Here's my take on it.
Agnosticism is illogical and refutes itself. Agnosticism and agnostics characterize God as unknowable, ineffable, incomprehensible to all attempts to understand him. This doctrine is self-refuting. The agnostic is making a knowledge claim about what he/she claims is unknowable. How do agnostics know that God is unknowable if he is unknowable ? How do they even know that God's existence cannot be disproved if God is unknowable, or that God even exists if he is unknowable ? To claim any attribute for God is knowledge and claims to know this unknowable God possesses certain attributes. That's a logical contradiction, and any being containing two incompatible attributes cannot possibly exist. So one need not resort to agnosticism. He/she would be justified in not believing in that God if the concept of it contradicts itself in any way. One is justified in accepting and adopting the atheist position.
I believe by provisional assent Gould was basically saying that unless and until some discovery comes along to change what we know now we should agree with the confirmed facts as we know them. To put it another way, follow where the facts go whether you like it or not.
Karim R., I like David Eller. He is very down to Earth, and perceives natural atheism as a powerful force in one's life. He is also a cat lover. How is that for a great guy!
Agnosticism is an empty vessel...there is an infinite number of things one can imagine that one would have to be agnostic about...i could posit that the universe is filled with invisible, flying pink elephants..what would an agnostic say of there being such a creature? Would he/she be agnostic for an invisible, flying pink elephant? Atheism, whether no belief in god or no god, is clear -the onus is on the one making the claim to provide evidence in support of the claim. If you provide evidence, I will change my view. Up until that point in time, there is no god (nor invisible flying pink elephant, nor zeus, nor osiris, nor the tooth fairy...er, change that, there is evidence of the tooth fairy, she filled my piggy bank as a child.)
Thomas Henry Huxley, who coined the term agnostic, was a scientist and always careful about knowledge claims. He wrote:
That it is wrong for a man to say he is certain of the objective truth of a proposition unless he can provide evidence which logically justifies that certainty. This is what agnosticism asserts and in my opinion, is all that is essential to agnosticism.
He wrote at a point in history when theologians and the clergy asserted absolute knowledge of the truth of the Bible and Christian theology. His point of view was an advance over the dominating sentiments of his day and remains valid.
I consider myself agnostic in a sense that in our finite understanding of the universe, one can not say, "there definitely is no god." I am almost certain that there is no god, however, I cannot claim to know everything. This would make me just as guilty as the people who say, "there definitely is a god."
just curious, can you say that there is definitely no zeus? no osiris? no Thor? etc. etc. there is an infinite number of things one can imagine and not have evidence or proof for (just regard the pantheon of gods that humans have dreamt up)..this is why agnosticism is an empty concept...when someone makes a claim (and the existence of god is an extraordinary claim), the onus is on them to provide evidence in support of the claim...it is not for me to adopt an agnostic stance
There are most likely, none of those. I can assert that there is most likely no god. Some people define this as atheism, I refer to it as strong agnosticism.
I avoid absolutism. The scientific method never asserts that something is absolutely true. A scientist will say, "this theory best explains a phenomenon and has never been disproven, however, If evidence presents itself otherwise, then the theory fails."
I'm using this method, however, I take the position of there most likely being no god and I live my life with this in mind much the same way I live my life knowing the theory of gravity keeps me on the ground.
I agree wholeheartedly that there are no absolutes scientifically speaking...I am a trained scientist....we work on evidence and probabilities...a theory is only as good as the evidence that supports it...there is always the possibility some bit of evidence comes along that the theory can't accommodate then we must alter the theory...but the point i am making, and i guess i am splitting hairs, is that the space of agnosticism is infinite and it places the onus of knowledge seeking on the receptor of the claim...if you proclaim agnosticism and you are truth-seeking then the onus would be on you to seek knowledge about the claim...this is not how science works, nor how i approach life...if you make a claim, you must provide evidence to support your claim so that i (and others) may evaluate the merit of your claim...until you show me evidence the claim is empty and thus not worth considering---that is my atheism - I conclude there is no god as I conclude there is no unicorn, nor zeus, nor thor..it is simply not a claim worth considering due to the lack of evidence (and not, ancient stories do not constitute evidence)
.A lot of folks (mostly believers) mistakenly place the emphasis on the non-believer (which would be consistent with an agnostic stance)- i see this mistake all the time (See Dr. Clark's response below)...it is not up the atheist (or agnostic) to prove there is no god...it is up to the person making this extraordinary claim to provide supporting evidence
I I see where you are coming from. One cannot seek proof of god because none can be provided on such an idea, nor for mythological beings. I define myself as agnostic since I don't take that step of saying, "this is the fact, and this is final."
I absolutely agree that believers put the emphasis on non believers. They then feel satisfied when you cannot provide proof of non-existence just as much as they provide proof on existence.
I believed with my whole mind, body and spirit the assertion that there was a god, that god provided me salvation, and promised heaven or hell ... until one fateful day I awakened to the fact that not one of my prayers had been answered, not mine, not my mother's and not my grandmothers. We were all screwed by delusions.
The funny thing is, when I let go of that cloud and stood firmly on Earth and all its realities, I was able to find safety and risk taking and thinking, and problem solving and conflict on as a decent and responsible thing to do. I grew out of faith in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy into reality, with all its thorns and blossoms. I am so much happier, more content, stronger, healthier than as a mere sacrificial lamb to some dominator force, human or imagined. I have no regrets.
To further strengthen my understanding, I worked with hurting people during my 20 years as a professional career and found that very many of the problems confronting modern civilization is people putting their beliefs into some other hands and in order to free themselves from the binding of their minds, the path was to explore their beliefs, do some reality testing with them, and then find a more mentally healthy, mature way to live. I am considered a successful teacher, counselor, therapist.
As Hitch stated during the last hours of his life,
Hi Joan, your story reminded me of my daughter...I have been an atheist for most of my life (i can recall be around 6 or 7 when I first thought about there being no god)...in any case, i didn't want to push this on my children (though that is probably not realistic as we are 'gods' in their eyes when they are young, and I never shied away from stating my atheist views) - so when my daughter was in grade 3 or 4 she told us that she wanted to go to church, and my wife who was a 'mild' believer at the time would take her to church...after a while my daughter stopped going to church and we asked her why and she said her prayers weren't being answered...when we asked her what she was praying for, she said it was so that the bullying at school would stop...this broke our hearts - she was been bullied and we did not know - we have an open relationship with our kids and they talk to us about any and everything but this was one blind spot and it broke our hearts that we didn't know...in retrospect there were some clues but our daughter is high strung to begin with so we didn't really interpret properly as we should...
she gave up god then and unfortunately has suffered some more bullying because she is a non-believer (we live in a community of believers) - she was told by a fellow student that she was going to hell for not believing in jesus - how disgusting is that? Not on the part of the child, but that parents are poisoining their children with this horrible concept...
we are more cognizant now of the bullying and work with her to minimize the emotional impact
The scientific method never asserts that something is absolutely true.
Scientific method can assert that something is absolutely true or absolutely false and somewhere in the vicinity of.
2 H2O(l) → 2 H2(g) + O2(g) - 100% true (in a perfect reaction)
2 H2O(l) → 2 C2(g) + Al2(g) - 100% false. This can be deduced by way of scientific method.
A scientist will say, "this theory best explains a phenomenon and has never been disproven, however, If evidence presents itself otherwise, then the theory fails."
When it comes to God, there is no phenomenon. There is no evidence for or against God. (If you have some please share) So how can scientific method be used with God?
I'm using this method
How can you use this method on something that you have never sensed, are not sensing now and will never sense?
In contrast to God. Let's talk about Dark matter. Nobody has ever sensed it, including all scientists. But, because scientists know that there is something affecting visible matter by way of gravity, they have deduced, by way of scientific method, and named this phenomenon Dark Matter.
This is an example of overly simplified scientific method, but I hope you get the point.
The same thing can be done for the Higgs boson, using scientific method.
When you think about God you are not using scientific method, because you have never sensed the phenomenon of God or Gods effect on the world.
This doesn't mean you can't be an agnostic atheist. You can still be an agnostic atheist. But if you say, you have come to this conclusion by way of scientific method, I will prove you wrong.