A skeptical left-liberal's blog, including skepticism about left-liberalism, but even more about other issues of politics. A skeptical look at Gnu Atheism, religion, social sciences, more. And me? I am who I am... more later...
March 31, 2012
The value of agnosticism
elsewhere here (from a "skeptic") that "agnosticism has no
intellectual merit"? Tosh. Certainly if we're talking about a limited
agnosticism, such as whether or not science will "solve the mystery of
consciousness," it has plenty of merit. Even if we're talking about
"big ticket" agnosticism, the existence of a deity, it has merit, and
not just as a halfway house. Both religious believers and a certain class of
atheists who insist on absolutes, including absolute certainty, and cannot live
in a world of grays, are mistaken, in my opinion.
Second, it’s ironic, or worse, for
a skeptic, even if in the breed of modern self-proclaimed “scientific
skeptics,” to reject the value of agnosticism. That said, this is another
reason why I’ve said before, and will say again now, that modern “scientific
skeptics” need to actually familiarize themselves with the philosophy of
Third, to claim that Arcesilaus never
advocated such a thoroughgoing agnosticism, or skepticism, as to be skeptical
even of skepticism, is not true. Such versions of agnosticism were advocated.
And, no, that’s not a self-defeating concept, no more than is the pithier
“question everything.” First, the agnosticism proposed is a state of mind, not
a state of being. Related to that, no advocacy is made for the permancy of
agnosticism in every instance in life. And, related to that, Arcesilaus’
skepticism is probabilistic, anticipating in some way Bayes’ theorum, perhaps.
Fourth, this doesn’t even consider
Pyrrhonic skepticism, which is actually even more necessary today. Pyrrho
advocated what he called “knowledgeable ignorance,” or, in more detail, taking
a deliberate stance of non-certainty against dogmatism, whatever its form or
And, especially as some “scientific
skeptics” are also “Gnu “Atheists” or approach them in mind, that’s the biggest
reason of all “scientific skeptics” actually need to learn more about the roots
of Skepticism, the philosophy.
speaking, can produce more light than heat can.
And, per the likes of a Scott Atran, the desire for certainty shown by both true religious believers and true atheists, or "scientific skeptics," are two sides of the same coin -- more general human mental patterns, such as causation-inferrers and pattern-inferrers, put to the service of ideologies, dogmas and isms for which they had never evolved (since evolution doesn't have Aristotelian final causes.