29 November, 2015

claims of belief v/s those of knowledge

"you cannot be an atheist, because you can never prove god does not exist. at most, you are an agnostic."
"you may not believe in the god of a particular religion, but you don't know my god, so you cannot disbelieve him."
"your definition of god is flawed. our philosophy has a different definition."
the problem is that these people do not understand the difference between “i do not believe in gods” and “i believe there to be no gods”. after having explained this numerous times in numerous forums, i wanted to create a more permanent record so i can simply direct people here and save me the trouble. so, here it is:

there are two types of claims about god(s)

claims of knowledge:

gnosticism: i KNOW (there is a god)…more correctly: god is knowable
agnosticism: i DO NOT KNOW (there is a god)

claims of belief:

theism: i BELIEVE (there is a god)
atheism: i DO NOT BELIEVE (there is a god)

now, most of us are one of the four:
1. gnostic theist: i KNOW there is a god, and i BELIEVE in him/her
2. agnostic theist: i DO NOT KNOW there is a god, but i BELIEVE in a god
3. gnostic atheist: i KNOW there is no god, and i DO NOT BELIEVE in one
4. agnostic atheist: i DO NOT KNOW there is god, and i DO NOT BELIEVE there is one

as you can see, even within atheism, one can be number 3 or 4. in fact, most sane people are number 4, since the most infinitesimal probability of god cannot be denied, even if tending to zero. if you want, you may read more about the spectrum of belief here

knowledge and belief are indeed differentiable

in a very profound philosophical way, perhaps in the extremes of solipsism, there is little or no difference between knowledge and belief. however, in most practical cases, knowledge requires at least some evidence, and a rationale or reasoning (however right or wrong) from certain principles (however correct or otherwise) to justify it; it may require experience, observations, testimony, calculation, references, unconnected people using different methods to reach the same or similar conclusions, and other supporting proofs (including, for some people, even divine) and data. in other words, knowledge requires a third party validation. belief requires nothing except belief

for me to believe there is a flying unicorn, i need no further data. but for me to make a claim of knowledge of a flying unicorn, i need something that is external to myself: in fact, it could even be my insistence that the flying unicorn itself appeared to me one dark night and told me about its existence. please note the difference between "knowledge" and "truth"

for example: i could BELIEVE my height is 180cm, but for me to truly KNOW it, i would need to measure it using universally accepted tools. of course, this does NOT automatically make my height 180cm. i could very well be wrong. believing something or even claiming that one knows the same thing do not necessarily make it correct. but then, that is out of the scope of this discussion. suffice to say, knowledge and belief are not interchangeable

as for this blogpost, it explains the difference between various types of claims, specifically those of knowledge and of belief, and how god(s) are seen from these various viewpoints by people labelling themselves based on their perceptions of the same

of course, the supplementary argument is that how one defines "god" decides one's beliefs and knowledge about this entity, which brings me to...

the courtier's reply and the emperor's nakedness

the whole “god hypothesis” is ill-defined. it fails the most basic requirements of “testability” and “falsifiability”. no one agrees what the word “god” means, and that trips up anyone trying to talk rationally about this hypothesis to anyone who keeps talking of this entity. if you really want to have a sane conversation about the probability of existence of “god”, you theists need to define this thing first. why you? because you are introducing this hypothesis, not me. so, as long as you clearly define what you are saying, we can talk. else, you might as well be speaking in a language no one but you understand, and then claiming that what you are saying makes perfect sense and everyone who disagrees is merely not comprehending this unique language in your head

and yes, i have also read your books, and your philosopher’s deep thoughts, and no, i have not read them all, and i do not remember every stanza and word as you expect me to before i am allowed to speak about your particular brand of fantasy, but here's the point: i do not need to...just like i do not need to master the entire superman canon to be able to come to the conclusion that he remains a myth, a story, a fantasy, and is not real

in fact, instead of explaining this whole argument, why don’t i let wikipedia’s gentle touch help? this is how your argument about me not understanding “your god” or “your philosophy” or “your religion” sound. +PZ Myers has said it so succinctly and so well that i cannot possibly better him