The middle of belief and "disbelief"

Hypernova
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The middle of belief and "disbelief"

I am having a debate with someone that labels himself as an "agnostic."

I already explained that agnostic/gnosticism refer to knowledge and atheism/theism refer to belief.

However, he drew me a diagram like the one below:

 

Disbelief-------------------------doubt-------------------------Belief

 

He claims to be somewhere in the doubt section of the diagram.

He also gave me an example of a coin toss. He says he believes it is 50% that it will land on heads.

How can you believe something 50%??? You either believe the claim "it will land on heads" or you do not.

I told him it is a binary position, but he claims it is an integer position.

Does anybody understand this? I am confused.

 

Thanks


Stosis
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I think his diagram makes

I think his diagram makes sense, he just hasn't decided yet.

Here's Dawkins' scale of belief. Maybe he means something like this.

  1. Strong Theist: I do not question the existence of God, I KNOW he exists.
  2. De-facto Theist: I cannot know for certain but I strongly believe in God and I live my life on the assumption that he is there.
  3. Weak Theist: I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.
  4. Pure Agnostic: God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.
  5. Weak Atheist: I do not know whether God exists but I’m inclined to be skeptical.
  6. De-facto Atheist: I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable and I live my life under the assumption that he is not there.
  7. Strong Atheist: I am 100% sure that there is no God.

 


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Hypernova wrote:I told him

Hypernova wrote:

I told him it is a binary position, but he claims it is an integer position.

Does anybody understand this? I am confused. 

Thanks

For convenience, let's use your terms of "binary" and "integer." Realistically, we can apply both terms to the issue of belief in God. The belief is necessarily "binary" in the sense that you either believe in God or you don't. However, we can also chart belief on an "integer" scale because, as shown on the Dawkins thing, there can be people who hold to their position with certainty, people who hold to their position tentatively, and people who are unsure. These would correspond to 1:7, 3:5, and 4 on the Dawkins scale, respectively.

So, in most discussions, whether you're an agnostic, atheist or agnostic atheist is just a matter of semantics. Here's what I wrote in the other thread.

"For me, it just depends on how you define the terms. 1) You can define atheism to include anyone that doesn't believe in God, which forms a dichotomy between theism and atheism, and agnostic becomes just a description of knowledge. You could be an agnostic theist or an agnostic atheist. 2) Or, you can define agnosticism as some sort of middle ground with theism and atheism at the two ends.

We prefer the former. A-theism - without theism."  

Quote:
He also gave me an example of a coin toss. He says he believes it is 50% that it will land on heads.

How can you believe something 50%??? You either believe the claim "it will land on heads" or you do not.

Well, would you ever "believe" that the coin will land on heads? Of course not. You believe that if the conditions are random, there will be an approximately 50/50 chance for either outcome. In a coin flip situation, such as at the beginning of a sports game or in a board game, you pick heads or tails not because you believe in that outcome, but merely for the sake of reaching a fair decision on a matter of the game.

Of course, the use of this analogy demonstrates a serious flaw with your agnostic opponent's understanding of the issue. He thinks whether or not God exists is essentially a coin flip because God is supernatural, and ergo, we can't say anything about his existence. I completely disagree with this. Theists may claim that God is supernatural, but they violate their own premise by assigning characteristics that can, indeed, be evaluated. 

So, if I were you, what I would do here is clarify the semantics, then argue that it's a lot more likely that God does not exist. 

 

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare


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agnostics

My husband claimed he was agnostic for years.  Recently we read 50 reasons people give for believing in a god by Guy P. Harrison.  http://www.amazon.com/Reasons-People-Give-Believing-God/dp/1591025672/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1267161730&sr=8-1

It may not be what you think at first.  The author isn't trying to get you to believe, he instead is refuting the reasons people claim to believe in god.  I found some of his arguments very interesting as I had not thought of reasoning from his direction before.  After reading the book, my husband said he was definitely an atheist - after some 20+ years of claiming to be agnostic.

-- I feel so much better since I stopped trying to believe.

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Hypernova
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I am a strong atheist and I

I am a strong atheist and I am not 100% sure there is no God.  He treats agnosticism and atheism as mutually exclusive and they are not. According to their definitions, they are subsets of one another. Sorry, but I don't agree with this scale.


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Quote:Well, would you ever

Quote:
Well, would you ever "believe" that the coin will land on heads? Of course not. You believe that if the conditions are random, there will be an approximately 50/50 chance for either outcome. In a coin flip situation, such as at the beginning of a sports game or in a board game, you pick heads or tails not because you believe in that outcome, but merely for the sake of reaching a fair decision on a matter of the game.

Actually, if somebody would have asked me the following:

Do you believe it is heads? No

Do you believe it is tails? No

So I don't believe either claim. Now if the coin toss was 8 heads in a row, I would probably believe the 9th would also be heads.

Quote:
Of course, the use of this analogy demonstrates a serious flaw with your agnostic opponent's understanding of the issue. He thinks whether or not God exists is essentially a coin flip because God is supernatural, and ergo, we can't say anything about his existence. I completely disagree with this. Theists may claim that God is supernatural, but they violate their own premise by assigning characteristics that can, indeed, be evaluated. 

So, if I were you, what I would do here is clarify the semantics, then argue that it's a lot more likely that God does not exist.

He actually doesn't believe there is a 50% chance. I think he said he was 92% sure or something like that.

He did give me another example of rolling a cubic die and he claimed that he believes 16.666...% that he will get a 6. Instead, he seems like he is believing in the probability claim. I thought it was a binary position...either you believe it will land on a 6 or you do not.


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Hypernova wrote:I am a

Hypernova wrote:
I am a strong atheist and I am not 100% sure there is no God.  He treats agnosticism and atheism as mutually exclusive and they are not. According to their definitions, they are subsets of one another. Sorry, but I don't agree with this scale.

But, surely, you agree that some people are more certain of their beliefs and some people are less certain? So, if we merely changed the names of the numbers on this scale, would you agree? Say...

  1. Strong Theist: I do not question the existence of God, I KNOW he exists.
  2. Stronger? Theist: I cannot know for certain but I strongly believe in God and I live my life on the assumption that he is there.
  3. Weak Theist: I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.
  4. Weak atheist: God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.
  5. Weak atheist: I do not know whether God exists but I’m inclined to be skeptical.
  6. Stronger? atheist: I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable and I live my life under the assumption that he is not there.
  7. Strong Atheist: I am 100% sure that there is no God.

And then, 2-6 are agnostic. 1 and 7 are not. 

Quote:
He actually doesn't believe there is a 50% chance. I think he said he was 92% sure or something like that.

92%? Lol. 

I think he's defining belief, as well as theism and atheism, as 100% certainty. So, anything less than 100% means he's in the 'doubt'/agnostic area.

Quote:
I thought it was a binary position...either you believe it will land on a 6 or you do not.

Yes, but in order to create a true dichotomy, "belief" would have to include anything > 50% certainty. Not believing would have to be anything < or = 50% as well as don't know/don't care/never thought about it, etc.   

Or, maybe the way we're defining belief here is different from how we usually understand the term? There's a much greater than 50% chance the die will not land on 6; yet, it doesn't feel right to say that I "believe" that the die will not land on six.  

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare


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Belief: is the psychological

Belief: is the psychological state in which an individual holds a proposition or premise to be true.

Uncertain: not established beyond doubt

If he is uncertain then he is without belief. That is the definition of atheism...

 

 "He also gave me an example of a coin toss. He says he believes it is 50% that it will land on heads." - Agnostic guy

This analogy assumes that atheism takes belief, that one side of the coin represents atheism and the other theism. In fact he is an atheist before he flips the coin and until he picks a side. That's when the belief kicks in.. He doesn't "know" which side the coin will land on so he is agnostic, and since he hasn't chosen to believe heads or tails he is also an atheist. Once he makes a choice to believe in heads or tails he becomes a theist.

 

Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer. - William S. Burroughs


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Then I guess this article is

Then I guess this article is wrong: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doubt

It states: "doubt, a status between belief and disbelief, involves uncertainty or distrust  or lack of sureness of an alleged fact, an action, a motive, or a decision."

Between belief and disbelief? I really don't understand, so is he correct?


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Hypernova wrote:Then I guess

Hypernova wrote:

Then I guess this article is wrong: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doubt

It states: "doubt, a status between belief and disbelief, involves uncertainty or distrust  or lack of sureness of an alleged fact, an action, a motive, or a decision."

Between belief and disbelief? I really don't understand, so is he correct?

I doubt I believe in a god.

Maybe I believe in a god.

Possibly I believe in a god.

I might believe in god.

I'm uncertain I believe in god.

Hmm.. Is the light on or is it off? Maybe, it might be, possibly, it's in between, being on and off.

So you are debating a guy that might believe in god?

Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer. - William S. Burroughs


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He is 92% sure there is no

He is 92% sure there is no god, so he claims agnosticism.


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Maybe......

Hypernova wrote:

He is 92% sure there is no god, so he claims agnosticism.

 

 

                 ...................you could ask him exactly what evidence he sees' that lets him hang on to that last 8% of surity.

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How the hell

How the hell can anyone quantify belief like that?  92%?  That's a joke, right? 

 

Oh, and it  sounds like a few people don't quite understand how statistics work.  If you have a 50% chance of a coin landing on heads, then even if you hit heads 30 times in a row, the 31st toss STILL only has a 50% chance of coming up heads.  The odds don't favour tails because "it's due", nor do they favour heads because "a pattern has developed".

Besides, you forget, there's only a 99.997% chance  of it being either heads OR tails. 

It could stand on edge.  Eye-wink

 

Robb

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GodlessMonk wrote:How the

GodlessMonk wrote:

How the hell can anyone quantify belief like that?  92%?  That's a joke, right? 

 

Oh, and it  sounds like a few people don't quite understand how statistics work.  If you have a 50% chance of a coin landing on heads, then even if you hit heads 30 times in a row, the 31st toss STILL only has a 50% chance of coming up heads.  The odds don't favour tails because "it's due", nor do they favour heads because "a pattern has developed".

Besides, you forget, there's only a 99.997% chance  of it being either heads OR tails. 

It could stand on edge.  Eye-wink

 

Robb

 

But if it landed on heads 8 times in a row you would be inclined to think that maybe the chances aren't 50/50, as you once thought. Maybe the nickel is not perfect, or is unbalanced giving heads a greater chance than tails. So you start to believe heads has a greater chance than tails.

"For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." 1Cor 1:18


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neptewn wrote:If he is

neptewn wrote:

Belief: is the psychological state in which an individual holds a proposition or premise to be true.

Uncertain: not established beyond doubt

If he is uncertain then he is without belief. That is the definition of atheism...

No, it's not.

Atheism means you don't believe in God. If you're certain that God does not exist, then you don't believe in God, right? Therefore, you're still an atheist, right? 

Atheism doesn't mean that you're "without belief." There's no dictionary that says that.   

neptewn wrote:
This analogy assumes that atheism takes belief, that one side of the coin represents atheism and the other theism. In fact he is an atheist before he flips the coin and until he picks a side. That's when the belief kicks in.. He doesn't "know" which side the coin will land on so he is agnostic, and since he hasn't chosen to believe heads or tails he is also an atheist. Once he makes a choice to believe in heads or tails he becomes a theist.

So, someone who is certain that God doesn't exist would be a theist? Uuuhh, no. 

If we assume that "belief" requires certainty and that theism/atheism is a dichotomy, then we necessarily have to conclude that belief is not necessary for theism or that people who think a god exists, but are not certain, are atheists. I think we can agree that the former makes more sense. Thus, you could be an agnostic theist or an agnostic atheist. Then, you could be certain that God exists, in which case, you believe that God exists, or you could be certain that God doesn't exist, in which case, you believe that God doesn't exist. 

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare


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butterbattle wrote:neptewn

butterbattle wrote:

neptewn wrote:
If he is uncertain then he is without belief. That is the definition of atheism...

No, it's not.

Atheism means you don't believe in God. If you're certain that God does not exist, then you don't believe in God, right? Therefore, you're still an atheist, right? 

Atheism doesn't mean that you're "without belief." There's no dictionary that says that.   

Theism: belief in the existence of a god or gods

Prefix A: not, without

 

http://www.rationalresponders.com/am_i_agnostic_or_atheist

Q: But I don't disbelieve in god! I just don't believe!

A: Again, if you literally 'don't disbelieve' then it would follow that you believe. You obviously don't mean to say this! What you probably mean to say is that you don't believe, OR reject the possibility of 'god' claims either. This leaves you without any theistic beliefs. Unless you are a pantheist or a polytheist (a person with god beliefs other than theism), this makes you an a-theist. Atheism does not necessarily imply anything other than a lack of theistic belief.

 

Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer. - William S. Burroughs


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Hypernova wrote:Then I guess

Hypernova wrote:

Then I guess this article is wrong: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doubt

It states: "doubt, a status between belief and disbelief, involves uncertainty or distrust  or lack of sureness of an alleged fact, an action, a motive, or a decision."

Between belief and disbelief? I really don't understand, so is he correct?

Again, it depends on how you define the terms. If belief requires certainty, then he does not believe. If disbelief is not believing that God exists, then he DOES disbelieve. If disbelief is being certain that God does not exist, then it's really just another belief. Whether you hold to P or -P with certainty, you are still holding to a claim with certainty.   

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare


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neptewn wrote:Theism: belief

neptewn wrote:

Theism: belief in the existence of a god or gods

Prefix A: not, without

No, you didn't understand what I wrote. Atheism is without belief in the existence of a God or gods. It is NOT without "belief" in general. An atheist can believe whatever he or she wants to and still be an atheist, as long as those beliefs don't include a belief in God.  

See, look, you wrote, "He doesn't "know" which side the coin will land on so he is agnostic, and since he hasn't chosen to believe heads or tails he is also an atheist. Once he makes a choice to believe in heads or tails he becomes a theist." 

If we let heads be "God exists" and tails be "God does not exist," someone who believes in tails is NOT a theist. Theism is not just belief; it's belief in a God or gods. Atheism is not just without belief; it's without belief in a God or gods.

 

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare


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butterbattle wrote:neptewn

butterbattle wrote:

neptewn wrote:

Theism: belief in the existence of a god or gods

Prefix A: not, without

No, you didn't understand what I wrote. Atheism is without belief in the existence of a God or gods. It is NOT without "belief" in general. An atheist can believe whatever he or she wants to and still be an atheist, as long as those beliefs don't include a belief in God.  

See, look, you wrote, "He doesn't "know" which side the coin will land on so he is agnostic, and since he hasn't chosen to believe heads or tails he is also an atheist. Once he makes a choice to believe in heads or tails he becomes a theist." 

If we let heads be "God exists" and tails be "God does not exist," someone who believes in tails is NOT a theist. Theism is not just belief; it's belief in a God or gods. Atheism is not just without belief; it's without belief in a God or gods.

 

Agreed.. I should have been more specific. Thanks for the clarification...

Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer. - William S. Burroughs


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I think that making such

I think that making such scales of atheistic orthodoxy is ridiculous.

Mostly, it is irrelevant whether or not there is a God. The position of being an "atheist" only comes into manifestation if and when I am asked where I stand on the issue of religion(s). I have been joking about it and said that 'I am a gnostic atheist rather than an agnostic theist' only to (once again) find out that the level of thinking required to see why that is funny is not common. You cannot *know* anything lke that; especially not from a scientific point of view. Which to me is the core problem of the whole issue: The postulate of God's existence establishes the principle of absolute truth (and the authority that goes with it) as an axiomatic ethical principle, which to me is the most insidious aspect of religions.

"The idea of God is the sole wrong for which I cannot forgive mankind." (Alphonse Donatien De Sade)

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