I received a quad chart on Twitter from @GodIsCosmos. If you’ve seen the somewhat popular chart with atheist/theist on one side and agnostic/gnostic on the other, then this other chart is just like it. This one replaces agnostic/gnostic with non-claimant/claimant. It then asserts that agnosticism doesn’t equate to non-claimant because it’s supposed to be a distinct position with it’s own causes and effects. I couldn’t find any more info to try to figure out what that’s trying to say since it doesn’t make much sense. The additional tweets on the subject didn’t help much since they were more convoluted ways to break down beliefs and knowledge.
My reaction to this different quad chart is that the agnostic “lack of knowledge” is the same as being a non-claimant of knowledge. “Lack of knowledge” was even written in the boxes on the non-claimant side. I’ll just expand on what agnosticism means for making claims to work through my thoughts on this as something that adds little value to trying to understand what we know and should believe.
Let’s use the basic theistic question: do you believe in a creator, god, or gods? Answering across the spectrum of “I don’t know,” “that’s unknown,” or “that’s unknowable” results in an answer of “unknown” regardless of why that answer is reached. This viewpoint equates to belief and disbelief like this:
- “Unknown” doesn’t equate to “belief” (theism). Belief implies having knowledge claims (verifiable or not) of a describable “it” to believe in. If “it” isn’t described then it doesn’t exist as a concept to be believed. An unknowing person can’t logically be considered a theist since theism requires belief.
- “Unknown” does equate to “lack of belief” (weak atheism). You have no theistic beliefs if you don’t have any belief claims.
- “Unknown” doesn’t equate to “disbelief” (strong atheism or anti-theism) since disbelief is defined as an active rejection which requires the ability to verify theistic claims are false.
I’ll provide a non-gods example of applied agnosticism. Clear your mind for a moment. Now all you know is that this blog post is some ramblings on the Internet and now the question is simply: what’s my age? If you’re honest about your knowledge, you’d answer that with “I don’t know” or “that’s unknown because I don’t even know who you are.” If you’re not fully honest about the limits of your knowledge then you might try to make some guesses based on what you think you know. You might consider what you think must be impossible answers like 2 or 200. You might wonder what assistance the writer had to write this which would turn a single age question into a false question because there could be various ages of various writers. You might wonder if I meant the age of the person writing this or the age of the post itself. You might even think of advances in Artificial Intelligence and wonder if there is a real person that crafted this nonsense.
Now what do you believe my age is? You still don’t know and any claims of knowledge you make as a basis for your belief is useless for finding out the real truth. All of those thoughts are just fog obscuring reality. You only have guesses to fill that void in your knowledge. The truly honest approach is to admit you don’t really know and remain agnostic concerning the answer until you can find true knowledge. There must be some sort of answer to the question even if the answer is that I’m not real and have no measurable age. Beliefs and disbeliefs are useless to help you answer that question.
Now back to the universe, I’ll bet my “soul” that we may be too simple of a being to ever know the truth about this universe. Is there a beginning to it? If there is, is there something we might consider to be a god or gods involved in that mess? Nobody can really tell you because nobody really knows. Until we do, unknown is the answer.