by dhw, Friday, May 06, 2011, 14:08 (2328 days ago) @ George Jelliss

GEORGE: There's a poll and discussion on New Humanist and twitter

Asking for answers to the question:
Agnosticism is ... ?
And getting all sorts of contradictory answers.

Thanks for this, George. Great fun! You get the gold medal for your link to the polling booth photograph. I shan't give away the punchline.

I like your own witty aphorism: "Agnosticism is...pointlessly keeping an open mind on the infinitely improbable", though I don't quite understand why you should think it pointless to keep an open mind on the infinite improbability of blind chance assembling the mechanisms for life and evolution. Perhaps you were thinking of something else.

As I see it, distinctions are clear: theists believe in a god (or gods), atheists believe there is no god (or gods), and agnostics neither believe nor disbelieve in a god (or gods). However, there are many types of agnostic, just as there are many types of theist and atheist, so it's hardly surprising that there are differences of opinion. But I think a lot of the contradictions in the poll come from the way non-agnostics look at agnostics, not the way agnostics look at themselves.

In all seriousness, your reference to open-mindedness seems to me a key factor. I don't know of any agnostic extremists or fundamentalists who go round killing others for not sharing their scepticism. Nor do I know of agnostics who sneer at and seek to undermine other people's beliefs (though we are not above teasing our atheist friends for not acknowledging their own quasi-religious faith in chance!) The only intolerance I have found among agnostics is intolerance of intolerance, and I would regard that as something to be admired, not denigrated.

My answer to the question, however, is: Agnosticism is neither believing nor disbelieving in a god or gods. (This of course is not the original definition of the term as Huxley coined it, which is the belief that it is impossible to know whether God exists or not.)

All other descriptions ... including what I have said above ... entail subjective value judgements and have nothing to do with what agnosticism "is".


P.S. George, I would greatly value your views on the subject of "intelligent cells" (as opposed to random mutations and divine pre-programming) which is currently being discussed on the "Innovation and Speciation" thread.

Complete thread:

 RSS Feed of thread

powered by my little forum