The Instigator
Pro (for)
3 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
10 Points

Infinite Regress is a fatuous argument for the existence of god.

Do you like this debate?NoYes+1
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 4 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/9/2012 Category: Religion
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 6,483 times Debate No: 28023
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (14)
Votes (4)




For my first debate, I want to tackle the "god question." I will start by saying it cannot be posited that there is conclusive evidence for a god, nor can it be posited that there is conclusive evidence that there is no god. My position simply recognizes the burden of proof (he or she who posits the first positive claim must be expected to provide sufficient evidence before the opposing side can be expected to do the same), and states that there is no reasonable reason to believe a deity exists. Because this is the basis of my argument, I will start as follows:

I will begin by tackling the major "proofs" for god's existence as provided by Thomas Aquinas (scholastic Dominican priest of the thirteenth century deemed "Angelic Doctor" of the Catholic Church) in "Whether God Exists," as a part of Summa Theologica (1274). While a majority of theists are actually unfamiliar with these arguments, the ecclesiastical structures which promote religious doctrines are undoubtedly based on them, if not for their naive belief in god then by the conviction of church leaders who are undoubtedly familiar with and convinced by these arguments.

Thomas Aquinas' proofs can be categorized in the following ways:
1. The unmoved mover. We see that things are in motion, and nothing can be in motion without being acted upon by an initial "mover." There cannot exist an infinite regression of "movers." The end of this regression is what we call "god."
2. The un-caused cause. Everything has a cause, and nothing can be said to be caused by itself. Again, we are left with an impossible infinite regression of "causes." The end of this regression is what we call "god."
3. The Cosmological argument. There must have been a time at which nothing existed. Physical things exist now, and because they cannot be said to have created themselves, there must be a non-physical entity which brought them into existence ex-nihilo (from nothing). This entity we call "god."

These arguments posit an infinite regress and then say that that regress cannot possibly exist. Aquinas simply ends the regress and labels that end "god." This has been arguably debunked by noting that "god" is being allowed exemption from these rules of causality and motion. It may be said, however, that god need not be restricted by these because of the nature of time. Time only began with the big bang, or in some individuals' view at the "creation" of the universe. For this reason, I do not argue (as most atheists/anti-theists do) that Aquinas' ending of the regression improperly exempts god from the premises.

If Aquinas' is to be taken within the proper context of his beliefs and time, we must then consider two things: 1) these regressions and their termination do not provide any reason to believe in Aquinas' proposed god's ability to answer prayers, intervene in human affairs, judge the morality of human actions, provide salvation or damnation, or endow certain primates among us to carry out his will; 2) the use of the concept of infinity should be thought of as exploitation of the limited and imperfect human mind. The former should be thought of as a point of practicality towards which establishing the credibility of the author can be can be used. At this point in time, our species has come to deal with the concept of infinity prematurely, but still do not completely understand its poignancy or possible applications. String theory suggests that what we think of as the beginning of time (i.e., the big bang), or what I would label the ultimate "terminator" of infinite concepts, be it a natural event or divinely caused, may in fact be terribly wrong. We may indeed live in a multi-verse, in which our universe is simply one of many universes. It has been proposed that our universes' "big bang" was either the separation of a larger universe into two separate universes (of which we exist in one), or the combination of two universes into a larger one. This would mean that our concept of time is dramatically relative and only applicable to our own singular universe. Because infinite regresses, and the argument from causality and motion, are dependent on time, this shows us that Aquinas' conception is in its most basic form a representation of the exploitation of the limited human mind.

In arguing the probability of the lack of this deity from applications of string theory (which has not been definitely "proved" but argued for by numerous infamous particle physicists and legitimized by the following), one can look to history. History and those who come before us can give us a very good idea of the probability of certain beliefs or even the probability of continued or innovative worldviews. It allows us to develop, as a species, a level of prescience which generations before would have had no way to explicate onto their universal philosophies and their understanding of the universe. Here, it is important to remember that at one time, it was thought that our planet was the only planet, and that that planet was flat. It was then found that our planet was spherical, but yet it was still thought that our sun was the only "sun" that existed. Once we discovered that we are a part of a larger solar system, we thought that ours was the only solar system. The Hubble telescope has shown us the immensity of our error, and even shown us the extraordinary matter of the red-light shift. This tells us that our species has a wretched history of assuming and demanding simplicity and singularity. However, we have been shown of our ancestor's inaccurate ways, and some of us have come to a mindset where we cherish and yet fear what Charles Darwin referred to as "the stamp of our lowly origin." Simply put, belief in a god is knowledge that no primate can claim to make. An addendum to this point, although not entirely relevant to the cognitive analysis of Aquinas' argument, points out the religious belief in anthropocentric nature of the cosmos.

Besides the burden of proof giving us a look into the probability of which side of the "god debate" is accurate (also remember that this debate does not allow for gray area -- one side must admit categorical and moral defeat), the idea of unfalsifiability can give us another perspective. Claims such as the afterlife, or the triune nature of the divine, and indeed the entire idea of a metaphysical and multi-omni (forgive my "creation" of a descriptive term) deity, can be labeled as unfalsifiable by the very nature of claims as laid out in the beginning of my argument. This is intrinsically tied to the burden of proof, but I find it necessary to display this concept more specifically. If unfalsifiable claims are taken to be at least possibly true, the number of fatuous and clearly fabricated claims will inevitably and continuously increase. If someone were to come to you, preaching of an invisible teapot (or in many cases, a "Flying Spaghetti Monster") on the other side of the moon (or anywhere in the visible universe) which contains an extraterrestrial organism who controls our actions (much in the same way Aquinas' god was claimed to), you would rightfully and reasonably ask, "Why would I believe in that?" If the unfalsifiability of an argument is not said to be lethal to that argument, the response will inevitably be "Why not?" and this would be reason enough for you to believe such a claim.

In short, the burden of proof (including the concept of falsifiability), the exploitation of the lack of sophistication and reasoning (largely due to our evolutionary process providing us with adrenal glands too large and pre-frontal lobes too small) of the human mind with regards to the infinite, and the inaccuracy of previous claims to simplicity and singularity (ultimately resulting in the classic theistic claim of divine simplicity) provide for a convincing and thorough argument against Aquinas' proofs.


I thank Pro offering the debate. I shall take the case by parts.

What are we debating?

Pro mentions the BOP is on the side which posits the positive claim. I agree. The positive claim in this particular debate is that "Infinite Regress is a fatuous argument for the existence of God" I will not, therefore attempt to argue the existence of God, but rather to defend the argument that is put in question, that is, the argument made by Saint Thomas Aquinas saying that the contingency (or movement, or causation) of everything around us calls irremediably for a necessary being (or an unmoved mover, or uncaused cause) as the end to an impossible infinite regress. To accuse one of the most renowned philosophers of making a fatuous (complacently or inanely foolish, according to argument is rather a bold claim, and I hope my opponent will accompany that bold claim with a bold defense of his arguments.

Arguments for fatuousness:

I think this is an exhaustive list and summary of Pro's arguments, if not I would be grateful if my opponent could point out any argument I missed (or if I have overlooked the subtleties of any particular one of them).

Preliminary Point. Pro does not argue, but mentions, the claim that God is being allowed undo exception from the rule of causation. The famous question "who created God?" would sum that up quite nicely. As Pro mentions this in passing, I will also address it in passing.

1. The termination of infinite regress does not provide basis to believe in the God Aquinas believed in, as it does not prove other divine attributes (answer to prayers, intervening in history, proffering salvation etc.)

2. The use of infinity is an exploitation of the limited and imperfect human mind, as we cannot truly grasp its implications.

3. String theory suggests the Big Bang may not be the origin of existence, as we may live in a multi-verse.

4. Science constantly changes our view of the universe, putting into question the recourse to God as a simple, singular solution to complex problems that science has not yet been able to address.

5. Scientific advances also question the religious belief in the anthropocentric nature of the cosmos.

6. Even unfalisifiable claims must at least be proved to be at least possibly true in order to give them credence. (The Flying Spaghetti Monster or Invisible Teapot argument).


Preliminary Point: Aquinas does not posit God and then exempt Him from the rules of causation. He shows the need for an exception and gives this exception the title God. This is vastly different.

1. The argument does not prove every one of the attributes the Catholic Church ascribes to the Christian God. It does not seek to prove every one of the attributes the Catholic Church ascribes to the Christian God. It is simply irrelevant to point out the argument does not prove something it does not address.

2. The same could be said about those who posit the possibility of infinite regress. The human mind, such as it is, must grapple with these concepts as best it can.

3. Saint Thomas was completely unaware of Big Bang Theory, having lived nearly seven centuries before Father Georges Lemaitre proposed this theory. The fact that some (still a minority, but perfectly serious and well-respected) physicists are positing that the Big Bang singularity was not the beginning of the universe, but rather that we live in a multi-verse, does not address the arguments of Aquinas, which are philosophical and not based on current or past understanding of physics or cosmology. If the Big Bang singularity was not the absolute beginning of existence, that only puts the problem further back, it does not eliminate it. In the language of the Summa, the multi-verse itself would be a contingent reality and still require a necessary one.

4. Science is a method of obtaining knowledge which presupposes logic. It investigates the material world y material means and cannot hope to address what matters are philosophical in nature. The matter of contingency requiring the existence of a necessary being is not one that can be proved or disproved y scientific inquiry. It must be proved or disproved by logical reasoning. A fault must be find either in the premises or in the reasoning that leads to the conclusion.

5. The anthropocentric nature of the cosmos in Catholic theology is not dependant on our physical position in the universe, the time we have been living on earth or what celestial body revolves around which other celestial body. It is an entirely theological position which does not affect the argument in question one way or the other.

6. This is true, and this is what Aquinas' argument does. It shows by logical reasoning that the existence of God is not only possible but probable. Both teacup and flying spaghetti monster are contingent. Teacups and spaghetti are material objects created by man for culinary purposes and owe their existence to something outside of themselves which finds use in them, in this case either as a container for drink or as a direct source of nourishment. Arguments in favor of these tend to progressively strip away any of the attributes that could possibly describe teacups or spaghetti (this teacup didn't come out of an oven, this particular spaghetti monster isn't material or made from durum wheat). They quite rapidly reveal themselves to be a truly fatuous argument.


Unless Pro is able to prove in the next two rounds that his objections to Aquinas' arguments are still valid, or come up with a new argument proving that Aquinas' reasoning is in some way so faulty as to deserve the name fatuous, the result of this debate is clear.
Debate Round No. 1


Thank you to Con for taking on this debate. I do not object to the summation of my arguments put forward by my opponent. I will posit, however, that Con's preliminary point in the rebuttal was conceded by me in my first argument. Although most atheists/anti-theists will posit such a claim (specifically that god is given undue exemption to the infinite regress), I recognize that such a causal regress depends on a progression of time, which god is said to be outside of. On this point, the argument can be thought of as consistent, although not necessarily accurate.

In response to rebuttals:

1. As noted initially, the lack of evidence for the Christian deity as opposed to a simply deistic god is a matter of historical context and serves to show the Thomist arguments within the framework of which he is writing and within the purposes of his philosophical inquiries. I ask my opponent's forgiveness if such a claim was seen as entirely necessary for the cognitive, rather than historical, analysis of the question at hand.

2. The human mind must deal with concepts such as infinity as best it can. However, that does not in any way warrant an argument based off these concepts as accurate. Religion and arguably theology as a whole are ways of understanding the cosmos from the infancy of our species, and it would serve us better to recognize our limited understanding of these concepts rather than not only claiming adequate understanding of such concepts, but also using them to make such extraordinary claims such as the existence of a divine, which I hope my opponent would agree requires extraordinary evidence, which we have not seen.

3. The fact that Aquinas was not aware of the big bang, and even the fact that his arguments are not derived from such findings, is irrelevant in the cognitive analysis of his claims. Simply because Aquinas was not aware of such findings does not mean that his arguments cannot be supplemented or contradicted by them. A reading of such arguments should not, at least in this case, depend on the reader using only a level of critical analysis possible by the author himself. It then becomes a question of the readers' understanding of the credibility of both arguments and both authors. Given that the big bang was not the "absolute beginning of existence," my opponent's claim of the regress problem simply being receded is to misunderstand the application and poignancy of such a claim. String theory, and admittedly Einstein's laws, allows for time travel (though the ability of humans to successfully travel through a worm hole is unknown at this point). The idea of an infinite regress depends upon a unidirectional, linear conception of time. The multi-verse theory allows us to see that our own conceptions of time are necessarily dependent on the singularity of our current place in the cosmos (i.e., our current universe) which, while not proved at our current state of technology and scientific development, should be highly suspected in relation to a claim that posits a rhetorical implication of subjective imagination (or dis-imagination) having any impact on objective reality. I short, I claim that perception is not reality, and that Aquinas' perception (while possibly justified historically, though not proved) was severely skewed.

4. I must argue to the contrary that empirical, scientific data cannot supplement nor contradict philosophical inquiry. It is tot his point that an introduction of Okkam's razor would be useful. When Laplace was asked to demonstrate his model of our solar system in court, he replied to the question of where the Prime Mover was in his model by saying "It can work without that assumption." In this case empirical data and the simple innovation of a great and curious mind was enough to show that explanations derived from the infancy of our species, though not entirely able of being disproved, are simply unnecessary to understanding the cosmos and its workings. Thus, logical reasoning is better replaced by adequate and systematic argumentation via Okkam's razor, which tells us that it would behoove our species to rid ourselves of parts of explanatory theories that we do not need. Opposition to this, once again, will ultimately result in the increase of obviously fabricated claims (much like the concept of falsifiability).

5. I concede this point as consistent with my mentioning it in passing as a point of implication rather than cognitive analysis.

6. It is a misappropriation of my argument to claim that myself or anyone else is making an "argument in favor" of the invisible teapot or Flying Spaghetti Monster. You provide readers with a very good reason to not believe in these claims, and thus not to believe in claims to a deity, for your proofs against them are precisely the methods that need be used to show the improbable nature of a deity, specifically the Christian deity being argued for by Aquinas.

I find it important to note the reason for my use of what my opponent claims to be a "bold" choice of words, fatuous. I do not argue against the fact that Aquinas was a brilliant mind, but this in no way gives credibility to his claims and any argument to the contrary I will suspect of making improper claims to authority.


I hope both my opponent and the readers will forgive the redundancy of restating my opponents position before answering. I find the best way to avoid falling into the straw-man fallacy is to try to present the argument as I understand it so my opponent can correct me should I misunderstand him on any point.

As a side note, the video is complementary to my rebuttal on point four.

Pro's Response:

1. The fact that Aquinas does not by his argument give evidence for the Christian God he believes in and is to Whom he dedicates the Summa is important as a matter of historical context.

2. Due to our incapacity to fully understand concepts like infinity, arguments based off them cannot be regarded as accurate or in any way sufficient as evidence of the divine.

3. Though Aquinas was not aware of the Big Bang or string theory, this does not mean more recent discoveries have no implications on his arguments. String theory (as well as Einstein's theories), in allowing for time travel, put the Thomistic scheme into question, as it depends on the linear progression of time which may not be the case.

4. Empirical data can supplement or contradict philosophical inquiry. When attempting to explain the universe, one must avail oneself of Occam's razor and discard superfluous assumptions from the explanation. Although "explanations derived from the infancy of our species" cannot be entirely disproved, they are unnecessary. "Logical reasoning is better replaced by adequate and systematic argumentation via Occam's razor."

5. Conceded

6. Pro denies having made an argument for the Flying Spaghetti Monster or invisible teapot. In any case, the argument given against these are also arguments against belief in any deity.

Note on the choice of words: Aquinas was brilliant, but this does not give all his arguments carte blanche. All of his arguments must be contended with on their own merits and to claim the contrary is to become suspect of a claim to authority.


1. The context is indeed the Summa Theologiae, a treatise on Catholic theology. All arguments are intended to be consistent with God as known to Catholics, but not all arguments seek to prove every attribute of this God. We know the context (he is a Saint in the Catholic tradition and a doctor of the Church) this says nothing one way or the other about the merit of the argument. Unless Pro can prove otherwise we must take this point to be conceded.

2. We cannot fully comprehend infinity, this does not mean that we cannot know certain things about the concept. Whatever else it is, infinity is not equal to three and a quarter. Both in mathematics and in physics, it is understood that infinity must not be taken to exist in any real sense (it can only be said that something tends to infinity, as it is a concept, and not a number). That a line of causation cannot go back infinitely can be known through logic, without need to fully grasp every aspect of this concept. If I were to say I can lend you a quarter for the gumball, but you have to wait for me to get it from my friend, who has to get it from a friend, who has to get it from a friend... you can see that the progression either ends with a person who really does have a quarter or there is no quarter to begin with. This, applied to movement, causation and being itself (with the argument from contingency) is what Aquinas refers to.

Completely within the grasp of human thought, in spite of dealing with a concept we cannot understand in its entirety.

3. String theory and wormholes do not worm their way out of the Thomistic argument. I do not say that it pushes the matter merely back in time, it merely postpones the moment when we must face facts. Contingency, movement, causation, are not caused, in Saint Thomas' argument by something further back in time. They are caused by something. Even in the 13th century, without the benefit of String Theory, they were well aware that a cause could perfectly well be simultaneous. The fact is that time itself is contingent, along with everything else in the universe. The implications of string theory are mind-boggling, but making contingent beings necessary by virtue of showing us that time is (in the words of Dr. Who) a wibbley-wobbly timey-wimey... thing is not one of them.

4. I'm afraid there is a terminological misunderstanding here. Adequate and systematic argumentation IS logic. Occam was himself a logician and the principle of parsimony named after him is a principle of logical thought (given two explanations of the world you are to prefer the simpler one to the more complicated one, unless simplicity can be traded for more explanatory power. Laplace answered well that the prime mover was not a necessary assumption for his model of the solar system, because, whether or not the Prime Mover is the ultimate cause of said movement is not necessary to determine how exactly the celestial bodies move or interact. When considering the question put forth by Saint Thomas, science is not adequate. Science, in fact, does not prove everything: (see video)

5. Conceded

6. I do say Pro himself holds to or defends the flying spaghetti monster or the invisible teacup theory. What he argued was that unfalsifiable claims must be proved at least possible in order to give them credence, and he merely mentioned those rhetorical devices in passing. I fully agree with the first statement, which is the entire point of Saint Thomas' argument (to prove the possibility and even probability of the existence of God). My answer to the teapot or spaghetti monster argument, however, cannot be taken as an argument against God, as it is to take a characteristic necessarily attributed to God as the Prime Mover, First Cause or Necessary Being and showing how these supposedly equivalent explanations do not hold up to the "divinity test".

Note on the choice of words: I do not argue from authority, whether proper authority or otherwise. I simply argue for common sense and proportion. Take for a minute the figure of George Bernard Shaw. Shaw was a socialist and an atheist, he held any number of positions I vehemently disagree with. He was, however, a man of great intellectual weight. If ever I were to come to find an argument made by Saw which struck me as fatuous, this would give me great pause. It is not a rare occurrence that I find an argument make by Shaw which I think is wrong, I often find arguments which can be considered falatious in some respect, but never have I found something "complacently or inanely foolish" in his writings. I would be loathe to accuse him of fatuousness until I was quite sure I was not misunderstanding or somehow misrepresenting his argument. Only then would I have the moral courage to accuse such an example of rigorous (though incorrect) thinking as George Bernard Shaw of fatuousness.

It is in this sense that I note the boldness of my opponents claim that something "fatuous" could come from from the most careful work of a mind my opponent himself classifies as "brilliant". Thus far I have seen many claims as to why Saint Thomas was wrong (I disagree with these claims, but that is in the end of no consequence) I have yet to see a single one to support the charge of fatuousness.
Debate Round No. 2


On the descriptive analysis of my arguments.

1. Accurate portrayal of my argument.

2. This is not my argument. Arguments based off concepts such as infinity can be accurate, but our historical epistemological process has shown that concepts such as these should be under immense scrutiny due to our history of clinging to singularity and simplicity. Aquinas, in a sense, simply uses the fact that we do not fully understand infinity by stating that an infinite regress must have an end, which has no basis in mathematics. Infinite regression, as with infinite increases/decreases along with concepts such as asymptotes, must be proven as something that cannot practically or pragmatically exist. Aquinas' insistence on placing an arbitrary end to the regress shows that the regress is in fact not infinite. My argument here is one of the poignancy and necessity of doubt, and realizing that until we can comprehend concepts such as infinity and the way they apply to practical issues, whether metaphysical or not, arguments based off of them should be heavily suspected.

3. Accurate portrayal of my argument.

4. Explanations derived from the infancy of our species may in fact be necessary. The source and cause of an argument may not be enough (as your video pointed out) to disprove it, but it can be extremely helpful. For this reason we see arguments about source validity in political debates. However, the important factor in determining the truth of these claims is unfalsifiability, moreso than historical context. However, they are both pertinent.

5. Conceded.

6. Accurate portrayal of my argument. As was said by (I believe) Ricky Gervais, if you understand why you don't believe in any of the other thousands of gods created by man over the centuries, then you understand why I don't believe in yours.

Response to Rebuttals:

1. Again, you'll have to forgive what appears to have been some confusion over what is absolutely necessary to the argument and what is simply a "side note" or a "tangent" which I find myself going on quite often. The context is simply for informational and descriptive purposes. That being said, the fact that Aquinas' is arguing for a deistic god rather than a theistic one goes towards not the merit of the argument, but instead the credibility of the author who is claiming proof towards his personal, Catholic god.

2. Here, despite repetition, Okkam's razor can be easily implemented. Nothing about the concept of infinite, whether "known knowns," "known unknowns," or "unknown unknowns" points towards any trace of the divine. There is no possible way (to roughly quote from Hitchens) to move from the laws of the observable universe, be it physics, mathematics, biology, etc. to proof of a divine being. It is not conceivably possible, and it has never even been credibly tried. That being said, it is important to note that I am coming from a place of doubt and skepticism, not only about the divine but about applications of concepts such as infinity. The reason for such doubt, and thus the reason why the use of such infantile knowledge of our species on these issues, is the historical processes of our species being attracted to simplicity that have been proven wrong countless times (as expressed in Round 1). In short, Aquinas' is incorporating concepts into his "proof" that he did not nearly understand and that even today, centuries later, our species cannot claim to adequately understand. This in itself serves as one of many points of counterarguments against the argument by infinite regress.

3. I'm afraid you have misinterpreted the Thomist argument. Aquinas insists in his essay that there must exist primary and intermediate causes, leading us further to ultimate effects. The argument undoubtedly rests on a linear progression of time. Your insistence on the regression being pushed "further back" by string theory requires of you to recognize the necessity of this linear regression.

4. I may lose my fellow atheists here, but it important to note what David Tracy states: the fact that reason and logic have a history is a problem for reason and logic. I do not for a second believe that logic is entirely synonymous with systematic and adequate argumentation. It can be said that the umbrella of logic includes rational and systematic argumentation, but once again I must challenge the proposed simplicity of such a claim.

5. Conceded.

6. You have changed what you are arguing between rebutals. You recognize that I am defending the FSM/teacup theory, but not the assertion itself. Unfalsifiable claims cannot be given credence, even if said to be arbitrarily "possible." By my admittance of god being neither disprovable or provable, unfalsifiable claims are already "possible." However, that does not equate to accuracy. The divinity test which you propose can indeed be applied to the FSM or the teacup assertion. How so? I can simply state that they are divine, that they are the ultimate cause (though I could create an entirely different string of arguments to explain how), and you cannot prove me wrong. Yet again, the unfalsifiability of an argument is lethal to that argument. The great thing about evolution is that it is so easily proven wrong. A rabbit in the pre-Cambrian is all it would take, but it has not happened. The emphasis is placed not on whether the proposal is possible, but whether or not it is cognitively possible to prove the assertion wrong. And in this case, the divine cannot possibly be proven wrong.

In your writing, I see the difficulty in using the word "fatuous." It is ultimately a word that is a matter of personal opinion and less to the point of accuracy, so that, I concede. I hope it has been clear in my first debate that a bulk of my problem is with the accuracy of the argument. For my lack of clarity, I apologize but do not concede the general point.

I would like to simply reiterate the necessary points I have made:

1. The existence of a divine deity cannot be proven nor disproven.
2. My opponent concedes the fact that the burden of proof is on the believer.
3. The burden of proof, as a method of determining probability of an argument, requires the reader to side with the improbability of the existence of god by the very nature of the burden of proof. In other words, if proof cannot be given by the individual who is required to give proof first, the argument necessarily falls to the benefit of the unbeliever.
4. I do not, as many atheists do, propose that the fault in the argument lies necessarily in the exemption of god from the infinite regress for within the context of Christian apologetics, god remains out of time and space. I do argue, however, that our limited understanding of time and space and complex concepts makes arguments derived from them (especially extraordinary claims that fail to provide extraordinary evidence, such as god's existence), plus the history of incorrect assumptions of simplicity and linearity, plus the implications of string theory as altering our understanding of space and time, the probability is again left to the unbeliever. Any arguments to the contrary run the reasonable risk of appealing to the misunderstood and thus are invoking an entirely different debate, one of gap theory.
5. To argue for simultaneous causes is to change the argument proposed by Aquinas which clearly makes linear distinctions between prime causes, intermediate causes, and ultimate effects. The assertion that string theory only "pushes back" the regress is admittance to this understanding. In adding the possibility of simultaneous causes, one has strayed from the original cosmological argument.

Anyways, I thank my opponent for patience with me and my first debate on this site (as well as what I see now as some pretty distinct issues of clarity that I will have to work on), and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. Can someone also tell me how to edit text formatting? I don't see where I can do this. Thanks! :)


I beg pardon for the delay in answering. As I will not have the benefit of my opponent's corrections, I will proceed directly to answer his arguments.

1. Infinite Regress not an argument for the Christian God

Pro admits this is a tangent not relevant to the question at hand, and not really the objective Aquinas had with this particular argument.

2. Doubt when faced with arguments from infinity and "Occam's Razor"

There is nothing infantile about philosophy. What is truly infantile is the contention of Hitchens and others that the only knowledge we may have is empirical or scientific knowledge. Mathematics is not scientific knowledge, it is what we can garner from merely formal reasoning. And just as in physics and mathematics we can know things about infinity my simply applying the concept to mathematical models and seeing what happens, there are certain things we may know from thinking logically about infinity. One such thing is that if there is an infinite line of causation, meaning there is no beginning to the chain, there can be no effect. Pointing to theories that posit a state of affairs before the big bang does not disprove there being an ultimate cause, it only brings into question when this beginning took place. As a point of fact, most modern cosmologists take for granted the need for a beginning regardless of the particular model they deem more likely, as Dr. Craig summarizes quite well in his website:

3. Causal chain and time in the Thomist argument

The argument Saint Thomas proposes carefully avoided a dependency on time as a necessity for causation, as time itself would need to be explained. At the very least the first cause could not be said to have happened "before" its effect, as its effect is, among other things, time itself. That particular cause must be considered, if anything, simultaneous. There are other cases of simultaneous causation that are being observed in the field of quantum physics today. Linear regression merely means that "something is caused by something that is caused by something", not "something is caused by something previous to it in time."

4. Logic

Logic is first defined as systematic and rigorous thought and then we proceed to give it formal rules. Those formal rules are rarely debated. Its history has been of progression and reformulation of the same rules. It does not include systematic argumentation, it IS systematic argumentation. Webster: "the science of the formal principles of reasoning" Oxford: "reasoning conducted or assessed according to strict principles of validity".
If my opponent has a definition of logic other than the generally accepted and commonly used definition, he had the obligation to propose this definition. For the purpose of this debate we can substitute any and all instances in which I have referred to logic with "rational and systematic argumentation" if he wishes.

5. Conceded

6. Unfalsifiable claims FSM

I have not changed what I was argumenting, I merely endeavored with evident lack of success to clarify it. I will try to do so again. Pro contended that an unfalsifiable claim needs to have an at least probabilistic argument. I accepted this principle, and pointed out that Aquinas' argument is precisely one such argument. Aside from that main point, as Pro had mentioned the FSM and flying teacup analogies, I showed that this is not comparable to the belief in God. If there is to exist a Prime Mover or Necessary Being, this being must be transcendent and immaterial, as the cause of all time, space, matter and energy. Both examples are, at first glance, out of the running on that count (one is made of pasta and the other is a teacup); any argument in order to sustain their existence has to strip away attributes of spaghettiness or teapotitude, ending up with a being with the same exact attributes as God, only referred to with the inadequate title of Spaghetti Monster.

The claim of God's existence may not be directly unfalsifiable, but the arguments in his favor are. You need only point out a fallacy in its reasoning. There is no such fallacy, therefore it stands.

Pro's final contentions

1. The existence of a deity cannot be proved or disproved.
May well be true, but entirely irrelevant, as the debate is on Aquinas' argument, not God himself.
2. Burden of proof is on the believer.
Agreed, but once again, not immediately relevant.
3. Burden of proof requires reader to side with improbability of proof.
Not in this debate. The positive claim in question is that the argument from infinite regress is in some way fallacious. The burden of proof is on the side of the "believer" in this assertion, not in the existence of God.
4.Fault of the argument lies on limited understanding of time and space and concepts like infinity, History shows humans tend to errors because of their tendency towards assumptions of simplicity and linearity.
This was already addressed, but I may as well note the apparent contradiction between being a proponent of Occam's razor, which prizes simplicity in answers, and a belief simplicity is somehow a problem in human thinking.
5. The argument for simultaneous causes changes the argument proposed by Aquinas.
Not so, as explained above.

The matter of word choice

I gratefully accept Pro's concession on the matter of the wording of the resolution. I do not take it as a concession of the debate, which is of too much substance for it to go on a matter of semantics. To "win" a debate by virtue of mere wordplay is, to my thinking, a cheap victory and an insult to both the opponent and the intelligence of the readers. The reason I insisted on the issue is because it strikes me as one of those times in which a matter of semantics takes away from the substantive issue in the greater debate. It is common trait of much of what is called "the new atheism" that it often places more weight on rhetorical flourishes aimed at painting opponents as dullards and themselves as bulwarks of clear thinking (the brights) than on serious engagement with opposing views. This manner of presenting the issue, referring in this case to one of the greatest minds Western culture has produced as making fatuous arguments could lead less serious thinkers than my opponent to take lightly or not even consider the position of men wiser than themselves.

Having accepted this was a poor choice of words I will no longer insist on the matter. I hope we can proceed on a matter of substance and urge voters NOT to give me their vote on this matter of mere semantics.


This is a debate on whether or not the argument from Infinite Regress is falatious or not (I suppose changing the word fatuous for falatious will not be objected to). In support of this contention we have seen a series of arguments that have proven false, unconnected with the actual issue, dependant on a definition of terms different from the generally accepted one or which misunderstand the implications of the arguments. I leave to the voters the appraisal of the merits of the arguments and the strength of the rebuttals.

I thank my opponent for this debate. It has been a while since I had a debate with no forfeits, and this is refreshing. I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope we can spar again in the future on this or other issues.

On a lighter note, for a sucinct summary of my position you can go here:
Debate Round No. 3
14 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by ergyr 6 years ago
Both parties appeared to have conducted themselves with civility.

But I read here in comments that a voter must give the reasons why he votes for one or the other party; are records of voters' explanations for why they voted the way they did, accessible to registered members at least?

I thought that the instigator seemed to have resorted to ideas which can exist in the mind but cannot exist in objective reality, or humans cannot access at all on the pure gratuitous assumption that they exist, not from the factual universe where we humans are parts of and where we have our home.

The instigator says:
"We may indeed live in a multi-verse, in which our universe is simply one of many universes."

"...string theory (which has not been definitely "proved" but argued for by numerous infamous particle physicists and legitimized by the following), one can look to history."

I have this distinction between concepts which can be thought up in the mind, but which cannot exist at all in the objective reality of the existing universe; string theory and multi-verse are examples of such concepts.

For this reason that they can only be thought up in the mind of man, they are fictions which are good for mental entertainment, but cannot be of use in arguing for or against God existing as the uncaused cause of the universe.
Posted by TrasguTravieso 8 years ago
"Look inside you and you will find the truth"

Interesting. I just did and I found out what you have said is all new-age bulls**t.
Posted by andrewkletzien 8 years ago
For Christ's sake (pun intended) you cant go anywhere without being preached at anymore!
Posted by alvarezd41 8 years ago
Hi everyone,
I would like to give you hope and tell you what I have been revealed by our creator. 1st let me start by saying that we are our creator's most treasured and beloved creation. We are all extremely valuable and we all hold the knowledge of creation inside each and everyone of us.

God is inside everyone of us. We are all eternal beings, this means we have always been and will always be. When in doubt look inside of you and you will find the truth. It has always been there. Our true self exist beyond this existence. If you truly want to know god all you have to do is remember and let the truth come out and embrace your true self for we already know god and have always known him.

Don't get caught on the lies of this materialistic world.

We are already closer to our creator than anything else in existence but we must learn to look inside and trust for he exist within you.

Peace and love be with you my eternal brothers. I truly love you all.

We are all connected.
Posted by TrasguTravieso 8 years ago
Sure: People who have had three or more comleted debates may vote on any debate they have not participated in. They start by saying who they agreed with before and after the debate if they held an opinion (that way we know both the bias of the voter and whether or not the debate led him to change his opinion) and give either of the debaters points on four other categories for a maximum of 7 points. Voters also have to justify their vote so as to avoid "votebombs" (when someone grants points arbitrarily). The votign process is open as long as the person who created the debate set it (in this case I think you made it a week long).
Posted by andrewkletzien 8 years ago
Pardon my inexperience with this site, it appears as though the voting process is not "one person one vote." Just looking for some explanation possibly as to how the voting process works? I am not allowed to vote having not completed the adequate number of debates, so I was not able to view how the process works.
Posted by TrasguTravieso 8 years ago
I so regret not having used this as my parting joke:
Posted by TrasguTravieso 8 years ago
On formatting, I wish you had asked before. When posting your reply you can click on "enriched text" right above the text box. Then you can Bold, Italicise and Underline to your heart's content.
Posted by GorefordMaximillion 8 years ago
Andrew, debate thett3 on the KCA immediately.


My mind is being blown away here. This debate is over my head in some ways, I don't know if I could keep up... but I'm jumping as high as I can, headfirst!!
Posted by TrasguTravieso 8 years ago
Don't worry about it. The extent of my own experience debating before joining this site is similar to your own. Form and methodology are not as important as content and rigorous thinking. You seem to have that down well enough, the rest is a matter of picking up methods and flourishes you appreciate or deem useful from others.

Welcome to DDO!
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by AlwaysMoreThanYou 8 years ago
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: Con's last round sold me without a doubt. Pro didn't show that infinite regress is either fatuous or fallacious, so arguments to Con.
Vote Placed by GorefordMaximillion 8 years ago
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 Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:31 
Reasons for voting decision: close debate, a little wondering. pro's arguments by a hair, but conduct point for the fatuous confusion over the use of fatuous.
Vote Placed by Muted 8 years ago
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: Pro did not show that infinite regress is a "fatuous argument" and as such the debate goes to Con. Con also used Dr. Who in a quote, Dr. Who, we all Whovians are well aware, is the most reliable source anywhere in the universe. As Dr. Who made language, he could not have made a S/G mistake. Dr. Who is also the most respected/hated member of the Universe. To be so, he had to have had extraordinary conduct. On these points alone, Con wins.
Vote Placed by philochristos 8 years ago
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: Since this was a debate on whether arguments from infinite regresses were "fatuous," and since Pro conceded that it was not fatuous in the third round, I would've given arguments to Con if not for the fact that Con agreed to the use of "fallacious" in place of "fatuous." There was a lot in this debate that I thought was irrelevant to the main point, so I based my decision on what I thought was relevant. The first point was irrelevant, as Con pointed out. Pro's argument that we don't understand infinity was unpersuasive, and he failed to answer Con's argument from the gum ball, which showed we understand it well enough to make an argument from it. The argument from the non-linearity of time was Pro's best argument, and I didn't think Con adequately answered it until the last round. Con showed that the tea pot and FSM were not analogous to God, and Pro failed to show that they were. Con showed that logical reasoning does not depend on current scientific knowledge, which nullified 4.

By using this site, you agree to our Privacy Policy and our Terms of Use.