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January 09, 2010


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Spot on Brian. The Huxley family were very openminded, Thomas was self-educated and the grandfather of Aldous who with Alpert and Leary tried everything under the son.

I guess the only thing about agnosticism is that it may come accross as indicisive, to be confused at it were - but that is exactly what i am.

Some on here, particularly the RS folk seem so certain of it all, that there is The Truth, and that it can be found.

The more one learns about the universe and/or reality, the stranger it seems, and its undoubtedly even stranger than we could ever imagine.

Its true tho that i do find mysticism quite interesting and one cannot dismiss something unless its been tried. But we know Thor or Poseidon is unlikely to exist, no matter what pagan tradition we try. I think mysticism perhaps does offer more than this, but if mysticism offers anything, its seems likely to be concerning our mind and consciousness - as opposed to any transcental power such as God.

Dear Brian,

Thanx for a nice post. But (imo)
some are agnostic by choice
some are agnostic by culture
some are agnostic by fashion
some are agnostic by legacy
some are agnostic by conscience!!

I am likely to call myself progressively not agnostic which I may not be able to proclaim till my last breath............

"If we say we know something, there needs to be solid demonstrable evidence backing up that claim."

How would you define 'solid demonstrable evidence?'

If I make the claim, "I know I'm in a good mood this morning," would my subjective experience and subsequent testimony to the case be considered as solid demonstrable evidence?

Testimony is considered a type of evidence, but to be solid it generally needs corroboration, i.e. two or more separate sources of evidence, which would be difficult in the above example. Also, being subjective in nature, I'm not sure my good mood this morning is demonstrable. Observable maybe, but maybe not - what if no one is around? Yet I still feel comfortable saying, "my good mood is something I know."

John, there is a big difference between subjective and objective knowledge. Knowing our self really isn't about knowing some "thing," unless we consider ourselves to be thing-like. It is more what has been called "knowledge by identity." We know our self by being our self.

If I'm sad, I know I'm sad because I'm sad. As I frequently say on this blog, "I feel..." can't be questioned by someone else. Feeling is a private world inaccessible to others. But if we expect other people to accept our statement about some objective aspect of reality, there has to be demonstrable evidence in support of it.


An attractive force between two bodies exists.
Gravity is the attractive force between two bodies.
Gravity exists.

A cause of the universe existing exists.
God is the cause of the universe existing.
God exists.

Gravity and God are just the names we give to the respective phenomena (a) the attractive force between two bodies and (b) the cause of the universe existing. So, if we agree on what the names denote, then wouldn't the "demonstrable evidence in support of it (our claim)," be the phenomena (a) & (b)?


John, what makes you think there is a cause for the universe existing? There is no evidence for this. We need to define our terms.

Do you take "universe" to mean everything in physical existence? If so, "cosmos" is the preferred term used by many/most scientists, since the multi-universe theory has a lot going for it. That is, the "universe" we are a part of may very well not be the only universe in existence.

So let's make your statement "A cause of the cosmos existing exists." Again, why? Couldn't the cosmos simply be, a given?

There is a big logical (and reality) problem in assuming that the totality of existence has to behave like things in existence. This is the basic flaw in your argument.

We see that there are causes of things within the cosmos. So our human minds jump to the conclusion, "The cosmos must have a cause." But the cosmos isn't a thing. It is everything. You presume a vantage point from which you can look at the cosmos and say "It had a beginning; there was a cause of it."

Where is that vantage point?

Religious believers say that God is uncaused, eternal, always has been and always will be. But God is unseen and unknown. Why not posit the same qualities of the cosmos? It is uncaused, eternal, always has been and always will be.

If everything has to have a cause, then God also has to have a cause, so invoking God as the cause of the cosmos just shifts the question back up a level. I prefer to keep things as simple as possible. Let's call the cosmos uncaused.


I don't know if there need be a cause for everything (and sorry for the loose usage of existence), but I don't believe that lack of knowledge in that regard gives one the grounds to assert an antithesis. That 'something is uncaused' is every bit the affirmative as 'everything has a cause.' Consequently, I could just as easily apply…

"if no such evidence exists, or if you do not yet know what is the proper conclusion which may logically be drawn from that evidence, then the agnostic principle demands that you refrain from adopting any conclusion as being the expression of ultimate truth."

… to: "Let's call the cosmos uncaused."

- John

John, my point was that a cosmic chain of causality has to end somewhere. Theologians like to end it at God, with divinity being the eternal entity that has been, is now, and always will be. A naturalistic scientific perspective ends the chain with what is observable: the cosmos.

So I'll stick with my assertion that the cosmos (defined as "everything in existence") must be uncaused. Otherwise we have to posit a cause of that "everything," which obviously is still part of "everything" since that cause exists.

If that cause had a cause, both causes are still part of "everything." So pretty obviously everything doesn't have a cause. Only things within everything do. This is marvelously clear to me; perhaps it isn't to you. That's fine.

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