The Instigator
Pro (for)
20 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
4 Points

It is Probable That God Exists

Do you like this debate?NoYes+12
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 5 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/13/2011 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 10 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 7,141 times Debate No: 17901
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (33)
Votes (5)





It is probable that God exists.


1. Acceptance only
2. Opening arguments
3. Clash
4. Closing arguments/clash

For the purposes of this debate, the term "God" will be defined broadly as to include the general attributes (ie: omnipotence, omniscience) commonly associated with Judeo-Christian monotheism. This definition primarily concerns general revelation, and hence special doctrines such as the incarnation and Trinity are not relevant to this debate. "Probable" will be defined as being more likely than not.

The time limit between replies is 72 hours. If special circumstances arise, one side may ask the other to wait out his or her remaining time. If one side explicitly concedes or violates any of these terms, then all seven points will be awarded to the other. By accepting this challenge, you agree to these terms.

Good luck! :-)


I've always yearned to debate this topic. I'll take a stab at it. I accept, and agree to your terms. I can tell that you'll be a most formidable opponent, what with your perfect streak.

Just to clarify, the position I must defend is it is not probable (more likely than not) that God exists.
Debate Round No. 1


Let me begin by thanking DetectableNinja for taking this debate, I look forward to the exchange. In this debate, I will be defending two arguments in support of the proposition that the existence of God is probable. These arguments will be the Kalam cosmological argument (KCA) and a Thomistic variant of the teleological argument (TA).

1. The KCA

The kalam cosmological argument is deceptively simple, and consists of three premises:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause
2. The universe began to exist
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause

The first premise expresses the metaphysical truth that something cannot come from nothing, the denial of which is absurd. If something could come into existence without a cause, then it's odd as to why we do not have any examples of this constantly happening. Why doesn't everything and anything pop into existence without a cause? Indeed, why doesn't a black hole suddenly appear and consume our solar system? It can't be because nothingness is constrained by physical laws, for there is nothing to constrain. To deny the first premise is to thus deny causal regularity. Moreover, philosopher David Oderberg has argued that the first premise is a necessary truth. [1] However, I will not expound on this unless Con challenges the first premise.

Additionally, the first premise is compatible with quantum mechanics insofar as the limitations imposed on QM are epistemic as opposed to ontological.

Moving now to the second premise, which is supported by both philosophical and scientific examples. Scientifically, the beginning of the universe has overwhelming support in modern cosmological. Phenomena such as redshift, the cosmic background radiation, the expansion of the universe, and the second law of thermodynamics all point toward the idea that the universe began to exist over 14 billion years ago. More recently, the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem has demonstrated that any universe in a state of cosmic expansion must be finite in past duration. [2]

Philosophically, if the universe were eternal in its past duration, then this implies the existence of an actual infinite. However, since it is impossible for an actually infinite set of things to exist, the universe must be finite in its past duration. An actual infinite is a set which has attained infinite status. Its existence is impossible because one yields contradictory answers when applying mathematical operations to it. If one has an infinite number of marbles and subtracts all the even numbered marbles, he is still left with an infinite number. However, if he subtracts all of the marbles except seven, then although he subtracted the same amount of marbles from the previous example, he is left with seven. There are a plethora of examples, and what this shows is that since one yields contradictory answers when applying mathematical operations to actual infinites, that they cannot exist.

From this is follows that the universe has a cause. But why think this cause is God?

Firstly, it must be noted that since there is nothing prior to the cause of the universe, it cannot be explained scientifically, as this would imply the existence of antecedent determining conditions. Hence, because there are no prior determining conditions, the cause of the universe must be personal and uncaused, for how else could a timeless cause give rise to a temporal effect? Moreover, the cause must transcend space both matter and time to create both matter and time. It must also be changeless, since there was no time prior to the creation of the universe. Finally, in order to create the universe ex nihilo, this cause must be enormously powerful, if not omnipotent. One is warranted in concluding that therefore, God exists.

2. The Thomistic TA

Whereas traditional teleological arguments are based on a mechanistic conception of nature, the TA offered here is based on the Fifth of Thomas Aquinas's Five Ways for demonstrating God's existence. The argument does not rely on notions of "irreducible complexity" nor is it similar to any Paley-style watchmaker design argument. Hence, objections against these TAs are not applicable to this version. The Thomistic TA thus goes as follows:

1. If teleology exists, then an ordering intellect exists.
2. Teleology exists.
3. Therefore, an ordering intellect exists.

The term teleology refers to an end, goal, or purpose to which something is directed toward. Thus, to say that something has a telos is just to say that it has a function. Teleology implies intentionality, and intentionality is a feature of minds. Hence, if teleology exists, then there must exist an ordering intellect in which something's end is grounded in. As Edward Feser illustrates:

"Where goal-directness is associated with consciousness, as it is in us, there is no mystery. A builder builds a house, and he is able to do so because the form of the house exists in his intellect because it is instantiated in a concrete particular object. And of course, the materials that will take on that form also exist already, waiting to take it on." [3]

So does teleology exist? Obviously, for without it we cannot make sense of the world around us. Does a heart just happen to pump blood, or does it pump blood because that is its purpose? Does one's mind just happen to think rationally, or does it think rationally because that is its purpose? Evidently in both cases the latter is true. In fact, the latter example illustrates that it is self-refuting to deny that there is teleology. Our use of teleological explanations in everyday life presupposes its legitimacy. Indeed, the entire discipline of medicine depends on there being such thing as a function or purpose to parts of the human body. How else can we say that a diseased heart is not functioning properly if there is not a way which it ought to function? We cannot make sense of efficient causality without teleology.

Moreover, as David Oderberg has argued, teleology is present not just in organic processes, but also in the inorganic. Processes such as the water cycle and the rock cycle are inherently teleological in nature. [4]

All this implies that there must be an ordering intellect which grounds the teleology present in the universe. Because this being has a mind, it must be personal. Because this being is the ground of all teleology, there cannot be a higher being from which its teleology is derived. Therefore, it is appropiate to call this being God.

[1] David S. Oderberg, ‘Traversal of the Infinite, the “Big Bang” and the Kalam Cosmological Argument’, Philosophia Christi 4 (2002): 305-36.
[2] That being said, there are exception conditions to the BVG theorem. See:
[3] Edward Feser, "Teleology: A Shopper's Guide," Philosophia Christi 12 (2010): 157
[4] David S. Oderberg, "Teleology: Inorganic and Organic," in A.M. González (ed.), Contemporary Perspectives on Natural Law (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008): 259-79


I’d like to thank Contradiction for creating this debate. I hope we both may be enlightened to some degree.

Opening Argument

For this debate, I’ll be defending three points which indicate that the existence of God is improbable: the Infinite Regress Problem (IRP), Occam’s Razor (OR), and another argument which is a combination of arguments, which I personally refer to as the God Problems (GP).

Occam’s Razor (OR)

This argument is the argument that can be found at the core of my position. OR can be most easily described as "when you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better,” [1]. Or, to change the wording to fit this debate, “the simpler one (the one with less assumptions) is more likely to be true.”

One simple way of proving this statement to be generally true, I present a hypothetical [2]. If you were to look in a mirror, and see a person who looks identical to you, and you carry around that mirror and see that this mirror shows a world that is exactly like your own, two hypotheses could clearly arise. One, which is the far more complex one, is that what you see in the mirror is an alternate universe of some sorts, nearly identical to your own. Now, most of us would agree this is an absurd and incorrect theory—and while it cannot be completely disproven based on the observations alone, it is highly less likely and more complex (it assumes quite a lot) than the alternate theory, which is that the mirror reflects light and thus, our own world [2]. Not only is it more supported by evidence, but it is also simpler (assumes less, relying on evidence), and much more likely than our alternate universe hypothesis.

My reasoning for the hypothetical was twofold: to prove the worth of Occam’s razor as a general rule in probability, but also to present a sort of analogy for the debate at hand. I propose that, if OR is to be paid attention too, then, the belief that God exists is more complex than the atheistic alternative explanations, and is thus less likely to be true. With the belief in God, you are assuming that God created Himself from literally nothing, that this complex being in and of itself would wish to create a world with teleology, etc. etc. etc. Whereas with atheistic explanations, there are far less assumptions being made without any evidence backing those assumptions up. For example, to parallel the given assumptions with theism, atheism has implicit evidence of a Big Bang which created the universe. This is assumed, but with supporting evidence.

The Infinite Regress Problem (IRP)

The IRP is an argument of itself, as well as a bit of a rebuttal to Pro’s KCA. The IRP can be explained in a simple way, with a similar first premise of the KCA:

1: Everything that exists began to exist.

2: Everything that exists must have a cause.

3: Therefore, assuming God exists, He must have a cause.

4: Therefore, the cause of God must have a cause.

5: Therefore, the cause of this cause must also have a cause.

6: Therefore… (Ad infinitum)

Premise one can be proven true with simple logic and physics—nothing can exist forever, without any cause, as Pro has agreed to in his opening statement.

Premise Two is similar to P1—this point has also been proven by Pro.

So, if God existed, this syllogism would indicate that, because He exists, He must have begun, as Pro has provided no evidence to the contrary. Therefore, He must have a cause (possibly another creator), but then that cause exists, so it must’ve been caused. What is created is an infinite regress of causes, which, if we are to follow Occam’s razor, is far less likely than the alternative, which is that God does not exist.

God Problems (GP)

While this isn’t a formal name for these arguments (which I’m sure have individual names), I group them under this moniker.

1: A perfect God wishing to create.

This argument is simple in logic: if God is completely perfect, what would compel Him to create the world? One definition of perfect, that is more fitting when speaking about God, is “excellent, or complete beyond practical or theoretical improvement,” [3]. This would mean that God is, by definition, complete, and without any room for improvement. If this would be so, than there would be no reason for Him to create the world. If something did compel Him (as it clearly did) than He could no longer be considered perfect—He would be flawed with desire, a lack of completion. So, you can derive two possibilities from this: 1) God is not perfect, or 2) He does not exist. And seeing as how perfection is the very definition of the Judeo-Christian God, the second is more likely.

2: The principles of God do not mesh.

Going back to what I stated earlier, God is perfect. More specifically, one could say that He is omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent. However, I intend to prove that all of these can be disproved when together—of course, disproving one would show the improbability of the Judeo-Christian “perfect,” God existing, but I’ll attempt to disprove all four tenets.

Omnipresence can be eliminated on its own. To be omnipresent, God would have to exist even before He existed (which I proved earlier, would have to be a time that existed). This is impossible (even if popular in Back to the Future).

The other three tenets will have to be knocked out in conjuncture. If God is omniscient (He knows everything to know), He would know that, if He created mankind and the world, people would sin and reject his presence. However, He created mankind with the free will to sin anyway. This would imply that He is either not omnipotent (He cannot stop these events when omnipotence is all-powerfulness) or not omnibenevolent (He allows evil to occur when omnibenevolence is all-goodness). One could apply the same strategy backwards. If God is both omnipotent and omnibenevolent, He would have to not be omniscient for evil to occur.

So, one could say that God is none of these things (which make him imperfect, going against the definition of God), or, the more likely and simpler answer, God does not exist.

Thank you, and I shall refute Pro’s arguments directly with my defense of his refutations in the next round.





Debate Round No. 2


My opponent has advanced three arguments for the contention that the existence of God is improbable.

Putting the Cart Before the Horse

Ockham's razor states that all things being equal, entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity. This means that when one has two equally competing explanations, the one which contains the least number of assumptions is to be preferred. It is important to highlight that Ockham's razor only applies under two conditions:

1. Both explanations are equal in their explanatory power.
2. The necessary explanatory criteria are identified.

If these conditions are not satifisfied, then one cannot use Ockham's razor in selecting what counts as the best explanation. An explanation might be simpler yet fail to explain the necessary criteria, or an explanation might posit more entities yet have greater explanatory power.

The question then is whether or not the theistic and atheist explanations meet these criteria, and it is evident that they do not. Recall that according to the razor, entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity. Yet what entities are necessary to explain the universe and features within it? It is patently question-begging to assume that God is not necessary to explain certain facets of the universe, for this is exactly what I am arguing. In my opening argument, I argued that it is necessary to posit the existence of God to explain both the beginning of the universe and the existence of teleology. Con may believe that God is not necessary to explain these features, but he cannot simply assume this; he must argue for it. One cannot use Ockham's razor until he first identifies what is necessary. Only if God is not necessary will the use of OR be justified. But this has to be shown, not assumed.

Second, why think that both explanations are equal in their explanatory power? This was simply assumed by Con without any argument behind it.

KCA, IRP, and Why Con's Argument Backfires

Immediately Con attacks a strawman of the KCA. Recall that the first premise of the KCA is that "whatever begins to exist has a cause." This is not equivalent to "everything that exists must have a cause," nor does the KCA assume that everything that exists begin to exist. Hence, the IRP is in no way similar to the KCA.

At any rate, the IRP is demonstrably false. Both premises one, two, and three are unsound. Con adduced no evidence beyond mere assertion of the claim that everything which exists must begin to exist. Nor did I agree to this in my OP. At any rate, P1 is false. Philosophers distinguish between two types of existence: contingent and necessary. Contingent beings are those whose non-existence obtains in some possible world, whereas necessary beings are such that their existence obtains in all possible worlds. Examples of necessary beings would include numbers, laws of logic, universals, etc...

Another way to look at this is that the existence of contingent beings is dependent on certain conditions. The existence of liquid water, for instance, is dependent upon certain atmospheric conditions obtaining. Is God then a contingent being? Evidently not, for since God is viewed in the Judeo-Christian tradition to be a maximally great being, his existence is not dependent on anything qua maximally great. Thus, both P2 and P3 are false.

Moreover, this argument actually works against Con! If Con agrees to the first two premises, then his own position generates an infinite regress. He thus fares no better. Either his argument then is false, or it does nothing to help his position (It cancels itself out).

Finally, this argument can be turned against Con in another way. If Con agrees that infinite regresses are impossible, then he is logically committed to the belief in a first cause. Suppose that I want to borrow a typewriter. I go to my neighbor's house and ask him. Unfortunately for me, he doesn't have one. "But wait" he says, "Let me go ask my neighbor!" He then goes to his neighbor and asks him for a typewriter. Unfortunately, his neighbor doesn't have one and thus his neighbor goes to his neighbor to ask for one. Now it's evident that if this keeps happening, then nobody will end up with a typewriter. However, suppose that I do get a typewriter -- what would that imply? That would imply that there was a first member of the series who just had a typewriter. The same analogy holds true for existence. If I exist now, then there must have been a first member of the causal series which just had existence and did not derive it from any other source.

Against GP

The main thrust of GP, also known as impossibility arguments (Cf. Micharl Martin [ed], The Impossibility of God), is that God cannot exist because the very idea of God is self-contradictory. However, the arguments advanced by Con are unsatisfactory.

1. Can a perfect God create?

It is true that since God is completely perfect that he has no needs and is beyond improvement, yet it is wholly unclear how this would prevent him from creating a world. Indeed, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, God's creation of the world was a free act that did not express any need on his behalf. He could, had he chosen otherwise, have refrained from creating. Desires do not necessarily express deficiency: my desire to spontaneously raise my hand does not indicate anything lacking on my part.

2. The coherence of theism

Con advances several incompability arguments which aim to show that God cannot possibly have certain attributes in cojunction. These arguments too are mistaken. First, omnipresence has been historically understood to refer to the state of being casually active at every location in the universe. [1] To say that this entails that God must exist before he existed simply does not follow. Indeed, it is a misnomer to even speak of "before" God's existence. If all reality is dependent upon God, then there cannot be a "before" God's existence because time would not exist. Moreover, the argument assumes that God began to exist, which was shown to be fallacious.

But more fundamentally, the objection rests on a faulty conception of omnipotence. As understood in the Judeo-Christian tradition, omnipotence is not the ability to do everything, but only the ability to do what is logically possible. [2] God cannot create square circles, married bachelors, or actualize contradictions of any sort because these "tasks" are really pseudotasks -- no amount of power can actualize them, nor are they actualizable in principle. This is not to say that God has limitations, rather it is God's perfection expressed in the negative. When you're perfect, you're unable to be unperfect, but that isn't a limitation -- it's the perfection itself.

There is an even more devestating reply to this objection. If omnipotence is indeed the ability to do anything, then God can exist before he existed. Who is to say he can't? After all, he's omnipotent. As Harry Frankfurt pointed out:
"If an omnipotent being can do what is logically impossible, then he cannot only create situations which he cannot handle but also, since he is not bound by the limits of consistency, he can handle situations which he cannot handle" [3]

Either way, impossibility arguments are a lose-lose case for the skeptic.

Now Con seems to advance the logical problem of evil when arguing that God's omniscience, omnipotence, and omnibenevolence are incompatible. However, the logical PoE was thoroughly refuted by the philosopher Alvin Plantinga decades ago. Plantinga pointed out that as long as it's logically possible that God has morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil, that these three attributes are not incompatible with eah other. [4] Hence, there is no incompatibility here.

[1] JP Moreland and W. L. Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Wordlview (IVP Academic) 509-511
[2] Ibid, 527-529
[3] H. Frankfurt, "The Logic of Omnipotence" The Philosophical Review, 76:2. 262-263
[4] A. Plantinga, "God, Freedom, and Evil" (Eerdmans: 1974)


Refutations of Pro’s Opening Argument


As far as the actual three premises go, I do not object to P1, that everything which begins to exist must have a cause. However, to the second premise, and by proxy the third premise, I have objections.

Pro states and proves that the second premise, that the universe began to exist is true. However, it should be noted that the universe as to which Pro refers is the animate universe—a universe which is kinetic, and constantly expanding. But, in his article A Big Bang Cosmological Argument for God’s Nonexistence, philosopher Quentin Smith shows that, indeed, the earliest state of the universe, the singularity, was inanimate, as well as being the earliest instant of time’s existence [1]. Therefore, it is possible to state that, since the beginning of spacetime, the universe did, in theory, always exist.

As to the idea of the cause of the animate universe’s existence, this can be explained via the well-accepted Big Bang Theory, which states that the ultra dense and hot inanimate singularity rapidly expanded into a less dense and cooler animate universe [2].

After the three premises, Pro proceeds to connect the syllogism to the idea of God’s existence. I find problems with his logic:

First, Pro says that because nothing existed before the (animate) universe’s cause, then it can’t be explained scientifically, and thus, it is likely God exists. However, in reality, the animate universe’s best known scientific cause (Big Bang) actually did have something before it—the inanimate universe, the singularity. And, as I have shown, the singularity has, as far as current science can prove, literally existed since the very moment time existed. On top of this, the theory of the singularity and BB (Big Bang) fit Pro’s criteria for a probable cause of the universe (save for the personal bit). The singularity does, by its definition, exceed space and matter, as it is completely dense with practically no measure. The singularity is also changeless until it’s expansion (the BB). Finally, as I have shown, the animate universe was ­­not created from nothingness. Therefore, there are highly more likely atheistic explanations for the universe’s existence than the idea of God’s existence.

The Thomistic TA

With this, Pro makes the syllogism that, because teleology exists, an ordering intellect exists. The problem with this syllogism is that Pro makes the assumption that for something to have a purpose, a mind must have created it, using the house analogy.

However, Pro makes a mistake in his reasoning. He ignores the fact that there are two classifications for teleology: natural, and artificial [3].

Natural teleology’s definition is different than artificial teleology (which Pro seems to be asserting is the only type of teleology). Artificial teleology is teleology in which something is created by an obvious agent for a specific standalone purpose [3].

Natural teleology would be teleology in appearance mostly—better described as adaptations. The heart (an example that Pro used) beats with purpose, but not because of an ordering intellect. Nay, the heart’s beating could be described as beating because, out of millions of years of evolution and natural selection, it is the best means of survival for the human species yet. The same can be said with rational thinking—caused by the frontal lobes [4]. The development of the frontal lobes was advantageous to survival, so the human species is successful in its survival because of the fact that it was naturally selected and evolved into a beneficial trait.

To make my refutation of the Thomistic TA brief, natural teleology can and is explained in a much more likely way by science, vs. the existence of God.

Defense Against Pro’s Refutations

Occam’s Razor

With this rebuttal, Pro tries to dismantle my argument by stating that the two key elements of OR are not there.

The first is that I have not proven that God is not necessary. In my refutations, I believe I have proved that God is indeed largely, if not completely, unnecessary to explain teleology and the animate universe’s origins.

Second, I contend that both arguments are equal in explanatory power because they both explain the same points—in this debate, that would be specifically the universe’s origins and teleology.

While it was foolish of me to not rebut in the last round, I hope that what I have presented is adequate defense of OR.


To this, I will largely concede. However, I would like to point out that I never indicated that the IRP and KCA were equivalent, merely a bit similar.

As well, I do concede that the first three premises can be proven false. However, this works in my favor—for I can now agree that there can be a first cause—which I have provided an atheistic explanation of: the singularity—a sort of element which, although technically existing since the beginning of spacetime (which it itself caused) is impersonal; thus a valid (and highly likely) atheistic explanation of the beginning of the universe is created.


1. A perfect God creating

Pro asserts that because God would wish or desire to create the world, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he was lacking—for Him lacking, even at all, would suggest imperfection, and thus, an unlikelihood of His existence. To further his claim, Pro used the analogy of moving a hand.

However, I suggest that it actually is more likely always necessarily expressing some level of need. Let me start from the initial problem: Why did God create humanity/the world? One possible answer would be boredom. Boredom would explain a spontaneous act, e.g. the hand movement. The problem is that boredom implies a lacking of activity, and this is impossible because God is perfect, complete, without lacking. Another answer could be that He wanted for a race of His own to be with Him in heaven. However, this implies lacking, as Him desiring for something as that would mean it could be better for Him, which is again impossible.

In the end, wanting for something to happen is basically implying that one would care for one’s situation to be different. A perfect being would not want nor need change, as He is perfectly complete as is.

2. Coherence of Theism

On the point of omnipresence I will concede. However, I’d like to remind the readers that eliminating any of the three implies imperfection, making the “perfect,” God unlikely.

Pro largely spends this section elaborating as to why omnipotence only applies to logically possible tasks. While I will concede that omnipotence relates only to the logically possible, that does not put God in the clear.

Pro states that all that needs to be done is for it to be logically possible for God to allow, according to the Judeo-Christian faith, evil to occur. He then doesn’t elaborate that it is logically sound. However, I intend to prove, quickly and simply, that the very definition of God would not allow that to be a logically sound scenario.

Pro and I both agree that the Judeo-Christian God is perfect in every way. So, if it is logically possible to destroy even just the source of evil, Satan, then God should be obligated to do as such. And yet, evil still is around—and as the Christian faith implies, evil is done by the work and manipulation of Satan. So, this means that God has not destroyed Satan, even though it is logically possible to do so. God could end Satan without interfering with His current biggest principle of free will—He would not be ending evil by taking control of humans.

However, seeing as how He hasn’t still implies a lack of omniscience and omnibenvolence.

And thus, will all of the refutations and defense I have presented, it is still defensible that the existence of God is unlikely.

Thank you, and I apologize for the delay in this argument.






Debate Round No. 3


Con has graciously replied to the arguments I set forth in R1. I'd like to thank him for this wonderful debate. In this final sound, I'll summarize my conclusions and respond to the counterarguments that Con has raised.


Con endorses Quentin Smith's argument, according to which the the initial singularity is incompatible with the existence of a creator by virtue of its being inanimate. This is because there are no laws governing an inanimate singularity which would require a transition from an inanimate state to an animate one; and this is taken to be incompatible with the existence of God, who would presumably have ensured its transition to an animate state. Smith's proposal is flawed for a number of reasons:

1. The singularity is a useful fiction and is not actually real

One need not adopt a realist interpretation of the initial big bang singularity. Just as the concept of an ideal gas, the big bang singularity is a useful fiction that is taken to mark the point in which there is no universe. It is used to describe a condition which itself has no ontological status. As Craig writes:

"[T]he singularity has no positive ontological status: as one traces the cosmic expansion back in time, the singularity represents the point at which the universe ceases to exist. It is not part of the universe, but represents the point at which the time reversed contracting universe vanishes into non-being... Just as there is no first fraction, so there is no first state of the universe. The initial singularity is thus the ontological equivalent of nothing." [1]

2. Why think that no laws governs the singularity?

Why should we think (as Smith does) that there are no laws or conditions which would necessitate that the initial singularity to pass into an animate state? This just seems to beg the question in favor of atheism, for a creator would presumably ensure (and why think this must be done via physical laws?) that the singularity transitions from an inanimate state to an animate one.

There are many other problems with Smith's argument, but I won't spend too much time on this. [2]

Con attempts to explain the cause of the universe's existence by appealing to the big bang. Yet it is hard to see how this proves anything. Indeed, I appealed to the big bang myself as a defense of P2 of my argument. Recall that according to P1, whatever begins to exist has a cause. If the universe began to exist at the big bang, then the big bang event too requires a cause. So Con's appeal here doesn't solve anything. We both agree that the universe began to exist at the big bang, but that fact by itself doesn't account for what caused the big bang itself, nor does it rule out the need of a divine cause.

In attacking P3, Con misunderstands big bang cosmology. The cause must be non-physical and personal in nature because there cannot be any moment prior to the singularity. As Smith himself says, "It belongs analytically to the concept of the cosmological singularity that it is not the effect of prior physical events. The definition of a singularity... entails that it is impossible to extend the spacetime manifold beyond the singularity... This rules out the idea that the singularity is an effect of some prior natural process." [3] If the singularity requires a cause (Which Con agreed to when he accepted P1), then it cannot be some prior physical process.

This would imply that the universe would have had to begin ex nihilo. "At this singularity, space and time came into existence; literally nothing existed before the singularity, so, if the universe originated at such a singularity, we would truly have a creation ex nihilo." [4]

The Thomistic TA

Con's response here is quite lacking. He responds along reductionist lines, attempting to reduce teleology to mere adaptations. He also attempts to distinguish between natural and artificial teleology, yet this distinction is irrelevant to the argument I provided. As employed in my argument, teleology is understood to be mere goal-directedness (ie: final causality), which is shared by both natural and artificial teleology (Both involve goal-directnedness). His distinction is thus useless.

Con attempts to give an etiological reduction of teleology. Yet this fails. For one, even if organic teleology can be given a reductionist explanation, Con has nowhere near attempted to explain the teleology present in natural processes (ie: the water/rock cycle) and the even more basic teleology found in efficient causation itself. Second, explaining organic teleology through evolutionary means does not give an account of teleology, for the evolutionary processes themselves are teleological. Evolution does not in principle rule out teleology.

Moreover, a reductionist explanation of teleology amounts to the denial that teleology exists as such. This falls pray to a host of problems. For one, causal regularity and efficient causation become completely unexplicable if goal-directedness toward certain effects does not exist.

Con's Arguments

OR becomes Redundant

Recall that my charge against Con's use of OR was that it simply begged the question. In order to say that atheism is more parsimonius, one needs to assume that God is not necessary to explain certain phenomena. But since that's what we're debating over, Con assumes his conclusions. He responds by saying "In my refutations, I believe I have proved that God is indeed largely, if not completely, unnecessary to explain teleology and the animate universe’s origins."

But that means that his use of OR becomes completely redundant. If one cannot use OR until criteria (2) has been established (A criticism which Con implicitly conceded), then one cannot use it as an independent argument against God (Since whether its use is justified first depends on whether other arguments succeed). It becomes the equivalent of beating an already dead horse -- an argument against God that only works if God doesn't exist.

Either way, OR fails. If used as a standalone argument, then it begs the question. If not, then it becomes useless.


1. Can a perfect God create?

Con argues that a perfect being would not create because it "would not want nor need change, as He is perfectly complete as is." This is patently false and frames the issue as a false dilemma. Change need not be ontologically positive or negative, there can be such thing as neutral change. Suppose I paint my red wall blue. My wall has changed, but this change does not add or detract to its being, it is neutral. In the same way, God's creation of the universe need not be construed as implying a deficiency on his part. One must also distinguish between a want and a need. A needs indicates something that would make something a better being, whereas wants are ontologically neutral and do not necessarily indicate a lacking. There is thus no problem with God having wants.

For that simple reason, Con's argument here fails.

2. God, freedom, and evil

Pro concedes omnipresence and omnipotence and focuses largely on evil. He writes "So, if it is logically possible to destroy even just the source of evil, Satan, then God should be obligated to do as such." This conclusion follows by no process of logic. Recall Plantinga's argument that if it's merely possible that God has a morally sufficient reason for permitting evil, that it does not follow that God is morally obligated to destroy it. There is thus simply no incompatibility between God's attributes and evil. In order for Con's argument to work, he must prove that it is impossible for God to have a morally sufficient reason to permit evil. This is quite a tall task, one which no philosopher (Let alone Con) has been able to do thusfar.

1. W. L. Craig and Q. Smith, Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology (OUP) p.227
2. See Craig, "God and the Initial Cosmological Singularity: A Reply to Quentin Smith." Faith and Philosophy 9: 237-247.
3. Craig and Smith, TABBC, p.120
4. J. Barrow and F. Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Clarendon) p.442


I thank Contradiction for being such a strong debater and opponent. And so, I feel I must concede the debate. I think I was a bit over my head with this subject. I do not believe I argued adequately enough, wasn't prepared enough, and to continue would be less gracious than this.

I WOULD like to note, however, that I'm conceding due to poor arguing on my part, NOT because my position has changed.

Still, I congratulate Contradiction on his win. If it's not too much to ask, I'd still like it if any readers could provide feedback for me regardless of my concession--I am still relatively new here, and would like to improve.

Again, thank you.
Debate Round No. 4
33 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Anonymous 10 years ago
This was an absolutely amazing debate, thank you both for it. I had a great read, nice job both of you.
Posted by Anonymous 10 years ago
I'm not so sure Contradiction should have lost sources, after all he gave the excact page number and the voting period is one month. Anybody can go to Barne's and Nobles, find those books, and skim to the pages in that time to verify them.

It's not as if he cited a 575 page book and said "Find the page sucker!"
Posted by Anonymous 10 years ago
Looking back, I realize I gave too much negative feedback. I was simply giving feedback on the mistakes that detectable ninja made because he asked for it in the last round.

@Contradiction, I know how hard it is to win a debate having lost quite a few and I have a lot of respect for someone who has never lost even one. Regarding the arguments presented in this debate, here are my opinions:

1) Both sides arguments went so deep into philosophical theories that it was difficult at times to see the connection between god's existence and the complicated ideas that were presented. Maybe others have understood it, but I don't think either side did a good job communicating those ideas to someone like me who isn't really familiar with philosophy. That's why, I didn't give either side points for arguments.

2) No, something can come from something else, but neither of them need to have a "cause."

3) Like I said, in most situations your sources would be appropriate but an online debate needs online sources that the opponent can attack and the voters can verify. No one on this site can know that you have represented your source's argument accurately unless they have the book, (multiple books actually). Even if you were entirely accurate, the fact remains that your opponent cannot pick it apart and examine the original source. Arguments can be made about the source's content as well as its intention.
Posted by Anonymous 10 years ago

1. What's wrong with relying on philosophical arguments? Is not the question of God a philosophical issue?

2. "Whatever begins to exist has a cause" is equivalent to "Something cannot come from nothing." If something began to exist without a cause, then that's the same thing as its coming into being from nothing.

3. Why must I use online sources? I've actually read the literature on this subject, so what's wrong with using books?
Posted by Anonymous 10 years ago
"Both sides also argued too much on philosophical arguments"

Are you kidding me...? This is a debate on God's existence. The issue is philosophical in nature.
Posted by Anonymous 10 years ago
Here is some feedback:
First off, I learned from contradiction how to set up a debate with definitions clearly defined so that you don't get attacked on semantics or your opponent doesn't assume you are talking about something else.

Detectable Ninja made a mistake not objecting to P1. In my opinion, Contradiction's P1 was fallacious and should have been attacked. Why must everything that begins to exist have a cause? This is not the same as saying that something came from nothing as it implies a reason for existing.

Both sides also argued too much on philosophical arguments. Detectable Ninja had science on his side but didn't use it effectively to show that scientists are still debating on what existed before the big bang and that there are numerous possibilities none of which require god to exist.

Also, don't give up. Fight till the end.
Posted by Anonymous 10 years ago
Con forfeits thus losing the debate. However, he fought to the bitter end and feel he should at least get a conduct point...but overall this was an enjoyable read.

Con, the cosmological argument is seriously flawed. I recommend that you look at contradiction's debates and learn the argument he will use then study them to find flaws before accepting.
Posted by Anonymous 10 years ago
Detectable Ninja, never concede a point. Fight to the bitter end! You owe a response to your opponent since he put the effort into writing so much in response to your argument. This looks like a really interesting debate. I have to respond to my own debate right now but I'll give you more feedback once I read this in more detail. PM me if I forget.
Posted by Anonymous 10 years ago
Ah ok. I do not believe the biblefor good reason. I'd rather be Jewish thanvchristian
Posted by Anonymous 10 years ago
Nobody is a "100% bible literalist." I take the Bible at face value.
5 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Vote Placed by jd6089 10 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: cons closeing argument says it all. and for that he gets conduct.
Vote Placed by Dimmitri.C 10 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 Checkmark--1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro used super argumentation. Further Pro aptly refuted the Con's rebuttals. Conduct points are to remain tied.
Vote Placed by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 10 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 Checkmark--1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:--Vote Checkmark3 points
Used the most reliable sources:-Vote Checkmark-2 points
Total points awarded:12 
Reasons for voting decision: Conduct: Pro due to Con's non response. S&G: Tied Arg: Tied. Pro's arguments were very difficult to follow and also had fallacies. Con did not effectively attack Pro or present a convincing case. Sources: Pro gives books as sources. While that would have been excellent for an academic paper, an online debate needs online sources that the opponent can attack and the voters can verify.
Vote Placed by kohai 10 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 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:61 
Reasons for voting decision: Comment section
Vote Placed by Anonymous 10 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 Checkmark--1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:Vote Checkmark--2 points
Total points awarded:60 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro had superior argumentation and refutation. While Con raised some good questions, I felt that Pro was best able to respond to them. I was reaffirmed in my belief that it is probable that G-d exists.

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