The Instigator
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The Contender
Con (against)
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The Universe has a Purpose

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Post Voting Period
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after 2 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/23/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,849 times Debate No: 38053
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (4)
Votes (2)




To the opposition, thank you for accepting my challenge, and good luck.

I intend to argue that the universe has a purpose. I do not necessarily argue the existence of any specific deity to act as such a purpose, simply that there must be an initial being of some form. My argument will be in part, one of elimination, and rule out the two core secular explanations for the universe not having a purpose. Firstly that something, cannot spring from nothing. Secondly, that the universe cannot be eternal. The other part of my argument will be largely exclusive from the first, and take the form of the two major arguments for the existence of an initial being, the cosmological and teleological arguments.

Primarily, something cannot come from nothing. This is evident, as nothing as such, has no power, mass, force, or even existence. Nothing is, unsurprisingly - nothing. This means that in a supposed eternity and infinity of nothing before the universe, there is no possibility that creation could have been caused. Nothing by definition cannot cause, cannot create, literally has no influence upon anything. Therefore this explanation is unsound.

Secondly, the universe cannot be eternal. Not only does the cosmological argument show this in theory, but scientific methods have proved this eternal universe unsound in practice. Audrey Mithani and Alexander Vilenkin at Tufts University in Massachusetts stated in 2003 that an infinite universe "must contain trajectories that stretch infinitely into the past." Trajectories cannot be infinite if they are part of a universe that expands, such as the one we inhabit. Furthermore, it is then stated that both a "cyclical universe" and "universes of eternal inflation" both expand in this style. Therefore the universe cannot be eternal, and must have an initial point. Since this cannot be nothing, due to elimination we must conclude that the universe must have been caused by some form of eternal being or deity, and therefore must have purpose.

The next part of my core argument entails the often used cosmological argument. This states that as we can observe that everything in reality is caused by something else, that the universe too, must have a cause. Since there is no possibility of an infinite chain of causality, as this is illogical, there must be a first cause which is in itself not caused, and not part of the limited universe. This first cause in itself must be a god, or god-like being, as this is the only thing which needs no cause. This promotes meaning and purpose in the universe, as a god-like being existing infinitely must have had specific reasons and motives for creating the universe and time, otherwise it would simply not have done so, and therefore the universe has purpose.

Finally, the teleological argument. In my argument I shall be applying this directly to life. When life was first created on this planet, (we shall go with the most popular theory, if you wish to amend this please state so) through a combination of chemicals and an addition of energy, what was it that forced this first cell to live on? What made it "live" in the first place? Why did this initial form of life feel the urges to reproduce, to feed, to continue, to live on - surely this set of chemicals would be unthinking like any other? What sets life apart? There is no technical reason that I can see why life itself would have the initial basic instincts that are required to show the properties of life. Even the most complex chemical molecules do not actively seek out any goal or purpose, why then - does life? I cannot see any explanation for the complex initiative and active nature of life, other than there being a specific design or purpose behind such which enabled it to be as it is.

Overall therefore, due to the ruling out of specific secular explanations of the universes creation, the only possibility is that of an eternal being. Furthermore, the teleological and cosmological arguments not only reinforce the idea of a first cause as an eternal being, but also show through life that the universe as we know it would not be possible without design or specific creation. Therefore, the universe has a purpose.

Thank you for considering my argument.



My thanks to the proposition for the challenge, I shall endeavour to make him rue it. To begin!

Firstly, I feel no need to condense my opponent's argument as I believe his opening and closing paragraphs are more than adequate. In my argument I hope to provide and alternative to and question the relevance of the claim that because 'the universe must have been caused by some form of eternal being or deity' that it 'therefore must have purpose'. I do not contend that nothing can come from nothing, nor do I contend the cosmological argument as, rather than being largely exclusive of the first, this is really further evidence for it and I hope to disprove the first. The teleological argument seems unscientific and appears to me to detract from the main argument yet; I shall explain why this is so.

The proposition claims that the universe cannot contain or be the result of an infinite chain of causality and goes on to explain the cause. It is logical to assume that this cause must therefore not adhere to our understanding of the universe as otherwise it too would have a cause. However it is illogical to assume that this cause is a being, that it has motives, or even that it thinks at all.
In this universe of nothing there would be precisely no stimuli for this being to react to and therefore thought would be impossible. To say the least, creative thought is a vastly complex process and requires a wealth of prior experience. This being would have none and therefore, if it created the universe, it does not think as we do. The same is true of whether or not the universe was created with a purpose: with no stimuli, there could be no motivation and so no motives.
If you claim that the cause of the universe is a being then, with respect to the argument above, you cannot assume that any motive or purpose is necessary.
I believe that a just as likely candidate in this action is some manner of dimensional anomaly with no brain, thought or motive and although this theory is unlikely it is no less likely than an eternal being as both could potentially exist (though not in the conventional sense) and both are as likely to be proven.

Although I believe the proposition's final argument is erroneous and detracts from his argument I must state why. Life, in its simplest forms, react to external stimuli. The difference between a rock being dropped and therefore moving to a cat being dropped and twisting to face the ground is purely down to neurons. These nerve cells are inanimate and can only react to previous nerve cells firing; they do so in ways which have been shaped by experience (i.e. external stimuli, true it is also based on the way others are shaped but in every case the function can be traced back to either external events or DNA neither of which are under the organism's control). Just as when factorising an implacable quadratic we find it to be composed of mundane values: so if any living organism is divided thus we find it to be the product of scientifically measurable and quantifiable events. In short, there is no extra-scientific driving force for life, merely a sum of reactions.
Now, in answer to the question of why this process even began to occur, I shall call on probability. The universe is not infinite (were it infinite it could not have began at a fixed point therefore the space it contains must be finite) but it is, undeniably, rather sizeable. In such a vast expanse it is improbable that many more planets (or moons) such as our own possess the qualities of a habitable environment. Now consider that these planets must all have atmospheres - particles in which interact and produce static charges, lightning, and the energy needed for the process - and must have the chemicals essential for building familiar or strange molecules necessary for life. Now consider that for billions of years the earth has existed and for nearly all of that time has been habitable. In a sea containing (in the region of) 4.4*10^46 particles all of which are constantly oscillating and colliding it is very likely that at some point they would arrange themselves in the order necessary for life. It is extremely likely that this would occur considering the other worlds on which this is occurring. Life forming by coincidence is therefore not as impossible as it appears, in fact quite the opposite.
Therefore I believe no creator is needed specifically for the creation of life and if there were, it was very sporting to allow evolution to occur in the hope that they would fulfil its specific purposes.

It is for these reasons that I believe the universe does not have a purpose. Namely: that as my opponent's argument rested solely on there being an initial creator and I have shown both the illogicality of one, and (to a lesser extent) the lack of necessity for one.

Thank you to the proposition for instigating this debate and to the audience for its judgement.

References were used for the quantity of molecules in the world's oceans:
Debate Round No. 1


I shall begin the next stage of my argument with some rebuttals to the various points and counter-arguments raised by the opposition, chiefly the sentience of the first cause. Additionally I intend to introduce a new key point in my argument, regarding humanity.

Primarily then, considering that the opposition agreed with my conclusion that the universe must have a first cause I shall begin with his argument that a first cause has no potential for thought. I find it necessary to point out the contradiction the opposition has made in stating that this cause (as he states it is "logical to assume") does "not adhere to our understanding of the universe," and yet then proceeds to immediately apply our understanding of the universe to the question in hand, which I believe is illogical. The scientific concepts of "stimuli" as mentioned within the oppositions passage do not apply here, as this is outside the universe, and outside the world of the empirically examined and tested, as confirmed by the opposition. Stimuli are not certainly necessary to a first cause to have independent thought, in the same way that such a first cause need not necessarily be composed of the elements of the period table we know today. Therefore nothing limits the first cause from having "creative thought," with "motivation" and "motives."

Furthermore, I find it illogical that the opposition suggests the alternative of a "dimensional anomaly," as a "first cause." This is because if dimensions exist for there to be an anomaly in, then the anomaly is not the first cause, as something before it must have caused these dimensions to exist. In addition to this I fail to see how a non-sentient form could produce the universe. As a first cause, this entity is completely and utterly alone - what then provoked it to create as it did? With a sentient cause this makes logical sense as thought would have been the provoker, however without it, there is no reason for creation. Not only this, but without thought what defined and formed the first cause's specific universe?

Even without this argument, although this is a difficult concept to put into words, I believe that regardless of what the first cause was, the fact that there was one carries definitive purpose. A first cause would not simply create for no reason, and I consider it illogical that any form of initial being would spontaneously do so without purpose. I ask the opposition to rationalise how such a first cause would exist and in what form, while devoid of meaning, and what provoked it to create the universe we see around us, with universal truths such as mathematics, and complex constructs such as humanity, without purpose.

In terms of my previous argument regarding life, and the oppositions counter argument, I would state that using a "cat" and "nerve cells" is not "life in its simplest forms" and therefore does not truly apply to the point I was making. However I take the opposition's overall point here, and withdraw this portion of my argument.

As a result of this, I would like to introduce another, and most key point into my argument. It makes logical sense that if humanity has a purpose, the universe has a purpose. Each member of humanity has a self-determined purpose, whether that be to achieve a certain qualification, become rich, or simply be happy and subsist, there is always a purpose. Regardless of if this is different from person to person, the overall purpose of humanity is simply the purpose the majority consensus targets. Since we are capable of independent thought, and self conciousness, this gives us the ability to determine a purpose for ourselves. Therefore regardless of if the universe was initially created with purpose, it now contains it, because we have bestowed such upon it.

To expand upon this, the fact that we have self-conciousness and independent thought is intriguing. For example, what is the evolutionary benefit to philosophy, or of believing in God? It seems more and more to me that simply by having this debate, and having the ability to attempt to comprehend complex concepts such as these, that there must be a purpose.

Overall, having a first cause as a being with motive and creative thought has been re-established through my argument, and most vitally that regardless of the first cause, humanities ability to have complex thought causes it to bestow purpose upon the universe, whether it is inherent or not. As a result of these factors, I must conclude that the "Universe has a Purpose."

Thank you for once more considering my argument.


I will counter my opponent's points indiscriminately and hope to prove that his rebuttal clashes with his own claims and that his new point can be disproved using an already cited argument.

The proposition points out my logical flaw: that I agree that this first cause would not be bound by the laws of the universe and yet go on to apply laws of the universe to it. While a valid point this also highlights problems with his own argument. The proposition claims that thought (certainly a part to our universe) must be what prompted said first cause to create the universe. However, this argument relies on this being thinking, it relies on the fact that the being must have motives, it relies on the fact that the being was provoked. These ideas are just based, just as much as my own, on properties of the known universe and if the proposition wishes to contradict my counter-argument in this way he must refute his own argument or else he shall be illogical - a trait acceptable for a possible non-universal being but not for a debater.
The proposition also applies dissonant argument to my alternative of a dimensional anomaly (which was used merely as an example of insentience) by saying that these dimensions must exist in a logical form but that his claimed 'being' doesn't need to. I find this too unreasonable as if he must argue that something must have caused these dimensions to exist while I meant for the same rules to apply to them as to the 'being' then he must argue also that this too has a cause which undermines both of our understandings that there cannot be an infinite chain of causality.
My opponent asks me to rationalise my alternative claim, while seemingly forgetting that his own is irrational. As above, insisting that his being must be 'provoked' or, crucially, have a 'purpose' is to clash with his claim that the being will not adhere to universal laws including logic and therefore a purpose is unnecessary.

I believe my opponent misunderstands me, the cat is an example of an extremely complex life-form and I would have thought this obvious. I felt it unnecessary to include truly simply organisms in my argument as I believed this to be self-explanatory. Nevertheless I thank my opponent for withdrawing this segment of his argument.

My opponent's 'most key' point arises late in the debate yet I shall rebut it as it, at first glance, seems far stronger than his previous points. However, I have already explained, in the first round, that life is a process reliant entirely on abiotic stimuli. As my opponent has already conceded to the logic of this argument it is only necessary for me to show how his new 'key' point is answerable to the same reasoning.
My opponent claims that a human and, by extension, humanity has purpose. If he is to believe that life is merely the reaction to non-living stimuli; that non-living things cannot have purpose; and that humans possess no soul or other quality separate from life; then he must therefore conclude, like me, that humans have no purpose. What we call purpose while alive is, in reality, built on nothing but non-living stimuli, none of which can have a purpose. Therefore we cannot have bestowed purpose upon the universe because all purpose would have been bestowed upon us by the universe and none was.
My opponent also claims that there is no evolutionary benefit to philosophy etc.. Perhaps this is a debate for another time but I believe that my opponent thinks all our lives are based solely on our evolved DNA. Let him be assured that with only this influence humans would be unable to speak let alone debate with each other. Our modern lives are built on many more things than our evolved bodies: our social interactions, true, are founded on natural empathy, competitiveness and care for our young (among other genetic traits), but they have been extended no end by the combined interactions of our ancestors - with each other and their environment - who little by little taught their descendants what was right or wrong (etc.) until roughly 5300 generations later when this code of social conduct has built to such a complex level that its simple and unremarkable origins seem intuitively preposterous. The ability to 'comprehend complex concepts [wonderful assonance there] such as these' is not, nor does it need to be a direct result of evolution therefore no mystical 'purpose' need be attributed.

Therefore, I have countered my opponent's rebuttal to the idea of a non-sentient first cause and I have also proved his new chain of ideas to be as unscientific as his last claim regarding life. This shows that any purpose to the universe was not created after its beginning and that purpose need not, or rather likely not have been vital to its creation.

I thank you for your consideration also, despite its being demonstrably not your fault!
Debate Round No. 2


For the final stage in my argument, I intend to prove that despite both our arguments on the nature of a first cause, we cannot prove beyond reasonable doubt either of our suggestions, and will explain how this in fact also supports the motion that universe has a purpose. As well as this, I shall further explain my point on humanity and show how regardless of the apocryphal nature of free will, it also shows purpose in the universe.

Primarily then, I admit that thought is something that we can only definitively detect within our own universe, and therefore it is difficult to apply this to a first cause as a being outside the universe. Regardless of the opposition's comments about a dimensional anomaly, he does not assert the likelihood of such, and only seeks to undermine the illogicality of a first cause as a being. In terms of not adhering "to universal laws including logic," we have essentially come to a dead end on discussion of the form of a first cause, with no way of reasoning, or otherwise proving either of our arguments on this specific topic. I believe the opposition will agree with me on this point, that we cannot disprove or prove either of our suggestions for a first cause beyond reasonable doubt. Thus we reach the concept that there is a first cause, but we have no way of defining what this is.

Despite this, I believe that there being a first cause at all, in any form, proves purpose in the universe - this is because as my opponent has stated "I agree that this first cause would not be bound by the laws of the universe." This in turn means that there must have been a transfer, or direction of reality (for want of a better word) from this external form of existence to our own. On the basis that we can no longer argue this issue beyond reasonable doubt, I find it logical to move to the balance of probabilities. In terms of this balance then then, I find it immensely unlikely that a transfer of reality and physical laws occurred randomly or from incoherent reasons. Not only this, but the very specific laws of mathematics, and laws of physics within this universe show an elegance, a plenitude, and a universality which denies unpremeditated creation. I cannot disprove the possibility that there was no purpose, however it seems less likely. Therefore I must state that the most probable initial event as we know it, was a first cause with purpose, and thus the universe too has purpose.

To summarise what my opponent argues against my point of humanity, the opposition stated that "independent thought" as such is merely an illusion, and that all of our decisions and perceived purposes are simply mechanical evaluations caused by external stimuli leading us to one verdict or another, essentially without free will. However, I would state that regardless of whether our thoughts, dreams, desires and specific purposes are our own creation or simply an illusion of choice, it does not matter. Even if each human being has only the illusion of purpose, the fact that they can believe they have a purpose, or the fact that they still know this purpose, means that one still exists. Even a phantasmal concept of direction and choice still affects humanity as whole, and even if this whole is once more an illusion, humanity is still driven inexorably towards whatever goal or aim each individual part of it deems best, and through this, reveals purpose. We are specifically part of the universe, and this means that the universe is still affected by humanities goals, and therefore in turn the universe must have purpose.

Overall then, I base my argument on the two core segments of my logic, that based on the balance of probabilities, the universe would not have been caused without purpose, and that even an illusion of choice for humanity embeds purpose within the universe. Therefore, I implore all those who read this argument to agree with the concept that "The Universe has a Purpose."

Thank you for considering my argument, and thank you to the opposition for taking the time and effort to complete this debate.

- Invictus


I intend to disprove both of my opponent's standing arguments by showing that without logic there is no basis for a balance of probabilities on the first cause topic and that human purpose, whilst a strong point, cannot be said to exist.

I agree here with my opponent: there is no way of proving nor disproving the nature of a first cause if we assert it to be unbound by any laws we would need to do so. I will go further than the admission we 'cannot disprove...beyond reasonable doubt'; I say we cannot even determine the probabilities of such. My opponent concedes to work on the balance of probabilities but even this is not possible: we have nothing to work on, no logic to apply, in fact this first cause may as well not exist for the impact it will now have on this debate.
My assertion of a dimensional anomaly, as I previously stated, was merely an example of an unthinking cause. My claim of its probability was that it equalled any other kind of cause seeing as we cannot apply logic. My opponent cannot claim that his (or my own) suggestion is the likelier.

My opponent's second argument is far more cogent and requires that we explore a number of things. Firstly: what is real? Here is yet another immovable question which we could not hope to tackle comprehensively yet I shall do my best. It seems to me that there are two possible schools of thinking - what is real can be empirically measured and quantified, it can be proven to be not an illusion and agrees with laws we have formulated upon this assumption; or - what is real is simply what our brains interpret of the world and so any measurements we take or, for that matter, theories that we form could really be an illusion.
I argue against the second school, for the sake of this debate, because if it is true then we cannot prove the universe to be real at all and therefore cannot prove that it has purpose. If we, then, support the first school purpose, if it is anything, must be real and scientifically quantifiable.
I believe this is the case: thoughts are simply the reaction of neurons in a complex series and purpose is surely a subset of thought.
Secondly: what is purpose? If we examine the origins of purpose I'm sure anyone would agree it can be traced back to hunger, a desire to mate etc. in short - the will to survive. If we trace this back to its roots, we meet single-celled organisms with no capacity for thought reacting to their environment. Purpose, therefore, is rooted in the mundane. Purpose, like life, is the complex result of many simple factors.
Thirdly: can we have unintentional purpose? The short answer: no. By this, I mean that if someone touches a hot stove they will immediately pull back without the electrical signals needing to reach the brain. This action was unintentional, it was not their purpose to do so. If this were the sole action of their life they would have no purpose.
If we are to believe that life is a series of such reactions then ultimately, nothing we do is intentional and thus we cannot have purpose.

Thus I have shown that no assessment of probabilities can be made regarding a first cause in the universe and so this portion of my opponent's argument must be ignored whether or not intuition tells my opponent otherwise. I have also rebutted my opponent's claim to the universe having purpose because we do since we cannot have purpose without intention (not personal purpose, and any exterior purpose must follow the same rules) and the nature of life negates intention. With both of my opponent's remaining arguments disproved we cannot pass the motion and I conclude that the universe does not have purpose which is demonstrable or otherwise reasonable.

Many thanks to the proposition for such a delicious motion and to the reader for their judgement.
Debate Round No. 3
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by Invictus144 5 years ago
I'm a little perplexed by this - are you referring to the original Al-Ghazali Kalam argument, or the more modern revival of it from William Lane Craig? It just seems to me that the original Aristotelian arguments function more effectively on logical grounds than these arguments, could you explain how the Kalam argument would have been any more suitable? As well as that, if you read on past my first few paragraphs to the rest of the debate, you'll notice that only a portion of the argument is made up of anything parallel to the Kalam argument? Could you go into further detail about it not being convincing? Which areas of my logic do you dispute?
Posted by Proletariat 5 years ago
This sounds like a poor man's Kalam. Not very convincing.
Posted by Cluckelite 5 years ago
Thank you for the comment. This is certainly useful information and will be helpful to my side of the debate. I shall certainly research this theory for myself now.
Posted by Biochemistry92 5 years ago
I would very much like to say that these arguments are generally well placed. However, according to modern quantum theory it is possible to show the existence of something appear from nothing (electron and positron annihilation). It is also possible to show that this is still act of conservation of energy (meaning since there was nothing there, no energy can be calculated from these collisions, yet these disturbances show up in data in extraneous ways thus leading to their deduction). Therefore based on the evidence provided above (thanks to the standard model of quantum mechanics) it is safe to say that this process is a likely candidate for the origin for the big bang, though i will remind you this is a fresh hypothesis that is probably undergoing testing now and is also not my idea. In fact if you wish to read more about this possible explanation to the origin of our universe you could look into Brian Greene's Novels (the hidden reality, The fabric of the cosmos, and The elegant universe). While in this novel it will contend that other possible constructions of our cosmos are indeed possible contenders, none stand out as much as that one.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by thp078 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Con had more convincing arguments and was able to refute pro's.
Vote Placed by TheSaint 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: At the base of the argument BOP relies on PRO and in his third argument he conceded that it was impossible to determine the first cause of the universe. Additionally, Con not only showed that there was a reason to dismiss the first cause of the universe being any entity given the entropy of an infinitely complex nothingness as well as the fallacy in judging anything before our current universe with our logical understanding of things but overall Pro failed to prove the resolution the "the Universe has a Purpose". The fact that the universe has a creator of some sort even if Pro did prove this does not imply purpose, only causality a point won by pro through his analogy that pulling your hand from a hot stove is causality not purpose. At the base of the debate I believe Pro showed there was a cause to the universe but failed to show that the cause had any sort of purpose. Con points this out effectively and gets argument points. Both had proper spelling/grammar and both used no source.