Titel
Why absolute agnosticism about a theistic god is incoherent
Geplaatst door
T. Rivas
Samenvatting
An analytical argument of Titus Rivas against strong or absolute agnosticism.
Tekst


Why absolute agnosticism about a theistic god is incoherent

by Titus Rivas

Below, I formulate a - possibly traditional - analytical argument against absolute or 'strong' agnosticism about the existence or non-existence of a theistic creator-god.
Let me explain what I mean by this:

By absolute or strong agnosticism, I mean an agnosticism which claims that it is in principle absolutely impossible to know whether there is a theistic god.

By a theistic god I understand a divine creator of the order in the physical world, of life and of mankind. It is not necessary for the purpose of this definition that such a god has created everything out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo), but the natural laws by which the physical world, life or people function and interact must have been divinely created.

Here is my deduction:

- 1. A theistic god is a god who makes 'all the difference in the world' for reality. Without such a god, according to (strong) theism, the order and nature of this world would not exist. (In this sense, a deistic god is identical to a theistic god.) Theism in the strong sense of an assertion that there is a creator, is not just about parts of the world that would be beyond the reach of human knowledge, but it is first and foremost a theory about the origins of manifest, everyday reality knowable to man.

- 2. A world that is not created by a theistic god must be very different - in a knowable, manifest way - from a world that is created by a theistic god. The difference between a created and a non-created world cannot be reduced to the mere fact that the first world is created and the second one is not. There must be differences in manifest and knowable characteristics between a divinely created and a non-created world. It is out of the question that there is only one difference, consisting of the fact that a world is or is not created, without any consequences for any other knowable characteristics of a world. Thus, the differences between both hypothetical types of worlds must have consequences for the empirical (intersubjective or introspective) data about knowable reality, ranging from physical, chemical and biological data to psychological and parapsychological data.

- 3. It might be (very) difficult to know whether this world was created by a theistic god or not, because of a lack of insight into what would count as manifest characteristics which show that this world was created by a god. However, it is certain that there are such characteristics, as a world that was created by a theistic god must by definition (see axiom 1) be fundamentally different in a knowable manner from a world that was not created by a theistic god (see axiom 2). It is a priori (through the definition of a theistic god) unthinkable that a world created by a theistic god would in all respects (except for the mere fact of having been created) (see axiom 2) be completely identical to a world that would not have been created by such a god.

- 4. Absolute or strong agnosticism claims that it is in principle impossible to know whether there is a theistic god or not, i.e. that man cannot ever discover any solid evidence that this world was created or not by a theistic god.

- 5. Thus, absolute agnosticism is incoherent, because it claims that it is in principle impossible to know whether the natural order was created by a theistic god or not. A natural order created by a theistic god is by definition fundamentally different from a non-created world (axiom 2). Therefore, theistic creation implies a knowable order that can in principle be clearly distinguished from a non-created order. Absolute agnosticism therefore claims that it is in principle impossible to know whether there is a theistic god, whereas a theistic god is a god whose existence is by definition knowable in principle through knowable aspects of his creation. More formally, absolute agnosticism boils down to the following implicit propositions:

I. We cannot in principle know of the existence of a theistic god.
II. A theistic god is a being whose existence can in principle be known
.

Which may be translated as:

I. A theistic god is a being whose existence cannot in principle be known.
II. A theistic god is a being whose existence can in principle be known.


Either there is a theistic divinity, and then we can in principle know its existence, or there is not. But there cannot be a god whose existence can and at the same time cannot in principle be known by us. Agnosticism in the strong sense is logically incompatible with the notion of a theistic god. It is no use replacing the original notion of a knowable theistic god by that of a theistic god whose existence could not be known through the creation attributable to this god. This amounts to putting up a straw man. Agnosticism in its absolute, strong version may only claim any meaning if it is a position about the knowability of the existence of a theistic creator as defined by theism.

- 6. In principle, theism can certainly be shown to be right or wrong because of the definition of a theistic god (axiom 1). It is untenable to claim that we have no choice but to remain absolute agnostics about a theistic god.

It is acceptable to claim that one does not know yet who is right (weak agnosticism), but absolute, strong agnosticism simply overlooks the fact that a theistic god would - by definition - create something very different from what would arise all by itself, without divine creation. More relevantly, that such a god would create something knowably (recognizably) different.

Also see: What if we find no evidence for a theistic creation?

Contact: titusrivas@hotmail.com

I wish to thank Chris Canter for his useful comments.

This online article dates from 2009.
Gebruikte steekwoorden
agnosticism, agnostic, theism, atheism, philosophy, analysis
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