Why I am neither a Theist nor an Atheist
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01-10-2010, 12:20 PM
Why I am neither a Theist nor an Atheist
What follows is a case for why Agnostics should be viewed as separate from both Theists and Atheists.

For me, the core of by belief comes from a simple thought experiment proposed by Physicist Erwin Schrödinger,

Quote:Suppose that a cat is placed in a sealed room, in which is standing a flask of prussic acid. Suspended above the flask by a string is a hammer. The string will be automatically released if a geiger counter in the next room registers any radioactivity. Next to the Geiger counter is a mildly radioactive substance which has precisely one chance in two of emitting detectible radiation in one hour. (We know from quantum mechanics that the chance of a quantum of radiation being emitted can be described by a possibility wave function). What is the situation at the end of the hour, just before a scientist comes to look?

According to common sense, there is a 50-50 chance that the room will contain a dead cat. According to Schrödinger, the contents of the room can be described by an equation, which represents a complex wave-packet, mathematically equivalent to a half-dead, half-live cat. The wave-probability packet does not collapse until somebody comes to look. Then, and only then, does one possibility become actual and the other vanish. The fate of the cat is not determined until an observer looks.

The conventional ‘Copenhagen Interpretation’ of quantum mechanics, however, sees all this as useful mathematical formalism, rather than a literal reality.

Many quantum physicists, however, see it as a literal truth, and they are supported by the Clauser-Freedman experiment and its later, more accurate, repetitions… which suggest that whether or not a photon lands in a given area literally depends on how the observer chooses to measure it. The probability wave-function for the photon does not collapse into one or another actuality until somebody looks at it. Similarly, the cat is neither dead nor alive until somebody looks at it…

According to one form of Nonobjectivist Interpretation of quantum mechanics, which holds that the universe has no reality outside of observation, the fate of the cat is determined by the expectations of the observer. If he is a pessimist the cat will be dead; if her is an optimist the cat will be alive.
-Peter Nicholls, “The Science in Science Fiction,” Pages 99-100

The thing that always stuck with me is the idea that the cat is BOTH alive and dead until it is observed. For me, the existence of God is in a similar box. Until we look inside, God both exists and doesn’t exist. The difference is that we have no way of looking into the box. While proving whether or not the cat is alive or dead is easily determined by observation (and in fact, determined by observation), in the case of God, that observation, the thing that makes it one or the other, is robbed from us because there is no way to prove of disprove the existence of God. So God both exists and does not exist eternally. While Pandora’s box is one we can never close, God’s box is a box we can never open.

This is why I can say that I neither believe in the existence of God nor do I disbelieve the existence of God. My belief is absolutely neutral because God simultaneously exists and does not exist.

This neutrality, to me, is the essence of Agnosticism. I cannot know, nor will I ever know, therefore I can never say. I must, logically, remain neutral on the matter.

In my time on this site, many people have been adamant that an Atheist is simply a non-Theist. So by that definition, anyone that is not a Theist is an Atheist. This definition creates a rigid dichotomy within which, no further definition is possible. Therefore an Agnostic, who by definition is not a Theist, is an Atheist. But I say that this is a meaningless distinction. We do not classify things by what they are not but by what things are.

Prokaryotic organisms reproduce asexually. They reproduce without input from another organism. The methods of asexual reproduction include, in unicellular organisms, binary fission and other processes in the case of DNA, RNA and retroviruses, and in the case of multicellular organisms, cloning, budding, fragmentation, vegetative reproduction and spores.

Many eukaryotic organisms reproduce sexually. They require genetic input from another organism in the form of haploid gametes that fuse during fertilisation (which can occur internally or externally) to form a new diploid cell that will develop into their offspring. The species is either a heterogamous species, divided into two genders, each with a specific job in the reproductive process, or they are a hermaphroditic species, where each organism can produce both male and female gametes.

One could say that the world is divided into sexually reproducing species and asexually reproducing species simply because theses are the only two processes in which organisms reproduce. But one would be wrong.

Ciliates are eukaryotic protozoans that produce BOTH sexually and asexually. They can undergo either process. There are also species of slugs that can do the same. One fly species can either reproduce sexually, or clone itself asexually depending on the demands of their environmental conditions (sometimes unborn offspring have unborn offspring gestating inside them).

Thus while one can say, if an organism does not reproduce sexually then by definition it reproduces asexually, one cannot say, if an organism is not a sexually reproducing species then it is necessarily an asexually reproducing species because it could be a species that uses both processes. Those species form their own group, separate from both strictly sexually and asexually reproducing species.

While many Atheists on this site are adamant about defining Atheists simply as non-Theists, many of the dictionaries that I have encountered define Atheism as the disbelief in the existence of God/gods.
Quote:-Dictionary.com
1.
the doctrine or belief that there is no god.
2.
disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.
-Merriam-Webster
1
archaic : ungodliness, wickedness
2
a : a disbelief in the existence of deity b : the doctrine that there is no deity
-Atheist Dictionary
-Someone who believes in one less god than Christians and other monotheistic cults.
- The most Athi…. Big Grin
-Urban Dictionary
There are two in-use definitions of the word 'atheist': 1.) A person who lacks belief in a god or gods... 2.) A person who believes that no god or gods exist.
-Encarta
unbeliever in God or deities: somebody who does not believe in God or deities
-The Free Dictionary
One who disbelieves or denies the existence of God or gods.

These are very different ways to classify Atheists because they are not definitions based on what Atheists are not but based on what they are. An Atheist disbelieves in the existence of Gods, or, an Atheists believes that there is no God.

AN IMPORTANT NOTE: The idea that there is no controversy about the definition of Atheist is demonstrably false. That fact must be recognised in any discussion about the definition of Atheist. I am simply using the definition of what an Atheist is, rather than what an Atheist is not: a notion, as I have demonstrated, that is shared by many dictionaries.

When we look at Atheists in this way, we shatter the dichotomy and open the door for a more meaningful look at the RANGE of beliefs that are possible.

In my humble opinion, an Agnostic is definitely not a Theist, but they are not an Atheist either because they do not disbelieve the existence of God/gods. Agnostics believe that God/gods simultaneously exist and do not exist. That is a completely different belief than both Theism and Atheism. When defined in this way, Agnostics must be put into their own category.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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01-10-2010, 12:49 PM
RE: Why I am neither a Theist nor an Atheist
While I haven't nescessarily changed my opinion, I must say that this is a really well put together definition of what you consider agnostic. It's a different perspective, that I haven't really considered before. I really like the evedence you've provided to support your way of thinking. Not sure I agree, but that's what I think critical thinking is - the consideration that your view may not be the right/best/most accurate one. I'm always willing to change my view if someone shows me something better.
Thanks for giving me something to ponder!!

So many cats, so few good recipes.
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01-10-2010, 01:37 PM
RE: Why I am neither a Theist nor an Atheist
I do'nt get the cat test thing, even thought it's just an example to describe the basic idea, right?
Also, in the cat example the odds were 50-50, which then makes it 50% dead and 50% alive. But in the god question the odds are not 50-50, which makes god *a number very close 100*% non-existant and *a number very close to 0*% existant? Also we can change the word ''god'' with the flying spaghetti monster, which makes his noodliness a little bit existant, but that's enough for him to be real.

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01-10-2010, 01:53 PM
RE: Why I am neither a Theist nor an Atheist
(01-10-2010 01:37 PM)Kikko Wrote:  I do'nt get the cat test thing, even thought it's just an example to describe the basic idea, right?
Also, in the cat example the odds were 50-50, which then makes it 50% dead and 50% alive. But in the god question the odds are not 50-50, which makes god *a number very close 100*% non-existant and *a number very close to 0*% existant? Also we can change the word ''god'' with the flying spaghetti monster, which makes his noodliness a little bit existant, but that's enough for him to be real.

I think that for this line of reasoning, the percentage is irrelevant. I believe the use of a 50-50 situation is just to simplify the reasoning. I agree that the numbers would be closer to what you've suggested, but the point is that it's close to 0%, not difinitively so. (And really it's impossible to put a number on something like this. I'm 99.999999% sure god is a load of pure, USDA certified, baloney, but I can never be 100% sure since I am not all knowing).
As for his noodliness, I think you are absolutely correct. By this line of thinking he IS a little bit existant. (I love how you stated that by the way).
I'm still pondering this, so tell me if I'm missing the point. Again, I'm not convinced, but I'm not unconvinced either.

So many cats, so few good recipes.
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01-10-2010, 02:31 PM
RE: Why I am neither a Theist nor an Atheist
Ghost. I don't see how the variations of sexuality and the idea of theist, agnostic and atheist relate. Sexuality is a physical phenomenon based on the structural make-up of an organism. Theists, atheists and agnostics are choice based on the choosing of the individual.

I do agree with the basic arguement. Theists believe in a god(s). Atheists believe there is no god(s), or don't believe in a god(s). Agnotics don't believe either way, or they are open to either possibility. This is the basic idea that I have always known and what you said falls directly into this basic idea, but includes more details.
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01-10-2010, 02:35 PM
RE: Why I am neither a Theist nor an Atheist
Also, since the ''cat thing'' is (I assume) just an example of the idea that a small thing, like a particle, does'nt have a position until its position is observed, and, if I'm not wrong, quantum physics, or at least the cat thing, only apply to small stuff. Nobody at the time knows where my Metsatöll CD is, but it is somewhere, it has a certain position. Even thought my CD example might be a bad one, because somebody already determined its position but does'nt remember it anymore, I think somebody'll get the point, which is: can we use the cat thing to god? First we need to know what is meant with 'god'.
Quote:I'm still pondering this
Me too. I hope it's easier after some sleep.

Correct me when I'm wrong.
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01-10-2010, 03:15 PM
RE: Why I am neither a Theist nor an Atheist
Hey, Stark Raving.

Thank you.

Hey, Kikko.

I don't know that the percentages are relevant. For me what is of importance is that something can simultneously be one way and not one way (remembering that some quantum physicists don't think this is an idea, but a litteral truth and that that understanding is supported by experimentation) until we observe it. But because the God question is not, nor can it be a scientific question, we simply cannot look inside "the God box". So whatever one might think is probabalistically correct, until it is observed, or proven, God, for me, simultaneously exists and does not exist. Note, this is my belief as an Agnostic, not the belief of a Theist or an Atheist.

The thing about the Spaghetti Monster (and I really don't want this to digress into a thread about the Spaghetti Monster) is that we know, for fact, that it was invented by in 2005 by Oregon State physics graduate Bobby Henderson. That box has been looked into.

Hey, No. J.

The connection I was trying to make was in definition. Asexual doesn't mean not-sexual any more than Atheist means not-Theist. Neither of those dichotomies are supported by the actual range of possibilities.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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01-10-2010, 05:29 PM
RE: Why I am neither a Theist nor an Atheist
I still have to say that agnostic is a separate thing from theism and atheism. Gnosis means knowledge. And agnostic does not know whether God does or does not exist. Atheism, on the other hand refers to belief. There are certainly different levels of belief and disbelief, but belief never achieves the quality of knowledge - although both knowledge and belief can be qualified as certain or in-certain. No matter how strong your agnosticism is - no matter how in-certain - one either has faith or does not where God is concerned. One either believes or one does not. For that reason, subtlety of definition notwithstanding, one is either a theist or an atheist. There really is no third option.
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01-10-2010, 06:05 PM
 
RE: Why I am neither a Theist nor an Atheist
Good post. Thanks for sharing.
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02-10-2010, 04:36 AM
RE: Why I am neither a Theist nor an Atheist
Quote:The thing about the Spaghetti Monster (and I really don't want this to digress into a thread about the Spaghetti Monster) is that we know, for fact, that it was invented by in 2005 by Oregon State physics graduate Bobby Henderson. That box has been looked into.
I did'nt think of that.
It's probably impossible to ever know who first invented god (I think god was invented, what would be the other option?), but if we'd know for sure that god was made up, would that make god completely non-existant? And if god means something non-physical, does the cat thing apply to it, since it's a physical thing ('it' refers to god).

Quote:I don't know that the percentages are relevant. For me what is of importance is that something can simultneously be one way and not one way (remembering that some quantum physicists don't think this is an idea, but a litteral truth and that that understanding is supported by experimentation) until we observe it. But because the God question is not, nor can it be a scientific question, we simply cannot look inside "the God box". So whatever one might think is probabalistically correct, until it is observed, or proven, God, for me, simultaneously exists and does not exist. Note, this is my belief as an Agnostic, not the belief of a Theist or an Atheist.
But what kind of a god?
I misused the word 'idea', I could'nt come up with a better word to express it with.
I'd like to know with what kind of experimentation the cat thing is supported. I mean, how can somebody know that something was something else before it was observed, without obseving the something before it's observed. It's impossible to observe the something before observing it. I think I'll google it.

Correct me when I'm wrong.
Accept me or go to hell.
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