June 16th, 2009
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Nice use of language Author. Implausible, not impossible. The confidence, not the belief, is unjustifiable.
Definitely more the language of an agnostic, not an atheist.
Nice to include the “shrill” word after Ophelias’ ordeal. Why are they side by side at the urinals? All well versed in “western” etiquette would put a urinal between users if possible. Seems like they are side by side too much anyways…..
Agnostic and Atheist aren’t exclusive positions – you can be one, both or neither.
Theism/Atheism is a question of belief – do you believe in god, or not believe (and not believing doesn’t necessarily imply that you profess belief that god doesn’t exist, just that you lack belief)
Gnostic/Agnostic is a question of whether you claim to _know_ what you believe, as opposed to believing without being certain. An agnostic atheist lacks belief in god, but isn’t certain (“soft” atheism) whereas a gnostic atheist would say they are certain that god doesn’t exist (“hard” atheism)
What standard you hold to be necessary to claim knowledge is another argument though, truly perfect certainty is unattainable so in some sense we should all be agnostic, but we naturally claim to know all kinds of things without perfect certainty, and in the same sense I feel I can ‘know’ that there is no god in the same way as I ‘know’ there are no unicorns. Actually I’d sooner admit the possibility of unicorns…
“Gnostic” doesn’t get used so often as “Agnostic” because it’s also the name of a branch of Christianity, but ignoring that and going by the root words yields the definitions above.
If the barmaid was male, he would be “close-minded” instead of “shrill”. That’s their hole card when confronted with skepticism; “you atheists should be nicer”.
Not going to happen…
I sometimes point out that I don’t have to memorize every episode of the Dukes of Hazzard to be confident that Daisy Duke is fictional.
Isn’t this the second J&Mo shout out to Ophelia in recent weeks? I think Author might rather have set his cap at her… 🙂 And I think that’s lovely
Did anyone read Alistair McGrath’s “Dawkins Delusion”? It was utterly pathetic. The arugment was almost identical to the one above with a couple of minor refinements.
“Argument” 1) “Look I know a bit of biology, really I do”
“Argument” 2) “Why are you being so mean?!”
Its what the theist movement has been trying to do ever since we got off our knees and started asking questions- defining God as out of reach of the arguments of philosopers and biologists. They can manage it- but only at the expense of making God utterly irrelevant to the point where one can actually say that it makes no difference whether God exists or not. It is hilarious to say this to theists and watch the look on their faces.
I find it a curious twist that power struggles amongst the multitude of early Christian sects resulted in the Gnostics being declared heretical. To my mind, then the successful sects identified themselves as not-Gnostic and all Christians today who trace back through the Nicene Council are aGnostics.
Trivial word play aside, what does come out of looking at the early history of Christianity and Islam is how arbitrary so many bits of modern dogma are.
The success or failure of one obscure man playing power politics in Nicea 1700 years ago determines how the concept of an implausible triune god has to be promulgated. An Imam dies without a son to inherit and now Shi’a kill Sunni.
Strident, too. Dear oh dear.
Dear oh dear, Ophelia, indeed. Women are strident; men are firm. Women are pushy and aggressive; men persuade and lead. Men know what they are doing; women are dogmatic. Strong men are pit bulls; strong women are . . . well, we all know how far this goes.
Existence is nature. Supernature cannot exist; if some such strangeness were to appear in the world, it would be nature. The universe came about, and continues, under natural law. Do people really believe some supernatural power spoke out and made all this stuff, including history? You know, that is just absurd. And quaint. And funny. Oh, and had She been a Goddess, it would be “In the beginning was the yap yap yap.”
Poor Richard says, “Show me a religious belief that is not a superstition and I’ll lend you an ear.”
An excellent description of the two words. Ive repeated it often enough.
Im starting to realize that English, all languages really, are constantly changing. Nothing is static.
According to the dictionary, you and I are correct about the definitions of these two controversial words. The colloquial meaning for agnostic, a wishy washy atheist, has become a real alternative meaning for the word. As our language evolves, I expect our definitions will become anachronistic.
Change over time, its not just for biologic organisms. I’ve come to the conclusion that we are going to have to accept this new definition of agnostic. Perhaps we will even have to start capitalizing it.
Can I impose on my fellow rational, humanists and have you cast your vote supporting gay marriage in Australia?
This poll is also being pushed by Salt Shakers; a Christian, anti-science, anti-choice organisation based in Melbourne. Please help fight the prejudice.
Author, I apologise if this is considered spamming, but it seemed like an issue this audience may be interested in.
Poor richard, I agree in almost everything you say, however, I must say that in my opinion you trust a little too much in the laws of nature. After all, laws of physics themselves propose something that would make all science irrelevant.
As you may (or may not) have heard, it is now believed that the universe has 10 dimensions (or 11, if you count zero). I sugest you watch the “imagining the tenth dimension” video from youtube, which explains it in a very elegant and simle way that is really nice for us, the not-physicist people (about 99.9999% of the world population, i’d say)
Now, as that video concludes, a 10-dimensional universe “have” ALL posible histories for every imaginable universe, meaning, there would be infinite big bangs, each one wich its own set of natural laws and its own initial conditions, and each of those big bangs would branch into infinite different universes…meaning there are like infinite infinite unverses or something like that.
The point is, if there are infinite universes, then there are infinite universes that have this very instant in some point…which means we can’t really know in which universe we are, as there are infinite posiblities, we should asume thar ALL posibilities are possible, even the craziest ones (some time ago we talked about this here, but with a more philosophical aproach, and someone said something about blood sucking unicorns popping out of my computer…which is a possible event in infinite of the infinite universes in which we might be living)
The urinal thing is just wrong! Anyone with a penis knows that in a 5 stall urinal (for example), the correct occupation order is 5,1,3,4,2.
Don’t be checkin’ out my junk, Jeebers! 😛
Even in 11 dimensions, the forces of nature are responsible for all that exist within them.
Blood sucking unicorns would only appear on in a universe without them, and even then under the 11 dimensions theory can be explained naturally.
I have to agree with P. Richard. All things have a natural explanation. Whether or not human minds will ever be able to comprehend them all is open to debate. 🙂
Sorry, “…appear on in a universe…” should read, “…appear odd in a universe…”.
What happened to the edit function?
DonR, the thing is that in an 11-dimensional universe, EVERY POSSIBLE History of the universe is possible, some with the same laws of nature. This means there are infinite universes which have this instant at some point…but the might be entirely different to what we consider “our” universe…in infinite universes, my computer would implode unleashing unicorns, in other infinite worlds, Im King of Mexico…In infinite, there is magic, in infinite, there isn’t…everything is possible, if you think 11-dimensionally
I have no idea whether string theory will turn out to be a useful model of the universe- at the moment I believe it makes no testable predictions? Even if it is true, so what? An infinite universe does not imply that everything is present in it, not even everything that is logically possible. The set of natural numbers is infinite but the set of natural numbers does not contain unicorns. More widely, an infinite universe could only contain that which is logically possible. An all-knowing, all-powerful all-loving God cannot logically co-exist with evil. Therefore it cannot exist in any universe.
Most atheists ARE agnostic!
Also, how is the belief justifiable?
Thank you Daoloth. Even more simply, I would suggest a being which is all-knowing and all-powerful is a logical impossibility. I think I may have mentioned this before.
The old “can God make a stone too heavy for him to lift” angle certainly casts doubt on whether the notion of all powerful is meaningful
Um, I’m no mathematician, but, while 11 dimensions certainly allows for a lot of options, it seems to me that it’s not infinite. Or, to put it another way, One dimension (say, length) can be infinite, how is 11 dimensions be any different?
The Infinite-worlds theory isn’t new (ever see the show sliders?) but I don’t see how that has any bearing on anything — at least until such time as we’re able to travvel between universes. I was told of a conversation a man was having with his wife — if there were infinite universes and, in another universe, he was with another woman, would she be jealous? It’s an idiotic question because if there are infinite universes then there are more where he’s with someone else than there are where he’s with her. (Heck, there would be plenty where he’s alone or gay or does penguins at the zoo.) But none of that matters because all we have is this universe.
It’s fine to daydream about a universe where we’re a super-spy saving the world on a daily basis, but when it comes down to it, we’re still just cobol jockeys in a C# world.
I’m not talknig about an infinite universe, Im talking about multiple universes that are actually the same…You should watch the “Imagining the tenth dimension” animation in youtube, its beatuifully explained there. A tenth or eleventh dimensional universe would be all of the possible histories for all the possible universes…not all with the same laws of physics…and in infinite of those infinite universes, there’d be an instant just like this…but only one of those universes is the one we call “real”…
Urinal 3 was occupied when the boys came in (God was here, there and everywhere, obviously), forcing J & M to stand uncomfortably close to one another. It is clear from the pic that Mo is very well endowed – how else would he reach the urinal, which appears to be level with his sternum?
…that, and in more specific relation to the above, a being which knows everything, cannot change anything. If there a ‘god’ who knows everything about the universe, he could not have any power to alter anything in it – if he could change anything, then his ‘knowledge’ would obviously have been wrong in the first place. The concept of a being which is omni*whatever* smacks of a human desire for there to be an absolute power, expressed by people of limited reasoning ability.
Your definition of atheist is wrong roodbooy. An atheist is someone who does not believe in god(s); he does not claim a god is impossible.
In practice, as soon as you start to define god, in many cases it will be shown to be impossible, but you don’t know that until you ascribe attributes to it.
Atheism and agnosticism are independent.
You can be a gnostic theist: “I know God exists.”
You can be an agnostic theist: “I can’t know for certain whether God exists, but I believe he does.”
You can be an agnostic atheist: “I can’t know for certain whether God exists, but I believe he doesn’t.”
Or you can be a gnostic atheist: “I know God doesn’t exist.”
Personally, I’m somewhere between the latter two. I know that the deity of the Abrahamic religions (that’d be God/YHWH/Allah) doesn’t exist. I don’t know for certain whether a deity exists, but, given the current evidence, I’m willing to bet any potential afterlife on its nonexistence.
No. Without sufficient barriers (walls, at least eyes to knees) between the urinals, the proper order of occupation is 5, 1, 3, wait for one to open up. 2 and 4 are only to be used in dire circumstances.
Mateo- I watched it- its string theory. Very pretty. However I don’t think it follows that “everything is possible if you think 11-dimensionally” even assuming that I can think that way. The animation certainly makes me feel a lot cleverer than I actually am.
At one point I was going “yeah…I get it…the 9th dimension folded through the 10th would just seem lke a dimensionless point from which I could move instantaneously through Hilbert space…” until I caught myself and realised that I was not actually able to imagine any of this at all. I am not competent to pronounce on string theory. People I know who have CHAIRS in string theory are not competent to pronounce on it (Their own words, not kidding). However, I don’t think it gets you “everything”. It’s not a magic Narnia with wardrobes to everything you dreamed of- its a way to try to make sense of the oddness of sub-atomic physics by conceptualising particles as vibrations. Whether it helps is beyond me. However- whether it gets you God is a diferent matter. It doesn’t just conjure up all possible worlds, but even if it did the question of whether God is possible in any world would still remain.
And even if there were something underneath all the piles of theological mumbo-jumbo that could ever answer to the description of deity it sure as hell would not be the obviously human psychopathic under-achiever of the bible or the Koran.
Speculating about infinite universes and 10p will get you a cup of coffee. Only after you adjust for inflation, though.
Just because we have no access, physically or logically, to alternate universes doesn’t mean we should be using them as havens for gods as Science closes gap after gap in this one.
I think there are several scenarios consistent with
the observed state of the n-stall with n=5. We should
recall that Author’s snapshot shows it at a
single instant, whereas its occupancy pattern
(i) J is at 1, Mo has just arrived at 2, but since
Mo’s arrival, L Ron Hubbard finished at 3 (4 and 5
were initially occupied by Joseph Smith and Moses but
the latter two sanitary facilities’ current state of
occupancy is not known to us as Author was not using a
(ii) Moses found the bathroom empty so went to 5,
and J went to 1. Then Mo arrived and went for
2 instead of 3 perhaps remembering:
quote: “You can be a gnostic theist: “I know God exists.””
Please, do make a quick search on ‘gnostic’ and ‘gnosticism’ before misusing those words, Ben.
quote: “Gnostic” doesn’t get used so often as “Agnostic” because it’s also the name of a branch of Christianity, but ignoring that and going by the root words yields the definitions above.
Please, don’t ignore that. The gnostic heresy is currently the proper meaning for ‘gnostic’, and bears no comparison with being “anti-agnostic”, much like inflammable is not the opposite of flammable.
I read an article recently that tried to explain our senses, and it focused on smell. There are only 300 and sum odd different “smell” receptors in the lining of the nose. So how could there be so many different smells? The article when on to explain that sub-atomic forces which can in theory have several multiple physical attributes associated with it giving rise to the plethora of possible smells. Does this mean we should be able to smell “God”. Also Johnny and yourself and me I guess get the whole string theory, multiverse, infinite possiblity, thing not being more than more of the same universe we already can’t explain. Can’t wait to cease existing so I don’t have to listen to any more “possibilities”…….(holding breath)…..
“Gnostic” as a proper noun is not synonymous with “gnostic” as an adjective.
The only dictionary I found that would support the claim that gnostic is the opposite of agnostic, is the Oxford English Dictionary, with the “nonce-use” caveat.
b. nonce-use. Believing in the reality of transcendental knowledge; opposed to agnostic.
1888 R. FLINT in Mind XIII. 596 Idealism is not necessarily either gnostic or agnostic, but is more apt to be the former than the latter.
As for the definition ‘possessing esoteric knowledge’, it is completely possible to have esoteric ‘knowledge’ of the influence of stars on our destiny, while doubting the existence of God, thus being a gnostic agnostic.
Here is the official test to see whether or not you know which urinal to choose. I actually got all of them right the first time I played. I know, I know but please limit the length of your replied congratulations, adulations etc.
This new heirarchical posting is all well and good but it makes it very difficult to see where the latest posts are. Is there a way we can choose to sort them by time?
Let’s have all the universes we want. Let’s try to understand as much as we can. Let’s rejoice in the great beauty and delight the cosmos has for us. But to add in an invisible omnipotent deity is still nonsense–what can be SUPER-natural? “Star Trek” answers are just as sensible. I get all the mystery I can handle right here.
Daoloth: “Under-achiever” cool. sv Woody A who agrees. String theory? Fun. It is time for a rereading of the late Kurt Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle.”
Poor Richard has said ere now: sure, there are miracles. Here are a few I’ve witnessed: the Detroit River now supports great fishes–
smallmouth bass, muskies, salmonoids. When I was in college at Western Michigan, you bathed in Lake Michigan at your own risk; now the tastiest salmon and steelhead live there and even swim up the Kalamazoo River (yuk–don’t eat those). I have a photograph of a daughter standing on the other side of the rubble of the Berlin Wall. I survived a deadly disease and shouldn’t have. My partner in life survived Santo Tomas Internment Camp (she’s still skinny, 67 years later. Two things I want before I die: stars in the 3-D universe visible again, and a credible unified theory (though I won’t understand it, it’d be nice to know it’s there, just to get things started).
OK–gotta go call in my vampire unicorns; they’ve been out all night, and God knows ….
From the man who coined the term, this quote, “So I took thought, and invented what I conceived to be the appropriate title of “agnostic.” It came into my head as suggestively antithetic to the “gnostic” of Church history, who professed to know so much about the very things of which I was ignorant. To my great satisfaction the term took.”
-Huxley, Thomas. Collected Essays. pp. 237–239.
As Revyloution says, the history of a word and logic do not determine its latter meaning. It is usage that does that. Aykavil and I could argue the best use of the word for a month and likely make no difference at all to what is found in the dictionaries a decade hence.
Go poke around Wiki’s Agnosticism article for a pretty good background and links associated with the concept.
I think “agnositic” takes because it strikes some people as reasonable-by which I mean, in the British sense, compromising.
Brits, for reasons that are sometimes hard to fathom, think that the words “The truth lies somewhere in between” are sentiments of the highest wisdom. This is what you can expect of a nation that is politically monarchist and republican, religiously catholic and protestant all simultaneously.
For people who actually give a shit about truth the words “the truth lies somewhere in between” should be a rallying call to violence, of course.
Why the hell should the truth track our sensibilties and desires to get along?
I submit that this is why “agnostic” gets air-play. Even Bill Maher tried it in religulous, which is why the movie was a disappointment.
What do people think?
In the eye we have three types of colour receptor yet we can see millions of different colours – we have 3 dimensional colour vision. I’d say smell works in a similar way. Imagine that… A 300 dimensional smelliverse
Maybe Mo was using the one for little boys.
This discussion about urinals is fascinating. Go on.
hey, its the last time I bring this up, really…I just want to say a few things:
About the video: Im not stupid, I know that because some guy put a nice video in youtube everything it says is true (I mean…if I was like that, I’d be Christian), I just think its a very interesting way to aprcoach the “multiple universes” thing in a more scientific aspect…
Now, someone said something about the show “sliders”: I’ve heard about the show but never watched it…I don’t really like the “parallel universes” sci-fi, because it usually takes it to “parallel earths” with people exactly the same, etc. and thats like 1 of the infinite posiblities…I mean, did the sliders ever landend in universes were there was no earth or no breathable atsmosphere or something?? Well, i don’t really know…
And, at last: The point of all the “multiverse” talk was to try and convince someone that if it is even remotely possible, then everything is possible, as it would be “remotely possible that everything is possible”…
Well, anyway, I promess i won’t bring this up again…but if someone else does, Ill be glad to talk about it…
Yes, I find that’s a problem.
Okay, I’ll bite. Multiverses being possible doesn’t even come close to meaning that everything is possible. Everything possible means that in one universe I died right now. And in another now. And in yet another next tuesday at 1am and 1pm and every instance in between and in a whole ‘nother set of universes, Olivia Newton-John knocks on my door at each of those times. (and in a very cruel set I die right after opening the door at each instant.) That truly does mean infinite.
Unless you’re going to filter some of those? How do you do that, then? Only allow ONJ to show up during the daytime? Assume it’s bloody unlikely she’d show up at all? Filter out all the ones without Jesus? If you eliminate any, you have to eliminate all of them, except for the one for which we have evidence — this one.
Re Sliders: Started out good, went downhill pretty quick. They never did end up in a missing-earth universe because that would have killed them (and the show) — which wouldn’t have been a bad idea once John Rhys-Davies left.
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Actually there has been research in the urinal scenario, and it is actually 3, 1, 5 (where 1 is closer to the door). Really, research.
At my work, 1, 5, 3, wait. (1 is behind the corner besides the door).
A Venn diagram showing the overlap amongst a/gnostisc and a/thesim combinations.
First of all: I like to wipe that last drop so I don’t use urinals, I go to stall.
Now that that’s out we must discuss third category of non-religious people: ignostics.(1)
Here in Finland I find that most young non-religious people are ignostics. They really don’t even want to talk about god if you don’t define what you mean. The question of belief(2) or non-belief is meaningless when we don’t define terms.
(1) There is also fourth non-religious group: those who are ignorant of god. But that’s not what’s happening in Finland.
(2) About belief: My capability to believe is almost infinite and I can believe in anything: if you say it’s true I can believe in it.(3)
(3) Do I is totally a different kettle of fish.
I love the way this is at *least* as much about the way men (often) respond in arguments with more intelligent women, as it is about the religion thing.
haven’t you guys ever been on the town with a friend, and at some stage of the night, you end up continuing your conversation on the way to the jacks and naturally you piss side by side, continuing said conversation. There’s nothing weird about that. (FWIW I’d go as far away from any stranger as possible.)