot down every argument for weak atheism's logical incoherence, showing it to be at the very minimum a logically valid position.

I encourage all creeds to vote Con!

Cheers,
-Dirk


[1] http://goo.gl... (Link shortened to work around a technical limitation of Debate.org)
[2] http://www.imdb.com...
Debate Round No. 4
86 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Reason_Alliance 4 years ago
Reason_Alliance
Roy you're speaking in terms of psychology still. But let's move the discussion to it's rightful place, a debate. Where we talk about our affirmations & the reasons why we affirm them.

In this context, a theist who doesn't know if Go exists or not, is affirming that which he is unaware. ("For all I know, God exists"). But this would be an argument from ignorance. Surely someone can think God exists, but not argue for it. On the other hand, if a person truly witnesses an internal experience of God, but is unable to show such an experience, than he can be said to know God exists within the absence of any defeaters... even though he still wouldn't be able to prove it to others, outside of his noetics.

So we're talking here about philosophical positions, not mental states. For any real discussion of the matter of God, it's philosophically uninteresting to speak of metal states regarding how we feel about a certain issue.

Rather, I want to nail down the fact that in a philosophical discussion there are affirmations & denials, followed by reasons for them. Not a lack of beliefs or possession of beliefs.

So what the resolution should have been worded as,

"Philosophical Weak Atheism is Logically Incoherent"
Posted by RoyLatham 4 years ago
RoyLatham
@dirksen, "You CAN have agnostic theists, after all. (One who doesn't believe he can know if god does or doesn't exist, but follows a religion anyway out of faith or a misplaced pascal's wager)"

"Theism, in the broadest sense, is the belief that at least one deity exists." http://en.wikipedia.org... So, no, following a religion does not imply that a person is a theist. Buddhists and Jains are religious, but not theists, because their religions do not require belief in a god. One can also "follow" a religion as a social institution without belief in a god. Some claim the Japanese are at the same time one of the most atheist countries (65%) and most religious countries (90%) on earth.

Because the definitions are not absolute, the best that can be done is to describe how the words are used by various people and have been used in the past. Some Christians seem to insist that only strong atheists qualify as "atheists." Philosophers and atheists have have used "not having a belief in a god or gods" for a long time.
Posted by Reason_Alliance 4 years ago
Reason_Alliance
Your girlfriend would be proud to know of your ability for infinitesimal calculation of her emotions along with future world scenarios as she's singing... you should at least lead the convo with this ability- she may be too impressed to care that you don't consider her American Idol material.

Ok, wA = "I don't believe in God" = a lack of belief.

Now that we've narrowed it down to this, which makes me happy, then the only thread this whole debate hangs upon is the question, is a psychological description, a philosophical proposition?

For example, when two fine debaters, such as yourselves, not psychologists, convene & the question of God is brought to the table.

The wA just saying, "I don't believe so" wouldn't add anything to the discussion, so it's not a philosophical view. We're left wondering if God exists!

Would you agree with this so far?
Posted by dirkson 4 years ago
dirkson
@Reason - I think I know what you mean with girls :D The trick with applying critical thinking with them is not to use it to /replace/ emotion, but to use it to... Mitigate, I guess? For example, if my girlfriend does something that I find REALLY annoying, I can think about how often she's likely to do this thing, exactly how annoying I find it, and how soon she will stop doing it. If she's not likely to do it again and she'll stop soon, I can make the choice to not tell her how annoying I would find it - This would only hurt her feelings, not meet any emotional need I have. If she's going to keep doing it, the emotional confrontation starts to look more appealing, and we can compromise to meet both of our needs.

TL;DR: My girlfriend should really stop trying to sing. : (

Agnostic/athest - You've confused weak atheism and strong atheism again :D A weak atheist does NOT say "God doesn't exist", they say that they do not believe in a god.

"Agnostic means undecided" is the casual definition for the term, but not the proper one or the one Keytar and I agreed on in the debate. The strong/weak atheism differentiation tend to go hand in hand with the proper definition of agnostic, for the very reason you've been alluding to - If you use the casual definition of "agnostic" alongside "weak atheist", their meaning isn't different enough to merit using separate words.

Cheers,
-Dirk
Posted by Reason_Alliance 4 years ago
Reason_Alliance
Dirk, not with the girls I've been with. The more the critical thinking the less the bliss. You sir give horrible Dr. Phil advice! ... I'll try it out.

Regarding the matter, an agnostic can neither be a theist nor an atheist... he's undecided.

If you say the wA & Ag are two different terms, then wA doesn't' believe in God. I agree.

The discrepancy arrives when you ask her reasons, which on the definitions you've given are: "I dunno"

^but that's also a fallacy, it's a conclusion, "God doesn't exist" derived from an argument, "I dunno."

I really don't see a way you can get around this dilemma. Any other suggestions? Critical thinking in say, wallstreet? ... Nah-
Posted by dirkson 4 years ago
dirkson
@Reason - Looking up "equivocation" on wikipedia leads me to a fallacy where a single word's dual meanings are exploited for the argument. I can't work out where that fallacy applies here, perhaps you're thinking of a different one?

Anyway, there are some issues with your little stageplay.

"Does god exist?"
Agnostic: "I don't believe we can know that answer for sure."
Weak Atheist: "I don't believe in a god."

These aren't equivalent statements! An agnostic can be a weak atheist OR a theist. In fact, you could actually imagine a non-agnostic weak atheist!

Non-agnostic weak atheist: "I believe that the question of whether or not god exists is answerable, but I don't have the answer yet. Therefore I do not yet believe in a god"

Your equivocation falls into Keytar's trap. While most mammals have fur, and most furred things are mammals, the two terms mean different things, and CERTAINLY are not identical words! Koalas have fur, and aren't mammals. Hairless cats are mammals. Ugly mammals. But mammals.

-Dirk
Posted by dirkson 4 years ago
dirkson
Keytar - Go read your definitions, that's not what weak atheism is.

Reason - Don't limit your critical thinking so!

In the heat of the moment, such as in sports, you may not have time to think things through well as they happen. But thinking back over what you did and critiquing it will vastly improve your game!

Relationships, being a minefield of emotions, make critical thinking almost required! Why does your partner feel like this? How can you break that emotion down and deal with it in a way that makes both of you happy? The process of compromise depends on critical thinking!

I would definitely apply critical thinking to food if you're eating at McDonald's!!!! Figuring out what foods are and aren't healthy for you requires so much critical thinking that it's not even funny! Everyone and their uncle has competing claims about nutrition, and it takes dedicated thought to work out what foods should play a part in your diet. (Protip: Most McDonald's food really isn't high on the list, so finding a meal there can be really tricky.)

So again, I encourage you to apply critical thinking to all areas of your life that you can manage, including ones that you haven't thought of before! And if you come up with a particularly unique way to apply it, let me know; I alway want to learn : )

Cheers,
-Dirk
Posted by Reason_Alliance 4 years ago
Reason_Alliance
*or win.
Posted by Reason_Alliance 4 years ago
Reason_Alliance
Thus both the agnostic & wA contribute exactly the same answer to the philosophical question of God's existence... which is equivocation; which is a fallacy--thus an incoherence, KH wins.

Next option,

wA affirms God doesn't exist but lacks information to disprove it... which is an argument from ignorance; which is a fallacy-- thus an incoherence, KH wins.

Please suggest another option that would have dearest dirk lose?
Posted by KeytarHero 4 years ago
KeytarHero
No it doesn't. But if Agnostics can't say one way or another due to insufficient evidence, and weak Atheists won't say one way or another due to lack of evidence, it amounts to essentially the same position.
12 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Vote Placed by XimenBao 4 years ago
XimenBao
KeytarHerodirksonTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Most of Pro's arguments against weak atheism didn't attack logical coherency, and as Con noted, wrong doesn't equate to logically incoherent. The places where Pro did attack, burden of proof and argument from ignorance, were solidly refuted by Con. Con successfully argues that weak atheism is the rejection of theist claims, not the adoption of strong atheist claims, and thus the burden of proof is right where it belongs. The argument from ignorance wandered too far from its point by both sides.
Vote Placed by 16kadams 4 years ago
16kadams
KeytarHerodirksonTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:Vote Checkmark--2 points
Total points awarded:50 
Reasons for voting decision: Sources - con used no sources outside of dictionaries until round 4, sources pro. Args - I think pro was able to prove with superior argunments that weak atheism is incoherent. I think pros case on you can't prove weak atheism to be true and how weak atheism was fallacious to be convincing and poorly refuted./ that's just my two cents, pro won.
Vote Placed by popculturepooka 4 years ago
popculturepooka
KeytarHerodirksonTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:Vote Checkmark--2 points
Total points awarded:70 
Reasons for voting decision: Counter vote bomb against mee2kool4u369.
Vote Placed by Reason_Alliance 4 years ago
Reason_Alliance
KeytarHerodirksonTied
Agreed with before the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Agreed with after the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: "I don't know for sure" = Agnosticism "For all I know, God doesn't exist" = Weak Atheism (wA) But wA is, by definition an argument from ignorance if it's ^so defined. & and argument from ignorance is a fallacy. And a fallacy is fallacy is "an error in reasoning that renders an argument logically invalid." Thus wA is logically incoherent. Con, it doesn't matter if it's a likely conclusion or a certain one, if an argument is presented from ignorance, it's fallacious reasoning.
Vote Placed by mee2kool4u369 4 years ago
mee2kool4u369
KeytarHerodirksonTied
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:-Vote Checkmark-2 points
Total points awarded:07 
Reasons for voting decision: -
Vote Placed by TheOrator 4 years ago
TheOrator
KeytarHerodirksonTied
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: The con agreed that if evidence for theism existed, then his point would lose.However, Pro was not able to prove that Theism existed, thus proving Weak atheism correct. There were several other arguments in the round, but I felt that this argument was the main one that affected the resolution.
Vote Placed by Rational_Thinker9119 4 years ago
Rational_Thinker9119
KeytarHerodirksonTied
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Pretty clear win for Con. KeytarHero states that nobody is born without belief in God yet this is false, we are all born without belief in God. He also straw manned weak Atheims many times. Con set the record straight by claiming it Pro would also have to say weak AThorism or weak ABigFootism was incoherent too, which it is not, that which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence with no burden.
Vote Placed by MouthWash 4 years ago
MouthWash
KeytarHerodirksonTied
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro's argument's were ridiculous and full of fallacies. I've seen debates like this, and there were all kinds of arguments that he could have made that would actually make sense.
Vote Placed by SuburbiaSurvivor 4 years ago
SuburbiaSurvivor
KeytarHerodirksonTied
Agreed with before the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Agreed with after the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Perhaps a sort of summarized version of my view on this debate (ignoring a lot of what I consider to be unconvincing points on both sides), was the logical incoherency of "I don't believe in a God but I don't believe God doesn't exist". I'd say Pro's argument of shifting the burden of proof was valid. Either way, I think weak atheism is intellectually lazy.
Vote Placed by Mrparkers 4 years ago
Mrparkers
KeytarHerodirksonTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Detailed RFD in comments