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Neil deGrasse Tyson: Atheist or Agnostic?
Mark Cheney on April 8, 2012, 12:00 AM
What’s the Big Idea?
Richard Dawkins, the most famous atheist in the world, created a stir when he recently declared that he was not an atheist after all, but an agnostic. The news, which came during a debate with the Archbishop of Canterbury last month, seemed at first to be a big get for God. However, in The God Delusion Dawkins was frank about his agnosticism.
So, how does Dawkins square his public persona with his lack of certitude? Easily. No matter how strongly Dawkins is associated with atheism, he is first and foremost a scientist. Therefore, “the existence of God is a scientific hypothesis like any other,” he claims.
Similarly, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson claims the title “scientist” above all other “ists.” And yet, Tyson says he is “constantly claimed by atheists.” So where does Tyson stand? He tells Big Think: “Neil deGrasse, widely claimed by atheists, is actually an agnostic.”
Uh, I thought the New Atheists defined atheism as “lacking belief in a god”. If so, then Dawkins IS an atheist. He even had his anti-religious book titled “The God Delusion”, not The Biblical Delusion, The Christian Delusion, or The Creationist Delusion. If you really think simply believing in a god is delusional, then you’d have to be asserting that there no god, or else your claim that Theists are delusional is pointless! Unless Dawkins actually repudiates his book, he is NOT agnostic!
In The God Delusion, Dawkins provides a seven point scale for scoring belief in God. Here it is:
Richard Dawkins’ Belief Scale Scoring Rubric
- Strong Theist: I do not question the existence of God, I KNOW he exists.
- De-facto Theist: I cannot know for certain but I strongly believe in God and I live my life on the assumption that he is there.
- Weak Theist: I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.
- Pure Agnostic: God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.
- Weak Atheist: I do not know whether God exists but I’m inclined to be skeptical.
- De-facto Atheist: I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable and I live my life under the assumption that he is not there.
- Strong Atheist: I am 100% sure that there is no God.
I would rewrite these definitions as follows:
Dale Husband’s Belief Scale Scoring Rubric
- Dogmatic Theist: I do not question the existence of God.
- Non-Dogmatic Theist: I am inclined to believe in God but I do not proclaim that belief as if it is fact.
- Non-theist Agnostic: I am neutral on whether God exists but I’m inclined to be skeptical and live as if he does not.
- Non-Dogmatic Atheist: I am inclined to believe there is no God.
- Dogmatic Atheist: I am 100% sure that there is no God and assert such a position constantly.
For more details about this problem, see:
Misdefining terms for purposes of propaganda
Make up your minds, atheists!
I wonder how disappointed BionicDance must be in Dawkins, assuming she knows of his recently stated position.
You skipped the bit on a definition of the word “agnostic”. If you had included both then anyone would have been able to see that atheism is about belief, while agnosticism is about knowledge.
I am an agnostic atheist: I don’t believe in a God, but I can’t know.
There is nothing inconsistent about that claim.
(Dale Husband: The problem is that NO ONE can know if there is a God or not, so technically everyone should be agnostic, making the term useless as one of distinction. Don’t yell at me about that, yell at Thomas Huxley, who coined the term agnostic in the first place. He did NOT affirm what you did, but clearly stated the difference between agnostics and atheists, a difference I continue to recognize.)
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