The Instigator
TheSkeptic
Pro (for)
Losing
21 Points
The Contender
beem0r
Con (against)
Winning
58 Points

Agnosticism Is A Meaningless Position

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/15/2008 Category: Religion
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,850 times Debate No: 5403
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (7)
Votes (13)

 

TheSkeptic

Pro

[Definition - Agnostic]

1. A person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience.
2. A person who denies or doubts the possibility of ultimate knowledge in some area of study.

http://dictionary.reference.com...

I affirm the resolution that Agnosticism is a meaningless position, for the main reason that it is applicable to everyone in the world. Agnosticism is a position about knowledge, not belief. Other positions, such as theism and atheism, are positions about belief. This is where you get terms such as agnostic atheist and agnostic theist, which basically translates to a person who holds that God exists/doesn't exist but does not know for certain.

To make my argument more clear, I will argue that in essence, an agnostic atheist is really just an atheist, the agnostic addition is meaningless.

[Definition - Atheism]

1. The doctrine or belief that there is no God.
2. Disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.

http://dictionary.reference.com...

A problem in this ensuing debate of agnosticism vs. atheism, is the misunderstandings of each positions definitions. Now, though the dictionary definition of atheism is accurate, I want to make an important clarification. An atheist lacks the belief in all the deities that have been thus far presented as the real "god"; atheism rejects all these candidates. It does not mean that atheists know all the proposed gods do not exist, but we do not believe. There is still a remote possibility that gods such as Jesus and Krishna are real.

Neither do atheists reject that a god exists in the universe that hasn't already been proposed. There may very well be a deity, and the only way to know it does not exist is to have infinite knowledge of the universe, and I'd love to meet an atheist who can claim to have that.

One may know not know if proposition X is true, but they will either believe it is true or false. Are there a-FSMs and agnosti-FSMs? (FSM = Flying Spaghetti Monster). Of course not, no one "holds their judgement" about the truth value of such a claim. If God is to be unfalsifiable through science, then there will always be that degree of uncertainty, and this why we do not know for sure if God exists or not, but we believe if he does or not.

In summary, Agnosticism is a position about knowledge. Atheism/Theism is a position about belief. The metaphysical claims about God are inherently not able to be known for certainty. This is why agnosticism is a meaningless label.
beem0r

Con

Agnosticism is not a meaningless position.

First, a semantics argument. My opponent himself already established at least two meanings of Agnosticism. Thus, it cannot be considered meaningless.

However, I know what my opponent meant and will argue the actual issue here.

My opponent claims that agnosticism is meaningless because it applies to everyone. Unfortunately for my opponent, there are many people to which Agnosticism cannot be applied.

First, let us realize that agnosticism is not even a default position. Agnosticism is an _explicit_ belief that the issue of god is unknown [and impossible to know]. That means that every person who has not contemplated the issue of whether or not the existence/nature of God is known is automatically NOT an agnostic. One cannot have come to the conclusion that God is unknowable if one has not even considered the question. By this token, 0 babies are agnostics, as are many people who simply haven't bothered thinking about this issue.

So there's some meaning to the term. It at least signifies that its bearer has contemplated the question of knowledge of god.

Now, let me show you even more meaning. Consider that the term does not apply to whether you actually know about god or not, but whether you think it is possible to know. Just as a person who has not considered the issue is not an agnostic, neither is a person who THINKS that they have knowledge of God. Many people think they _know_ that God exists, and these people are not agnostic. I think at least myself and my opponent would agree that they are ignorant, but they are not agnostic. This furthers the meaning we can get from the label - not only does it signify that the bearer has contemplated the issue, but it also signifies that the person has come to the much more rational conclusion that he or she is not capable of knowing the truth about God.

An agnostic atheist is an atheist who believes that he doesn't/can't know for sure whether a god exists, but he doesn't believe in any god.
A non-agnostic atheist would be an atheist who not only doesn't believe in any gods, but also thinks that he or she KNOWS that there are no gods.
An agnostic theist is a person who believes in a god, but also believes that he or she cannot be certain about said beliefs.
A non-agnostic theist is a person who believes in a god, and also believes that he or she KNOWS that this god exists.

So you see, agnostic is far from meaningless as a label. There's a world of difference between the agnostic atheist and the non-agnostic atheist, between the agnostic theist and the non-agnostic theist. A label with such significance is far from meaningless.

I'm fairly certain I've now addressed the entirety of my opponent's points and made a strong case for my side of the resolution.
I await my opponent's reply.
Debate Round No. 1
TheSkeptic

Pro

I would like to apologize in advance for my confusion. I was aiming to argue that an agnostic atheist should be thought of as an atheist, and not with the agnostic addition added to it, or having agnostic as a position independent in itself. I realize that there are theists who believe to have full knowledge that God exists (despite how irrational this is). If my opponent wishes to point this out as a reason to vote against me, then by all means he can do so. I typed my opening argument in high speed (mom making me go to sleep) and realize my error.

I have made the point that an atheist is one who lacks the belief in all the candidates of god proposed thus far. To be able to say with full knowledge that a supernatural entity can be proven to be nonexistent is to be able to say that one has infinite knowledge of the universe. I argue that atheists believe that no postulated deity exists, but for the possibly unmentioned an atheist has no warrant to say on the matter.

By itself, agnosticism is about knowledge, not about belief. One can not will him/herself to not believe whether or not god exists. Our belief is based on the evidence supported, as much as theists want to say on the otherwise. We do not will ourselves to believe otherwise.

At all, agnosticism would probably be only effective at discerning those who are ignorant and those who are not.
beem0r

Con

My opponent clarifies what he meant by this debate, although I have indeed successfully debated the resolution already.

In fact, I have also debated the very point my opponent says he meant to argue. His claim is that "Agnostic Atheist" is exactly the same as saying "Atheist." This is completely wrong.

I concede that it is indeed impossible to know that there is no god without full knowledge of the universe. However, it is not impossible to THINK you KNOW that there is no god. Just as the non-agnostic theist falsely believes he or she KNOWS that there is a god, so too does a non-agnostic atheist falsely believe he or she KNOWS that there is no god. Therefore, there is a distinction between the terms "Atheist" and "Agnostic Atheist."

"Atheist" includes people who think that they know there is no god. "Agnostic Atheist" does not include these people, since to be agnostic, you have to think that you do not [and cannot] know whether there is a god or not.

Agnosticism isn't about whether you actually have knowledge or not. It's about whether you believe that you have knowledge, and whether you think it's even possible for you to have knowledge on the matter of god.

Also, consider that vanilla agnostics exist as well, l people who are neither atheist nor theist [by some definitions]. This requires that we call atheism an explicit belief that there is no god, where theism is the explicit belief that there is.

If someone believes that the chance of a god existing is 100%, then they are a non-agnostic theist.
If someone believes that the chance of a god existing is anything less than 100% and greater than 50%, they are an agnostic theist.
If someone believes that the chance of a god existing is exactly 50% [or does not know whether they think it's less than or greater than 50%], they are an agnostic, and not counted as an atheist or a theist.
If someone believes that the chance of a god existing is less than 50% but greater than 0%, they are an agnostic atheist.
And finally, if someone believes that the chance of a god existing is 0%, they are a non-agnostic atheist.

100% and 0% chances represent thinking you know for sure whether there is a god or not. These are non-agnostic positions. "Agnostic atheist," as I showed last round and this round, is different than "atheist," since "atheist" includes the group of people who believe there is exactly 0% chance of god existing.

And so it is that agnosticism is not a meaningless position, nor a meaningless label when combined with 'atheist.'
Debate Round No. 2
TheSkeptic

Pro

My opponent has made excellent arguments, and I will have to forfeit this debate. My opponent has won this debate, and I praise him for his arguments. I know when I have lost (started this debate too fast) , and I thank my opponent for taking this debate, and teaching me a lil' something along the way. So yeah, sounds stupid, but vote for...CON.
beem0r

Con

To my opponent: Thank you for the praise. Perhaps we will meet again sometime in the future on this battlefield of words.
To everyone else: You heard the man, vote CON.
Debate Round No. 3
7 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Posted by beem0r 8 years ago
beem0r
They're not mutually exclusive; one can be both.
When I want to start conflict, I label myself an atheist. When I want to avoid it, or when I want to avoid having people place certain prejudgments on me, I call myself an agnostic. If I want to confuse people or sound like I know what I'm talking about, I call myself an agnostic atheist. None of these statements is a lie.

Also, many agnostics are theists. Though few of them refer to themselves as agnostics.
Posted by s0m31john 8 years ago
s0m31john
Agnosticism does have a meaning, it means Atheism without balls.
Posted by beem0r 8 years ago
beem0r
It was just odd, since he had 14 points when I had only 20-something or so. Someone changed their vote since then. It was just odd that it was so close, especially when I would assume my opponent didn't even vote for himself, given his statements.
Posted by Mangani 8 years ago
Mangani
Maybe someone agreed with him BEFORE reading the debate. Maybe they thought he had better conduct. Maybe he voted for himself. Who cares?
Posted by beem0r 8 years ago
beem0r
Reason 1 would be that people do not read the entire debate. Reason 2 would be that some people just hate me. Gwahaha.
Posted by Kleptin 8 years ago
Kleptin
Because the little button things are very confusing, apparently.
Posted by s0m31john 8 years ago
s0m31john
TheSkeptic has points why?
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