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Topic
#4879

The Cosmological Argument fails to demonstrate God's existence

Status
Finished

The debate is finished. The distribution of the voting points and the winner are presented below.

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After not so many votes...

It's a tie!
Parameters
Publication date
Last updated date
Type
Standard
Number of rounds
3
Time for argument
Three days
Max argument characters
10,000
Voting period
Two weeks
Point system
Multiple criterions
Voting system
Open
Contender / Con
0
1479
rating
318
debates
39.31%
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Description

I will argue that all forms of the cosmological argument for God's existence, be it a Christian God or otherwise, fail. Con can argue in favor of any form of the cosmological argument as long as it is demonstrative rather than probabilistic.
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"[The Cosmological Argument] uses a general pattern of argumentation (logos) that makes an inference from particular alleged facts about the universe (cosmos) to the existence of a unique being, generally identified with or referred to as God."
-Reichenbach, Bruce, "Cosmological Argument", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2022 Edition), Edward N. Zalta & Uri Nodelman (eds.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2022/entries/cosmological-argument/>

To be clear, this is what I refer to when I say "cosmological argument." It attempts to demonstrate the existence of God by deducing corollaries of some observation about the universe (e.g., things are in motion). There are several forms of it, such as the Kalam Cosmological argument, the first 3 of Thomas Aquinas's 5 "ways", and Aristotle's argument for the existence of a Demiurge.
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Round 1
Pro
#1
Mall, thank you for accepting the debate.

Forms of the Cosmological Argument
For this round, I will divide all the forms of the Cosmological Argument into two types: temporal (which includes the Kalam argument and the 3rd way of Thomas Aquinas among others), and atemporal (which includes Aquinas's first two ways among others). I will primarily address the various arguments of Thomas Aquinas in this round, since they provide the general framework that most forms of the cosmological argument adopt. 
All forms begin with an observation about the universe we perceive, such as the three following examples:
"It is certain and clear from our sense that some things in the world are moved" (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica q. 2 a. 3)

"We find in things some that are possible to be and not to be, since they are found to be generated and to corrupt" (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica q.2 a.3) 

"[T]he existence of motion is asserted by all who have anything to say about nature, because they all concern themselves with the construction of the world and study the question of becoming and perishing, which processes could not come about without the existence of motion." (Aristotle, Physics Book VIII, part 1)
From an observation such as these, the argument deduces that a necessary being, usually referred to as God, exists and was/is the cause of the universe as we perceive it. The main difference between what I have called the temporal and atemporal forms of the argument is that in the former, God is posited as a genesis for all contingent being, but in the latter, God is posited as a sustaining cause.
The Temporal Form of the Argument
This form normally begins with an observation of "generation and corruption" or "becoming and perishing." This refers to the fact that things seem to come into existence, such as a plant that grows from a seed, and then are destroyed, such as when that plant is eaten and digested by a herbivore. This "becoming and perishing" we witness seems to apply to all things we observe; thus, they are called "contingent things". Since no contingent thing can be the cause of its own existence, it must be caused by either another contingent thing that preceded it in time or a noncontingent (i.e., necessary) thing. Without a necessary being, there would be an infinite regress of causes, which is considered impossible, thus, the argument concludes a necessary being it calls "God."
Objection to the Temporal Form: The universe itself may be eternal
The observation of becoming and perishing itself is flawed. The reason Thomas and Aristotle argue that we observe becoming and perishing is because of their assertion that all substances must have a form (i.e., formal cause). Because of this, they claim that, for example, when a plant is being digested, a substance is being destroyed, rather than the atoms merely being rearranged. However, this assertion is highly debatable. If what Aristotle calls "becoming and perishing" is merely the rearranging of atoms, or of quanta, then no true creation or destruction is taking place. This would make the the first premise of the argument false, and the whole argument would collapse. 
This does not mean that the universe is infinitely old. One alternative is that time is cyclic rather than linear. If space is finite and there are a finite number of atoms, then are a finite number of positions these atoms could arrange themselves in. Thus, time would repeat itself infinitely. Another alternative is that time is not something that exists "outside" of consciousness, rather, it is one of the two frameworks of phenomena, along with space. This latter theory was espoused by Immanuel Kant. 
The Atemporal Form
In this form, God is a sustaining cause. The argument claims that, without a necessary being (a being of "pure act") to actualize the contingent world in any given instant, the contingent world simply would not exist. Otherwise, this form is similar to the temporal form in that it depends of the rejection of an infinite regress of movers.
Objection to the Atemporal Form:
Notably, we do not observe motion from potential existence to actual existence anywhere (in fact, as mentioned above, there is even a scientific law stating it cannot happen). Considering the example of water evaporation: water that is potentially vapor becoming actually vapor, moving from being actually solid to potentially solid, what basically happens is the water molecules begin to move faster. First, there are observable transfers from potency to act, which can be explained in this fashion, and second there is the theoretical actualization of a potentially existing thing, which cannot be. The first is more or less the various activities of atoms, and the second is the generation of them. Therefore, there is not sufficient reason to believe that these two things are analogous, and some of Thomas’s premises, specifically the following:
If, therefore, that by which it is moved is itself moved, then this also must be moved by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover, because subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are moved by a first mover (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica q.2 a.3)
are not necessarily true.
Lastly
I apologize for any lack of specificity. Once I see what specific form(s) of the cosmological argument you defend, I will be able to be more specific and precise. Finally, All the sources from Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle that I quoted can be read for free online, should you want the context of the lines I quoted.





Con
#2
The cosmological argument or the kalam cosmological argument as I get it just straightforward as can be put deals with causation.

I'm just going to be straightforward as possible. Much of the opposing side's communication stands to be much precise , concise and in plain language.

The Cosmological Argument fails to demonstrate God's existence. That's the topic.


So for my position the Cosmological Argument succeeds in demonstrating God's existence to me.

Now that's a true statement. That already institutes validity of a fact proving against the topic statement. It may be false to you because the argument fails to demonstrate.

So the topic can be rather subjective that way. This is likewise with the meaning of words which I wish to clarify here.

When you use the term demonstrate, I can show you with use of this term that the cosmological argument which would manifest or deliberately display (a quality or a type of behavior).

I can show in that sense which is objective and I don't believe you the opposing side have any objections of this meaning of demonstration . At least not any that you demonstrated, pun intended.

The basic argument is cause and effect. Everything we see demonstrates something causing that thing. This is the behavior we're demonstrating with God in everything we observe basically.

A seed in the ground with moist soil, fertilized and photosynthesis becomes a sprout, a bud, a stalk, a plant.

A man in the woman with moisture, fertilized,becomes or begats an offspring, newborn, infant, toddler, child, young adult, adult.

I think you get the concept so that you'd be able to understand what you are observing, you're a witness to what has been demonstrated to you , causality.
Round 2
Pro
#3
**Note: I will refer to the Cosmological Argument as "CA" from now on**
It seems like you have three different issues with my argument:
  1. My objection to the cosmological argument (CA) lacks specificity
  2. The topic "The CA fails to demonstrate God's existence" can be true or false at a subjective/personal level
  3. Cause and effect is demonstrated to me since I observe it*********
Firstly, I fully agree that my argument in the first round was vague in certain ways, since I addressed the many forms of the cosmological argument as one, rather than individually (which would have taken up too much space for the debate round). It seems like you singled out the Kalam CA to defend, so now I will address that form of the CA individually, and I will be more specific and concise.

The Topic is not Subjective
It seems to me that your second point was that demonstration can be subjective (for example, the CA demonstrates God's existence to you). To be clear, what you need to defend is simply the negation of what I have asserted, which is: The CA does NOT fail to demonstrate God's Existence. In round 1, you made the following claim:
So for my position the Cosmological Argument succeeds in demonstrating God's existence to me.
This claim is not the same as the proposition you should be defending (which is The CA does NOT fail to demonstrate God's Existence). The reason why this is the case is because of the word "demonstrate."
"Demonstrate" has been defined in the following ways in Merriam-Webster:
1. To show clearly
2a. To prove or make clear by reasoning or evidence
2b. To illustrate or explain especially with many examples
It is not true that an argument can be demonstrably true for one person while not so for another. Either an argument successfully demonstrates something, or it fails to do so. An argument that successfully demonstrates something is called a sound argument (this means its premises are true and its logic is valid). Even if I think an argument is false and someone else thinks it is true, that has no bearing on whether it is sound (in other words, that has no bearing on whether it successfully demonstrates its conclusion or not). Therefore, it makes no sense to say the CA fails to demonstrate God's existence for me, but succeeds for you; either it fails or succeeds, regardless of who is reading the argument. Either it is sound, or not; there is no in between. 
Finally, consider the following examples: 
It is a fact that science has demonstrated the Earth to be a globe, regardless that there are flat earthers who says science doesn't demonstrate this for them.
It is a fact that mathematics has demonstrated the Pythagorean theorem is true, regardless that there are presumably some people who say math hasn't demonstrated it to them.  

Objection to the Kalam CA
Dr. William Lane Craig (one of the primary modern proponents of the Kalam CA) formulized the Kalam CA in the following way:
  1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause of its existence.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.
  4. No scientific explanation (in terms of physical laws and initial conditions of the universe) can provide a causal account of the origin (very beginning) of the universe, since such are part of the universe.
  5. Therefore, the cause must be personal (explanation is given in terms of a non-natural, personal agent)
(Craig, William Lane and Quentin Smith, 1993, Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology, New York: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198263838.001.0001)
Of course, you are free to use your own formulization, but since you didn't offer one, I will use this one. From where you say "The basic argument is cause and effect..." to the end of your R1 argument, it seems all you are saying is that we observe cause and effect, thus it is demonstrated to us (and possibly something along the lines of "and God is 'in' all these things we observe"). I accept that cause and effect has phenomenal reality, but I would like you to clarify what you mean when you say:
This is the behavior we're demonstrating with God in everything we observe basically
How is God in everything? I don't see any proof for this. Until I see your reason to assert this, I can only treat it as a baseless claim. 

Here are my objections to the Kalam CA. Firstly, aside from P3, which is a corollary, and the conclusion, each step of this argument can be debated. 
Premise 1: 
Dr. Craig argues this both a priori and a posteriori. As far as I know, the main objection comes from consideration of quantum science. Since I know little about this, I won't focus on this premise. In short, our knowledge of events at the quantum level is "murky." For example, consider the following:
On the quantum level, the connection between cause and effect, if not entirely broken, is to some extent loosened. For example, it appears that electrons can pass out of existence at one point and come back into existence elsewhere. One can neither trace their intermediate existence nor determine what causes them to come into existence at one point rather than another. Neither can one precisely determine or predict where they will reappear; their subsequent location is only statistically probable given what we know about their antecedent states.
(Reichenbach, Bruce, "Cosmological Argument", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2022 Edition), Edward N. Zalta & Uri Nodelman (eds.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2022/entries/cosmological-argument/>)
In short, what we think we observe about cause and effect might not represent the real world. Quantum science gives up reason to believe the first premise may be false.
Premise 2:
Dr. Craig and others support this premise by arguing that an "actual infinite" is impossible. An example of an actual infinite would a line of past events that continues on for infinity. Since this is impossible, he argues, the universe must have a beginning. I have already addressed this premise in my section of temporal arguments. I suggested a cyclic rather than a linear view of time. While I agree that the idea of an infinite linear series of past events seems absurd (i.e., raises paradoxes), I do not believe these paradoxes apply to a cyclic view of time.
I also have already suggest (in round 1) that time is merely a framework of perception, rather than something with noumenal existence (i.e., existence independent of consciousness). I will refer to this view of time as a "Critical Idealist" view of time, as espoused by Kant.
I will concede the 4th premise for this debate.
In Summary
The Kalam CA depends on 1) a causal principle that is debatable at a quantum level, 2) a rejection of an actual infinite that I argue does not apply to a cyclic/eternalist view of time, and 3) the noumenal existence of time, which is rejected in the Critical Idealist view. I already outlined the latter 2 of these (admittedly, I did so very briefly), but as far as I can tell you didn't contest either of them. Hopefully, I have clarified my objection and it is clear you must either show why these three things are valid assertions despite my objection to each of them.
Con
#4
"To be clear, what you need to defend is simply the negation of what I have asserted, which is: The CA does NOT fail to demonstrate God's Existence. "

I show you that it demonstrates or shows you something, is that right ?

"In round 1, you made the following claim:
So for my position the Cosmological Argument succeeds in demonstrating God's existence to me.
This claim is not the same as the proposition you should be defending (which is The CA does NOT fail to demonstrate God's Existence). "

I don't know what you mean by claim but it is a fact the cosmological argument demonstrates to me. Now you can say it doesn't to you. It's like saying the movie is good but sucks to you. These are the facts. I'm the only one that can make a decision on this because it's subjected to me. What I truly like is not up for refutation. This is what I mean by  saying that this topic can be subjective. I didn't say it necessarily has to be because I'm using an objective meaning for the word demonstrate to setup an universal uniformityHopefully this is clear this time around.

"The reason why this is the case is because of the word "demonstrate."
"Demonstrate" has been defined in the following ways in Merriam-Webster:
1. To show clearly
2a. To prove or make clear by reasoning or evidence
2b. To illustrate or explain especially with many examples"

I've explained this in the last round by what you just provided. I illustrated examples with plants and people and maybe in your experience it has been shown clearly to you.

"It is not true that an argument can be demonstrably true for one person while not so for another. Either an argument successfully demonstrates something, or it fails to do so. "

If the argument has not been demonstrated to me while it already has to you then it is true that it's true for you , not for me, no pun intended .

Even if we both have seen the demonstrations, there may be an element in it I don't understand so therefore it's unclear and fails to demonstrate.

"Even if I think an argument is false and someone else thinks it is true, that has no bearing on whether it is sound (in other words, that has no bearing on whether it successfully demonstrates its conclusion or not)."

You're dealing with inherent validity. But reality is what it is based on perspective still.


"Therefore, it makes no sense to say the CA fails to demonstrate God's existence for me, but succeeds for you; either it fails or succeeds, regardless of who is reading the argument."

See this is a very example right here to what I'm talking about. The argument I'm dealing with about perspective you're not getting so it makes no sense to you. It has failed to be demonstrated to you. You can say I failed to demonstrate it. That just means I failed in explaining. A failed explanation doesn't necessitate no validity inherently. But it can be unfalsifiable to see the difference because of our perspective realities.

" is a fact that science has demonstrated the Earth to be a globe, regardless that there are flat earthers who says science doesn't demonstrate this for them."

So if it's a fact, does that mean that flat earthers just reject the fact?

I don't believe it's a fact or else you wouldn't have two sides to this just like the big bang and God. My perspective, your perspective, their perspective. Your perspective from it , it is a " fact " .

"but I would like you to clarify what you mean when you say:
This is the behavior we're demonstrating with God in everything we observe basically
How is God in everything? I don't see any proof for this. Until I see your reason to assert this, I can only treat it as a baseless claim. "

I want you to understand how I'm using the word demonstrate and how it's valid and fits with the definition we've used in this topic. Pay close attention to words.

I'll give you this example. You are behaving such as that of a child or animal. Therefore you're demonstrating the behavior of a child or animal.

I want to go back to this of what I mentioned earlier.

"When you use the term demonstrate, I can show you with use of this term that the cosmological argument which would manifest or deliberately display (a quality or a type of behavior)."

You display, show, manifest the behavior . So that is indeed demonstrating. That's all I have to argue in being valid with the term demonstrate. If the topic had the term prove instead of demonstrate, we could be going in another direction.

Now you do get super technical again with all the jargon and apologies for just keeping it down and plain like with those examples I gave.

The cosmological argument just plain and simple, concise and precise is cause and effect. See, just straight to the point. Everything that exists was caused or everything that begins to exist was caused. We see everything has a cause, that is empirical and demonstrable.

So in a nutshell the cosmological argument has demonstrated God or displays the behavior of God that everyone can see who has seen cause and effect or anything that has been created before them , in the presence of them.












Round 3
Pro
#5
The Topic is not subjective
Only a very small portion of your argument has had anything to do with the cosmological argument (maybe about 7%). Instead, you have mostly argued that demonstration can be subjective. I think it is pretty clear that the definition I had in mind for demonstrate was 2a ("to prove or make clear by reasoning or evidence"), but I admit I should have specified that in the debate description. The 2b definition ("illustrate or explain especially with many examples") is not used in the English language to refer to things like arguments or science. Rather, it refers to an action (e.g., the teacher demonstrated for the children how to draw a circle). Meanwhile, the 2a definition is used, to refer to proofs and arguments, especially in philosophy and mathematics. Consider the following:
In the Middle Ages, the theory of demonstration, developing the theory found in Aristotle's Posterior Analytics, was considered the culmination of logic, bringing all the other parts of the discipline to bear on the task of developing scientific knowledge.
(Longeway, John, "Medieval Theories of Demonstration", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2021 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2021/entries/demonstration-medieval/>)
This is what demonstration means in philosophy. Something that has been demonstrated is certain. "knowledge" can arguably even be defined simply as "that which has been demonstrated."
In light of this, consider the implications of these claims you made in round 1 (and upheld in round 2):
So for my position the Cosmological Argument succeeds in demonstrating God's existence to me...  It may be false to you because the argument fails to demonstrate.
What this implies is that a false conclusion can be demonstrated (i.e., proved with certainty) by one argument, which is of course absurd.

Back to The CA
Last round, I made three assertions that contradicted certain premises in the Kalam CA (1st: the causal principle is not necessarily valid. 2nd: a rejection of an actual infinite should not be applied to a cyclic model of time. 3rd: time does not exists noumenally (i.e., independent of consciousness). All of these assertions contradict certain premises of the Kalam CA, so, if even one of the is true, the argument is not sound. You have not disputed even one of these assertions (two of which I made in the first round; you have ignored them for two whole rounds). Please address the argument at hand. This is not a debate about what "demonstrate" means. Since this is my last round, I won't be able to respond in this debate, but I would still like to read your response.
Once again, Thank you for accepting the debate.
Con
#6
Maybe next time you want to stipulate the definition of demonstrate or you can use the word prove.

I don't think you got the point about the topic can be subjective. You say it's not I guess meaning it can't be. I've converted into an objective topic with the  use of the term demonstration .

Yes demonstrations can be subjective but given a chance to take a single demonstration of something so that it can appear to us all subjectively the same is also possible.

If we had more rounds we could of opened that up.

"What this implies is that a false conclusion can be demonstrated (i.e., proved with certainty) by one argument, which is of course absurd."

You didn't quote the entire context, quite convenient. I explained that what I demonstrate to you may fail to demonstrate because I failed in explaining it depending on what type of demonstration I'm doing.

For instance I demonstrate night and day with a flashlight shining on an object. The demonstration is true with light behaving as sunlight or representing the sun. But the demonstration fails to explain how it works because my explanation was "I click the button, light comes on, click it, goes off." We're talking about the sun.

 See , that's all. 

"You have not disputed even one of these assertions (two of which I made in the first round; you have ignored them for two whole rounds). Please address the argument at hand. "

Well I don't really understand much of what you're saying. It's very technical and it's not in basic terms like my point about the flashlight. Maybe make examples of what you're talking about so I can follow it better.

For instance you said "1st: the causal principle is not necessarily valid. 2nd: a rejection of an actual infinite should not be applied to a cyclic model of time. 3rd: time does not exists noumenally (i.e., independent of consciousness). "

I really don't understand what each of these statements mean. So I suggest making a realistic or practical example of what you're talking about and I can perhaps tackle it then.


"This is not a debate about what "demonstrate" means. Since this is my last round, I won't be able to respond in this debate, but I would still like to read your response."

This is logically flawed. The debate topic has the word DEMONSTRATE in it. What do you mean it's not about demonstration?

This is what I'm saying. Are you actually paying attention to the words we're using? Do you think they have no meaning? Words are the building blocks of our responses. They're not decorative characters to just throw around, downplay or run away from .

This is suspected as a dodge or prevarication of you. If the debate has nothing to do with demonstration, why did you take the time to put forth the definitions of the word?

See because you know I'm valid in using the word the way I do against you, you're moving the goalpost.

This is why you did not have a rebuttal to my example about demonstrating the behavior of a child and animal. It's because you know it's a true and valid example. Also I did it in plain straightforward language. I don't hide behind a lot of technical jargon and I don't go off a scripted presentation.

If you actually know what you're talking about, rephrase what you're saying into basic layman's terms that's all .

On top of that , you have a broad challenge. 

"Con can argue in favor of any form of the cosmological argument as long as it is demonstrative rather than probabilistic."

You didn't say the con side is to argue all forms. So you weren't specific on the definition of demonstrate, you weren't specific on the subcategory of arguments.  So I went specific and remained valid. I clearly came up with something you weren't prepared for and dismissed it. 

You're just prepared for a response to your script as suspected . Otherwise you should be able to deal with what I got, agree , concede, whatever.