While in college in the early 70's, in response to the Militant Atheists, some friends started a group called The Apothetic Agnostics who's motto was "You don't know anything, and we don't care."


residualecho's picture
residualecho 7 years 50 weeks ago

Dawkins' atheism

Thom, please don't misrepresent Dawkins' position as absolute certainty.

While he walks right up to the edge of certainty, I'm willing to bet that he would profess no more certainty about the absence of a god or god than than you would about the existence of a god or gods. Dawkins, like any thinking atheist, would posit that eschewing beliefs unsupported by observation or evidence is consistent with Huxleyan agnosticism (Thomas Huxley coined the word agnostic). Huxley, as part of his definition, advises, "In matters of the intellect, do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable."

100% evidential certainty is something science never claims; every idea is subject to revision upon better evidence, observation, or explanatory model. Deduction is not reason's only tool- induction is also powerful.

In fact, in his book, "The God Delusion," Dawkins posits a "spectrum of theistic probability," which of course has a wiki page (from which I'll quote): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spectrum_of_theistic_probability

Dawkins posits that "the existence of God is a scientific hypothesis like any other." He goes on to propose a continuous "spectrum of probabilities" between two extremes of opposite certainty, which can be represented by seven "milestones". Dawkins suggests definitive statements to summarize one's place along the spectrum of theistic probability. These "milestones" are:[2]

  1. Strong theist. 100 per cent probability of God. In the words of C.G. Jung: "I do not believe, I know."
  2. De facto theist. Very high probability but short of 100 per cent. "I don't know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there."
  3. Leaning towards theism. Higher than 50 per cent but not very high. "I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God."
  4. Completely impartial. Exactly 50 per cent. "God's existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable."
  5. Leaning towards atheism. Lower than 50 per cent but not very low. "I do not know whether God exists but I'm inclined to be skeptical."
  6. De facto atheist. Very low probability, but short of zero. "I don't know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there."
  7. Strong atheist. "I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung knows there is one."

Dawkins argues that while there appear to be plenty of individuals that would place themselves as "1", no thinking atheist would consider themselves "7", as atheism arises from a lack of evidence and evidence can always change a thinking person's mind. In print, Dawkins self-identified as a '6', though when interviewed by Bill Maher, he suggested he might be '6.9'[3].

Thanks, Thom,

Ken Cope, listening on Green960

BlueSci's picture
BlueSci 7 years 50 weeks ago


You are making some very common mistakes when it comes to atheism. First and foremost is that agnositcism is not an alternative to atheism. A person can be both an agnostic and an atheist or even a theist. An agnostic atheist is one who doesn't have a positive belief in god or gods, but doesn't discount the possibility that there may be one. These are often referred to as weak atheists. Conversely an agnostic theist would be someone who believes that some higher power exists, but isn't postiive there is one. Perhaps this comic would help you out:


Those who believe there is no god (strong atheists) actually make-up a very small minority. But it is not true that those who are called "milliant" are always strong atheists. There are a great many weak atheists who feel that religion is harmful and would like to see it irradicated. This is not just limited to extremeist beliefs but to the traditional beliefs as well. I, for one, blame religion for nearly all the world's ills; from the obvious ones like religious wars and oppression, to more obscure ones like pollution and sexual dysfunction. (I'd give more detail on this but it could turn this into a very long post.)

Thom, you are usually so careful to research, learn and try to understand an issue, but with atheism you seem to have not done your homework. Please take some time to research this subject because you are making too many wrong assumptions about what atheism is or is not. For now, think of it this way; not believing in god is not the same as believing there is no god.

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