Although poll data indicate that most Americans have a belief in God or some higher power, a (perhaps growing) minority do not (Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life 2008). The term agnostic was coined by "Darwin's bulldog," the nineteenth-century scientist Thomas Henry Huxley, to refer to someone who suspended judgment about the existence of God. Huxley felt that human beings, part of the material universe, would be unable to grasp ultimate reality; therefore, neither belief in nor rejection of the existence of God is warranted. To Huxley, the thoughtful person should suspend judgment. Huxley was a strong supporter of science and believed that knowledge and beliefs should be based on empirical knowledge—and that science would eventually supplant supernaturalism. But he felt it was more honest not to categorically reject an ultimate force or power beyond the material world:
I have no doubt that scientific criticism will prove destructive to the forms of supernaturalism which enter into the constitution of existing religions. On trial of any so-called miracle the verdict of science is "Not proven." But true Agnosticism will not forget that existence, motion, and law-abiding operation in nature are more stupendous miracles than any recounted by the mythologies, and that there may be things, not only in the heavens and earth, but beyond the intelligible universe, which "are not dreamt of in our philosophy." The theological "gnosis" would have us believe that the world is a conjuror's house; the anti-theological "gnosis" talks as if it were a "dirt-pie" made by the two blind children, Law and Force. Agnosticism simply says that we know nothing of what may be beyond phenomena. (Huxley 1884)
Agnostics believe that, in this life, it is impossible to know truly whether there is a God, and although they believe that it is not probable that God exists, they tend not to be dogmatic about this conclusion. One can find individuals who accept the scientific evidence that evolution occurred but do not consider important the question of whether God is or was or will be involved. We can call this belief agnostic evolutionism. Holders of this view differ from the next position on the continuum by not categorically ruling out the involvement of God, although they tend to side with those who doubt the existence of God and whether God acts in the world.
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