Understanding through Discussion


Welcome! You are not logged in. [ Login ]
EvC Forum active members: 63 (9045 total)
89 online now:
dwise1, jar, PaulK, Percy (Admin) (4 members, 85 visitors)
Newest Member: Dade
Post Volume: Total: 887,365 Year: 5,011/14,102 Month: 609/707 Week: 7/157 Day: 7/22 Hour: 0/3


Thread  Details

Email This Thread
Newer Topic | Older Topic
  
Author Topic:   Is agnosticism more intellectually honest?
Wollysaurus
Member (Idle past 3487 days)
Posts: 52
From: US
Joined: 08-25-2011


(2)
Message 1 of 95 (630504)
08-25-2011 2:54 PM


Hello all. First post, but I won't ask for mercy! I apologize up front if my thoughts appear to be somewhat fragmented, I have been struggling with how to appropriately frame this question. I have been impressed by many threads on this forum, and I apologize if this is a blatant restating of a previous thread.

I am not a scientist or theologian. I studied history in college and my continuing interests have been archaeology and paleontology, but I do not have the background in biology to bring much to the fray in terms of paleontology, as my education in that area is limited to a AP class in High School. My science credits in college were satisfied by taking astronomy courses, which I came to fall in love with, and really opened my eyes to the wonders around us. Now on to my question.

My question is, isn't agnosticism a more intellectually honest position than atheism? I ask this because it seems that atheists make a bold declaration that they can prove a negative (that no higher intelligent power has had a hand in either the universe or the unfolding of life on this planet). Agnosticism at least takes no position either way, seeming to depend on evidence to sway its position one way or the other.

I understand that there are some aspects in religion which are certainly falsifiable: that a deity created the world a mere 6,000 years ago, that the gods dwell on mount Olympus, that the earth is flat and rides on the back of a giant turtle, etc. By stating the world is only 6,000 years old and was therefore created by a certain deity, the argument falls apart when the world is proven to be older, and by extension the existence of that particular deity with those specific characteristics might be considered disproven. That is, unless invoking un-falsifiable assertions like what you all refer to as "goddidit". But to me, saying that perhaps the creator brought the universe into existence 6,000 years ago in an appearance of extremely old age is as logically nonsensical as asserting that you are the only conscious being in the universe, and everything around you is an illusion. You can't really disprove it, but it doesn't necessarily pass the BS test.

However, none of that seems to dismiss the possibility that there is/was a higher power responsible for what *is*. It's as impossible to disprove that a god (or whatever you want to call it) started this whole ball rolling, when we can't seem to get past certain points in history (abiogenesis, big bang, whatever). Also, I have seen that some serious scientists, to include Dawkins, don't discount the possibility that life on this planet may have been started by other intelligent life from out there in the universe; whatever form that life may have taken (hypothetically) may not be addressed. In short, we *don't know* a whole lot, but we don't necessarily dismiss out of hand the possiblity that life here did not originate here from non-living matter. So why would we automatically dismiss the possibility of the "divine"?

So, is atheism as intellectually dishonest as, say, a YEC twisting evidence to fit a flood model? By asserting that god or an intelligent creative force does not exist, doesn't the atheist go beyond the rational and testable and make a definite theological / philosophical / even ideological statement that cannot (at present) be falsified? Is not agnosticism a more appropriate and objective position for an honest person to take?
I appreciate your input.

Edited by Wollysaurus, : No reason given.


Replies to this message:
 Message 3 by jar, posted 08-25-2011 10:09 PM Wollysaurus has responded
 Message 4 by Dr Adequate, posted 08-25-2011 10:21 PM Wollysaurus has not yet responded
 Message 8 by Jon, posted 08-25-2011 11:15 PM Wollysaurus has not yet responded
 Message 11 by PaulK, posted 08-26-2011 2:09 AM Wollysaurus has not yet responded
 Message 13 by Dr Jack, posted 08-26-2011 6:00 AM Wollysaurus has not yet responded
 Message 17 by Stile, posted 08-26-2011 8:44 AM Wollysaurus has not yet responded
 Message 23 by frako, posted 08-26-2011 1:21 PM Wollysaurus has not yet responded
 Message 26 by IamJoseph, posted 08-26-2011 8:25 PM Wollysaurus has not yet responded
 Message 49 by RAZD, posted 08-26-2011 11:35 PM Wollysaurus has responded

  
Adminnemooseus
Director
Posts: 3938
Joined: 09-26-2002


Message 2 of 95 (630506)
08-25-2011 9:42 PM


Thread Copied from Proposed New Topics Forum
Thread copied here from the Is agnosticism more intellectually honest? thread in the Proposed New Topics forum.

This topic's theme has been beat pretty hard in the not too distant past, but we might as well give it another stab.

Adminnemooseus

Edited by Adminnemooseus, : Add post promotion comment.


  
jar
Member
Posts: 33424
From: Texas!!
Joined: 04-20-2004
Member Rating: 3.0


(2)
Message 3 of 95 (630511)
08-25-2011 10:09 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Wollysaurus
08-25-2011 2:54 PM


No it is not as dishonest. Atheism cannot be dishonest. Agnosticism cannot be honest.

Atheism is simply a personal statement that the individual does not believe in any Gods.

Agnosticism is simply a personal statement that the individual does not know whether there are Gods or not.

Theism is simply a personal statement that the individual does believe in one or more God(s).

Honesty and dishonest have nothing to do with any of the three positions as long as the individual actually does hold the belief expressed.


Anyone so limited that they can only spell a word one way is severely handicapped!

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Wollysaurus, posted 08-25-2011 2:54 PM Wollysaurus has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 5 by Wollysaurus, posted 08-25-2011 10:24 PM jar has responded
 Message 14 by Dr Jack, posted 08-26-2011 6:03 AM jar has responded

  
Dr Adequate
Member (Idle past 47 days)
Posts: 16112
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 4 of 95 (630512)
08-25-2011 10:21 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Wollysaurus
08-25-2011 2:54 PM


That would depend on the particular agnostic and atheist; there are also dishonest ways of being an agnostic.

For example, consider the agnostic who refuses to say: "There is no God" merely on the grounds that "you can't prove a negative".

(I do not mean to suggest that this is our only reason for agnosticism, but consider someone for whom this is the case. In a subsequent post I shall discuss whether or not it is possible to prove a negative.)

Now in order to be consistent, this agnostic must also refuse to say that there are no werewolves or fairies or unicorns, on the same basis. And yet I have not seen agnostics behave in this manner, nor do they question the honesty of those who say that werewolves are mythical. And yet intellectual consistency would demand that they should do so.

But even if some such agnostic were in fact to assert that he didn't know whether or not there are werewolves, I should still be somewhat suspicious of his integrity unless he also carried an amulet of silver every full moon to ward of the powers of darkness. Yet I have not observed this to be common in agnostics either. When it is a matter of life or death, they behave as though they are quite certain that there are no werewolves. If they refuse to say as much, this smacks of hypocrisy.

Now the ("weak" or "negative") atheist seems to me to have the advantage. Having no evidence of gods or werewolves, he asserts both that there are no gods and that there are no werewolves with an admirable consistency; and his behavior is consistent with his professed beliefs.

Edited by Dr Adequate, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Wollysaurus, posted 08-25-2011 2:54 PM Wollysaurus has not yet responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 25 by Blue Jay, posted 08-26-2011 8:20 PM Dr Adequate has responded

  
Wollysaurus
Member (Idle past 3487 days)
Posts: 52
From: US
Joined: 08-25-2011


Message 5 of 95 (630513)
08-25-2011 10:24 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by jar
08-25-2011 10:09 PM


Thank you for the replies!

quote:
Atheism is simply a personal statement that the individual does not believe in any Gods.

I suppose it may come down to a question of language for me then. To me, the implication is that the individual *knows* there are no gods, begging the question "how do you know?"

quote:
Honesty and dishonest have nothing to do with any of the three positions as long as the individual actually does hold the belief expressed.

I may not have chosen the best wording. I suppose using the word "honest" or "dishonest" does inevitably mean that one is knowingly being untruthful if they take a particular stance. Perhaps I should have phrased it differently and asked if atheism is intellectually flawed, or perhaps unsound, if one professes to "know" that there are no gods.

edit:

quote:
Now in order to be consistent, this agnostic must also refuse to say that there are no werewolves or fairies or unicorns, on the same basis. And yet I have not seen agnostics behave in this manner, nor do they question the honesty of those who say that werewolves are mythical. And yet intellectual consistency would demand that they should do so.

But even if some such agnostic were in fact to assert that he didn't know whether or not there are werewolves, I should still be somewhat suspicious of his integrity unless he also carried an amulet of silver every full moon to ward of the powers of darkness. Yet I have not observed this to be common in agnostics either. When it is a matter of life or death, they behave as though they are quite certain that there are no werewolves. If they refuse to say as much, this smacks of hypocrisy.


Now there is an interesting perspective. But isn't it a bit of a leap to make a comparison between belief in werewolves to a potential prime mover for the universe itself? At least with werewolves we might be dealing with a physical entity, part of our earthly nature itself, not something that might be considered outside of our reality as we know it.

I suppose I should perhaps regard atheism in a spectrum, ranging from those who declare there is no god, to those who simply doubt one exists.

Edited by Wollysaurus, : No reason given.

Edited by Wollysaurus, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 3 by jar, posted 08-25-2011 10:09 PM jar has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 6 by Panda, posted 08-25-2011 11:04 PM Wollysaurus has responded
 Message 9 by Dr Adequate, posted 08-25-2011 11:36 PM Wollysaurus has responded
 Message 15 by jar, posted 08-26-2011 8:20 AM Wollysaurus has not yet responded

  
Panda
Member (Idle past 2708 days)
Posts: 2688
From: UK
Joined: 10-04-2010


Message 6 of 95 (630514)
08-25-2011 11:04 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by Wollysaurus
08-25-2011 10:24 PM


Hi Wollysaurus,
Welcome to the forum.

I hope you don't think me officious but: a couple of tips...

1) It is best if you reply to each post rather than combine replies.
This makes it easier for people to track the discussion (and it can also notify them when you have replied).

2) Although [quote]words[/quote] is fine, there is an even better way.

[qs=Panda]words[/qs]
will produce:

Panda writes:

words

I hope this proves useful in the future.

Edited by Panda, : No reason given.


Always remember: QUIDQUID LATINE DICTUM SIT ALTUM VIDITUR

Science flies you into space; religion flies you into buildings.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 5 by Wollysaurus, posted 08-25-2011 10:24 PM Wollysaurus has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 7 by Wollysaurus, posted 08-25-2011 11:06 PM Panda has acknowledged this reply

  
Wollysaurus
Member (Idle past 3487 days)
Posts: 52
From: US
Joined: 08-25-2011


Message 7 of 95 (630515)
08-25-2011 11:06 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by Panda
08-25-2011 11:04 PM


No, thank you for the tip! I appreciate it.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 6 by Panda, posted 08-25-2011 11:04 PM Panda has acknowledged this reply

  
Jon
Inactive Member


(2)
Message 8 of 95 (630516)
08-25-2011 11:15 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Wollysaurus
08-25-2011 2:54 PM


Agnostic Atheism
Atheism and agnosticism are about two different things.

Atheism is a statement of belief; agnosticism is a statement of knowledge.

That means you can be both: agnostic and atheist. You can also be gnostic and atheist; gnostic and theist; or agnostic and theist.

In fact, I'd say there is no way to create a true statement of thought regarding the existence of gods without including both what one believes and what one thinks they know.

Jon

Edited by Jon, : No reason given.


Love your enemies!

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Wollysaurus, posted 08-25-2011 2:54 PM Wollysaurus has not yet responded

  
Dr Adequate
Member (Idle past 47 days)
Posts: 16112
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 9 of 95 (630517)
08-25-2011 11:36 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by Wollysaurus
08-25-2011 10:24 PM


Now there is an interesting perspective. But isn't it a bit of a leap to make a comparison between belief in werewolves to a potential prime mover for the universe itself? At least with werewolves we might be dealing with a physical entity, part of our earthly nature itself, not something that might be considered outside of our reality as we know it.

Yes, there is a difference between gods and werewolves, but I don't see (and you don't say) how this affects the epistemology involved in asserting a negative.

This would be up to you to demonstrate. Is there a reason why with respect to asserting the negative we should treat the question of whether there is a god any differently?

If not, then the ("weak") atheist, finding no evidence for gods or werewolves is being consistent in consequently saying that there are no gods and no werewolves; it is the agnostic who acquiesces unprotesting in the statement that werewolves are mythical who has some explaining to do.

---

If anything, God would be at a disadvantage as a result of his differences from werewolves. This depends on your definition of God, but if, for example, the definition includes omnipresence, then to disprove God it would be sufficient to find just one place where he isn't; whereas to conclusively disprove werewolves one would have to show that there are no werewolves in any place. It is actually easier to disprove the existence of a being described by adjectives beginning with "omni-", because then claims about God take the form of a general law which can be overturned by a specific counterexample. This, of course, is the attitude of the "strong" or "positive" atheist.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 5 by Wollysaurus, posted 08-25-2011 10:24 PM Wollysaurus has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 10 by Wollysaurus, posted 08-26-2011 12:10 AM Dr Adequate has not yet responded

  
Wollysaurus
Member (Idle past 3487 days)
Posts: 52
From: US
Joined: 08-25-2011


Message 10 of 95 (630518)
08-26-2011 12:10 AM
Reply to: Message 9 by Dr Adequate
08-25-2011 11:36 PM


Dr A. writes:

Yes, there is a difference between gods and werewolves, but I don't see (and you don't say) how this affects the epistemology involved in asserting a negative.

This would be up to you to demonstrate. Is there a reason why with respect to asserting the negative we should treat the question of whether there is a god any differently?

If not, then the ("weak") atheist, finding no evidence for gods or werewolves is being consistent in consequently saying that there are no gods and no werewolves; it is the agnostic who acquiesces unprotesting in the statement that werewolves are mythical who has some explaining to do.

Your point is thought provoking. It makes me think that the 'qualities' I attribute to agnosticism are fundamentally flawed.

Taken with Jon's point above, I would have to reassess what I think of as "agnostic" and, within those criterion even change the way I might classify myself.

Perhaps the answer to my original post is that my question itself was flawed, and that if I wish to define agnosticism as simply admitting that one cannot know for sure that something does or does not exist, it must be applied in any case in which a negative may be asserted, as you point out. I can't prove that there *isn't* an invisible octopus on the moon at the moment, therefore, if I were a "good agnostic", I would have to admit to the possibility. But my own reason leads me to dismiss the thought.

Thanks for your thoughtful reply!


This message is a reply to:
 Message 9 by Dr Adequate, posted 08-25-2011 11:36 PM Dr Adequate has not yet responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 12 by Huntard, posted 08-26-2011 4:53 AM Wollysaurus has not yet responded

  
PaulK
Member
Posts: 16989
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 2.5


Message 11 of 95 (630527)
08-26-2011 2:09 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Wollysaurus
08-25-2011 2:54 PM


quote:

My question is, isn't agnosticism a more intellectually honest position than atheism? I ask this because it seems that atheists make a bold declaration that they can prove a negative (that no higher intelligent power has had a hand in either the universe or the unfolding of life on this planet). Agnosticism at least takes no position either way, seeming to depend on evidence to sway its position one way or the other.

If you wish to declare a position intellectually dishonest, you would first need to understand it. Quite frankly, I don't think you do.

1) Atheists in general do not "boldly declare" that they can "prove" that God does not exist.

2) If agnosticism is taken as taking the position that we do not know that God does or does not exist (which is the original definition, but not the most commonly used now) then it overlaps with atheism - including a large number (perhaps a large majority) of those self labelled as atheists.

3) If agnosticism is taken as the position that we CANNOT ever have sufficient evidence to come to a conclusion that God does or does not exist, then the agnostic rules out the possibility of sufficient evidence, and so cannot be open to it.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Wollysaurus, posted 08-25-2011 2:54 PM Wollysaurus has not yet responded

  
Huntard
Member (Idle past 1291 days)
Posts: 2870
From: Limburg, The Netherlands
Joined: 09-02-2008


Message 12 of 95 (630541)
08-26-2011 4:53 AM
Reply to: Message 10 by Wollysaurus
08-26-2011 12:10 AM


Hello Wollysaurus and welcome to EvC!

Wollysaurus writes:

Perhaps the answer to my original post is that my question itself was flawed, and that if I wish to define agnosticism as simply admitting that one cannot know for sure that something does or does not exist, it must be applied in any case in which a negative may be asserted, as you point out. I can't prove that there *isn't* an invisible octopus on the moon at the moment, therefore, if I were a "good agnostic", I would have to admit to the possibility. But my own reason leads me to dismiss the thought.


Indeed, and this is the position most atheists, including me, find themselves in. Could there be a god? Well, yes. However, since I have no evidence for any such an entity, why would I entertain the thought that there is one. Much rather, I continue my life as if it doesn't exist, until such time that there is actually some positive evidence of the existence of a god. Likewise, I live my life as if there is no bigfoot, fairies, leprechauns, werewolves etc. Sure, they might exist, but until anyone can show me they do, why should I treat them as existing?

This message is a reply to:
 Message 10 by Wollysaurus, posted 08-26-2011 12:10 AM Wollysaurus has not yet responded

  
Dr Jack
Member (Idle past 1100 days)
Posts: 3507
From: Leicester, England
Joined: 07-14-2003


(1)
Message 13 of 95 (630543)
08-26-2011 6:00 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Wollysaurus
08-25-2011 2:54 PM


Empiricism and the silly
How can we claim to know anything? If philosophy has achieved anything over the last two thousand years it's demonstrating beyond reasonable doubt that we can't be 100% certain of anything.

So, the rational course of action is to retreat from 100% certainty to trying to give the best answers we can. Fortunately, we've developed over the last few hundred years a pretty good way of getting at these best answers: science or, more specifically, the scientific method. Empirical investigation of the world has allowed us to understand a breathtaking array of things.

Take lightning as an example: the Norse thought it was Thor's hammer being thrown at the giants, we now know it's an electrical discharge. Does understanding electricity let us prove that Thor's hammer is not involved? Or that particular lightning strike you just saw was an electrical discharge? No. Instead, we follow the rational approach of assuming that once we've got a decent, consistent explanation for things that we've derived via the scientific method from empirical investigation of the world that we can discount other explanations and assume that the explanation holds in all cases until counter-evidence is found. We ignore other blurted explanations unless we can find evidence for them.

Where, then, does that leave god? There is no empirical evidence for god. God has never been derived from empirical investigation of the world via the scientific method. The only reason we even given theism any mind at all is that an awful lot of people already believe in it. If someone came up with the idea of god today, we'd simply ignore them because of their overwhelming lack of evidence. That isn't the case with any scientific fact: if no-one knew about evolution, say, we could still deduce it from the world and show our working and evidence. Ditto DNA, gravity, Hooke's Law, etc., etc.

I don't believe god created the universe for the same reason I don't believe the equally rational explanation that it was spunked into existence by a giant fish being masturbated by a baboon - there's no rational reason to believe. There's no evidence.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Wollysaurus, posted 08-25-2011 2:54 PM Wollysaurus has not yet responded

  
Dr Jack
Member (Idle past 1100 days)
Posts: 3507
From: Leicester, England
Joined: 07-14-2003


Message 14 of 95 (630544)
08-26-2011 6:03 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by jar
08-25-2011 10:09 PM


Intellectual dishonest applies to beliefs
Honesty and dishonest have nothing to do with any of the three positions as long as the individual actually does hold the belief expressed.

Not so. A belief can be honestly held while still being intellectually dishonest.

Intellectual honesty is about the internal consistency of beliefs, and the willingness to recognise, accept and deal with criticism and challenge to those beliefs in a rational manner.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 3 by jar, posted 08-25-2011 10:09 PM jar has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 16 by jar, posted 08-26-2011 8:21 AM Dr Jack has responded

  
jar
Member
Posts: 33424
From: Texas!!
Joined: 04-20-2004
Member Rating: 3.0


Message 15 of 95 (630556)
08-26-2011 8:20 AM
Reply to: Message 5 by Wollysaurus
08-25-2011 10:24 PM


To me, the implication is that the individual *knows* there are no gods, begging the question "how do you know?"

But unless you are the person, it is irrelevant what implications you hold.

I may not have chosen the best wording. I suppose using the word "honest" or "dishonest" does inevitably mean that one is knowingly being untruthful if they take a particular stance. Perhaps I should have phrased it differently and asked if atheism is intellectually flawed, or perhaps unsound, if one professes to "know" that there are no gods.

Then it's a good thing most atheists are smart enough to just believe there are no gods.


Anyone so limited that they can only spell a word one way is severely handicapped!

This message is a reply to:
 Message 5 by Wollysaurus, posted 08-25-2011 10:24 PM Wollysaurus has not yet responded

  
Newer Topic | Older Topic
Jump to:


Copyright 2001-2018 by EvC Forum, All Rights Reserved

™ Version 4.0 Beta
Innovative software from Qwixotic © 2021