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.
By the way, Huxley would have disagreed with Gould and sided with Dawkins, et al. on this point. For example, Huxley thought the question of what Jesus did and said was open to historical analysis, at the very least in principle, no matter how difficult it could be in fact to definitively resolve it.
By that definition, the non-existence of gods is a fact.
It's not hard to imagine that a particular concept of gods could be disconfirmed, but how would the non-existence of a generic god be confirmed? What test would allow you to rule out all possibility of the supernatural, which is what we would like?
Another question. Gould says "…it would be perverse to withhold provisional consent." Why only provisional consent?
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!
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."
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 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,
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.
Ultimately, I don't want to argue why I take a certain standpoint. I'm leaving room for the unknown, that it all.
I joined this site because I wanted to find a strong community of free thinkers, not argue over the various ways in how we came to our way of thinking or how one should think. .
Ultimately, we have all rejected theism because we were not satisfied with the way it explain the universe. We sought something harder to imagine than god since there is no easy answer to "how does everything exit."
When I say i am agnostic, I'm saying, "i don't know how it came to be, and no one can know."
By all means, hold your ground on what you believe. You are entitled to your opinion and don't be surprised when you incite strong feelings in those of us who have walked the walk and talked the talk, until there was nothing to support our walk and talk. Some of us go that extra to step, no gods. If an evidence appears, I and very many of us will take a good hard look at it and re-evaluate our positions. Until then, I see no evidence of any gods.
The journey you are on is an honorable one, who knows where we will all end up, and the genuine doubts stand as testimony to an appropriate quest.