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Author Topic:   An Exploration Into"Agnosticism"
Straggler
Member (Idle past 203 days)
Posts: 10332
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


(1)
Message 16 of 179 (554113)
04-06-2010 2:15 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by DC85
04-04-2010 12:18 PM


Re: agnostics confuse me to be honest
I was not aware I had to know a god doesn't exist in order to be atheist.

I don't know any atheists that would disagree. The question here is what do those who call themselves agnostics actually mean? Do they just use a different word to mean exactly as you and I do (i.e. that we don't claim to know but don't believe for whatever reason). Or do they mean something else?

That is the question here.


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Straggler
Member (Idle past 203 days)
Posts: 10332
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


(1)
Message 17 of 179 (554116)
04-06-2010 2:28 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee
04-06-2010 6:01 AM


Unknowables
Would the following people be classified as agnostics?

Yes.

But I am more interested in those who have considered a particular question and actually concluded that they are agnostic on the issue.

There are many questions on which agnosticism is a perfectly legitimate and sensible position. Do you subjectively perceive the colour red as I do? For example. How can I ever know or have subjective insight into the mind of another without my own subjectivity standing in the way?

But - (to move discussion on a bit) I would say that you have to be agnostic about something defined. As we discovered in an earlier discussion the question "Do you believe X exists?" is entirely meaningless unless we know what X is.

Which brings us to the problem with the "unknowable". If we don't know what the concept in question is then how can we be agnostic towards it's existence? If we do know something about this "unknowable" concept then where did this knowledge come from?


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Straggler
Member (Idle past 203 days)
Posts: 10332
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


(1)
Message 18 of 179 (554117)
04-06-2010 2:32 PM
Reply to: Message 13 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee
04-06-2010 11:51 AM


Re: What about the Dawkins spectrum?
What do you think of these definitions.

They are a useful starting point for discussions.

Firstly, the fact that "strong theist" is rated at "1" and "strong atheist" is listed at "7" seems to imply that you have to work from being a strong theist towards being a strong atheist. I don't agree with that and I'm sure Dawkins wouldn't have intended that! I don't know if everyone sees it that way around.

Dawkins includes the 7 largely for for completeness regardless of the fact that he does not label himself that or claim to know any one who does.

Atheists base their position on empirical evidence and logic; theists base their position on something else...it's not really for me to say what!

The question here is what do agnostics base their position on? Aside from the lack of certainty that we all seem to agree upon anyway.


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Straggler
Member (Idle past 203 days)
Posts: 10332
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


(1)
Message 19 of 179 (554120)
04-06-2010 2:44 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by bluegenes
04-04-2010 8:03 AM


PAP and TAP Agnosticism
Stragler writes:

Agnosticism - What is it?

BG writes:

We cannot know.

Hey Bluegenes
I am hoping somebody can explain the PAP and TAP agnosticism to me and you seem like a likely candidate (based on your prior participation in these issues).

TAP (Temporarily Agnostic in Practise): As I understand it questions like the existence of god are, according to Dawkins, TAP because god could in principle reveal himself and answer the question. Thus we can use the Dawkins scale of belief to describe our degree of confidence. Because a conclusion can be made on evidence at least in principle.

PAP (Permanently Agnostic in Principle): Things like whether or not you and I perceive the colour red in the same way are not even answerable in principle. Thus they are PAP and not able to be placed on the scale of belief.

All well and good. But where I don't get it is this - If I claim that an omnipotent IPU created the universe we can all go about happily placing our belief in this claim on the Dawkins scale. However if I say that the IPU in question is not omnipotent and having created the universe can never interract with it or give any clue to his existence whatsoever then we must declare ourselves as PAP.

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 can honestly say that I am equally atheistic to either. So is Dawkins distinction silly? Have I got the wrong end of the stick? Or is the distinction wholly legitimate and it is me who cannot see why?

Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.


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 Message 3 by bluegenes, posted 04-04-2010 8:03 AM bluegenes has replied

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Straggler
Member (Idle past 203 days)
Posts: 10332
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


(1)
Message 20 of 179 (554122)
04-06-2010 2:50 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by AZPaul3
04-04-2010 11:21 AM


Re: Onto the Continuum.
Within a straight-jacket definition of agnosticism and the philosophy of science this may be true. But on the continuum of the confidence scale there is a point, subjective to a degree and different to each subject being considered, where the evidence becomes so strong that reasonable people, unfettered by superstition and obstinacy, can no longer deny the reality of the conclusions. At this point agnosticism, imo, whithers away. It is not replaced by faith in the subject or conclusion but by the acknowledgment of the reality we have seen.

Absolutely.

As applied to the supernatural or "unknowable" I would say that the evidence favouring such concepts being the product of the human mind is sufficiently strong to warrant such a conclusion.


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hooah212002
Member (Idle past 35 days)
Posts: 3193
Joined: 08-12-2009


Message 21 of 179 (554151)
04-06-2010 4:20 PM
Reply to: Message 15 by Straggler
04-06-2010 2:12 PM


Re: Are We All "Agnostics"?
Or do we need some better terminology here to define the position you are taking?

Yes. We can call it rational.


"Some people think God is an outsized, light-skinned male with a long white beard, sitting on a throne somewhere up there in the sky, busily tallying the fall of every sparrow. Others—for example Baruch Spinoza and Albert Einstein—considered God to be essentially the sum total of the physical laws which describe the universe. I do not know of any compelling evidence for anthropomorphic patriarchs controlling human destiny from some hidden celestial vantage point, but it would be madness to deny the existence of physical laws."-Carl Sagan

"Show me where Christ said "Love thy fellow man, except for the gay ones." Gay people, too, are made in my God's image. I would never worship a homophobic God." -Desmond Tutu


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AZPaul3
Member
Posts: 6636
From: Phoenix
Joined: 11-06-2006
Member Rating: 3.1


Message 22 of 179 (554196)
04-06-2010 8:41 PM
Reply to: Message 20 by Straggler
04-06-2010 2:50 PM


Re: Onto the Continuum.
Absolutely.

As applied to the supernatural or "unknowable" I would say that the evidence favouring such concepts being the product of the human mind is sufficiently strong to warrant such a conclusion.

I agree.

But on to your question of message 19.

Using your IPU analogies I think Dr. Dawkins was basing his TAP/PAP division on the following:

If the Invisible Pink Unicorn has the option to reveal her sacred pinkness but has not chosen to do so then this is TAP solely on the outside possibility that she may at some time somewhere change her mind. There is still the vanishingly slim possibility that some kind of evidence can be had at anytime in the future. Thus the scale of belief (from 2 to 6 anyway) can be useful.

If the poor dear is unable to reveal herself then this is PAP. No chance, none, nada, totally impossible that there will ever be any evidence, any conclusion is impossible to achieve and a scale of belief is meaningless.

Remember that what Richard was doing was justifying placing the concept of the Abrahamic god, indeed all gods, in the TAP category thus subject to scientific evidence of the type in your quote above.

If the concept of gods were PAP (which they are under a different definition of the word pap, but I stray) then no level of inquiry, even theological, is possible.

--------------------------------

After re-reading this I find the description is weak. Let me try this by way of explanation.

These are personal planks of a personal philosophy. You define your category by your beliefs, world view, philosophy, whatever you want to call it.

-100% Theist

-100% Atheist

-Agnostic

-PAP: permanently agnostic on principal. There can not be any evidence on the question. Inquiry is not possible. No conclusion can ever be reached.

-TAP: temporarily agnostic in practice. There may be evidence, there may be a possibility of evidence whether for or against the subject. Rate yourself by your level of belief (2-6) based upon any evidence, lack of evidence, feelings, acculturation as you perceive their strength.

This, I think, is a clearer picture of what Dawkins was setting up.

Edited by AZPaul3, : added thought

Edited by AZPaul3, : No reason given.

Edited by AZPaul3, : format


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bluegenes
Member (Idle past 1711 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.


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bluegenes
Member (Idle past 1711 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".


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Jumped Up Chimpanzee
Member (Idle past 4176 days)
Posts: 572
From: UK
Joined: 10-22-2009


Message 25 of 179 (554281)
04-07-2010 4:32 AM
Reply to: Message 24 by bluegenes
04-07-2010 12:33 AM


Re: What about the Dawkins spectrum?
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".

The problem is that "god" is not defined - or it is described in so many vague and different ways there is no clear definition. It is impossible to express knowledge of something that isn't defined. I would suggest it is also impossible to "believe" in something that is undefined - or at least it is meaningless to express such a belief. Anyone who says they believe in god is not conveying anything of meaning to anyone else (for who could say whether or not they share even the same image or concept of god?).

So an agnostic position is very strange. An agnostic is someone who cannot confirm whether or not they believe in something that cannot be defined to them by someone else and which they cannot define to anyone else.


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Jumped Up Chimpanzee
Member (Idle past 4176 days)
Posts: 572
From: UK
Joined: 10-22-2009


Message 26 of 179 (554282)
04-07-2010 4:42 AM
Reply to: Message 17 by Straggler
04-06-2010 2:28 PM


Re: Unknowables
I would say that you have to be agnostic about something defined. As we discovered in an earlier discussion the question "Do you believe X exists?" is entirely meaningless unless we know what X is.

I agree entirely. Which is why on considering this matter further an agnostic position towards "god" is very strange - for what is "god"? But then I suppose a theist or atheist position may be equally strange for the same reason.

Do you subjectively perceive the colour red as I do?

And do any 2 people on the earth perceive "god" the same? Do any 2 atheists disbelieve in the same god? Are any 2 agnostics undecided about the existence of the same entity? Do any 2 theists believe in the same entity?

I think this discussion highlights the absurdity of "god". But I think it is precisely because god is undefined and unknowable that is why it is so successful. You cannot disprove something that is undefined. It is unbeatable in that sense.


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AZPaul3
Member
Posts: 6636
From: Phoenix
Joined: 11-06-2006
Member Rating: 3.1


Message 27 of 179 (554303)
04-07-2010 8:57 AM
Reply to: Message 26 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee
04-07-2010 4:42 AM


Re: Unknowables
I think this discussion highlights the absurdity of "god". But I think it is precisely because god is undefined and unknowable that is why it is so successful. You cannot disprove something that is undefined. It is unbeatable in that sense.

If you were forced to use Dawkins then could you define your beliefs on god to be permanently agnostic in principal?


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Jumped Up Chimpanzee
Member (Idle past 4176 days)
Posts: 572
From: UK
Joined: 10-22-2009


Message 28 of 179 (554308)
04-07-2010 10:21 AM
Reply to: Message 27 by AZPaul3
04-07-2010 8:57 AM


Re: Unknowables
If you were forced to use Dawkins then could you define your beliefs on god to be permanently agnostic in principal?

In the context of this argument, I don't really have any beliefs on god, as I don't know what god is or means.


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AZPaul3
Member
Posts: 6636
From: Phoenix
Joined: 11-06-2006
Member Rating: 3.1


Message 29 of 179 (554312)
04-07-2010 10:47 AM
Reply to: Message 28 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee
04-07-2010 10:21 AM


Re: Unknowables
In the context of this argument, I don't really have any beliefs on god, as I don't know what god is or means.

Ignostic, then. That's one Dawkins tried to cover in PAP but not strongly enough, imo.


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Jumped Up Chimpanzee
Member (Idle past 4176 days)
Posts: 572
From: UK
Joined: 10-22-2009


Message 30 of 179 (554323)
04-07-2010 12:28 PM
Reply to: Message 29 by AZPaul3
04-07-2010 10:47 AM


Re: Unknowables
I hadn't heard the phrase "ignostic" before.

I like it and I'll adopt it!


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