Here's my take on it.
Agnosticism is illogical and refutes itself. Agnosticism and agnostics characterize God as unknowable, ineffable, incomprehensible to all attempts to understand him. This doctrine is self-refuting. The agnostic is making a knowledge claim about what he/she claims is unknowable. How do agnostics know that God is unknowable if he is unknowable ? How do they even know that God's existence cannot be disproved if God is unknowable, or that God even exists if he is unknowable ? To claim any attribute for God is knowledge and claims to know this unknowable God possesses certain attributes. That's a logical contradiction, and any being containing two incompatible attributes cannot possibly exist. So one need not resort to agnosticism. He/she would be justified in not believing in that God if the concept of it contradicts itself in any way. One is justified in accepting and adopting the atheist position.
Oh goody, more nit-picking about definitions. At least this debate is a spirited one.
The Wikipedia definition (I know, I know, it's lame and not accepted by everyone...ok, you find one that everyone agrees upon) states "the view that the existence or non-existence of any deity is unknown and possibly unknowable." I would say that certain definitions of agnosticism are illogical. I've seen definitions whereby the existence of god "is unknowable", not just "possibly unknowable". I would be the first to argue that statement is illogical. How exactly does one know what is unknowable? Maybe we should find the limits of the limitless, the largest number you personally can ever imagine, or perhaps go back to debating angels congregating on pinheads. I'm with you there.
What does it do however if you change that to "Possibly unknowable". As a practical matter, that's quite useless but accepting it's inclusion within the definition has an absolutely astounding impact on the meaning of the word agnostic.
What exactly is wrong with that definition? Let's reverse that statement instead and see how many people can demonstrate that deities do not exist. I'll grant one thing. Even if a god does exist, but chooses to remain hidden, you’ll have just as easy a time of it. That's not really good enough though. Because the positive atheist claims knowledge, they must eliminate all uncertainty. They must demonstrate a god does not and cannot exist. They must cover all the bases, with every possible definition of, type and character of god. I realize there are many people today who just must have an answer "RIGHT NOW" but that doesn't mean they're going to get one. No more than throwing a tantrum, demanding to know every sub atomic particle "RIGHT NOW" is going to get them anywhere.
Furthermore, I would suggest the proof must be one that demonstrates logically (for all possibilities) or from personal experience. That means one does not have the option of listing large quantities of people, including celebrities who also have never met god. That would be hearsay and will be considered inadmissible. A majority vote regarding the existence of the Higgs particles isn’t going to have an impact on its existence so why should it hold sway over god.
What if there were a god who chose to forever remain hidden? If I were omnipotent and I wanted a permanent vacation, I’d probably design a self contained universe, the limits of which could not, or would not, be breached. That way I could laugh when the inhabitants smugly claimed their “science” would one day find me. Ha! They forgot I was omniscient and omnipotent again. They keep thinking I play by their rules. Don't they understand I AM the matrix?
The agnostic is not weakly hiding behind the lack of proofs, desperately grasping at straws in the hope there might be a god. They're just being honest. They don’t have any more proof than anyone else. The difference is they’re open about the degree of knowledge they possess. In the end, the agnostic stands with the atheist, lacking a belief in god(s). They just have a better grasp as to why they’re at the party. There's no reason to feel threatened by agnosticism.
It is not a weakness to state you do not know the answer to something. It is a weakness we refer to as “hubris” to insist you know something when you do not. The worst science, by the way, is hubristic.
As I see it, the major problem is with the definitions. To be useful, the definitions and/or usages of both agnosticism and atheism must be refined. To be useful, and compatible, agnosticism must be a statement regarding knowledge with atheism being a position taken with respect towards the “belief” in a deity. The key word in that last sentence is “belief”. If one wants their atheism to go beyond the lack of belief in a deity, one should look to other better fitting words or phrases such as anti-theism or perhaps omniscience. I can only speak for myself but I suspect few would think of themselves as omniscient.
"What if there were a god who chose to forever remain hidden? If I were omnipotent and I wanted a permanent vacation, I’d probably design a self contained universe, the limits of which could not, or would not, be breached. That way I could laugh when the inhabitants smugly claimed their “science” would one day find me. Ha! They forgot I was omniscient and omnipotent again. They keep thinking I play by their rules. Don't they understand I AM the matrix?"
But you still have not considered a monotheist God with all three attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence. Such a God could not remain hidden to science. An evil god could possibly exist, though I do not believe one does. Such a god as that might derive sadistic pleasure from remaining hidden while he/she watched on at all the evil and suffering he/she caused.
Gnosticism and agnosticism are about knowledge and certainty.
Theist and atheist are about believing.
And since the terms are not opposite, I am both. An agnostic and a strong atheist also.
Being a scientist (biochemist/molecular biology, PhD) I do value what I “know” much, much, higher than what I believe. That is why, when asked, I prefer to define myself as an agnostic.
Although I believe with almost 100% certainty that there is not metaphysical or supernatural anything, that word in front of the 100%, “almost”, is what prevent me from declaring myself a “gnostic atheist”, although I should say that I will love to be able to do so. Unfortunately no one is.
As I said in an earlier post, not even Richard Dawkins is a hundred percent certain some kind of God does not exist. But he does rule out a monotheistic god who is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent. Dawkins does not believe in any of these other kinds of gods either, but he can't rule them out with one hundred percent certainty. But he also cannot rule out with one hundred percent certainty leprechauns or fairies, the loch ness monster and big foot. Does that mean leprechauns could possibly exist ? My answer is no.
You just make my point. I can’t either refuse the existence of leprechauns, fairies, loch ness monsters, big foot, pink invisibles unicorns, Bertrand Russell’s teapots, or anything else. But in a discussion with believers you have to be honest. Once you jump from a 99.999999999% certainty to 100% certainty without a convincing proof you fail. Let them fail first, they will anyhow.
So your “My answer is no” answer, is based on your belief not on your knowledge. That is the point I was trying to make.
Actually cosmology and quantum mechanics put forth several scenarios that violate no laws of physics on how the universe can come into existence spontaneously from nothing. No Creator is needed.
It's like this Jaime:
This community was built for atheists or nontheists. Not just atheists of a certain ilk, but for anyone who lack God belief, strong atheist, weak atheist, agnostic atheist, and gnostic atheist. What's wrong with my being a gnostic atheist ? So I claim to my own satisfaction that I know, given what we know about science at this time that there is no God. That could change, but for now I'm a gnostic atheist. This is not a community for winning converts.
Anthony, I see nothing wrong with your being a gnostic atheist.
While knowing that dictionaries differ, I hope you'll tell me how the dictionary you use defines gnostic.
I use NOAD, the New Oxford American, which defines gnosticism as a prominent heretical movement of the 2nd-Century Christian Church, partly of pre-Christian origin. [Its] doctrine taught that the world was created and ruled by a lesser divinity, the demiurge, and that Christ was an emissary of the remote supreme divine being, esoteric knowledge (gnosis) of whom enabled the redemption of the human spirit.
I use the term gnostic on the basis of the root meaning of gnosis. Simply to know. What I mean by that is not that a god doesn't exist, since I am a fallible human. I could be wrong. But I've done enough study, research, and given the matter enough thought, that I feel satisfied that I (personally with no reflection on anyone else) know that there is no God.
Right now I'm reading Lawrence M. Krauss' A Universe From Nothing. So far it is an amazing book. I'll tell you what I think after I've read the whole thing.
Anthony, I agree, Lawrence M. Krauss' "A Universe From Nothing" is an outstanding read.
I very much like this answer:
"Laplace said it, Hawking said it, and many others, and I agree with them: god is not necessary."
~ Loren Miller