Instigator / Pro
23
1487
rating
85
debates
46.47%
won
Topic

Atheism v. Theism

Status
Finished

All stages have been completed. The voting points distribution and the result are presented below.

Arguments points
0
30
Sources points
12
20
Spelling and grammar points
8
10
Conduct points
3
10

With 10 votes and 47 points ahead, the winner is ...

Safalcon7
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Philosophy
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Two weeks
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1569
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~ 906 / 5,000

The classic "Does God Exist" debate

I will be arguing for atheism in this debate.

Rounds:

1. Opening arguments only
2. Rebuttals only
3. Defense
4. Closing argument

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. That is to say, I am not referring to any specific deity. Hence doctrines such as the incarnation and Trinity are irrelevant to this debate. "Probable" will be defined as being more likely than not.

The time limit between replies is 2-weeks. 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.

The burden of proof is shared.

Round 1
Pro
Many thanks to Safalcon7 for accepting this debate. I am looking forward to a lively exchange! In this debate, I will be using two main arguments against the existence of God: 1) The Problem of Evil; and 2) Naturalism is a better model of our universe.
 
I. Problem of Evil
 
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”– Epicurus x
 
For the purpose of this debate, I will be defining evil as actions or things that are harmful to the well-being of persons. The Jewish philosopher Maimonides identifies three categories of evil: natural evils such as earthquakes and hurricanes; evil done to others, such as murder and rape; and evil we do to ourselves, such as a smoker developing lung cancer.
 
Let’s look at his first category of evil. In 2017 a hurricane Maria ravaged through Puerto Rico killing more than 4,000 people [1]. Where was God? Why wouldn’t an all-loving God divert the hurricane to the Atlantic Ocean for it to dissipate? Why did God an all-loving allow thousands of people to be left without power for months? If God truly is all-powerful, then He could have created a world without hurricanes or diverted the hurricane out to the Atlantic Ocean so no-one dies. Another good example is childhood cancer and diseases. All you have to do is walk into a children’s hospital and you can clearly see that there is no God. According to the National Cancer Institute, it is estimated that more than 11,000 children were diagnosed with cancer in 2019 and more than 1,000 innocent children died. Again, I ask where is God?
 
In the second category of evil, we have evil done to others. In the holocaust, more than 11 million Jews were killed. They were starved, beaten, forced into labor, and died brutal deaths in the gas chambers. Again, where is God? In the words of Israeli Supreme Court justice Halam Cohen, “If there is Auschwitz, there is no God.” [4] In The United States, thousands of children have died in school shootings. In 2012, 27 innocent children and teachers were killed in Newtown [5]; in 1999, 13 innocent children were killed in Columbine [6]; and in 2018, over 18 innocent people were killed in Parkland [7].  If God had the ability to prevent genocide and shootings but chose not to, then he is an accomplice. In law, an accomplice is “A person who knowingly, voluntarily, or intentionally gives assistance to another in (or in some cases fails to prevent another from) the commission of a crime.” [8] If God chose not to intervene, then he certainly is an accomplice.
 

I will readily concede that the third type of evil is the most justified. If we have free will, then we have the free will to inject harmful substances. We should not be surprised when we face the consequences. However, this evil often kills innocent people. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 30 people die each day in drunk driving accidents [9]. According to the American Lung Association, 2.5 million innocent people died from secondhand smoking between 1964 and 2014 [10]. Again, I ask where is God in this evil?

 
II. Naturalism is a better model
 
The scientific method is all about the search for models, creating predictions with those models, and confirming or refuting those models. Naturalism claims that the Universe is entirely self-contained, that only the natural world exists, and this natural world is governed by laws that science can discover. Theism, on the other hand, says that in addition to the natural world, there is God, who is outside this universe, can interact with this universe, and can perform miracles.
I contend that Naturalism is a far better model than Theism, for several reasons:
 
First, the scope of our universe is best explained under naturalism. In our galaxy alone, there are at least 100 thousand million stars [11], and over 4,000 confirmed exoplanets [12]. Finally, the Hubble space telescope confirmed the existence of over 100 billion galaxies [13]. This is exactly what we would expect under naturalism.

Second, under theism, you would expect the universe to be created to sustain life. However, the universe is a finely-tuned cosmic killing machine. Our very source of light and heat causes cancer, thousands of killer asteroids nearby that could wipe out life, gamma rays, supernovae, and harmful radiation can easily wipe out life. This is best explained under naturalism. 

Third, under naturalism, you would expect the Earth and the universe to be billions of years old to allow sufficient time for life to evolve. Guess what? That's exactly what we observe. 

Fourthly, under naturalism, you would expect various religions to evolve and develop. Under Theism, you would expect that any divine revelation would have useful information like how to cure cancer, the germ theory of disease, and teach us the fundamental nature of our reality. Naturalism wins. 

Finally, under Theism, you would expect to find a way to objectively verify the existence of God, have an objective definition for God and have an objective way of interpreting whatever scripture God gives you.  Once again, naturalism wins. 

 
Sources

11.https://www.esa.int/Science_Exploration/Space_Science/Herschel/How_many_stars_are_there_in_the_Universe
 12. exoplanets.nasa.gov/faq/6/how-many-exoplanets-are-there 13. https://www.space.com/25303-how-many-galaxies-are-in-the-universe.htm

Con
Thank you David for the opening. As a part of the conditions, I will also only open my arguments and save the rebuttals for the next rounds. To defend Theism in this premise I am also willing to provide two arguments as following-

ARGUMENTS

1. The Cosmological Argument: The cosmological argument stands the test of time as it dates back to the period of Aristotle during Neo-Platonism surging through early-Christianity period and medieval Islamic period to the modern era. I will discuss the most reliable aspects that the cosmological argument deals with as follows-

  • In causa (Causality): Causality is the most convincing and scientifically plausible argument for the cosmological approach. Aristotle was the earliest propounder of the argument known as he figured that there must be a reason why the universe exists. Aquinas in his 5 ways stretched the line and made it the most popular by bringing in the discussion of the First Cause and the argument from contingency.  So, even according to naturalists following randomness in existence, something might not have existed instead of existing but it did. This form of existence has been billed as the contingent form of existence of a thing or an object according to Aquinas. And because it stands upon that contingency, it must have a cause- not necessarily another contingent being but probably a non-contingent one proving to be the ultimate causation behind the creation of the universe. But how does he prove that it must be a non-contingent being? Well, following the same theory, since anything could not have existed instead of existing, there must have been a time when nothing ever existed. Therefore, the possibility of conjuring a contingent being out of nothing or another contingent being goes nil and so there must be a Necessary being that has to be there for all the contingent beings to come to life. Because nothing comes out of nothing, this Necessary being is rationally attributed to be the omnipotent God. Interestingly, even if it's regarded that the universe has no beginning, this formulated argument of Aquinas still operates and reasons for an Uncaused Cause behind the universe. There has been a variation of this argument in place by German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz who articulated the "Principle of Sufficient Reason" in the early 1700s. He quotes-     
“There can be found no fact that is true or existent, or any true proposition without there being a sufficient reason for its being so and not otherwise, although we cannot know these reasons in most cases. Why is there something rather than nothing? The sufficient reason […] is found in a substance which […] is a necessary being bearing the reason for its existence within itself.”
  • In Fieri (Becoming): This variant of the cosmological argument retains the basic spirit of the First Cause and states that the First Cause is the ultimate and every single effect afterwards can be rooted back to it. The Leibniz Principle mentioned above is basically an In Fieri argument that explains the First Cause being independent of all the created contingent existence. It often goes with an analogy of a house that asks for a builder to be built in the first place but it holds even after the builder is gone or more like a set of dominoes pushed by an individual [All analogies are flawed; therefore this one is not to be regarded to be something fundamental to my argument]. However, the pure First Cause theory on its own carries the burden over and the Becoming variant just adds to the credibility fitting into the modern understanding.
  • Kalam Cosmological Argument: William Lane Craig has a very strong and one of the most solid cases to present in this regard. According to him,
1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause;
2. The universe had a beginning and
3. So, the universe had a cause.

     Something cannot be derived out of nothing and therefore for the first thing in the universe to begin to exist has to be derived out of something of a unique character. WLC attributes this unique character to no one but God because only He by definition is regarded to be that (Omnipotent, Creator, Eternal, Self-Sufficient). Craig also represents the second claim with Al-Ghazali's proposition that an Actual Infinite which would imply an infinite number of causes and effects; is impossible to achieve. Therefore, the universe not having a beginning would result in an actual infinite which is not possible and so it must have a beginning. And according to his first proof, it then has a legitimate cause to it in the rightful name of God. 

2. The Teleological Fine-Tuning Argument: All the classical Teleological arguments are deemed to be controversial and are vastly based on probabilistic methods. While I don't dismiss any of them, for the sake of transparency and space limits in this debate, I'm taking the modern formulation of causes behind fine-tuned universe of the teleological argument that appeals to a certain bit of cosmological approach.

What we understand of this fine-tuning is that-

“Fine-tuning refers to the surprising precision of nature’s physical constants, and the beginning state of the Universe. To explain the present state of the universe, even the best scientific theories require that the physical constants of nature and the beginning state of the Universe have extremely precise values.”- Biologos
This serious and marvelous precision of natural and physical existence along with the sustenance to provide and maintain biological systems or life advocates for an intelligent design itself. George N. Schlesinger has famously rationalized this idea as "the fine-tuning intuition" through an analogy of random lottery-

If John wins a 1-in-1,000,000,000 lottery game, you would not immediately be tempted to think that John (or someone acting on his behalf) cheated. If, however, John won three consecutive 1-in-1,000 lotteries, you would immediately be tempted to think that John (or someone acting on his behalf) cheated. Schlesinger believes that the intuitive reaction to these two scenarios is epistemically justified. The structure of the latter event is such that it… justifies a belief that intelligent design is the cause… Despite the fact that the probability of winning three consecutive 1-in-1,000 games is exactly the same as the probability of winning one 1-in-1,000,000,000 game, the former event… warrants an inference of intelligent design.
Antony Flew, a former atheist supported this particular postulation of the universe stating that the chances are too slim to be random in case of fine-tuning and therefore he concluded in his work to

"go where the evidence leads."
His reversion to deism has been attributed by him to

“an intelligent being as involved in some way in the design of conditions that would allow life to arise and evolve.”
One has to gather that the randomness is not contained in "any combination" after it has been drawn. Ending up with a setup as we have now is where the fine-tuning cause lies. So, where the science has proven to be a fact that a 5% difference in Big Bang interactions could grow nothing on the earth and have no life to ponder upon, it is safe to conclude that without an intelligent being, the causation of the Big Bang or the beginning of any contingent existence has no evidential basis to account for. In fact, Fred Hoyle rightly remarked in one of his articles that the universe was too early to have collected lives by mere chance of a lottery draw. To assemble the blueprint for developing life in an order that it was conditioned in must have had an intelligent design to accredit to. In his book, Engineering and Science, The Universe: Past and Present Reflections, Hoyle mentions-

"Would you not say to yourself, “Some super-calculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly minuscule.” Of course you would… A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question." [1]

I, therefore, end my first round opening statements with the two arguments I saw best fitted to the debate spirit. I demand an open mind and a just and impartial consideration from the judges as they progress.

VOTE FOR CON

REFERENCES

Round 2
Pro
Forfeited
Con
Pro forfeited a designated segment (Rebuttal).

Had this been an open debate without designated rounds, I would've left this round to extend out of respect to Pro and the spirit of the debate.

However, by the Instigator's own settings, it's not and therefore I'll provide rebuttals to the opening statement of Pro.

Rebuttal

Pro shared two arguments in favor of atheism- both in my young academic opinion, incredibly incompatible with the modern debate of the same genre. How? Let's examine,

Rbt.1: Problem of Evil

This one has long been resolved, not disregarding the fact that the philosophical grounding of it is still under scrutiny. But the way Pro came out representing it is really immature. Pro cited sources of unfortunate and bad happenings around the world and asked for God in their justification. It is to be acknowledged that those responding to the Problem here accept wholeheartedly that there is evil in this world. But that doesn't, in any way, contradict with the existence of God- of course there are some classical theological arguments indicating that evil doesn't exist at all which I don't agree with. My premise is that having evil in the world doesn't disturb the notion of the Omnipotent God, rather solidifies His position as God in monotheistic prophetic sense. 

However, since my opponent avoided engaging in any scriptural paradox, I wouldn't really propound arguments based on Biblical or Quranic postulation. But still, I'd like to point out a couple of bullets briefly from that theodicy perspective.

THEODICY
--------------
So, theodicy is something that deals with philosophical and moral justification of the evil. According to the theory, existence of the evil is totally consistent with existence of the God. There are multiple aspects to theodicy; all used to rebut against the evidential (textual) side of the allegation. 

1. Skeptical Theism:

We basically use the Skeptical Theism side of theodicy where it's believed that the seen evil in the world pertains to a long term method of defying greater evil leading to greater good. Now, the plausible argument against such idea would be the "Omnipotence Paradox"- as to where is the greater good behind a murder of an innocent? And what is the greater evil that is prevented? Easy, because it is not a logical argument but an evidential one, we stick to our premise and cite our scriptures. Because a certain degree of faith is necessary to be a logical theist. I don't know of any Biblical verse (I'm not into the Bible for theism arguments; I mostly dig in for the trinity paradox) that addresses this issue but the Quran says,

"They plan and Allah (God) plans too and God is the best of planners" (Quran 8:30).

This stretch of faith in scriptures defends theodicy in an unaltered form.

2. Hidden Reasons Theodicy:

However, a more of a relatable argument in terms of theodicy considering the definition of God that we are dealing with is the hidden reasons theodicy. Because we accept God to be omnipotent, omnivolent and "all-knowing", we're readily ensuring that God is greater than us and the greatest. Therefore, our wisdom is super limited compared to God obviously, and the range of knowledge doesn't allow us to judge God in any way. So, we leave the certain bit of wisdom to God behind all the evils and we keep praying for the better. This side claims that just because the reason behind the evil is not comprehensible doesn't mean the reason doesn't exist. And it definitely makes sense for us because we believe in the God Pro just defined. For God says in the Quran,

"Surely I know whatever you don't know" (Quran 2:30)


3. Afterlife Theodicy:

Theism works around the idea of afterlife and Thomas Aquinas made sense of that while responding to the problem of evil. According to him and many contemporary philosophers of the time, the suffering and violence- every negative aspect of life is allowed for God to judge and place individuals in the everlasting heaven or hell. He went a step ahead and called the existence of heaven and heavenly treatment as the "greater good". Randy Alcorn agreed upon the idea and called afterlife to be the "Compensation" for all the evil in earthly life. However, monotheists don't really need to wait for philosophers to come up with a theory as they already go by the scriptures and the Bible (both Old and New testaments) and the Quran are riddled with hundreds of verses that describe about the actions on the face of earth and consequences in afterlife. So, I'm not specifying any quote here.

These were against the evidential versions of Problem of Evil. Now let's figure the logical aspect of it-

Free Will
------------ 
Pro addressed this response briefly and decided to avoid it as soon as possible. That's a classic problem with the problem of evil defenders- they would complain if God didn't talk about free will and they still do arguing why God doesn't intervene within the free will. The Judo-Chistianity and Islam refer compatibilism over absolute free will and that's what answers the issue of evil doing. Compatibilism dictates that we are gifted by God with a certain degree of freedom in this life to act out but that doesn't transcend the knowledge of the unseen that God possesses. The idea may sound complex but a couple of simple analogies (All analogies are flawed; using just to provide a gist) may help me here; made famous by Muslim preacher Dr. Zakir Naik-

ANALOGY 1:

Imagine you're at a junction of 3 roads- A, B, C before you. You have the freedom to choose any of the road. Now, your choosing of road C hasn't been affected by anything other than your own conscience and neither it has affected the knowledge of the God. So, committing evil out of our free will  doesn't negate the fact that God knows it beforehand and God intercepting the evil would disrupt the respect of free will. Makes sense?

ANALOGY 2:

You are giving a paper and your professor predicts that you are gonna fail and on the result day, you actually did. So, will you blame the professor for your failure or take responsibility for your poor performance? Because you didn't work hard, you failed and so you can't rightfully blame the professor for merely predicting it. Now, since God is WAY GREATER than the professor or any man on earth according to the definition He definitely KNOWS (doesn't predict like the professor) the outcome but doesn't alter your free will for it. It's up to you and you only how you use that free will- either in a benevolent manner or an evil one.

That's why philosopher Boyd states that

“ people with free will decide to cause suffering and act in other evil ways. It's their choice, not of God”

Rbt.2: Naturalism is a Better Model

Pro tried to justify naturalism with some far fetched claims.

 First, the scope of our universe is best explained undernaturalism.
He numbered some counts of stars and galaxies and claims that's what we'd expect under naturalism. Dig in, folks but there's nothing in the works that says that naturalism deals with the stars and galaxies.

the universe is a finely-tuned cosmic killing machine. Our very source of light and heat causes cancer, thousands of killer asteroids nearby that could wipe out life, gamma rays, supernovae, and harmful radiation can easily wipe out life.
The same universe that maintains life can't be detrimental at the same time according to pro. But my R1 Teleological Argument and Rbt 1 against Problem of Evil in combination answer Pro's assumption.

Third, under naturalism, you would expect the Earth and the universe to be billions of years old to allow sufficient time for life to evolve
This is where Pro has messed up big time. If evolution is considered, then naturalism itself is a self-defeating theory according to Alvin Plantinga and rightly so.  Plantinga propounded the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism or the EAAN that really weakens the naturalism model to its core. If you're not familiar with the theory, let me briefly plot it out-

If, E= belief in evolution, N= Naturalism and R= Mental faculties of humans are 100% reliable to contain the truth of life, then Plantinga proposes that P(R|N&E) is significantly low and inscrutable; that the probability of our independent mental faculties and functioning is low enough to grasp the idea that evolution and naturalism can walk together-

Reason
-----------
Darwin's theory is based on natural selection and got remodeled through molecular biology in the name of random mutation. None of the processes entail that the evolving life develops a constant belief as well. To quote Darwin's doubt,

But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?
— Charles Darwin, to William Graham 3 July 1881
Darwin's doubt coupled with random genetic mutation made it evident that belief is not coherent with the idea of evolution at all. Evolution passes on survival functioning and behavior; not a belief system. Therefore, combining it with naturalism doesn't make any sense because our mental faculties are NOT reliable enough as proven. But that stands for some case studies.

Case 1: If we believe that P(R|N&E) is low and inscrutable, that doesn't even mean theism is the only plausible option, it just means agnosticism takes over atheism in our faculties.

Case 2: If we believe in N&E and agree that P(R|N&E) is low and inscrutable, our attitude towards R is still agnostic; not atheistic.

Case 3: If we believe in N&E and reject the idea of P(R|N&E) we still are unsure of what it holds and therefore, again, we take the agnostic approach. 

Therefore, I've successfully proven that believing in N&E by Pro renders him to be an agnostic, not an atheist.

I will attach my sources in R3 due to lack of space. I apologize.

VOTE FOR CON!
Round 3
Pro
Forfeited
Con
Pro forfeited another designated round- Defense.

Seeing no challenge from Pro, my arguments go uncontested and so I have nothing to defend against.

Please extend my arguments of R1 with R2 rebuttals.

Attaching my missing references here as promised.

R2 References

3. Plantinga's "God, Freedom and Evil" (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans 1974), 24–29.

VOTE FOR CON!
Round 4
Pro
Forfeited
Con
Pro forfeited the last round as well.

> Con's arguments go unchallenged
> Con rebutted Pro's arguments
> Pro forfeited 'Defense' round and so Con's Rebuttals go unchallenged as well
> Description set by Pro has been violated by himself, I guess.

So, VOTE FOR CON