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 Is the agnostic position on god a valid one?
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Ricky
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Posted - 08/12/2004 :  07:07:58  Show Profile  Send Ricky an AOL message Send Ricky a Private Message
A while ago, I had always thought that the agnostic position was valid, and even wasn't quite sure if I was agnostic or atheist. However, ever since our convestaion on that skeptic quote, I have been questioning whether or not it is really a scientifically valid position to take. Is it ok to ignore Occam's Razor in a situation of zero evidence? Is Occam's Razor strong enough that it can't be ignored or is it reasonable to not apply it to some situations? Overall, can you with a good scientific conscience be agnostic?

Why continue? Because we must. Because we have the call. Because it is nobler to fight for rationality without winning than to give up in the face of continued defeats. Because whatever true progress humanity makes is through the rationality of the occasional individual and because any one individual we may win for the cause may do more for humanity than a hundred thousand who hug their superstitions to their breast.
- Isaac Asimov

Valiant Dancer
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Posted - 08/12/2004 :  07:14:39   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Valiant Dancer's Homepage Send Valiant Dancer a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Ricky

A while ago, I had always thought that the agnostic position was valid, and even wasn't quite sure if I was agnostic or atheist. However, ever since our convestaion on that skeptic quote, I have been questioning whether or not it is really a scientifically valid position to take. Is it ok to ignore Occam's Razor in a situation of zero evidence? Is Occam's Razor strong enough that it can't be ignored or is it reasonable to not apply it to some situations? Overall, can you with a good scientific conscience be agnostic?



I believe we've had this conversation before. There are theistic agnostics and atheistic agnostics. Agnosticism merely states that there isn't adequate evidence to make a determination either way. The theistic branch assumes the existance of a supreme being. The atheistic branch makes no such assumption. Both have equal evidence supporting their position. The atheistic branch has the further support of Occams razor which speaks to probability, not absolute fact.

Cthulhu/Asmodeus when you're tired of voting for the lesser of two evils

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filthy
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Posted - 08/12/2004 :  07:33:35   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send filthy a Private Message
Sure, why not? Due to a lack of evidence, nothing metaphysical can be proven. I cannot debunk the standard god(s) any more than anyone else can debunk the Giant, Mutant Star-Goat. Or that wussy Invisable, Pink Unicorn, for that matter.

Val said it best. We are all agnostics of sorts; some hopeful, some doubting, some some of the opinion that the whole thing is a cosmic April Fool's gag.




"What luck for rulers that men do not think." -- Adolf Hitler (1889 - 1945)

"If only we could impeach on the basis of criminal stupidity, 90% of the Rethuglicans and half of the Democrats would be thrown out of office." ~~ P.Z. Myres


"The default position of human nature is to punch the other guy in the face and take his stuff." ~~ Dude

Brother Boot Knife of Warm Humanitarianism,

and Crypto-Communist!

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Bradley
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Posted - 08/12/2004 :  08:31:34   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Bradley a Private Message
I have no problem with the idea that supernatural claims can neither be proven nor disproven. So, can the existence of a deity or deities be possible? Maybe. Do I entertain the possibility with any degree of seriousness? [raspberries]

I strongly think that all claims of the supernatural, like works of fiction, are products of the human imagination. The difference is that most of the authors of works of fiction do not masquerade their creations as fact. It is for this reason that I do not identify myself as an agnostic, but am quite comfortable with the label "Atheist," no matter how "negative" the term is perceived by the lemmings of pop culture.

"Too much doubt is better than too much credulity."

-Robert Green Ingersoll (1833 - 1899)
Edited by - Bradley on 08/12/2004 08:38:07
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Gorgo
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Posted - 08/12/2004 :  09:02:14   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Gorgo a Private Message
The argument about who is an agnostic and who is an atheist is far from settled. There are discussions all over this forum and the internet about that.

I am an atheist because I lack a belief in god(s). That's all that is required. Most agnostics fit that category. Some say that agnosticism is about knowledge. One can believe in god (theist) and not know god (agnostic). I'm also an atheist because I'm pretty sure that any god I ever heard of doesn't exist. Jehovah the tribal war god is pretty much a riduculous thing to even ponder. Jesus the man probably never existed, and almost certainly wasn't any kind of god.

I would say that the existence of some gods can be disproven, if you can ever get someone to define that god. The problem is that most mature people really don't believe in a god that actually does anything. In other words "god helps those that help themselves" means that god ain't-a-gonna do shit. "God's Will be done" means the same thing as "shit happens."


I know the rent is in arrears
The dog has not been fed in years
It's even worse than it appears
But it's alright-
Jerry Garcia
Robert Hunter



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Dude
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Posted - 08/12/2004 :  09:18:07   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message
The idea that something has to be disproven is not logically valid.

Without evidence logic says that you can simply dismiss claims.

It's a pointless excercise to attempt to disprove god, as there is nothing to disprove.

The reponsibility to provide proof lies with those who make the claims, everyone else has the responsibility to evaluate any alleged proof.

Now, you could almost say that debunking fake/faulty proof is the same as disproving... but it's not quite. For example, a disproof of god would be some evidence or argument that clearly demonstrated that god did not exist. Debunking of fake evidence is just shining a light on flawed logic and lies used by those who make the claims.

Personally, and I'm sure some will disagree, I don't think it's neccessary to use Occam's Razor when evaluating claims unsupported by evidence. God, however, (as I may have mentioned in that other thread) has loads of alleged evidence out there to "prove" his existance, and it's totally appropriate to use the Razor.

Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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astropin
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Posted - 08/12/2004 :  09:26:58   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send astropin a Private Message
Once again it appears that it all depends on "your" definition. I say that I am Atheist because I do not "believe" in the existence of any gods. I do not say that no gods are possible....which is how some define atheist.

I would rather face a cold reality than delude myself with comforting fantasies.

You are free to believe what you want to believe and I am free to ridicule you for it.

Atheism:
The result of an unbiased and rational search for the truth.

Infinitus est numerus stultorum
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filthy
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Posted - 08/12/2004 :  09:27:29   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send filthy a Private Message
Well said, gorgo!

But I might argue that Jesus did indeed exist. It was a common name in those days, in that piece of geography. There were doubtless many wandering rabbis, many quite mad, riccocheting from place to place and gathering a following of like-minded dingbats. Happens all the time, today. But unlike their modern counterparts, the dingbats might have been coherent, so after Jesus pissed everyone off enough that they convinced the Romans to nail the rascal to a pole, the former diciples gathered their own, rabid followers -- and so forth.

All Jesus needed was a little imaginitive, postmortem PR and voila! a savior!


"What luck for rulers that men do not think." -- Adolf Hitler (1889 - 1945)

"If only we could impeach on the basis of criminal stupidity, 90% of the Rethuglicans and half of the Democrats would be thrown out of office." ~~ P.Z. Myres


"The default position of human nature is to punch the other guy in the face and take his stuff." ~~ Dude

Brother Boot Knife of Warm Humanitarianism,

and Crypto-Communist!

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Gorgo
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Posted - 08/12/2004 :  09:40:05   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Gorgo a Private Message
Yes, but no reason to think that particular Jesus with that particular story in any of its forms ever existed. No contemporary accounts, no accounts of Herod's genocide, no accounts of his death, no personal writings, nothing.

I know the rent is in arrears
The dog has not been fed in years
It's even worse than it appears
But it's alright-
Jerry Garcia
Robert Hunter



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astropin
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970 Posts

Posted - 08/12/2004 :  09:46:02   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send astropin a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Dude

The idea that something has to be disproven is not logically valid.

Without evidence logic says that you can simply dismiss claims.




Dude I hate to do it and I mean no offense just trying to get this strait in my head. So based on the above statement do you dismiss the claim of consciousness after death? Honestly now, there is no evidence of C.A.D. therefore it should logically be dismissed. Seriously NOT trying to beat a dead horse, I just see a flaw in your line of reasoning

I would rather face a cold reality than delude myself with comforting fantasies.

You are free to believe what you want to believe and I am free to ridicule you for it.

Atheism:
The result of an unbiased and rational search for the truth.

Infinitus est numerus stultorum
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Ricky
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Posted - 08/12/2004 :  10:20:06   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send Ricky an AOL message Send Ricky a Private Message
Astropin, I knew this would come up, so lets just try to keep that in one topic. Haha, you don't want to get all of these cross posts from one topic to another... that would be really messy. So Dude, if your going to respond to him, I would really suggest doing so in the originial topic.

Alright, I made the mistake of using the word "agnostic" without describing what it means to me (as there are many different definitions). Now I identify myself as an agnostic atheist, one who says "There is no evidence for god, so because of Occam's Razor I can reasonably say that he/she/it does not exist. Any future evidence and I will happily change my stance." Now by agnostic I mean "I can not pass any judgement whatsoever on whether there is a god or not". Hopefully this helps.

quote:
All Jesus needed was a little imaginitive, postmortem PR and voila! a savior!



As for Jesus, I think that it is very likely he was a magician, or a fraud. Paying people to pretend they were blind or turing water into wine with a simple slight of hand (haha, anyone see that South Park episode? "Turn around, now, just, turn around") and then stories of him spread and were exaggerated.

Why continue? Because we must. Because we have the call. Because it is nobler to fight for rationality without winning than to give up in the face of continued defeats. Because whatever true progress humanity makes is through the rationality of the occasional individual and because any one individual we may win for the cause may do more for humanity than a hundred thousand who hug their superstitions to their breast.
- Isaac Asimov
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Dude
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Posted - 08/12/2004 :  15:23:28   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message
Astropin: Go here- http://www.skepticfriends.org/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=2977&whichpage=9


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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beskeptigal
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Posted - 08/14/2004 :  02:38:54   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send beskeptigal a Private Message
While you can leave open the option of life after death, consciousness without body, or supernatural beings, you can at the same time evaluate the god theory just as you can evaluate any other theory. I wrote this up on the From Where I Stand forum. Here's a synopsis.

First issue, what does one mean by proof. I'm talking about reasonable proof here, not absolute. Not because I don't think the evidence is there, I think it is. But if we don't limit the term to 'reasonable' the discussion can wander afield to the semantics of 'you cannot prove anything', and that's another issue.

What evidence would be needed then, to decide which if any of the world's religions are true? Historical reports of miracles are unreliable. Stories and religious accounts of events are not well supported by scientific evidence. "Coyote stole fire from heaven" is not different in substance from "Noah took all the animals in the ark". Some folks may want to believe their stories are true, but in general, the stories are just that, stories.

One thing you might expect from a religion whose doctrine was supposedly inspired, if not written, by a god is some evidence of that god's influence. If you can only find man's or woman's influence in the religious texts, that would be evidence there was no god involved.

The most glaring problem with the Bible is its lack of including the rest of the world beyond the area the religion developed in. The world and human races are not presented accurately. Adam and Eve are described but tracing their lineage only gives you a few thousand years, give or take. But the evidence is humans had already migrated all over the world by that time. The earliest Americans go back at least 10,000+ years. Asians and Australians had migrated from Africa 60,000+ years earlier, and, the African continent was populated 200,000 years earlier with the first homo sapiens.

The beginning of the Universe and life on Earth are not described accurately. Noah's story is not consistent with the evidence.

Rituals are prescribed by 'God' which some people today believe had a role in preventing disease, don't eat this, prepare certain foods this way or that, and so on. In reality, the most important disease prevention ritual was not prescribed, that of hand washing. Medical references throughout the Bible are incorrect time and time again, (stuff about lepers, people with lesions and the like, not factual at all).

These are just some examples of hundreds in the Bible that show if there were a 'God' he didn't inspire much in the way of useful nor accurate knowledge to be written. The Bible attributes disease and disasters to the same inaccurate causes as other religions do.

Hypothesis: If god(s) had either contacted humans or influenced the Bible (as claimed by believers in the Bible today), then evidence of said interaction should be discoverable.

To test the hypothesis we must identify what is acceptable evidence.

Acceptable evidence must meet the criteria of being more than humans could have known at the time, (time can be any era you wish to evaluate).

Imaginary interpretations of natural events does not meet the criteria. For example, a story of a person coming from above is not sufficient without additional evidence such as:

An accurate description of 9 planets before telescopes.
A drawing of obvious spiral galaxies before telescopes with an indication Earth is in the arm of a spiral.
Or the Milky Way is identified as the band of stars across the night sky, while some stars are recognized as galaxies outside of ours.

An accurate description of the germ theory before microscopes.

There are lots of criteria one could come up with to test the god theory.

I get annoyed with the sort of cop out of saying these things are out of the realm of science and are therefore not scientifically evaluate-able. I think that's just another way of saying I don't want to confront religion so I'll separate it from my scientific rational life.
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Wulfstan
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Posted - 08/14/2004 :  09:43:41   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Wulfstan a Private Message
quote:
Ricky said:
A while ago, I had always thought that the agnostic position was valid, and even wasn't quite sure if I was agnostic or atheist. However, ever since our convestaion on that skeptic quote, I have been questioning whether or not it is really a scientifically valid position to take. Is it ok to ignore Occam's Razor in a situation of zero evidence? Is Occam's Razor strong enough that it can't be ignored or is it reasonable to not apply it to some situations? Overall, can you with a good scientific conscience be agnostic?


This site I often refer to briefly mentions Occam's Razor in regards to atheism. BTW, this is a great primer site and I've encouraged theists to look at it (fat chance of that) and it has a great Logic & Fallacies section, as well as all the common arguments I've encountered on our board.

quote:
"People keep talking about Occam's Razor. What is it?"

William of Occam formulated a principle which has become known as Occam's Razor. In its original form, it said "Do not multiply entities unnecessarily." That is, if you can explain something without supposing the existence of some entity, then do so.

Nowadays when people refer to Occam's Razor, they often express it more generally, for example as "Take the simplest solution".

The relevance to atheism is that we can look at two possible explanations for what we see around us:

There is an incredibly intricate and complex universe out there, which came into being as a result of natural processes.
There is an incredibly intricate and complex universe out there, and there is also a God who created the universe. Clearly this God must be of non-zero complexity.
Given that both explanations fit the facts, Occam's Razor might suggest that we should take the simpler of the two -- solution number one. Unfortunately, some argue that there is a third even more simple solution:

There isn't an incredibly intricate and complex universe out there. We just imagine that there is.
This third option leads us logically towards solipsism, which many people find unacceptable.
See here: The Atheism Web-Common Arguments
I don't know if that will help you much, but the site briefly explains atheism--both strong and weak and onto agnosticism.
See here: http://www.infidels.org/news/atheism/intro.html

I happen to be a strong atheist. I saw somewhere else on this forum, and I think it was Dave, who said that being a strong atheist is akin to the extremity of a fundamentalist. I disagree with that, because a fundamentalist takes so much of the Bible literally, when there is much evidence that the Bible is full of tales of pagan origin (Genesis), outright plagiarism in the gospels for the purposes of political means, plain 'ol lack of corroboration, and so on. Fudamentalists are so sure of something they can not prove exists.

As a strong atheist, I take the view that God or gods do not exist, can never exist and will never exist in any physical, omniscient, omnipotent sense. I suppose if you were able to prove this definitively in some way, I'd waver, but I don't believe it can be proven in any way and in the way that all abstract ideas can't be "proven." Abstract ideas like love, hate, honor, fate or what not, can't be proven--we all have different concepts of what those are. We have some ideas of those concepts that we generally agree on, but it's all kind of dicey. "Prove your love to me!" How? We may not agree on what proof of love is. Prove fate. These concepts manifest themselves in ways and we label them even though we can't agree on them. God will never manifest itself in a way we can all agree upon--as it is there are so many different concepts of what God is.

So, I think that in the same way we created and named certain behaviors and human traits with these abstract concepts, we named God or gods or Yaweh, et al, for the "behaviors" of the Earth. To me, it's that simple and it works for me. We know what and why earthquakes happen and they are not because of an angry God pissed off at some group of people for doing this or that--it's just standard geological fare. "God" explained events--ignorance was labeled "god" (of course god is an English word). To use God as an explanation really complicates matters: why would he only kill these people, why not those people who did this; why would he kill innocent babies, why doesn't he reveal himself (oh, yeah, he did with Jesus); if God is omnipotent why does he let x,y,z happen....oh, yeah, it's that free will thing. For me, gods don't exist because of the way the concept of god came about. For me, a god will never exist because god is an archaic concept.

Since we now label events and their causes, i.e. earthquakes, why is the concept of some complex God even necessary? It's no longer due to ignorance, at least with many theists, so is it not escape the conflict and struggle of life? I still don't really get why people feel it necessary or want to believe in this God concept. I look at people who, say, argue with thoroughness and complexity about the moon landings, yet they still believe in God. A part of me just doesn't get that...how perfectly sane, logical, intelligent people believe in some supernatural force or entity. Someone says after a drowning child was saved, "God works in mysterious ways." Forget that it was me who learned to swim at an early age, who walked by, saw the drowning child, jumped in and saved him--it all has to be ascribed to this God who is somewhere with his joystick making all these things happen (sometimes). I'm rather content with thinking that human beings can be so awful at times and helpful at other times. This third party equation is rather pointless, unless you want to get away from the struggle of life.


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filthy
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Posted - 08/14/2004 :  12:22:13   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send filthy a Private Message
Bah! Codswallop! Here's the stick with the sucker licked off:

"An Agnostic is no more than an Atheist lacking the courage of his convictions!"

Don't recall where I read that -- it was a long time ago -- but I've always liked it.


"What luck for rulers that men do not think." -- Adolf Hitler (1889 - 1945)

"If only we could impeach on the basis of criminal stupidity, 90% of the Rethuglicans and half of the Democrats would be thrown out of office." ~~ P.Z. Myres


"The default position of human nature is to punch the other guy in the face and take his stuff." ~~ Dude

Brother Boot Knife of Warm Humanitarianism,

and Crypto-Communist!

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Ricky
SFN Die Hard

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Posted - 08/14/2004 :  12:36:15   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send Ricky an AOL message Send Ricky a Private Message
quote:
Since we now label events and their causes, i.e. earthquakes, why is the concept of some complex God even necessary? It's no longer due to ignorance, at least with many theists, so is it not escape the conflict and struggle of life? I still don't really get why people feel it necessary or want to believe in this God concept. I look at people who, say, argue with thoroughness and complexity about the moon landings, yet they still believe in God. A part of me just doesn't get that...how perfectly sane, logical, intelligent people believe in some supernatural force or entity.


I don't have a lot of time right now, I'll try to get back to replying to your entire post later, but I think that the major reason for a belief in god is because it is implanted in people very early as children. God seems to be a function of space and time, that is, your belief in a god depends on where you are, and when you were there. That is why if you were born in the Americas back in 1300, you would be a polytheist (Native Americans), if you were born in Eygpt back at the height of the Eygptian empire, you would believe in those set of gods, same goes for the Jewish and Christian religions. Now of course this is only a pattern, but still, its a very strong pattern and appears to apply almost anywhere.

Why continue? Because we must. Because we have the call. Because it is nobler to fight for rationality without winning than to give up in the face of continued defeats. Because whatever true progress humanity makes is through the rationality of the occasional individual and because any one individual we may win for the cause may do more for humanity than a hundred thousand who hug their superstitions to their breast.
- Isaac Asimov
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