I agree that they are agnostic rather than atheist, but I think "coward" is an unnecessary and inappropriate smear in most cases. I don't think most Ivory Soap Atheists (99 44/100 pure) hold back out of fear, but out of a contrived notion of fairness.
Many were reared as theists and recall how certain they were that there was a God and yet appear to have been mistaken. That provides an understandable grain of salt and they fail to discern the difference between being programmed as a child to accept something on faith and falsely but sincerely calling it knowledge, and using logic, that is a system of thought based on non-contradictory data, and arriving at conclusions based on such.
They are further held back by such homespun bits like "you can't prove a negative," which many take as a rule of logic even though it is clearly a fallacy.
Then they tie themselves with the notion that certainty is a magic spell that will prevent them from having later epiphanies should contrary evidence present itself.
I suppose that they imagine some scenario where those of us who are certain are wandering through the rapture with our eyes closed unable to see the risen Christ as he gathers his elect or some such. They pretend that being certain is a vice and never a virtue. They are told that they must be open-minded in order to be scientific, that they must allow the possibility that any random assertion by any nut on the street might be true. Of course, science does not make such a demand anymore than medicine demands that doctors follow the Hippocratic Oath in order to heal. It is a contrivance sold to those who do not think for themselves.
It does not logically follow that being approachable by those claiming new evidence for old assertions demands that one never have been certain.
Sorry, atheism isn't strong agnosticism - it's just English words - and It's not "believer, agnostic, atheist" as in "big, bigger, biggest".
Atheism is a statement about belief - like I believe in god or I don't
Agnostism is a statement about knowledge - like I know or don't know the house key is in my pocket.
Have you ever heard the expression "Scientists have proof without certainty. Creationists have certainty without proof."?
Are you really absolutely 100% certain in anything?
You're playing with word definitions in what looks like an aggressive way to push people in to something -> "agree with me or I'll imply you're a coward ... you, you, you ... agnostic!!"
Mate, the type of "keybord bullying" doesn't work with me - I already had this type of conversation 15 years ago when internet atheism was new.
"You can't 'prove' something doesn't exist..." Why do people keep saying that when it clearly isn't so?
They keep saying it because it IS so.
Prove to me there's no pink elephants. By providing proof.
I personally don't "cling" to atheism - it's simply a conclusion I've come to, based in part on evidence of purely natural processes to explain virtually everything in my observations, and in part on the lack of evidence of a deity or magic or spirits .
Honestly, like any scientist (or honest person for that matter), if sufficient evidence came forward for the existence of spirits or gods or magic (or even mundane things, for that matter) and it was validated by various reputable people using the scientific method - I'd believe it - in much the same way I believe in cars and aircraft and gravity, etc.
I personally doubt that such evidence will ever become available.
"As to your challenge, why would I attempt to prove there are no pink elephants?"
By not addressing my point you've shown you can't do it or you have simply not found someone on the internet who can ...
... and that's because this IS the point. There is no way to do this.
As to "Why would you assume I disbelieve in pink elephants?" , but you're an atheist? Right? Have I go that wrong?
You don’t believe in God, do you? But you can’t say you don’t believe in Pink Elephants?
"Willa, please name a single professional logician who believes that you cannot prove a negative."
Sorry, here's two:
Here's one -> Bertrand Russell – and he did this explicitly in his celestial teapot argument.
Here’s another -> Peter William Atkins – said it when he spoke about Russell’s teapot.
You’ve heard of “Russell's teapot”, haven’t you Burden of proof argument? Teapot orbiting sun argument. Can’t prove it’s not there, etc.
Hopefully you're well enough read for that.
So ... er ... enjoy.
REALLY? how rediculous this argument has become~ I leave for two weeks and everything goes to hell.
You CAN prove that something doesn't exist (mathematical definition aside) based on the parameters defined. I can PROVE that there is not an erupting volcano in my motel room by observing the room and comparing my observation with the effects that an erupting volcano would have. None of them match up~ the effects of said volcano are mandatory~ if they aren't there, then the definition of the volcano much change (and likewise its parameters) in which case it isn't a volcano anymore [and thus argument is moot.] That can be considered proof of somethings non-existence.
If you still do not understand this simple concept, try it on your own living quarters. Prove to me that there is not an active volcano in your kitchen~ if you can't, I suggest you look for another residence, as I suspect they are a universal housing code violation.
Sorry - you're disproving a positive, not proving a negative.
Volcano's exist. Eruptions exist. They simply can't occur in your "hotel room". They nevertheless exist - and making a statement about their non-occurrence has no influence on their existence....
Proving the non-existence of that for which no evidence of any kind exist - this is the point.
Proof, logic, reason, thinking, knowledge pertain to and deal only with that which exists. They cannot be applied to that which does not exist.
You can apply the rules of logic to non-existence and infer some things - but it is speculation - but that's all.
Ultimately, any positive statement that's even based on facts that have been erroneously interpreted can be refuted - simply by exposing the errors in the interpretation of the facts.
That's all it takes.
Willa, when one proves a positive, one also proves any number of negatives. If you prove that you have eyeballs in your orbital sockets, you also prove that they do not contain golf balls, hail, moon rocks, black holes, neutron stars, or any number of other orbs.
If I state that there are no moon rocks in your eye sockets, you can prove that handily, right?
You are asserting something completely different however. You are asserting that one cannot prove or disprove a claim where evidence is unattainable. I would agree with you with one change: one cannot prove or disprove a COHERENT claim where evidence is unattainable. It isn't merely the negative that one cannot prove in such a case, but also the positive. Yet people don't wander the internet claiming that you cannot prove a positive.
However, in the case of the existence of a creator of existence, an omnipotent omnibenevolent deity, or any other oxymoron, they disprove themselves by contradicting themselves and, thus, cannot actually exist. Proving such negatives is child's play.
Joel, as much as I'm sure we all appreciate you walking us through the pond of black swans... again... you are very much mistaken. My argument is not an example of induction.
Your example is disingenuous in that you surely realize the poverty of the comparison. Swans are real things. In a pinch, I could even paint one black or purple or even plaid if I had money riding on it. "Swan" is also a word with a coherent definition.
"God" is not an actual word in that it doesn't have a coherent definition, even though it has myriad connotations. Your assertion that some day some one might dream up a coherent definition is neither reasonable, nor even a reasonable cause to doubt the existence of all previous attempts to define a being who, if he was somehow real, has had all eternity to make the scene as it were.
I can save you trouble and define God as a black swan. There. coherent and existent and we can all go to church and pray to it and take pictures of ourselves praying to it and post that on the wikipedia page.
But that isn't how it works. If I make an irrational assertion, you need not have doubt in my assertion while waiting for me to completely redefine my terms so that they might somehow make sense. You see, we aren't really debating over whether or not the being's name is "God." We are debating whether or not there exists a creator of existence... which said creator would not exist to create... but that's neither here nor there... literally. We are debating whether or not said creator is also the ultimate authority of said existence, prescribing morality and taking names and kicking ass and passing out twinkies.
We are not debating whether or not someone might decide to define "God" as a largish weasel or a high-top table or a cup of hot coffee. Any definition still has to render a deity capable of the impossible, which, by definition is still incoherent. Do you not understand that it is logically impossible to define such a being as would qualify it as God without resorting to oxymoron? It isn't just that such a definition is waiting to be found, cuddled up no doubt in a nest of black swans, but that any definition that would identify the being as a deity is, necessarily, irrational.
By your logic, I need only insist that the definition of swan is "a purely white water fowl" and your precious black birds wouldn't qualify and I could happily assert all the livelong day that there are no black swans. But that isn't how we do business here in semantics land now is it?
We aren't talking about induction here, Joel. I appreciate how hard you had to work, what with consulting wikipedia and the example of the swans right there on the page and all, but you are embarrassingly guilty of false analogy here. Swans and definitions of God don't have enough in common to warrant the comparison in the first place. That took some serious contriving on your part so that you could falsely assume induction.
In the second place, the atheist position of 100% disbelief in God is multi-pronged. It consists not only of checking premises and not allowing oxymoronic definitions up until now and the impossibility of the attributes necessary to describe the supposed being, but the simultaneous prohibition of traits that might make it possible. It consists further of real world evidence that contradicts the supposed qualities of the being and the existence of a being with those qualities.
So you see, in order to honestly recognize the possibility that God exists, it isn't even that you must come up with a coherent definition, you must alter reality and create this being from scratch so that he can rationally have the traits necessary to qualify as God. Of course, if you possess the power to actually manufacture from scratch an actual God in the real world, you might try out for the title yourself. But, I doubt you'll find the recipe on Wikipedia.