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.
And in practice, not even the most strident atheist on the planet would claim 100% certainty (except perhaps some really uneducated ones) and declare himself a gnostic. Which means everyone is an agnostic. Which means the term is pretty much useless when used that way :)
I like many atheists on this site claim to be 100 atheists, not glostics. An atheist is certain, sure or confident that there is no god. This need not be said to be glostic.
I like many atheists on this site claim to be 100 atheists, not glostics.
You can't even be 100% sure that your life is not a social experiment carefully engineered by those around you, so how the hell could you be 100% sure about the metaphysics of this universe.
People who actually claim 100% certainty about these questions can't be taken seriously philosophically, which is why they don't get a philosophical label.
An atheist is certain, sure or confident that there is no god.
No, an atheist is simply someone who does not have a positive belief in God. That doesn't mean he's certain, sure or confident there is no God, just that he -for whatever reason- has not been positively persuaded that there is one. It's possibly that he has the conviction that there is no God (so-called strong atheism) but that is in addition to what is needed to qualify as an atheist.
These definitions have been gone over so many times that it's astonishing that they're still misapplied.
Matt is bang on. I run into more people on this site than I would have ever guessed, who begin mutilating terms like atheist and agnostic whenever this discussion comes up. The colloquial meanings of both phrases match perfectly the dictionary descriptions, and are generally accepted by nearly everyone on seemingly all sides of god hypotheses. Why change them, Madhukar?
In fairness to Madhukar, the nature of dictionairies have made this problem more difficult. That's because most people don't realize that dictionairies don't define words: they just record the way is colloquially used. And since words like atheist are so often misused and missaplied, many dictionairies record definitions like "the denial of the existence of God" or "the convinction that there is no God" as atheism. People then look up these definitions and mistakenly believe (or at least feel justified) that they've found a good definition.
The thing is though, dictionairies are nigh useless when it comes to technical discussions. Dictionairies include figurative, metaphorical and colloquial usages; not just technical ones. So for instance, in any decent dictionairy, one of the definitions of theory will be "a hunch, a speculation" because that is indeed the way the word is used in every-day conversation. But when we engage in a scientific discussion, such dictionairy definitions become meaningless and we only need to bother with the technical definitions... which may or may not have been recorded in a dictionairy: that doesn't even matter.
And in this case, the technical definitions are very close to the ones most of the New Atheists writers popularized.
Matt VDB, you hit the nail where nails are designed to be hit.
I've often heard that dictionaries both describe and prescribe.
You've made the reality clear: dictionaries describe, and people who use or don't use dictionaries prescribe.
I'll definitely agree with you on the technical aspects of words versus colloquialisms (theory was a great example) - and I also agree with what I think you're saying about the context of the word being important as well. If I could rewrite, I think I might actually have rearranged some of the grammar of my statement after glancing at it again (happens to me a lot haha). I'm with you in that something like wikipedia or webster's doesn't necessarily contribute much to a conversation concerning mostly the modernity and context of words, and I even believe some words most definitely can and should become extinct outright.
With that said, I think in this case specifically it gets a little messier, for me anyways, simply by virtue of a word like agnosticism having such broadly differing meanings to different persons in the conversation itself. I think for this reason alone, I tend to lean on the collective more than not. In this case, I think a word like agnosticism in both the technical and colloquial senses, still very much has a place in language, and this seems to be where Madhukar, Anthony, and ASA differ.
P.S. I still can't believe what an ass I was to you before. I get a lot of enjoyment out of talking to you now haha - c'est la vie, I guess :S
Vash, your Atheists and Theists alike indulge the imagination equally describes well the first atheists I met: the Univ. of Florida college atheist club.
I heard them saying they know there is no god and decided they know as little as the believers I had known. I wanted those believers out of my life and chose agnosticism.
Agnosticism is an acceptible position for major cities of the world and campus towns built up around a university. But outside the civilized world...in the hollers of West Virginia in the US.
But understand, agnosticism is a social position that is valuable to put on rather than what you really mean. It is not a theological or psychological position. It is a social shield you can use to avoid awkward situations. You make the mistake of pointing out the intellectual poverty of a concept they have grown fond of, a plank in the structure of their own belief system. The thing is, the supporting structure of each our tents...the philosophical underpinnings even you are faced with...as we all sooner or later are...
Life? For it or against it?
Death? For it or against it?
It's sensible enough.
Ask somebody if he believes in God and see if you get a straight forward answer.
Oh, the say how they have 'faith'. Faith in God? Hell, no!
Faith in God means you not only belief in His existence on both a carnal, human level but also on the spiritual level.
Faith is superstition writ large.
We all know the difference between superstition and faith.
Or are we just being frightened of leaving a signature on the Net?
.....as if the agnostic is a neophyte in the atheist religion.....
No atheist, not even an agnostic would ever use the words ' atheist religion'. The theists frequently use this term to deflect criticism of their beliefs.
I agree, Karim. We were all looking for a place where we could belong comfortably having been at odds with 80% ? of the population that we don't need to continue putting people in little niches.
Things that don't exist are likely to be pretty unknowable. That doesn't stop people from making all sorts of assumptions, presumptions, and just plain made-up shit about whatever their favorite non-existent goodie is. What floors me are those who, despite the utter lack of evidence, want to slide those who believe it enough slack as to say that, "well, MAYBE there's a god; we can't know for certain."
Sure, maybe there is ... and maybe there are fairies, gnomes, and left-handed zindlefingers, too. I'm still not having any. Until there is some hard, objective substantiation to the contrary: There Are NO Gods.
I do agree with you Loren. I understood what Vash was saying about understanding the definitions of the words agnostic and Atheist, but I still agree with you that "Until there is some hard, objective substantiation to the contrary: There Are NO Gods."