Understanding through Discussion


Welcome! You are not logged in. [ Login ]
EvC Forum active members: 64 (9071 total)
68 online now:
PaulK (1 member, 67 visitors)
Newest Member: FossilDiscovery
Post Volume: Total: 892,995 Year: 4,107/6,534 Month: 321/900 Week: 27/150 Day: 0/27 Hour: 0/0


Thread  Details

Email This Thread
Newer Topic | Older Topic
  
Author Topic:   An Exploration Into"Agnosticism"
bluegenes
Member (Idle past 1704 days)
Posts: 3119
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007


Message 3 of 179 (553616)
04-04-2010 8:03 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Straggler
04-03-2010 8:33 PM


Agnosticism - What is it?

We cannot know.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Straggler, posted 04-03-2010 8:33 PM Straggler has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 19 by Straggler, posted 04-06-2010 2:44 PM bluegenes has replied

  
bluegenes
Member (Idle past 1704 days)
Posts: 3119
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007


Message 11 of 179 (554082)
04-06-2010 11:22 AM
Reply to: Message 10 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee
04-06-2010 6:01 AM


JUChimpanzee writes:

Would the following people be classified as agnostics?

Someone who has no knowledge or awareness of the proposed entity/hypothesis (so has not yet had the opportunity to form any opinion).

Someone who is at least vaguely aware of the proposed entity/hypothesis, but is completely disinterested and has given no thought whatsoever to whether or not it is true.

Someone who is aware of the proposed entity/hypothesis, and has given some thought to it, but doesn't have either the mental ability or resources to form their own opinion.

Yes, all three. None of them claim to know the existential status of the entity, or the truth status of the hypothesis.

In relation to a god or a goddit hypothesis, they could also all fit the definition of atheists, as well (and the first one is automatically an implicit atheist). They do not know whether there are gods or not (agnostic), and they do not believe in any (atheistic).

The way in which the term agnostic relates to knowledge, and the terms theist and atheist relate to belief, often causes confusion. Many explicit atheists and theists will agree with the strong agnostic view that we cannot, at least at present, know whether or not there are gods (and therefore automatically with the weak agnostic position that they themselves do not know).

To further complicate matters, the strong agnostic position is actually a belief that cannot be conclusively proved, because we must surely be agnostic on the hypothesis that, for example, there is some old sage in China who knows the secrets of the universe. Attempting to be rigorously agnostic on everything can easily end up in "reality is an illusion" territory, as Straggler hints in the O.P.

If we want a strict definition of who can be described as agnostic in relation to the existence of gods, it's probably "all those who do not claim to know the answer."

However, the word is often used casually to mean "completely uncommitted" or "neutral" on a question. Because it's used that way, it's a valid usage, but a different one. This is where atheists start to amuse themselves by asking the self-described "neutral" agnostic his or her opinion on a wide variety of ridiculous sounding "god" propositions, and great fun is had by all as the completely uncommitted agnostic declares him/herself completely neutral on the proposition that the universe was created accidentally by 147 goddesses when they were trying to bake a five dimensional cake, etc.

So, the word agnostic, both as adjective and noun, has more than one meaning, like so many words.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 10 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee, posted 04-06-2010 6:01 AM Jumped Up Chimpanzee has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 13 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee, posted 04-06-2010 11:51 AM bluegenes has replied
 Message 175 by Phat, posted 08-03-2010 9:19 AM bluegenes has replied

  
bluegenes
Member (Idle past 1704 days)
Posts: 3119
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007


Message 23 of 179 (554219)
04-06-2010 10:57 PM
Reply to: Message 19 by Straggler
04-06-2010 2:44 PM


Re: PAP and TAP Agnosticism
Straggler writes:

Is that your understanding of the two terms? Because the difference between an omnipotent IPU that chooses not to reveal itself and a non-omnipotent one that cannot seems a fairly poor and rather convuluted basis on which to make such a distinction.

I think that Dawkins is probably a "TAP" agnostic because he is considering the theoretical possibility that the complete nature of the universe could be explained by science in the future, and that the explanation would answer the creator god question. If the universe is demonstrated to be something that does not have a beginning as we understand it, or is self-creating, then all IPUs go out the window, including your suggestion.

So is Dawkins distinction silly?

It doesn't have much practical use in our lifetimes, unless there are some big scientific surprises just around the corner. It's really just the traditional difference between agnostics who regard the creator god question as permanently unknowable, and those who see it as currently unknowable, but are agnostic on the question of permanent unknowableness.

It would seem to me that agnosticism would really be "TAP" by its nature, and I think that the self-described agnostics here might agree. Are they going to claim knowledge of permanent unknowability?

BTW, my first post on the thread was just a not very good joke due to slight inebriation. However, most people on the thread seem to be in some agreement that we're pretty agnostic about what agnosticism is around here.

"What do you think of the validity of the agnostic position, Charlie?"

"Oh, count me as agnostic on that."

An example of being agnostic about strong agnosticism is my point that we cannot actually claim to know that others cannot know that there's a god.

Edited by bluegenes, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 19 by Straggler, posted 04-06-2010 2:44 PM Straggler has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 32 by Straggler, posted 04-07-2010 1:30 PM bluegenes has taken no action

  
bluegenes
Member (Idle past 1704 days)
Posts: 3119
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007


Message 24 of 179 (554228)
04-07-2010 12:33 AM
Reply to: Message 13 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee
04-06-2010 11:51 AM


Re: What about the Dawkins spectrum?
JUChimpanzee writes:

What do you think of these definitions.[the Dawkins scale]

Lots of difficulties with the terminology, for me, and I agree that they don't cover all ground.

JUC writes:

Secondly, I don't think you can have a gradual scale from atheist, to agnostic, to theist. Those positions simply do not share the same spectrum.

I tend to agree, but it's because I think agnostic is not a way to describe people who are doubting theists, half theists, or part theists, because it's about knowing, rather than believing.

Is there, so far, one person on this thread who claims a state of knowledge on the question of whether or not there are gods? Probably not. The 2,3,4,5 and 6 position on that scale are opposed to the 1 and 7 positions when it comes to a debate on whether or not we can know the answer to the "god question".


This message is a reply to:
 Message 13 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee, posted 04-06-2010 11:51 AM Jumped Up Chimpanzee has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 25 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee, posted 04-07-2010 4:32 AM bluegenes has taken no action

  
bluegenes
Member (Idle past 1704 days)
Posts: 3119
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007


Message 84 of 179 (555178)
04-12-2010 3:03 PM
Reply to: Message 81 by nwr
04-12-2010 2:27 PM


Analogy?
nwr writes:

There is good evidence that the concept of money is a product of human invention. Should I therefore be agnostic or atheistic about my bank account balance?

If any prophets or theologians ever get around to minting whatever is on their minds, you'll have a good analogy, and I'll become a theist.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 81 by nwr, posted 04-12-2010 2:27 PM nwr has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 87 by nwr, posted 04-12-2010 3:49 PM bluegenes has taken no action

  
bluegenes
Member (Idle past 1704 days)
Posts: 3119
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007


Message 120 of 179 (555640)
04-14-2010 5:52 PM
Reply to: Message 118 by nwr
04-14-2010 4:03 PM


Re: Unknowables Irrefutables and Undetectables
nwr writes:

It [the Easter Bunny] can exist as an idea, much as many other things that we consider to exist are ideas (parliament and the internet are examples).

The analogies get better and better! Do go on with them.

All things can exist as ideas, but the idea of the Easter Bunny is that it is, in fact, a bunny as well as an idea, and your other examples have an existence outside the mind. Straggler's point seems to be that gods and the Easter Bunny appear to exist only as ideas, or figments of the imagination, as I'd put it. He is just making the often made point that the evidence suggests that men make gods, not the other way around.

On agnosticism:

For an example of a god, we could use one of the many currently believed in by your compatriots. This is the one true Christian God who created everything, and will condemn to hell all those who voted for Obama.

Agnosticism, as defined by Huxley, would emphasize that we cannot know with certainty the existential state of this god. I agree. How could we?

So, I'm agnostic towards this god.

But Huxley's agnosticism was about lack of certain knowledge, not about opinion or belief or the assessment of evidence.

The evidence in relation to this god suggests to me that it is the parochial invention of a modern subculture loosely based on an earlier parochial invention by a middle-eastern tribe, and does not exist (except, for those amongst us who like to state the obvious, as an idea or figment of the imagination).

So, I'm atheistic towards this god, as most people in the world are, atheism towards described gods always being the norm.

I wonder if some of those on this thread who describe themselves as agnostics in the colloquial sense of uncommitted/neutral would take an uncommitted/neutral position on this particular god?

I doubt it, if they're honest.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 118 by nwr, posted 04-14-2010 4:03 PM nwr has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 121 by nwr, posted 04-14-2010 6:37 PM bluegenes has replied
 Message 128 by Straggler, posted 04-14-2010 7:36 PM bluegenes has taken no action

  
bluegenes
Member (Idle past 1704 days)
Posts: 3119
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007


(1)
Message 131 of 179 (555665)
04-14-2010 8:06 PM
Reply to: Message 121 by nwr
04-14-2010 6:37 PM


Re: Unknowables Irrefutables and Undetectables
nwr writes:

What I see repeatedly in this thread, are arguments that are applicable to physical things being applied to things that exist only as ideas. And then I see arguments that if it is only an idea, that we should be atheistic.

Far from suggesting that you should disbelieve that gods exist only as an idea, I think Straggler is suggesting that that's exactly what he does believe, and what he's recommending. He's hardly suggesting that ideas of gods and beliefs in gods and religions are non-existence. It is the external existence of gods, their reality outside human imaginations, that he is atheistic towards, and if you too perceive gods as only an idea, then where is your point of disagreement?

nwr writes:

My view: We are atheistic about something that exists only as an idea when we reject that idea. We are agnostic when we decline to embrace the idea but we do not reject it.

I've a slight problem with the phrasing. Why do you include the word "only"? If you're defining something as "existing only as an idea", then it can only be accepted as such.

Reading between the lines, you seem to be using the word agnostic in relation to belief, rather than knowledge. As I suggested in an earlier post, that's a valid usage, simply because it is frequently used that way, and words mean what they're being used for at any one time. It's what I mean by the "uncommitted/neutral" usage. It's not exactly what Huxley meant. He brought in the word because he objected, understandably, to people who claimed certain knowledge on questions that are unknowable.

As I suggested in Message 12, we are neither atheistic nor agnostic with respect to ordinary factual questions. We accept as fact, or reject, or are doubtful, or just express a lack of knowledge. We reserve the terms "atheistic" and "agnostic" for issues that are very different from ordinary factual questions.

I don't know who your "we" is. Atheistic only relates to gods, but I think that you've used it for something else earlier in the thread, which is unusual. Agnostic is widely used both in your sense, and in the unknowable sense, and is certainly used for factual questions.

nwr writes:

Yet if I went by Straggler's version of what is irrational and what is insane, then that would sure take all of the fun out of watching a Batman movie or a Spiderman movie (or just about any movie, for that matter).

Suspending disbelief for fun isn't exactly the same as making a habit of believing in fictional beings, and I find temporary insanity very enjoyable sometimes. I write fiction, so I actively encourage controlled madness in others.

nwr writes:

The problem with young earth creationists is not that they believe in a human constructed God. Rather, the problem is that they reject ordinary empirical evidence about the physical world.

They wouldn't do the latter without the former, so it's both really. Although, if you mean to make the point that they could construct ideas of different gods which wouldn't conflict with the empirical evidence and believe in those, then I agree.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 121 by nwr, posted 04-14-2010 6:37 PM nwr has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 134 by nwr, posted 04-14-2010 9:50 PM bluegenes has taken no action

  
bluegenes
Member (Idle past 1704 days)
Posts: 3119
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007


(1)
Message 136 of 179 (555688)
04-15-2010 12:40 AM
Reply to: Message 135 by RAZD
04-14-2010 10:54 PM


Re: Why Decide? What is wrong with being an agnostic?
RAZD writes:

I'd say that if you really want to understand agnosticism, then you need to pursue this question of why you feel such a need to make a decision when the evidence is not conclusive.

But if you don't feel the need to make decisions, why have you made so many in relation to the existence of gods that cannot be conclusively disproved?

Many of the gods believed in are very demanding. There are things that they require you to do, and things that they forbid you from doing. The stakes are high if you do not follow their wishes. Worse than a matter of life and death, because they can involve the difference between eternal content and eternal agony.

If you have heard of any such gods, and you are not obeying their commands which can involve regular worship, then you have made atheistic decisions as to their existence, or you're a masochist with a taste for fire. Don't worry, it's normal, everyone does it.

You must also have come to the conclusion, like Straggler, that these gods are figments of the human imagination.

Many gods don't allow the luxury of indecision, but you can always sit on the fence, very selectively, in relation to the rest.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 135 by RAZD, posted 04-14-2010 10:54 PM RAZD has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 137 by RAZD, posted 04-15-2010 7:13 AM bluegenes has replied

  
bluegenes
Member (Idle past 1704 days)
Posts: 3119
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007


(1)
Message 142 of 179 (555758)
04-15-2010 9:34 AM
Reply to: Message 137 by RAZD
04-15-2010 7:13 AM


Re: Why Decide? What is wrong with being an agnostic?
RAZD writes:

So why have you decided?
Do you have evidence, or do you need to make a decision?

Decisions on gods are easy for those of us who have no emotional attachment to any of them. Here's one way. If I hear of a god, it is from other human beings. If there is absolutely no positive evidence to support the existence of that particular god, I already have no particular reason to select it for belief, belief being active.

I know that it is the norm that humans invent imaginary gods, because there are so many mutually exclusive "one true gods" believed in, and there are and have been so many different sets of gods believed in as ruling pantheons. So, in considering the god in question, that knowledge combines with the complete absence of supporting evidence to lead me to the conclusion that the existence of that god is very improbable, and that it is very probably a figment of the human imagination.

So, I have no problem dismissing the "one true god who sends every one to hell for voting for Obama" as very improbable, for example, and I can ignore the concept for all practical purposes, even though I cannot conclusively know that that god doesn't exist.

So, back to my question again. How do you dismiss all the gods that you are atheistic towards? I'm sure that, if you wanted to vote for Obama in the next election, you would do so without any fear of eternal damnation, so you certainly make decisions.

How?

Edited by bluegenes, : punctuation


This message is a reply to:
 Message 137 by RAZD, posted 04-15-2010 7:13 AM RAZD has seen this message

  
bluegenes
Member (Idle past 1704 days)
Posts: 3119
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007


Message 144 of 179 (555951)
04-16-2010 1:34 PM
Reply to: Message 143 by RAZD
04-15-2010 7:51 PM


bluegenes writes:

So, back to my question again. How do you dismiss all the gods that you are atheistic towards? I'm sure that, if you wanted to vote for Obama in the next election, you would do so without any fear of eternal damnation, so you certainly make decisions.

How?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 143 by RAZD, posted 04-15-2010 7:51 PM RAZD has seen this message

  
bluegenes
Member (Idle past 1704 days)
Posts: 3119
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007


Message 167 of 179 (571570)
08-01-2010 9:01 AM
Reply to: Message 166 by RAZD
07-31-2010 9:43 PM


Re: Indeed, Why Not Agnostic?
RAZD writes:

III. Medium to High Confidence Concepts

(a)Validated and confirmed objective supporting evidence, and

(b)No known contradictory evidence

(c)Nothing shows the concept per se to be invalid

(d)Conclusions regarding probable reality can be made, repeated attempts to falsify such concepts can lead to high confidence in their being true.

"All supernatural beings are figments of the human imagination".

This is a high level of confidence theory. The human imagination is the only known source of supernatural beings, just as adult rabbits are the only known source of baby rabbits.

It is falsified by the demonstration of the existence of just one supernatural being beyond all reasonable doubt.

It is not falsified by unsupported assertions like "a supernatural being can exist".

If anyone does not agree that this is a strong theory, I'd be happy to participate in a one on one debate on the subject, and support the theory with plenty of evidence.

I'll regard attempts at dismissing the theory without accepting the debate proposition as empty rhetoric and cowardice.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 166 by RAZD, posted 07-31-2010 9:43 PM RAZD has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 169 by RAZD, posted 08-01-2010 10:51 PM bluegenes has replied

  
bluegenes
Member (Idle past 1704 days)
Posts: 3119
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007


Message 170 of 179 (571753)
08-02-2010 8:17 AM
Reply to: Message 169 by RAZD
08-01-2010 10:51 PM


Re: Desperate for attention bluegenes?
RAZD writes:

Getting desperate to be noticed bluegenes?

If I were desperate to be noticed, I'd probably be posting lots of very long posts full of unsupported assertions and containing bright coloured boxes with tables and lists, plus segments of text in multi-coloured writing.

RAZD writes:

Note that bluegenes was off-topic and this reply is off-topic, so no further replies should be made here.

Wrong, as usual, and an attempt at evasion that moderators might note. The theory that all supernatural beings are figments of the human imagination is very relevant to a discussion on agnosticism, and particularly to degrees of agnosticism in relation to gods and other supernatural beings.

RAZD writes:

bluegenes writes:

"All supernatural beings are figments of the human imagination".

This is a high level of confidence theory.

No, it is an amusing assertion of your belief, based on wishful thinking, confirmation bias and several logical fallacies.

More waffle. Exactly how we see creationists attempt to deal with strong theories. "You're biased. It's your world view". That's a pathetic way of ignoring the evidence.

It's a strong theory, and explains, amongst many other things, why you can never present a scrap of positive evidence for your deity. Direct question time.

Do you agree that the human imagination is the only known source of supernatural beings? Yes or No?

RAZD writes:

bluegenes writes:

It is falsified by the establishment of the existence of just one supernatural being beyond all reasonable doubt.

Nor, interestingly, is it in any way validated by the absence of evidence. The absence of evidence is only evidence of an absence of evidence that is perceived as such. There could be evidence right in front of you, but because you do not perceive it as evidence you do not see it.

You really don't understand scientific theories and positive evidence. It is validated by the evidence of the chronic tendency of human beings to make up supernatural beings. I can present this evidence.

RAZD writes:

Nor, curiously, is it in any way validated by unsupported claims such as "no supernatural beings can exist" ... it can only be validated by comprehensive objective empirical valid evidence that demonstrates once and for all that no god/s can exist.

Wrong. Try to learn the difference between scientific theories and logical proofs of the kind that only apply internally in systems of formal logic and maths. Evolutionary theory does not conclusively"prove" that all species come into existence via its mechanisms. That's impossible. It offers the best explanation of the data, and demonstrates that it's very unlikely that the species we observe came into existence by non-evolutionary means.

My theory is an explanatory theory of supernatural beings or supernatural beings concepts, and points out their only known origin. It cannot conclusively disprove your unfalsifiable and baseless assertion that a real one can exist, just as evolutionary theory cannot conclusively disprove the unfalsifiable and baseless assertion that one or more species might have come into existence by magic.

You supernaturalists should present positive evidence for such assertions in order for them to be considered anything other than very improbable.

RAZD writes:

Which you certainly need to do, having just just made a positive (and rather extraordinary) claim that absolutely no god/s can exist.

Why do you need to make things up? People can read what I said in the post above. I will demonstrate that your belief in gods is just as unlikely as a belief that there are baby rabbits that aren't born from adult rabbits. Neither claim is falsifiable.

My claim is that it is very unlikely that gods exist. As explained, scientific theories and laws aren't logical proofs.

I'll illustrate to you where you go wrong in attempting to take unfalsifiable propositions about the real world into the area of formal logic in a vacuum of evidence.

Take the proposition "some theists can know if god exists". This relates to position (1) on your scale, and it cannot be proved or disproved. So, in your way of thinking, you can fit it in as "X" in your little "logic" exercise. Try it, and you come up with the conclusion that it is possible, from which you then have to decide that being an uncommitted agnostic "4" on the proposition is the most "logical" position by your method.

Then take the proposition that "there is an old sage somewhere in the world who knows the secrets of the universe, and knows that there are no gods." Again, it cannot be proven or disproven, so put it in your exercise as "X", and the same applies, so you end up as an uncommitted agnostic on whether or not someone can know that there are no gods.

You will get different conclusions from different unfalsifiable statements, and end up an uncommitted agnostic on all of them.

Try it with "Satan is manipulating RAZD's mind". See what I mean. Now you're uncommitted on everything, except uncommitted agnosticism.

This might help you understand why it is science that is used to sort out reality, and why logic and maths are tools of science, but do not sort out questions about the real world on their own.

RAZD writes:

Of course my participation will only involve showing the errors and poor logic in your argument/s, and I bear absolutely no burden to substantiate my personal position/s in this proposed debate:

Of course you will avoid presenting positive evidence for your position, because you can't.

RAZD writes:

the sole focus would be on your attempt/s to show objective empirical evidence that shows - once and for all - that no god/s can possibly exist, …..

And of course you will try to pretend that the burden of proof is on me to falsify your unsupported assertion that gods can exist. The point about "All supernatural beings are figments of the human imagination" is that it's phrased so that it's falsifiable, and therefore cannot be a "proof", but is support of my position that:

"I cannot know whether there are gods or not, but I think it's very unlikely."

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

Enjoy the attention.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 169 by RAZD, posted 08-01-2010 10:51 PM RAZD has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 172 by RAZD, posted 08-02-2010 8:08 PM bluegenes has taken no action

  
bluegenes
Member (Idle past 1704 days)
Posts: 3119
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007


(1)
Message 178 of 179 (572018)
08-03-2010 10:02 AM
Reply to: Message 175 by Phat
08-03-2010 9:19 AM


Re: does knowledge always dictate belief?
Phat writes:

Let me see if I have this right.

1) People have a right to assign labels to themselves rather than have labels assigned to them, yet are asked to explain and defend their arguments in forums such as this one.

2) As a self professed believer, I have chosen the label because I feel that belief is a healthy part of holistic health. I cannot know that God exists, and I choose not to claim enough evidence that He does not, based on my world view.

3) Strong atheists, such as Straggler and/or Crashfrog seem to force people to accept the logic of atheism as a sane choice.

Comments?

I'm not sure why you replied to that particular post of mine, Phat, as it was about defining agnosticism. However, I'll leave it to the two members you mentioned to reply directly to your points, if you don't mind.

I will comment that you seem to be one of EvC's nicest members, so whatever it is you believe doesn't seem to be doing a great deal of harm!


This message is a reply to:
 Message 175 by Phat, posted 08-03-2010 9:19 AM Phat has taken no action

  
Newer Topic | Older Topic
Jump to:


Copyright 2001-2018 by EvC Forum, All Rights Reserved

™ Version 4.1
Innovative software from Qwixotic © 2022