The REDSTAR2000 Papers

Listen to the worm of doubt, for it speaks truth. - Leftist Discussion

Agnosticism? March 24, 2005 by RedStar2000

Can agnosticism be defended as a coherent position? No one can deny its a period of raging religious fundamentalism, it's useful to have something innocuous to "hide behind".

Atheist? Who, me? No way! I'm an agnostic.

The fundamentalist will, it's hoped, conclude that your "soul" can "still be saved" and therefore he won't just bundle you off straightway to the stake.

And if they do "burn atheists"...well, they "have it coming" to them. They're "just as dogmatic" as the religious fundamentalists.

As you might expect, I'm not real keen on agnostics...or agnosticism.



While you can prove that Santa Clause does not live at the North pole by surveying the area, you can only assume god(s) do not exist in the physical world by lack of evidence.

If you accept the evidence that a survey of the North Pole indicates that "Santa" doesn't live there, then why not accept the evidence that since a survey of the entire world fails to reveal the presence of "Santa" anywhere, the rational conclusion is that "Santa" doesn't exist?

And if that "makes sense" to you, then why do you object to the evidence from a survey of the entire universe that "gods" do not exist?

Your example of the graviton is interesting; our current understanding of the universe suggests (in mathematical terms) that such a particle "ought" to exist. There are some large and very expensive experiments underway at the present time hoping to detect this extremely weak particle.

If it is not found, that could result in a major "shake up" of the foundations of physics -- which might be a very good thing...resulting in a much more profound understanding of the physical universe.

The search for real evidence in such matters is difficult...but "do-able".

Can you explain how an agnostic would search for "evidence" for the "gods"? What reasonable experiments would s/he design and carry out? Would would "evidence" consist of?

And why don't scientists do them? Why is it that scientists, motivated by curiosity, don't attack this "important question"?

You know the answer. It's not a real question any more.

Today, it is social scientists and historians who study religion. To them, the interesting question is "how did we land in this shit?".


Any slanderous statements about “fence-sitting” or cowardice to commit to a conclusion will be regarded as mere desperation from inability to prove an argument.

By you perhaps.

I do maintain that public agnosticism is a "flag" -- all it really says is that "I don't want any trouble"...from the godsuckers! It's the flag of "don't bother me & I won't bother you".

In today's political/social realities (especially in the U.S.), it is a form of cowardice in the face of aggressive religious fundamentalism.

In the struggle between the forces of human emancipation and those who would enchain us in a new version of the "dark ages", it is a refusal to take sides.

Engels called agnostics "shame-faced atheists".

They ought to be ashamed!
First posted at RevLeft on February 4, 2005


I was saying that you can physically look for "Santa." What good would looking for god(s) do?

How else, besides physically, does a rational individual look for "proof" that something exists?

If "gods" existed, we should be able to find them or at least some actual effect on space/time that could not be explained by anything else than the existence of "gods".

There ain't nothing there!

Even "dark matter" and "dark energy" (whatever they might turn out to be) show their existence in the universe that we can detect even if we're not yet able to detect dark matter/energy directly.

Both interact with the kind of matter and energy that we can see.

The "gods" have not made manifest their "existence" in any way with regard to the universe as we can see it.

Either they "exist" but don't interact with our universe at all -- or they simply don't exist, period.

The simplest conclusion is that they don't exist.


By what definition of god? Who’s god? What is god? How do you qualify that?

Use any "definition" you doesn't matter.

Suppose you pick the "gods" that set off the "big bang" and then went off to party, ignoring forever afterwards the universe (ours) that they "created"?

In that case, it also doesn't can act just as if they never existed at all without any change in the outcome of your actions.


I don't see that the search is really so important, more so the realization that no evidence exists to prove any claims (so making the search unimportant). Though, you likely agree that scientific study would likely be the right direction to go for a better understanding of the Universe and consequently any god(s) that could exist. There just isn't any reason or particular method I see to search for deities.

I think this is the key part of your reply and a perfect illustration of the bankruptcy of agnosticism as a "formal position".

What you're really saying here is "I don't know and I'm not even interested in finding out".

If agnosticism were really serious, then the agnostics would be the most avid "hunters for evidence" one way or the other.

The faithful believe that "gods exist".

The atheists know that it ain't so.

The agnostics? "We don't know and we don't care."

What's to debate with people like that?
First posted at RevLeft on February 4, 2005


The human senses and conditions have their limitations and scientific study can facilitate to allow use to discover/explore the universe. Who knows where to go about looking for god(s)? What would it take?

That's not my problem, it's yours.

You are the one claiming that there "might" be "gods"...therefore you are the one who must design the experiments to go looking for them.

But you don't do that...nor does any other agnostic.

You just throw your hands up and claim "the problem is intractable" and "can't be solved".

How convenient! You can avoid all the negative evidence and the complete absence of any positive evidence...and likewise avoid most or all of the flack from the godsuckers.

Meanwhile, of course, behaving as if you actually were an atheist and that there are no "gods".

Intellectually, you take the "safe" position that we can "never know for sure whether gods exist or not" -- and in your real world actions proceed just like an atheist would...on the conviction that the "gods" do not exist.


Theoretically yes, there should be some divine bread crumbs; but who can know?

Can you suggest even one reputable scientific article or book that purports to demonstrate the presence of "divine bread crumbs"?

Oh, but maybe our science will be more developed a million years from now, and the crumbs will be detected.

Yeah...maybe. In which case all the atheists will be eating crow for the rest of their lives (if crows still exist).

And maybe we'll also discover that astrology really works and the great pyramids really do contain the ancient secrets of the universe and ghosts really do exist and blah, blah, blah.

You see where you end up? If you accept the "possibility" of "gods", then you have no logical reason not to accept the "possibility" of anything!

Being "a little bit" superstitious is like being "a little bit" pregnant. If "gods" are "possible", what isn't?


I am familiar with Occam’s Razor, likelihood does not an answer make.

If you are familiar with Occam's Razor, why your reluctance to apply it? It has served as a very useful tool in the history of science...why withhold it in this particular case?

Growing a beard?


Will the Universe continue to expand or collapse eventually?

All of the currently available evidence points to a continuous expansion; none points to an eventual contraction.

That could change in the light of future evidence, of course...or even a dramatic reinterpretation of existing evidence in the form of a better (more coherent) theory.

As of today, we know that the universe will expand forever.


I would be happy to "know;" I simply don't see how that is possible.

It's "possible" in the same way we "know" the composition of the Martian atmosphere. You design an experiment to find out.

Your admission that "you can't do that" cuts the ground from beneath your feet. It makes the proposition that "gods might exist" unserious.

At best, agnosticism is a form of intellectual play-acting. As soon as it's subjected to a serious challenge, the toys go back in the box.


Agnosticism is not a party or a class but an understanding of the futility of the theological argument.

It's not "futile" to theologians -- they "think" they're arguing over the characteristics of something "real".

Nor is it "futile" to revolutionaries -- we're trying to drive a reactionary ideology out of the arena of acceptable public discourse.

What are agnostics "trying to do"?

Evade the issues.
First posted at RevLeft on February 5, 2005


We agnostics do not claim anything, we just acknowledge that both are possible [gods exist/don't exist] yet we have no knowledge as to which one, and it also is irrelevant to our lives.

Irrelevant to your life, eh?

So Christian fascism in the United States -- with its attacks on women, gays, etc. -- is "irrelevant" to your life?

So the varieties of Islamic, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist fundamentalism -- with their brutal and murderous activities -- are "irrelevant" to your life?

You must have a pretty good life -- what planet did you say you lived on?


Let's take the theory that our universe is just a computer simulation.

Nah, let's take the theory that the world is secretly ruled by freemasons and Jews.

Let's take all the stupid nutball "theories" that were ever invented and treat them all seriously as "worthy" of "careful consideration".

Good grief!


The burden of positive proof lies with those who purport a theory and the burden of proof to the contrary with those who reject it as impossible, not those who consider it irrelevant.

No, that's fucked up. The burden of proof is on anyone who asserts a positive conjecture about the universe.

The absence of positive evidence to support the conjecture is sufficient grounds for rejecting the conjecture; the accumulation of negative evidence is also grounds for rejection...but much more difficult to accumulate, of course.

For example, "God and the angels dwell in the sky." Negative evidence: in all the years of atmospheric and low orbital flight, no sign of "God" or even "angels" has been found.

The problem with negative evidence is that the moron who first offered the conjecture can always make up additional conjectures to "explain away" the negative evidence -- e.g., "God and the angels dwell in the sky but are invisible."

Proving a non-trivial negative in science is so difficult that the attempt is rarely made. One of the most famous examples was the Michelson-Morley experiment -- an attempt to discover the "effects" of the "ether" on the velocity of light.

They couldn't find any...with the conclusion that the "ether" doesn't exist!

That's the correct answer.


Atheists have as unfounded a religious position as the theists. Claims to the nature of the universe with absolutely no proof.

Bullshit! We have tons of evidence about the nature of the universe...and the total absence of any "god effect".

What do the theists have? Crap!

And what do the agnostics have? The pathetic whine that "it's not relevant to our lives".

One wonders what is?


I will handle the burden for us both, whatever.

False promise.


I am making no such claims...

There are, it seems to me, only two ways to be agnostic.

1. There may or may not be gods; let's investigate and find out.

2. We'll never know if there are gods or not so let's just forget about's "not relevant" to "our lives".

I mistakenly credited you with the first approach -- that would at least be a serious form of agnosticism...and one that appears to be quite rare.

Instead, you and your co-thinker prefer the unserious guys don't give a rat's ass about this stuff -- you just want some ideological "cover" so the theists (hopefully) won't give you any grief.


Like I said, there is no point, prove me wrong, this is a debate, not a yes/no argument. I have proved my points. Time for a counterargument?

You have not "proved" anything...all you've done is wiggle and squirm.

And it is a "yes or no" argument.

If you won't take my word for it, ask George W. Bush...or the pope.


I would hate to be in your court, "how do you prove your innocence?" There is no case against me! "Oh, so you have no evidence!?"

In principle, the prosecution must provide positive evidence of guilt in order to convict the accused.

Here is the evidence that a crime was committed and X did it.

The accused may, if s/he wishes, provide negative evidence...such as an alibi for the time period in which the crime was committed -- but is not required to do so.

By the same standard, the theist is required to produce positive evidence that gods exist and interact with the universe.

The atheist may, if s/he wishes, produce negative evidence...but is not required to do so.

If the "evidence for gods" is crap, then the jury is rationally compelled to find that "gods do not exist".

The "evidence for gods" (5,000 plus years of it!) is crap and therefore, if we are rational, then we know that gods don't exist.

Agnostics wish to pretend that "the jury is still out" or else simply assert that the matter is "irrelevant to their lives" least until the Grand Inquisitor comes calling.


Because it [Occam's Razor] solves nothing and it is an assumption.

A very useful one for science...and a very embarrassing one for agnostics.


You seem to be wrong by definition; you assume by likelihood, an informed decision, not logic.

I certainly seems to me to be infinitely preferable to assuming by unlikelihood.


Are you denying that I too am a proponent of revolution?

Are you? Confronted with the real world problem of reactionary religious ideologies, your response is that "it's irrelevant to my life whether they are right or wrong" about the nature of the universe.

The "revolution" you seem to have in mind certainly strikes me as...odd.
First posted at RevLeft on February 5, 2005


I never said the actions of theist fundamentalists -- or atheist fundamentalists -- are irrelevant to our lives. Clearly they're not. What I said is that whether there actually exists a god or not is irrelevant.

I's "irrelevant" if the theists are "right" or "wrong"'s only relevant if they act like they're right.

Well, um, they do act like they're right. Here's what they do when they think they can get away with it...


There's no reason [to] believe or support belief in all the nutball religious theories just because we acknowledge that there is a (minuscule) chance of them being correct. But neither is there reason to outright deny the possibility.

Or the "possibility" of anything else.

On what logical grounds can you reject any theory -- no matter how crazy or stupid -- if you hold out for infinite negative evidence?

In your view, the "minuscule" chance that theists might be right never falls to zero.

Why would that not hold true for any nutball "theory"?

Perhaps we are part of a divine computer simulation...or just "brains in vats".

Perhaps the "green cheese" component of the lunar crust lies several miles below the surface.

Perhaps the Martian canals are actually there...but invisible.

Perhaps the freemasons and Jews are so devilishly clever that their rule remains successfully hidden.

The chances of any of those things being true must exceed zero by your own logic.

I simply cannot understand the "appeal" of such an impossible position.

Perhaps post-modernism is attractive to you -- everything is both true and false and you just pick out the stuff that appeals to you and throw away the rest.

How profoundly irrational!


Agnosticism is the exception that proves the rule that you can't have your cake and eat it! Hooray!

No, it's not an exception and there's nothing left of their cake but crumbs.
First posted at RevLeft on February 6, 2005


In short, the discussion of religion is one that in this day and age we should not even be having. If you want to be a theist, just keep it to yourself; if you want to be an atheist, likewise.

Since the superstitious cannot follow your well-intentioned advice, I don't intend to stop either.

Indeed, the flabby "tolerance" exhibited by so many atheists towards superstition is one of the important reasons why this struggle continues.

To put it bluntly, the superstitious will never rest content until the whole world is dominated by their reactionary idiocy.

So I can't rest either.
First posted at RevLeft on February 9, 2005


Logical debate is a far more reliable method...

Not your version of "logical debate".

Your only response to theistic claims is "I can't prove you're wrong".

As a weapon against superstition, your agnosticism has all the strength of a strand of cooked spaghetti.
First posted at RevLeft on February 10, 2005


False; I have never said that is my only response.

It's the only response that is consistent with your overall position.

By your own standards, you cannot disprove any theistic claim. You can say other things like "that's unlikely" or "that's cruel" or whatever.

But you cannot say "that's a lie!"

By maintaining the view that superstition "has not been disproved and cannot be disproved", you have "opened the gates" to the barbarians.

You have no logical ground to stand on against any theistic claim except..."I don't like that."

Guess what? The godsuckers don't care about your likes and dislikes...they're doing "God's Work" and if they can, they'll crush you like an insect.

Now go "make nice" with them...and, if you make a really good impression on them, they'll strangle you before they burn your sorry ass at the stake.
First posted at RevLeft on February 10, 2005


Try physical proof. If anyone states "I see god standing over there," through the magical powers of observation, I can verify or disregard the claim. They simply need to state something which can be verified or disregarded as "I don't see a god."

The theist can simply point out that the reason you can't see "god standing over there" is that "you're blinded by sin."

And you, by your own standards, cannot prove that you aren't blinded by you're fucked!
First posted at RevLeft on February 11, 2005


For me (or you) to turn around and say out of hand "there is no god" falls into exactly the same boat - we cannot prove it, but merely assume it; no different to that of the "godsucker".

You say this...but then turn around and say this...


Whilst all current evidence points to the non-existence of a supernatural creator entity...
--emphasis added.

The implication here is that "someday" there will be "new evidence" that "would" point to the "existence" of "gods".

Or, as the godsucker would put it, science has been wrong before, nyah, nyah.

And that is historically true and cannot be disputed as a general statement. science "wrong" about this? All the evidence points to the non-existence of the supernatural (much less one that's inhabited); none of the evidence supports the proposition.

Consider a sub-question -- evolution. All of the available evidence supports the general proposition that evolution is a fact...though many of the details remain highly controversial. None of the evidence supports "creationism".

The superstitious seize upon the controversies that take place within the evolutionary paradigm and say -- actually yell -- "SEE...THOSE SO-CALLED SCIENTISTS CAN'T EVEN GET THEIR SO-CALLED THEORY STRAIGHT!"

But no reputable scientist working on evolutionary problems today ever invokes "creation" as an "explanation" for anything.

To them (and me), evolution is proved and "creationism" is disproved -- definitively!

What can the hapless agnostic contribute to this discussion? Oh, maybe creation took place in such a subtle way that we haven't found it yet. Or maybe creation took place on another world and primitive life reached earth after drifting through space. Or maybe....

The consistent agnostic cannot actually admit the logical proof of anything of substance...because the evidence is "always insufficient".

They have no confidence in their own ability to weigh evidence and come to a rational conclusion...or anyone else's either.

Again, to the consistent agnostic, the entire universe may appear to be knowable...but "it really isn't".


It is these individuals and the institutions that harbour them that must be attacked - something an agnostic can equally partake in - not the idea of an individual's superstitions. Whilst irrational, they're the least of our worries.

If the agnostic attacks the practices of a particular organized religion, he is acting in bad faith -- because he "knows" that he "can't prove that they're wrong". As I said earlier, all he can say is "I don't like that (particular practice)".

If he is to "keep faith" with his agnostic principles, then he must abstain from the conflict -- for even the most bizarre superstition "might be right." He can't prove otherwise.

As to people's individual superstitions: here and now we are faced with the problem of superstition in the left.

People on this board make posts that suggest gross irrationality...and how are such people going to advance the revolutionary process? How can we expect people with chains in their heads to break the real material chains that bind them?

The truth of the matter is that people who are religious and yet say they want communism should pray for it! Or sacrifice a chicken...or a virgin. If the supernatural really existed, then "divine intervention" would be a far more powerful "tool" to overthrow class society than any possible human effort, right?

What chance would capitalist tyrants have against "the wrath of the gods"?

Of course, you can say that people "aren't consistent"...and I would agree.

But they ought to be.
First posted at RevLeft on February 11, 2005


My apologies if this is the sole implication of my post, but do you consider this entirely untruthful?



It is quite possible that one day, Monty Python-style, God will stick his head through the clouds and command thee to his bidding.

Not a chance...but it would be funny as, well, "Hell".


Science doesn't go out of its way to attempt to disprove the existence of the "supernatural" - it is concerned with the physical nature of our existence and its documentation.

I think this is also because of the difficulties of proving a negative statement. It has been done on rare occasions -- we know the "ether" does not exist.

But theistic claims "multiply like rabbits"...attempts to refute definitively each and every one are impractical.

I believe there is a large experiment going on right now that deals with the hypothesis that "people being prayed for recover sooner, live longer, etc. than people who are not prayed for."

I expect the result of the experiment to show that there is no statistically significant difference in the recovery rates/death rates of those who are prayed over and those who are not.

It will be yet another piece of negative evidence -- but still insufficient to the consistent agnostic.

Maybe the gods don't like having their track record recorded and studied by impious mortals, etc....


There is absolutely no reason for us to attack the idea of faith from the standpoint of atheism, as that standpoint is only as sure footed as that of the theist themselves.

No, the theists are simply fundamentally wrong -- there is no realm of the supernatural, and hence no inhabitants ("gods").

The matter, from a scientific standpoint, is settled...much as that might dismay people.

On the other hand, those who continue to regard the matter as "unsettled" or (worse) "intractable" will, sooner or later, find themselves "in the same boat" with the theists...trying to imagine "some way" in which theism "could be true".

They have to do this because if they don't, then agnosticism just reduces itself to obstinacy...I don't care what all the evidence says, theism could still be true.


We can, as agnostics, still turn around and tell the theist exactly what their religion has brought the world...

Indeed you can...but a really sharp theist can "catch you out".

As an agnostic, you admit the possibility that we theists might be right?

Agnostic: yes...I can't prove that you're wrong.

Then on what grounds can you challenge our deeds? They may seem harsh, cruel, or utterly insane...yet you have to admit the possibility that what we do is commanded by God. You may not like what we do -- sinners and servants of the devil generally don't -- but that has no bearing on truth.

And what can the consistent agnostic possibly say?

Logically, if "gods" are "possible", then why isn't Yahveh "possible"? Or "Jesus"? Or "Allah"?

(Robert Heinlein, in his novels Stranger in a Strange Land and Job -- A Comedy, concludes that all religions are true...all the gods that ever were really existed and still exist, all the heavens and hells, etc.)

Any line that the agnostic draws between truth and falsehood is "written on water".


...we can write them off as utterly irrational...

Or simply ignorant of history. But the intelligent and confident theist would not waste time with denials; he would glorify those deeds as transcending mere human understanding.

And he's got the agnostic in a bind again...there's no "logical proof" that such a thing as "transcendent meaning" doesn't exist.


The question remains; how can we deal with them? A short trip to the brick wall accompanied by a group of uniformed gentlemen with rifles?

Well, this is something of a different question...there's a very long thread about how communists should deal with religion.

But here and now, the first step must be to confront and defeat superstition in the left.

It's ludicrous to think we could go into "battle" against Christian fundamentalism while we're still arguing among ourselves whether or not there "might be something to it".

And the honest agnostic has no choice but to acknowledge that, indeed, "it could be true".


The agnostic need only abstain from arguments pertaining to the nature of existence - not to the actions of a religious institution or entity.

That's just saying he can go ahead and act in bad faith anyway...and hope that no one will notice.

I will.
First posted at RevLeft on February 11, 2005


I'm curious as to why your 'reputable scientists' find evolution and 'creationism' to be mutually exclusive.

Occam's razor. If things can be explained using purely natural causes, the supernatural "explanations" become superfluous...they're unnecessary.

Everything we've been able to investigate thoroughly does have purely natural explanations...and that's a ton of stuff with more accumulating every passing day.

The weight of 100% of the evidence is in favor of evolution (and atheism); the weight in favor of creationism (and theism) is zero.

So the choice is reduced to (1) the realm of the supernatural exists but never interacts with "our" universe; or (2) the realm of the supernatural doesn't exist.

The razor slices: the realm of the supernatural doesn't exist.


The implication of agnosticism is of course that "someday" there may be "new evidence" that "could" point to the "existence" of "gods".

I agree, your wording is more accurate than mine.

But I don't think that really affects my central conclusion; in order to justify his position, the agnostic has to posit, in some form, the possibility that there actually could be "gods" of some kind. In his view, that possibility never falls to zero.

Accordingly, he is in a very tight spot when arguing against a theist. When the aggressive theist challenges the agnostic to "prove my theism is wrong", what can the agnostic say?

Here's a sample...


Obviously it is commanded by their concept of god but any "god" that commands the "harsh, cruel, or utterly insane," is not worth "his" shitty views.

You can see that such sentiments do not constitute an argument at all. If it's "possible" for "gods" to exist, then it must also be "possible" for such "gods" to have any imaginable attributes...including harshness, cruelty, and insanity.

Like the godsuckers mumble to each other in the face of tragedy, "It's all part of God's plan". The agnostic can't prove it isn't.


Again, I need to repeat myself: The burden of evidence lies upon s/he making the claim. You don't need to be an atheist to call people out on ridiculous assumptions of the supernatural!

The agnostic can, if he wishes, point out the internal contradictions within a particular theism; e.g., The Skeptic's Bible. This can be embarrassing to a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, etc.

And since there are so many inconsistencies in "holy books", the agnostic may keep the theist "distracted" for a considerable period of time.

But it does not prove that theism in general is wrong or even that a particular variety of theism is wrong.

As a Hindu apologist posted here once: "The holy scriptures have been corrupted by man". The consistent agnostic cannot "prove" that to be an incorrect statement.

Worse, the scientific evidence directly points to the fact that the texts of "holy books" have changed over the centuries. The theist has, in a limited sense, "science on his side" in such a dispute.

The rigorous theist would produce a new version of his favorite "holy book" purged of internal contradictions ("cleansed of human corruption")...and the agnostic would be helpless to respond.

We are probably rather fortunate that such an event has yet to take place; but there's nothing in the agnostic's depleted arsenal to rule it out.

In fact, even I think it might be possible...if some theist had the nerve to do it.


However, the theist has another line of attack here, which is that (in regards to Judaism and Christianity - my knowledge of other religions is severely lacking. Learning about two of them was more than painful enough) their god will no longer meddle in the affairs of man.

I don't think they like this one much...except perhaps in arguments with non-Jews or non-Christians. The purpose of prayer, after all, is to cajole the divinity into meddling with the "affairs of man".

I don't think they want to give that one up.


This is of course a double edged sword: If he isn't concerned with our affairs anymore, why bother to pray?

Exactly...that sword is "too sharp" to really be useful to them.


Which is quite true; of course, this too can be quite simply debunked (in regards to Judaism and Christianity) on the fact that their "holy book", now confirmed not to be the word of god, but instead the accumulation of various texts written by (shock horror!) humans, states quite clearly that god will never show himself to mankind again.

Until the "rapture" and/or the emergence of the "messiah".

I suspect the line they'll take will be something like "God is not to be tested by mortals". There are several OT and NT quotations they can use for this purpose.

But the fact that "holy books" are written down by humans is not really a problem for theists; they simply assert that the humans were "inspired by God".

And the agnostic can't "prove" that "divine inspiration" doesn't exist.


Theism has no such evidence, and so the sensible assumption is that god does not exist.

I made that point early in this thread...only to be told that I was still "making an assumption".

And that this was "just as bad" as assuming that "gods exist".

After all, assumptions "are not proof".

If we lived in an age without any science at all, the agnostic stance could be the more or less complete absence of evidence, "picking a side" would be little more than a guess.

In our own day, with massive accumulations of scientific data, theories, etc., all of which support atheism and none of which support theism, what is one to make of people who insist that the "question" is "still open"?

An unadmitted desire to restore theism? Sheer obstinacy? A very conscious desire to avoid flak from the theists?

Or perhaps a combination of these motives would explain such behavior.
First posted at RevLeft on February 12, 2005


Redstar, you seem almost more concerned with the consequences of this debate more than the debate itself.


Unlike some, I don't go to message boards and "run my mouth" because I am awe-stricken by the beauty and profundity of my own words...or because there's nothing good on the dummyvision.

It really is the consequences of a debate that are important to me...did I convince some reader to trash a bad idea and put a better idea in its place?

If, years from now, that person takes part in a movement of resistance to the despotism of capital or even an actual revolution, will the better idea help him/her to be more revolutionary?

Then, as a revolutionary myself, I did my job.

At this rather depressing moment in time, it may well be the main job of revolutionaries to remove the ideological obstacles to revolution...especially among those who want to become revolutionaries of the future.

True, now and then I just fuck off and participate in a "fun thread" in Chit-Chat...or mock the cappies for my own amusement and hopefully the amusement of others.

Most of the time, however, I am as serious as a heart attack about the controversies here.

Anything I can do to help the revolutionaries of the future "get it right" is worth doing!


You as an atheist might say, it's all baloney, don't waste your time and resources on it. As an agnostic, I might say, your personal beliefs are your own, yet it's unfair to spend time and resources on anything resembling organized religion. However, either argument will yield the same response from the theists. Whether you agree with them or not, I don't see how it would influence them to change their minds.

In one sense (a limited one at that), this is a tactical disagreement.

What is the most effective way to help someone escape from the chains of theism?

A straight-forward confrontation? Or the agnostic's willingness to concede hypothetical respectability to theism as long as it's not a public nuisance?

Of course, I agree that just saying "religion is baloney" is of little use...the atheist position must be thoroughly explained and the theist position thoroughly discredited before we can reasonably expect any progress to be made.

The agnostic is of little help here; as I noted previously, he can attack the logical inconsistencies and contradictions of a particular "holy book"...keeping the theist "off-balance" and "on the defensive".

But if the theist discovers that his opponent is not an atheist but rather an agnostic, then "the worm turns" and does so very quickly.

If "gods" are "possible", then what isn't?

Perhaps the contradictions in my Holy Book appear so as the consequence of your mortal and sinful lack of perception...after all, you admit that you can't prove otherwise!

And the agnostic must retreat from the "battle"; his sword is broken.


We all have our superstitions...I think it's hard for the human mind to remain a 100 percent objective at all times.

I quite agree; rational thinking -- the behavior that makes us truly human -- is a strain for us. It "pushes the envelope" of our capabilities.

It's hard!

But we have other people to help us! If we get mentally sloppy or lazy, there are others striving to be rational who step in and call us on it -- it happened to me just a few days ago in the Learning forum.

Superstition is a "tougher nut to crack", but I've seen it happen on this board...and more than once!

But it means we have to speak up...and not just "let things slide". We have to challenge each other to do our "best thinking" about stuff...instead of the spineless whiny crapola that we hear so much of these days: Well, it's your opinion and everybody has a right to their own opinion...whatever.

Some "opinions" are considerably better (closer to the truth) than others.


There is more than one type of agnostic. I doubt that many of them would simply say "Perhaps you're right" to any Christian or Jew or Muslim. Rather, I think that it is really only the question of existence itself that can be pondered without definite conclusion. Can science really give us all the answers? As just as before...hasn't science been wrong before?

Well, I think they'd "have" to say that if they were being honest. But I can't deny that people will do their best to evade the more uncomfortable implications of their position...if they can.

And many theists are (as was humorously but accurately pointed out) "a few sandwiches short of a picnic". A reasonably well-informed agnostic can probably give an orthodox believer a pretty hard time.

But the logical snare awaits...and if the agnostic runs into a really sharp theist, he's doomed.

And yes, science has been wrong many times and, moreover, will be wrong many times into the future. Beautiful and seemingly well-supported theories will crash and burn when new observations emerge or new experiments are performed. Exquisitely subtle mathematical equations will, sadly, turn out not to be an accurate description of reality after all.

I loved Fred Hoyle's "steady-state" theory and still do...but the fucking evidence says it ain't so, dammit! I can only hope that new evidence will someday emerge to "bring it back from the dead"...but that's such a rare occurrence in science that I really couldn't logically bet even a single dollar on it happening.

But one thing science has been consistent about...whatever explanations of nature are offered by any theory, old or new, they are natural explanations.

The "supernatural" just hasn't shown up. No one has ever demonstrated a "supernatural effect"...some explanation of a natural phenomenon that has to be "external" to the universe itself.


Once again, it is not fact, but instead, the most probable explanation for some sort of phenomenon, based on what we know here and now.

True, but can the agnostic legitimately find refuge in such a "crevice of uncertainty"?

I don't think so...the "god of the gaps" already occupies that space.


We retain 99% of the same degree of material objectivity as an atheist would. What's the problem?

Here much depends on the individual agnostic himself/herself...and how that "1%" manifests itself in the real world.

In principle, an agnostic might exert himself/herself to refute any particular theistic contention on pragmatic grounds; e.g., "witches should not be burned because we have no reliable way of distinguishing witches from non-witches."

But there's nothing in agnosticism that demands that s/he do that. S/he can say just as easily, "well, I can't prove that witches don't exist nor can I prove that this particular witch-finder is not perfectly competent in selecting true witches for the, I'll just let it slide and move to another country where they don't burn witches."

That "1%" bothers me because its consequences are completely unpredictable.


In the philosophy of religion Ockham's Razor is sometimes used to challenge arguments for the existence of God. None of these applications has been considered definitive because the competing assumptions are not (and perhaps cannot be) precisely defined. Also, it should be added that the principle is only a guide to the best theory based on current knowledge, not the "truth."

I'm afraid that strikes me as a long-winded evasion.

The razor works and has worked for such an extended period of time that a verbal challenge to it at this late date just doesn't make any sense at all.

Imagine the chaos that would prevail in science if we discarded it?


Why are talking about scientific theory anyway? "God" if such an entity exists, exists outside of the natural realm. It is supernatural therefore anything that "proves" or "disproves" that particular notion can't be taken seriously's simply out of the scope of science.

I think this is also an which many scientists take refuge in to avoid theistic flak.

If the realm of the supernatural exists but never interacts with the real universe, then "of course" it's "outside the realm of science" altogether.

All theists contend otherwise. They assert that the realm of the supernatural exists, that it's inhabited, and that the inhabitants of that realm interact with the real universe.

Now if that were true, then it would show...and be, in principle, a legitimate focus of scientific investigation.

The fact that it doesn't show is proof that it doesn't exist!
First posted at RevLeft on February 12, 2005
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