Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Universal Agnosticism’ I Don’t Know

Universal Agnosticism? I Don’t Know

By David Brodsky

My insight for the work week, which I’m sure some of you will find particularly appalling, deals with those middle-ground few who simply refuse to make any sort of assertions when it comes to theology. I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts regarding the theological speculations of one of my professors. I would not dare go anywhere near the question of God in this reflection, only analyze some of the social ramifications of our petty musings on the Divine. I will not reveal the identity of the professor for fear I may be hunted down and shot by the powers that be, but I must touch on his conclusion before I move on.

The gist of his argument was to suggest that the divine planner, if truly divine, must have considered the possibilities of humanity accessing the speed of light and coming in contact with other civilizations. He noted that if we were never intended to meet other life forms, though we can speculate that they exist, it would seem like something of a cruel joke to play on a curious yet naïve human thinker. From that point, he went on to describe himself as an agnostic, rather than an atheist, because he thinks atheists are arrogant.

As somewhat of a self-proclaimed philosopher-theologian, I always think it rather humorous to watch people more acquainted with the natural sciences brood on metaphysics. It derives from this abrasive sub-culture, which no one wants to admit exists, that a scientist is much less likely to be spiritually minded than someone who works in any other field. This “theology war” seems to be taking place on paper, where the more intelligent proponents on either side of the spectrum will utterly deny the mere existence of the opposing view. God, or even the nonexistence of God, is never at all pondered upon in scientific circles, and the “big bang” theory (and I do stress “theory”) is never discussed in church pews.

The reason is not to suggest that all scientists are atheists or that all believers deny the rationality of science, but, rather, that each side is so fearful of the other that it would prefer to pay the issue no mind at all. The scientist fears that his life’s research will simply be discounted because of the radical fundamentalists who simply do not want to swallow ideas challenging those in the Bible. The believer fears that the scientist is somehow going to make the world wrongly come to the conclusion that God is fiction. Hence, it was rather a refreshing sentiment to hear a scientist ruminate over something that he could neither touch nor see.

The conclusion itself was to be expected, however. It is indeed a rarity that a scientist should go so far against protocol to assert the definite existence of God, and this professor was, not surprisingly, among the majority. He simply gave a statement so ambiguous as not really to answer any question at all, which was, “I don’t know.”

Well, how silly is that?

None of us believers (except the really dumb ones) think we know that God exists; there is no way to know. Equally, however, there is no way for a reasonable person to know that God does not exist. God is given character by theory, and both physics and metaphysics are needed to conceive of any logical conviction of such an entity (or nonentity). If one wants to give oneself a theological identity, so to speak, one needs to assert something about the Divine, such as “God exists because.” or “God does not exist because.” If one could simply be justified in saying, “I don’t know,” there could not logically be much decisiveness in theological speculation.

No one knows, and thus, according to a reasonable agnostic (if such a person exists), we are all agnostics. So the theory is not theological at all, it is just a cop-out of having to make a decision: “I don’t know; but I don’t want to spend my precious time thinking about it, so I’ll just tell everyone I meet that my answer is `I don’t know.'” Well, if that were the case for everyone, we would not have much breadth or variety in our conceptions of God, would we? And that would not be too great a statement about our social intelligence.

Allow me one final clarification. I think this particular professor is a brilliant man who, unfortunately, had to be scapegoated for me to make a point in this article. Agnosticism is a rational theory, no matter how one looks at it; it simply admits what many refuse to admit: that we just cannot know, and so it does not try.

All I am saying is that we all should try.

David Brodsky is a freshman in the College.

More to Discover