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.
Right now I'm reading Lawrence M. Krauss' A Universe From Nothing. So far it is an amazing book. I'll tell you what I think after I've read the whole thing.
Anthony, I agree, Lawrence M. Krauss' "A Universe From Nothing" is an outstanding read.
I very much like this answer:
"Laplace said it, Hawking said it, and many others, and I agree with them: god is not necessary."
~ Loren Miller
Joan, Loren, I too find gods unnecessary.
Being terminally skeptical, I recall that Hawking is alleged to have given to the pope the first few nano-nano-nanoseconds after the so-called big bang. I haven't heard of his having recanted. Has anyone else?
I'm too stingy, even mean-spirited, to give any pope anything.
BTW, I found Krauss' AUFN at Amazon and downloaded the free sample to my Kindle. I thought it well-written, unlike many books on science. I'd minored in physics and begun graduate study in low temperature physics BC (before computers) and want more than Krauss offers.
The many attempts in recent decades by xians to put creationism into public school science classrooms has had a benefit. The resulting lawsuits, which creationists regularly lose, bring scientists such as Krauss into courtrooms to educate federal judges. Few have even an entry-level understanding of science and they will be deciding climate change lawsuits.
Personally, I wouldn't give the pope so much as an attosecond before or after the BB did its thing. Neither god nor the pope who alleges to represent said god have demonstrated any credibility or even facility in a field Vatican City would probably just as soon see vanish from science (like that's going to happen!). Boil it down, they still want to insist that "goddidit" ... and we're not having any.
Oh, and for those who are curious one attosecond is equal to 1 x 10-18 seconds.
My "Reply" button isn't working again. So, I just want to clarify my take on things. I have found that arguing is a waste of time, energy, and breath. I do believe, and I mean this with my whole heart, it is absolutely important to get my thoughts into the ether. If I fail to do so, others think my silence is agreement. I have no interest in winning; I am interested in speaking my truth. Others may take offense at my words, may want to argue with me, may end our relationship. All that doesn't matter.
The same goes for others; I expect you to state your position, as clearly as you can. If others cannot hear my words, and I cannot hear the other's words, nothing is gained. I want and need to hear what you say, just as much as I want to say what I think.
Agnostic, atheist, anti-theist, theist, gnostic. Words; just words. It is what we do with words that matter.
Well, I think this is just reaching a bit...what you're saying is like if someone said "What happens on Mars when no one is looking is unknowable.", and then you say "Then how do you know that it's unknowable?" We know it's unknowable because we understand our own limitations.
Agnosticism and agnostics characterize God as unknowable, ineffable, incomprehensible to all attempts to understand him.
There may be agnostics who make such characterizations, but that is far from the essence of agnosticism, which merely asserts a personal lack of knowledge of God. It is not fair to say that agnostics claim to know that God is ineffable. Like Huxley, most only say they have no personal knowledge of God, particular attributes ascribed to him, or other theological claims.
Further, it is unfair to attribute this notion to agnostics primarily since claims of God's ineffability were raised by Christian theologians long before Huxley defined agnosticism and constitute the so-called via negativa or apophatic tradition in theology. Dionysius the Areopagite and Saint Thomas made ineffability a major theme in their writing and Pascal did as well.
These issues aside, is it logically possible to know that anything is unknowable? The answer is yes, as illustrated by the uncertainty principle in quantum mechanics which says that you cannot know precisely the position and momentum of a particle. Since this is a mathematical theorem, not an experimental result, it is as well justified as anything claiming to be knowledge.
Dr. Allan H. Clark,
Yes, I am in complete agreement with you.
Although the term agnostic was first used and established by our dear Thomas Huxley (Darwin’s bulldog), the concept was present on many previous authors. It was completed; in the form we do understand it today, in Kant’s work.
But one thing we are sure about is the uncertainty principle, that it is real and has an effect in the physical world. The uncertainty principle is a fundamental principle of physics that we describe as a law. So, as I said, we know what it means and that it's a real phenomenon of nature. Despite the uncertainty (the agnosticism) concerning measurements, we know the uncertainty principle exists in reality. So there is a gnosis as to the existence of the (agnostic) uncertainty principle. Maybe this is circular reasoning or begging the question.
And yet, Huxley still has to answer (which he can't now, being dead, unless he left writings on the matter) whether he falls on the theistic, deistic, or atheistic side of the question as to his agnosticism.
The uncertainty principle is a mathematical deduction from the principles of quantum mechanics and consequently a fundamental and observable property. Whether it should be considered a physical law is questionable.
In fact Huxley did write an explanation of his position:
When I reached intellectual maturity and began to ask myself whether I was an atheist, a theist, or a pantheist; a materialist or an idealist; a Christian or a freethinker - I found that the more I learned and reflected, the less ready was the answer; until, at last, I came to the conclusion that I had neither art nor part with any of these denominations, except the last. The one thing in which most of these good people were agreed was the one thing in which I differed from them. They were quite sure they had attained a certain "gnosis" - had, more or less successfully, solved the problem of existence; while I was quite sure I had not, and had a pretty strong conviction that the problem was insoluble. And, with Hume and Kant on my side, I could not think myself presumptuous in holding fast by that opinion.
Huxley was fastidious about making assertions only on the basis of evidence. When the Reverend Henry Wace suggested that his agnosticism was simply a cowardly cover for atheism, he denied it emphatically. He and Wace had a lengthy exchange of views in the Fortnightly Review, which were collected into a book.
It is not fair to say that agnostics claim to know that God is ineffable. Like Huxley, most only say they have no personal knowledge of God, particular attributes ascribed to him, or other theological claims.
I don't completely agree with that. Part of the reason for the differing definitions of agnosticism is that Huxley was somewhat ambiguous on these points. For instance he did say that, in contrast to 'the gnostics', he had a pretty strong conviction that the God question was "insoluble" as he put it in his original essay describing agnosticism.
That being said, it's of course a fair point that agnostics would not claim absolute knowledge (to KNOW) that the God question was insoluble. Just like for everyone else, agnosticism about God is a position based on analysis.
To me, the only intelligible way to define agnosticism is to associate it with the position that a given question is insoluble or unanswerable. Definitions that veer too far into "Well I'm just not sure" territory are quite useless, since almost no-one is sure to begin with.