The Incoherency of Agnosticism
by Francois Tremblay
Strong atheism is the position that we should not suspend judgment about the non-existence of gods.
If strong atheism is true, then agnosticism is invalid. One can give various strong-atheistic arguments to prove the validity of strong-atheism and therefore disprove agnosticism.
Many agnostics posit that we do not or cannot have any knowledge on the god-concept, and that this their justification for their agnosticism. If one posits that no knowledge is possible, for instance because human beings are too limited for their arguments to have any weight, then one can deny any argument. This is the most popular agnostic position.
It is certainly an attractive position, especially for nihilists. If we cannot really know anything, then ignorance is a privileged position.
While we can argue this from an epistemic standpoint, by affirming the power of science and rational thinking, or by demonstrating why reason is our means to knowledge, there is a very simple way to express the incoherency. Agnosticism, by denying the non-existence of gods, posits that the existence of gods is possible. Starting from this, we must ask agnostics the following:
How can you derive meaning from a concept you can know nothing about?
If one presupposes that no knowledge about “god” is possible, including semantic knowledge, then one cannot give any objective meaning to “god”. Therefore the proposition “the existence of gods is possible”, which is part of agnosticism, becomes meaningless, and so is agnosticism made meaningless.
Another direct and critical problem with such an agnosticism is that it is self-refuting. If we are impotent beings, if we can make no statement of knowledge, then certainly we cannot claim to know this.
We do not, in fact, need to be unlimited beings in order to make propositions about hypothetical unlimited beings. See the FAQ question ‘Aren’t universal negatives impossible to prove?’ for more information.
Last updated: January 1, 2005