A lot of people argue that agnosticism is the only logically sound and infallible religious choice, since 'we cannot ever really know if God exists or not.'

Directly relating to this is some theists' belief that we must be just as irrational as they are because we too do not have solid evidence for our beliefs.

I also recently heard the phrase 'agnostic in theory, atheist in practice.'

What say you guys?

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Az says, "What I am saying is, that anyone who claims that knowledge of god(s) is impossible, is making a definite claim with no evidence to back it up, and is therefore being a poor 'agnostic'."

First off, we are all agnostics if we are honest. To claim absolute knowledge about a supernatural one must be either delusional or lying. This goes for both theists and atheists.

That said, there is no absolute about the potential ability to know, unless you define god as outside of, and therefore not part of nature.
Most theists make this claim. That's why they value faith, belief without evidence.

Religion on the other hand is a horse of a different color.

Daniel Dennett suggests that religion be viewed as a natural phenomenon, like language, custom, emotion and as such should not be off limits to the scrutiny of the scientific method.
First off, we are all agnostics if we are honest. To claim absolute knowledge about a supernatural one must be either delusional or lying. This goes for both theists and atheists.

I think you are quite mistaken. It is a fairly simple matter to "disprove" gods; it has been done countless times. What's difficult is providing a coherent and useful definition of "God." I've yet to see one.
A corollary to this issue is the open ended nature of attempting to disprove all possible gods. This is where the real problem comes from. It is conceivably possible to come up with refutations of all gods ever thought of. But the open ended problem of declaring refutation of all gods is that you must account for all future claims of gods as well. And this throws open the door to the unknown. Simply put we cannot offer a refutation of a claim we have not heard.

Thus it is beyond our ability to disprove all gods. Even in the term disprove we see the mechanism of the problem again. The word disprove means to remove proof. In order to remover proof a claim and supoprting evidence must have been offered. We cannot honestly refute what has not yet been claimed.

This is why the god of the gaps forever finds new places to hide. Because as we close old gaps new crevices are found in which theists will attempt to cram their god.
Yup. This is why I say we are all agnostic. Some CLAIM knowledge, or knowing with certainty there is or is not a supernatural by any name. But they cannot KNOW.

When an atheist claims to know for certain there are no gods, he/she opens her/himself to all manner of go nowhere discussions ending with the atheist having egg on her/his face.

This is why I think the term agnostic is useless. It describes every honest person who is not deluded.

Some Xians are now saying god is love. What do you think of that definition?

Marilyn LaCourt
Yup. This is why I say we are all agnostic.

I am not agnostic about most definitions of god. I can prove various definitions of "God" to be impossible. For most claims, I am a gnostic atheist. For other definitions, I could be said to be agnostic (matrix universe, anyone?), but such definitions are not useful ones (evidence, anyone?).
When it comes to ultimately explaining existence, positing "God" is not a valid explanation. The ultimate explanation for existence is necessarily parsimonious, and positing "God" cannot fulfill that requirement.

When an atheist claims to know for certain there are no gods, he/she opens her/himself to all manner of go nowhere discussions ending with the atheist having egg on her/his face.

I await the egg-throwing.

Some Xians are now saying god is love. What do you think of that definition?

Love is love. If you worship "love" then say that. "God" means something else. Saying "God is love" is only a metaphor, and has nothing to do with explaining existence.
A corollary to this issue is the open ended nature of attempting to disprove all possible gods. This is where the real problem comes from. It is conceivably possible to come up with refutations of all gods ever thought of. But the open ended problem of declaring refutation of all gods is that you must account for all future claims of gods as well. And this throws open the door to the unknown. Simply put we cannot offer a refutation of a claim we have not heard.

It may be a problem, but it's not impossible. There are certain things that must be part of a given definition of "God" or you're talking about something else. If you address all relevant points with your proof, you have done what some claim to be impossible and ruled out all gods (past and future).

The word disprove means to remove proof.

Er, no, "disprove" means to prove a statement/claim to be false.

We cannot honestly refute what has not yet been claimed.

I'd wager every proof rules out claims which have not been made.
Mike - I would then challenge you to prove that the Deist god does not exist. The Deist concept of god exists outside of our Universe putting it beyond our observation now and maybe forever. How can you prove or disprove anything that is unobservable?
Define your terms (ie., "Deist god," "Universe.") first.

How can you prove or disprove anything that is unobservable?

There's unobservable presently, and unobservable in principle. Presumably you mean in principle, in which case evidence is ruled out, and we're restricted to logic. I could challenge you to demonstrate that it is possible for something to exist which is, in principle, unobservable.

Certainly, without evidence, there can be no justification to claim such a being is real, but we're talking about whether it's possible. That may very well depend on what you mean by "Universe." If by "Universe" you mean the presently known universe, then I have to admit to being technically agnostic as we could, in theory, be living in a sort of "matrix universe." But that doesn't explain existence. As I've said elsewhere, the ultimate explanation for existence is necessarily parsimonious. Positing "God" cannot fulfill that requirement because your explanation needs explaining.
Mike - thanks for the response. I will define terms as such:

Deism in brief - the belief in a creator who created ths Universe that we inhabit but does not interfere in it. (There is more but this is my main point.

Universe - The space-time continuum created by the Big Bang that contains all we can observe.

So what I am saying (and I certainly don't believe in such a being) is IF our observable Universe was created by such a being who exists outside of it's creation, that being is inherently unknowable by current technology and MAY be unknowable until the heat death of our Universe.

I am aware of the multi-verse proposition and (to me - a non-phjysicist) it sounds plausible from what I have read about super-string, and M-Theory.

Cheers...
Such a definition of Universe seems flawed. Why does it contain "all we can observe"? Is this true, by your definition, even in principle? It is not necessarily true that the known universe is all we can observe, nor that all we can observe is the known universe.

So what I am saying (and I certainly don't believe in such a being) is IF our observable Universe was created by such a being who exists outside of it's creation, that being is inherently unknowable by current technology and MAY be unknowable until the heat death of our Universe.

I could argue that by defining "Universe" to be "all we can observe" even in principle may rule out anything "outside" it. In that case, to define something as being "outside" the universe is to define it out of existence.

How would the heat death of our universe enable us to know something of this hypothetical creator?

The multi-verse proposition is not something I've been proposing. I do not find it plausible. Interesting, yes; plausible, no. Not yet - there is no evidence.
Such a definition of Universe seems flawed. Why does it contain "all we can observe"? Is this true, by your definition, even in principle? It is not necessarily true that the known universe is all we can observe, nor that all we can observe is the known universe.

To speculate about what we cannot observe is metaphysics. Please give me an exmaple of something we can observe that is not contained in our observable Universe.

How would the heat death of our universe enable us to know something of this hypothetical creator?

That is not what I am saying here - the heat death of our Universe is (barring some fantastic discoveries) the utter end of life. I merely used that as an example of our limited time to learn. True this is trillions of years - but an end will come (in my opinion!).

The multi-verse proposition is not something I've been proposing. I do not find it plausible. Interesting, yes; plausible, no. Not yet - there is no evidence.

If you are interested in this sort of thing try reading Lee Smolin's work from the early 90's about black hole singularities being the creation point for other universes. Or read Brian Greene's 2 books - 'The Elegant Universe' and 'The Fabric of the Cosmos'. Even basic quantum mechanics can imply a multi-verse - if you accept the 'many worlds' instead of the Copenhagen interpretation. Interesting - but you are very correct about this - there is no empirical evidence.
Brad, I can't reply to you directly; there seem to be too many replies. BTW, how do you quote on this forum?

To speculate about what we cannot observe is metaphysics.

It's metaphysics if you mean we cannot observe it even in principle.

Please give me an exmaple of something we can observe that is not contained in our observable Universe.

I needn't give an example of something which can be observed to point out that your claim was a non-sequitur. But, I think I can. I presume we're using the fuzzy philosophical sense of "observe," which doesn't mean only "to see with your eyes."

Imagine we're in a computer simulation, for instance, so our known universe is not all that exists. One thing we could infer about this machine is the logical operations it can perform, by necessity, to be able to construct the simulation. We may not be able to infer anything about the computational "substrate" or the colour of the computer ;P without some sort of known means of interacting with the outside universe, but to say it's impossible in principle needs substantiation.

If you are interested in this sort of thing try reading Lee Smolin's work from the early 90's about black hole singularities being the creation point for other universes. Or read Brian Greene's 2 books - 'The Elegant Universe' and 'The Fabric of the Cosmos'. Even basic quantum mechanics can imply a multi-verse - if you accept the 'many worlds' instead of the Copenhagen interpretation.

I have heard of Lee Smolin's work, and I think he's quite wrong about M-Theory. He says it can't be tested. Myself, and many scientists disagree. I came up with the idea of black holes being creation points for other universes myself when I was a kid. :) I don't think that's actually the case though. I own both of Brian Greene's books.

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