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  1. #1
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    Formalizing Atheist Objections

    I thought I would try to present rigorous forms of atheist objections to theist arguments.

    SPECIAL EXCEPTION

    An argument commits the SPECIAL EXCEPTION error when it is of the form:

    1. For all s in S, P(s).
    2. For all t in T, ~P(t).
    2. Consider r, an element in S.
    3. r is also an element of T.
    4. Therefore, ~P(r).

    Here, I am trying to capture the objection, "You're just saying Goddidit, and it's okay because it's God." Do the resident atheists think this is an accurate characterization?



    EDIT: I plan on doing "Circularity" and "Begging the Question" as well, if I can manage to nail down this first definition.)
    If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. - Soren Kierkegaard
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  2. #2
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    Re: Formalizing Atheist Objections

    Look, man. It's not that hard to follow.

    The big question is "how did the universe come into existence?".

    The theistic answer is "god made it."

    The agnostic answer is "we don't know."

    The atheist answer is "we don't know, but it wasn't god."

    Theists think that god is a viable answer to the big question. It isn't. The only way god is tenable is grant quite a few special exceptions.

    Theists point out that the universe had to have a beginning, but give god a free pass from this requirement... declaring (by fiat rather than evidence) that god is "eternal". This is just a cop out.

    Theists point out that human intelligence is too complicated to have happened naturally and thus requires a designer. But god has to be intelligent (far more so than man), but requires no designer. So god gets yet another free pass/special exception. He gets defined as intelligent... as though the definition is the same as evidence.

    Science tells us that something can't come from nothing. But god necessarily has to be able to make something from nothing. Are we given any evidence to support how this is possible? No. Just more unsupported nonsense worded as a definition.

    So the objection atheists have to god is the free pass you give him. The free pass doesn't always fit the flow of your syllogism. But you're pretty close.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again: it's detective work. And in detective work it's always better to discard a flawed idea and embrace "I don't know, but we'll keep investigating".

  3. #3
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    Re: Formalizing Atheist Objections

    Zhav, this thread isn't to continue the same old tired arguments we see in every thread by atheists (as if all threads concerning theology are the same). It is to put into formal logical terms the actual argumentation. If one is not familiar with formal logic, it's probably best to refrain from posting an argument in this particular thread and instead, save it for another.

    Let's keep this thread on topic.
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  4. #4
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    Re: Formalizing Atheist Objections

    Quote Originally Posted by Apokalupsis View Post
    Zhav, this thread isn't to continue the same old tired arguments we see in every thread by atheists (as if all threads concerning theology are the same). It is to put into formal logical terms the actual argumentation. If one is not familiar with formal logic, it's probably best to refrain from posting an argument in this particular thread and instead, save it for another.

    Let's keep this thread on topic.
    Quote Originally Posted by me
    So the objection atheists have to god is the free pass you give him. The free pass doesn't always fit the flow of your syllogism. But you're pretty close.
    The point I was making is that logical flow doesn't always hold. And there's plenty of folks on ODN who haven't studied logic to the point where it looks like math. If you want to talk about the flow of special pleadings, then it's important to expand on what they are.

  5. #5
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    Re: Formalizing Atheist Objections

    Quote Originally Posted by zhavric
    Theists point out that the universe had to have a beginning, but give god a free pass from this requirement... declaring (by fiat rather than evidence) that god is "eternal". This is just a cop out.

    Theists point out that human intelligence is too complicated to have happened naturally and thus requires a designer. But god has to be intelligent (far more so than man), but requires no designer. So god gets yet another free pass/special exception. He gets defined as intelligent... as though the definition is the same as evidence.

    Science tells us that something can't come from nothing. But god necessarily has to be able to make something from nothing. Are we given any evidence to support how this is possible? No. Just more unsupported nonsense worded as a definition.
    I have addressed all of these issues in previous posts of another thread that remains unanswered.

    1) If everything that begins to exist has a cause and an infinite regress is impossible, then there must be a sufficient eternal first cause. Both of these premises can be argued without assuming that the first cause is God. So we are not using a definition of God as support as you claim, but rather, if an intelligent creator is the best explanation, then based on these premises, it is logical that if God is the cause, then he is likely to be eternal, or we are led back into an infinite regress.

    2) There is no reason to assume that God would himself begin to exist. The only reason we assert the Universe began to exist is because we know this is the case from our study of Cosmology. With no reason to assume that God has a beginning, assuming that he had a cause is to multiply the assumptions beyond what is necessary.

    3) Your intelligence argument is a hasty generalization. Creationists assert that intelligence is too complicated to happen naturally, not theists. And it ignores those teleological arguments that do not assume that intelligence must be designed. Namely the Argument from Fine Tuning. So your entire counterargument falls apart if the theist makes no claim about the creation of intelligence.

    4) But God is not creating something from nothing. The assertion that from something can't come from nothing only applies if nothing exists. But if God exists, then it is not the case that nothing exists. This has to be the lamest assertion of all.
    Last edited by chadn737; July 23rd, 2011 at 08:05 AM.

  6. #6
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    Re: Formalizing Atheist Objections

    Quote Originally Posted by chadn737 View Post
    then there must be a sufficient eternal first cause.
    ...
    There is no reason to assume that God would himself begin to exist.
    No, Chad, you don't know that. The only tenable position is "we don't know". Because an "eternal first cause" causes just as many problems (more if it's the Christian version of god) as an infinite past. It's a textbook example of the special pleading fallacy when you get into it.

    Your intelligence argument is a hasty generalization.
    No, Chad. It isn't. You can't redefine your way out of the argument. You can't subtract definitions when it suits you to solve a logical hole you've dug for yourself. If god isn't intelligent, then he's little more than a misnomer for a natural phenomenon. If he is intelligent then you're invoking a special pleading by insisting that his intelligence doesn't require a designer.

    But God is not creating something from nothing.
    What a ridiculous thing to assert? Think carefully about this:

    If god can't create something from nothing then it means that something existed that god changed into the universe... which leads us back to all the problems with an infinite past regression.

    If god can create something from nothing, then you're invoking a special pleading because we have a scientific law that says this cannot be done. If you think god should be exempt from this law, you have to give something more substantial than "he's god lol"... which is a textbook example of a special pleading fallacy.

  7. #7
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    Re: Formalizing Atheist Objections

    Quote Originally Posted by zhavric
    No, Chad, you don't know that. The only tenable position is "we don't know". Because an "eternal first cause" causes just as many problems (more if it's the Christian version of god) as an infinite past. It's a textbook example of the special pleading fallacy when you get into it.
    I'm trying to find the argument here, but there is none. So I am going to give you the chance to elaborate.

    What are the specific problems caused by an eternal first cause?

    And how does that lead to special pleading.

    If you can't give specify these, then I must assume you are just ********ting.

    No, Chad. It isn't. You can't redefine your way out of the argument. You can't subtract definitions when it suits you to solve a logical hole you've dug for yourself. If god isn't intelligent, then he's little more than a misnomer for a natural phenomenon. If he is intelligent then you're invoking a special pleading by insisting that his intelligence doesn't require a designer.

    Special pleading is a form of spurious argumentation where a position in a dispute introduces favorable details or excludes unfavorable details by alleging a need to apply additional considerations without proper criticism of these considerations themselves. Essentially, this involves someone attempting to cite something as an exemption to a generally accepted rule, principle, etc. without justifying the exemption.


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_pleading

    I am having a hard time deciding whether you are just this ignorant of the Argument from Fine Tuning or deliberately misrepresenting it.

    The Fine Tuning version of the Teleological Argument makes no claims about how intelligence originates. Even if intelligent life evolved, its still valid, in fact, it can even assume that intelligent life evolved. Because it does not argue about the origins, but rather the environmental and physical conditions that enable it to exist.

    So this is a false accusation of a fallacy.
    What a ridiculous thing to assert? Think carefully about this:

    If god can't create something from nothing then it means that something existed that god changed into the universe... which leads us back to all the problems with an infinite past regression.

    If god can create something from nothing, then you're invoking a special pleading because we have a scientific law that says this cannot be done. If you think god should be exempt from this law, you have to give something more substantial than "he's god lol"... which is a textbook example of a special pleading fallacy.
    Equivocation. You are equating logical premise that something cannot come from nothing with the scientific concept of conservation of energy. The two are not the same.
    Last edited by chadn737; July 23rd, 2011 at 10:05 AM.

  8. #8
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    Re: Formalizing Atheist Objections

    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples View Post
    I thought I would try to present rigorous forms of atheist objections to theist arguments.

    SPECIAL EXCEPTION

    An argument commits the SPECIAL EXCEPTION error when it is of the form:

    1. For all s in S, P(s).
    2. For all t in T, ~P(t).
    2. Consider r, an element in S.
    3. r is also an element of T.
    4. Therefore, ~P(r).

    Here, I am trying to capture the objection, "You're just saying Goddidit, and it's okay because it's God." Do the resident atheists think this is an accurate characterization?



    EDIT: I plan on doing "Circularity" and "Begging the Question" as well, if I can manage to nail down this first definition.)
    I think the atheist position is very much simpler than that - anything that is remotely connected to deities or the supernatural is automatically false unless it can be re-factored to be grounded on natural causes.

  9. #9
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    Re: Formalizing Atheist Objections

    Sharmak, to be clear, the atheist position is "God does not exist because God does not exist" and we should invoke special pleading as a legitimate case here to avoid their circular reasoning?
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  10. #10
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    Re: Formalizing Atheist Objections

    Quote Originally Posted by Apokalupsis View Post
    Sharmak, to be clear, the atheist position is "God does not exist because God does not exist" and we should invoke special pleading as a legitimate case here to avoid their circular reasoning?
    No, the atheist position is "God does not exist because supernatural beings do not exist". No special pleading is required - the set of supernatural beings can already be dismissed and God is only one example of a class, deities, within that set.

    Oops - correcting:

    No, the atheist position is "God does not exist because deities do not exist". No special pleading is required - God is only one example of a class, deities, within that set.

    (The atheist position is a subset of a skeptical position, which expands the set further).

  11. #11
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    Re: Formalizing Atheist Objections

    Quote Originally Posted by SharmaK View Post
    No, the atheist position is "God does not exist because supernatural beings do not exist". No special pleading is required - the set of supernatural beings can already be dismissed and God is only one example of a class, deities, within that set.

    Oops - correcting:

    No, the atheist position is "God does not exist because deities do not exist". No special pleading is required - God is only one example of a class, deities, within that set.

    (The atheist position is a subset of a skeptical position, which expands the set further).
    This is blatant tautology. So obviously fallacious is it, I have no idea how you can even take it seriously or even what sort of fallacy to call it. God does not exist because deities do not exist? God = deity, they are synonymous terms and there is no reasoning here aside from the argument's own circularity.

    I think some of my brain cells just died.

  12. #12
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    Re: Formalizing Atheist Objections

    Quote Originally Posted by chadn737 View Post
    This is blatant tautology. So obviously fallacious is it, I have no idea how you can even take it seriously. God does not exist because deities do not exist? God = deity, they are synonymous terms and there is no reasoning aside from its own circularity.

    I think some of my brain cells just died.
    I'm assuming by 'God' we mean the Christian God, Yahweh, hence the capitalization; otherwise, the term 'god', lower-cased would be used. 'deity' is the general class describing the type of being gods such as God (Yahweh), Thor, etc. are.

    I can't help it if you guys choose a generic term to describe a specific thing. Go to your branding department.

  13. #13
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    Re: Formalizing Atheist Objections

    Quote Originally Posted by SharmaK View Post
    I'm assuming by 'God' we mean the Christian God, Yahweh, hence the capitalization; otherwise, the term 'god', lower-cased would be used. 'deity' is the general class describing the type of being gods such as God (Yahweh), Thor, etc. are.

    I can't help it if you guys choose a generic term to describe a specific thing. Go to your branding department.
    You do realize that the two instances that I used the word "god" came at the beginning of two different sentences. The conventions of the English language are that you capitalize the first letter of each sentence. I'm sorry, I was unaware I had to explain such basics.

    And even if it is as you said, its still does not follow that God does not exist because deities do not exist. That's still circular reasoning.

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    Re: Formalizing Atheist Objections

    Quote Originally Posted by chadn737 View Post
    You do realize that the two instances that I used the word "god" came at the beginning of two different sentences. The conventions of the English language are that you capitalize the first letter of each sentence. I'm sorry, I was unaware I had to explain such basics.
    No apologies needed, the ambiguity obviously pushed you to choose the worst possible interpretation and it seems that I should apologize for not being aware of traps like that. I'll try and be more careful in future.

    Quote Originally Posted by chadn737 View Post
    And even if it is as you said, its still does not follow that God does not exist because deities do not exist. That's still circular reasoning.
    No, it's like saying fruit doesn't exist and therefore apples don't exist. "Fruit" is the category of things that "apples" belongs to. Similarly "God (Yahweh)" belongs to a category of deities.

  15. #15
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    Re: Formalizing Atheist Objections

    Quote Originally Posted by SharmaK
    No, it's like saying fruit doesn't exist and therefore apples don't exist. "Fruit" is the category of things that "apples" belongs to. Similarly "God (Yahweh)" belongs to a category of deities.
    And what is the basis of saying deities do not exist?

    CS is trying to get you (the atheists) to formalize your reasoning on this assertion. Which you have not done, but rather you have simply asserted "deities do not exist." You have not answered the challenge, only pushed back the question itself.

    Let me try to explain it differently, because you are missing the point. Saying that apples do not exist because fruit does not exist doesn't solve the issue, it just pushes back. Now, instead of the assertion "apples do not exist" you have merely changed it to "fruit does not exist."

    You say god does not exist because you reject anything out of hand that is not what you classify as "natural." However this an appeal to nature. The argument that something is true because it is natural and something false because it is not natural. But this only raises additional questions that then lead to more circular reasoning. How do you know that only the natural is true? How do you know the supernatural is false? See, you've only pushed back the problem, not solved it.

    ---------- Post added at 06:03 PM ---------- Previous post was at 05:53 PM ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by SharmaK
    No apologies needed, the ambiguity obviously pushed you to choose the worst possible interpretation and it seems that I should apologize for not being aware of traps like that. I'll try and be more careful in future.
    I was unaware that following the rules of writing is now considered a "trap."

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    Re: Formalizing Atheist Objections

    Quote Originally Posted by chadn737 View Post
    I was unaware that following the rules of writing is now considered a "trap."
    Neither was I.

    ---------- Post added at 06:13 PM ---------- Previous post was at 06:05 PM ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by chadn737 View Post
    And what is the basis of saying deities do not exist?
    Because 100% of them are human inventions; most believers of deities attest that theirs is the only one. It's like a circular firing squad - nobody is left once we're done because you guys don't agree on what what the 'true' deity is. As we atheists are so fond of quoting, "we are all atheists, but Atheists go one god further".

    Quote Originally Posted by chadn737 View Post
    That's really the entire point of this thread. CS is trying to get you (the atheists) to formalize your reasoning on this assertion. Which you have not done, but rather you have simply asserted "deities do not exist."
    I think the point of the thread was to take classes of argument and rewrite them in formal logic not to formalize an argument to justify it. I don't know the system well enough to do so but it seems that the definition of an atheist seems to be a good one to go with too.

    Quote Originally Posted by chadn737 View Post
    Let me try to explain it differently. You say god does not exist because you reject anything out of hand that is not what you classify as "natural." However this an appeal to nature. The argument that something is "true" because it is natural and something false because it is not natural. But this only raises additional questions that then lead to more circular reasoning. How do you know that only the natural is true?
    We're getting way off topic - but I'm exploring "evidence" with cstamford at the moment; join in there if you like, its a good OP. Briefly, there are two arguments - I know natural explanations are true because they are usually couched in science, a proven methodology used to determine accurate models regarding the working models of our universe. Secondly, I also know that all non-natural explanations have never been proven to be true and most have been directly proven false. Together I am certain that the supernatural is not true.

  17. #17
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    Re: Formalizing Atheist Objections

    Because 100% of them are human inventions; most believers of deities attest that theirs is the only one. It's like a circular firing squad - nobody is left once we're done because you guys don't agree on what what the 'true' deity is. As we atheists are so fond of quoting, "we are all atheists, but Atheists go one god further".
    The basis for saying deities do not really exist...is that they don't really exist? That's a circular argument. Just sayin.
    If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. - Soren Kierkegaard
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    Re: Formalizing Atheist Objections

    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples View Post
    The basis for saying deities do not really exist...is that they don't really exist? That's a circular argument. Just sayin.
    Ha ha, yes, the circular firing squad is indeed a circular argument. But the point here is there are zero deities with a majority of the human population believing in them and belief is all religious people have a basis for their existence of their deities.

    ---------- Post added at 07:00 PM ---------- Previous post was at 06:45 PM ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by SharmaK View Post
    Ha ha, yes, the circular firing squad is indeed a circular argument. But the point here is there are zero deities with a majority of the human population believing in them and belief is all religious people have a basis for their existence of their deities.
    Totally awesome and by pure coincidence I was just talking to my seven year old and she came to the same conclusion! Her friend was berating her for rubbing Buddha's tummy and warned her that Buddah was fake. My daughter then replied that if Buddah is fake then so must her friends' God.

  19. #19
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    Re: Formalizing Atheist Objections

    Quote Originally Posted by SharmaK
    Because 100% of them are human inventions; most believers of deities attest that theirs is the only one. It's like a circular firing squad - nobody is left once we're done because you guys don't agree on what what the 'true' deity is. As we atheists are so fond of quoting, "we are all atheists, but Atheists go one god further".
    CS has already pointed out the error in this.

    I think the point of the thread was to take classes of argument and rewrite them in formal logic not to formalize an argument to justify it. I don't know the system well enough to do so but it seems that the definition of an atheist seems to be a good one to go with too.
    Despite the fact that CS clearly stated the "objections of atheist" not the definition of one?

    We're getting way off topic - but I'm exploring "evidence" with cstamford at the moment; join in there if you like, its a good OP. Briefly, there are two arguments - I know natural explanations are true because they are usually couched in science, a proven methodology used to determine accurate models regarding the working models of our universe. Secondly, I also know that all non-natural explanations have never been proven to be true and most have been directly proven false. Together I am certain that the supernatural is not true.
    The validity of the scientific method itself is not based on natural explanation. You cannot reaffirm the scientific method by using the scientific method, that is of course, circular reasoning. Naturalism cannot be reaffirmed using naturalism. This is also an argument from ignorance, that because the supernatural has not been proven true, you assume that it isn't true.

    Quote Originally Posted by SharmaK
    But the point here is there are zero deities with a majority of the human population believing in them
    This is just a version of argument ad populum.

    and belief is all religious people have a basis for their existence of their deities.


    That is a blatantly false. You know full well that there are many arguments (right now in active threads) given as a basis. That you disagree with the conclusions does not mean that those who believe do not have such a basis.

    Totally awesome and by pure coincidence I was just talking to my seven year old and she came to the same conclusion! Her friend was berating her for rubbing Buddha's tummy and warned her that Buddah was fake. My daughter then replied that if Buddah is fake then so must her friends' God.
    You should teach your daughter about Denying the Antecedent. That way she doesn't make that mistake again.

  20. #20
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    Re: Formalizing Atheist Objections

    Theists point out that the universe had to have a beginning, but give god a free pass from this requirement... declaring (by fiat rather than evidence) that god is "eternal". This is just a cop out.

    Theists point out that human intelligence is too complicated to have happened naturally and thus requires a designer. But god has to be intelligent (far more so than man), but requires no designer. So god gets yet another free pass/special exception. He gets defined as intelligent... as though the definition is the same as evidence.

    Science tells us that something can't come from nothing. But god necessarily has to be able to make something from nothing. Are we given any evidence to support how this is possible? No. Just more unsupported nonsense worded as a definition.

    So the objection atheists have to god is the free pass you give him. The free pass doesn't always fit the flow of your syllogism. But you're pretty close.
    Alright, so is this a good informal characterization:

    The theistic argument for God is flawed because Christians already believe that God exists, but they change the definition of God so that their belief remains consistent with current scientific understanding, and they do so without questioning or demonstrating that their newly-defined God actually exists. That is, the definition conforms to whatever is needed in order to still be able to say, "God exists". So today, Christians believe that God has properties X, Y, and Z, but after some discovery tomorrow, he lacks Z but gains property W. So their former belief in a God possessing X, Y, and Z was unfounded, but now they just as fervently believe in a God possessing W, X, and Y. This demonstrates that they're merely confirming their bias rather than investigating a state of affairs.

    (It's wordy, but I'm lazy, sorry.)

    ---------- Post added at 07:48 PM ---------- Previous post was at 07:45 PM ----------

    A quick statement of purpose for the thread

    For the purposes of this thread, I don't care whether atheist objections to theist arguments are true. I don't care whether theist arguments are false. I don't care whether atheist objections are well-founded. I don't care whether atheist objections are widely believed to be accurate. All I care about is what the objections actually are, and what argument-structures trigger them.
    If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. - Soren Kierkegaard
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