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   Author  Topic: Russell on agnosticism  (Read 2161 times)
David Lucifer
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Re:Russell on agnosticism
« Reply #15 on: 2005-03-01 21:35:11 »
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Quote from: ObfuscatoryAlias on 2005-03-01 15:47:48   

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.

Not really. Historically it often makes sense to define something before looking for it (otherwise how would you know when you found it?). Dark matter, tachyons, gravitons, the loch ness monster and bigfoot, extraterrestrial intelligence, the solution to P=NP, etc, etc. These have all been defined and none have been found yet.

This line of reasoning says nothing about unopened boxes as far as I can tell.
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Re:Russell on agnosticism
« Reply #16 on: 2005-03-02 14:28:34 »
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I think there is a difference. Those are not really defined. They are speculated. It is the position of science to accept the idea of possibilities as it would relate to a given unknown. As they would relate to the box analogy, a graviton would be what somebody says migt be in the box because of this reason. That is different from saying the box is empty or that it is definately occupied. It would take a strong proof to be sure that gavitons do exist and it would take a strong proof to be sure that dark matter does not exist. What you would not say is that I do not see the extraterrestrial life and so it does not exist. It is important to the process of gaining knowledge to accept that there can be a portion of reality that exists but is currently unknown.
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Re:Russell on agnosticism
« Reply #17 on: 2005-03-03 16:14:58 »
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No, I agree with you about extraterrestrial life. In that case the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. The difference is that if ETs existed we wouldn't necessarily know about them (they could exist outside our lightcone after all, so any evidence of them would be impossible in that case given our current understanding of physics).

Gods are different because it is postulated that they have some detectable effect on human life. I'll even grant there are a subset of gods that use their godlike powers to hide from humans, in which case we have no hope of detecting them, but that necessarily means they have no discernable effect on us so we can safely ignore them too.
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Re:Russell on agnosticism
« Reply #18 on: 2005-03-03 19:04:09 »
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Yes, that is true of some Gods. However, as I see it, the idea of a god is not necessarily exclusive to something that has an effect on man. Man just has a greater focus on examples that would because the concept was invented to supply answers to what surrounds man. But even if we take one that does allegedly affect man, the essence of it will always be attributed to what we do not know. Theoretically, that leaves us with the idea that deities are improbable. Believing in one certainly seems illogical but denying them altogether seems to be a questionable decision as well, in part because of the reactionary nature of Atheism.
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Re:Russell on agnosticism
« Reply #19 on: 2005-03-05 10:12:03 »
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OK, I think I see where you are coming from now. If you expand the definition of god to include those that are undetectable then I agree you cannot rule out their possible existence (along with all the undetectable monkies and faeries). Similarly if you redefine god to be identical to the universe, very few atheists would deny its existence.

Atheists do not deny the existence of all possible gods because the definition of a god is unrestricted, everyone is free to define them however they like. The same is true of every word, including "dog". You cannot affirm or deny the existence of dogs either until you agree on a definition. It works both ways.

Ultimately atheists are only denying that they are theists. They exclude themselves from the group of people that do believe in gods, usually the gods defined by religions as opposed to philosophically possible gods like the ones that cannot be detected. So their position taken in the normally accepted sense and given the relevant empirical evidence is not at all irrational.
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Re:Russell on agnosticism
« Reply #20 on: 2005-03-07 16:07:29 »
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The stance seems to be agnostic. It is stupid to accept a religion because of Occam's Razor and the necessary resortion to ad hoc thinking, post hoc thinking, and the I-am-right-until-proven-wrong mentality.
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Re:Russell on agnosticism
« Reply #21 on: 2005-03-11 11:17:17 »
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The extropy-chat list recently had a lengthy discussion on atheism and agnosticism.

I found Joseph Bloch's message particularly interesting...


Quote:

I've invoked Astaroth, taken Communion, offered blood to Odhinn and mead
to ThorR and incense to the Lares, made boasts and oaths in sumbl, and
called the Guardians of the Corners. I've cast spells of protection and
curses, risted and read runes, banished evil spirits, conducted Augury,
laid out tarot cards and hunted ghosts in centuries old shadow-haunted
graveyards on the new moon. I founded the largest Roman
Reconstructionist pagan organization in the world, as well as several
Asatru kindreds and a Satanic coven.
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