Instigator / Con
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1499
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4
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37.5%
won
Topic

There is no God.

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Finished

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

Voting points
0
1

With 1 vote and 1 point ahead, the winner is ...

Intelligence_06
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Philosophy
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1
1681
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89
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~ 861 / 5,000

Debates about God's existence usually take the form where the theist presents their arguments for thinking that God exists, and the opponent tries to tear them down, showing that all the arguments fail. I want, however, to debate the thesis that God does NOT exist. What arguments can you give to think, not just that one cannot demonstrate that God exists, but that He (or She) in fact does not exist? (I also happen to believe that God exists, and I want a debate relevant to that topic where I can play Con and get the last word in!) The 15,000-word limit should give us enough space to really develop the arguments and objections. I will leave God to be defined intuitively in the usual way that most people use the word "God" in the Western world, though I am open to discussion on that point if someone would like to debate a more specific concept of God.

Round 1
Con
I forgot that the instigator goes first regardless of whether they are pro or con. In any case, I’ll pass this round, and Con can post his argument. Then, Con will pass in the final round for a total of three rounds. I wanted four rounds gosh darn it, but this works too!

Pro
Framework(?)

Let first look at the definition that Con provided of "God".
The all-powerful, all-knowing, perfectly good creator of the universe. That’s a fairly standard definition of God. [Comment #2]
And, as to the conversation within comments #2~4, it became clear that yes, Con is going to prove such a being exists, or at least to disprove a lack of existence for so. It must be proven or disproven the counterproof for these three points for God to exist.
  1. A being that is all-powerful exists
  2. A being that is all-knowing exists
  3. A being that is perfectly good exists
  4. A being that creates the universe exists
All four must be defended by Con simultaneously in order to declare it a Con win. However, because the length of this definition, it would only take Pro, or me, a sufficient proof of that one of the four points is untrue or impossible to exist to sufficiently win. 

With that said, let's go to the arguments.

A1: All-Powerful

Again, we are not talking about whether such a being definitely exists or not, but whether if it could theoretically exist. One cannot disprove the existence of chocolate fudge mountains prior to the discovery of such thing, due to just someone could just dump tons of delicious chocolate fudge into a location on Earth and that wouldn't violate the laws of physics(making it not a mountain at all), so chocolate fudge mountains can technically and theoretically exist.

However, such a being satisfying all 4 criteria would not even theoretically exist, due to the fact that logic itself fails to make existence for such a "God".

Omnipotence Paradox

All-powerful means
having unlimited power or authority[1].
There are many things that God cannot do whilst even following logic. For example, to carve a rock that God cannot move. If God can carve such a rock, then that means his moving strength is not maximal, and if God cannot, that means his carving ability is not all-powerful. Similar examples include but are not limited to:
  • Cook a dish that God cannot eat
  • Build a car that God cannot drive
  • Paint an artwork that God cannot enjoy
In which God's ability to do such things also means the inability to do other things. Also these things are definitely logical. I can carve a heavy statue that I can't move, You can mess up a dish badly enough that it is barely edible, I can build a malfunctioning car and you can paint a messy painting that just looks like garbage. No, no, these things are possible to be done even by us pure mortals, but like our lack of all-powerfulness, God's possible ability to do such things also demonstrates that God is not all-powerful.

And let's not even get started on irrational things. God cannot create a square with 12 vertices, nor can God create a heterosexual couple with two men.

Also, If God is truly all-powerful, then he also has the power to limit himself to the point that he is no longer all-powerful, assuming he is to begin with. I can handicap myself, so can you, but when God does it he is no longer all-powerful anymore. At last, it is not possible for God to prevent this account from posting this sentence on the internet ever. You all see this, and even witness accounts could prove the non-omnipotence of such being.

Perfectly Good

The two are contradictory as God has to handicap himself in order to be perfectly Good. If God is indeed all-powerful even in spite of all these loopholes, then God must be able to be bad, which contradicts the "perfectly good" point. If you answer with that "God can be bad, he just chooses not to", then I answer with that if a God can't even make himself to do evil, how exactly is he all-powerful?

A2: All-Knowing

Well, just like the omnipotence point, God should also be able to know how to execute the wiping of memory as well, render him thus not all-knowing. If a being that could have one's memory wiped and could do it at any point(thus all-powerful) and knows how to do it(if God does not know how to do that, then God is simply not all-knowing), then there is absolutely zero guarantee that God would know anything at all, let alone all-knowing.

A3: Perfectly good

To put it simply, as I have said above, if one has to be good, then none of the actions taken can be non-good, thus God cannot be all-powerful and perfectly-good at the same time.

But also, a "perfectly good being" theoretically cannot exist. This is because of subjective morality.

To put it simply, one' man's meat is another man's poison. There is no general standard for what is "good" and what is not. I request for Con to give a proof of why an objective basis in morality even exists.

We can think, that "Murder is wrong" is universally held, perhaps? Well, it isn't universal. At least someone at some point thought the inverse[2].
I really do. I’m a sadist. I get off on hurting people and torturing people.
I have never felt happiness in any real sense, in any sense YOU would understand. But fear, the atmosphere of terror after some horrible event, the way fear creeps through a small community after a murder, I LOVE that.
Wow, this contradicts what we think is moral and what is not! The point I am trying to make is that there is no measure of how good one thing or one act is. After all, if we can't even prove that a society valueing death and crime exists somewhere in this dimension, if we can't prove that a society defying all of our commently-held moral idea of what "good" is exists, then how are we going to prove God? And yes, in theory, societies that violate all of our commonly-held criteria of "good" exists(Even if each society only violate one, adding them all up, it is theoretically possible that no criteria of "good" is objective.). (By "Our", I mean the planet-Earth society that we live in.).

If there is no set rule on what "perfectly good" is, how is it possible that anything, let alone one that is theoretically possible to be non-good, could be perfectly good?

A4: Creating the Universe

God could prevent himself from creating the universe. How is it a guarantee that God is the one creating the universe, knowing that a big bang in of itself, which is just transferation and conservation of Energy could have created the universe, lacking the power to speak English(I mean, it is just an explosion, and no, what was created of the big bang spoke English, and not the big bang itself).

Other than that, nothing else.

Conclusion
  • Paradoxes prevent God to be all-powerful
    • The act of God carving a stone that God cannot move negates omnipotence no matter the outcome.
  • All-knowing and all-powerfulness contradict
    • The knowledge of wiping one's memory makes it impossible to know whether God knows anything, let alone everything.
  • Perfectly good is impossible
    • Morality is subjective and there is no set rule of what "good" is.
  • It is impossible to prove that God created the Universe.
    • God could have prevented himself from creating the universe and something else could have too.
  • Thus, according to Con, a God does not exist, theoretically. Vote Pro.
Sources

Round 2
Con
Thank you, Pro, for your arguments and for agreeing to this debate! I want to clarify at the outset, however, just who has the burden of proof. Pro, I submit, must show that God does not exist, while I do not “have to prove such a being exists.” Instead, I must only undermine Pro’s case that such a being does not exist. [1] This is not meant to be some cheap debating tactic; I intended such a differentiation from the get-go, though I did not say so explicitly in the preliminary comments. My mistake! I hope Pro and I basically agree on this point. With that out of the way, let us pursue the arguments Pro advances for the resolution: (i) paradoxes of omnipotence, (ii) incompatibility of omniscience and omnipotence, (iii) subjective morality and the impossibility of perfect goodness, and (iv) problems for God as Creator of the universe.

I. Paradoxes of Omnipotence

I do not find any of these arguments to be especially persuasive. With respect to (i), Pro raises four sub-objections to the coherence of omnipotence or the property of being all-powerful. My responses will take us into deep philosophical waters, but I will try my best not to drown (or drown any of you, beloved readers).

I.I The pernicious stone too heavy to lift

First, Pro points to things that even an omnipotent being could not do (e.g., carve a rock that one cannot lift, make a dish that one cannot eat, etc.), which seems contradictory. For example, take the stone too heavy to lift. If God can make such a stone, then there is something He cannot do: move the stone. If God cannot make the stone, then, again, that is limitation on His power. Either way, there is some concrete action that God, an omnipotent agent, cannot do. I’m this way, omnipotence is hopelessly contradictory. The problem with this argument is that almost no contemporary philosopher defines omnipotence as the ability to do absolutely anything. Rather, omnipotence is the ability to do anything that is logically possible. Turn again, then, to the stone too heavy to lift. Philosophers Hoffman and Rosenkrantz present us with the following disjunction: [2] 

Either (a) God is necessarily all-powerful, or (b) He is only contingently all-powerful.
Option (a) means that it is impossible for God to fail to be omnipotent, much as it is impossible for a bachelor to be married. However, as Hoffman and Rosenkrantz point out, the rub is that if (a) is true, then any stone God crafts will necessarily fall under His ability to lift. "A stone too heavy for God to lift" would in this case be just as incoherent as "A whole number in between 2 and 3". It is no limit on God’s power, therefore, if He cannot create rocks too heavy to lift, meals that He cannot consume, or cars He cannot drive. If we go with option (b), however, there is still no problem, for then God could create stones too heavy to lift or cups of coffee too gigantic to drink. It is just that once He creates them, He stops being omnipotent! So either way you slice it, omnipotence is coherent.

I.II Two married men: "No homo, bro"

These same considerations apply to Pro's claim that there are “irrational things” that God cannot do, like create a square circle or a heterosexual marriage between two men. I agree that God cannot do these things. But once we understand the logical limits of omnipotence, there is no problem here. Indeed, if the objector insists that a truly all-powerful God should be able to do the impossible, then the problem cases evaporate. For consider: in such a case, God could create a stone too heavy to lift and still lift it! He could bring two men together in heterosexual marriage. It does not matter that such would be contradictory, for God can do the logically impossible, after all.

I.III Does God have the power to stop being omnipotent?

Pro claims that “[i]f God is truly all-powerful, then he also has the power to limit himself to the point that he is no longer all-powerful.” Again, however, I fail to see a problem here. Recall the disjunction outlined above. If we take option (a), then it is impossible for God to not be all-powerful. In such a case, it is logically incoherent to suppose that God could “give up” his omnipotence. God could no more diminish His power than make it the case that square circles exist. And if, according to (b), God is only contingently all-powerful, then He does have the power to stop being omnipotent. Either way, omnipotence emerges unscathed.

I.IV The power to do evil

Finally, what about Pro’s claims regarding God’s inability to do evil? Surely, if God cannot do that, He cannot be omnipotent. In response, I rely on the account of omnipotence offered by Thomas Flint and Alfred Freddoso in their essay, “Maximal Power”. [3] What they argue is that a proper analysis of omnipotence should not be cashed out in terms of the ability to perform certain tasks (lifting a rock, creating a universe, doing something morally bad, etc.). Instead, the best account of omnipotence is in terms of actualizing states of affairs. While admittedly more abstract, their point is a profound one. States of affairs are complete descriptions of the relevant situation. So, “God’s creating the universe” is a state of affairs, while “creating the universe” is a task or ability. Now, if omnipotence means the power to actualize all logically possible states of affairs, it follows that omnipotence does not entail that God be able to sin. After all, the state of affairs, “An all-good being does an evil act,” is a contradiction. No one, not even a morally imperfect omnipotent being, could bring that state of affairs about. As Willian Lane Craig points out, Flint and Freddoso’s account is not one of divine omnipotence, or what it would mean for a perfectly good being to be omnipotent; rather, it is a general account of omnipotence [4]. No being, no matter their moral properties, could bring about the state of affairs, “God’s doing an evil act,” for that would be incoherent (once ‘God’ is properly defined, anyway). Being all-powerful, then, is compatible with lacking the ability to sin.

In short, to be omnipotent is to be able to actualize all logically possible states of affairs. Such an analysis does justice to our intuitive understanding of omnipotence, and it avoids all the problem cases cited by Pro.

II. Omnipotence and Omniscience: A Clash?

Concerning argument (ii), Pro claims that God, if He is omniscient, ought to know how to wipe His memory, and if He is all-powerful, He can in fact do such a thing. If that is true, however, we have no idea if God is still omniscient today.

This is not a good argument, for two reasons. First, God does not need to know how to forget everything He knows to qualify as omniscient. Traditionally, philosophers and theologians have defined omniscience, or being all knowing, as follows: [5]

a person S is omniscient if and only if (i) S knows all true propositions and (ii) S does not believe any false propositions.
This analysis makes clear that the type of knowledge at issue here is propositional knowledge: knowledge of all facts or statements, such as It is raining, The sky is blue, and so on. Pro's example of God knowing how to wipe his memory is not an instance of propositional knowledge but of "know how" or skill-based knowledge (knowing how to ride a bike, for example). So, even if God does not know how to forget everything He knows, that is perfectly compatible with omniscience; such a lack of skill on God’s part does not entail that there is some true proposition that God does not know.

Second, nothing of significance follows if God does know how to relinquish his omniscience (and has the power to do so). From the fact that God can do x, it does not follow that He does do x. When Pro writes that if God knows how to stop being omniscient, then there is “zero guarantee that God would know anything at all, let alone [be] all-knowing”, he subtly shifts the burden of proof. It is up to Pro to prove that God is not omniscient. It is not up to me to show that He is. So, Pro, why think that God, if He does have the power to relinquish Him omniscience, has done so? Obviously, we have no such reason.

III. Moral Perfection

What about argument (iii)? If I understand Pro correctly, the argument runs like this:

  1. If it is possible to be perfectly good, then there must be an objective standard of goodness.
  2. There is no objective standard of goodness.
  3. Therefore, it is not possible to be perfectly good.
While I grant premise (1), I see no reason to accept (2). Pro “request[s] for Con to give a proof of why an objective basis in morality even exists,” but this demand is misplaced. It is not up to me to show that morality is objective; Pro, if their argument is to succeed, must show that morality is not objective.

Now, Pro seems to argue that because no moral principle is universally agreed upon (the sadist, after all, may find nothing wrong with murder), morality is not objective. However, things can be objectively true while not being universally regarded as true. For example, it is objectively true that the world has been around for more than 10,000 years. There are many people, however, who do not believe that fact. When it comes to morality, it is objectively true that murder is wrong, and the sadist who thinks otherwise is simply mistaken. Just as people can have literal blindness that prevents them from seeing physical reality, we all have moral blind spots that prevent us from seeing objective moral reality 100% of the time. In any case, Pro must show that this analysis is false.

Pro asks, “If there is no set rule on what ‘perfectly good’ is, how is it possible that anything…could be perfectly good?” My answer is to affirm that there must be an objective standard of goodness if anything is to be perfectly good. However, the key point is that we do not need to perfectly grasp that standard in order for it to exist. Indeed, to be objective just is to exist independently of whether any person believes it to exist. Truths of mathematics are objective in this sense (even if no one ever discovered Godel’s Incompleteness Theorems, it would still be the case that mathematics is incomplete). In short, universal agreement is not a prerequisite for objective moral truth. So, for all we know, there could well be an objective moral order and a being who aligns perfectly with that order.

IV. Did God create the universe?

Finally, what about argument (iv)? Pro leads with the claim that God could have prevented himself from creating the universe. I agree. The question, however, is not whether God could have withheld from creating anything, but whether He did do so. Pro must show that it is impossible or unlikely that there is a personal creator of the universe if this argument is to support the resolution.

God or the Big Bang?

Pro also questions how we can know that God created the universe rather than the Big Bang. I have two responses. First, the objection rests on a confusion. The ‘Big Bang’ is just the name for the first event in our universe’s history, that initial segment when all matter and energy came into existence. It no more created the universe than the beginning of my personal existence created me (rather than some yucky behavior on my parents’ part). If one presses that the Big Bang did cause the universe, then we can simply push the analysis back a step and ask what brought the Big Bang into being. So long as God created the Big Bang, and the Big Bang caused the universe, then, by proxy, God created the universe. Second, at the risk of being pedantic, let me point out that Pro has the burden of proof here. They must demonstrate that there is no creator of the universe if they are to give evidence for the resolution (at least with this argument). It is not up to me to show that there could not be a different origin for the universe – Pro must show that it could not be God.

In conclusion, Pro’s arguments ultimately fail to establish that God does not exist. He may exist yet. Pro, back to you!

Notes

[1] I take this to be what Pro means when they write that I must “at least…disprove a lack of existence” for God.
[2] Hoffman, Joshua and Gary Rosenkrantz, "Omnipotence", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2022 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), forthcoming URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2022/entries/omnipotence/>.
[3] Flint, Thomas P. and Alfred J. Freddoso. “Maximal Power,” in Philosophy of Religion: A Reader and Guide, edited by William Lane Craig, Rutgers University Press,2002, 265.
[4] Craig, William Lane. “Omnipotence and the Ability to do Evil.” https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/question-answer/omnipotence-and-the-ability-to-do-evil.
[5] Wierenga, Edward, "Omniscience", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2021 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL =<https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2021/entries/omniscience/>.


Pro
Thanks to Pendragon521 for providing his view on this topic. I acknowledge that Con's purpose, at least here, is to destruct Pro's cases supporting the topic.

1. On Omnipotence

The problem with this argument is that almost no contemporary philosopher defines omnipotence as the ability to do absolutely anything.
[citation needed]

Also, even then, dictionaries and websters do.
Merriam-Webster: having unlimited power or authority[1].
Cambridge: unlimited power and the ability to do anything[2]
The Free Dictionary: Having unlimited or universal power, authority, or force; all-powerful.[3]
Of which Unlimited means[4]:
1: lacking any controls UNRESTRICTED
3not bounded by exceptions UNDEFINED
So, by dictionaries, which are undoubtedly used to convey definitions for a term, Omnipotence does express the power of the ability to act all possible acts, to do everything, even without the bound of logic or anything else.

These are just few listed ones. To prove that Omnipotence in fact does not directly convey the meaning of the absolute ability to do everything, Con must be able to prove that dictionaries are in fact non-authentic sources. Con has so far failed to actually disprove my definition from Merriam-Webster, or that dictionaries are authentic. Note: An idea does not need to be coherent, it could also be something that is outright impossible and makes no sense, for example, the creation of a square with no vertices nor sides.

Now let us look at another quote that Con has brought up.
Either (a) God is necessarily all-powerful, or (b) He is only contingently all-powerful.
In which, the statement only concerns about God, and not any other subject. Since it assumes that God only is all-powerful with restrictions, it automatically negates the state for God to be actually all-powerful, since there is a limiting modifier for all-powerful, such as that God can only carry out things that are logical.

What this means is that this sentence essentially says that God is not omnipotent or all-powerful. He is only powerful to a certain point that God is capable of doing everything that is not logically contradictory. By definitions stated by the dictionaries, God is not all-powerful. The two interpretations are just interpretations, and by the same logic, God is not absolutely all-powerful, reasons already stated.

Essentially, what is further meant in philosophical papers of "omnipotence" were just modifications to the concept within an interpretation because even the philosophers know, that by the dictionary definition, God isn't "omnipotent". So they just make up a bunch of rules, as to make "omnipotence" theoretically possible and to make sense, despite that it isn't actually what it is anymore. However, we should not utilize a modified excuse for omnipotence to be theoretically possible, because by common understanding, omnipotence is unlimited, and is not even meant to be a concept that makes sense. By common understanding, as illustrated by the dictionaries, Omnipotence is originally designated to an idea that does not have to make sense and does not have to be theoretically possible and to modify it in order for it to make sense would bear resemblance to a goalpost shift.

Further, Con has not touched on the fact that God did not prevent a designated sentence from ever being posted on the internet by me.
At last, it is not possible for God to prevent this account from posting this sentence on the internet ever.
All God needs to do is to basically automate a program and erase this sentence every time it is being typed up. However, God did not do so, which indicates that God is not omnipotent. Note, changing the present is something even us mortals could do, and this method involves no time travelling nor changing the past, thus avoiding logical incoherencies that could be caused. The fact that God failed to do this shows his non-omnipotence.

God can't revive my great-grandfather who passed away a decade ago now, an act that could be simply be through rearranging atoms and molecules, in the present. There are all kinds of things that happen now that God is unable to change, and changing the present does not cause paradoxes like changing the past. How is the fact that God is unable to change the present in certain ways even point to the fact that God is even necessarily or contingentally all-powerful?

Then at the end, God can make himself not omnipotent, if he really is. Any omnipotent being can too. Therefore, there is no guarantee that an omnipotent being, as labeled, could do anything as he can just limit himself. We can all limit ourselves, so why can't God?

2. Omniscience

First of all, God could definitely un-learn true propositions. It is simple. God should be able to make himself do anything at any point of time. If he can't make himself forget things(for example, make himself not know some true propositions), then that would automatically mean that he is NOT omnipotent. If he truly satisfy the criteria of omniscience, then that means he knows all true propositions, which means that he is not omnipotent since if he really is, then there is no guarantee that God knows anything at all, with the ability of wiping memories at any given time.

Even if Con's definition is true, omnipotence and omniscience, choose one. You can't be both.

 So, Pro, why think that God, if He does have the power to relinquish Him omniscience, has done so?
Because if he wouldn't, that means he can't make himself to perform the act of memory-erasing, which is not theoretically contradictory. That would mean no being of both omnipotence and omniscience exists.

3. Morality and Good

While I grant premise (1), I see no reason to accept (2). Pro “request[s] for Con to give a proof of why an objective basis in morality even exists,” but this demand is misplaced. It is not up to me to show that morality is objective; Pro, if their argument is to succeed, must show that morality is not objective.
So no proof. OK, so there is still no proof of an objective and absolute basis of morality, as of this stage of this debate. Let's move on.

For example, it is objectively true that the world has been around for more than 10,000 years. There are many people, however, who do not believe that fact.
Actually no, it is not objectively true. The world could be a simulation that was put in place and started running from last thursday, and it was designed to trick you and deceive you into believing that something before that had took place. This, although impossible to prove, is actually possible to be rationalized[5], and it could actually be true, so no, it is actually not objectively true that the world is over 10,000 years old.

When it comes to morality, it is objectively true that murder is wrong, and the sadist who thinks otherwise is simply mistaken.
And the person you call "sadist" is might be pitying on you for how much you value life when it is so worthless. Con has brought up ZERO sources on why murder is objectively wrong. Not even philosophical papers or even A-priori proofs that can fit the 15,000 character limit. Thus, this claim is unsupported. Con has not even attempted to disprove possible civilizations that violate the moral laws we think are true, and if the response was just "he is wrong", then Con is as wrong to them as they are wrong to him. Exactly, morality, how right and wrong it is, it is relative, and not absolute. If it matches one's moral ideals, it may be "good", vice versa. However, God simply can't appease anyone. He can't appease Con the same time as the person Con calls "sadist", and God simply cannot act "good" to both persons at all times.

Pro asks, “If there is no set rule on what ‘perfectly good’ is, how is it possible that anything…could be perfectly good?” My answer is to affirm that there must be an objective standard of goodness if anything is to be perfectly good. However, the key point is that we do not need to perfectly grasp that standard in order for it to exist. Indeed, to be objective just is to exist independently of whether any person believes it to exist.
How is this any different from that there is actually no rules on what "perfectly good" is? If no one can perfectly grasp it, and it exists outside everyone's beliefs, then that is equivalent to that there will never be proof of such a set of standards, which is indistinguishable from it not existing. In the end, Assume there is such a moral standard, then no one can prove it, which means that it is the same as it not existing. If I have a dragon in my garage that is invisible, mute, and breathes invisible fire, then what is the difference from it not existing at all? 

In fact, Con only speculates of the possibility of a moral standard, which still is impossible to prove its existence by its definition given. There is also the possibility that it is NOT existent and present. In that case, since we cannot prove whether it exists or not, we thus have no guarantee on if "perfectly good" is possible, or that anything is "perfectly good". It is thus impossible to prove anything is perfectly good.

And I leave with: How could God be perfectly good if he, by omnipotence, can do non-good, even if we know what "good" actually is? Exactly. Perfectly good and omnipotence, choose one, you can't be both.

VOTE PRO!

Round 3
Con
Thank you, Intelligence_06, for your interaction with my objections! Let us review each argument Pro offered for the resolution.

I. God as All-Powerful

Pro pressed four objections to the possibility of omnipotence.

I.I Paradoxes

Pro's first argument was that omnipotence is paradoxical because it entails that even an all-powerful being cannot do certain things: create an undrinkable drink, an unmovable stone, etc. I gave two responses.

1. If God is necessarily omnipotent, then it is logically impossible for Him to create any of these objects, and if He is contingently all-powerful, He can create all of them.

Take the first option: God is essentially omnipotent. To appreciate this point fully, we must distinguish between act theories and result theories of omnipotence. [1] According to act theories, omnipotence is cashed out in terms of tasks or abilities. An agent S is all-powerful if and only if S can carry out any logically possible task. The stone paradox arises for act theories because the task of crafting a stone its creator cannot lift is clearly coherent, and yet an omnipotent being cannot have that ability without generating a contradiction. However, result theories characterize omnipotence in terms of the states of affairs an omnipotent agent can actualize. "Creating a stone" is an ability, while "God's creating a stone at time t" is a state of affairs. If we accept the following,

An agent S is omnipotent if and only if S can bring about any logically possible state of affairs
then the stone paradox disappears. "A necessarily omnipotent agent creating a stone they cannot lift" is an impossible situation, so God need not be able to bring it about. In short, so long as result theories of omnipotence are coherent, there is no reason to think that being all powerful is paradoxical.

Now, Pro responds that I provided no citation for my claim that basically no contemporary philosopher takes omnipotence to imply the power to do the logically impossible. Fair enough! William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland report that “few thinkers, aside from Descartes…affirm that the doctrine [of omnipotence] means that God can do just anything – for example, make a square circle.” [2] Indeed, Flint and Fredosso write in their influential account of maximal power that “an omnipotent being should be expected to actualize a state of affairs p only if it is logically possible that someone actualize p,” a claim they take to be “self-evident.” [3] I agree.

Against the above argument, Pro points to definitions in Merriam-Webster, Cambridge and so on, that seem to imply that omnipotence is limitless power, and even logical constraints would be a limit on God’s power.

This is not a good argument. First, it contradicts Pro’s original construction of the objection. They write in their opening statement that “[t]here are many things that God cannot do whilst even following logic” (emphasis mine), going on to list the various paradoxical cases. Once I pointed out that none of these objects are logically possible for an omnipotent being to construct, Pro seems to grant the point but now collapses their first objection into their second: God ought to be able to do the logically impossible. So, it is Pro, not the crafty theistic philosophers, who is guilty of moving the goal posts.

But secondly, Pro is pressing his cited definitions too far. Oxford English Dictionary defines omnipotence as “the quality of having unlimited or very great power,” [4] a perfectly acceptable explication of the concept but one that is compatible with the very general limit of logical consistency. But even if we accept the broadest definition as “having unlimited power or authority," that still does not imply the ability to bring about contradictions. This point becomes even more obvious when we contemplate Pro's definitions for “limitless”:

  • Lacking any controls
  • Boundless, infinite
  • Not bounded by exceptions: undefined
If we take these explications to entail the absence of even logical consistency, then nothing whatsoever is limitless. Literally every instance of the word “limitless” in the English language would then be false (logic, after all, 'limits' everything in this sense), a reductio ad absurdum of Pro’s argument. When we say that numbers increase without limit, or that the stars extend limitlessly, we mean that they extend out forever, infinitely. That is exactly what we mean when we describe the extent of God's power: it is infinite and inexhaustible. Nothing about the word "limitless" - whether it qualifies money, size, quantity, or power - implies something that transcends the laws of logic.

The above discussion, while fascinating, is a bit beside the point considering our second option: if God is merely contingently omnipotent, He can create all the objects mentioned by Pro. For example, God could create the undrinkable drink; but once He does, He loses His omnipotence. So even if Pro’s cases are a problem for a being that is essentially omnipotent (a point I do not grant), they are not a problem for omnipotence as such. The only point left to make is that no part of the definition of God agreed to for this debate includes the claim that God possesses any of His attributes essentially or necessarily. So, on this point alone, Pro’s argument fails.

2. Suppose, however, that Pro is right and our dictionaries imply that an all-powerful being must be able to contravene the laws of logic. In that case, Pro’s entire argument against omnipotence goes out the window. God can create a stone too heavy to lift and still lift it. It does not matter that to do so would be self-contradictory; God can do the impossible, after all! Pro cannot have it both ways: either omnipotence entails the power to do the logically impossible, or it does not. If it does, then Pro’s problem cases evaporate. If not, then Pro has failed to show any instance of a logically consistent situation that God could not bring about. In either case, there is no argument against omnipotence here.

For those two reasons, then, Pro's first argument fails.

I.II Square Circles and Married Bachelors

Everything said above will be relevant to assessing Pro's second argument: God’s creating square circles and heterosexual marriages between two men (doesn't flow as nicely as "gay marriage", does it?). God need not be able to create these to qualify as omnipotent. If, however, an omnipotent agent can disobey the laws of logic, then God can create all of them, including "a square with no vertices nor sides." Either way, no problem!

Pro fleshes out two further problems cases for God’s omnipotence. (i) God “did not prevent a designated sentence from ever being posted on the internet by me…. which indicates that God is not omnipotent.” This is obviously a non-sequitur. From the fact that God does not do a thing, it does not follow that God is unable to do that thing. God did not annihilate the universe five seconds ago. But He presumably could have.

(ii) Pro claims that “God can't revive my great-grandfather who passed away a decade ago now.” Clearly, God has not raised Pro’s great-grandfather from the dead. However, it just does not follow that He lacks the power to do so. Even ordinary agents like us can do all sorts of things that we refrain from doing. I can drink seven cups of coffee a day. I choose not to.

I.III Can God limit Himself?

Pro then argued that an omnipotent being ought to be able to limit His power. Two responses. First, for the sake of argument, let us grant the point. What follows? That God is not omnipotent? No. To reiterate an earlier point, from the fact that God can do a thing, it does not follow that He will do that thing. So, if this is to be a serious argument, Pro must show that God, if He has the power to relinquish his omnipotence, has done so and thereby ceased to be God as defined in this debate. I do not know how Pro could prove something like that.

Second, if God is necessarily omnipotent, then "God's relinquishing his omnipotence" is a logically impossible situation. Therefore, an all-powerful agent need not be able to bring it about.

I.IV. Omnipotence and Goodness

Finally, Pro argued that if God is morally perfect, then He cannot be all-powerful. I responded with a detailed argument from Flint and Fredosso that God’s omnipotence, when framed according to result theories, poses no problem for moral perfection. Pro offered no response, except to merely reiterate the objection. I extend arguments here.

II. God as All-Knowing

Pro argued that omniscience and omnipotence are incompatible because if God is all powerful, then He can wipe His memory, thereby destroying His omniscience. As I indicated, however, this argument is multiply flawed. First, omniscience is the property of knowing all true propositions and believing no false propositions. So even if God does not know how to “un-learn true propositions,” that lack of know-how or skills knowledge does not undermine God’s grasp of all true propositions.

Second, if the problem is that God’s omnipotence entails that He has the power to stop being omniscient, my reply is the same as above. Omnipotence does not entail the ability to do the logically impossible, and if God is essentially omniscient, not even an omnipotent being can make God not omniscient. If, however, God is only contingently omniscient, then God would be able to destroy his cognitive perfection. In that case, the point to make is that from the mere fact that God can undo his all-knowing perfection, it does not follow that He will do so. Now, Pro replies that if God “wouldn't [wipe His memory], that means he can't make himself to perform the act of memory-erasing." But that reply is a non-sequitur. Even though I will not drive twenty miles under the speed limit on my way to work, it does not follow that I lack the power to do so.

III. God as Perfectly Good

I provided the following reconstruction of Pro's argument against God's perfect goodness:

  1. If it is possible to be perfectly good, then there must be an objective standard of goodness.
  2. There is no objective standard of goodness.
  3. Therefore, it is not possible to be perfectly good.
The idea behind (1) is that it is only coherent to talk about a perfectly good being if there is some objective standard of goodness. I accept the point, so the debate will come down to premise (2): why think that there is no objective standard of moral goodness? It is important to realize that because this is Pro's argument for the resolution, they have the burden of proof to show that its premises are true. I do not have to show that (2) is false; I only need to show that Pro has given no good reason to think that it is true. In response to that claim, Pro has nothing to say except, "So no proof....Let's move on," which just is to concede my point. So, when Pro writes that "since we cannot prove whether it exists or not, we thus have no guarantee on if 'perfectly good' is possible, or that anything is 'perfectly good'," they have undercut their entire argument. Pro has to show that an objective moral order does not exist if the argument above is to succeed. But they now seem to admit that they cannot do that!

Now, Pro did seem to sketch an argument for (2): there is no universal agreement about moral principles. Even if most people agree that murder is wrong, for example, there will always be sadists who disagree. This is a bad argument for (2). Why? Simply,

For a statement to be objectively true, it does not have to be universally regarded as true.
For example, it is objectively true that the Earth is older than 10,000 years, even though many people fall prey to Young Earth Creationism. Pro responds, remarkably, that it is not objectively true that the world is extremely old. He writes that "[t]he world could be a simulation that was put in place and started running from last Thursday." I honestly do not know what the argument here is supposed to be. It does not follow that because it is logically possible that the world is a simulation, that therefore it is a simulation. Maybe Pro’s point is just that even if it were true that the universe is billions of years old, we could not know that to be the case. But that point is perfectly consistent with my general claim that objective truth obtains independently of how many people believe it. When Pro concludes that Last Thursdayism "could actually be true, so no, it is actually not objectively true that the world is over 10,000 years old," that is a non-sequitur.  It is both logically possible that the world was created last Thursday and it is objectively true that the universe is 13.7 billion years old.

Now, there is a more substantive concern in the neighborhood. If morality is objective, why is it that a sadist, for instance, can come to radically different conclusions about morality and its nature? The moral objectivist can maintain that while it is objectively true that murder is wrong, the sadist, through cognitive dysfunction, has the incorrect belief that murder is permissible. The situation here is on par with sensory experience. Some people are blind and cannot see the physical world as fully as sighted people can. Similarly, some people are impaired in their moral sensibilities and cannot grasp otherwise obvious moral truths. Pro has given no reason to think that this possibility is false, so their argument for premise (2) fails. Now, maybe it isn’t true! But it is not up to me to show that this account is true; it is up to Pro to show that it is false. If they cannot do that, then we have no reason to think that moral disagreement entails moral subjectivism. For that reason, Pro's claim that "Con has brought up ZERO sources on why murder is objectively wrong" is true but irrelevant.

Finally, to be perfectly good is to be perfectly loving, just, kind, compassionate, generous, patient, and so on. It is, in the apostle Paul's words, to manifest the fruit of the Spirit to an infinite degree. A perfectly good being, then, is not analogous to an invisible dragon in Pro's garage because we can concretely specify what such a being must be like.

IV. God as Creator

Pro dropped his arguments against God as creator of the universe. I extend my objections.

V. Conclusion

In the end, every one of Pro's arguments for the resolution fails. Pro is far too quick to dismiss the coherence and possibility of God's maximal power, knowledge, goodness, and status as Creator.

Notes

[1] Pearce, Kenneth L. "Omnipotence," Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
[2] Craig, William Lane and J.P. Moreland. Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, 2nd Edition. InterVarsity Press, 2017, 533.
[3] Flint, Thomas P. and Alfred J. Freddoso. “Maximal Power,” in Philosophy of Religion: A Reader and Guide, edited by William Lane Craig, Rutgers University Press, 2002, 265.
[4] A Google search for “omnipotence” returns this result first, with Oxford English Dictionary referenced as the source by Google.
 













Pro
Thanks for Pendragon521 for the detailed response given. Very interesting debate indeed. Sorry for responding very late into the week because I have to prepare for school exams.

Omnipotence

The above discussion, while fascinating, is a bit beside the point considering our second option: if God is merely contingently omnipotent, He can create all the objects mentioned by Pro. For example, God could create the undrinkable drink; but once He does, He loses His omnipotence.
That brings up the doubt of whether if it is even possible to guarantee that God would not lose his omnipotence. God is supposed to be able to do such a thing, according to Con's theories, but he then becomes non-omnipotent after it. If God can make himself a rock that is unliftable at any given point of time(which, honestly, should not be logically contradictory), thus losing omnipotence, then there is no way to prove that anything, given if it is "omnipotent" before, is omnipotent now for that they can do the class of things in which the class contains cooking a perfectly inedible meal and carving an unliftable rock. It is basically that due to such properties, if God is omnipotent, he wouldn't be anymore.

The stone paradox arises for act theories because the task of crafting a stone its creator cannot lift is clearly coherent, and yet an omnipotent being cannot have that ability without generating a contradiction.
In conclusion, all in all, God cannot do something that is originally defined as logically coherent. No, there is not a contradiction, nor is there a need for it. And why an omnipotent being generates such a paradox? Because they can't do it without being non-omnipotent, which basically means that God is not omnipotent, he just can't be. So, God is non-omnipotent.

We should acknowledge the fact that the task of creating an unliftable stone is not logically contradictory. God can't do it without losing omnipotence. God is non-omnipotent.

However, result theories characterize omnipotence in terms of the states of affairs an omnipotent agent can actualize. "Creating a stone" is an ability, while "God's creating a stone at time t" is a state of affairs. If we accept the following,
God should be able to revive my great-grandfather now, and to erase this sentence from the internet, from perhaps one week ago to undefined limits of time in the future. So far, he is still resting peacefully underground, and the sentence still exists. In the end, God cannot do these things from given times. God cannot prevent a plane from crashing into buildings in NY back in 2001/9/11, and God cannot prevent Trump from ever being elected president of America, in methods that can be understood by all people now. The fact that these things exist means that according to result theories, God is non-omnipotent.

Also, being able to carve an unliftable stone at time t is an ability. You either can or you cannot. Abilities do not have to be transendental. I can win the Super Bowl LVIII or I cannot. Being able to carry out a task at a certain time t is an ability just like the ability of a timeless task. I can win the Super Bowl, and I can win the 2024 Super Bowl(or I can't, obviously). Being able to change states of affairs freely is an ability. Even due to Act theories, the fact that My great-grandfather is dead and this sentence still exists means God is not omnipotent. Were god omnipotent, he should be able to change them at this defined time, and when the time passes, it means God has failed to get himself to change the state of affairs at time t(t = now), which means he is permanently non-omnipotent.

It is simple, If God cannot do logically coherent things, he thus is not omnipotent. If God does the impossible, then he isn't omnipotent either. Either way, including anecdotal evidence, that it is proven that it is impossible to say anything is omnipotent.

I accpet the definition Con has brought upon because even that definition is unable to make my case unsound.

To reiterate an earlier point, from the fact that God can do a thing, it does not follow that He will do that thing. So, if this is to be a serious argument, Pro must show that God, if He has the power to relinquish his omnipotence, has done so and thereby ceased to be God as defined in this debate.
First, suppose God IS omnipotent, he should be able to limit himself at this point, or at any other point that we are alive to observe. If God is omnipotent, he should be able to limit himself at every given moment, in which there then would be no guarantee that God is omnipotent. "Limiting himself and prevent himself from being omnipotent while not doing anything else for infinite amounts of time, starting now, in the precondition that this is possible" should be logically possible for God. For this point alone, Con's point fails.

Then, at last, God cannot make himself be an all-evil being, nor can he sin. Obviously, God, if all-good, can't do evil and that is no problem. However, the inability of God bringing the state of affair "That God is no longer good" means he is non-omnipotent, along with the inability of reviving my great-grandfather now and the inability of erasing this sentence or any sentence directed for infinite amounts of time, which shouldn't at all be contradictory.

I get that God may be defined originally as "non-evil", but if God can't even change that, he is not omnipotent. And no, God changing himself from good to non-good should not be contradictory just like I can be evil. A perfectly good being can't be non-good, but a perfectly powerful being should be able to change himself from good to not.

Omniscience

Now, Pro replies that if God “wouldn't [wipe His memory], that means he can't make himself to perform the act of memory-erasing." But that reply is a non-sequitur. Even though I will not drive twenty miles under the speed limit on my way to work, it does not follow that I lack the power to do so.
You are unable to drive 20 miles under the speed limit on your way to work on the day when you decided not to do so. That is a fact. God is unable to wipe his memory at every given possible moment if he were to keep being omniscient. My point stands still.

Good

Pro has to show that an objective moral order does not exist if the argument above is to succeed. But they now seem to admit that they cannot do that!
And somehow that proves there is an objective moral standard? Nah. That just disproves the fact that an objective moral standard can be proven to exist. It can't be proven to exist due to that it is outside of everyone, and it is theoretically possible for other civilizations we don't know to violate our laws of morality. Either way, there is no way to prove there is an objective moral order, which means perfect goodness does not exist.

The moral objectivist can maintain that while it is objectively true that murder is wrong, the sadist, through cognitive dysfunction, has the incorrect belief that murder is permissible.
And another objectivist can maintain that while it is objectively true that murder is right, Pendragon521, through cognitive dysfunction, has the incorrect belief that murder is wrong. Keep in mind that dysfunction does not mean "wrong", it just means that they are significantly different because there is not an objectively correct body or thought, or that we can't prove it whatsoever. 

And no, just because you are built different, does not mean you are wrong. From the POV of the sadist, or it is called, the world is wrong. And we just watch from the sidelines with popcorn in a rectangular box.

The situation here is on par with sensory experience. Some people are blind and cannot see the physical world as fully as sighted people can. Similarly, some people are impaired in their moral sensibilities and cannot grasp otherwise obvious moral truths.
And for possible communitiess who has always been blind, the concept of "vision" is just mistaken hallucinations in the brain, and the people "with vision" are wrong. Then, what is the actual "correctness"? The answer is no. There isn't one. Are we ought to believe that for whatever reason, we are the right one whatsoever? If that is the case, everyone will still end up with different standards with moral correctness, in which "perfectly good" is still impossible.

It does not follow that because it is logically possible that the world is a simulation, that therefore it is a simulation. Maybe Pro’s point is just that even if it were true that the universe is billions of years old, we could not know that to be the case.
No. The universe can be, you know, NOT be billion years of old and only a couple of days old? That is totally possible, and it is a possibility just like the possibility that the Universe is created billions of years ago. As a result it is not objectively true that Earth is older than 10K years.

But it is not up to me to show that this account is true; it is up to Pro to show that it is false. If they cannot do that, then we have no reason to think that moral disagreement entails moral subjectivism.
No, it isn't whether it is true or not, it is that there is no basis to prove any of this is true. What makes murder wrong or that blind people are impaired? What if blind people are the right one and you are just hallucinating? Exactly, either we don't know or it is subjective. I don't have to prove it wrong, I just have to prove it isn't "right", or it has no basis.

Finally, to be perfectly good is to be perfectly loving, just, kind, compassionate, generous, patient, and so on.
And you maintain that. I maintain that to be perfectly good is to kill others, be grudging, be angry, to sin, etc. just for the sake of it, as a "moral objectivist". How do we know that this is "perfectly good"? I demand Con to prove why they are objectively correct, and not just they believe it is right and it is right to them. The latter contributes nothing to the case. 

Conclusion

  • God cannot be omnipotent as it is impossible.
    • God failed to change the state of affairs in several ways, rendering it non-omnipotent permanently.
    • God failed to have the ability to get himself to successfully carry out as a result to change the states of affairs in those ways, meaning non-omnipotence. God has failed to successfully carry out it, I repeat. If God didn't do it, he did not get himself to successfully carry it out, which is non-omnipotence.
    • When God breaks logic, he automatically becomes non-omnipotent.
      • Either God can or God cannot do those things. Either way, God is still non-omnipotent.
  • God cannot be omnipotent and omniscient at the same time.
    • God should be able to wipe his memory and limit himself for every single moment. Therefore, if God is omnipotent, he has thus erased memories of himself and is not omniscient, and when he is omniscient, he is not omnipotent. Simple as that.
  • God cannot be "perfectly good".
    • Con has provided little evidence of why "to be perfectly loving, just, kind, compassionate, generous, patient, and so on" is to be perfectly good, which means either there is no basis in objective morality or if there is, it just applies to whoever believes in it, which is still subjective in greater vision.
    • It is impossible to prove what is the objective morality due to everyone's behaviors being different and there are possible communities that defy all our knowledge of morality at every single point.
    • It is impossible to say that anything moral-wise is true due to different perspectives. To the "sadist", we are all wrong about murder and he is right. He is wrong to us but not to his fellow sadists at that moment. How is it then possible to say that he is objectively wrong, and not subjectively?
    • Even if God can be perfectly good, the omnipotence would mean that God can change his state of perfectly good to NOT perfectly good, which is not contradictory. It is contradictory to do evil when you are perfectly good, and it isn't when you have already cut your ties with any kind of goodness. Perfect goodness and omnipotence clashes and to be both is not possible. 
  • In the end, a theoretical "God" cannot exist.
  • Vote PRO!
P.S. Thanks for Pendragon521 to let me engage in such an interesting discourse. I appreciate that!

Round 4
Con
Thank you, Intelligence_06, for engaging in this substantive debate with me. As agreed, mine will be the last statement in the debate and Pro will not post any further response following. Pro has constructed a three-pronged case, not simply for the conclusion that God does not exist, but that He cannot exist. Like the married bachelor, the concept of God is incoherent. Does Pro’s case succeed?

I. Can God be all-powerful?

Con originally pressed four objections to the possibility of an all-powerful being.

1. The stone paradox shows that omnipotence is contradictory - I gave three [1] responses: (i) result theories of omnipotence resolve stone paradoxes, (ii) even if God’s omnipotence entails that He can create the unliftable stone, it only follows that He is contingently omnipotent, and (iii) if Pro is right and an omnipotent being can do the logically impossible, then He can do literally anything, including creating paradoxes and contradictions.

Against (i), Pro writes that “being able to carve an unliftable stone at time t is an ability,” with the implication being, I take it, that result theories and act theories amount to the same thing. However, Pro has clearly misstated the relevant state of affairs. It is not “being able to carve an unliftable stone," but rather, “A necessarily omnipotent agent creating a stone too heavy to lift." The latter, being a complete description, is a situation rather than an ability. But once stated in its complete form, we can see quite clearly that the relevant situation is impossible and therefore an omnipotent being need not be able to bring it about. Nowhere in Pro’s essay do they provide a reason for rejecting result theories of omnipotence; therefore, their first objection to omnipotence falls flat. Pro writes that “the task of creating an unliftable stone is not logically contradictory.” True! But that is irrelevant to an assessment of result theories which do not analyze omnipotence in terms of tasks. According to result theories, the incoherence involved in God’s creation of a stone too heavy to lift arises at a higher conceptual level, so to speak, at the level of the total situation or state of affairs. For that reason, once we understand omnipotence as limited by logical consistency, we can see that God need not be able to create drinks too large to drink, stones too heavy to lift, etc. even if He is all-powerful.

Against (ii), Pro says that if it is possible for God to stop being all-powerful, then “there is no way to prove that anything, given if it is 'omnipotent' before, is omnipotent now.” But as I have stated throughout the debate, Pro has the burden of proof. I do not have to show that there is an all-powerful being out there in reality; Pro must show, not merely that we cannot know if God exists, but that He does not exist. So, it is not enough for Pro to move us towards agnosticism about God's omnipotence. They must show that God, if He has the power to relinquish His omnipotence, has done so and thereby ceased to be all-powerful. Pro nowhere tries to do that.

Pro gave no response to (iii) except to claim that “[w]hen God breaks logic, he automatically becomes non-omnipotent,” a point they never argued for.

2. An all-powerful being ought to be able to craft square circles and other contradictory objects, something that is, of course, impossible. Pro now seems to agree that omnipotence does not imply the ability to do the logically impossible, in which case this argument cannot get off the ground. Under this heading, I also considered Pro’s claims that God’s failing to (a) resurrect their grandfather or (b) unwrite Pro’s argument from Debate.org shows that He does not have the power to do these things. I pointed out that this chain of reasoning is a simple non-sequitur. Pro did not respond, except to merely restate his claims without interacting with my remarks.

3. An omnipotent being should be able to limit itself, rendering it impossible for us to know whether said-being is still omnipotent. I gave two responses: (i) God cannot diminish His power if He is essentially omnipotent, and (ii) even if He could, it does not follow that He has (a point we already encountered above). Unfortunately, once again it looks like Pro has declined to engage my responses, so I extend arguments.

4. God’s perfect goodness is incompatible with His omnipotence. I replied that an analysis of maximal power in terms of actualizing states of affairs allows one to affirm the consistency of perfect goodness and almighty power. Pro replies that “the inability of God bringing the state of affair ‘That God is no longer good’ means he is non-omnipotent.” I disagree. Pro has correctly ascertained the relevant state of affairs, but once we define God as the perfectly good, all-knowing, all-powerful Creator of the universe, that situation becomes identical to the following:

A perfectly good being doing something evil.
which is logically incoherent; therefore, an omnipotent being need not be able to bring it about.

In short, we have seen no good reason to think that an all-powerful being could not exist.

II. Can God be all-knowing?

Pro further argued that God’s omniscience and omnipotence are incompatible because God, if He is all-powerful, should have the power to wipe His memory, in which case we have no idea whether He is still omniscient. I gave two responses: (i) if God is necessarily omniscient, then God’s inability to erase His memory is no more problematic than His inability to create square circles, and (ii) even if God could destroy his knowledge of all things, that fact alone gives us no reason to think that He has carried out such self-destructive behavior.

Pro gave no response to (i).

Given (ii), Pro’s argument does nothing to show that God, as defined in this debate, does not exist. Under their heading, “Omniscience,” I do not see any response to this point either, aside from some inscrutable remarks about illustrations I gave of more general principles.

We are left, then, with two reasons to reject Pro’s argument against the possibility of omniscience.

III. Can God be all-good?

Here Pro argued as follows:

  1. If it is possible to be morally perfect, then there is an objective standard of goodness.
  2. There is no objective standard of goodness.
  3. Therefore, it is not possible to be morally perfect.
Throughout the debate, Pro never objected to the above reconstruction, so I will run with it. At a general level, I argued that Pro’s repeated requests for me to prove that morality is objective were confused because Pro has the burden of proof here. They must show that an objective moral order does not exist. Now, Pro retorts, “And somehow that proves there is an objective moral standard?” Of course not! Throughout this debate, I have given no reason to think that morality is objective; my strategy has been intentionally defensive because I refuse to obscure the fact that Pro must provide reasons to think that an objective moral standard does not exist. If we have no reasons to conclude either that morality is objective or that it is purely subjective, then we have no reason to accept premise (2). Pro’s argument therefore fails to establish the resolution. For that reason, Pro cannot get away with trying to foist upon me the task of proving that an objective standard of goodness exists.

The final point to add is that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. So, when Pro concludes that "there is no way to prove there is an objective moral order, which means perfect goodness does not exist," that conclusion simply does not follow. It is the exact same logic as certain theists who argue that if you cannot disprove that God exists, then it follows that He exists. Both Pro and our hypothetical theists have clearly conflated absence of evidence with evidence of absence.

However, it does seem that an argument Pro had given for premise (2) is the following:

i. If goodness is objective, then everyone would agree about which actions are good and which are not.
ii. Everyone does not agree about which actions are good and which are not.
iii. Therefore, goodness is not objective.

The problem, of course, is with premise (i). It is just false that if morality is objective, then everyone ought to perceive that morality correctly and therefore agree on its nature. Consider a parallel argument:

a. If an objective physical world exists, then everyone would agree about what the physical world is like.
b. Everyone does not agree about what the physical world is like.
c. Therefore, an objective physical world does not exist.

This argument is parallel to Pro’s but leads to an absurd conclusion. Premise (b) is plausible, not only because blind people exist who experience the world in an entirely different way than sighted people, but different scientific theories exist about the ultimate nature of the physical world. There is no universal agreement about anything! We can then take this as a reductio ad absurdum of Pro’s argument. Remarkably, Pro seems prepared to accept the conclusion of this parallel argument. Maybe our experience of sight is just a hallucination in the brain! 

Rather than get distracted at this point by arguing for the objectivity of the physical world, my point here is a deeper one: the hypothesis of an objective moral order, compromising things like compassion, justice, equality, kindness, mercy, and above all, self-giving love, is perfectly compatible with the existence of people who do not agree that these listed qualities are actually good. Just as the hypothesis of a 13.7-billion-year-old cosmos is compatible with there being young earth creationists, it is perfectly possible for there to be a correct, objective, and binding set of moral principles while some people fail to apprehend those principles. How is that possible? Well, one answer is that sadists, psychopaths, and any hypothetical civilization that valued murder and rape are all cognitively dysfunctional, akin to the schizophrenic that sees objects that do not really exist. Now, am I claiming to be able to prove that they are cognitively dysfunctional? Nope! So long as we have no reason to think that this scenario is false then we have no reason to believe that premise (i) above is true, and therefore no reason to think that premise (2) in the "master argument" is true, either. My objection to premise (2), then, is what philosophers call an undercutting defeater, not a rebutting defeater. The latter tries to show that a claim is false, while the former only removes any reason for thinking that it is true. Either way, however, we have no reason to conclude that a perfectly good being could not exist.

The general point here is an insightful one: only in a world of omniscient people could we infer that objective truths imply universal agreement. So long as people remain cognitively imperfect and irrational, limited in time, space, resources, and access to information, there will never be universal agreement about anything, much less the nature of morality and what it requires of us. Of course, we could give into global skepticism at this point and abandon the possibility of knowledge, but that conclusion is not forced upon us. I see clearly that loving one’s children is a great good, and torturing innocent people for one’s own amusement is a horrendous evil. And I think that people who disagree are wrong in the same way that someone who says 5 x 5 = 789 is wrong - objectively. Now, there are sadists and psychopaths who disagree with my assessment of the moral landscape. But their inability to see what I do clearly see gives me no reason to doubt my moral perceptions.

In short, for all we know, there are objective standards of what is good, bad, right, and wrong, and therefore, for all we know, there is a being that perfectly measures up to those objective standards.

IV. Conclusion

Pro has not given any strong reason to affirm the resolution. Nothing argued in this debate successfully rules out the possibility that an all-powerful, all-knowing, perfectly good Creator of the universe exists.

P.S. Thank you Pro for this very intriguing debate! I have appreciated the chance to flesh out my reflections on God and His attributes, and while I do not think Pro has proven the resolution, they have shown for me that issues I once thought were simple and settled were actually quite complex and require careful articulation and thoughtful consideration. I look forward to future debates with them and others.

Notes

[1] Last round, I structured my remarks around two responses to this objection, but I really made three separate points, so I've corrected the ambiguity.
 
 
 


Pro
Per the rules of this debate, I am to give up the last round. Anyways, thanks to Pendragon521 for having such an interesting discussion. Vote Pro if you find Pro’s argument convincing.