Thursday, April 28, 2011

On taking a position

Somewhere in my blog-reading career--I think it was on a thread at the Volokh Conspiracy or at the League of Ordinary Gentlemen, although I don't remember exactly--one commenter wrote that atheism and theism were not "arguments," but positions that one takes. I think I agree, and I would add (heck, I will add) that agnosticism can/should be viewed in the same light. What I mean is, that each of these ism's takes a certain position for which it tries to argues or through which it processes evidence. (I am using "it" as a shorthand for those who believe in the athe- / agnostic- / the-ism). Here are the essential positions I see each ism taking:
  • Atheism: there is no god.
  • Agnosticism: it is impossible to know if there is a god or the jury's still out on whether there is a god.
  • Theism: there is a god.
Now, this brief summary of positions leaves unanswered and undefined certain terms and questions: what kind of "god" are we talking about? what does one mean by "know"? who is sitting on the jury?

There are facts and arguments in support of each of these positions, and I tend to believe that these positions are not so hard and fast. Most atheists I have known, even the strident, proselytizing ones, admit that it's logically possible that a god of some sort might exist and that there might come a day where they might be proved wrong. Many theists I have known, although not necessarily the proselytizing ones, admit, on some level, that they might be wrong. Agnostics, perhaps by definition, seem to admit of the possibility of knowing one way or the other.

I am basing the preceding assertion based on what people of "goodwill" who take these positions would say. ("Goodwill" is a hard thing to define, and I'm not even a Kantian! I imagine that by "goodwill" I mean some question-begging definition that identifies "goodwill" as being willing to acknowledge discomfirming evidence.)
tend to believe that knowledgeable and curious people of goodwill who take such positions will acknowledge the discomfirming facts and arguments as well as the ones that tend to confirm the argument.

I'm not sure where I'm going with these thoughts, but I thought I'd put them out there.

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