I just called to say I dooon’t know

On Friday morning I tweeted the following apropos of absolutely nothing.

Friday afternoon I read this on CNN regarding a longtime atheist blogger who converted to Catholicism. I find this less shocking than most because as I tried to articulate in the above tweet atheists and believers are two sides of the same coin. They share the common arrogance necessary to become devout believers and evangelists for a position that cannot be objectively substantiated and of which the only basis for is their own personal internal philosophy.

The theist says Hey there’s at least one God  and the atheist says Naw men there is zero Gods. I’m not sure which position is less defensible. No one has seen God or has any proof of his existence on the other hand no probe has scanned the entire physical and metaphysical universe and confidently reported no sign of a God creature.

Imagine a few dozen people in a room, in the room is a box enclosed in a bullet proof glass structure.  Naturally there is some curiosity as to the contents of the mysterious box in the room. Some guy who claims to work at a Zappos warehouse hazards a guess that its a shoe and after some deliberation he is able to acquire a number of converts. After enough time has elapsed the crowd is now divided amongst the shoeist and the a-shoeist denominations. In this scenario the lunacy of both positions is apparent since neither side observed the object as it was placed in the box, possess technology to see inside of the box or were allowed to perform any experiments that may reveal the nature of the item in the box.

The possibilities for the box are plenty a shoe being one of them. It is also possible the box is empty or that it contains a miniature version of every item in the imaginable universe including shoes. Since no one knows or has anyway of knowing the composition of the box the only position with a leg to stand on is the agnostic or “I don’t know” position.

7 Comments on “I just called to say I dooon’t know”

  1. This comment was made under the previous blog post so i will repost it here where it belongs

    myatheistlife says:

    The agnostic forcefully abstains from an argument with actual definition. Humans invented gods and claimed them to be real despite their inability to prove this. The agnostic does them a favor and gives them credit by stating they cannot know the theist is wrong for proffering this folly.

    The point that the entire universe has not been searched is hubris. The theist claims their god is supernatural and so cannot be part of the natural world. Further, the theist claims that their god is omnipresent and so detection should not require leaving your seat, never mind this planet. The theist still needs to back up their claims with evidence. Agnostics might want to abstain but the evidence as we know it shows their position to be disdain rather than one of abstention.

    • The issue with theists isn’t so much their belief in the notion of a creator, its the “then what” factor that is problematic. Protesting the fallout of religion is a very reasonable position for one to take and defend. Definitively claiming knowledge of the absence of a creator on the other hand is froth with hypocrisy.

      You suggested that “The theist still needs to back up their claims with evidence” consequently can the atheist back up his claims of no God with some credible evidence? Absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence. I have not come across any evidence for the existence of a God however to substantiate a claim that there is no God one must go beyond that and provide evidence that precludes the existence of a God.

      Without a scientifically viable theory for whatever it is that is all around us and where it came from, the possibility of a God has to remain in play. We barely understand the big bang much less its trigger or even the pre big bang age. Sure there are theories but nothing is or can be substantiated beyond reasonable doubt.

      You may want to look into the research done on split brain patients and you’d be amazed at how far our brains go to avoid taking an agnostic position on ANYTHING. When the choice is between cognitive dissonance and being stomped our brains are predisposed to select dissonance without really asking our opinion.

      I do appreciate your opinion and thanks for the comment.

      • This is the argument/position that I find distasteful. The theist has claimed there is a god but has no evidence and yourself and other agnostics accept this claim as valid when you ask the atheist to prove there is no god. The only positive claim is by the theist who says there is a god. Everyone except theists are doubters. The atheist and anti-theist say there is no evidence for the claim so it is false, thus there is no god. The agnostic won’t dismiss the false claim and instead gives it legitimacy by refusing to say it is a false claim. The agnostic does not believe in garden fairies or invisible pink unicorns but won’t then go ahead and dismiss the claim of gods. It makes no sense. Gods without evidence and invisible pink unicorns without evidence can both be dismissed as false claims for the very same reasons. The idea of gods which is a false claim does not mean that there still might be a god. To me it is bizarre to even think there are gods. Refusing to dismiss a false claim is just as odd.

        • I get the impression you are mistaking the argument about the existence of a God and the merits of religion. I have a position on religion and its very much like yours – negative.That said, I am not ashamed to proclaim ignorance regarding the agent(s) behind the physical world assuming there are even any agents and I don’t necessarily see how said ignorance lends validity to anything.

          Consider the illustration in my intial post. The division between shoeists and ashoeists presents a false dicotomy. There is an infinity of possibility for the box. It would be unreasonable to have a definite position on every possibility just as it is unreasonble to settle for either side of the shoe debate or even take it seriously.

          Unfortunately our minds have trouble with nothingness which I believe explains why it took centuries for early mathmaticians to evolve the concept of zero or why many programming languages have issues with null expressions (i am software engineer). Whenever a claim is heard there is an inevitable rush to establish a position on it and rid ourselves of the nothingness we have so much trouble reconciling. Sometimes a position is warranted sometimes its neither warranty nor necessary. I don’t have a boolean true/false position on pink unicorns or garden fairies or millions of other creatures and phenomenon.

          Finally, I find this statement very troubling on your part “To me it is bizarre to even think there are gods”… it almost seems like a) you have a preference for a no Gods outcome b) you have faith that there isn’t any. There are 4 factors that affect our interpretation of ambiguity and they are context, frequency, recency and preference. I hope your preferences aren’t coloring your theology.

          • First, I have to say that every time I read your handle it makes me laugh. Good name.

            Second, I did not expect this would turn into a conversation that caused me pause to think.

            I do not make my decisions in a vacuum. All available information says that not only is there no need for gods, but the probability that man invented gods to explain what they could not is so close to 1 that not even a pentium cpu could screw that calculation up.

            The ashoeist theory misses out on the available information that the atheist has to aid in the decision making. The god proposition relies on a number of facts which are laid out in their holy books. There is little room for such gods now, and less room for them in the future. As for deism? A god who is not involved and promises no benefit in return for my belief in them… they don’t matter and are no more significant than no god at all.

            When we finally contact life on another planet and find that they believe in a god, but not the one that humans do will gods then still matter? You do not like religion but cannot claim that there is no god(s). What reason do you have to imagine that there even might be a god or gods? I’m betting that you got the idea from the very people whose claim of a god is provably false, and that means the very idea is wrong. I don’t know how to express this well. The very idea, not gods themselves, but the idea of gods is wrong. It is without proof and most of them have already been shown to be inventions of humans. We have evidence of why humans invented gods, why they believe in gods, and all manner of explanation for why people incorporate superstition into their lives. The very idea that a god can exist is silly, without evidence or credibility, and no more valid than a claim that I have an invisible fire breathing dragon living in my garage… whose fire does not burn things and who does not leave foot prints. The very idea of gods is ludicrous.

            I’m not talking about gods or religion here, but the very notion that a god could exist. I see no reason to give this notion credibility. It is a failed notion distilled from the loony ravings of people who are obviously wrong.

            Having said that, the idea that we might exist in a simulation, that all this universe is just a 3d game… well, it’s possible. It’s possible that we live in the dream of a god I suppose. Lets just imagine that one of these might be right. In the end I will die and it will not matter any more or less than if there were no gods. In fact, my very existence is a lie, an imagining. In all these cases, there is no reason or benefit to believe in gods. It is a useless waste of time and energy… and in fact has no more impact on my life than if there were no gods at all.

            If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, smells like a duck, walks like a duck….. it’s a duck.

            • Ha… I’m sure my handle has lead to many a disappointed visitor.

              So after reading your last comment, i think we are very much on the same page. The only difference is that your position seems to target the human notions of the consequences of having a God while I am only addressing the possibility that one exists regardless of any irrationalities we display in imagining one. If we both focus on the same aspect of God or a deity as you put it, you will find we are saying the same thing.

              Our tendency to seek explanation and maintain some element of control of over a world infused with randomness and low on predictability is merely an evolutionary quirk that has served us well more often than not in other aspects of existence.

              We as a species were genetically destined to invent a God whether or not one exists. The very secular trait of optimism is a second cousin of the faith required to become a believer. I define an optimist as one who believes their preference for an outcome improves its probability of occurrence beyond objective expectation. Clearly this is not true unless something out there favors your preference. Surprisingly, atheists and agnostics alike experience optimism.

              So whats my point? I have conceded that the tendencies that evolves into religious devotion to a God is a basic human trait but so also is violence as a means of conflict resolution and we’ve learnt to temper that. Intelligence for me isn’t disavowing oneself of our primal instincts its being aware of what they are and making a conscious attempt to limit its misapplication. Believers lack this form of intelligence hence they allow instincts that you and I share with them to operate unchecked.

              Now to answer your question “What reason do you have to imagine that there even might be a god or gods?” well at the root of causation is my (and your and everyone else’s) innate predisposition to determinism. Again as I stated because we are predisposed to determinism or because each one of our cultures has fashioned a different God does not in anyway preclude the existence of a God or a council of Gods.

              Our behavior might be silly but this silliness has zero effect on what is or was.

              I have to say its been refreshing bantering with someone I feel possesses the intellect to consider different ideas. I usually write about more trivial issues, so I very much appreciate learning from your superior understanding of this subject. I’ll now go back to such weighty matters as the effects of information asymmetry on the adult dating world and the like :)

              • Thank you for the kind compliment.
                I think your definition of optimism is the same as superstition, but I’ll go with that given the context you have used.

                I don’t think I have much experience with that kind of optimism lately. I find the notion of gods a dangerous idea, even in it’s most innocent utterance. It leads to the worst kind of power/control grabs we know of via the justification of divine authority.

                Anyway, lets talk about Jlo’s butt….

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