Atheism vs. Agnosticism, and my Catholic friend

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Atheism vs. Agnosticism, and my Catholic friend

So I have two things.

1. What is a clear definition of agnosticism?
2. What do you say to someone who claims that science's occasional inability to conclude indefinitely on a fact proves religion is a better explanation?

The story behind this question is this... My Catholic friend and I debate about religion. A lot. His claim is that science can never be 100% proven. For example, nothing in the field of psychology can be indefinitely proven as fact for the mere reason that it's not possible to test the given theory on every single human being in the world, so while you can get pretty damn close to fact, it'll never quite be 100%. We decided that it was save to say that a scientific fact can be more like 95%, but accepted as fact nonetheless; this leaves %5 to "the unknown," AKA margin for error AKA leaving room for outliers AKA possibility of supreme being.

My personal belief is this: No god, no afterlife, no soul. People are living organisms, just like plants. Do plants have souls? Afterlife? Supreme being of worship? I don't know about you, but I don't think I've ever encountered a plant practicing any sort of faith. Anyway, plants grow, then die... no heaven, no judgment day. Animals are born, then die... no soul, no eternal bliss. People are born, and die... what makes us different from the rest of our ecology. Are we not active participants in the food chain? Are we not directed affected by our environment, just as we directly affect said environment? We are a part of the earth, not above it.

So my friend tells me today that I'm not atheist, I'm really agnostic. To me, agnostic has meant you aren't sure if you believe in a higher power and/or afterlife. According to my friend, agnostic means you believe a higher power/afterlife cannot proven or disproven. According to definitions I've read, they all gray somewhere in between what I thought agnosticism was and what my friend told me, so could someone please specifically define agnosticism?

Although I agreed to the 95/5% split, my personal belief is that religion is spiritual nonsense. I admit science doesn't yet have all the answers, but I agree with the ones they do have; to me, 95% is 100% despite my acknowledgment of the impossible alternative.

And for my second question, how do you respond to that? My response was: "So when science lets you down, it makes more sense to believe in an all-powerful supreme being who created the earth in 6 days, took the seventh off, and has since created hundred of billions of people and animals and plants and has simultaneously controlled every mundane aspect of every since life?" But I was to be more specific.

I'm a fairly decent debater, but I'm starting to run out of ammo, haha.


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DaneAlex wrote: 1. What is

DaneAlex wrote:

 

1. What is a clear definition of agnosticism?

Gnosticism and agnosticism refer to knowledge, theism and atheism to faith.

To put things very barely, you believe or you don't. You cannot both have and not have faith. Therefore, you are theist or atheist. A lot of people don't like to think like that. They prefer to say 'I'm not sure, maybe there's something out there' But if you are not a believer, you are by default a non believer.

People think atheism implies an active disbelief in gods. However, this is covered by weak and strong atheism. Strong atheism is reserved for such 'militant' non believers.

In truth, both the doubter and definite unbeliever are atheists. Many atheists call themselves agnostic atheists, as they have neither knowledge nor faith of god.
It is even possible to be an agnostic theist, as some theists will say there is no way for us to know anything about god. So as you can see, agnosticism is a state of un-belief. It is not a weaker state than atheism, as each deals with a different meaning. If you are agnostic you might as well call yourself atheist.

Check out the link: http://www.rationalresponders.com/am_i_agnostic_or_atheist

Psalm 14:1 "the fool hath said in his heart there is a God"-From a 1763 misprinted edition of the bible

dudeofthemoment wrote:
This is getting redudnant. My patience with the unteachable[atheists] is limited.

Argument from Sadism: Theist presents argument in a wall of text with no punctuation and wrong spelling. Atheist cannot read and is forced to concede.


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Yeah whatever   Darn babel

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Loc
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Might as well answer the

Might as well answer the rest.

DaneAlex wrote:

 


2. What do you say to someone who claims that science's occasional inability to conclude indefinitely on a fact proves religion is a better explanation?

That is sheer madness. There was a time when science couldn't provide electricity or explain flight mechanics. These have since been answered and greatly benefited society, while prayer has yet to turn my computer on or transport me across the world.

If religion has all the answers why can't they even answer what relgions the right one.

DaneAlex wrote:

 His claim is that science can never be 100% proven.

Argument from ignorance? He's claiming science can never be completely proven so there must be a god. Theists do so love their god of the gaps. Any one who claims science cannot povide all the answers therefore we need relgion needs to go live naked in the wild as god intended, and see how they like life without the modern conviences science has afforded us.

DaneAlex wrote:
nothing in the field of psychology can be indefinitely proven as fact for the mere reason that it's not possible to test the given theory on every single human being in the world, so while you can get pretty damn close to fact, it'll never quite be 100%.

I don't think anyone claims psychology to be an exact science but I'm going to skip all that.

DaneAlex wrote:
he decided that it was save to say that a scientific fact can be more like 95%, but accepted as fact nonetheless; this leaves %5 to "the unknown," AKA margin for error AKA leaving room for outliers AKA possibility of supreme being.

Again,god of the gaps. The fact that science can be wrong and then rectify itself is a strength, not a weakness. Religion will never admit when it's wrong and therefore has no room for growth. Besides, I'm sure there are scientific principles that are as correct as they can be, it is the devlopments using that original proved principle that can be wrong.

 

DaneAlex wrote:
My personal belief is this: No god,

DaneAlex wrote:
So my friend tells me today that I'm not atheist, I'm really agnostic.

You just answered your own question.You don't believe in any gods, hence you are a atheist. There are no other criteria.

 

DaneAlex wrote:
And for my second question, how do you respond to that? .

Wait until the next time they're sick. If they go to a doctor or use medicine, you win.

Psalm 14:1 "the fool hath said in his heart there is a God"-From a 1763 misprinted edition of the bible

dudeofthemoment wrote:
This is getting redudnant. My patience with the unteachable[atheists] is limited.

Argument from Sadism: Theist presents argument in a wall of text with no punctuation and wrong spelling. Atheist cannot read and is forced to concede.


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Am I Agnostic or Atheist? 

Am I Agnostic or Atheist? 

(includes definitions)

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Quote: 2. What do you say

Quote:

 

2. What do you say to someone who claims that science's occasional inability to conclude indefinitely on a fact proves religion is a better explanation?

 

 

There is so much that is skewy in that question, especially with respect to the implicit assumptions it advertises, and in correcting those false assumptions you find the answer to your friend's query - albeit one that he might not want to hear.

 

First and foremost science and religion are not best understood as opponents. Scientific knowledge has been accumulated despite and outside of religious considerations, and sometimes even within them. In other words it continues independently and does not concern itself overmuch with the contradictions it raises of what religious minds might necessarily hold as true. So, while the religious person might identify science as a threat, and in particular circumstances the scientist might perceive religion as a threat, it is better to say that there is a duality of purpose. The scientist is attempting to understand using intellect, reason and experiment; the religious person accepts a received "explanation" which abhors all three. This duality is so marked that it is frequently found within one person. Newton, for example, seemed to have no major problem accommodating two such diverse approaches to understanding the universe (though social norms and pressures as they existed in his time might have had a large part to play in that).

 

The other assumption is that scientific knowledge is a "belief system" which purports to answer all questions regarding our universe and ourselves, and is actively striving to use its methodology to answer the remaining questions which exist. This simplistic notion ignores one of the most important dynamics that drives this pursuit of knowledge - revision. Scientific research is best typified as a sequence of revisions. Imperfect theory is improved on. False assumptions are identified, even ones which have existed for a long time. The very methodology itself employed by scientific minds is under constant revision. To a rational person therefore, the assertion that all which can be understood about any phenomenon is now understood is itself an anathema. Science demands that mystery exists, but regards mystery as a challenge to be demystified with knowledge. I do not agree with slapping a 95%/5% quantity on knowledge versus the unknown, but I would maintain that a scientist from a thousand years ago might have broadly agreed with this assumption too. Science, in other words, has not only unearthed answers to long-standing questions, but a huge amount more questions themselves.

 

This is why the two are rather incomparable. To the religious mind, ironically given its dependence on the concept of "mystery" to justify the wilful ignorance it encourages, the scientist's gleeful anticipation of a whole new area of non-understanding opening up which must be tackled seems completely strange. Religion has taught that mind's owner not to question, and since human curiosity cannot be completely subdued by edict, to channel their questioning towards those things for which the religion already has tailor-made answers. Hence the circular reasoning, the inclination to confuse fallacy with reason, the semantic gymnastics - all dedicated to stifling the imagination and intellect but at the same time making the "answers" seem profound.

 

So your friend has to answer two very important questions before the two of you can even begin to continue your debate. Firstly he has to explain what he means by "explanation". If it is any old answer that defies rational explanation then he most likely has not the imagination to continue the discussion in any case. The other thing he must clarify is his fear of the unknown. What exactly does he think will happen to him if he confronts the notion that there are some things which might never be fully understood? Or, more to the point, does he feel in any way responsible to his fellow humans to help bridge those "gaps", or does he retreat into false certainties which essentially reduce his value as a human being?

 

I've a lot of experience with the catholic mindset and my upbringing meant that I acquired more data than I care for regarding the niceties of their theological stance. But it means that I can use quite a few elements of their own "belief system" to illustrate the essential fallacy of that stance. If you require more specific pointers to challenging your friend's false assumptions just ask me.

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Nikolaj
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I like the expression

I like the expression "beyond all reasonable doubt". It it readily recognisable by Engish speakers as something we send people to prison based on. Sending people to prison is a serious thing indeed, so reasonable doubt is a powerful thing, as everyone would have to agree with, or, alternetively question the whole justice system at it's very core.

 

So let me give you an example.

You have lived with me for two years, and during that time you've seen me drive around in my car; a red BMW. Indeed, you've seen it parked outside my apartment for all those two years and have driven it yourself from time to time.

 

Now, you are called in to witness for or against me in a courtcase and the prosecutor asks you: "Does Nikolaj own a red BMW?"

 

If you answer yes, does that mean you know I own such a car? Yes, you know beyond all reasonable doubt. So you say: "Yes". That's just common sense. If you wan't to make sure you answer absolutely truthfully you might say: "To my knowledge, yes" or "As far as I know, yes", but still, the point stands.

 

But is it beyond unreasonable doubt too? No, ofcourse it isn't. It could be that I've stolen it, and kept it for two years without getting caught, and without you ever seeing something even remotely suspicous in that regard for two years. (Very unlikely indeed.).

It could be that you suffer from an extremely rare form of colorblindness that makes the actual colour of my car appear red to you, and only you, while it is infact a different colour, and that you have never discovered that you have this ailment, because this is the first time that it has ever made a difference in your life; only the particular nuance of my car appears red in your eyes for example (Also extremely unlikely).

It could be that I am a figment of your imagination, and so I don't exist at all, and therefore don't own a car. (also just plain stupid to assume).

 

But all of these scenarios are reasons for doubt. Just not reasons for reasonable doubt.

 

So to conclude:

 

If you are an atheist you are sufficiantly sure that I own a red BMW to answer "yes" to the above question in a courtroom. You can say, that in a common sense way, you know that I do.

 

If you are an agnostic, you know, on a philosophical level, that you can know nothing with absolute certainty, and, feeble as they might be, there are reasons for doubting your knowledge of my car.

 

As you can see, you can easily be both agnostic and atheistic at the same time.

 

If you are a fundie theist (please note, only a fundie theist, not just any theist), you'll answer, "No, Nikolaj does not own a red BMW, because, in spite of what I may have witnessed living with him for two years, I know that he owns a green Mercedes, because here my book it says: "And yeah, verily, Nikolaj did own a Mercedes, of the greenest of hues" (GIT 4:15)"

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"science can never be 100%

"science can never be 100% proven"

God can never be 1% proven.

I know what I have more faith in.

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DaneAlex wrote:1. What is a

DaneAlex wrote:
1. What is a clear definition of agnosticism?

"I don't know."
(a-gnosis means without-knowledge)
As for more annoying agnostics, the definition is "I don't know, but nobody can really know, so nobody knows more than me. Ever." But I hope such people are rare. My favorite is a liberal agnosticism, which is "I don't know, but maybe you know" Smiling

DaneAlex wrote:
2. What do you say to someone who claims that science's occasional inability to conclude indefinitely on a fact proves religion is a better explanation?
In RRS radio show number 5 there is an excellent review of the first Bible's page, which shows, that it's impossible to take Bible literally, otherwise you won't get through the first page, and there's like 1500 more, and that was just Old testament.
This clearly shows, that Bible is either nonsense, or metaphorical, nothing metaphorical can be more precise than science.
Or show him a page full of equations and call it God's word Smiling It will be more true than with Bible. God surely had to define gravity, weak nuclear force, strong nuclear force, and other such clever terms. And, as for the 'let there be light' there could be some descriptions of photon and optical laws Eye-wink

DaneAlex wrote:
The story behind this question is this... My Catholic friend and I debate about religion. A lot. His claim is that science can never be 100% proven. For example, nothing in the field of psychology can be indefinitely proven as fact for the mere reason that it's not possible to test the given theory on every single human being in the world, so while you can get pretty damn close to fact, it'll never quite be 100%. We decided that it was save to say that a scientific fact can be more like 95%, but accepted as fact nonetheless; this leaves %5 to "the unknown," AKA margin for error AKA leaving room for outliers AKA possibility of supreme being.
This may be possible, but not for Old Testament Jahweh. This is clearly not the creator of the universe, it's rather a mythical human herder (also shearer and butcher) limited on one planet (fortunately), one geographic region and one ethnic minority.
Any hypothetical supreme being, potentially discovered by science, will be coherent and accepable within the laws of science, otherwise it can't be discovered. Religion is not coherent with science. Ergo, religion can not be acceptable by this scientifically discovered supreme being and can't claim any right for it Smiling In fact, if would be victory of science.


DaneAlex wrote:
Although I agreed to the 95/5% split, my personal belief is that religion is spiritual nonsense. I admit science doesn't yet have all the answers, but I agree with the ones they do have; to me, 95% is 100% despite my acknowledgment of the impossible alternative.
Riiiight.



 

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ronin-dog wrote:"science can

ronin-dog wrote:

"science can never be 100% proven"

God can never be 1% proven.

I know what I have more faith in.

This is another argument that I use.

When debating, my opening argument is usually something along the lines of: How can you put your faith in what-if's, maybe's, and what happens to be the most unlikely of situations.

Let's pretend it's possible that god is real... How possible can it be? In such a world where god could exist, what's the likelihood? I'm sure it's not 50/50; it would probably be a 90/10 split, and I'm being incredibly generous with that figure. How can someone put so much belief in something that is very unlikely in even the most ideal of situations?


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Nikolaj wrote:I like the

Nikolaj wrote:

I like the expression "beyond all reasonable doubt".

...

If you are a fundie theist (please note, only a fundie theist, not just any theist), you'll answer, "No, Nikolaj does not own a red BMW, because, in spite of what I may have witnessed living with him for two years, I know that he owns a green Mercedes, because here my book it says: "And yeah, verily, Nikolaj did own a Mercedes, of the greenest of hues" (GIT 4:15)"

Is there an award that can be given out for the above? Seriously, I'm having a hard time with only agreeing 100%. It seems like it's not enough; as though even agreeing 105% barely scratches the surface of my agreement. A thousand internets to you, sir.

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ronin-dog wrote:"science can

ronin-dog wrote:

"science can never be 100% proven"

God can never be 1% proven.

I know what I have more faith in.

 

I have faith in neither of them, because faith is baaad, mkay?

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HisWillness wrote:Nikolaj

HisWillness wrote:

Nikolaj wrote:

I like the expression "beyond all reasonable doubt".

...

If you are a fundie theist (please note, only a fundie theist, not just any theist), you'll answer, "No, Nikolaj does not own a red BMW, because, in spite of what I may have witnessed living with him for two years, I know that he owns a green Mercedes, because here my book it says: "And yeah, verily, Nikolaj did own a Mercedes, of the greenest of hues" (GIT 4:15)"

Is there an award that can be given out for the above? Seriously, I'm having a hard time with only agreeing 100%. It seems like it's not enough; as though even agreeing 105% barely scratches the surface of my agreement. A thousand internets to you, sir.

I agree whole heartedly. That is, by far, the best explanation regarding absolute knowledge I have ever heard. I find that I always stumble around when arguing about absolute knowledge but I will now, forever, use this approach to the conversation.

Very well done sir. Please note my updated signature. Can I propose we get this post added to the "answering stupid questions" section?