ISF Logo   IS Forum
Forum Index Register Members List Events Mark Forums Read Help

Go Back   International Skeptics Forum » General Topics » Religion and Philosophy
 


Welcome to the International Skeptics Forum, where we discuss skepticism, critical thinking, the paranormal and science in a friendly but lively way. You are currently viewing the forum as a guest, which means you are missing out on discussing matters that are of interest to you. Please consider registering so you can gain full use of the forum features and interact with other Members. Registration is simple, fast and free! Click here to register today.
Tags agnosticism , agnosticism definitions

Reply
Old 9th May 2018, 10:12 PM   #201
BadBoy
Graduate Poster
 
BadBoy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 1,296
Originally Posted by ynot View Post
Atheists special pleading for god beliefs is more weird and concerning than god beliefs.
Reeeallly???

__________________
Go sell crazy someplace else we're all stocked up here
BadBoy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 9th May 2018, 10:15 PM   #202
Egg
Graduate Poster
 
Egg's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2007
Posts: 1,486
Originally Posted by BadBoy View Post
I believe you may be correct, though not totally because you need to provide evidence. But I think what you said could be true, and probably is true - to some extent. But I'm prepared to change my mind.
__________________

"That's the thing with eggs: It's all about chicks and getting laid." - Wuschel
"A hen is only an egg's way of making another egg" - Samuel Butler
“When arguing with a stone an egg is always wrong” - African proverb
“A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked” - Bernard Meltzer
Egg is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 10th May 2018, 12:42 AM   #203
3point14
Pi
 
3point14's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 15,816
Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
Easy: It's entirely possible the first person to set foot on Mars will be a woman, right? What's the possibility that the first person who steps foot on Mars will be a 5'6'' left-handed woman who's first name starts with "M"?


I think the massive cognitive dissonance you're now suffering at almost realising that all gods are fictional has actually broken your brain.

Would you like me to ask the question again? Or might that cause more damage?
__________________
Up the River!
3point14 is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 10th May 2018, 02:14 AM   #204
David Mo
Illuminator
 
David Mo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Location: Somewhere on the Greenwich meridian
Posts: 3,160
Originally Posted by ynot View Post
"Disbelief" (belief of lack) and "don't hold a belief" (lack of belief) are not the same thing. Why does this have to be pointed out ad infinitum?
The problem is that we use expressions that are not very clear. It would be simpler if we say that there are three positions according to what is claimed:
(1) X exists.
(2) X does not exist
(3) You can't say either one or the other.
But we complicate it by talking about the belief in the non-belief in believing that... We believe that we are specifying and we are actually creating confusion.
And I don't care how the three positions are called or how many types you can divide them into. Let's start with the elementary and then we'll complicate things.
David Mo is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 10th May 2018, 07:37 AM   #205
Ron_Tomkins
Satan's Helper
 
Ron_Tomkins's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 42,943
Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
That's giving belief a little bit too much power for my taste.

"God exists" is an opinion
No. It's a belief. And I don't see why you think I'm giving belief too much power. Belief is just an emotional hunch. It doesn't make it any true, of course. But it's a real type of feeling human beings experience.
__________________
"I am a collection of water, calcium and organic molecules called Carl Sagan"

Carl Sagan
Ron_Tomkins is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 10th May 2018, 07:40 AM   #206
Ron_Tomkins
Satan's Helper
 
Ron_Tomkins's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 42,943
Originally Posted by JesseCuster View Post
But an agnostic is not someone who doesn't know whether there's a God, an agnostic is someone who believes that they don't know whether there's a god (or believes it can't be known, or other variations on the idea).
No. An agnostic is someone who doesn't know if there is a God. Now you're throwing "belief" inside the definition of Agnosticism and you're not helping you or anyone make things clearer. I don't understand this tendency to keep redefining simple concepts. Agnosticism is an issue of epistemology. It deals with what we know. Period.

Of course, someone could decide to go down the philosophical rabbit hole and start asking "Well, do you even know if you exist? How do you know you're not a robot or a computer simulation? blablabla", but I'm not interested in those science fiction metaphysical philosophical games. There is a very clear definition of Agnosticism.
__________________
"I am a collection of water, calcium and organic molecules called Carl Sagan"

Carl Sagan

Last edited by Ron_Tomkins; 10th May 2018 at 07:42 AM.
Ron_Tomkins is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 10th May 2018, 09:47 AM   #207
Fudbucker
Philosopher
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 8,537
Originally Posted by 3point14 View Post
I think the massive cognitive dissonance you're now suffering at almost realising that all gods are fictional has actually broken your brain.

Would you like me to ask the question again? Or might that cause more damage?
I've noticed here that when people who don't know philosophy try to do philosophy, it doesn't go so well. I will try to explain: the more specific the claim you're making, the more ways there are to be wrong. The claim "alien life exists" encompasses a lot of possibilities. The claim alien life exists ten thousand light years from us and has three legs is a specific subset of the claim "alien life exists". It is more much more likely to be wrong, but even if it IS wrong, it does not disconfirm the claim "alien life exists" (well, a tiny bit). This is true whenever you go from generic claims like "the first person on Mars will be a woman" to specific claims like "the first person on Mars will be a woman with X characteristics."

Now, let's see if you can make the connection between what I just said to theism, and the very specific gods people claim exist, and how their non-existence doesn't affect theism, overall.

Last edited by Fudbucker; 10th May 2018 at 09:58 AM.
Fudbucker is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 10th May 2018, 09:52 AM   #208
3point14
Pi
 
3point14's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 15,816
Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
I've noticed here that when people who don't know philosophy try to do philosophy, it doesn't go so well.

I might do better if you answered the question.

My lack of knowledge does not excuse your lack of response.

How about, given that you claim knowledge I don't have, you answer the question I posed. At the moment it just looks like you're dodging, first by making an inappropriate and nonsensical analogy then by posting an answer so ridiculous that nobody understood it. This might be because the answer is so brilliant that I can't understand it. In which case, can you dumb it down for me to give me a chance to understand it.

Here's the initial exchange again for your reference:

Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
The ridiculousness of a particular fictional religion (Scientology) has a much to do with the possible existence of god(s) as the ridiculousness of a particular fictional alien life (Vogons) has to do with the possible existence of alien life. Which is to say, nothing.


Originally Posted by 3point14 View Post
Can I ask how you, personally, distinguish a "fictional religion" from a religion?
__________________
Up the River!
3point14 is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 10th May 2018, 11:10 AM   #209
Fudbucker
Philosopher
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 8,537
Originally Posted by 3point14 View Post
I might do better if you answered the question.

My lack of knowledge does not excuse your lack of response.

How about, given that you claim knowledge I don't have, you answer the question I posed. At the moment it just looks like you're dodging, first by making an inappropriate and nonsensical analogy then by posting an answer so ridiculous that nobody understood it. This might be because the answer is so brilliant that I can't understand it. In which case, can you dumb it down for me to give me a chance to understand it.

Here's the initial exchange again for your reference:
I gave you an answer in post 183:

Quote:
The same way you distinguish a "fictional alien" from an alien.
Do you think the FSM exists? No, it's preposterous. Does it's non-existence harm the general proposition "alien life exists"? Of course not.

Do you think Xenu exists? No, it's preposterous. Does it's non-exisence harm the general proposition "god(s) exist"? Of course not.
Fudbucker is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 10th May 2018, 11:56 AM   #210
3point14
Pi
 
3point14's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 15,816
Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
I gave you an answer in post 183:



Do you think the FSM exists? No, it's preposterous. Does it's non-existence harm the general proposition "alien life exists"? Of course not.

Do you think Xenu exists? No, it's preposterous. Does it's non-exisence harm the general proposition "god(s) exist"? Of course not.

I still don't get it. Can you try it without analogy. I don't get your analogies.

What's the criteria for the decision? What qualities are you looking at?

When presented with a religion you've never heard of before, what is it you would need to know about that religion to be able to assess if it's fictional or not?
__________________
Up the River!

Last edited by 3point14; 10th May 2018 at 11:58 AM.
3point14 is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 10th May 2018, 12:13 PM   #211
ynot
Philosopher
 
ynot's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 7,789
Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
Do you think the FSM exists? No, it's preposterous.
No more or less preposterous than thinking any type of imaginary god(s) actually exist.

Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
Does it's non-existence harm the general proposition "alien life exists"? Of course not.
You prove the non-existence of the FSM.
To correlate impossible fictional aliens with possible actual aliens as an analogy is a good example of “preposterous”.

Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
Do you think Xenu exists? No, it's preposterous.
No more or less preposterous than thinking any type of imaginary god(s) actually exist.

Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
Does it's non-exisence harm the general proposition "god(s) exist"? Of course not.
You prove the non-existence of Xenu.
Does the non-existence of "God" harm the general proposition paranormal belief "Xenu exist"? Of course not.

You have yet to explain how this . . .
Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
Easy: It's entirely possible the first person to set foot on Mars will be a woman, right? What's the possibility that the first person who steps foot on Mars will be a 5'6'' left-handed woman who's first name starts with "M"?
Is an expanation of this . . .
Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
The same way you distinguish a "fictional alien" from an alien.
Sorry but you are obviously the one dancing too far from the music.
__________________
Paranormal beliefs are knowledge placebos.
Rumours of a god’s existence have been greatly exaggerated.

Last edited by ynot; 10th May 2018 at 12:31 PM.
ynot is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 10th May 2018, 12:17 PM   #212
ynot
Philosopher
 
ynot's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 7,789
Originally Posted by 3point14 View Post
I still don't get it. Can you try it without analogy. I don't get your analogies.
That's because there's no valid analogy to get.
__________________
Paranormal beliefs are knowledge placebos.
Rumours of a god’s existence have been greatly exaggerated.
ynot is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 10th May 2018, 03:15 PM   #213
jrhowell
Muse
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 507
Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
Do you think the FSM exists? No, it's preposterous. Does it's non-existence harm the general proposition "alien life exists"? Of course not.

Do you think Xenu exists? No, it's preposterous. Does it's non-exisence harm the general proposition "god(s) exist"? Of course not.
Sure, but this entire line of argument is a red herring.

We know for certain that life exists, so the possible existence of more life elsewhere isn't much of a stretch.

So far there is no credible evidence that any god of any sort exists at all.
jrhowell is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 10th May 2018, 03:33 PM   #214
Fudbucker
Philosopher
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 8,537
Originally Posted by jrhowell View Post
Sure, but this entire line of argument is a red herring.

We know for certain that life exists, so the possible existence of more life elsewhere isn't much of a stretch.

So far there is no credible evidence that any god of any sort exists at all.
What credible evidence is there that alien life exists?
Fudbucker is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 10th May 2018, 03:35 PM   #215
ynot
Philosopher
 
ynot's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 7,789
Originally Posted by jrhowell View Post
Sure, but this entire line of argument is a red herring.

We know for certain that life exists, so the possible existence of more life elsewhere isn't much of a stretch.

So far there is no credible evidence that any god of any sort exists at all.
And that complete lack of credible evidence isn’t changed by how long and how many people believe in a particular god. Exactly the same lack of evidence there is for Xenu, FSM or any other imaginary god that can be made up on the spot in five minutes or less.
__________________
Paranormal beliefs are knowledge placebos.
Rumours of a god’s existence have been greatly exaggerated.
ynot is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 10th May 2018, 03:37 PM   #216
ynot
Philosopher
 
ynot's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 7,789
Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
What credible evidence is there that alien life exists?
There's credible evidence that alien life could and might exist. You can't say that about gods.
__________________
Paranormal beliefs are knowledge placebos.
Rumours of a god’s existence have been greatly exaggerated.
ynot is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 10th May 2018, 03:46 PM   #217
jrhowell
Muse
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 507
Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
What credible evidence is there that alien life exists?
The existence of life on earth is evidence that life other places is possible.

There is no evidence that the existence of a god is possible.
jrhowell is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 10th May 2018, 03:59 PM   #218
ynot
Philosopher
 
ynot's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 7,789
I always wonder how theists would react if life (especially intelligent life) was ever found beyond Earth. I expect it would be merely hand-waved away with moving of goalposts and excuses of convenience.
__________________
Paranormal beliefs are knowledge placebos.
Rumours of a god’s existence have been greatly exaggerated.
ynot is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 10th May 2018, 04:04 PM   #219
ynot
Philosopher
 
ynot's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 7,789
Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
What credible evidence is there that alien life exists?
Yet another desperate red-herring. No one is claiming there is credible evidence that alien life does exist (yet).
__________________
Paranormal beliefs are knowledge placebos.
Rumours of a god’s existence have been greatly exaggerated.

Last edited by ynot; 10th May 2018 at 04:07 PM.
ynot is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 10th May 2018, 04:16 PM   #220
Fudbucker
Philosopher
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 8,537
Originally Posted by jrhowell View Post
The existence of life on earth is evidence that life other places is possible.

There is no evidence that the existence of a god is possible.
You don't need evidence for the possible existence of something.
Fudbucker is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 10th May 2018, 04:36 PM   #221
ynot
Philosopher
 
ynot's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 7,789
Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
You don't need evidence for the possible existence of something.
"Possible to exist" isn't the same as "Possibly exists". It has to be possible for a thing to be able to exist before it can be possible that it does exist. We have credible evidence that it's possible for aliens to exist. We have no credible evidence that it's possible for gods to exist.

When there’s no known way by which a thing (e.g gods) could even possibly exist, and absolutely no credible evidence that thing does exist, then it’s rational to conclude that thing doesn’t exist, and it's irrational to believe it does exist.
__________________
Paranormal beliefs are knowledge placebos.
Rumours of a god’s existence have been greatly exaggerated.

Last edited by ynot; 10th May 2018 at 05:05 PM.
ynot is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 10th May 2018, 05:03 PM   #222
ynot
Philosopher
 
ynot's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 7,789
Yet another Oooops
__________________
Paranormal beliefs are knowledge placebos.
Rumours of a god’s existence have been greatly exaggerated.
ynot is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 10th May 2018, 05:09 PM   #223
Fudbucker
Philosopher
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 8,537
Originally Posted by ynot View Post
"Possible to exist" isn't the same as "Possibly exists". It has to be possible for a thing to be able to exist before it can be possible that it does exist. We have credible evidence that it's possible for aliens to exist. We have no credible evidence that it's possible for gods to exist.

When there’s no known way by which a thing (e.g gods) could even possibly exist, and absolutely no credible evidence that thing does exist, then it’s rational to conclude that thing doesn’t exist, and it's irrational to believe it does exist.
Fudbucker is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 10th May 2018, 05:13 PM   #224
ynot
Philosopher
 
ynot's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 7,789
Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
Is that the best you have to offer?

To merely believe that the known impossible is possible is to believe in magic and miracles. Which is merely what you do.
__________________
Paranormal beliefs are knowledge placebos.
Rumours of a god’s existence have been greatly exaggerated.

Last edited by ynot; 10th May 2018 at 05:17 PM.
ynot is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 10th May 2018, 06:06 PM   #225
Thor 2
Illuminator
 
Thor 2's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2016
Location: Brisbane, Aust.
Posts: 3,951
Originally Posted by ynot View Post
I always wonder how theists would react if life (especially intelligent life) was ever found beyond Earth. I expect it would be merely hand-waved away with moving of goalposts and excuses of convenience.

I have asked the question, as a hypothetical, of the religious in my family. That is: "What if there is life elsewhere in the universe." and "How would that impact on your faith".

Generally it is hand waved away as not possible, but a proviso is inserted that if it were so, God would have been there also.

As abiogenesis becomes more and more accepted among those with some expertise on the matter, we are faced with the knowledge that our universe is enormous, and the number of planets, (many within the Goldilocks zone), so numerous, that the chances of life developing elsewhere are overwhelming.

Fudbucker is trying to make an analogy between existence of God and alien life. This does not work unless he can provide proof that God or gods exist elsewhere in the universe.
__________________
Thinking is a faith hazard.

Last edited by Thor 2; 10th May 2018 at 06:07 PM.
Thor 2 is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 10th May 2018, 06:41 PM   #226
ynot
Philosopher
 
ynot's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 7,789
Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
I have asked the question, as a hypothetical, of the religious in my family. That is: "What if there is life elsewhere in the universe." and "How would that impact on your faith".
Me too, but the answers are usually so wishy-washy and vague they're hard to cohere and remember.

Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
Generally it is hand waved away as not possible, but a proviso is inserted that if it were so, God would have been there also.
Yet they will likely claim in a different breath that it can't be said that gods are not possible.

Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
As abiogenesis becomes more and more accepted among those with some expertise on the matter, we are faced with the knowledge that our universe is enormous, and the number of planets, (many within the Goldilocks zone), so numerous, that the chances of life developing elsewhere are overwhelming.
Yep. Hope it happens in my lifetime.

Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
Fudbucker is trying to make an analogy between existence of God and alien life. This does not work unless he can provide proof that God or gods exist elsewhere in the universe.
An analogy no less as if the probability of gods and alien life actually existing was equal.

Paranormal beliefs sure do screw with the brain's ability to be rational.
__________________
Paranormal beliefs are knowledge placebos.
Rumours of a god’s existence have been greatly exaggerated.

Last edited by ynot; 10th May 2018 at 06:49 PM.
ynot is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 10th May 2018, 07:02 PM   #227
Fudbucker
Philosopher
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 8,537
Originally Posted by ynot View Post
Is that the best you have to offer?

To merely believe that the known impossible is possible is to believe in magic and miracles. Which is merely what you do.
Either English is your second language or...

Yeah, an eye roll is the best I have to offer. Why would I waste my time on anything more nuanced?

Quote:
It has to be possible for a thing to be able to exist before it can be possible that it does exist.
Fudbucker is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 10th May 2018, 07:02 PM   #228
Egg
Graduate Poster
 
Egg's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2007
Posts: 1,486
Originally Posted by Ron_Tomkins View Post
I miss the old days when meaning of words was not something subjective and "debatable" and "relative", and you could just refer to a dictionary and go on with the rest of your day.
Originally Posted by Ron_Tomkins View Post
Belief is just an emotional hunch. It doesn't make it any true, of course. But it's a real type of feeling human beings experience.
Originally Posted by Ron_Tomkins View Post
No. An agnostic is someone who doesn't know if there is a God. Now you're throwing "belief" inside the definition of Agnosticism and you're not helping you or anyone make things clearer. I don't understand this tendency to keep redefining simple concepts. Agnosticism is an issue of epistemology. It deals with what we know. Period.
Was this a test to see if anyone was paying attention? Do I win?
__________________

"That's the thing with eggs: It's all about chicks and getting laid." - Wuschel
"A hen is only an egg's way of making another egg" - Samuel Butler
“When arguing with a stone an egg is always wrong” - African proverb
“A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked” - Bernard Meltzer
Egg is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th May 2018, 12:54 AM   #229
3point14
Pi
 
3point14's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 15,816
Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
Either English is your second language or...

Yeah, an eye roll is the best I have to offer. Why would I waste my time on anything more nuanced?



Hi there. I think you missed this. Can I just get an answer to:

Originally Posted by 3point14 View Post
When presented with a religion you've never heard of before, what is it you would need to know about that religion to be able to assess if it's fictional or not?
__________________
Up the River!
3point14 is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th May 2018, 05:46 AM   #230
Chanakya

 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Posts: 622
Originally Posted by dudalb View Post
Yeah, it is in skeptic circles.
And it is bizarre that all too often the more militant athiests behave exactly the way militant religious believers behave. They become a Bizarro version of the "religionists" they hate. That is a major reason I have become really disillusioned with a lot of the aspects of "The New Atheism".

I’ve found this somewhat disconcerting myself. Both in general, as well as within these forums. And, within these forums, not necessarily when it comes to atheism alone.

Thing is, while a great deal of thought has had to go in to formulate the idea of atheism (using that term generally and broadly, in its etymological sense, and therefore inclusive of agnosticism as well) and everything it represents, there are many who have simply latched on to the end result of that thinking process. It is easy enough, for such people, to go in for the atheistic equivalent of banging tin drums and screaming out Hallelujahs in front of their chosen deity and loudly proclaiming the One True Faith, in complete absence of actual depth of thought.

These JREF/ISF forums do facilitate and contain a great many very insightful discussions, which I suppose draws people here : but I have, on more than one occasion, been very disconcerted at coming across, here, what was simply unthinking and wholly closed-minded clamoring. Here’s how I’ve come to explain this discrepancy :

I think one way of explaining this peculiarity might be to think of a large caravan that, along with all the people who travel with it, also attracts a whole lot of yapping curs, which no doubt believe themselves very much part of the caravan. Similarly, these ‘smart’ forums draw to them a number of people who like to latch on to the conclusions others have arrived at for themselves, but who, in the absence of depth of thought, make do with putting up on an altar the concepts of atheism and skepticism, and putting up a verbal crusade to protect the dignity and the honor of these new gods. After all, anyone with an email id and with some time to kill can pile in on this particular caravan, and spend as many days and months and years here as they like (provided they take enough care not to be banned) : all that is required (although even that is no more than a de facto self-selection that I expect occurs in practice with many/most people here, as opposed to a requirement per se) is that one self-describe as “skeptic”.

I’m using this caravan-cur analogy because it is the only way I am able to explain why the level of discussions on here can be so uneven : at times brilliant, and at others reduced to imbecile gibbering and closed-minded clamoring. This is not to denigrate anyone at all, in any way or form : after all, the curs also have their uses, and are often liked and sometimes even loved and cherished. And of course, people too are sometimes far less knowledgeable in certain particular areas than they are in others – indeed, in terms of knowledge in general, and especially in terms of specific knowledge about certain specific subjects, I would not hesitate to count myself amongst the curs -- but what I’m mainly referring to here is not so much the differences in people’s intelligence or in their knowledge base, but the unthinking closed-mindedness one is sometimes astonished to encounter here, and which one would think would be wholly out of place within these skeptics’ forums.

Of course, that isn’t, literally, the “only” explanation : another way to explain this discrepancy, as it appears to me, points towards the person who’s doing this evaluation in their mind, in this case me. Perhaps it is that I am myself very ignorant about some subjects, and so, if I find it of interest and follow the discussion, then I get to learn a great deal from the facts and POVs discussed, and therefore I appreciate these discussions the most (even as I generally don’t even speak up there, having nothing of any worth to contribute to the discussion) ; then there may be some subjects where I know some things, but don’t know certain other things, and I can still learn from different POVs offered, and certain details thrown up ; and finally, there may be some subjects where I believe I know as much as, or more than, some of the others participating, and in discussions of this nature one actually participates primarily as contributor, and often enjoys the process, but at times, in certain discussions, one may find oneself getting impatient with what appears to me to be the denseness of some other posters. When it is this last, then that -- the denseness of others -- might actually be the case, or it could simply be that I’m blindsided about how much I think I know.

So which is it, when it comes to explaining the discrepancy that one perceives here in the level of discussions : caravan-cur, or how-much-do-I/we-know ? If the latter, then which is it : actually-the-case, or blindsided? Probably it is not an either-or thing, but a combination of all three. Combined in what proportion? I am not self-aware enough to be anywhere close to sure about that.
Chanakya is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th May 2018, 06:00 AM   #231
Dave Rogers
Bandaged ice that stampedes inexpensively through a scribbled morning waving necessary ankles
 
Dave Rogers's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Cair Paravel, according to XKCD
Posts: 27,669
Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
Thing is, while a great deal of thought has had to go in to formulate the idea of atheism (using that term generally and broadly, in its etymological sense, and therefore inclusive of agnosticism as well) and everything it represents,
I would dispute that claim, and all the thinking that lies behind it. There doesn't, in fact, need to be very much thought whatsoever to arrive at a position of atheism; it could be claimed to be the default, that we simply do not believe in the existence of entities for which there is no evidence. There is, of course, room for a very large body of thought that follows on from a starting position of atheism, because by denying the fundamental claim to validity of the entirety of religious thought it places the onus on the atheist either to formulate his or her own answers or to find ones supported by evidence and argument rather than the force majeure of some deity, but none of that is necessary simply to point out that there is no reason to believe in something for which there is no credible evidence.

And that, of course, is also why atheism is not, and can never be, a religion in its own right, even though it may be a component of other systems of thought that approximate to religions. It doesn't entail subscription to a body of thought that's been arrived at by consensus. It's simply a reasonable default; a starting point, not a finishing point.

Dave
__________________
Me: So what you're saying is that, if the load carrying ability of the lower structure is reduced to the point where it can no longer support the load above it, it will collapse without a jolt, right?

Tony Szamboti: That is right
Dave Rogers is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th May 2018, 06:10 AM   #232
3point14
Pi
 
3point14's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 15,816
How about...

'An agnostic is a person who believes that the belief others have in fictional characters should influence their thinking'?

Or

'An agnostic is a person who is not even sure if they exist or not'?


__________________
Up the River!
3point14 is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th May 2018, 06:15 AM   #233
dann
Philosopher
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 5,805
Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
I have, on more than one occasion, been very disconcerted at coming across, here, what was simply unthinking and wholly closed-minded clamoring.

Rejoice!
In their book, Phil Zuckerman, Luke W. Galen and Frank L. Pasquale talk about:
Quote:
... the general reluctance of most secular people to join groups specifically focused on secularity.
The Nonreligious: Understanding Secular People and Societies (2016)

The yapping curs may be loud, but they are a very small minority of the rapidly growing number of secularists!
__________________
/dann
"Stupidity renders itself invisible by assuming very large proportions. Completely unreasonable claims are irrefutable. Ni-en-leh pointed out that a philosopher might get into trouble by claiming that two times two makes five, but he does not risk much by claiming that two times two makes shoe polish." B. Brecht
"The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions." K. Marx

Last edited by dann; 11th May 2018 at 06:19 AM.
dann is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th May 2018, 06:18 AM   #234
dann
Philosopher
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 5,805
Originally Posted by Dave Rogers View Post
There doesn't, in fact, need to be very much thought whatsoever to arrive at a position of atheism; it could be claimed to be the default, that we simply do not believe in the existence of entities for which there is no evidence. (...) It doesn't entail subscription to a body of thought that's been arrived at by consensus. It's simply a reasonable default; a starting point, not a finishing point.

I agree!
__________________
/dann
"Stupidity renders itself invisible by assuming very large proportions. Completely unreasonable claims are irrefutable. Ni-en-leh pointed out that a philosopher might get into trouble by claiming that two times two makes five, but he does not risk much by claiming that two times two makes shoe polish." B. Brecht
"The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions." K. Marx
dann is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th May 2018, 06:20 AM   #235
Dave Rogers
Bandaged ice that stampedes inexpensively through a scribbled morning waving necessary ankles
 
Dave Rogers's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Cair Paravel, according to XKCD
Posts: 27,669
Originally Posted by Ron_Tomkins View Post
No. An agnostic is someone who doesn't know if there is a God. Now you're throwing "belief" inside the definition of Agnosticism and you're not helping you or anyone make things clearer. I don't understand this tendency to keep redefining simple concepts. Agnosticism is an issue of epistemology. It deals with what we know. Period.
Your claim, as I see it, is that everyone is an agnostic, because nobody can objectively know whether there is or is not a God. If so, then the word "agnostic" according to your definition is redundant and need not be used. Can we please, therefore, use it for a definition that's useful to the rest of us, which is "a person who believes that they cannot know for certain whether there is or is not a God"?

And if we're not allowed to use it that way, what's the point of the word existing at all? It's about as useful as describing a person as "a respiratory," to indicate that their metabolism requires respiration; we don't have such a word because, in the absence of any other type of person, it's not necessary.

Dave
__________________
Me: So what you're saying is that, if the load carrying ability of the lower structure is reduced to the point where it can no longer support the load above it, it will collapse without a jolt, right?

Tony Szamboti: That is right
Dave Rogers is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th May 2018, 06:23 AM   #236
Chanakya

 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Posts: 622
JoeMorgue, I see that you’re either unable or unwilling to engage with my post #99. Perhaps that is wise. When one has nothing to say, when one has no reasonable argument to offer, then it might be better to say nothing. An even better course of action might be to directly accept that one was wrong when the discussion clearly shows this -- at least if one’s intention is a straightforward examination of ideas, as opposed to the closed-minded furthering of some pre-conceived conclusions and biases -- but if one is unable to do bring oneself to admit to having been wrong, then simply retreating from the discussion may be the next best option.

Since you’ve shown yourself unable to answer my very reasonable questions -- which I have now asked you twice, and which you’ve declined to answer both times (the first time by side-stepping it, and the second time by simply abandoning the discussion) -- let’s now turn to your post #97 addressed to me, and the inconsistencies and inaccuracies galore within that post.


Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
I still don't think you get that I see being forced to define my stance to some exacting degree is the problem.

You’re right, I don’t. First of all, it isn’t your particular stance, your personal beliefs, that I am interested in at all (unless that is what we happen to be discussing -- which is not the case at this time). All I am saying is that when two people speak of Agnosticism and Atheism, and both seem to be using the words in different senses, then instead of continuing to talk past each other, it makes sense to clearly recognize this semantic disagreement for what it is, and to put it to rest by agreeing to use one common definition for these terms at least for the space of the discussion -- and failing even that, to simply speak of the underlying concepts directly when they happen to come up in the course of the discussion, instead of stubbornly continuing to use the words in different senses, and therefore getting nowhere at all in the actual discussion on the underlying conepts.

Do explain why you see that as “the problem”.


Quote:
I'm saying the hand wringing over exact terminology has an ulterior motive that clarifying the terminology won't actually help.

Instead of these repeated hints and innuendos, do come out and clearly explain what you believe this “ulterior motive” is. Who is it who harbors this “ulterior motive”, and how are they furthering this nefarious agenda of theirs? Go on, explain that to us, clearly please. And don’t forget that the man who actually coined the term Agnositicism was no theist himself, and therefore can hardly be accused of furthering some theists’ plot to sow confusion and disarray within the non-theists’ camp.

Also : who do you think is doing the “hand wringing” here? It is you (and a few others here who seem to think like you) who keep insisting that the words Agnostic and Atheist are to mean what you/they happen to believe they should mean. When that absurd demand to straitjacket the meaning of real-life words is challenged, then you/they go down a linguistic rabbit hole -- I'm referring to these two threads specifically about the meaning of the words 'Atheism" and "Agnosticism' -- to try to try and somehow make your point. When your way within the rabbit hole you have yourselves dug is blocked with clear and cogent argument, you then turn around and accuse your interlocutors of “hand wringing over exact terminology”.

This is an open discussion forum, where everything everyone is saying is clearly visible. How can you possibly expect to get away with this sleight of hand?

If you believe that “hand-wringing over exact terminology” won’t actually help, then why get into it yourselves by starting as well as extensively participating in threads specifically about the meanings of those two words? (To be fair, you personally have only done the latter, not the former.) Surely you see the irony, the hypocrisy, in getting upset over this alleged hand-wringing only when you find yourself at a loss for words with which to respond to the legitimate questions raised?


Quote:
I thank you for the 5 paragraph long linguistic lecture, but it wasn't necessary

Wasn’t it? You could see my point only after I presented that “lecture”, that explanation, to you. Prior to that you were busy hacking away at a strawman version of my argument, unable to comprehend my actual point at all, despite my repeatedly redirecting you to my original post. I would say that that “lecture” was very necessary. (Provided you’ve finally understood, now, finally, at long last, why I’m saying that what I believe was Huxley’s intention is a perfectly valid interpretation of the term Agnostic, the etymology of the word notwithstanding -- albeit you do not yourself necessarily have to subscribe to it.)

And about your sarcastic reference to my explanation, I mean your use of the term “lecture” to refer to it : Is this brief foray into linguistics unwelcome to you? Don’t you see the irony in your rehashing your own unexamined linguistic stance over and over, and then finding it unwelcome when others get into linguistics in order to correct your own mistaken linguistic position? Why should you be surprised to come across a discussion on linguistics in a thread that is, after all, literally about the meaning of the word Agnostic?


Quote:
but I'm not arguing the linguistic. I'm arguing the need for the linguistics.

Ha, yes, I see that. You’d like us to accept, without question, your assertion that the word Agnostic should be taken to mean what you believe is the one and only meaning it can possibly have, and therefore we must not use it in the way we are actually using it. Further, you’d like us to accept, without question, your assertion that the word Atheist means what you would like it to mean, that and nothing else. (Am I right? That *is* your meaning, isn’t it? Please correct me if I’m strawmanning you, by clearly showing what your actual meaning was.)

True, if we were to do that, if we were to accept your bald assertion without question, then there would be no need for discussion, linguistic or otherwise.

But no, we’re not doing that, thank you very much. At least I most assuredly am not.

Do you not see that laying down two set-in-stone definitions for these two words (Agnostic and Atheist) is, in itself, an exercise in linguistics? Not so much arguments as pronouncements, but linguistic pronouncements? Starting two whole threads to specifically discuss the meanings of these two words, and then participating extensively in those threads, what on earth is that if not an exercise in linguistics?

How long will you continue to attempt to defend the clearly indefensible?

(Oh right, you did stop doing that. You did retreat from the discussion. I understand.)


Quote:
Yes you and I could very well spend the next 10 pages refining and defining and clarifying our position until all nuance is lost and all the rough edges are gone but... to what end and to what purpose?

Do you even understand what it is I am saying? Even now?

I’m saying when you have a discussion that involves the concepts and ideas that are broadly described by the words Agnostic and Atheist, then we try at the outset to arrive at common terms of reference at least for the space of the discussion, and, failing this, we speak directly about the underlying terms and concepts instead of fixating over (and quarreling about) the terms themselves.

That seems a simple and straightforward position, a perfectly simple and obvious proposal! Why is it that you are seemingly unable to comprehend this, despite my explaining this to you repeatedly? (You may well disagree, and if you wish present reasons for so disagreeing, that is a different matter : but you seem unable to even comprehend this simple point.)

Why on earth would what I’m suggesting require us to “spend the next 10 pages refining and defining and clarifying our position”? On the contrary, that is exactly what I’m asking you *not* to do! That is what I have observed people do in discussions here, and that is what I am suggesting they stop doing! This discussion (that is, this portion of the discussion that I am part of here) is specifically about how one can very easily stop wasting time and energy doing that -- as people demonstrably do here, in other threads -- when one is discussing the actual underlying concepts. I am actually arguing *against* the constant linguistic disagreements that keep on derailing discussions about and around the concepts and ideas of atheism and agnosticism.


Or perhaps your objection is more specific? Perhaps you’re objecting my taking up space within this thread itself, here, now, with a discussion on linguistics? Here and now, as opposed to generally speaking? Is that it? If that is the case, then what would you like to fill the pages of this thread with then, instead, this thread that is about the meanings of the word Agnostic? An echo chamber resonating with unquestioning acceptance of your not-very-clearly-thought-out ideas about what the words Agnostic and Atheist should mean in the world of your dreams and aspirations? You are unlikely to find that kind of unquestioning acquiescence in a skeptics’ forum.


Quote:
In other words asking me to clarify in detail why I think an argument is being too pedantic is pretty much asking me to lose.

First of all, this thread is about the meaning of the word Agnostic (and, indirectly, it also involves the meaning of the word Atheist, although the thread is not directly about that word). You seem happy enough to embark on this discussion, that is, you don’t seem to find this topic itself “pedantic”.

However, when you are asked to clearly and cogently defend what you are saying, suddenly the argument is too “pedantic”? Methinks your use of the word “pedantic” here is no more than an attempted put-down. Nothing more than that. And not even that, really, because as you can see, your attempted put-down is lying there, its nose bloodied, right there at our feet.

Do explain two things to me :
  1. What part of this discussion is too “pedantic” for you? How would you have liked it to progress, this discussion specifically about the meaning of the word Agnostic?

  2. How is asking you to explain your position, and to answer my reasonable questions, “asking you to lose”? I thought we were simply discussing this topic. What contest do you imagine we are entered upon here, what is it do you think your risk “losing” here, and how?


Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
That's what I keep saying, that the level of exactedness (that needs to be a word) demanding in this discussion has an ulterior motive.

That makes no sense at all.

Who has an ulterior motive? Do explain.

You don’t want to get into a detail and “exacted” discussion over the word Agnostic? Fair enough, no one is forcing you to do that. But as a matter of curiosity, what was your expectation, then, from a thread that is actually and literally about the meaning of the word Agnostic? Do tell.


Quote:
Now I get that this is the internet and the internet holy stone tablets state that there is no such thing as too much detail, too much nitpicking, too much pedantics, or too much semantics

You’ve lost me here. You’re attempting sarcasm here, I get that much, but could you clearly explain, instead of repeatedly throwing out hint and innuendo, exactly what it is you are trying to say? Your claiming certain rigid unvarying meanings for the words Atheist and Agnostic (words that in real life don’t have those fixed unvarying meanings), that isn’t pedantry according to you, but my objecting to them with clearly formulated arguments is? What a strange POV that is! Your own failed attempt at defending your position linguistically isn’t “too much detail”, but my showing you how your discussion itself is one about semantics, that is suddenly “too much detail”, simply because you have no answer? Fascinating!


Quote:
but I'm not going to get caught in some Jabbian trap of being forced to word my argument in such a way as to admit my opponent is right before I'm even allowed in the discussion.

Interesting! In what way do you imagine “your opponent” (that’s me, right, this “opponent” you refer to? Or is it Jabba? Or is it this mysterious group of theists who you keep claiming have foisted the word Agnosticism, and its different interpretations, on us to further their ulterior motives? Or who?) … I was saying, in what way do you imagine “your opponent” is forcing you or trapping you to admit they are right before you are even allowed in the discussion? Right in terms of what?

We may perhaps have finally broken through, beyond the smokescreen of words, to your underlying meaning. What is it do you think you’ll lose? What point is this that you risk losing? Do formulate that clearly, and we may, just perhaps, get somewhere yet after all.


Quote:
"God exists? Y/N" doesn't have to be approached from 90 bazillion different angles to the point that nobody is actually saying anything so the "belief" side can keep winning.

I admire how you’ve so carefully set up this stawman that you so consistently cling on to, but I’m afraid it is time to let it go now. You do see that, don’t you? You do realize, don’t you, that this is just a strawman?

Have you even now not understood what I have said to you thus far? Have you not been able to pick that up from that “lecture” even now?

How many times must I tell you that I am not advocating for equivocation over the God question, and nor am I advocating support for others’ equivocation on the God question. (That is, that particular aspect has not been discussed at all here, at least by me, one way or the other, thus far. I may speak about this yet, going forward, but I haven't, thus far, and not to you.) All I am saying -- and I’m repeating this for the “90 bazillionth time” to you now -- that in the real world, the words Agnostic and Atheist do carry more than one meaning, and people do use them in more than one sense. That is fact. And I have already proposed, myself, one very simple and very obvious and wholly common-sense way of dealing with this fact. And I have asked you if you agree ; and if you don’t, to tell us what you propose instead to deal with that fact when you discuss the underlying concepts with those who use these terms differently than you.

May I request you to stop clinging on to your strawman, and to engage with my actual position and questions instead?

(Unless you choose to disengage entirely from this discussion with me. You can do that, certainly, if that is what you want to do.)


Either way, it was fascinating discussing this with you, and getting to explore your thought processes as revealed in your posts. It was very interesting to observe at first hand how self-declared skeptics aren’t necessarily any more free from closed-mindedness and confused thinking than the Woo-huggers. And instructive as well, because it shows how we’d do well, ourselves, we who like to think we're skeptics, to be on guard against this sort of thing, within ourselves I mean. Thanks for taking the time thus far.
Chanakya is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th May 2018, 06:32 AM   #237
3point14
Pi
 
3point14's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 15,816
Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
It was very interesting to observe at first hand how self-declared skeptics aren’t necessarily any more free from closed-mindedness and confused thinking than the Woo-huggers.
I'm very much reminded that, if you open your mind to much, your brain will fall out.
__________________
Up the River!
3point14 is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th May 2018, 06:41 AM   #238
JoeMorgue
Self Employed
Remittance Man
 
JoeMorgue's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Florida
Posts: 13,071
Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
JoeMorgue, I see that you’re either unable or unwilling to engage with my post #99.
I propose that we be allowed to discuss the question as to whether or not God exists within the same framework as we discuss whether everything else.

No distinctions between strong and soft belief, not distinctions between belief and opinion, no distinctions between positive belief for and negative belief against, not shifting or removing of the burden of proof, no"Prove a negative," no treating "Not having an opinion" as a third opinion, no special pleading.
__________________
"Ernest Hemingway once wrote that the world is a fine place and worth fighting for. I agree with the second part." - Detective Sommerset, Se7en
JoeMorgue is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th May 2018, 06:43 AM   #239
Chanakya

 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Posts: 622
Define ‘Agnosticism’

This thread is about the definition of the term ‘Agnosticism’.

I think this is an excellent topic for a thread. (As is the sister thread, started by the same OP, on the meaning of 'Atheism'.) We discuss ideas like these often enough, and often these discussions are wholly derailed over discussions about semantics, with different people implicitly using different meanings for these words, and talking at cross purposes for no other reason than a straightforward confusion over semantics.

So, a thread like this is a great idea, in order to clear up such confusion, once and for all. But to do that, this thread itself needs to focus on what it is about, that is, on the meaning of the term ‘Agnosticism’. Yes, the discussion in this thread itself is likely to involve semantics, absolutely. But that’s only to be expected in a thread of this nature, and what is more, what we’re doing is trying to focus and isolate the semantic discussion to this thread alone, so that other discussions which are about the underlying concepts might be free of these distractions over semantics.

Further, what your (or my) personal philosophy is, and what your (or my) personal belief is, about these things, that doesn’t matter one jot. Not to this thread. They’d be relevant only if they shed any light on to the discussion about the meaning of the word ‘Agnosticism’, and not otherwise. Your own beliefs, per se, and your non-beliefs, these are not what we’re interested in, not in this thread.

I hope the OP is in agreement with me when I say this?

(Of course, it wouldn’t really matter if he isn’t in agreement with me. Having started the thread -- and I thank him for starting it, I think it is a useful discussion to have -- this thread is not ‘his’ thread at all, any more than it is mine or anyone else’s. But still, as a matter of personal interest, I’d like to know : does the OP agree with what I have said here, about the nature of this thread and what, ideally, the discussion here should be about?)


So what is the meaning of the word ‘Agnosticism’ -- that is, the meaning of that word, as it specifically relates to the God question?

Let me list a few meanings here, of this word :
  1. Agnosticism is the position that one does not *know*, on way or the other. This speaks only to knowledge, and not to belief at all. (And this would be the etymological meaning of the word. Which, it needs hardly be pointed out, does not necessarily make this the only meaning, or even the most correct meaning, of the word. Indeed, it wouldn’t even make that a valid meaning of the word had at all, simply by virtue of being the etymologically derived meaning, had it not been the case that some people do use the word in this sense.)

  2. One does not know one way or the other ; and, not knowing, one does not care to take any kind of position at all, in terms of belief. (As some have pointed out in this thread, this position, as represented by this second meaning, is something of a cop-out, a “cowardly” position if you will. This is not my preferred meaning, so this doesn’t apply to me, nevertheless I’d prefer not to bring such loaded adjectives, like “cowardly”, in unnecessarily.)

  3. One does not know one way or the other ; and, not knowing, one takes the default position that the underlying thing we’re talking of (God, in this case) does not exist. (This, I believe, was the sense in which Huxley originally coined this word. And yes, this would apply equally to anything and everything else as well, including invisible teapots and dragons, as well as Santa, and so on.)

  4. One does not know, and one does not care to explore this any further in order to know. (This would properly be an apatheist, that is, one category of apatheist, but there are some who self-describe as agnostic who seem to fall in this category. To be fair, there are some who self-describe as atheist, who also fall in this category.)


Right, those four meanings, off the top of my head. These are all de facto usages of the word.

My personal definition, that I (subjectively and in my opinion) find most reasonable? That would be #3, which was (as far as I can see) Huxley’s original intent. This is also the general meaning of the word agnostic. When you say you’re agnostic about intelligent life outside of earth, you’re saying that you haven’t seen any evidence thus far, and therefore don’t see any reason to believe that there is such ; but if you did see evidence, some day, then you’d believe. When applied to the God question, that’s soft atheism.

(And my own position on this -- which I present here only by way of example of how these words can be used as useful shorthand for longer descriptions -- is that while I am a hard atheist as regards Yahweh or Zeus or Indra or Ra, I’m a soft atheist when it comes to some Advaitic or Zen-ic God-ness underlying our everyday reality, that is, I am agnostic as regards the Advaitic or Zen-ic God-ness. And also, incidentally, not that this last is really relevant to this thread, but still : I'm igtheistic as regards the God question in general. Without some degree of clarification, the question itself is meaningless.)


I found someone commenting here (I think it was the OP, although not within the opening post, but later on) that it is stupid of dictionaries to publish a whole long list of these meanings, or words to that effect. I think what is stupid is to think of dictionaries in this way. What dictionaries do is simply record de facto usage. To take issue with that is to take issue with people using these words in these senses : and how crazy is that? (Of course, if the objection is technical, that is, if someone contests that the dictionary is actually recording de facto usage as opposed to furthering some agenda, then that can be properly investigated and refuted, via linguistic research. That’s a different issue.)


Each of these meanings is ‘true’. Which particular meaning(s) do you find meaningful? That is subjective : feel free to go ahead and choose. But keep in mind that your choice is subjective, and there are other legitimate choices around. (For instance, my own preference is for #3. And my choice cannot be contested by saying “I don’t like that usage”, and most certainly not by saying “That position does not appeal to me or make sense to me”. Yes, it can be linguistically challenged either by researching Huxley’s writings in deail, in order to properly ascertain if his original meaning is indeed what a cursory reading seems to suggest ; and/or it can be challenged, again linguistically, by investigating if that usage has become obsolete today, so that no one (or not significant numbers of people) use that sense any longer. Those are meaningful challenges, that can be properly taken up, if one wishes. But saying “It’s stupid to have so many meanings of one word”, that is itself a very stupid position to take!

Except in one sense. After all, Huxely himself found that he did not like the “hard” nuance of atheism, and coined a new word, right? Also, the feminist movement resulted in conscious effort to replace a masculine-defaulted language with a more neutral (and sometimes feminine-emphasizing) language. So yes, language can indeed be changed, sometimes, to suit the preference of people. In similar vein, sure, OP (and those who agree with OP’s POV) can start a campaign, if they so wish, to try and change the meanings of these words, perhaps limit their many meanings, if they are willing to take the trouble. But that is a long project, and it would be stupid to pretend that the reality is different now, at this time, just because they disagree with reality as it is now. And should they decide to start such a project, then they will find opposition within these forums itself : I don’t know about others, but speaking for myself, I think it makes very good sense to have more than one nuance/qualification for ‘Atheist’, at any rate. For ‘Agnostic’, though, I’d be happy to support them (or at least to not oppose them), if they wanted to spend time and effort campaigning for my #3 above, which is my preferred nuance for this word.


So what is the best way to deal with this overabundance of meanings for the same word(s)? To repeat what I’d said earlier in this thread, more than once, in posts addressed to specific posters (who were unable to either voice any meaningful and reasoned disagreement, or to bring themselves to agree with this and to admit that their unthinking clamoring was misguided) : the obvious solution is to try to arrive at common definitions right at the outset, if only for the space of some discussion ; and, failing that, to bypass these words entirely, and simply talk about the underlying positions and concepts. Simple, and straightforward! That should see the end of the endless semantic disagreements in other discussions and threads, that are not specifically about the meaning of words.

Last edited by Chanakya; 11th May 2018 at 06:47 AM.
Chanakya is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th May 2018, 07:29 AM   #240
Chanakya

 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Posts: 622
Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
I propose that we be allowed to discuss the question as to whether or not God exists within the same framework as we discuss whether everything else.

No distinctions between strong and soft belief, not distinctions between belief and opinion, no distinctions between positive belief for and negative belief against, not shifting or removing of the burden of proof, no"Prove a negative," no treating "Not having an opinion" as a third opinion, no special pleading.

Granting for the sake of argument that I agree with you : How do you propose to enforce this? Given that, in the real world, by 'atheist' some people mean 'hard atheist', others mean 'soft atheist', and so on, when in some discussion that you do have, either here or elsewhere, people do end up using the term 'atheist' in different senses : then how do you propose to enforce your proposal, how do you propose to get everyone to use your particular meaning? How do you get people to agree that 'atheist' should mean exactly what its etymology suggests it should mean, without any qualifiers tagged on?




Also -- and I'm now retracting the agreement I'd provisionally and temporarily given to you in order to make my previous argument -- you do realize that you'll now have to use a great many more words to express what can now be expressed in short, right? Why do you think this is desirable?

e.g., Take this sentence : I'm a hard atheist as regards Yahweh and Zeus and Indra and Ra, but I am a soft atheist as regards a Zen-ic or Advaitic God-ness that underlies our everyday reality. Wouldn't it be much clumsier to express this if the terms "soft atheist" and "hard atheist" did not exist? Why do you think this is a good thing?


Edited :
Let me revise my example to read : "I'm a hard atheist as regards Yahweh and Zeus and Indra and Ra, but I am a soft atheist as regards a Zen-ic or Advaitic God-ness that underlies our everyday reality ; and I'm igtheistic when it comes to the God question in general."

There : how would you now phrase this sentence? Won't your new phrasing be more clumsy?

It's like removing the word 'gray' or 'blue' from our vocabulary : one can certainly speak without using these words, but :
(a) Don't you see that this makes communicating more difficult? Why go out of your way to make communicating more difficult?
and
(b) How do you even actually do something like this? Even if I agree with you, how do you get the whole world to not use the words "gray" and "blue"?

Last edited by Chanakya; 11th May 2018 at 07:39 AM.
Chanakya is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Reply

International Skeptics Forum » General Topics » Religion and Philosophy

Bookmarks

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump


All times are GMT -7. The time now is 11:01 PM.
Powered by vBulletin. Copyright ©2000 - 2018, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.

This forum began as part of the James Randi Education Foundation (JREF). However, the forum now exists as
an independent entity with no affiliation with or endorsement by the JREF, including the section in reference to "JREF" topics.

Disclaimer: Messages posted in the Forum are solely the opinion of their authors.