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.
Agnosticism does not, however, characterize God as ineffable: there is a difference between saying I do not know anything about God and saying God is unknowable.
The notion that there are two distinct theologies—positive and negative—is difficult to sustain. If you begin with the ostensibly negative statement God is not limited and make it more specific you get:
God is not limited in power = God is omnipotent
God is not limited in knowledge = God is omniscient
God is not limited in benevolence = God is omnibenevolent
God is not limited in location = God is omnipresent
Whether these notions are expressed positively or negatively makes no difference. In either form these statements are to me without cognitive meaning.
There is no need to suspend our judgment till further evidence comes in anymore. To me the only reasonable position is the atheist position.
I don't believe the agnostic suspends judgment in hope of further evidence. He withholds any judgment whatever because he lacks knowledge.
My own formulation is as follows:
The theist believes God exists is meaningful and true.
The atheist believes God exists is meaningful and false.
The agnostic believes God exists is meaningful, hence true or false, but which is not known.
The noncognitivist believes God exists is meaningless and hence neither true nor false.
The last is the position I take, but I have no problem with being labeled an agnostic or an atheist.
This pantheistic atheist believes that the universe is so vastly more interesting than any manmade godthing ever could be claimed to be and that it's almost offensive to supersede reality with make-believe.
However, I also believe in freedom and human rights. So long as people don't use religion to screw things up, I'm fine with them believing whatever they want, even if that means allowing the Westboro nuts to wave their stupid signs.
Honestly, I think we're cutting hairs, here. If I was still doing that, I mightn't have realized I was an atheist as well as pantheist. I probably qualify as agnostic, too... The god question just is so... passe. I shouldn't belittle it, because it is an important social issue to discuss. I'm just saying, when it was brought up some time ago, "What evidence would you need to believe in a god..." I realized at that moment that I couldn't think of any evidence that would do it for me. I'd more likely to think of the entity as Q from Star Trek or some equivalent. I wouldn't trust it to be a deity. Yet, at the same time, I recognize my reverential nature, which I invest in appreciating what we can know about our universe and enjoy being a part of that huge equation.
As for the capital-letter Mr. G-man, he's a made up fairy tale. I'm certainly 100% gnostic when it comes to world religions and their claim of various deities. The 99% comes into play for the undiscovered deity for which we yet have no evidence and quite frankly, I'd rather relate to things we can learn and know about.
A little clarification: "The noncognitivist believes God exists is meaningless and hence neither true nor false." implies a person who does not use cognitive processes.
A cognitive person, from my point of view, believes God exists is meaningless and hence neither true nor false.
I'm open to clarification if I read this in a way other than you intended.
Not the intended meaning.
Noncognitivism, or more precisely (theological) noncognitivism, is intended as a descriptor of a (theological) position, not of the mental habits of one who holds it.
Originally it was applied to describe a position with respect to ethical statements and consisted of the claim that ethical assertions are not propositions and hence not true or false. Put another way, it says that ethical assertions do not describe a state of the world
"It is often said, mainly by the 'no-contests', that although there is no positive evidence for the existence of God, nor is there evidence against his existence. So it is best to keep an open mind and be agnostic. At first sight that seems an unassailable position, at least in the weak sense of Pascal's wager. But on second thoughts it seems a cop-out, because the same could be said of Father Christmas and tooth fairies. There may be fairies at the bottom of the garden. There is no evidence for it, but you can't prove that there aren't any, so shouldn't we be agnostic with respect to fairies?” [Richard Dawkins].
…nor is there evidence against his existence. So it is best to keep an open mind and be agnostic.
That may be a popular notion of agnosticism, and it certainly is one easily dismissed, but it doesn't represent the only possibility. The agnostic whose agnosticism consists only of recognition that there may be no way to prove either the positive or the negative, may still reasonably choose the negative as the best option.
Modern rejection of witches and demons is not the result of newly acquired evidence, but the result of a major shift in perception of possible realities, which has demoted such belief to superstition due to lack of evidence and the availability of alternative explanation.
"“[There is] a widespread approach to ideas which Objectivism repudiates altogether: agnosticism. I mean this term in a sense which applies to the question of God, but to many other issues also, such as extra-sensory perception or the claim that the stars influence man’s destiny. In regard to all such claims, the agnostic is the type who says, “I can’t prove these claims are true, but you can’t prove they are false, so the only proper conclusion is: I don’t know; no one knows; no one can know one way or the other.”
The agnostic viewpoint poses as fair, impartial, and balanced. See how many fallacies you can find in it. Here are a few obvious ones: First, the agnostic allows the arbitrary into the realm of human cognition. He treats arbitrary claims as ideas proper to consider, discuss, evaluate—and then he regretfully says, “I don’t know,” instead of dismissing the arbitrary out of hand. Second, the onus-of-proof issue: the agnostic demands proof of a negative in a context where there is no evidence for the positive. “It’s up to you,” he says, “to prove that the fourth moon of Jupiter did not cause your sex life and that it was not a result of your previous incarnation as the Pharaoh of Egypt.” Third, the agnostic says, “Maybe these things will one day be proved.” In other words, he asserts possibilities or hypotheses with no jot of evidential basis.
The agnostic miscalculates. He thinks he is avoiding any position that will antagonize anybody. In fact, he is taking a position which is much more irrational than that of a man who takes a definite but mistaken stand on a given issue, because the agnostic treats arbitrary claims as meriting cognitive consideration and epistemological respect. He treats the arbitrary as on a par with the rational and evidentially supported. So he is the ultimate epistemological egalitarian: he equates the groundless and the proved. As such, he is an epistemological destroyer. The agnostic thinks that he is not taking any stand at all and therefore that he is safe, secure, invulnerable to attack. The fact is that his view is one of the falsest—and most cowardly—stands there can be.” [Leonard Peikoff].
The agnostic thinks that he is not taking any stand at all and therefore that he is safe, secure, invulnerable to attack. The fact is that his view is one of the falsest—and most cowardly—stands there can be.”
In essence, a straw man argument. Peikoff attributes to agnostics any number of things they may not hold. For example, the agnostic may simply say that "Here and now I find no way to obtain evidence of ____." Peikoff converts this into an expectation that such evidence will appear in the future and damns the agnostic for something he has not said and may not believe.
Agnosticism is recognition of the readily apparent limits of knowledge, not a position of arbitrary neutrality on every conceivable question.
I should have added that from my point of view the fault of the agnostic is less obvious and is located in his implicit acceptance of the statement God exists as a cognitively meaningful assertion about the state of the world.
Gee, I get all mixed up in the words but I think I get the meaning. Let me see if I am saying the same as Peikoff ...
As to claims of god, extra-sensory perception or the claim that the stars influence man’s destiny" the agnostic says, “I can’t prove these claims are true, but you can’t prove they are false, so the only proper conclusion is: I don’t know; no one knows; no one can know one way or the other.”
This is exactly the problem with religion. What cannot be proved, has not been proved and has a high probability of not being proved, is comparing unproved ideas with proven ones; therefore a fallacy. Furthermore, any attempt to find a provable answer does not occur, thereby insuring no proof will be found. Abraham said, Moses claimed, Jesus reported and popes and religious echo those words of sheep herders when the only tools they had were wheel and water wheels. Not good enough for a thinking person.
There is no god, no stars influencing human destiny, no angel, no devil, no heaven or hell. Period.
If proof appears that god exists, I will jump on board in a gnat's eyebrow. I do not hold my breath nor do I change my value system based on that highly improbable event occurring.
The good news, learning about biology, physics, astronomy, sociology, music, art, imagination, and innovation is so much fun, finding a god would be a real let-down. A bummer of the first order.
Proof is a rare commodity and often unavailable, and while the absence of proof may require abandoning claims of knowledge, that does not require the agnostic to remain in a neutral position with respect to belief.
We—at least most of us—no longer believe in witches and demons, but that change did not come about because their existence was disproved. It came about because of a shift in our notions of how the world works and the acquisition of alternate explanations that are more consistent with that world view. We put aside superstition in favor of science and naturalism.
The agnostic is not required to accept astrology as a potential explanation for events just because he cannot disprove it. He is perfectly free to reject it because it not longer fits a scientific world view. Astrology provides no mechanism for its supposed effects and the interpretation of astrological charts varies from one astrologer to another. That's enough.
When it comes to God, I also think it's impossible to be agnostic.
Being agnostic, in regards to God, is similar to trying to answer the following question: "Define what you can not know?".
I have to take Dr Allan H Clark's noncognitivist's point of view, or the post-theist point of view.
But I wouldn't mind discussing agnosticism a little more:
We are all born atheists, that is, not believing in God, atheism is the default position.
As soon as we hear about God, or any other fictional story like Santa Claus, is being agnostic the only rational stance that should be taken?