excerpt from the article The Agnostic Atheist at The Guardian UK.
His historical inaccuracy aside, however, Huxley’s point remained valid (as the word’s rapid adoption testifies). A-gnosticism was originally a stance against certainty, against those who would admit no doubt, who believed their theism or atheism was incontrovertibly true, and that those who disagreed with them were either damned or irredeemable. In this it was not so much a position as an attitude, a stance of intellectual humility in the face of the most important questions of life; an adjective rather than a noun.
Whether it was an adjective that was appropriate to Huxley himself is somewhat questionable. His account of its creation is apologetic and emollient in a way that the man himself rarely was. Darwin’s Bulldog was not known for his humility or uncertainty.
And that points us to a difficulty with agnosticism. Attitudes are fine but they need to be about something. Adjectives need nouns. If Huxley was indeed an agnostic, he was an agnostic atheist, tending away from the divine but unwilling (so he claimed) to be too dogmatic about it.
Thus understood, we all need a dash of agnosticism – of appropriate intellectual reserve in the face of the big questions. The dogmatic alternative, familiar to us as “fundamentalism”, is neither appealing nor helpful.
But we should not imagine agnosticism is a complete and sufficient metaphysical position. The question is not simply whether you are an agnostic, but what kind of agnostic you are.
Yes, I see that the agnostic label is most often used as an adjective and is usually the reason why atheists see it as a superfluous word with little value. The most proper use of it would be in the pairing of it as ‘agnostic atheist’ as I’ve pointed out many times here. An ‘agnostic theist’ means little since believers rely on faith rather than verifiable knowledge for the basis of their belief, so qualifying theism as not being based on knowledge is rather useless.
Even though ‘agnostic atheist’ is the most logical use of the adjective, I do imagine agnosticism as a complete and sufficient metaphysical position when used as a noun. Agnosticism as a metaphysical position means that knowledge is important in understanding the metaphysical so blind faith is a meaningless replacement for a lack of knowledge. We must be honest in our beliefs and ability to understand the metaphysical. Between theism and atheism as the only choices, atheism is the only logical choice for the agnostic as a noun to pair with the agnostic adjective.
However, I do not believe atheism is the final answer since it is merely a rejection of theism. The atheist noun doesn’t properly answer for me the big questions of existence. Why does this Universe exist if there is a reason why? How did it come to be if there was a cause for it? Was there even an event we would call creation that put into motion everything I see around me today?
The theists believe in the idea of supernatural creation and give the cause a name and persona of some sort. The theist’s supernatural creator ranges from a very human-like god with thoughts and emotions like ours to a very general view of the Universe itself as the god such as in pantheism. The theists tend to worship and revere their supernatural cause of existence.
Atheism, in rejecting theism and its various definitions of a supernatural creator for our existence, logically rejects the idea of supernatural creation. Any atheist that rejects all theistic beliefs must say they reject the supernatural creation concept in total, since they are completely without theism. The atheist must believe in a natural creation or no creation at all with their atheistic cosmological position.
Agnosticism holds that the answer to the question of creation is that we do not know and possibly cannot know the nature of creation. Creation could have a natural cause, supernatural cause, or may not even be an event in our existence. We do not have the knowledge or proof for cause so any claim that it is a natural cause or uncaused must be seen as a false claim. Likewise, any claims in regards to the belief in a supernatural cause must also be seen as a false claim.
Ultimately one of the cosmological viewpoints does have to be true in the end, but without the knowledge of that truth the Agnostic (as a proper noun, not adjective) stands for the ideal that the metaphysical is unknown to us and is possibly inherently unknowable. Agnosticism simply says that we know nothing of what may be beyond physical existence, whereas atheism and theism both attempt to take a stance on certain metaphysical concepts with the most profound concept being their beliefs concerning creation.