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.

Tags: Agnosticism, Illogic, Refuting, Self

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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.

I don't believe you will find anything in Huxley's work stating that he knows God is ineffable and his remark about insolubility referred to the problem of existence, which he does not define explicitly.

Any ambiguity about the meaning of agnosticism would appear to come from others who lacked Huxley's exact habits of thought and mistakenly believed it constituted a neutral position between belief and unbelief when in fact it denotes a lack of objective evidence. For example, Wace, in their extensive controversy, never managed to understand that Huxley did not accept the Bible as the word of God and as a result Wace could never mount an effective argument—he was always wide of the mark.

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.—Huxley in Agnosticism and Christianity, 1889

Huxley's coinage of agnosticism was quickly adopted—the first reference in print follows the organization of the Metaphysical Society by a month. The church did not pay much attention to it until much later.

I don't believe you will find anything in Huxley's work stating that he knows God is ineffable

Of course: that would have been claiming absolute knowledge, which nobody on this side of the house does and neither did Huxley.

and his remark about insolubility referred to the problem of existence, which he does not define explicitly.

True, but given the context I think it's rather clear that 'the problem of existence' refers to the existential question of why we're here and what kind of universe we're living in. After all, he contrasts his own view against that of the 'atheist, a theist, or a pantheist; a materialist or an idealist; a Christian or a freethinker' (in other words the varying philosophies who offer a view of the universe), and then says:

"They were quite sure that 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 ..."

This paragraph at least, would suggest that Huxley believes this problem of existence, into which he says Christian, theists, materialists and atheists all claim some kind of insight, to actually be insoluble. Thus he coins the phrase agnostic as a position against those who claim that we have enough information to already be on the side of a specific label.

In this sense I view the definition of agnosticism as the position (not the knowledge) that the God question is unanswerable as the correct one, given its origin.

That seems to indicate you agree with the statement it is not fair to say that agnostics claim to know that God is ineffable, yet you said that you disagree. Why?

Hi,

The part I agreed with was that one shouldn't characterize agnostics as claiming absolute knowledge (that they know) about God being unknowable :)

The part I disagreed with was that Huxley only claimed to have no personal knowledge of God. While true, I think what I described above is a bit more than simply not claiming personal knowledge (surely any atheist could agree with that by definition): it also implies that he doesn't think that enough information can -or even could- be gathered on the topic to even say which side of the line is more likely. Again, that's what he says he thinks, not knows.

This is where the term agnostic has some value I think. Any atheist (or even theist) may express uncertainty, or say there's not enough evidence to give a definite answer either way, or even say that they just don't know. However an agnostic says "I've not found any evidence about God, but to be honest I wasn't expecting to find any evidence in the first place, since the question is probably unanswerable from our limited human understanding".

That's a respectable position, even though I don't entirely share it.

Does that make sense? It's a notoriously difficult topic to discuss since it cause us to trip over the words we so commonly use.

Huxley certainly had a conviction that knowledge of existential religious claims was likely impossible, but he seems not to have completely spelled out his reasons. In any case he regarded beliefs not supported by evidence much as he regarded conjecture in science—a guide perhaps, but not something to be published as knowledge. He was always reluctant to go beyond what he had evidence for.

His opponents in the religious camp—Wace and Gladstone, former British PM—considered the Bible itself as incontrovertible evidence.  Huxley spent much of his efforts specifying why he did not share that view. For example he argued that the story of the Gadarene swine either told against the accuracy of scripture or against the divinity of Christ.

Huxley had the great advantage in these exchanges of being superbly well informed—he could read Hebrew as well as Latin and Greek and had a thorough knowledge of scripture as well as science. His opponents were forced to defend superstitious stories such as the Gadarene swine, which made them look foolish.

First the math question. There are many primes in the consecutive numbers 1 through 200—for example: 2,3,5,7,11,13,17,19,23… so that wouldn't do at all.

Since I do not know exactly how the question was asked, it's hard to say for certain what an acceptable answer would be, but taking it just as you have put it, the easiest answer would be to list the two hundred even numbers beginning with 4. This can be done with a formula:  2n + 2 where n varies from 1 to 100. That suggests many other formulas that would work just as well, for example if p is any prime number then for n running from 1 to 100 the formula p(n+1) would work.

I take it you are asking how Huxley would have used the word knowledge in a discussion of agnosticism. My guess is that he would confine it to statements sufficiently supported by verifiable evidence and that his objection to religious claims was their lack of evidence. To put it another way, it appears he did not believe it was possible to gain objective scientific evidence of "an unseen world."

There is no such thing as an agnostic.

God is an object of faith, not knowledge.

Expressing the philosophy of “I don’t “know” is both irrelevant and an admission of a lack of faith.

No faith?  You’re an atheist.

I’ve been arguing this for a long time and have encountered no reasonable counter argument.

There's no such thing as someone who is just an agnostic, however it is possible to be agnostic about the existence of God (while still being a theist or an atheist).

Check the figure on the first page of the thread for details.

Asa:

 

"There is no such thing as an agnostic.

God is an object of faith, not knowledge.

Expressing the philosophy of “I don’t “know” is both irrelevant and an admission of a lack of faith.

No faith?  You’re an atheist.

I’ve been arguing this for a long time and have encountered no reasonable counter argument."

What you say makes sense, but there are still those who, for whatever reason, in this year of 2013, claim there is not enough scientific evidence to definitively rule out some god. I don't believe that in today's world that agnosticism is tenable. I think there's enough evidence to say, based on that evidence, that one can be certain there is no God. Some people play semantics with the word agnostic. An agnostic is simply someone who is not certain that a God does not exist. The agnostic today, for whatever reason still suspends judgment, saying the question is either at present unanswerable or permanently unanswerable. I think it is answerable, and I'm satisfied that it has been answered, viz., there is no God.

If the universe can spontaneously begin to exist without a creator as modern physics has shown, then there is no need for a God. To claim that the universe arose from quantum vacuum fluctuations without a Creator, and yet to suggest that some supernatural reality might yet exist alongside it is completely absurd and no evidence whatsoever exists to support this position. I don't believe people who say some things can never be proven. I could be proven wrong that God doesn't exist by future science that yet comes along. So what ? Then I would have reason to consider God. But all available evidence at this time strongly argues against the existence of supernatural beings.

We need like buttons here, so when we read a great comment we can like it.

Thumbs up for this statement by Asa

There is no such thing as an agnostic.

God is an object of faith, not knowledge.

Expressing the philosophy of “I don’t “know” is both irrelevant and an admission of a lack of faith.

No faith?  You’re an atheist.

I’ve been arguing this for a long time and have encountered no reasonable counter argument.

What other kinds of theology are there besides affirmative and apophatic ? And neither is tenable. Granted, some theologians blend the two, but still there are at base only two. Our western traditional view of God is affirmative in nature, describing what God is. God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent and omnipresent. Apophatic theology on the other hand describes what God is not. God is not limited, which can be another way of affirming God's overall power. God is not knowable, etc.
Apophatic theology is basically agnostic in nature. The apophatic theologian cannot say what God is, only what God is not. It is obvious to see that affirmative theology is not demonstrated in nature, because there would be no evil in a world created and ruled over by an omnibenevolent God who was also omnipotent. Affirmative theology claims that Jesus is God, or that Muhammed is the prophet of Allah, but neither can be demonstrated to be true in reality. Affirmative theology is the opposite of apophatic theology, and affirmative theology finds no place for agnosticism. But the fact that affirmative claims about God are not evidenced in the real world shows it to be untenable. If one looks at the evidence used to affirm that Jesus is God then one would either reject it outright (atheist position), or accept the scant and questionable evidence as true (theist position). I don't think you can be agnostic about an omnibenevolent, omnipotent God. His/Her existence would be obvious.
Apophatic theology fails because it doesn't tell us what God is, only what God is not. Like I said, it's basically an agnostic position. But you cannot say what God is not without also knowing what God is, so it's a contradiction, and I find that position untenable as well. There is no need to suspend our judgment till further evidence comes in anymore. To me the only reasonable position is the atheist position.

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