I have a question for those of you who choose to call yourselves agnostics. Do you really believe that it is possible that the Flying Spaghetti Monster really exists? The standard answer I get when I pose this questions is: anything is possible. But if impossibilities did not exist then half the proofs in mathematics are wrong. Now, if you grant that the FSM is (in all likelihood) impossible, why is it any different for any other god? It is difficult for me to fathom how anyone can hear the definition of the Abrahamic god (Einsteins's, et. al. definitions of god are so vague and so innocuous that even I have to admit to some level of possibility) and not Grock (apololgies to Heinlein) the impossibility of such a being. I struggle to understand how something that is, to me, obviously utterly impossible is given any level of credence by anyone who is not woefully ignorant or dumb.
I do not intend this to be insulting or deprecating, I just really have a hard time understanding this position.

Views: 30

Comment by Reggie on July 30, 2010 at 1:46pm
Not always cowardice. Sometimes it is simply being deferential to something considere by the majority as an acceptable beleif. What frustrates me is that double standard that non-beleiver give to silly beleifs based not on the silliness of the beleif, but on it's social acceptance. Religion has done well to cloak itself in solemn reverence and portray itself as being beyond reproach. Pussyfooting around with a label like agnosticm is just a deferential treatment to those beleifs and is likely subconcious and ingrained for many.
Comment by willailla on July 31, 2010 at 4:17pm
If 'everything is possible', the the possibility that nothing is possible is possible.
Comment by Jaume on August 1, 2010 at 7:36pm
I have a question for those of you who choose to call yourselves agnostics. Do you really believe that it is possible that the Flying Spaghetti Monster really exists? The standard answer I get when I pose this questions is: anything is possible.

This may be a typical answer you get from people who call themselves agnostics, but it's certainly not a typical agnostic response - which would be "I (don't) believe the FSM exists, but I can't prove it." Or, "- but I don't think it can be proven.", or "- but I think it can't be proven."

I find it interesting that Shine writes

many people may languish under the safety blanket of the label "agnostic" because of the negative impression and general misunderstanding of the term "atheist."

From the replies I can read here, it seems the term "agnostic" gets just the same treatment. I know many dictionaries will give you definitions involving "uncertainty about the existence of (a) god or deity", but these are only common usage definitions. If you balk at an incorrect but common understanding of the term "atheist", why not do "agnostic" the same favor?
Comment by Doug Reardon on August 1, 2010 at 8:49pm
If I were to ask if there were possibly a circle with four right angles and equidistant sides, would you also say that one can't prove that it doesn't exist?
Comment by Jaume on August 1, 2010 at 9:21pm
(Assuming euclidean geometry) of course not, because I know (gnosticism) it can be proven.
Comment by Doug Reardon on August 1, 2010 at 11:47pm
But God, which is equally contradictory, and self negating is a possibility?
Comment by Jaume on August 2, 2010 at 1:45am
But God,

The Abrahamic god, you mean. Actually, I think you're dangerously close to admitting this possibility yourself, since you wrote earlier

Einsteins's, et. al. definitions of god are so vague and so innocuous that even I have to admit to some level of possibility

Why stop here and not add another level? If this 'Einsteinian' god is indeed possible, it's also possible it communicated with Iron Age tribesmen from the Middle East at some point, failed to get its message across, got bored and departed for good. And what's left of the encounter would then be an unreliable account, that got embellished as generations succeeded to generations, and your Abrahamic god is born - the distorted image of a wandering Einsteinian god.

Of course neither you nor I believe the above is true, and it's not even what my original point was about. From the beginning you insist on asking agnostics what they "really believe", but the agnostic position is not about belief, it's about knowledge or the possibility of knowledge. Agnostics don't have to believe anything. their only claim is "whether I believe this or not, it can't be proven." And those who demand precision about the 'atheist' label should be consistent and make the same demand about the 'agnostic' one. By the way, if 'theist' and 'atheist' are both ends of a one-dimensional spectrum, and 'agnostic' is used for the fence-sitters in the middle, can someone at least tell me where the 'gnostic' is supposed to fit?

which is equally contradictory, and self negating

In all fairness, you'd have to admit the contradictory and self-negating nature you assign to God actually belongs to the Bible. Similarly, Plutarch's biographies of ancient men aren't 100% accurate and sometimes give us a distorted view of their subjects, but these flaws are not these subjects' responsibility.

By the way, I've always found it counterintuitive that people automatically assume that the Bible is an accurate account prior to debating the possibilty or impossibility of God, while the Bible is known to be contradictory and inconsistent, and logic dictates that from an unreliable source, you can't deduce anything about its subject. Except that the source can't be a reliable depiction of its subject. From there, lacking other sources, the best you can do is to apply the null hypothesis: either assume that the subject doesn't exist, or accept that you can't know anything about it.
Comment by Doug Reardon on August 2, 2010 at 12:23pm
Einstein's definition of god was: those laws by which the universe works. No being, no creator. That, to me is so vague, and there do seem to be "laws" by which the universe operates. And I personally cannot think of any definition of god, in the more traditional sense that is possible, that at some point is not self contradictory.
Comment by Jaume on August 2, 2010 at 2:26pm
Einstein wasn't shy of expressing his admiration for the structure of the universe, its harmony and its intelligibility, and one could thus argue that Einstein also attached properties like purposefulness or volition to his view of 'God' (why is there harmony rather than chaos?)

And definitions of 'god' are so diverse and open you could always come up with one that's not self-contradictory. I don't think that an extra-cosmic lab assistant creating our universe in a test tube is contradictory in itself. This 'lab assistant creator god' need not be all-powerful (the way he can alter what's in the test tube is limited by the laws of physics of his own universe, he can't project himself in the tube, etc.) or all-knowing (he may not even be aware of impurities in the mixture, impurities that could be ourselves.)

What makes a god contradictory is the properies, or association of properties you choose to attach to it. Omnipotence and omniscience both lead to contradictions. But being able to create a woman from a man's rib is not (heck, we might even seen it during our lifetime.)
Comment by willailla on August 2, 2010 at 11:20pm
Fascinating, Jaume.

agnostic - uncertain of all claims to knowledge.

Can an agnostic say 'accept that you can't know anything about it.'? That would be saying
he knows his statement--that you can't know-- to be knowably true. He can only say I don’t
know if ‘ ...you can know anything about it.'

Neither can he '...assume that the subject doesn't exist'. For on what line of reasoning does he
base that assumption? He can only say he doesn't know whether or not the subject exist. For
by assuming anything he would be attempting to validate his speculation based on, if not
reason, what? Yet reason he maintains is invalid for determiniting whether or not god exists.
By denying reason, in this particular, his position is reduced to argumentum ad absurdum.

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