27
Jun
11

Agnosticism and Atheism

I find labels often misleading, simply because people try to define a word in the manner in which it pertains to them. This is a bit of egocentrism, I think. Agnostics, for example, will generally say that atheists “believe no god exists.” Atheists think of agnostics as “not reaching a conclusion,” I think this too is a bit absurd. I would venture to say that most atheists are philosophically agnostic while most agnostics are practically atheistic. The reason for this is that these two terms are not mutually exclusive as many have supposed. While I concede the agnostic point that any ultimate claim regarding god(s) is unknowable, I would also claim that everyone claiming such entities do exist is quite probably wrong. Practically speaking, however, atheism is the default position when left with the shrinking gaps for a potential deity to hide in, and none have, as yet, turned up. Concluding “well, we can never know” is missing the point entirely.

It used to be said that we would never be able to know what someone else was thinking. Thanks to recent advances in neuroimaging, we’re getting pretty close to this, going so far as to recognize patters for thoughts of actions, movements, and behaviors before the (in these cases, monkeys) do them. Predictive models of human behaviors and analytics are being used to predict (by Google and Facebook) what items or advertisers you would be most interested in based upon a given searches and patterns and personal information; the one Google uses is actually quite good with a >80% accuracy rate–go on, search for something you are genuinely interested in buying and look at the ads. Facebook is also fairly decent with their ads, too (my girlfriend is also convinced they often know what she’s thinking).

Should one, therefor, remain agnostic about what someone else is thinking? Of course, this technology is not (nor will be in the foreseeable future) available in a pocket-sized scanner. Does this mean we can never know it? Absolutely not; it is certainly knowable. Every nook and cranny in which a god or gods may dwell (and make any bit of a difference in our lives) is similarly knowable, however difficult this may be. Either a supernatural being has or is influencing the physical universe or isn’t. Either way, we can, as Darth Vader once said “detect a disturbance in the force.” The “force” in this case, being a euphemism for everything that exists. Along the same line, if it isn’t influencing anything, who cares? This would mean a soul doesn’t influence our behavior, a god can’t give us anything special,  and (most importantly) no supernatural thing can be blamed or given credit for anything that happens.

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2 Responses to “Agnosticism and Atheism”


  1. 1 Stacy
    June 27, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    I’m an atheistic agnostic … no wait … an agnostic atheist… no wait …

  2. July 1, 2011 at 10:49 am

    For the most part, I’ve been an apatheist. At least, that’s what someone described me as. Said it meant I didn’t care whether or not the gods exist. And I figured that more or less fits.

    I’m fascinated with all sorts of god things — such as the evolutionary origins of the gods, the psychological basis for the gods, the politics of religion, and so forth. I’ve just not been too keen on the question of their existence.


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