Buttle's World

14 May, 2008

Neural Buddhism

Filed under: Posts — clgood @ 21:27

David Brooks’ column has sparked a lot of interesting discussion. John Derbyshire got the ball rolling on The Corner with this and posted a reader’s response here.

I particularly liked this analysis by Steven Novella.

What resonated for me personally was his comment responding to a reader who claimed that agnostics are just atheists in denial. I quote Novella’s response liberally here because it perfectly echoes my own reasoning as I arrived at thinking of myself as agnostic rather than atheist. Emphasis is my own.

Here is my position – very briefly. It is important to distinguish between propositions that are false and those that are outside the arena of science. Those ideas that cannot be tested, even in theory, are simply not science, and they are unknowable (I am talking about factual claims, not value judgments).

Unknowable propositions are worse than wrong – they are unnecessary. As I said – deism is unnecessary. That doesn’t mean there is no god – it means that the notion of a god (depending upon how it is conceived, but the basic idea of a being outside the confines of our physical universe and its laws) is simply unknowable. It is simply wrong to say that we can know god does not exist. The only logically consistent position is agnosticism. But you can combine that with the notion that such unfalsifiable claims are unnecessary. If someone chooses to have faith in such a thing, like the FSM, I really don’t care – as long as they keep it pure faith and do not make any logical or empirical claims – that’s cheating.

Regarding the term agnostic – I would rather have the opportunity to explain to people why I am agnostic than to create the other misconception (which is absolutely used as often as possible by believers) that atheists have faith in the non-existence of god. You’re burned either way, and you will have to explain yourself, so don’t shy away from philosophical purism.

Or, in bumper sticker brevity, Militant Agnostic: I don’t know and you don’t either.

Seriously, though, note that the above implies that being an agnostic allows me to co-exist peacefully with faith, even if I don’t share it. I’ll never get into an argument about whether or not god exists, because I don’t think there can even be an argument. That may or may not be a comfort, depending on who you are.

Update:

I forgot to link to this post by Derb.

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1 Comment »

  1. [...] point worth making. Many atheists and, no doubt, many agnostics (where I stand on the difference is here) make the grave error of treating the religious as stupid. I know of some very religious people [...]

    Pingback by Et Tu, NRO? « Buttle’s World — 10 July, 2008 @ 9:19


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