Two types of Agnostics

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AgnosticBoy
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Two types of Agnostics

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Post by AgnosticBoy »

I posted an article on my site that describes two types of agnostics. I wanted to share it here just to help people better understand agnostics, and even agnosticism, in general. For the record, my knowledge of the two types of agnostics comes from my personal experience of being both types. I transitioned from one to the other after I began to research more into Thomas Huxley's writings.

My profile of two types of agnostics:

The first and most commonly known agnostics are the ones that hold the position that God is unknown or unknowable. These agnostics tend to be open-minded, undecided, noncommittal, and tend to avoid extremes or polarizing positions or views. This attitude may come about as a result of research, but it can also come about as a result of not caring for the issue and/or engaging in little to no research on it either way.

The second type of agnostic doesn't stick with the unknowns or unknowable, but instead, he or she is open to taking any position on God just as long as logic and evidence supports it. This falls in line with Thomas Huxley's brand of agnosticism. While Huxley held that God's existence was unknown, however, he did not see the "unknown" as being some default or necessary characteristic for agnosticism. Instead, he advocated for the agnostic principle which admonishes the agnostic to follow reason and science in an unadulterated way (i.e. not mixing the unproven belief with knowledge/ avoiding unwarranted certainties - dogmatism, etc.) As a result of applying the agnostic principle, you'll tend to find that these agnostics are open-minded, nonpartisan, won't commit to views and ideologies (political, philosophical, religious, etc.) that aren't fully proven (with the exception of logic and science), etc.

The latter type of agnostic best describes my agnosticism. Although, there are some overlaps between the two types, but I consider the latter one to be more assertive since they are more willing to progress to positive or negative conclusions where the former type may decide (perhaps as a matter of principle) to remain undecided.
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Re: Two types of Agnostics

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In regard to your second type, just what "logic and evidence supports it"? "It" I take to meaning your position on god. And what kind of evidence using "reason and science" have you "followed"? Also, as succinctly as much as possible, what is your current "position on god"?



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Re: Two types of Agnostics

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Miles wrote: Sat Mar 27, 2021 3:00 pm .
In regard to your second type, just what "logic and evidence supports it"? "It" I take to meaning your position on god.
I'd want the best type of evidence, which is scientific or verifiable evidence. This standard is in place to ensure that agnostics are only dealing in knowledge or facts. Here's Huxley's on the matter:

"Agnosticism is of the essence of science, whether ancient or modern. It simply means that a man shall not say he knows or believes that which he has no scientific grounds for professing to know or believe."

However, since there are different types of facts or knowledge, then I'm willing to scale down on the type of evidence accordingly. For instance, if we're referring to a historical fact, then I'm willing to go by the methods and level evidence as established by the experts in that field.
Miles wrote: Sat Mar 27, 2021 3:00 pmAnd what kind of evidence using "reason and science" have you "followed"?
In general, I tend to follow the best type of evidence that's possible given the field of knowledge/inquiry I'm dealing with. That's in keeping with my response earlier in this post.
Miles wrote: Sat Mar 27, 2021 3:00 pmAlso, as succinctly as much as possible, what is your current "position on god"?
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Personally, I don't know if God exists. I'm undecided because I don't feel that the evidence for or against is strong enough to lead me to any certain conclusions. However, I don't deny the possibility that others may have evidence, and I just haven't encountered it.

I assume you were expecting something more unique as a response but as an extra, let me address that expectation. Some may question the point of agnosticism seeing that I have the same position that atheists have on God's existence. In terms of the 2nd type of agnosticism (Huxley's brand), the one distinct thing about agnostics is that we strive to apply reason in an unadulterated way. Unlike many atheists and others, we don't get ahead of reason and we certainly don't fall short of applying it in areas where it can be applied. While some may only think like a scientists when it comes to dealing with religion (i.e. many atheists), but agnostics try to carry that attitude in all intellectual matters, including towards politics, philosophy, etc.

"Agnosticism, in fact, is not a creed, but a method, the essence of which lies in the rigorous application of a single principle. Positively the principle may be expressed: In matters of the intellect, follow your reason as far as it will take you, without regard to any other consideration,. And negatively: In matters of the intellect do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable"
- Huxley
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Re: Two types of Agnostics

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AgnosticBoy wrote: Sat Mar 27, 2021 4:16 pm
Miles wrote: Sat Mar 27, 2021 3:00 pm .
In regard to your second type, just what "logic and evidence supports it"? "It" I take to meaning your position on god.
I'd want the best type of evidence, which is scientific or verifiable evidence. This standard is in place to ensure that agnostics are only dealing in knowledge or facts. Here's Huxley's on the matter:

"Agnosticism is of the essence of science, whether ancient or modern. It simply means that a man shall not say he knows or believes that which he has no scientific grounds for professing to know or believe."

However, since there are different types of facts or knowledge, then I'm willing to scale down on the type of evidence accordingly. For instance, if we're referring to a historical fact, then I'm willing to go by the methods and level evidence as established by the experts in that field.
Considering that god is a supernatural being and as such isn't open to the "essence" of science, which only deals with the natural world---not the supernatural---I fail to see how it could come to address anything of a supernatural nature. By its very nature science must remain silent on the supernatural.

Miles wrote: Sat Mar 27, 2021 3:00 pmAnd what kind of evidence using "reason and science" have you "followed"?
In general, I tend to follow the best type of evidence that's possible given the field of knowledge/inquiry I'm dealing with. That's in keeping with my response earlier in this post.
And what field of knowledge/inquiry are you dealing with? As I've pointed out above, it certainly can't be science. Science can speak to UFOs and a flat earth, but it has to remain silent on ghosts, gods, and goblins.
Miles wrote: Sat Mar 27, 2021 3:00 pmAlso, as succinctly as much as possible, what is your current "position on god"?
.
Personally, I don't know if God exists. I'm undecided because I don't feel that the evidence for or against is strong enough to lead me to any certain conclusions. However, I don't deny the possibility that others may have evidence, and I just haven't encountered it.

I assume you were expecting something more unique as a response but as an extra, let me address that expectation. Some may question the point of agnosticism seeing that I have the same position that atheists have on God's existence.
Not at all. It's pretty much what I expected. While agnosticism is founded on the question of knowing if god exists, atheism is founded on the question of believing if god exists. Believing and knowing being quite different.
In terms of the 2nd type of agnosticism (Huxley's brand), the one distinct thing about agnostics is that we strive to apply reason in an unadulterated way. Unlike many atheists and others, we don't get ahead of reason and we certainly don't fall short of applying it in areas where it can be applied. While some may only think like a scientists when it comes to dealing with religion (i.e. many atheists), but agnostics try to carry that attitude in all intellectual matters, including towards politics, philosophy, etc.
Au contraire. Atheism is quite committed to reason. In fact, reason is its principle tool of examination. However, atheism is quite passive when it comes to examining the existence of god, and so far has not at all been impressed by previous "evidence" for it. All atheism requires is convincing evidence from theists that their assertion is true. And whereas agnosticism, apparently your brand anyway, seeks knowledge of god's existence, atheists sit and wait for whatever evidence happens to come along. It's current position is that theists have so far failed to show the existence of god to be believable. Therefore its stand is a lack of belief in a god, whereas the agnostic position is a lack of knowledge of a god.
"Agnosticism, in fact, is not a creed, but a method, the essence of which lies in the rigorous application of a single principle.
Whereas atheism is not a method, but a position. Although, this is the first time I've ever heard of agnosticism being described as a method.


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Re: Two types of Agnostics

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Post by AgnosticBoy »

Miles wrote: Sat Mar 27, 2021 6:15 pm Considering that god is a supernatural being and as such isn't open to the "essence" of science, which only deals with the natural world---not the supernatural---I fail to see how it could come to address anything of a supernatural nature. By its very nature science must remain silent on the supernatural.
If your point is true, then that would be an argument that supports the claim that God is unknowable. I think your point is debatable. However, my main point was to contrast those agnostics who accept that claim (God being unknowable) a priori or as some preconceived ideology with those agnostics who are willing to accept any position (i.e. God exists, doesn't exist, or don't know) on the basis of reason and evidence. I fit the latter type.
Miles wrote: Sat Mar 27, 2021 6:15 pm
AgnosticBoy wrote: Sat Mar 27, 2021 4:16 pm In general, I tend to follow the best type of evidence that's possible given the field of knowledge/inquiry I'm dealing with. That's in keeping with my response earlier in this post.
And what field of knowledge/inquiry are you dealing with? As I've pointed out above, it certainly can't be science. Science can speak to UFOs and a flat earth, but it has to remain silent on ghosts, gods, and goblins.
For now, I'd rather say that we don't know how to objectively examine the supernatural, as opposed to saying it can't be done.
Miles wrote: Sat Mar 27, 2021 6:15 pm
AgnosticBoy wrote: Sat Mar 27, 2021 4:16 pm I assume you were expecting something more unique as a response but as an extra, let me address that expectation. Some may question the point of agnosticism seeing that I have the same position that atheists have on God's existence.
Not at all. It's pretty much what I expected. While agnosticism is founded on the question of knowing if god exists, atheism is founded on the question of believing if god exists. Believing and knowing being quite different.
Actually, your point about agnosticism is historically incorrect. It's true that concept of an unknown God along with the two ancient Greek words that made up 'a-gnostic' existed prior to Huxley. But Huxley was the first to combine the two Greek words and make into a label, i.e. 'agnostic'. But he did not intend for it to be simply about God's existence. The terms agnostic and agnosticism have been reduced to that after Huxley. But Huxley meant for the label to be a position against dogmatism which has to do with unwarranted certainty, like the unwarranted certainties that were placed in materialism and Creationism to explain the Universe. Huxley developed the agnostic principle (he called it a method at times) as a guide to avoid falling into dogmatism. Here's some helpful excerpts from his writings that will shed some light on that:

"When I reached intellectual maturity and began to ask myself whether I was an atheist, a theist, or a pantheist; a materialist or an idealist; Christian or a freethinker; I found that the more I learned and reflected, the less ready was the answer; until, at last, I came to the conclusion that I had neither art nor part with any of these denominations, except the last.
...They [atheists and Christians] were quite sure they had attained a certain "gnosis,"–had, more or less successfully, solved the problem of existence; while I was quite sure I had not, and had a pretty strong conviction that the problem was insoluble." - Thomas Huxley
[emphasis added]

"Some twenty years ago, or thereabouts, I invented the word "Agnostic" to denote people who, like myself, confess themselves to be hopelessly ignorant concerning a variety of matters, about which metaphysicians and theologians, both orthodox and heterodox, dogmatise with the utmost confidence;" - Thomas Huxley
Miles wrote: Sat Mar 27, 2021 6:15 pm
AgnosticBoy wrote: Sat Mar 27, 2021 4:16 pmIn terms of the 2nd type of agnosticism (Huxley's brand), the one distinct thing about agnostics is that we strive to apply reason in an unadulterated way. Unlike many atheists and others, we don't get ahead of reason and we certainly don't fall short of applying it in areas where it can be applied. While some may only think like a scientists when it comes to dealing with religion (i.e. many atheists), but agnostics try to carry that attitude in all intellectual matters, including towards politics, philosophy, etc.
Au contraire. Atheism is quite committed to reason. In fact, reason is its principle tool of examination.
Apparently, that isn't what Thomas Huxley and plenty of others think of them as being. Huxley felt the need to distinguish agnostics from atheists, and the reason was that atheists could also become dogmatic, and I'm sure that's even more true for the strong or positive atheists. Sure, most atheists tend to be scientific-minded when it comes to religion, but outside of that, they tend to venture away from that mindset when it comes to metaphysics (they're into materialism, metaphysical naturalism, etc) and politics (liberalism? humanism?). As I said before, the agnostic was meant to be distinct from the atheists in that they wouldn't be bogged down or committed to ideologies that aren't proven, and that standard was to apply in all matters of the intellect.
Miles wrote: Sat Mar 27, 2021 6:15 pm
"Agnosticism, in fact, is not a creed, but a method, the essence of which lies in the rigorous application of a single principle.
Whereas atheism is not a method, but a position. Although, this is the first time I've ever heard of agnosticism being described as a method.
I get what you're saying. The first type of agnostic I described in post 1 would view agnosticism as a position. The second type, which is Huxley's brand, would not.
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