Friday, August 18, 2006

Why agnosticism is also stupid.

It is often argued, mostly by theists, that atheism is not a valid position to take. They argue that because I cannot disprove god that my atheistic mind set is a faith as much as their faith in god. Perhaps they think that by invalidating atheism and nudging people towards agnosticism that they are half way to the conversion goal. I will demonstrate here that my atheistic “belief” is certainly not equivalent to a belief in god and by doing so I will offer yet another logical disproof of god.

First, there is the issue of labelling a non-belief as a belief. At first site this seems reasonable. However it is simple to remove this equivalence. The starting point, like so much to do with theistic assumptions, is ignorance. Let’s take an example.

It’s a safe bet that virtually everybody that reads this does not believe in Winabozho. If anybody that reads this page does believe in Winabozho please do leave a comment and let me know. Now, from the theist argument of belief/non-belief equivalence everyone that does not believe in Winabozho has a faith that Winabozho does not exist. Actually, most simply are ignorant of any reason or suggestive cause to believe in Winabozho, including ignorance of the concept, which is certainly not equivalent to a faith.

Winabozho, also know as Manabush, Nanabozo and Wenabozho, is the creator Hare god of the Abnaki Native Americans. My lack of belief in the existence of Winabozho has not changed at all from the time I was ignorant of the Winabozho concept to the present in which I have heard of the concept. I have undertaken absolutely no mental or theoretical exercise to transform my lack of belief from one state to another. My belief, or lack thereof, has remained entirely unchanged. My lack of belief in any god, and thus my belief that there is no god, is exactly the same. At no point have I undergone a transformational process in my lack of belief in any god anymore than I have in my lack of belief in Winabozho specifically.

What I am trying to get across here is that atheism is not necessarily an opposite belief from theism, but rather a zero point of absolute non-existence of any theist belief. This may appear to be a belief, a positively elected belief in the absence of a god, but in fact it is the absolute absence of a belief in a concept that would be exactly the same as my lack of belief in that concept if I have never heard of that concept at all.

Atheism is not a faith.

The counter point to this argument would be to say that since I have heard of the god hypothesis that I must therefore have made a positive choice to not believe it and therefore I have developed a belief that there is not god. I am still relying on faith.

Semantic nonsense. And stupid semantic nonsense at that. Allow me to demonstrate why.

Bertrand Russell used the example of teapot agnosticism to demonstrate that atheism, whilst logically invalid as certain belief, is in fact rationally valid. He used the example of a china teapot orbiting the sun. Even today our technology would not allow us to disprove the existence of the teapot, so technically we must be teapot agnostics. However, in practice we would all be teapot atheists.

Here is a video of Richard Dawkins describing the same.




This seems pretty reasonable, but I’d like to go one step further and demonstrate that a belief against a theory with absolutely no suggestive evidence whatsoever is not equivalent to any other type of belief. In effect, I want to demonstrate why teapot atheism is actually logically valid, more valid in fact that teapot agnosticism and infinitely more valid than teapot theism.

There are an infinite number of entirely baseless theories which can be put forth. I can put forth the teapot theory. I can put forward the theory that kangaroos created the universe. I can put forward the theory that something more complex than the universe designed and built the universe or I can put forward the theory that a hare god created everything. There is quit literally no limit to the number of theories that can be proposed that are based on absolutely no suggestive evidence at all and I can’t disprove any of them individually.

According to Bertrand Russell’s teapot analogy I should technically be agnostic with regards to them all. That would be true if it were not for one little inconvenience of logic that actually requires me to be an atheist to all.

With an infinite number of baseless theories the probability of any specific one of them being true becomes zero when we are discussing the creation of the universe. This is because, and the teapot does not fit here, they are mutually exclusive. Winabozho cannot have created the universe if the kangaroos created it. Any of the gods cannot have created the universe if any of the others did. In fact for this universe the maximum number of creation theories that can be correct is one. And the probability of any specific one being the correct one is 1/infinity and any number divided by infinity is zero. So for any single creation theory the logic clearly demonstrates that there is effectively a one in infinity probability of it being true and that is the same as no possibility at all. But this only holds for baseless theories.

Any suggestive evidence that results in a theory changes the odds because the evidence offers constraints to the possible theories that fit the evidence and thus the number of possible theories may become finite and at some point in our developing understanding it possibly will.

God is a baseless theory. In fact, the predominant version of god on this planet (that of the Old Testament) is self disproving due to contradictions within its definition, but all proposed gods are entirely baseless – there is no suggestive evidence at all for their existence. The probability of them actually existing is therefore zero. The probability of god is zero. It’s just another baseless theory amongst an infinite number of them.

Agnosticism is not as reasonable as it might at first seem. Atheism is not a belief on par with theism. It is not a faith. Atheism is simple mathematics and the only position in the god/no-god argument that logic supports unless anyone can offer any suggestive evidence that the god theory may be correct which would result in changed probabilities through changed constaints. Nobody has done this, nobody can do this, and nobody will do this.

If you enjoyed this article please feel free to digg it down below.

13 comments:

Kevin said...

Well written post. I've actually made note of your page so I can do a bit of research and study... I like well formed arguments, even if I don't agree with them or think they may be erroneous... but there well formed enough that I can't entirely address them now.

I do have three questions.



1) How does an atheist address the mere fact that there is something and not just nothing?

3) Isn't the fundamental basic belief of atheism that this physical universe is all that exists? It seems this statement of the limits of existence is pure conjecture... a fish born in an enclosed box might believe that that box was all that existed... for practical purposes this fish (who through the gift of the box sprites was endowed with a capability to contemplate it's existence) may just choose to believe only in the space in the box or may come to the conclusion that the box is all there is after studying it's environment... but that would be a wrong conclusion because the fish is limited in it's ability to understand. Aren't we always forced into a position to make some basic assumptions and then go from there?

3) If natural observations and mathematical calculations seemed to prove that human existence is impossible where does that leave an atheist? For example if the universe was 6 billion years old and based on our study of space and math and biology it was concluded that the probabilities of life forming by natural means in the universe in that much time is so high that it is impossible... what then?

Eric said...

There are infinitely many places in the universe where my AlienWare laptop can be at this moment. By your mathematical reasoning, would you argue that it does not exist? What would you say if I told you that I don't own an AlienWare laptop? I am agnostic. I think you'll be able to reason out why.

Dan said...

Good post. I agree with most of what you say. Now, I'm not a crackpot christian, I still consider myself a teapot agnostic, for now, anyway (silly, I know).

You state that:

"With an infinite number of baseless theories the probability of any specific one of them being true becomes zero when we are discussing the creation of the universe. This is because, and the teapot does not fit here, they are mutually exclusive. Winabozho cannot have created the universe if the kangaroos created it. Any of the gods cannot have created the universe if any of the others did. In fact for this universe the maximum number of creation theories that can be correct is one."

My question is, how can we be sure that there can only be one correct theory? Doesn't quantum physics suggest that the arrangement of matter is influenced by the observer? Didn't Hawkins suggest that there are an infinite number of universes? What I'm trying to say is that, how can we be so sure that there is only one correct answer? How do we know that our consciousness (and thus our beliefs) ultimately create whatever universe we believe we exist in?

Dan

Anonymous said...

First of all I agree with Dan. .Religion is Dogma, you either believe it or you don't. Therefor your LOGIC and reasoning has no place here.

Anonymous said...

Your premise is wrong. You claim that Atheism is a mere lack of belief in the existence of God. Not so. Atheism, by definition, is the belief that there is no God. So, by removing a Creator of the universe, you then have to be able to explain HOW matter, energy, life, complexity, design, and sophisticated DNA code randomly sprang into existence from nothing. Without such an explanation, you do rest upon mere faith.

powells4fam said...

Really? And where did you come up with the idea that religion was based on beliefs alone? I love it when atheists like to say that the idea of God has no proof even though the idea of NO God also has no proof. I also love it when atheists don't mention the torrents of evidence. The world around us is good enough evidence of God. The earth just HAPPENED to be in the perfect position to sustain life? Have you read the bible? Cause the last book actually predicts modern events that have happenened. Earthquakes, economic collapse, the jews returning to israel, THE INVENTION OF TRAINS. And here comes the best part. The bible also described the world as ROUND(NOT FLAT) WAY before science proved it was round. The reason we didn't know this sooner was cause the catholics hid the bible from the public.

Scott Pell said...

Samuel Johnson famously said that profanity is the last resort of an exhausted wit. That is the case here. The name calling and profanity is unworthy of a reasoned argument. Can't you uphold your arguments without these things like a true philosopher.
In any case, agnostics are not stupid and your characteriztion of them is false. Thomas Henry Huxley, to name only one famous agnostic, could hardly have been stupid. So many brilliant men have been agnostics that it surprises me to hear an intelligent person talk this way.
If you can't understand the agnostic position, and why some philosophers find it necessary, I would refer you to the lectures on this subject by Robert G. Ingersoll.

Anonymous said...

Powells4fan, "the earth just Happened to be in the perfect position to sustain life?"
What, so you think that in this entire universe, which contains billions of planets, the only life is found on Earth? That is an incredibly ignorant thing to say. Life adapts and evolves to fit it's environment, who is to say that life forms on other planets require the same conditions that we do?

dariushlovatt said...

I very much agree with you on the last parts of your blog. There is just as much evidence for something such as Santa Claus to exist as there is god.

To school lately I've been wearing a Santa hat and our school doesn't allow us to wear hats. When asked to remove it I said "Why don't the jewish kids have to remove their yamakas?" In turn they ignored me and I had to speak with the VP because I was "insubordinate." There I explained that, exactly like the jewish kids I was practicing total, unyielding blind faith in something that is equally preposterous as god.

The thing religious people don't understand is from atheists' point of view, they sound SO ridiculous. As you said there is limitless other versions that you can make up and you would have just as much evidence to support it as the christians or jews do to support their god.

Louis said...

"So, by removing a Creator of the universe, you then have to be able to explain HOW matter, energy, life, complexity, design, and sophisticated DNA code randomly sprang into existence from nothing. Without such an explanation, you do rest upon mere faith."

False. Atheists don't know the answers to any of these questions, but we're working on it. We have some theories that have been supported by all the tests we've been able to do. That's the difference: we accept our current ignorance without treating it as fixed and insurmountable.

I accept that I don't know the answers to these questions yet, but I don't think there's necessarily an upper bound to what we *will* be able to figure out.

Two hundred years ago, the idea of figuring *anything* out about the beginning of the universe would have been ridiculous on its face. Today, the Big Bang theory is backed up by huge amounts of evidence.

Consider the graph: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cmbr.svg

The "black body spectrum" graph was a guess that scientists made. The COBE data was actually collected by a satellite. The data matched perfectly.

So while we don't know the answers to all the questions yet...we're working on it, and we might be able to answer questions in the future that I can't even imagine being answered today.

That's not "faith." That's making testable guesses, figuring out all the ways we can think of to test those guesses, and winnowing out the theories that get disproven.

Anonymous said...

Actually, when it comes to math, 1/infinity is undefined, not zero.

Although yes, there is an infinite number of explanations about the universe and its deity/lack thereof, that doesn't mean that each explanation has this "vale" of zero. It just means that they are increasingly infinitessimal. Thus, they do have *some* value.

That's why I'm agnostic atheist - in all probability, there isn't a god, but who are we, as simple people, to argue otherwise? There is always that little chance.

Human Ape said...

I do not "believe" a magic god fairy is a moronic fantasy for feeble-minded cowards.

I'm 100% certain the god fairy is a moronic fantasy for feeble-minded cowards. Same thing for the Easter Bunny. Magic is not real therefore magic fairies and magic rabbits are not real. Period.

Agnostics can't figure it out because they're idiots.

Human Ape said...

An idiot wrote "That's why I'm agnostic atheist - in all probability, there isn't a god, but who are we, as simple people, to argue otherwise? There is always that little chance."

Would the moron write this: "In all probability, there isn't a Easter Bunny, but who are we, as simple people, to argue otherwise?"

The word atheist does not need any adjectives. A person is either an atheist or a person is an idiot.