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Do you understand that there is a difference between the claims "I believe A" and "I know A"? Do you understand that the sign a snappy but utterly vacuous catchphrase?

J writes:

Do you understand that the sign a snappy but utterly vacuous catchphrase? writes:

ag�nos�tic (Äg-nÅs'tÄk) - noun
1. ...
2. a person who denies or doubts the possibility of ultimate knowledge in some area of study.

Not that vacuous.

OK, folks, here's how it goes: 1. It is not my bumper sticker. 2. It is not my photo. 3. I am not militant about anything. 4. I am, however, an agnostic.

The argument goes like this: There are two types of reasoning: inductive and deductive. Absolute proof is possible only with deductive reasoning. Deductive reasoning is only reliable if you know that you have accounted for all pertinent facts. You can never be sure you have collected all pertinent facts. Therefore, you can never be absolutely sure of anything. Q.E.D.

Dude, thats awesome.

That does not mean your idea is as good (useful,explanatory,satisfactory) as mine. Would you at least say that the idea with the most "accounted for ... pertinent facts" is the better idea, at least provisionally?

If there are 0 facts for idea A, and 10 facts in support of idea B, are you agnostic? If 1 more fact is accumulated in favor of B, are you less agnostic?

Are you agnostic that the language you are reading right now is actually english? Maybe its some other language that just happens to look like english.

First off, I like the bumper sticker. I got the joke and was thoroughly amused. I think most religious-types will thoroughly miss the joke however, since many of them fail to recognize exactly what agnostic means.

Now, I do disagree with you about your argument on deductive reasoning. You can have all the pertinent facts on a proof if what you're proving is relatively simple. Is there a god? We can't answer that question with the facts at hand (or any amount of facts, in fact). Does specific named deity as defined exist? This is a particular case, and based on the definition by the religion, one could easily argue a proof by contradiction.

By Brian Thompson (not verified) on 24 Apr 2007 #permalink

I've become something of a self-taught student of philosophy, especially in regard to the philosophy of mind.
The whole business of "beliefs" from a philosophic perspective remains for me a very nebulous. Usually when someone says, "I believe...." it seems there is no rational thought process involved. Believing in God, life on other planets, life after death, all of these have no credible information from which to make a decision, so belief turns out to be a way of creating an artificial mental shortcut. The shortcut then begins to substitute for fact or combine with other shortcuts to develop even less rational beliefs.
But in the end I have an agnosticism about agnosticism. Tearing down or attempting to tear down other people's beliefs can become something of a belief system of its own, something in the way that the militant atheism we saw many years ago was pursued with a religious fervor.