Monday, July 16, 2012

An Amusing Point About Agnostics

Mike Gene made me think about this, so I can't really claim full inspiration on this one.

Here's the Richard Dawkins 7 Point Theistic/Atheistic Certainty scale:


  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 famously ranks himself as a 6.9. Because they're all such free thinkers, the typical Cultist of Gnu ranks themselves at 6.9-7.

Now, here's something I find interesting. Mike Gene, a theist, places himself at 2.5. I'd probably place myself at 2, arguably 1.5. No surprises here.

But where would agnostics be?

Now, I know Dawkins will call himself an agnostic if you corner him. But, by his own scale, he's a de facto atheist. An agnostic could fit comfortably between 3-5, with 4 being as close to the classic agnostic view as one can get. As Mike Gene said, there's less distance between himself and an agnostic than there is between Dawkins - and, I would add, most of the Cultists of Gnu - and an agnostic.

I find this interesting, because one CoG move is to try and claim agnostics - and really, the entirety of the irreligious spectrum - as atheists. But Dawkins' own scale shows how problematic that move is. The CoG is, going by internet self-reporting, about as far away from agnosticism as is possible to get by this scale.

A minor, but amusing thing.

6 comments:

Syllabus said...

According to Dawkins' own metric, I am less dogmatic about my God-belief (2.0-2.5) than he is about his lack of God-belief.

In the words of Iago, why am I not surprised?

Crude said...

As Mike Gene said, the whole "6.9" thing seems to be crafted almost entirely as a cop out. A way to be close-minded, yet hoping to find some technical evasion in the hopes of not being accused of it.

It's like the 'I'm an atheist, that's a lack of belief, I make no positive claims / technically I'm agnostic!' dance. It's largely crafted because making the positive case for atheism is extremely hard, especially when stacked against theistic arguments.

Syllabus said...

I have a feeling that as the figureheads of the Gnus start to join the Choir Invisible, the rhetoric is going to change significantly. Or, hopefully, mostly die out. But hope runs thin with the kind of dullards that adopt that kind of language.

Crude said...

Not sure what you mean by Choir Invisible. Unless you mean, uh... just plain croaking. Dawkins is old, Harris is young but kind of a weirdo, Hitchens is gone, Dennett is old and a philosopher (and the ground-level cult barely tolerates philosophers)... Stenger's super old.

And the young crop generally has problems. We'll see.

Syllabus said...

Yeah, it's a reference to Monty Python's "Dead Parrot" sketch. Basically a flowery way of saying "kick the bucket".

As to the young folk, yeah they do have their issues. The future will bring what it will bring. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst, and all that.

physphilmusic said...

Because they're all such free thinkers, the typical Cultist of Gnu ranks themselves at 6.9-7.

All this 6.9, 6.99, 6.999 stuff just tickles me. It's more accurate to say that a typical gnu atheist's level of personal certainty is (7.0-1/x) where x approaches infinity...