I strikes me from time to time that, as thinkers, we can't also be atheists.

Literal atheism is untenable because we're assuming that we can prove a negative - which is clearly impossible.

That leaves us as agnostics a word I feels is associated with some rather "fence sitting" or woolly ideals.

So are we tied in knots here? Or is there a word which adequately describes us while at the same time demonstrates that we're not subject to the fallacy of "trying to prove a negative".

Tags: agnostic, agnostitism, atheism, english

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Replies to This Discussion

There is a god; there is no god; we can't know there is a god with the evidence we have. Now this is one merry-go-round I do not want to ride. To me, there is no god ... until and unless I see some compelling evidence to the contrary. If the evidence appears, I shall sing from the rooftops, "At last, we know for a fact there is a god!" Until then, I know there is no god and don't want to spend any more energy trying to prove a negative.
Sorry, but that "type" of argument is just plain silly with ANY topic. Prove that Harry Potter isn't real...maybe some higher power put it in the author's head. Maybe the same with Pokemon?
Ricky Gervais once said "prove I can't fly". That argument can be used with an infinite number of outrageous topics. In fact, prove to me it can't (^_-).
That wasn't a response to you. It was a response to the OP.
I'm saying that TYPE of argument is silly, not just the specific topic brought up. Like Jim said about proving there's no unicorns. Sure, they can exist in your mind, it doesn't make it true and can lead to an infinite number of arguments on infinite number of topics (again, not just religion). Humans have wonderful imaginations and I'm not saying it's always bad, just that in some circumstances it's a waste of time, others can be helpful, and yet others can be very harmful. I think many Atheists will agree the religious imagination far too often falls in the final category.

In other words, I'm thinking in lines of Micheal Shermer's "fallacy arguments". So I guess if I were more diplomatic I would use the term "false/fallacy" instead of "silly". But sometimes the imagination can be "silly".

Now if you want to discuss about using specific ideas and morals used in specific religions, that's a whole new topic. But you can be Atheist and have morals/ethics/ideas outside of religion AND scientific evidence.

PS. My original comment was about the original discussion and nothing on what you had wrote Fred.
In science we have constructs. Take for example gravity. I have been following some articles that state gravity is not as Newton described it or as the popular constructs describe. I wrote to several of the scientists participating in these discussions and asked for explanations that I could understand. One responded that gravity isn't what we though it was and when asked how the new construct would affect us, he responded that no one knows.

Well, until they can make a documentary such as Brian Greene produced, I will settle for the popular version.
Einstein already made changes to Newtonian gravity.
because we're assuming that we can prove a negative -
Atheism is the null hypothesis in that the hypothesis, "no gods exist" must be established as false with convincing, observable evidence. Proving a positive (god exists) is not the responsibility of the Atheist it's the burden of the Theist.
Or course a negative can not be proved - can you offer an absolute proof that unicorns don't exist?
Or course a negative can not be proved - can you offer an absolute proof that unicorns don't exist?

A negative can be proven by showing that the positive is oxymoronic:

1.) God is good - by definition of god.
2.) God wants to be worshiped - by definition of god.
3.) Good being don't want to be worshiped - by definition of good.
4.) Therefore, god both does and does not want to be worshiped - necessary conclusion.

Since the positive is self-contradictory the only alternative is the negative.
I reject points 1 and 2 as necessarily defining of a god. You only proved an omnibenevolent deity wouldn't require worship, you didn't disprove the existence of any gods.
You are correct that this does not disprove the existence of a god that is not characterized by 1.) and 2.) but the Biblical god is! The god of the church has been dis-proven.
I do agree with John...as most religions claim they have a "good" god/gods specifically and everything written in their doctrines to be absolutely true, that argument most definitely disproves the existence of most gods. I guess I stand corrected on my last posts (^_^)
That type of proof in philosophy implements what is called reductio ad absurdum (i.e., if you can reduce the positive to an absurdity it can't be true so the negative of it must be). In mathematics you might remember from high school geometry that it is called proof by contradiction (i.e., if assuming the positive leads to a logical contradiction the negative must be true).

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