If you ask a mathematician if he knows how to draw a map that needs more than four colors (so that adjacent territories do not share a color), he won’t say, “I don’t know—I’m an agnostic on the question.” Rather, he’ll say, “That knowledge is unobtainable. It’s impossible to draw such a map.”

It’s true that he doesn’t know how to draw such a map, but he won’t see the matter in terms of what he DOESN’T know but rather what he DOES know. In the same way, on the question of God’s existence, I don’t see the matter in terms of what I DON’T know but rather in terms of what I DO know—that the existence of God is undeterminable.

My dictionary defines agnosticism as a belief; for me, it’s not a matter of belief. Another example may help clarify the difference: On the question of whether there are other intelligent races in the universe, it would be plausible to describe me as an agnostic: I simply don’t know; this knowledge is theoretically obtainable (and may be obtained someday), but I myself don’t have it.

ID: 724
updated: 05 Aug 2005