Talk:Agnosticism

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perhaps vs no perhaps[edit]

Agnosticism isn't "I am perhaps uncertain". It is "I am certain that I am uncertain". Adding a 'perhaps' implies that there is room for certainty of some kind. Or, I might not be certain that I'm uncertain. That's not agnosticism, that's partial agnosticism at best. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Geoffbg (talkcontribs) 00:35, 14 March 2017 (UTC)

We don't use the phrase "I am perhaps uncertain" anywhere in this article. This Talk page is for discussing improvements to this article, not a forum for general discussion about agnosticism. ~ Röbin Liönheart (talk) 21:45, 30 March 2017 (UTC)

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Agnostotheism: make page[edit]

— Preceding unsigned comment added by 2a02:2149:8286:5d00:fc1e:e047:b002:3866 (talk) 12:55, 25 October 2017‎ (UTC)


Improving the last paragraph of Defining Agnosticism[edit]

The paragraph I think needs improvement is:


Others have redefined this concept, making it compatible with forming a belief, and only incompatible with absolute certainty. George H. Smith, while admitting that the narrow definition of atheist was the common usage definition of that word,[18] and admitting that the broad definition of agnostic was the common usage definition of that word,[19] promoted broadening the definition of atheist and narrowing the definition of agnostic. Smith rejects agnosticism as a third alternative to theism and atheism and promotes terms such as agnostic atheism (the view of those who do not believe in the existence of any deity, but do not claim to know if a deity does or does not exist) and agnostic theism (the view of those who do not claim to know of the existence of any deity, but still believe in such an existence).[20][21][22]


I've been wanting to improve this paragraph for awhile and replace it with something that clearly and fairly describes and demonstrates the battling definitions of agnosticism between weak/strong agnostics and atheists. With the current edit warring that is happening, this seems like a good time to make this change. Here is my proposal for replacing the paragraph.


Start.

Some reject this common usage of agnosticism (citation 19), that it is not a third alternative to theism and atheism, but simply a statement of knowledge (citation 20). While Rowe argues that an agnostic requires a rational basis in choosing whether to believe or disbelieve in God (citation 2) and Bertrand Russell argues that “the Agnostic suspends judgment, saying that there are not sufficient grounds either for affirmation or for denial” (citation 77), George H. Smith argues that a belief about God should indicate whether or not one believes in God (citation 20). As such, he argues agnosticism is not a third alternative since it does not indicate whether or not one believes in God. That one must either be theist or atheist (citation 20). Agnostic is then redefined to mean a lack of knowledge for a belief. Such a redefinition leads to terms such as agnostic atheism (a claim that one does not have knowledge about God’s existence and do not have a belief that God exists) and agnostic theism (a claim that one does not have knowledge about God’s existence and do have a belief that God exists) (citation 22).

These definitions are in conflict, since Rowe and Russell argue a rational basis is required by an agnostic, while Smith’s redefinition of agnostic demands one chooses theism or atheism, regardless of whether or not one has a rational basis to do so.

End.

Thoughts?

IIXVXII (talk) 04:26, 27 December 2017 (UTC)

I would agree in principle that there is always room for improvement. However, I am not convinced that that paragraph is the trouble spot you seem to think that it is, and I do not see how your proposed paragraph forms an improvement.
In the first sentence, it is confusing as to what you mean by "this common usage." The rest of the sentence indicates that "this common usage" refers to one where agnosticism is not considered a third theological position but simply about knowledge claims. That is not a position that has been previously introduced so referring to that understanding of agnosticism with "this common usage" is confusing. What has been discussed up to this point in the article is an understanding of agnosticism that is antithetical to the forming of a belief as to the existence of God/gods, even beliefs that are not absolute. I do not think it is a bad idea for the opening sentence of a paragraph that introduces a divergence from that understanding to explain that divergence plainly.
I do not think that George H. Smith was entirely alone in promoting this redefinition of terms. I think that some improvement could be found by introducing the names of some other philosophers that promoted this redefinition. As it is, it makes it look a bit like Mr. Smith is all by himself in promoting it.
When you say, "George H. Smith argues that a belief about God should indicate whether or not one believes in God" you are bringing Mr. Smith's argument into it. I think that this should either be done in greater depth of left alone. One could present the arguments that Mr. Smith, and possibly others, put forward in favor of this redefinition of terms, and then some of the arguments that others have made against it. That would maintain the neutral position, but so would restricting the content to be an explanation of the effects of the redefinition, which is what was done in the original paragraph.
The use of remote language is also potentially misleading. Saying, "Agnostic is then redefined to mean a lack of knowledge", does not make it clear that that concept was part of the argument for a redefinition of terms that Gorge H. Smith was putting forward. Similarly with, "Such a redefinition leads to terms such as agnostic atheism". Saying that it 'leads' to such things makes it sound like it was just an inevitability, which it might have been, but it does not make it clear that it was a practice that Mr. Smith promoted.
I think that expanding the coverage of the conflict between these conflicting definitions would be an improvement and could be done while maintaining a neutral position. I think that might be better done in another section. Perhaps in the history section, or maybe in a section of its own.
Flawliss (talk) 00:59, 29 December 2017 (UTC)
I will add changes to my proposal in an attempt to satisfy your criticisms, but I think first, we should reach some understanding on why we are edit warring in the first place.
I have two issues with the sentence in question. That it claims agnosticism is incompatible with “forming a belief” and “only incompatible with absolute certainty.” These are both false. A prior sentence states,
“His agnosticism was not compatible with forming a belief as to the truth, or falsehood, of the claim at hand.”
and I’m fine with that. That is clear and precise. The sentence does not state,
“His agnosticism was not compatible with forming a belief of the claim at hand.”
which is the claim of the sentence in question. We go from the specific, “forming a belief as to the truth, or falsehood” to the more general, “forming a belief”. This assumes that ‘belief’ must be something that states a position on whether a claim is true or false, which is the ‘atheist argument’ against agnosticism. The statement in question, simply assumes the ‘atheist argument’ as true, which I don’t see as a neutral point of view. Agnostics do have beliefs about the existence of God. That God is currently unknown or forever unknowable, that there are not sufficient rational grounds to lean towards true or false. I don’t know what atheists label these statements as, but they reject them as beliefs because they don’t state a position on whether God is true or false.
As for “only incompatible with absolute certainty”, this is not what the sources state. Smith states “agnosticism refers to the impossibility of knowledge” , which isn’t a statement about absolute certainty, but a statement of no certainty, at all. That there is no knowledge whatsoever, not that there is some knowledge, but it falls short of absolute certainty. Another source from Dan Barker states, “The agnostic says, "I don't have a knowledge that God exists.", which is similar to Smith, that again, to them, agnostic means no knowledge whatsoever. I don’t see any source that redefines agnosticism to mean, all beliefs that fall short of absolute certainty. I see sources that say, a belief with no knowledge whatsoever, no certainty, at all.
The sentence in question should read “incompatible with any certainty”.
IIXVXII (talk) 06:37, 30 December 2017 (UTC)
The problem as I see it is that you do not feel that the author of the article has given proper representation to your understanding of what "agnosticism" means. It is a common understanding that the term "agnosticism" represents a creed or doctrine that is antithetical to embracing a belief that either God/gods do exist, or that God/gods do not exist. It seems to have been the authors understanding that Huxley and Rowe, among possible others, understood it this way.
I am not entirely certain that I know what you mean by "the ‘atheist argument’ against agnosticism" but I think that I do. Allowing the understanding that Agnosticism is incompatible with forming a belief as to the existence of God/gods does not lend any credence to an argument that Agnosticism does not produce a third recognized theological position because it does not embrace a belief either that God/gods do exist, or that they do not.
As for “only incompatible with absolute certainty”, this is a description of a fragment of the effects of Smith's redefinition of terms. It is not discussing the whole of everything Smith might have ever said about the meaning of the word "agnosticism". It was placing it in juxtaposition with the first part of the sentence, saying that Smith was changing it so it would no longer be incompatible with forming a belief as to the existence of God/gods, and so it would only be incompatible with theological certainty.
What I object to in your editing is that it looks as if you rewriting it to make it reflect your ideological narrative. If you feel that your position is underrepresented, you could write something for a blog of your own. Then I would be willing to try writing something to add to the article here and I could cite your blog as a source. Or you could explain yourself to me so I could write a blog that you could cite. Or you could point me to some other information that you think reflect your position. However, I think that this space is really for talking about the page only. If you would like to discuss this or philosophy, theology, or whatever to reach understanding and a meeting of minds. I would invite you to use my talk page.
Since you object to the original sentence:
"Others have redefined this concept, making it compatible with forming a belief, and only incompatible with absolute certainty."
And have changed it to be:
"Others have redefined this concept, making it compatible with forming a belief as to the truth or falsehood, and incompatible with any certainty."
Allow me to suggest:
"Others have redefined this concept, making it compatible with forming a belief as to the existence of a God, and only incompatible with theological certainty."
```` — Preceding unsigned comment added by Flawliss (talkcontribs) 19:54, 1 January 2018 (UTC)
The problem as I see it is that you do not feel that the author of the article has given proper representation to your understanding of what "agnosticism" means.
Please assume good faith.


It is a common understanding that the term "agnosticism" represents a creed or doctrine that is antithetical to embracing a belief that either God/gods do exist, or that God/gods do not exist. It seems to have been the authors understanding that Huxley and Rowe, among possible others, understood it this way.
Strawman is a logical fallacy. I just previously stated I support the sentence,
“His agnosticism was not compatible with forming a belief as to the truth, or falsehood, of the claim at hand.”


I am not entirely certain that I know what you mean by "the ‘atheist argument’ against agnosticism" but I think that I do. Allowing the understanding that Agnosticism is incompatible with forming a belief as to the existence of God/gods does not lend any credence to an argument that Agnosticism does not produce a third recognized theological position because it does not embrace a belief either that God/gods do exist, or that they do not.
Whether you agree with the ‘atheist argument’ or not is irrelevant. In discussing the two conflicting definitions of agnosticism, I think it’s important to state clearly and fairly, why these two definitions exist. Hence, why I would like to see a re-write of this paragraph.


As for “only incompatible with absolute certainty”, this is a description of a fragment of the effects of Smith's redefinition of terms. It is not discussing the whole of everything Smith might have ever said about the meaning of the word "agnosticism". It was placing it in juxtaposition with the first part of the sentence, saying that Smith was changing it so it would no longer be incompatible with forming a belief as to the existence of God/gods, and so it would only be incompatible with theological certainty.
Might have ever said? Speculating clearly falls under original research, the very reason I deleted this part of the sentence. However, we can look at the book the Smith citation comes from and see what further he had to say.
“For the agnostic atheist, not only is the nature of any supernatural being unknowable, but the existence of any supernatural being is unknowable as well. We cannot have knowledge of the unknowable; therefore, concludes this agnostic, we cannot have knowledge of god’s existence.” –George H. Smith
I think it’s pretty clear, Smith is saying, “we cannot have knowledge of the unknowable”. He clearly isn’t saying, we can have some knowledge of the unknowable, but it just falls short of absolute certainty.


What I object to in your editing is that it looks as if you rewriting it to make it reflect your ideological narrative. If you feel that your position is underrepresented, you could write something for a blog of your own. Then I would be willing to try writing something to add to the article here and I could cite your blog as a source. Or you could explain yourself to me so I could write a blog that you could cite. Or you could point me to some other information that you think reflect your position. However, I think that this space is really for talking about the page only. If you would like to discuss this or philosophy, theology, or whatever to reach understanding and a meeting of minds. I would invite you to use my talk page.
Appeal to Motive is a logical fallacy. Please assume good faith.
IIXVXII (talk) 14:57, 3 January 2018 (UTC)
It seems to me that IIXVXII's proposed revision makes the paragraph in question less clear and harder to follow. ~ Röbin Liönheart (talk) 06:49, 27 January 2018 (UTC)

Moving on[edit]

Trying the follow the long arguments above is made worse by formatting issues. For the moment I have removed the prior phrase as it is unreferenced. The proposed change is also unreferenced and as difficult to understand as the original. I don't see it as necessary, open to proposals if supported by a reference. In the mean time please stop edit warring ----Snowded TALK 16:47, 3 January 2018 (UTC)

Given that what you have characterized as edit warring started about the substantial removal of that sentence, I think that any attempt to describe the removal of the sentence as some sort of neutral action is frankly insulting. I am going to suggest that we just leave it as the author wrote it until a consensus can be reached.
The only statements made in that sentence are that Huxley and Rowe considered Agnosticism to be incompatible with forming a conclusive belief regarding the existence of God, and that Smith's proposal included changing that, leaving its only relevant incompatibility as the one with theological certainty. An important part of Smith's proposal was that "gnostic" be used to refer to theological certainty and "agnostic" be used to refer to the absence of theological certainty. All of that is given citations. Noting the difference does not require citation as well.
My point has always been that even if what the author was talking about is not something that IIXVXII considers an acceptable understanding of Agnosticism, it is still a generally accepted understanding of it. And that the author's discussion of one understanding does not need to be suppressed in order for another understanding to be discussed. There simply is no need to remodel the paragraph to try to have it talking about a different understanding of the term, one can add another understanding of the term, at another point or through expanding that section, without having to stamp out the one that is there.
Flawliss (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 17:57, 6 January 2018 (UTC)
Its a confusing and obviously contested sentence that is (i) not directly referenced (third party) and (ii) adds nothing to the following paragraph ----Snowded TALK 20:00, 7 January 2018 (UTC)
The original removal of that sentence by IIXVXII was, as they later explained it, because it did not reflect their understanding of the term. They said, ""making it compatible with forming a belief" implies it currently is not, which is false." Of course, it only implies that Huxley and Rowe spoke of it as being incompatible with forming a belief as to the existence of God. Then on the talk page, they have said that the sentence somehow supports "the ‘atheist argument’ against agnosticism" and therefore needed to be stricken.
The sentence is referenced, in that citations are given showing both Huxley and Rowe saying that "agnosticism" is incompatible with forming a conclusive belief either that a God does exist, or that one does not. What Smith has to say about "agnosticism" is also given a citation. Noting the difference between those two is not something that requires citation. If someone says that one group says that there are Seven Wonders of the World and that another group says that there are only five, with citations for both, it does not require another citation to comment that the difference is two.
It has been argued here on this page that until that sentence the author had not made it unequivocally clear that what they were referencing regarding Huxley and Rowe was the understanding that "agnosticism" is incompatible with forming a belief as to the existence of God. That suggests that it is of some importance in understanding what is being said here.
So quite clearly it does not "add nothing". It adds something that some people do not want to have represented, even if it has the proper citation. And whatever troubles that sentence may have it would also seem that it offers clarification.
I do think that first sentence could stand some improvement. As it is it seems to imply that being incompatible with absolute certainty was part of the redefinition, when quite clearly it is not, as shown in the citations.
How about one of these:
"A redefinition of this concept makes agnosticism compatible with forming a belief as to the existence of a God, leaving it only incompatible with theological certainty."
"A definition that was later introduced represents agnosticism as being compatible with forming a belief as to the existence of a God, leaving it only incompatible with theological certainty."
Flawliss (talk) 03:56, 8 January 2018 (UTC)
Its not cited its a synthesis to make a point. That overall section lists properly cited statements from different thinkers on the subject. I really can't see why a sentence is necessary. By the way I reformed your comment to wikipedia standards, I hope that was helpful ----Snowded TALK 07:30, 8 January 2018 (UTC)
Thank you Snowded, for taking the time to help me with formatting issues, I appreciate that.
I addressed the issues that you brought up. You have not addressed what I said and have instead repeated yourself. One new thing you introduced was the word synthesis. The analogy that I offered concerning The Wonders of the World applies to this as well. Commenting that there is a difference between the two is not a synthesis. If the author had said that it was the most important difference between the two then that might be considered a synthesis and/or in need of citation.
What is under discussion in this section are definitions. The author talks about one definition and highlights one of its distinctions because he is then going to contrast that distinction with the next definition he discusses. In order for it to be clear that there are two separate definitions being presented there has to be a statement of demarcation. Given that it has already been argued that the author was not expressly clear in their earlier comments about the point of distinction being illustrated, even if the citations were, and that it was not made clear until the sentence in question, there is also a need for something clarifying that point in addition to providing demarcation between the two definitions. Flawliss (talk) 01:50, 11 January 2018 (UTC)
I made a similar point in a different way as you didn't listen the first time! You are not here to write an essay but too contribute to an encyclopaedia. You are in effect adding your commentary, not that from a reliable third party source. Other editors are telling you the same thing and you have to get agreement to changes now it has been contested. WP:BRD and WP: weasel apply. Be aware that you running the risk of engaging in a slow edit war and that can get you a block. You've had a formal warning. ----Snowded TALK 07:14, 11 January 2018 (UTC)
Noting the difference between those two is not something that requires citation.
It does, because I don’t agree with your interpretation. Smith’s use of agnostic is identical to that of Huxley. Smith’s perspective is that Huxley agnostics are exactly agnostic atheists, that they are functionally identical. Smith says in his book,
“Thus, for the agnostic atheist, the proper answer to the question, “Does a god exist?” is “I don’t know” – or, more specifically – “I cannot know.””
The exact responses common to Huxley agnostics. “I don’t know” as weak agnosticism and “I cannot know” as strong agnosticism. How is Smith changing the definition for this equivalence to happen? I don’t even see how one can say “A definition that was later introduced represents agnosticism as being compatible with forming a belief as to the existence of a God” when Smith is using the exact same belief of Huxley agnostics that God is unknown or unknowable for agnostic atheists. It’s the exact same belief, just with a different label.
After re-reading some of the chapters in Smith’s book, I’m in doubt now that ‘redefine’ or ‘new definition’ of agnosticism is even correct language. Smith argues,
“We have seen, however, that atheism, in its widest sense, refers basically to the absence of a belief in god and need not entail the denial of god…While the agnostic of the Huxley variety may refuse to state whether theism is true or false -- thus “suspending” his judgment – he does not believe in the existence of a god. (If he did believe, he would be a theist.) Since this agnostic does not accept the existence of a god as true, he is without theistic belief he is atheistic – and Huxley’s agnosticism emerges as a form of atheism.”
There is no definition change of agnosticism. He is using the Huxley definition of agnosticism and arguing that it is a form of atheism. It’s not that the definition is changing, it’s that this definition doesn’t define, in Smith’s perspective, a theological position.
I was willing to compromise on the sentence structure, but upon further reflection, I think it should stay removed. I don’t see the sentence as being an accurate representation of Smith. Another source would be needed. IIXVXII (talk) 21:19, 11 January 2018 (UTC)
Replying to Snowed-
I did read what you had to say, as evidenced by my responding to what you had said. What I did not do, was agree with you. Instead, I gave some of the reasons why I did not agree with you, something which you now characterize as writing an essay. Your response was to simply re-word your bland assertion and issue it again without offering any argument for your position or engaging with mine.
I am not sure what you mean by a formal warning. I have been contacted by you, and you offered quotes from the rules that showed that the editing that you had been engaged in was contrary to those rules. You also offered links to more rules, some of which you also have not been following.
Since your entry into the conversation, you have been contending that you should be allowed to make changes to the original sentence and paragraph as you like, and have done so in the support of the side of the disagreement that you favor. You then want everyone to leave your edits alone, calling that a holding operation. I have suggested that we all leave it as it was while we try to reach consensus, others, possibly following your lead, were unwilling to respect that and have continued to keep editing that sentence out. I had put forward here on the talk page several sentences as suggestions and no one had made a comment on them, so I selected one that I thought would be the most broadly acceptable and entered it as a change while commenting that it was being put forward as a temporary thing. I think that I have shown a willingness to compromise, and I do not think that I have committed an abuse of editing privileges. If as you say there must an agreement to changes once something has been contested, then according to the rules to which you have pointed, it became contested when I reverted it back to its original state. It would seem that all of the edits since then have been in breach of those rules, including your own.
Under the WP: BRD section it makes it clear that I have not been instigating inappropriate editing. I have engaged in editing in support of those rules. I seem to have followed the guidelines presented there reasonably well. Especially worthy of note would be the Discuss section, "Discuss the contribution, and the reasons for the contribution, on the article's talk page with the person who reverted your contribution. Don't restore your changes or engage in back-and-forth reverting." You are among the people who have shown an interest in instituting a change, and you have shown yourself to be less than willing to have a conversation about it.
It is incorrect to imply that the WP: weasel section would apply here. That section is expressly for unsupported attributions, which this is not. If the author had commented on the importance of the difference, then that might be considered a synthesis. But that is not something that happened, the author said this thing is this way, and this other thing is another way, each of those supported with citations, then they said that these two things are different in that way. No synthesis, and no call for a separate citation.
Since some people seem to be terribly ill-contented to follow the rules of editing and leave the sentence up there while it is being discussed, perhaps we could follow another suggestion from the guidelines and move the whole paragraph here to the talk page while it is discussed. What I do not think is appropriate is using the removal of portions of the writing to substantially change it to represent something different from its original intent. I do not object to those other ideas being represented, I object to the censoring of the one that was being expressed here. Flawliss (talk) 20:38, 13 January 2018 (UTC)
The pair of you were edit warring and neither of alternatives was supported by third party sources. Material not supported by sources gets deleted and your selecting something without agreement (look at your own words) can't be justified without support. At the moment it looks like all editors other than you are content to leave it as it now is. If you get cited material or support from other editors we can look at it again ----Snowded TALK 22:10, 13 January 2018 (UTC)
Replying to IIXVXII-
Quite regardless of whatever Smith might have said, I do not think it is accurate to say that Huxley and Rowe are using the same definition that Smith is in his book, as evidenced by the citations from the Wiki page. We have Huxley saying, "It simply means that a man shall not say he knows or believes that which he has no scientific grounds for professing to know or believe." We have Rowe saying, "In the popular sense, an agnostic is someone who neither believes nor disbelieves in God, whereas an atheist disbelieves in God." followed by comments on the definition in a strict sense that end with "... the person who accepts the philosophical position of agnosticism will hold that neither the belief that God exists nor the belief that God does not exist is rational." That establishes their definition as being incompatible with professing a knowledge or belief that God exists, or a knowledge or belief that God does not exist. In their definition, the term "agnostic" indicates that the person does not embrace the position that God exists, and also does not embrace the position that God does not exist. Then we have Smith saying, "The term agnostic does not, in itself, indicate whether or not one believes in a god. Agnosticism can be either theistic or atheistic." That is all just on the wiki page, and Smith's definition totally contradicts Huxley and Rowe's definition in these ways.
On that same page that the citation is from in Smith's book, he goes on to say, "The agnostic theist believes in the existence of god, but maintains that the nature of god is unknowable. The medieval Jewish philosopher, Maimonides, is an example of this position. He believed in god, but refused to ascribe positive attributes to this god on the basis that these attributes would..." I do not think that the medieval Jewish philosopher, Maimonides, developed scientific evidence to prove the existence of God, if he had then we all would have heard of it. So Smith is talking about a definition of "agnosticism" that allows the agnostic to say that they know or believe something, even when they do not have scientific grounds for professing to know or believe.
The author of the Wiki page/section collected and presented all the citations necessary to say the things that they did.
Flawliss (talk) 22:56, 13 January 2018 (UTC)


I understand. Huxley agnostics would argue that agnosticism is not compatible with theism or atheism, while Smith argues that it is. I used to also think that this was the result of the two using different definitions of agnosticism, but I don’t see it that way anymore.
Smith wants to conclude that Huxley agnostics are atheists. If Smith is changing the definition of agnosticism, then his argument breaks down, because then he is no longer talking about Huxley agnostics. If he wants to conclude Huxley agnostics are atheists, then he MUST use a description that defines Huxley agnostics. If he doesn’t, then he is not talking about Huxley agnostics. It’s not coherent to claim Group A is a form of atheism, by using a definition that doesn’t define Group A.
This wouldn’t be the first time that people agree on a definition but have different interpretations of the outcome, meaning or application. This is what I see as a better description for Smith, not that his definition is different, but that his interpretation and application are.
I think you need to look at the bigger picture here instead of synthesizing some statements. If you’re going to take the position that Smith is using a definition that “totally contradicts Huxley” then you sacrifice all of Smith’s arguments about agnosticism. Agnosticism is not a third alternative, is not mutually exclusive from theism and atheism, can be theistic and atheistic, Huxley is an atheist, all break down, fall apart, if he is using some other definition of agnosticism that doesn’t describe the group that he is arguing about.
He is not arguing that we should redefine agnosticism to be these things, he is arguing that agnosticism is these things. Smith isn’t changing the definition of agnosticism, he is trying to shape a new interpretation and application of it. IIXVXII (talk) 03:34, 15 January 2018 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Guys the purpose of the talk page is to deal with issues on the article not to have a general discussion of the subject. Please take this offline ----Snowded TALK 07:02, 15 January 2018 (UTC)

Whether Smith is proposing a new definition or new interpretation is an issue with the article, as well as the proposal for improving the paragraph that I already put forth. WP:TALK#COMMUNICATE What is your view on the proposal I put forth? Should I use definition, interpretation or is there a better word? IIXVXII (talk) 08:39, 16 January 2018 (UTC)
You should read up on synthesis and original research and come back here when you have a reliable third party source which makes that the point ----Snowded TALK 10:33, 16 January 2018 (UTC)
The synthesis and original research are already present. If we’re not going to work to improve it, then it should be removed.
The sentence following the one that you removed states,
“George H. Smith, while admitting that the narrow definition of atheist was the common usage definition of that word,[18] and admitting that the broad definition of agnostic was the common usage definition of that word,[19] promoted broadening the definition of atheist and narrowing the definition of agnostic. ”
Citation 18 cites page 9 of his book. I suggest you read page 9 of his book which you can find with Google books. No where on page 9 does Smith make such a claim. Nothing even close. WP:FAKE Citation 19 from page 12 of his book adds words that Smith didn’t use. Smith says,
“Because of the ambiguity in the traditional agnostic position, the term “agnostic” has been employed in a variety of ways. It is commonly used to designate one who refuses to affirm or deny the existence of a god…”
Where does he say this is a broad definition? Where does Smith even define what is a broad and narrow definition of agnostic?
And where does the following claim come from?
“…promoted broadening the definition of atheist and narrowing the definition of agnostic. ”
Where does Smith say this? Where is this source?
“The prohibition against OR means that all material added to articles must be attributable to a reliable, published source, even if not actually attributed.”IIXVXII (talk) 07:10, 17 January 2018 (UTC)
Direct quotation of sources is what we avoid here - you need third party ones. If there is united material, or material which uses and interprets primary sources remove it. I came here to stop the edit war you were engaged in and will monitor what happens ----Snowded TALK 10:01, 17 January 2018 (UTC)
Replying to Snowed - from January 13th &17th
You are not moderating this, you are a participant. You entered into it by taking part in edit warring. It is not acceptable to simply announce without discussion that your side has triumphed.
I am setting it back to its original state, the state where it became contested, where the guidelines/rules say it should be placed while it is discussed. If other people find that they cannot even bring themselves to discuss it while it is still up there, then we can follow the guidelines and move the whole paragraph or even the whole section here to the talk page while it is discussed.
If you would like to, you are of course welcome to join the conversation and offer an explanation for your views. As it is, only one person, IIXVXII, has said why they think it should be changed and what they have been talking about is censorship.
Flawliss (talk) 13:12, 20 January 2018 (UTC)
Replying to IIXVXII - from January 15th
I suspect that I might truly enjoy conversing with you on theology and George H. Smith's book. Do you or anyone know, Is there a forum hosted here at Wikipedia where such a conversation might be appropriate?
As it stands, the most significant reason you have put forward to change what the page says is that you would like to censor the ideas it expresses. You acknowledge that people do hold those ideas and that those ideas are what the author is talking about. You say that you think holding those ideas is a mistake and therefore others should not be allowed to talk about them.
When you said, "If you’re going to take the position that Smith is using a definition that “totally contradicts Huxley” then you sacrifice all of Smith’s arguments about agnosticism." The only reason to have placed “totally contradicts Huxley” in quotation marks is to make it expressly clear that you are attributing that statement to me. You could have said it without the quotes and that would have been misrepresenting what I had said. With the quotes, it is quoting me out of context to misrepresent what I said. What I said could be properly quoted in an instance like this one as, "totally contradicts Huxley and Rowe's definition in these ways", but that would be incompatible with sweeping statements like, "then you sacrifice all of Smith’s arguments about agnosticism." Because if the quote is not a sweeping statement then it would not necessitate a sweeping consequence.
So, I would thank you not to misrepresent what I have said, and I would thank you to not tailor quotes from me to facilitate such misrepresentations.
Flawliss (talk) 13:19, 20 January 2018 (UTC)
Replying to IIXVXII - from January 17th
Books that have been published a number of different times often have different typesettings for the different publications. Consequently using page numbers is always going to present problems in citations. Even if the ISBN is provided, that publication may not always be readily available. Given that the ISBN listed for citation 20 does not match any viewable version at Google books I do not think you should expect the page numbers there to match either.
Citation 18 says page 9, which places it in the middle of a section about "agnosticism" in what I think is the newest publication, one that can be previewed at Google books. If you go back a bit you will find the section two titled "The Meaning of Atheism". In there, at the bottom of page 7, you find Smith saying, "As here defined, the term “atheism” has a wider scope than the meanings usually attached to it. The two most common usages are described by Paul Edwards as follows:" and I think that constitutes an adequate foundation for what is said by the article's author.
Citation 19 says page 12. We would need to read the bottom of page 10 to understand the context for the top of page 11 where it begins, "Whether this account represents the exact position of Thomas Huxley is not entirely clear." quite possibly including that whole paragraph and the quotation from Huxley that follows, or maybe even more. I think this would establish a use of "broadening" and "narrowing" the way that the author of the article used them. However, this use of those terms is not using them in the same way as they are being used concerning the definition of "atheism". Here the author is referring to a widening or narrowing of the focus of the definition and not a widening of the subjects or the application of the definition. If the difference in the use of those words had been properly highlighted by the author, then it would be easy to consider it amusing wordplay. As it is, it just comes off as a bad sentence in need of some correction.
I really do agree with you that the section could use some editing, I disagree that this should be treated as an opportunity to expunge ideas that you do not favor. But I do think it is worth exploring the idea of just trimming out the build-up to a comparison between Huxley and Rowe's definition and the one used by Smith's.
Flawliss (talk) 13:24, 20 January 2018 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────The pair of you are discussing the subject based on primary texts. Wikipedia works from third party reliable sources as its an encyclopaedia not an essay. If you carry on like this you both risk a topic ban. Now please, find a third party source or two if you want to propose changes. Further the pair of you appear to be single purpose editors - this is the only article either of you have edited. You might be better learning the ropes on other articles where you can assume a neutral position before changing something about which you both have passionate views -----Snowded TALK 13:39, 20 January 2018 (UTC)

03:24, 23 May 2017‎ IIXVXII (talk | contribs)‎ . . (67,981 bytes) (-91)‎ . . (Deleted original research.) (undo)
I initiated the deletion of the original research, which you obviously agree with, and that edit still remains today, as well as many other edits I've done here in the last six years. But thanks for the advice anyways.IIXVXII (talk) 03:31, 26 January 2018 (UTC)
Replying to Snowded - from January 20th
When covering background facts about someone, such as where they lived or where they went to school and how they got on there, it is best to have those things supported by outside sources. This is not the case when dealing with what the subject said. It is considered much better to have a direct quote from the subject than to have someone else describing what they said.
Each person is considered to be the worlds foremost expert on what they think. This is not to say that it may never be suggested, on the strength of some considerable evidence, that they might have been less than honest with themselves and/or others about somethings. But it does take that evidence to dispel the presumption of expertise. Commentary from other sources about what the subject thought is not considered best evidence if there is commentary available from the subject themselves.
Sometimes it can be important to know how someone was using a word, what definition they had applied, in order to properly understand them. This sometimes leads to conjecture as to what was meant, and at those times such conjecture is best left to outside sources. Otherwise, it could easily constitute original work, and not just reporting facts. That is not the case here, the subjects here specifically discussed the definitions that they were using. The best evidence about that is their own comments about those definitions.
When using primary sources it is appropriate to take from them such information as any educated person can go to those sources and verify. This can include information that extends beyond the facts as related in the sources, it can include information that draws a conclusion, but should not include conclusions that are strictly matters of opinion.
All of the things said in that section are properly and appropriately cited, including the last paragraph and its first sentence. Citations that use primary sources are simply not the taboo that you seem to think that they are, even under the Wikipedia's guidelines.
That sentence is also not producing a synthesis, [WP: weasel] does not apply, it does not "add nothing to the following paragraph," there is nothing wrong with that sentence that would require its immediate removal.
I will grant you that there has been some inappropriate discussion of the philosophical merits of things said in the cited sources, but that has not been done by me and I do not think it is appropriate of you to suggest that it has been.
Flawliss (talk) 04:36, 26 January 2018 (UTC)
We don't work with primary sources, especially when the material is disputed, If you don't agree with this then raise an RfC. If you revert to unsupported text again I'm going to ask for your actions to be looked at as a slow edit war which could lead to the block. At the moment you are single purpose editor, with little experience, working on a subject when you have strong options. Please read the material on your talk page on how to edit here and how to handle disputes. Your edit summary on this lates bit of edit warring shows how little you understand wikipedia. To be very clear, material unsupported by reliable third party sources which is disputed cannot stand. -----Snowded TALK 05:40, 26 January 2018 (UTC)
Replying to Snowded -
Everything at Wikipedia does not require third-party sources as you claim. There is a Wikipedia page titled "Identifying and Using Primary Sources" WP:USINGPRIMARY May I take this moment to point out that the very fact that there is such page raises some questions about the accuracy of your claims about third-party sources. In a section on that page titled, "Primary does not mean bad" it says, "Primary sources can be reliable, and they can be used. Sometimes, a primary source is even the best possible source, such as when you are supporting a direct quotation."
On that page, it goes on to discuss more about how one might use primary sources. It talks about novels, films, paintings and more; one of the recurring themes is that one might bring back from those primary sources such evident information as an educated person might go to that sources and find for themselves. Among the examples given is notably the plot of writing and films and the subject and colors of a painting.
Saying that a painting was made using the colors red, yellow, and blue and then that another painting was painted using the colors red, yellow, and green does not require any special citation. Saying that those two color schemes are not the same, or even that one does not contain green while the other does, is not something that requires special citation as it is not a matter of opinion and anyone can go to those sources and verify it.
All of the proper citations have been given for the quotes and for the statements about them in the article. Saying that one author describes their definition of the term "Agnosticism" including some specific criteria and that another describes their definition in a way that precludes that criteria, does not require special citation beyond the quotes of the authors offering those descriptions. Noting that those two definitions are different, or that they are different in those particulars, does not require special citation because it is factual information that anyone can go to those sources and verify. It does not involve synthesis beyond being able to understand the information presented in the source, much like the plot of a movie or a novel.
The only strong opinion that I have evidenced in this discussion is that I do not think that we should be editing to satisfy a call for censorship. it is inappropriate of you to suggest that my arguments should be viewed as having less merit simply because you have chosen to accuse me of some unnamed bias.
Now, I think it is incumbent upon you to present a reasoned argument that supports your position, being specific about what your complaint is and how that applies to the sentence at issue. If you continue to refuse to discuss your objection then it will be appropriate behavior to set it aside.
Flawliss (talk) 04:30, 1 February 2018 (UTC)
Primary sources can be used in very defined circumstances. You however are seeking to interpret those sources, that is variously original research and/or synthesis. You are asking me to engage in a discussion around the subject (something you have indulged in extensively above) and that is not what wikipedia is about. You have strong views on the subject (if you want to call that bias fine) and neither you nor anyone else can impose their views by inserting interpretative statements or introductions to material. I've advised you before to go and get some experience on other articles and that advise stands. At the moment you are a single purpose editor with very little experience of wikipedia.
To be clear. I don't think the sentence is necessary, and if a sentence is necessary it will have to be based on third party sources. That is very specific and I strongly suggest you respect the need to get agreement on the talk page before attempting to change the article. -----Snowded TALK 05:09, 1 February 2018 (UTC)


Snowded is clearly a more experienced editor than we are and the wise thing to do is to learn from his experience and not simply dismiss it. I admit that his interjection has irritated me, because I support a spirit of cooperation and trying to reach a consensus and he was shutting that down. He may also support such a thing, but sometimes that can lead to two editors simply debating about their opinions, which is not in the spirit of Wikipedia.
I originally deleted the statement as original research and it was my mistake to engage in a battle of opinions in trying to reach a compromise sentence. And yes, my interpretation of Smith is my opinion, but you see your interpretation of Smith as fact. That has been your continued argument here that your interpretation is fact, such a simple fact that you’ve compared it to 7 – 5 = 2 and to identify colors of a painting.
If your interpretation is such a simple fact, then you should have no problem finding sources that support it. I’m not going to reject sourced material. If your goal is to have some form of the sentence back, then the more effective use of your time would be to find a source. IIXVXII (talk) 01:57, 3 February 2018 (UTC)
Your last two paragraphs here make the point well. Like any editor I would agree that wikipedia is about reaching agreement, but within the constraints of an encyclopaedia which means we don't argue about the subject in the manner of an academic disputation or editors working on an article in which they wish to express their opinion. I intervened because there was (i) a long running edit war and (ii) a 'discussion' on the talk page which made no reference to third party sources but simply debated the subject. That behaviour could easily have resulted in a couple of blocks -----Snowded TALK 07:11, 3 February 2018 (UTC)
Replying to Snowded - February 1st
Once again you do not address my arguments, and you do not make any arguments of your own. All you did was re-issue the same statements that I have already addressed and vacated.
As I have demonstrated that sentence does not contain an interpretation, it is noting facts that any educated person can go to the cited sources and verify for themselves. The idea that it is offering an interpretation of making a synthesis is vacated, just saying it again does not rehabilitate your argument. You must either address my argument or present one of your own.
You have accused me of engaging in inappropriate conversations about this subject on this page before and now you are doing it again. In my heart of hearts, I do not truly expect that you will suddenly start taking responsibility for the things that you say, but I am nonetheless going to ask you to point to specifically where you think I have been doing that. You have said that I have indulged in it extensively above, so it should be no problem for you to cite a couple of instances.
Stating again that you think that I have strong views on the subject does not mean that you have been given any reason to say that. When you say, "if you want to call that bias fine" you are avoiding taking responsibility for your own actions. You have said that I have such passionate views on this subject that I cannot maintain a neutral position, that is not just an accusation of bias, it is an accusation of uncontrollable bias. Once again, in my heart, I do not truly expect that you will suddenly start taking responsibility for the things that you have said, but I am nonetheless going to ask you to point to what I said here that you feel allows you to draw that conclusion.
As I just said, and you choose not to address, the only opinion I have evidenced with any strength is that I do not think we should be supporting censorship.
Flawliss (talk) 10:32, 9 February 2018 (UTC)
Once again, per wikipedia policy, I refuse to discuss the subject with you. If you can find a third party source to support your edit then we can look at it. Until then you are wasting everyone's time -----Snowded TALK 11:31, 9 February 2018 (UTC)
Replying to Snowded - February 9th
I notice that you did not find yourself in conflict with Wikipedia policy while tosing around errand accusations, just when it comes to taking responsibility for the things you say.
I have already pointed out that according to Wikipedia's policy those citations are from what is considered the best sources. Your claim that third-party sources would be necessary is wrong, third-party sources would not even be considered preferable according to Wikipedia's own editing guide.
Flawliss (talk) 14:17, 9 February 2018 (UTC)
You've edited one article for three months and you are an expert! As other editors have pointed out you are interpreting primary sources. Go and find someone else saying the same thing in a reliable source and we can look at it -----Snowded TALK 14:54, 9 February 2018 (UTC)
Replying to IIXVXII - from February 3rd
Perhaps you would care to explain your curious assumption. I have not been discussing my interpretation of Smith or other things. I have steadfastly maintained that my position and your position are not strictly relevant. I do not think it would be unfair of me to say that you have brought up your interpretations, and I have responded by saying that while I would welcome such a conversation, I did not think this was the correct forum.
I would like to move along to working with you to spruce up the section, I think it does need it. For instance, as you highlighted, a number of the citations are using the 1974 publication of Smith's book. There is a 1979 printing that has a sample available online. It might be a good idea to update those citations to be using that as a source.
Flawliss (talk) 14:35, 9 February 2018 (UTC)