That's fine Glen. I spend a lot of time refuting the claims of my more religious friends. But I've found that my side is more convincing when it takes these things on a claim by claim basis rather than making sweeping generalizations that alienates the one I'm talking to. I can't prove that there is no god figure floating around there somewhere, so I don't even try. I can express the merits of living out your life without believing in casper though. And I can even, do to my background, effectively explain to my Christian friends why I think the Bible's claim's are illogical. However, as in any debate, when one side makes an absolute claim without anything to back it up with, the conversation ends without resulting in any growth or understanding.
James, you do not have to prove it does not exist-just like burden of proof in a civil or criminal case. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. If you made a preposterous claim to your religious friends about the monsters and goblins in Timbuktu would you have the audacity to tell them they cant refute it. Cuz they'd laugh like hell if you did.
Ah, but what if tens of thousands of people started telling stories of monsters and goblins in Timbuktu. Would they so easily dismiss it? For whatever reason, there exists a yearning in humanity to believe in something greater than us. A large portion of our scientists believe in the probable existence of life beyond our planet, even more advanced intelligence. Is the belief that there is a superior being really such a huge leap? You can easily dismiss the outrageous rantings of a single individual because you can make a fairly good analysis of the likelihood that he is telling the truth and dismiss him without making any significant leap. Frankly, it wouldn't be very hard to send someone to Timbuktu to test his claims. The idea that there is a god is held my the vast majority of humanity. I'm an engineering student, and I wouldn't know how to even begin to quantify the statistical probability of whether or not there is a god. There are simply too many variables and too many limits to our ability to test a hypothesis.
I don't really care either way what people believe. But atheists look bad when they approach an argument with an absolutist attitude. It's counterproductive to the cause.
James, as an engineering student you should very well understand that it is strictly impossible to build a road connecting two fictional cities. Probabilities and variables have nothing to do with it. It doesn't matter if lots of people believe that the two fictional cities really exist (that's an argument from popularity, a logical fallacy). You still can't build that road.
You want atheists to appear to be reasonable by entertaining the "possibility" of the unreasonable. Sorry, but no can do.
You mean an absolutist attitude like 'For sure, you cannot have certain knowledge, because there are many complexities to nature and knowledge is limited."?
What about sparkly vampires that have romantic souls? lol
Back in the day Ziggy Stardust mated with Alice Cooper and those are the grandchildren.
She said, I believe it.
You do not need additional proof than knowledge of causality and non-contradiction. Needing experimentation to find something that would violate the very principles we use to experiment and find is a demonstration of a lack of understanding of basic epistemology. It has nothing to do with science.
Well, it's late and I'm a tired of this subject for today. Thanks everyone for the interesting conversation! Friend me if you think I'm as awesome as I think I am ;) I'll leave everyone with this, because I enjoyed reading it immensely.
Agnostic views are as old as philosophical skepticism, but the terms agnostic and agnosticism were created by Huxley to sum up his thoughts on contemporary developments of metaphysics about the "unconditioned" (Hamilton) and the "unknowable" (Herbert Spencer). It is important, therefore, to discover Huxley's own views on the matter. Though Huxley began to use the term "agnostic" in 1869, his opinions had taken shape some time before that date. In a letter of September 23, 1860, to Charles Kingsley, Huxley discussed his views extensively:
I neither affirm nor deny the immortality of man. I see no reason for believing it, but, on the other hand, I have no means of disproving it. I have no a priori objections to the doctrine. No man who has to deal daily and hourly with nature can trouble himself about a prioridifficulties. Give me such evidence as would justify me in believing in anything else, and I will believe that. Why should I not? It is not half so wonderful as the conservation of force or the indestructibility of matter...
It is no use to talk to me of analogies and probabilities. I know what I mean when I say I believe in the law of the inverse squares, and I will not rest my life and my hopes upon weaker convictions...That my personality is the surest thing I know may be true. But the attempt to conceive what it is leads me into mere verbal subtleties. I have champed up all that chaff about the ego and the non-ego, noumena and phenomena, and all the rest of it, too often not to know that in attempting even to think of these questions, the human intellect flounders at once out of its depth.
And again, to the same correspondent, May 6, 1863:
I have never had the least sympathy with the a priori reasons against orthodoxy, and I have by nature and disposition the greatest possible antipathy to all the atheistic and infidel school. Nevertheless I know that I am, in spite of myself, exactly what the Christian would call, and, so far as I can see, is justified in calling, atheist and infidel. I cannot see one shadow or tittle of evidence that the great unknown underlying the phenomenon of the universe stands to us in the relation of a Father [who] loves us and cares for us as Christianity asserts. So with regard to the other great Christian dogmas, immortality of soul and future state of rewards and punishments, what possible objection can I—who am compelled perforce to believe in the immortality of what we call Matter and Force, and in a very unmistakable present state of rewards and punishments for our deeds—have to these doctrines? Give me a scintilla of evidence, and I am ready to jump at them.
Of the origin of the name agnostic to describe this attitude, Huxley gave the following account:When I reached intellectual maturity and began to ask myself whether I was an atheist, a theist, or a pantheist; a materialist or an idealist; Christian or a freethinker; I found that the more I learned and reflected, the less ready was the answer; until, at last, I came to the conclusion that I had neither art nor part with any of these denominations, except the last. The one thing in which most of these good people were agreed was the one thing in which I differed from them. They were quite sure they had attained a certain "gnosis,"–had, more or less successfully, solved the problem of existence; while I was quite sure I had not, and had a pretty strong conviction that the problem was insoluble. So I took thought, and invented what I conceived to be the appropriate title of "agnostic." It came into my head as suggestively antithetic to the "gnostic" of Church history, who professed to know so much about the very things of which I was ignorant. To my great satisfaction the term took.
Huxley's agnosticism is believed to be a natural consequence of the intellectual and philosophical conditions of the 1860s, when clerical intolerance was trying to suppress scientific discoveries which appeared to clash with a literal reading of the Book of Genesis and other established Jewish and Christian doctrines. Agnosticism should not, however, be confused with natural theology, deism, pantheism, or other forms of theism.