Up@dawn 2.0

Thursday, February 9, 2012

An Agnostic's Hat

I haven’t heard many expressly agnostic voices so far in the discussion, so I’m throwing my hat into the ring. I admit that I am much less ‘learned’ than those who are usually talking/posting, and I don’t mean to divert the discussion with non-pertinent ramble, but I’ve read everything that’s been asked of me yet still can’t shake these feelings of confusion… I hope that somebody will reply to this to at least explain to me why I am still so ignorant on these matters. Please excuse this cathartic rant…

I have long been compelled to dismiss the never-ending arguments of the atheist (though I am far from a theist myself) based on my elemental understanding of what exactly it is like to be alive. I have no problem with a person not believing in God, as I myself have no reason to believe in one. But it seems like an entirely different subject matter when a person is so ardently expressing a non-belief in something that it most explicitly becomes a belief in itself [to say that there is no empirical evidence for aliens is not adequate proof that there is no intelligent life outside of our planet, if we held those same standards to all ideas than black holes would cease to exist, and thus our basic understandings of the universe, based on Einstein’s general relativity theory, would fold in on itself]. To believe in something “that is not” seems no different, to me, than not believing in something “that is” (this understanding is based on the fact that neither side of the issue has ever been rightly proven, thus could not hold a premise of certainty, and so must concede the same presumptions to the other side that it expects of itself.) If you follow either argument into its core, you indelibly end up in a muddled area where nothing is certain- and at this point of unknowing, I see no reason to zealously rail against imagination (it forever becomes a circular straw man argument for me if you do). Which really gets me to the point that Jamie spawned in me to put across with his last post about the South Park episode… What are humans to do?? God or not, we fight. We discriminate. We act erratically. We kill without regard as long as it is complacent to our will. God is the classic scapegoat for any action. But to think that the death of God will kill injustice is so imprudent that I inevitably always find myself siding with Trey Parker and Matt Stone on the “accomadationalist” side of the argument…. I’m asked to either except a belief in something that may or not be there, or asked to expel a belief in something that may or not be there… either way, I guess its safe to say that I don’t really care what you decide, because I know that it’s not certain, and that it doesn’t really solve any problems at all. Destroy religion if you like, it makes no difference to me, but just be prepared for the inevitable inquisitive blowback of why there is still “evil” in this world (my prediction is you will come up with some excuse that is really not so different than what those damned theists imagined). Because the atheist (stripped of a moral compass to defy) will have a hard time explaining why there is still so much human nature left in a nature filled with so many humans. To assume that bigotry, prejudice, oppression, and undeserved killing will go away when God does is to completely misunderstand what the function of “God” has served throughout the course of human history. Perhaps H(h)e is just an excuse, or justification, for immoral human behavior. That still in now way explains why humans behave the way they do. Say the atheist is right, that man did create God. Then man created God with the personality that is explicit in the writings that they stridently rail against. God is unfair, mean, homophobic, sexist, racist, jealous, and down right immature at times. If the atheist is right, then I am no longer concerned with God’s personality, because H(h)e does not exist. I am much more worried about the Man that would claim that his creator wants him to proliferate such sentiments. Fine, it is conceded - God did not tell Man to oppress women, kill children, or burn heretics, but some other living Man most certainly did. And the atheist, in his never-ending (admittedly) frivolous conquest of this non-existent being, seems to completely ignore the fact that this was Man who decided that this immoral behavior should be passed down to posterity. This is where the atheist/humanist ideal becomes an undeniable paradox for me… so much faith in Man, while (if the atheist is correct) it is Man Himself who passed down these very depraved behaviors to the future generations. Does the humanist really think that those who passed down these lessons believed they were wrong? How does the humanist not know he is not passing down the same well-intentioned dogmas? My point: your fix is not with “God”, but with the inherent nature within yourself that you see expressed in others.


  1. Thanks for the "rant," it's a good opportunity to clarify some points and it's very timely for me: my colleagues and I took our Religious Studies candidate out to dinner last night, and at one point there in the Maple Street Grill a fairly heated discussion between three of us broke out over the question of just how cocksure an atheist ought to be.

    My claim: to declare oneself an atheist is really a very modest statement, though it's often mistaken for brazen arrogance. Many agnostics take it that way, and occasionally get mad about it.

    But "I am an atheist," I claimed last night, is to say no more nor less than "I do not believe that a god exists." It's not to say: "I know that a god does not exist."

    And that's when a colleague declared: that IS what I mean when I say I'm an atheist.

    And I said I find that attitude regrettable, gratuitous, provocative, unnecessary, and unhelpful to mutual understanding. It's the sort of thing "fundamentalist atheists" say because they enjoy the sport of pissing off theists and agnostics.

    And of course my colleague conceded nothing. I wonder what our guest made of that conversation. (Actually,I have a pretty good idea, based on our previous discussion at lunch.)

    Well... I just hope you realize that atheists and humanists are not all dogmatists. Most are not, in my experience. But some are. Some are tone-deaf to the "feeling of faith," some have no capacity for the virtue of humility or the spirit of fallibilism, and all are human.

  2. So many points, I'll just respond to the highlights from an atheistic point of view (acknowledging that I no more speak for all nontheists than Jamie speaks for all Muslims.)

    1. "I have no problem with a person not believing in God, as I myself have no reason to believe in one."

    Congratulations, you are an atheist. What's so confusing?

    2. "to say that there is no empirical evidence for aliens is not adequate proof that there is no intelligent life outside of our planet, if we held those same standards to all ideas than black holes would cease to exist, and thus our basic understandings of the universe, based on Einstein’s general relativity theory, would fold in on itself"

    Not exactly sure what you were intending to say here. There is no empirical evidence that there is intelligent life outside of our planet. Could such evidence present itself someday? Of course it could, and then we would have to change our ideas about the existence of extraterrestrial intelligent life.

    We do have empirical evidence for the existence of black holes. Could we be misinterpreting this evidence? Of course we could, and if this comes to light, we will have to change our ideas about the existence of black holes.

    3. "To believe in something “that is not” seems no different, to me, than not believing in something “that is”"

    Dude. Evidence, evidence, evidence. You make judgments every minute of everyday about an enormous number of things. You make these decisions based on the best evidence available, of various kinds.

    4. "this understanding is based on the fact that neither side of the issue has ever been rightly proven"

    I cannot prove that Bigfoot does not exist. I can simply evaluate the quality of the evidence on offer and conclude that his existence is unlikely and unsupported. It would, however, be trivially easy to change my mind based on new evidence. Show me a properly vetted specimen, and belief (one way or the other) becomes unnecessary in light of the evidence.

    5. "Destroy religion if you like, it makes no difference to me, but just be prepared for the inevitable inquisitive blowback of why there is still “evil” in this world (my prediction is you will come up with some excuse that is really not so different than what those damned theists imagined)."

    Evolutionary biology does a fine job of explaining our competing cooperative and combative natures, no supernatural intervention required. Cram a bunch of organisms into a limited space with limited resources, and nature will take care of the rest. Life is a bitch, and the universe does not and can not give a shit about us. Only we can do that, with varying degrees of success.

  3. 6. "This is where the atheist/humanist ideal becomes an undeniable paradox for me… so much faith in Man, while (if the atheist is correct) it is Man Himself who passed down these very depraved behaviors to the future generations."

    No one person is representative of the whole species. We can make moral progress, as evidenced by the distinct lack of human and animal sacrifice in our modern society. Humanists do not profess blind faith in the goodness of mankind. They simply acknowledge that if goodness is to be found anywhere, it will be found in humanity's commitment to constructing goodness for itself.

    7. "Does the humanist really think that those who passed down these lessons believed they were wrong?"

    A person can be sincere, and 100% mistaken. Do you deny the idea that our knowledge can progress along multiple fronts, including moral knowledge?

    Thanks for putting all this out there, but let me sum up what I perceive as your overall thesis:

    "We can't know anything for sure, therefore we shouldn't claim to know anything one way or the other."

    Interesting ideal, but in practice supremely impractical. We simply have to make judgments about all sorts of things in order to not remain paralyzed by doubt and indecision. Hopefully the majority of these judgments will be based on the best empirical evidence that we have on hand, while still remaining open to modification by new evidence. Substitute Bigfoot for God, and maybe it will help you see how there's no reason to treat religion any differently than those people tromping around the woods searching for sneaky primates.

    1. Also, Russell's teapot sums up my feelings on agnosticism.

    2. My understanding of the teapot analogy in no way discredits agnosticism. In fact, I completely agree with it. If a theist says, "I believe there is a God", I would demand sufficient evidence before I share that belief. Then, too, if an atheist is to claim, "I believe there is no God", I would also demand strong evidence before I share that belief. It seems the closest an atheist can come to this evidence is to say that there is an absence of evidence, which as we know is not evidence of absence - so I would disagree with both statements.

      "As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one can prove that there is not a God." - Bertrand Russell (i got this from the wikipedia page 'bertrand russell's views on philosophy, if you want to trace its authenticity.)

    3. But if you demand sufficient evidence before you share a belief, what state do you find yourself in when that demand is unmet? Knowledge is binary (you either know something or you don't). Is there a third option for belief? Believe, don't believe, ???

      If you don't know something, how can you believe it?

      On another note, this conversation has clinched my midterm project decision: a series of blog posts on atheism vs agnosticism :-)

    4. Maybe it's the term "belief" itself that is our stumbling block.

      If I were to ask you any of the following questions, would you still claim agnosticism?

      "Do you think any gods exist?"

      "What do you think the probability is of gods existing?"

      "Based on the available evidence, are you at all convinced that any supernatural claims are valid?"

      "Do you think that all claims of a supernatural nature are equally as likely to be true as to be false?"

      I know that you believe all sorts of things without the benefit of perfect knowledge. You just seem to have a genuine discomfort admitting as much when it comes to this particular issue. And maybe the world would be a safer place if more people could move in that direction.

    5. Looking forward to those blog posts, David. "Light will be thrown," I'm sure.

  4. Hi, Naggy,

    (I see that David has responded to many of your questions while I was composing my response offline so please forgive any redundancy.)

    I enjoyed reading you "cathartic rant" and I think I know exactly where you are coming from. I was once in your position of that ‘no man’s land’ between theism, agnosticism and atheism, searching for a way or something to hold on to that felt solid—some position I could articulate (defend) about my beliefs and reasons I held them. This happened to me several years back when I started asking myself “What do I know and how do I know it?” I didn’t really get started with skeptical inquiry until I was over 40 so you’ve got a really big jump on most. So, I’ll attempt to answer some of your questions in the spirit that you will come to informed conclusions discover the answers on your own.

    The beauty of science, reason, and evidence is you don’t have to take anything on authority. Newton, Einstein, and Darwin didn’t come down from a mountaintop and make a proclamation. That won’t fly in science. Hence, show me the money and, for the atheist, money is data based facts.

    We all have beliefs (if I can use that term loosely). Some hold beliefs based on blind faith (e.g., belief in gods, demons, fairies, etc.) and some hold beliefs based on evidence (e.g., Australia is a continent and a country). Even though many use the term “belief” interchangeably, there is a distinction, and that distinction is your source of contention.

    What we have to do here is ask: “What is the reason (warrant, evidence, proof) of my belief. When a theist speaks of belief (faith) in a god, that belief is unwarranted sans interpersonal experience. In other words, there is no empirical evidence of that belief—its blind (so to speak). What you often hear in response is: “Well, but you have faith too. You have faith the sun will come up tomorrow.” But, as you will see, this is a false equivocation. Atheists (not all, I’m speaking broadly for sake of argument) don’t have “faith” that the sun will come up tomorrow. They have (very) reasonable expectations based on past precedent. The evidence for my “belief” is based scientific evidence further supported by first hand experience (I’ll be darn, the sun came up again). Scientists don’t just assume the sun is just out there somewhere because we can see it. They compile as much data as possible to say that the statement ‘the sun exists’ is a fact. This is derived from empirical evidence and not just our senses, which can often be fooled.

    Further, when some one tells you that Australia exists, you may never have been there or had a chance to see it with your own eyes, but you can rely on information from sources that use the reliable scientific method that would make you feel confident in accepting this information.This is how we make our way through life.

    If you drunk hillbilly neighbor says Bigfoot ambushed him at night during a snipe hunt then delivered him to green aliens on a spaceship for a stern rectal probing, as a skeptic and naturalist, you can ask a couple of questions right off the bat: Is the source of this information creditable, and what’s the evidence for this claim. You’re don’t have to believe with absolute certainty that this claim is not true but after a few thousand of these ‘occurrences’ that turn up nothing but delusion, deception, or Jack Daniels, you can safely and reasonable say 'I don’t believe you' without compromising your imagination or your desire for further discovery and invention.

    You can apply this same principle to the 10,000 gods that have been emotionally trotted out over the years. Fool me once shame on you…

    1. I am in complete agreement that theists have no empirical evidence for the supernatural. But the thing about the supernatural is that it is by definition 'above nature'. Empirical evidence, conversely, is entirely dependent on nature for its existence; we can only use our perceptual senses, technological appendages, and mental reasoning (all grounded in the natural universe) to experience that which is around us (the natural universe). The supernatural, if it were to exist, would be completely set apart from all of this, and thus could not be assumed to play by the rules of emipirical evidence. This is why I claim that knowledge of such matters is not possible. I am not claiming that the supernatural exists, I am simply saying that, not only me, but no one who is bound to the limitations of nature will ever be able to refute it.

    2. So you are agnostic to the idea that gods exist. We all are.

      "Gnostic" is relating to knowledge. "A" is the negation (not; without) what ever follows, which in this case is "gnostic." So, your agnostic--without knowledge in relation to a god or the supernatural.

      "Atheism" is the same deal. "Gimme an 'a"" (i.e., not) along with theism (the belief in gods) and you arrive a not (the negation) believing in gods.

      It's that simple.

      Also, to put it in perspective, you don't have knowledge of the super, supernatural either. You know, that supernatural that exists beyond the supernatural. But think again--you also don't have knowledge of the super, super, supernatural; that supernatural that is beyond all the other supernaturals you just mentioned. I'm sure you get the point.

      So, again, think if you can really "believe" in the super, super, supernatural. If not--maybe it sounds a little crazy--then you don't have to worry about the first supernatural either. That's how you can arrive at atheism--it's the same process.

    3. Thanks, Dean. Etymology is almost always more helpful than ontology.

    4. I think more proofreading would improve my etymology.

      The sentence in the second paragraph should read: "So, you're agnostic--without knowledge in relation..."

    5. ~ atheist/agnostic-

      Again, I am in complete agreement with your points on what atheist/agnostic literally mean, but I still see a distinction in my head. Maybe an analogy could help me better articulate why my thoughts are behaving the way they are -

      Someone asks the question: “Will the Cards win the World Series again this year?”
      -Agnostic: “I really couldn’t tell you. I am completely without knowledge of the matter, and have absolutely no way of ever telling you with any prudence. So, I can’t answer that, because I just don’t know.”
      -Atheist: “No, I don’t believe the Cardinals will win the World Series this year, or even make it to the playoffs for that matter. There is just too much evidence suggesting that they won‘t, or maybe just not enough to suggest otherwise, for me to believe they will.”

      It’s this understanding of the terms which helps me understand why (I think it was) Dawkins who called agnosticism “intellectual cowardice.” If someone were to give me the hypothetical agnostic’s answer to the World Series question, I would say, “Come on, just use your best judgment and make a prediction, quit being so indecisive.” But my curiosity as to why and how existence is what is it, and its enormous importance in my mind, leads me to suspend my judgment and not jump to any definitive conclusion, especially when dealing with something that there is just no way to know for sure. I guess I feel much more compelled to sit back, watch the games and see how the season inevitably plays out on its own, than to project my own uncertain inclinations onto a universe that is doing its own thing without any apparent regard for what I predict its reasons to be - it seems like taking the latter approach could do nothing but skew the objective experience. For me, at least.

      ~ the supernatural:

      You make a very good point, and, again (like everything else), one with which I am struggling to come to terms with myself. But if you’ll allow me to ask a question that’s not hypothetical this time maybe I can relate my reasoning - “Would you say that an astronomer’s belief in life outside of our planet is irrational?” Every astronomer that I have talked to in person, and many that I’ve read/watched, have declared a belief that there is life outside of our planet. Though they lack any empirical evidence whatsoever, their belief no doubt is simply an inference made by their understanding of the universe (“The universe is so unfathomably expansive that there just must be other life in it.") Now, I think it's safe to say that astronomers, being scientists, kind of live and die by the positivistic principle. So, if we are not to discredit this belief, then we can’t immediately discredit a belief that there is, in some form or another, a supernatural element underlying, or overlying, existence; such a belief is just a person making an inference, based on their limited understanding of how things are, that doesn’t definitively explain things, but offers up a theory that logically fits with their conception of all that is. Now if you do say the astronomer’s belief is irrational, than I am not going to disagree with you, and this entire point is quite mute. But what I’m trying to get at is we make leaps of inference all the time, and to say any one ’leap’ is more justifiable than the other is just to disagree on the allowable degrees of uncertainty. And who is in such a position to declare to what degree a rational person can claim to be uncertain? An agnostic would say, “No one.”

      Somewhere in all that is the essential principles that fuel my agnosticism. I wish I was better at explaining all this, but I can only work with the intellectual tools that I have. But just so I am transparent, I’m not trying to necessarily defend a position. I’m really quite lost when it comes to all this, and am completely open to anything that will ground my thoughts in some sort of certainty.

    6. Nagy, I think you made some very good points and asked some great questions. Let me attempt to clarify Dawkins' statement about what I think he meant by "intellectual cowardice."

      Your point about the astronomer is a good one: “Would you say that an astronomer’s belief in life outside of our planet is irrational?” Life on another planet would not be irrational. Why? First, we have evidence that life exists on this planet. We don't have to make an assumption there. Secondly, we know that the universe covers a pretty big swath of space. No assumption there either. So, there is no jump in logic to infer that, given the right conditions to support life, there is a pretty good possibility another planet out there somewhere could be crawling with philosophy students contemplating the same thing. Thus, what you have here is a belief with very good premises supported by empirical evidence.

      Let's look at your Cardinals argument. If you say the Cards are gonna win the World Series next year you've, at least, got a place to start. First, The Cardinals Baseball team exists. You can't make the claim that they will win the World Series next year deductively, you have to make it inductively. It's not a matter of knowledge (there's no way you could know that)--it's a matter of belief based on supporting evidence, e.g., the pitcher is great, he's pitched 20 straight no-hitters, many batters on the team are hitting over 400, etc. You can offer strong supporting evidence for your claim and if the evidence is true you have a pretty safe belief (bet).

      Now, take a belief in a god. What do you have to work with? Nothing. No evidence whatsoever for any of the 10,000 gods to date. All you can do is make an assertion. It's like arguing that a team you made up in your head will win the World Series--say Team Zeus from Peagram, Tn. It would be like telling one of your sports buddies that Team Zeus is gonna beat the Cards in the World Series next year. "What team did you say was gonna win? Are you crazy?" "What god did you say is gonna save me from eternal damnation? Are you crazy?" These two statements are on the same slippery metaphysical footing. You're buddy is gonna say there's no such thing as Team Zeus. If you say "Well, I believe it's true," that's not gonna cut it.

      I think this example is what Dawkins was describing as “intellectual cowardice.” Do you think your buddy should keep open the possibility of a Team Zeus? I doubt if they would be willing to entertain that thought without supporting evidence, which is gonna be hard to produce.

      As far as certainty is concerned, I don't think you're gonna find much. What you will find are perfectly acceptable guidelines for justifying beliefs based on probability based on empirical evidence. The trouble with theism is all the usual definitions and guidelines are thrown out the window in order to attempt to make a square peg fit in a round hole. It never has worked, and probably won't ever.

      I'm searching for answers just as much as you. I think it's important to keep asking questions and not accept ready-made answers just because they are comforting--not even from me. You'll find your own way.

      I'm no judge of intellectual prowess but it seem to me your intellectual tools are working just fine. :)

      Keep 'em coming!

    7. Your point on my baseball analogy is exactly why I hesitated to even post it, since I myself saw the apparent flaw. But let me use another analogy (please excuse all this, but when dealing with vagueness it seems like metaphor is usually the best way to bring it all back down to an understandable level). If I was living in a mostly secluded civilization, having never seen an MLB game first hand (empirical evidence), but only knew of such a thing through books and statistics (hopefully the similarities to supernatural belief is obvious here), I could still be asked the same hypothetical question, and in turn my answer would still fit well with my original point of the distinction between atheism and agnosticism. My point is that, in such a case, there may very well be or not be a bunch of baseball games going on in some far off land. But to simply say I believe it because I’ve read about it, or to say I don’t because I’ve never seen it, seems to me to both be saying the same thing - “I don’t know”. - so why not just admit it that? And if it is clear in such an example that you don’t, then aren’t you an agnostic?

    8. I do love the baseball analogies!

      I think "I don't know" is a perfectly respectable thing to say, and I say (or at least think) it all the time. But "I know what I believe" is a good thing to say, too. (Although it used to piss me off when G. Bush said it.)

  5. Here's the larger context of Russell's statement, in "Am I An Atheist Or An Agnostic":

    "Here there comes a practical question which has often troubled me. Whenever I go into a foreign country or a prison or any similar place they always ask me what is my religion.

    I never know whether I should say "Agnostic" or whether I should say "Atheist". It is a very difficult question and I daresay that some of you have been troubled by it. As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one prove that there is not a God.

    On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods.

    None of us would seriously consider the possibility that all the gods of homer really exist, and yet if you were to set to work to give a logical demonstration that Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, and the rest of them did not exist you would find it an awful job. You could not get such proof.

    Therefore, in regard to the Olympic gods, speaking to a purely philosophical audience, I would say that I am an Agnostic. But speaking popularly, I think that all of us would say in regard to those gods that we were Atheists. In regard to the Christian God, I should, I think, take exactly the same line."


    1. Thanks for providing that explanation. Just so I am not misunderstood, though, I wasn’t trying to pettily use Russell’s quote out of context just to defend some stance. I was really just focusing on David’s claim that the teacup analogy definitively shames agnosticism; by showing that the creator of the analogy at the least had strong sympathies with why a person would claim agnosticism I was hoping to make it understood that it was not in and of itself a proper refute of agnosticism.

      What the rest of the passage that you provided seems to be focusing on is not so much a person’s internal free-thinking (deciphering whether there is or is not ultimate divinity, in some form), but rather an insistence on clarity of conversation, and I don’t believe (belief?) that the former should ever bow down to the latter. It reminds of an earlier post where you said that a person should not declare a belief in God unless they meant the all-knowing, prayer-petitionable, intervening (I’m paraphrasing) God, since there is so much baggage that comes with making such a statement in our particular social context. I agree with this, but take it one step further and apply the same rule to declaring atheism. It is based on my, admittedly limited, experience that I think it is proper to suppose: “Do not say you are an atheist unless you believe there is no God.” Now, my reasoning for this comes from my understanding as thus: an atheist is really just either a primitive (I in absolutely no way intend this as a negative term, and am not trying in the least bit to be contentious) agnostic, or one who strongly leans towards the idea that there surely is no God. To clarify (again, so as not to be misconstrued as being bad-mannered), I see it this way: An atheist, presented with so many claims of unprovable deism, claims, “I do not believe that. I negate that belief. I am an atheist”. To my understanding, an agnostic simply takes that thought one step further, and asks, “Why don’t I believe that? Well, because it is something that I can not know, so should not believe.” Something that I do not and can not know…. This is agnosticism, in my understanding.

      If this were an earlier time, I would surely stand shoulder to shoulder with the atheist as we awaited to be burned as heretics. However, on being tied to the stake, I would be inclined to look over at my partner in crime and say, “You know, we really shouldn’t be so sure.”

  6. So many great posts & threads, so little time!

    As an atheist I'm NOT so sure that I KNOW what I believe, but (if you follow) I am pretty sure I know what I BELIEVE, at this very moment at least. But as you suggest, that might change if I ever found myself on the pyre counting down the remaining moments of my existence.

    And yet: there ARE atheists in foxholes, there have been atheists on the stake. (Why isn't there a holiday in G. Bruno's memory?) Like Socrates in his cell, they were sure they'd rather die than lie about their own convictions. I find that honorable. But wouldn't it be strange to die for agnosticism? (Though you could make a case for that having been Socrates' plight precisely.)

    1. I guess what I’m searching for here is a realm of discourse where it is already assumed that all of the hastily written allegories of ’why I am what I am’ are already understood to be, at best, failed parables. But, the question still remains. I am still here, and (for some reason) still want to know why. Why can’t we start from scratch, erase all of the baggage that comes with widely accepted ‘intelligent design’ beliefs, and begin to honestly assess the question at hand. In such a scenario of pure speculation, even given all of the scientific knowledge we have acquired, I wouldn’t find it hard to belief that, if no one else did first, I would at least put forth the idea that everything around us had been designed in some way. I would never claim this as a belief, but to so readily dismiss this theory just because of its lack of evidence seems precarious to me. And it is just this hurried skipping over of an idea which seems to leave me behind, unable to go any further in the discussion.

    2. If you're wondering why we're here I'm afraid I can't help you.

      But religion is the baggage you're speaking of along with ghosts, gnomes, goblins and fairies.

      Is is possible to (in theory) erase all the baggage, false claims, presuppositions, parables, and theories inscribed in tomes; start fresh--just like Descartes. The trouble is: you're gonna be left with all those pesky empirical facts and reality--the bane of armchair arguments for gods.

      No matter how may times you look in a fridge that is absent of butter, it's not going to magically appear no matter how hard you pray to the god of butter. The theory that there isn't any butter in the fridge is based on the lack of evidence of butter being in the fridge.

      If you don't want to accept empirical evidence as support for theories, and prefer wishful thinking to evidence, then no one is stopping you. But I think, when you get up every morning and look in that fridge, at the end of the day you're still gonna be eating dry toast.