So what is our understanding of the nature of reality? This page discusses our foundational thinking. Many of these points are arguable, of course, but we think the debate is better had at ground level – after all, if we cannot agree on the fundamentals, any higher level conversation will continually be poisoned by appeal to a disputed foundation.
Philosophers have been arguing about what we know and what we can know for centuries, with no resolution in sight. And we don’t think we have any more answers. Instead, we are interested in the assumptions we can make and the conclusions that flow from there. Assumptions, or axioms, are foundational and are accepted as “self-evident” and a necessary starting point. We wish to apply the fewest assumptions possible. Note that these assumptions are rooted in our perceptions and not a part of any fundamental rules (such as logic). These rules, even if they underlie “reality” and our ability to think, can only be explored once we accept what we perceive first.
Assumption #1: We exist. The whole exercise is pointless if we do not, but we will include it as an assumption, just in case.
Assumption #2: The cosmos exists. In other words, there is something that we experience, perceive and exists in some sense, even if we don’t know precisely what it is, what it might be, or what it even means to “exist”. Bear in mind that we distinguish “cosmos” from “universe” in order that we might keep our options open as to what higher orders of existence might be, including such things as the supernatural.
Assumption #3: The cosmos plays fair. Whatever it is that the “cosmos” might be, our experience of it is “sufficiently authentic”. We can measure, perceive, and predict. If the cosmos “cheats”, we can detect and evaluate this.
Notice that there is no god in these assumptions, but there is nothing to stop a person from making the existence of a deity one of these. This is essentially what the presuppositionalists do. If someone assumes a deity is necessary, the argument has probably ended – axioms are the foundation. But we might suggest that a deity is less foundational than the other assumptions and, with a little work, show how a deity becomes a superfluous assumption and, instead, a proposition that can be explored evidentially.
There are some features of the cosmos that we regard as immutable. Examples are mathematical constructs and logical principles that we cannot even imagine being otherwise. Take the simplest logical absolute, for instance: A can not be not-A. It’s hard to see how this could be otherwise. So are logical absolutes foundational assumptions or are they truths about the cosmos derived from perception and experience? We don’t know, but we feel that the latter is the safer choice for now. One way to answer whether the logical absolutes are foundational is to ask whether assumptions 1-3 above require logical absolutes.
So whither atheism?
With these principles in mind, we can now explore what this means to the god question. Since god is not an axiom, we do not start with the assumption that god exists. We also do not need to assume god does not exist. In fact, it makes no sense to talk about any god at all until someone creates the idea of god and describes it in such a way that it can be evaluated. This ambivalence about god is the null hypothesis. The testable hypothesis is the statement that “god exists” or “god does not exist”.
Our opinion is that Atheism reflects beliefs and Agnosticism reflects knowledge. The two positions exist along different continua and therefore, a person can fit into any of the four quadrants of the theist/gnostic matrix. Note also, that these categories are only statements of our own positions regarding belief and knowledge. The third metric is, of course, what actually is. Many debates get sidetracked by dispute over the conjunction of belief/knowledge/actuality.