Agnostic belief
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26-05-2011, 05:58 PM
RE: Agnostic belief
(26-05-2011 05:43 PM)sasu_girl Wrote:  can't i be a 6.5???


if by some miracle with overwhelming evidence like that of a rock smacking me in the face claiming that there is a god, i will believe. however, something supernatural cannot make its way into the natural world without it no longer being supernatural. you cannot prove there's a deity. no one will ever be able to prove there is one. therefore i am a 6.5.


and you can think and be atheist without being agnostic.

Here's how Dawkins puts it (it's his scale after all):

Quote:I'd be surprised to meet many people in category 7, but I include it for symmetry with category 1, which is well populated. It is in the nature of faith that one is capable, like Jung, of holding a belief without adequate reason to do so (Jung also believed that particular books on his shelf spontaneously exploded with a loud bang). Atheists do not have faith; and reason alone could not propel one to total conviction that anything definitely does not exist. Hence category 7 is in practice rather emptier than its opposite number, category 1, which has many devoted inhabitants. I count myself in category 6, but leaning towards 7 - 1 am agnostic only to the extent that I am agnostic about fairies at the bottom of the garden.

You'd be a 6 leaning towards 7 like him, though if you wanna call yourself a 6.5 by all means go ahead.

The God excuse: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument. "God did it." Anything we can't describe must have come from God. - George Carlin

Whenever I'm asked "What if you're wrong?", I always show the asker this video: http://youtu.be/iClejS8vWjo Screw Pascal's wager.
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27-05-2011, 08:20 AM
RE: Agnostic belief
This is disappointing.

The Cartesian model has been used without reservation pretty much since I got here and only now, when a logical consequence of it is presented, is it suddenly not a good model.

Both models, the Cartesian graph and the scale, have zero positions.

The question is not, can someone be charted with a value of zero? They can. This model demands it. And don't fool yourselves, this is a model that is used a great deal. The question is what do you call them?

Hey, Efrx86.

Quote:The absolute central position is one of apathy or indifference. An apatheist, perhaps. *

* Note: Such a person will act as if there are no gods, since they are utterly indifferent to the idea. For all intents and purposes, they are an atheist. This is a non-trivial point. Babies are born indifferent to the idea of gods – indeed – they cannot conceive it, and accordingly are atheists: they do not believe in gods because they can not.

This is nonsense. First, this person is not necessarily apathetic. They could very much be interested, concerned and passionate. Neutrality can be a decided position. Second, the number zero has a very specific meaning that this person is ignoring. If they are in any way Atheist, then they would have a value on the Athiest side of the axis. Zero means nothing.

Hey, Unbeliever.

Quote:Both a/gnosticism and a/theism are binary. You are either one or the other.

Ok. Why? Why are they binary?

Is your position that there is only a single degree of Atheism and a single degree of Theism? I ask because that position seems unique in all of the discussions I've ever come across. The single-degree position seems to me to be the only possible position if one considers these things to be binary. If, however, there is any variation whatsoever, then the positions are not binary and the Cartesian graph is the perfect model for charting that variation; and a model that people seem to use happily. The Cartesian graph demands a zero position, as does logic.

Hey, MikeNH.

Quote:Exactly... A better model would be a 2x2 matrix.

The problem with this position is that no one uses this model.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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27-05-2011, 09:03 AM (This post was last modified: 27-05-2011 09:10 AM by MikeNH.)
RE: Agnostic belief
(27-05-2011 08:20 AM)Ghost Wrote:  Hey, Unbeliever.

Quote:Both a/gnosticism and a/theism are binary. You are either one or the other.

Ok. Why? Why are they binary?

Is your position that there is only a single degree of Atheism and a single degree of Theism? I ask because that position seems unique in all of the discussions I've ever come across. The single-degree position seems to me to be the only possible position if one considers these things to be binary. If, however, there is any variation whatsoever, then the positions are not binary and the Cartesian graph is the perfect model for charting that variation; and a model that people seem to use happily. The Cartesian graph demands a zero position, as does logic.

I'm not Unbeliever, but I would like to comment on this. I think it is quite clear that the topic of theism and atheism is a clear cut example of a true dichotomy. Theists believe that at least one God exists, whereas any person who does not fit into this category is an atheist. By this definition I would place a newborn child into the category of atheist, because they are "without theism or the belief in God". If theism is the belief in God, and atheism is no such belief in God, can you give me an instance of somebody who doesn't fit into one of those two categories?

By "zero position", are you referring to someone who simply has no opinion on the subject? I still think that my explanation of theism/atheism includes this. Anyone who holds the belief that God exists is an atheist, and anyone who does not hold that belief, including people incapable of holding such a belief, like infants, and people who withhold belief due to a lack of evidence on either side.

does that make sense?

Quote:Hey, MikeNH.

Quote:Exactly... A better model would be a 2x2 matrix.

The problem with this position is that no one uses this model.

I disagree. Every "popular" atheist I've heard discuss the terminology and distinction between atheism and agnosticism all use the model of a 2x2 matrix as well as the definitions provided earlier.

1. Gnostic Atheist - Claims to know there is no god.
2. Agnostic Atheist - Lacks belief in god, but does not claim they know there is no god with anything resembling certainty.
3. Gnostic Theist - Claims to know there is a god.
4. Agnostic Theist - Believes in god, but does not claim they know god exists with anything resembling certainty.

Half-way down this page is the matrix being used.
http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?t...._agnostic

How many people need to "use" the model for it to be "right"? I think the etymology is quite clear as to what the terms mean.

I think the problem is that everyone uses the terms agnostic and atheist and different people mean different things. Most people I talk to think that atheism is on one end of the spectrum, theism is on the opposite end, and agnosticism is right smack-dab in the middle. I think this is a fundamental misunderstanding of the terms, but it is the most widely held view amongst "amateur" thinkers on the subject, if that makes any sense.
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27-05-2011, 10:34 AM
RE: Agnostic belief
Hey, Mike.

MikeNH Wrote:By "zero position", are you referring to someone who simply has no opinion on the subject?

The zero position both is and is not a value statement.

It is in that the value to chart is zero.

It isn't in that it makes no determination about why someone is charted at zero: choice, apathy, or any other reason. It only represents their position, not their motivation or reasoning.

I see your point about the 2x2 matrix and I realise that I have seen it presented that way. I renew my objection to it however.

I will say that I do not consider myself an amature thinker on this subject Cool

There seem to be three models. The first two involve spectra. The first being a single spectrum with Theist and Atheist at opposing ends and Agnosticism in the middle. The second being the Cartesian graph with two spectra: Theist/Atheist as x-axis and Gnostic/Agnostic as y-axis. Both models have a zero position. The third model is the binary 2x2 model which has no zero position.

The spectrum makes sense to me because cognitive positions tend to not be binary and as in all things, there is usually a transitional position between two points and when those positions are positive and negative, the central transitional point is zero.

Generally speaking I don't like the Gnostic/Agnostic argument because the man who coined the term Agnostic used it differently and because I think the term Gnostic is not properly applied.

Lastly, I fail to see why a zero position is such a bad thing. It strikes me that the binary model is so restrictive that it fails to acureatly represent reality, so why not toss it in favour of something more dynamic? When I hear people tell me that it's impossible for me to beleieve exactly what I believe, I have to question the premise their reason is based on.

In the end, I'm an Agnostic. Full stop. People are entitled to disagree, but that disagreement doesn't alter my position.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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27-05-2011, 11:13 AM
RE: Agnostic belief
(27-05-2011 10:34 AM)Ghost Wrote:  The zero position both is and is not a value statement.

It is in that the value to chart is zero.

Forgive me, but I'm not quite sure what you mean here.

Quote:It isn't in that it makes no determination about why someone is charted at zero: choice, apathy, or any other reason. It only represents their position, not their motivation or reasoning.

I think I kind of understand what you are getting at, but am still not quite sure what "zero" means in this context..

Quote:I see your point about the 2x2 matrix and I realise that I have seen it presented that way. I renew my objection to it however.

I will say that I do not consider myself an amature thinker on this subject Cool

By "amateur", I mean folks who do not write books on the subject or go on TV to debate the finer points of their arguments.

Quote:There seem to be three models. The first two involve spectra. The first being a single spectrum with Theist and Atheist at opposing ends and Agnosticism in the middle.

I reject this particular model because it places apples on the same spectrum as oranges. a/gnosticism and a/theism are two different positions regarding two different questions, so to speak. A/gnosticism deals with knowledge claims, and a/theism deals with belief claims. This model simply doesn't properly account for the four categories that I described. For one to use this model and say they are "somewhere between theism and agnosticism" seems to me to not make any sense, because they are not on the same spectrum. It's like saying I am somewhere between a conservative republican and a southern baptist; they are both labels but for different concepts. One deals with political party affiliation, the other with religious affiliation. You cannot logically place the two on the same spectrum.

Quote:The second being the Cartesian graph with two spectra: Theist/Atheist as x-axis and Gnostic/Agnostic as y-axis. Both models have a zero position.

The spectrum makes sense to me because cognitive positions tend to not be binary and as in all things, there is usually a transitional position between two points and when those positions are positive and negative, the central transitional point is zero.

I admit I'm still not sure what the zero position on this graph represents, or who would fall into that category. The idea of a spectrum in regards to belief seems very difficult to me though, as I don't see an easy way to quantify, so to speak, one belief compared to another. If even for purely pragmatic reasons, using this scale seems like a headache. If someone asks you what you claim to believe or know in regards to a particular God, must you bust out a graph and point to wherever on the graph you belief you lie? A spectrum immediately creates an infinite number of possible stopping points, and requires an explanation to actually clarify one's stance.

Quote:The third model is the binary 2x2 model which has no zero position.

I will respond to the idea that there is no zero position once I figure out what it means.... I think this model is the easiest way to quickly explain your stance on a particular God. You can ONLY lie in one of two categories, atheist or theist. Each one of those requires further explanations indeed as a theist could be a Muslim or a Christian or a deist, whereas an atheist could be a strong atheist, weak atheist, and I would argue apatheist. I maintain that the bigger picture is that you can only exist in one of two categories, and that if you are trying to say that the zero position is someone who has no opinion, by definition they fit into the atheist category. One MUST either believe or lack belief in a proposition - there is no middle ground.

for instance, if you asked me if I believe there is a God, my ONLY two choices are:

1) Yes - I hold that belief
2) No - I do not hold that belief

Many would argue that you could also answer "I believe there is no God", but that answer is not a direct answer to the question. A SEPARATE question you might ask could be do you believe there is no God, and my only two choices are:

1) Yes - I believe there is No God.
2) No - I do not believe there is No God.

Those questions are true dichotomies, only yes and no are appropriate answers to the questions asked.

Agnosticism and gnosticism are also the only two categories one can fit into in regards to knowledge, and are also a true dichotomy. Either you claim to know there is a god or there is no God, or you do not claim you have such knowledge.

I would argue that the questions of belief and knowledge are true dichotomies, and thus the 2x2 matrix is the most useful ways to identify where one lies in regards to those questions.

Quote:Generally speaking I don't like the Gnostic/Agnostic argument because the man who coined the term Agnostic used it differently and because I think the term Gnostic is not properly applied.

I agree it is quite ambiguous most of the time. Does it mean we could never know, does it mean that one personally does not claim knowledge either way, or can it mean both in different contexts? I for one consider myself gnostic in regards to some definitions of God, and agnostic in regards to others, for whatever that's worth.

Quote:Lastly, I fail to see why a zero position is such a bad thing. It strikes me that the binary model is so restrictive that it fails to acureatly represent reality, so why not toss it in favour of something more dynamic? When I hear people tell me that it's impossible for me to beleieve exactly what I believe, I have to question the premise their reason is based on.

Please define the zero position and excuse my ignorance of the term.

Quote:In the end, I'm an Agnostic. Full stop. People are entitled to disagree, but that disagreement doesn't alter my position.

To me, it seems that saying you are simply agnostic doesn't answer the question of what you personally believe. I'm not even sure what you personally mean with the usage of the term. Do you mean that you cannot know, you don't know, there isn't evidence either way so you withhold, or something else?

If you believe there is a God, you are a theist. If you don't hold that belief for whatever reason, lack of evidence, poor arguments for God, you don't think we can ever really know either way, or even that you think there is evidence that there is no God, then you are an atheist. Either you believe or you don't, there is no in-between. The reasons for your beliefs and claims to knowledge are separate to the actual positions you hold.
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27-05-2011, 11:49 AM
RE: Agnostic belief
(27-05-2011 08:20 AM)Ghost Wrote:  The Cartesian model has been used without reservation pretty much since I got here

No, it hasn't. I have pointed this flaw out to you previously, and explained to you exactly why your sliding-scale interpretation of it is incorrect. You have simply ignored the explanation. The Cartesian graph model you've given here is just a rephrasing of the same flaw.

(27-05-2011 08:20 AM)Ghost Wrote:  The question is not, can someone be charted with a value of zero? They can. This model demands it.

And the model is incorrect.

(27-05-2011 08:20 AM)Ghost Wrote:  And don't fool yourselves, this is a model that is used a great deal.

Somehow I don't buy that. Even if it were, that wouldn't make it correct.

(27-05-2011 08:20 AM)Ghost Wrote:  
Quote:Both a/gnosticism and a/theism are binary. You are either one or the other.

Ok. Why? Why are they binary?

As I said above, I have explained this before.

Theism is belief in a god.
Atheism is lack of belief in a god.

Gnosticism is the position that the truth value of a proposition can be known.
Agnosticism is the position that the truth value of a position cannot be known.

Both categories are inherently binary. There is no middle ground. If you are not a theist, you are an atheist, by definition. If you are not a gnostic, you are an agnostic, by definition.

Beyond that, the atheism/theism category and the agnostic/gnostic category do not intersect at any point, so charting them as a graph is nonsensical. A more fitting model would be two switches, both with only two positions: on and off.

(27-05-2011 08:20 AM)Ghost Wrote:  Is your position that there is only a single degree of Atheism and a single degree of Theism?

No. But the definitions of theism and atheism - or agnostic and gnostic, for that matter - do not deal with degrees. This is why we add other qualifiers when necessary.

I've explained this before, as well.

"Owl," said Rabbit shortly, "you and I have brains. The others have fluff. If there is any thinking to be done in this Forest - and when I say thinking I mean thinking - you and I must do it."
- A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner
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27-05-2011, 12:16 PM
RE: Agnostic belief
^^ Better and more succinct answer than mine... Well said..
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27-05-2011, 02:02 PM (This post was last modified: 27-05-2011 02:05 PM by Ghost.)
RE: Agnostic belief
Hey, Unbeliever.

I accept your argument and I respectfully agree to disagree.

Hey, Mike.

The zero position isn't all that complicated (although my explanation of a Cartesian graph will be. Sorry. Not a mathematician.)

Write down a cross on a piece of paper. The x-axis is Theist (left and -) and Atheist (right and +). The y-axis is Gnostic (bottom and -) and Agnostic (top and +). An Agnostic Atheist would have X,Y coordinates of say (10,10). A Gnostic Theist might have (-10,-10). A zero position simply means that a point occupies a position of zero on the graph. For example, my position is plotted at say (0, 10). I have neither an Atheist nor a Theist value and a Agnostic value of 10. I am an Agnostic only. An Apatheist would have a position of (0,0).

I understand your argument and I can see how it makes things simple; unfortunately, things are never that simple. The 2x2 model speaks in strokes that are too large. All models leave out detail, but for me, the detail that is left out in this particular case is too important to gloss over. The other issue I have is that when a model leaves out detail, it does not mean that the omitted detail cannot exist. If I say that ‘there were Native Americans in the Americas before the Europeans arrived’ and leave out that some were nomads, some had chieftaincies, some had full-blown civilisations, some were isolated, some were confederacies, some were a different group called the Inuit, some lived in North, Central and South America, some hunted and gathered, some practiced limited agriculture and some practiced full fledged totalitarian agriculture, that doesn't mean that those differentiations are impossible due to their omission (also noting that I left out that the Europeans were English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, some commissioned by royalty, some peasants, some banished, rich, poor, soldiers, criminals…) . The model is always wrong, the reality it models is never wrong. I and many others like me do not fit neatly into the 2x2 binary model. So we either have to be shoe horned in, which I personally do not wish to be because that robs me of my individuality, something I refuse to give up, or the model has to expand to be more inclusive. If someone wishes to be slave to the model, then more power to them. I won't stop them. But when someone tells me that I have to be slave to their model, I say simply, no, sir, I do not. There is absolutely nothing compelling me to. Furthermore, just because I'm not using the 2x2 model, doesn't mean that the model I am using is wrong. As my boy George EP Box said, “All models are wrong, but some are useful.”

If models are too restrictive, use different models. If definitions are too narrow, then create new definitions.

The term transgender didn’t exist until recently. Does that mean that transgendered people didn’t exist? No. Of course they did.

I see the value and benefit of all three models. But all three models have their limitations. All models have limitations. All models leave out facts. They have to. That's what makes them models. A 100% accurate model of a cat is a cat. Models are illustrative, not definitive.

As far as I'm concerned, there are a plethora of models, each with their value and each with their limitations. One can say, there's Theists and everything that isn't one is an Atheist and when one does, Agnostics, all Agnostics, fall neatly into the Atheist camp (because if you don't/can't know then you don't believe; therefore, you're not a Theist). An obvious limitation is that Agnostic Theists are impossible. One can say Theists believe in God, Atheists do not believe in God. But in that model, Agnostics are neither Atheist nor Theist because they don't believe and they don't not believe. One can use the 2x2 model and have 4 categories, but someone who is Agnostic but does not believe nor disbelieve is impossible. Or one can use the Dawkins scale where pure Atheists have a place, but then Gnostics don't have a place and you get the apples and oranges argument. You can use the Cartesian graph, which solves most problems, but you have to accept the Gnostic argument (which not everyone does) and I couldn't tell you what a y-axis (Gnostic/Agnostic) position of zero means.

I can look at every single one of these models and use them to gain meaning. But I can also see their limitations. And that doesn't bother me because I EXPECT models to have limitations. But what I won't do is say, "See! That one model is the only possible model and anything that doesn't fall neatly into this essentially arbitrary model cannot exist!" That's like saying it's impossible to cut a pie in three because 1 divided by 3 is the irrational number 0.33333333333333333333, or that there's no such thing as ten dimensions because I measure my table in length, width and height. Reality will always, ALWAYS, trump models.

As far as punditry goes, I believe that Richard Dawkins is a celebrated Atheist author and pundit and he uses the Theist-->Agnostic<--Atheist spectrum, so it's not a case of amateurishness, but of difference of perspective.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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27-05-2011, 03:04 PM
RE: Agnostic belief
(27-05-2011 02:02 PM)Ghost Wrote:  The zero position isn't all that complicated (although my explanation of a Cartesian graph will be. Sorry. Not a mathematician.)

Write down a cross on a piece of paper. The x-axis is Theist (left and -) and Atheist (right and +). The y-axis is Gnostic (bottom and -) and Agnostic (top and +). An Agnostic Atheist would have X,Y coordinates of say (10,10). A Gnostic Theist might have (-10,-10). A zero position simply means that a point occupies a position of zero on the graph. For example, my position is plotted at say (0, 10). I have neither an Atheist nor a Theist value and a Agnostic value of 10. I am an Agnostic only. An Apatheist would have a position of (0,0).

I understand your argument and I can see how it makes things simple; unfortunately, things are never that simple. The 2x2 model speaks in strokes that are too large. All models leave out detail, but for me, the detail that is left out in this particular case is too important to gloss over. The other issue I have is that when a model leaves out detail, it does not mean that the omitted detail cannot exist. If I say that ‘there were Native Americans in the Americas before the Europeans arrived’ and leave out that some were nomads, some had chieftaincies, some had full-blown civilisations, some were isolated, some were confederacies, some were a different group called the Inuit, some lived in North, Central and South America, some hunted and gathered, some practiced limited agriculture and some practiced full fledged totalitarian agriculture, that doesn't mean that those differentiations are impossible due to their omission (also noting that I left out that the Europeans were English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, some commissioned by royalty, some peasants, some banished, rich, poor, soldiers, criminals…) . The model is always wrong, the reality it models is never wrong. I and many others like me do not fit neatly into the 2x2 binary model. So we either have to be shoe horned in, which I personally do not wish to be because that robs me of my individuality, something I refuse to give up, or the model has to expand to be more inclusive. If someone wishes to be slave to the model, then more power to them. I won't stop them. But when someone tells me that I have to be slave to their model, I say simply, no, sir, I do not. There is absolutely nothing compelling me to. Furthermore, just because I'm not using the 2x2 model, doesn't mean that the model I am using is wrong. As my boy George EP Box said, “All models are wrong, but some are useful.”

If models are too restrictive, use different models. If definitions are too narrow, then create new definitions.

The term transgender didn’t exist until recently. Does that mean that transgendered people didn’t exist? No. Of course they did.

I see the value and benefit of all three models. But all three models have their limitations. All models have limitations. All models leave out facts. They have to. That's what makes them models. A 100% accurate model of a cat is a cat. Models are illustrative, not definitive.

As far as I'm concerned, there are a plethora of models, each with their value and each with their limitations. One can say, there's Theists and everything that isn't one is an Atheist and when one does, Agnostics, all Agnostics, fall neatly into the Atheist camp (because if you don't/can't know then you don't believe; therefore, you're not a Theist). An obvious limitation is that Agnostic Theists are impossible. One can say Theists believe in God, Atheists do not believe in God. But in that model, Agnostics are neither Atheist nor Theist because they don't believe and they don't not believe. One can use the 2x2 model and have 4 categories, but someone who is Agnostic but does not believe nor disbelieve is impossible. Or one can use the Dawkins scale where pure Atheists have a place, but then Gnostics don't have a place and you get the apples and oranges argument. You can use the Cartesian graph, which solves most problems, but you have to accept the Gnostic argument (which not everyone does) and I couldn't tell you what a y-axis (Gnostic/Agnostic) position of zero means.

I can look at every single one of these models and use them to gain meaning. But I can also see their limitations. And that doesn't bother me because I EXPECT models to have limitations. But what I won't do is say, "See! That one model is the only possible model and anything that doesn't fall neatly into this essentially arbitrary model cannot exist!" That's like saying it's impossible to cut a pie in three because 1 divided by 3 is the irrational number 0.33333333333333333333, or that there's no such thing as ten dimensions because I measure my table in length, width and height. Reality will always, ALWAYS, trump models.

As far as punditry goes, I believe that Richard Dawkins is a celebrated Atheist author and pundit and he uses the Theist-->Agnostic<--Atheist spectrum, so it's not a case of amateurishness, but of difference of perspective.

I still do not accept your basic premise that there is a valid third answer to the belief/knowledge question.

Please demonstrate how there is a third answer to this question:

Do you hold the belief that a God exists?

1) Yes
2) No
3) ???

Yes = theism, No = atheism. I still see no other possible answer and it seems to me to be a clear-cut example of a true dichotomy.

What is the third possibility if you do not accept my claim that this is a true dichotomy?
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27-05-2011, 03:05 PM
RE: Agnostic belief
(27-05-2011 02:02 PM)Ghost Wrote:  I accept your argument and I respectfully agree to disagree.

And why is that?

"Owl," said Rabbit shortly, "you and I have brains. The others have fluff. If there is any thinking to be done in this Forest - and when I say thinking I mean thinking - you and I must do it."
- A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner
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