Expressions of Thought
Why I Don't Agree With 50/50 Agnosticism
by, 10-15-2010 at 01:31 PM (495 Views)
[FONT="Georgia"]What is agnosticism? Agnosticism is a point of view taken when there is insufficient evidence to support a claim or explanation, whereby the truth value is unknown, and judgment and belief should be suspended. According to what we know or do not know, and how we can know at all (epistemology), agnosticism is a highly reasonable position many scientists tend to take on a number of questionable and perplexing investigative issues, although many much more mundane metaphysical possibilities also warrant this position. For instance, take a tooth fairy. We all easily recognize that a tooth fairy is primarily a mythological creature weíre told about while going through the process of losing our deciduous teeth. Eventually, we simply move beyond belief in this sort of fantastical childrenís idea, as our cognitive abilities increase as we near adulthood, and most of us would now probably laugh at the notion in retrospect. Yet, for all our cognitive gains and inability to truly take the idea of tooth fairies serious as a adults, we really cannot deductively prove, without a doubt, that there are no tooth fairies. Since we lack any way of empirically testing this problem, many often simply fall back on agnosticism, suspending belief, assuming that the probability is one resulting of maximum empirical ignorance: fifty-fifty. And therefore, with respect to most metaphysical notions, agnosticism seems to be the rational personís best bet.
Yet, agnosticism seems a little problematic, doesnít it? Perhaps we should give it another look. On the surface, agnosticism makes plenty of sense. We currently donít seem to have any means or method of testing these wacky metaphysical ideasóanything seems to be possible. For this reason, it makes sense that one should be agnostic with respect to actual knowledge. For example, if someone holds that Capitalism is greatest economic system ever invented, could they really know it? How could they prove it? Would they show us a number of different charts, diagrams, and analytical benefitís the system seems to have over many alternative systems? Possibly. But it wouldnít be sufficient, because this sort of judgment cannot be empirically tested or validated; it remains, instead, entirely limited to critical assessment, whereby facts and figures are analytically scrutinized in such a way that we arrive at some rather persuasive conclusion as to the value or integrity of a particular economic system. Therefore, one should be agnostic in this situation, in the sense that they do not really and truly know. And therefore, they should not make epistemological claims which are unfounded.
Although, you may have noticed that even if we cannot know whether or not a particular economic system is better than another, we can critically analyze itís value, from a more philosophical point of view. This wonít ultimately render a conclusive viewpoint, but it will allow us to gauge whether or not one economic system performs, as far as we can analytically distinguish, in comparison to another. Therefore, it seems agnosticism is a little limited. In every problematic investigative issue or metaphysical quandary, there exists two levels of assessment. First, the empirical aspects of the matter: do we know it to be true? Has it been studied, tested, and validated? Were experiments designed to truly show that we can actually trust the claims which have been made on this matter? According to the truest empirical aspects of any investigative issue or metaphysical quandary, we should all be agnostic where we simply lack sufficient hard evidence. Yet, the empirical aspect isnít the only level. The second level is more philosophical: is it more reasonable or unreasonable that particular ideas are more or less likely? Clearly, this relates back to the critical assessment used to distinguish between various forms of economic systems. And according to the philosophical aspect of these problems, agnosticism doesnít seem justified, or applicable, because we are no longer concerned with actual knowledge, when we start speaking of philosophical assessmentsóotherwise we would call it science, not philosophy.
Therefore, for all scientific, epistemological, and empirical intents and purposes, one should, without a doubt, stick to the position of agnosticism, where there is a lack of sufficient evidence. Yet, rational investigation, as was just explained, is not only limited to scientific, epistemological, and empirical methodology. The very breadth and span of rational investigation is much more broad and deep than what we can simply empirically know.
As a result, we should look at the problem of the existence of deities, with this mind, considering itís one of the highest and most relevant metaphysical quandaries in the world. Concerning this problem, we clearly know that evidence is limited and that arguments have been made from a more abstracted point of view. Hence, the philosophical nature of the debate. Therefore, it seems rather obvious that agnosticism should be adopted early on, when itís quite obvious that the problem of the existence of deities simply cannot be assessed from a truly scientific, epistemological, and empirical position.
Therefore, agnosticism is a given, and we should then focus on whether or not the views for or against the idea of the existence of deities are more or less cogent, from a philosophical perspective. After reviewing all of the arguments for and against, itís up to each individual to decide which viewpoints are more sound, so that you are either inclined to consider the existence of deities to be a low probability, a high probability, or simply find neither side of the issue to be more compelling. And this is the point where many people diverge. A large portion of the population holds that itís a high probability (while some forgo agnosticism entirely and consider it a certainty, taken on faith). A smaller group finds neither side compelling and either simply doesnít care or isnít rationally persuaded, and therefore sees both possibilities as fifty-fifty. And a smaller group yet finds that the probability is lower (with very few people holding it to be a certainty). And it is here that we notice the different reasons for considering the possibility of deities to be fifty-fifty: when some hold that because we lack evidence, the likelihood is even, and when others hold that because the arguments are unpersuasive, we simply have limited evidence, and therefore, that the likelihood is even.
Yet, it seems rather odd to assume that the likelihood of a possibility is truly fifty-fifty, simply because we lack the hard evidence to say either way. Instead, it seems more prudent to actually notice the weight of philosophical reasoning (where that weight is felt). Thus, it seems more wise to hold that a possibility is truly fifty-fifty after having looked at the arguments for and against, concluding that there simply are no good reasons to make even a philosophical judgment.
For this reason, I am atheist. I am aware of the scientific limitations concerning the existence of deities. I am aware of various arguments for and against the possibilities. I am agnostic with respect to actual knowledge of the matter. Yet, I do not limit my investigative eyes to what can only be known; philosophy is a subject which I truly embrace. Therefore, I have seen arguments for and against these possibilities, and have personally concluded that the reasons against the existence of deities seem more cogent. Not only are they more persuasive on their own, from a logical point of view, but they also correlate well with my inherent naturalistic perception of realityóof the world around us. And empirically, Iím someone who must first see something to truly believe it. If itís out of my range of experience, itíll take very hefty arguments to persuade me that itís there.[/font]