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David Lucifer
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Russell on agnosticism
« on: 2005-02-05 12:16:44 »
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I stumbled upon What is an agnostic which looks an awful lot like a FAQ written long before there were FAQs. A couple answers are worth commenting on.


Quote:
Are agnostics atheists?
No. An atheist, like a Christian, holds that we can know whether or not there is a God. [...]

How does an agnostic regard Jesus, the Virgin Birth, and the Holy Trinity?
Since an agnostic does not believe in God, he cannot think that Jesus was God. [...]

This looks like a contradiction to me. If an agnostic does not believe in god then an agnostic is necessarily an atheist. Yes, I'm familiar with the distinction between believing there is no god and lack of belief in a god, but I thought Russell was epistemologically sophisticated enough to see that the distinction is illusory.


Quote:
What kind of evidence could convince you that God exists?
I think that if I heard a voice from the sky predicting all that was going to happen to me during the next twenty-four hours, including events that would have seemed highly improbable, and if all these events then produced to happen, I might perhaps be convinced at least of the existence of some superhuman intelligence. I can imagine other evidence of the same sort which might convince me, but so far as I know, no such evidence exists.

Notice Russell doesn't answer the question. He said what would convince him of the existence of a superhuman intelligence, not god. But I think it is a very interesting question, and a lot can be inferred about your belief system from you answer.

The only evidence I can think of that would convince me is a message embedded in a transcendental number like pi. This is even trickier than it sounds because as far as we know the number pi contains all possible messages. So the message would have to be true and self-referential, for example making reference to its own location (starting digit) in the pi sequence or the circumstances of its discovery. For example, if amateur computational mathematician J.R. "Bob" Dobbs discovered the message "J.R. "Bob" Dobbs will discover this message encoded in ASCII starting at decimal digit 1e42 on July 9, 2007" on that precise date and starting on that digit, then I think Mr. Dobbs will have discovered a message from a god.

What would convince you?
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Re:Russell on agnosticism
« Reply #1 on: 2005-02-05 19:36:30 »
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Quote from: David Lucifer on 2005-02-05 12:16:44   


What would convince you?

I had a similiar discussion elsewhere about beliefs. The nature of beliefs is somewhat of an on-going inquiry I'd like to understand.

As far as I know, a person cannot hold a negative belief ( non-belief, disbelief ) It's a quagmire but I'm tending to agree that a negative belief is actually a positive belief against an established belief.

Take our mythical friend God. Well to many not mythical. But for arguments sake I hold the premise that God is a myth.

It's a positive belief that God's a myth. Not a disbelief in God.

I'm an athiest because I believe that God is anthropomorphic supernaturalism created as an explanation for natural occourances. Myth. Futhermore I believe it's a waste of time to believe it as anything else, but to study it to understand what makes it attractive to people, not so much of a waste of time. That's why I try to understand how beliefs work.

Theories are explanations. The God theory explains with myths, that prove themselves by themselves. The bible is the word of God. God doesn't lie. Therefore the bible is the truth.

Of course for me to believe we would need to be able to get at God. Since God is invisible we can't seem to get to him. Since we must believe in God to get to him through some intercranial messaging system? Then apparently I have been disconnected from God, he doesn't talk to me.

An imaginary friend is a child's notion. God takes that notion and runs with it. God cares about, what you care about. God is concerned about, what you are concerned about. God will always be there, wherever you might be.

This is a complex psychological attachment. The attachment of a child to her teddy bear. To help keep her identity, I am not the teddy bear, I am me. Later in life adults keep the god teddy bear. I am not god, I am me. But God will keep me safe. The problem is God is not real, he's a psychological crutch.

Many problems with God. But to say I have no belief, or a disbelief. Is an error. I have a belief. I can talk about God because I have looked at the myth. Passed down from one prayerful house to another and somehow thousands of years later it sits here in my office, for easy reference though these days I can use many resources off the internet to find what I'm looking for.

Thing about myths is that they have a tendency to harp on a lot of the same messages. Some repeat the old, and well a born again believer who has his God blinders on, axiom shield up, will not be able to understand a damn word of what I just typed.

So how to get me to believe in God. Lets see him, her, it? Otherwise the invisible stays invisible, and it's hard to prove invisible things don't exist. Especially those imaginary friends.

- d r i f t
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Re:Russell on agnosticism
« Reply #2 on: 2005-02-23 18:49:51 »
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I would like to get your take on something I had written a while back as a response to Atheism (I am agnostic). Bare in mind I have not read Martin's book on Atheism, so my points may be ignorant. However, I came up with this with whatever knowledge I have of logic and have not been able to see a flaw.

Atheism is fueled by the limitation of language. It traps itself with words that have no substance more specifically, by the use of the terms God or a god. Those terms are completely meaningless; they have virtually no definition, whatsoever. They are relative terms. Philosophically, one cannot argue against an idea that has no specific definition. Rather, one must attempt to form conclusions based on concepts that do not depend so strongly on language, a good example being the idea of cause and effect. One cannot argue, with our current understanding of reality, that everything is a cause and has a cause and that everything is an effect and has an effect. This applies with equal validity to the "universe as we known it." Toss the idea of "a god" out the window and, instead, replace it with "cause of the universe" (technically it could be "cause of [just about anything]"). This makes more sense and is a very logical assertion. Now that we have an unknown cause, we can understand that, by its very nature, it is infinite. It is infinite because the nature of it cannot be defined; it has not been observed and facts for induction do not exist. From the perspective of ignorance, the potential chain of cause and effect that effected the present has an infinite number of possible manifestations. This brings us back to the atheistic approach. If someone subtracts a value of one from infinity, he or she is left with infinity. If someone adds the value of one to infinity he or she is left with infinity. Such action has no outcome. This is what is happening when one attempts to define the cause of the universe that, logically, has an infinite number of possible manifestations. In that sense, atheism does what organized religion does: defining the cause that cannot be defined. Atheism decides that which should not be decided because by creating exclusions one is forming boundries and the formation of boundries is definition. Agnosticism as I view it says, accepts that the nature of the cause of the universe has infinite possible manifestations, ergo Christian thought may be right, Jewish thought may be right, Hindu thought may be right, atheism may be right, but believing in any one of them is ridiculous because it has no merits beyond another. They are all infinitesimal and equally worthless. What now? Until science discovers that which has no cause, forget about defining the cause of the universe as we know it and seek the knowledge that can be sought, all the while knowing that you know practically nothing.
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Re:Russell on agnosticism
« Reply #3 on: 2005-02-25 00:02:55 »
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Quote from: ObfuscatoryAlias on 2005-02-23 18:49:51   

Atheism is fueled by the limitation of language. It traps itself with words that have no substance more specifically, by the use of the terms God or a god. Those terms are completely meaningless; they have virtually no definition, whatsoever.

I disagree. The god terms are just as well-defined as any other mythical creature including dragons, big foot, tooth fairies and Santa Claus. I don't believe in any of them for much the same reasons. On the other hand I'm certainly willing to change to mind given compelling evidence.
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Re:Russell on agnosticism
« Reply #4 on: 2005-02-25 13:27:37 »
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Quote from: David Lucifer on 2005-02-25 00:02:55   


Quote from: ObfuscatoryAlias on 2005-02-23 18:49:51   

Atheism is fueled by the limitation of language. It traps itself with words that have no substance more specifically, by the use of the terms God or a god. Those terms are completely meaningless; they have virtually no definition, whatsoever.

I disagree. The god terms are just as well-defined as any other mythical creature including dragons, big foot, tooth fairies and Santa Claus. I don't believe in any of them for much the same reasons. On the other hand I'm certainly willing to change to mind given compelling evidence.

But the disagreement is dependant on a person being there to believe it to begin with because all those definition are of a finite quantity. The definition of the term god is relative. If a Christian defines god you can deny its existence but you would be denying only his definition. Theoretically, there are infinite possible manifestations (even though finite set of minds cannot perceive them all) which means that with no common denominator for all infinite manifestations one cannot really deny the existence of a god. In that sense an atheist can be preceived as an agnostic who denies the existence of the possible manifestations of a god as defined by a human being.
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Re:Russell on agnosticism
« Reply #5 on: 2005-02-25 19:40:31 »
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Quote from: ObfuscatoryAlias on 2005-02-25 13:27:37   

But the disagreement is dependant on a person being there to believe it to begin with because all those definition are of a finite quantity. The definition of the term god is relative. If a Christian defines god you can deny its existence but you would be denying only his definition. Theoretically, there are infinite possible manifestations (even though finite set of minds cannot perceive them all) which means that with no common denominator for all infinite manifestations one cannot really deny the existence of a god. In that sense an atheist can be preceived as an agnostic who denies the existence of the possible manifestations of a god as defined by a human being.

An infinite number of manifestations does not logically imply no common denominator.
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Re:Russell on agnosticism
« Reply #6 on: 2005-02-25 19:44:24 »
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Quote from: David Lucifer on 2005-02-25 19:40:31   

An infinite number of manifestations does not logically imply no common denominator.

Sure, you could say that but it makes a common denominator impossible to identify.
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Re:Russell on agnosticism
« Reply #7 on: 2005-02-26 14:53:19 »
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Quote from: ObfuscatoryAlias on 2005-02-25 19:44:24   

Sure, you could say that but it makes a common denominator impossible to identify.

Why are gods different from animals in that respect?
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Re:Russell on agnosticism
« Reply #8 on: 2005-02-26 16:07:09 »
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I am not sure I completely understand. But I will say that animals exist; deistic beliefs are entirely speculative.
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Re:Russell on agnosticism
« Reply #9 on: 2005-02-26 21:36:29 »
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Quote from: ObfuscatoryAlias on 2005-02-26 16:07:09   

I am not sure I completely understand. But I will say that animals exist; deistic beliefs are entirely speculative.

I mean that animals have an infinite number of possible manifestations, yet they all have a common denominator which allows one to say what is an animal and what is not (with some things probably on the border). Your argument seems to turn on the assumption that gods have no common denominator and I don't see why not.
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Re:Russell on agnosticism
« Reply #10 on: 2005-02-27 12:41:55 »
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The problem is that by saying there is an infinite number of possible manifestations of animals you are inadvertently assigning a common denominator by referring to them as animals. The term animals describes observed common denominators. Essentially looking at items 1 through 10, noting their similarities, saying that items 1 through 10 belong in group A because they exhibit characteristics you decided were those of items in group A. Then, after categorizing, refer to their similarities as being serendipitous.
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Re:Russell on agnosticism
« Reply #11 on: 2005-02-27 14:34:12 »
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Quote from: ObfuscatoryAlias on 2005-02-27 12:41:55   

The problem is that by saying there is an infinite number of possible manifestations of animals you are inadvertently assigning a common denominator by referring to them as animals.

How is that a problem? We can do exactly the same thing with gods.
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Re:Russell on agnosticism
« Reply #12 on: 2005-02-28 14:15:35 »
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You can? How? The case with animals is like the following. You make the statement that in order to label something as a "queef" it must contain the color red. You can then say that there are an infinite number of possible queefs but because of how a queef is defined you will know that all possible forms contain red. It is impossible to do that with gods.
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Re:Russell on agnosticism
« Reply #13 on: 2005-03-01 12:36:11 »
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Quote from: ObfuscatoryAlias on 2005-02-28 14:15:35   

You can? How? The case with animals is like the following. You make the statement that in order to label something as a "queef" it must contain the color red. You can then say that there are an infinite number of possible queefs but because of how a queef is defined you will know that all possible forms contain red. It is impossible to do that with gods.

All gods are a subset of supernatural sentient beings (in most reasonable definitions, I'd wager).
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Re:Russell on agnosticism
« Reply #14 on: 2005-03-01 15:47:48 »
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But are you not then defining that which you have no logical reason to define? Knowledge about reality will always be finite and will always leave unknowns.  It makes no sense to define the unknown if it is an unknown. The line of reasoning you follow would lead you to say that an unopened box is empty until it is proven not to be and the religious would say it contains something until it is proven empty.
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