Wednesday, June 24, 2009
I Say Agnostic ...
John Wilkins has a nice post up about the taxonomies, such as they are, of "atheists" and "agnostics" and why John self-identifies as an agnostic (as do I). John discusses the attempt by atheists to pull, and theists to push, agnostics into the atheist camp via the now popular "definitions" of "strong atheism" and "weak atheism," with agnostics put, rather unflatteringly, the latter category . John traces that distinction to Anthony Flew, a famous (as those things go) philosopher and atheist who has become, in later life, a theist or maybe "just" a deist.
As John says:
So, to summarise, when an atheist says to me I am an atheist because I lack a view, I am minded to reply, "I am also an asportist" for failing to have a team in any sport that I support. It makes about as much sense. Flew's faux etymology is just special pleading. While I agree that there is a presumption that there are no gods for some people, I do not think this is a truth of nature or fact about logic, as some seem to. What counts as the "default" view is a historical contingency, and we have to recognise that. In my history, the burden of proof falls on those who wish to make any kind of knowledge claim one way or the other.
Agnosticism, not theism or atheism, is the default position… for me, at any rate. So I repeat: I am not an atheist. I am myself, and I self-identify as an agnostic.
I, too, am an epistemological agnostic, but for all practical purposes I identify as an atheist.
You are a lawyer, presumably you understand (better than I) the meaning of 'beyond reasonable doubt'.
Shhh! I'll let you in on a secret ... there's no legal definition of the term, only some vague generalities.