agnostic

agnostic

[ag-nos-tik]
noun
1.
a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience. disbeliever, nonbeliever, unbeliever; doubter, skeptic, secularist, empiricist; heathen, heretic, infidel, pagan.
2.
a person who denies or doubts the possibility of ultimate knowledge in some area of study.
3.
a person who holds neither of two opposing positions on a topic: Socrates was an agnostic on the subject of immortality.
adjective
4.
of or pertaining to agnostics or their doctrines, attitudes, or beliefs.
5.
asserting the uncertainty of all claims to knowledge.
6.
holding neither of two opposing positions: If you take an agnostic view of technology, then it becomes clear that your decisions to implement one solution or another should be driven by need.

Origin:
< Greek ágnōst(os), variant of ágnōtos not known, incapable of being known (a- a-6 + gnōtós known, adj. derivative from base of gignṓskein to know) + -ic, after gnostic; said to have been coined by T.H. Huxley in 1869

agnostically, adverb

agnostic, atheist (see synonym study at the current entry).


Agnostic, atheist, infidel, skeptic refer to persons not inclined toward religious belief or a particular form of religious belief. An agnostic is one who believes it impossible to know anything about God or about the creation of the universe and refrains from commitment to any religious doctrine. An atheist is one who denies the existence of a deity or of divine beings. Infidel means an unbeliever, especially a nonbeliever in Islam or Christianity. A skeptic doubts and is critical of all accepted doctrines and creeds.


The word agnostic was coined by the English biologist T.H. Huxley in the late 1860s as a member of the now defunct Metaphysical Society, in response to what he perceived as an abundance there of strongly held beliefs. The original usage of the term was confined to philosophy and religion, and referred to Huxley's assertion that anything beyond the material world, including the existence and nature of God, was unknowable. Today the word can be seen applied to questions of politics, culture, and science, as when someone claims to be a “political agnostic.”
In a more recent trend, one can be agnostic simply by not taking a stand on something. In 2010, President Obama called himself “agnostic” on tax cuts until he had seen all available options. At a forum on sustainable energy in 2008, GE CEO Jeff Immelt said he was “fuel agnostic fundamentally.” In technology, software or hardware can be said to be agnostic as well. Computer code that can run on any operating system is called “platform agnostic,” and such services as phone and electric may be considered “agnostic” if not dedicated to a particular carrier, device, or user interface.


—Agnostic Front: A New York punk band, considered at the forefront of the New York hardcore music scene. Founded in 1983, in existence for over 25 years.

“It [agnostic] came into my head as suggestively antithetic to the ‘gnostic’ of Church history who professed to know so much.“
—T. H. Huxley, “Agnosticism“ Collected Essays, Volume V; Science and Christian Tradition: Essays (1894)
“In theory he [Prof. Huxley] is a great and even severe Agnostic,–who goes about exhorting all men to know how little they know.“
—R. H. Hutton, Spectator (January 29, 1870)
“Militant Agnostic: I don't know, and you don't either“
—Bumper sticker, Northern Sun (Accessed 2010)
“Melville is a political agnostic in Billy Budd—he ‘doesn't know’ with finality—not because he is indifferent, but because he sees too much.“
—Robert Midler, Exiled Royalties: Melville and the Life We Imagine (2006)
“The whole point of it is to make sure that all ideas are on the table…So what I want to do is to be completely agnostic, in terms of solutions.“
—President Barack Obama, “Obama ‘Agnostic’ on Deficit Cuts, Won't Prejudge Tax Increases“ Bloomberg Businessweek by Rich Miller (Feb. 11, 2010)
“Our view has always been technology agnostic.“
—Nokia CEO Jorma Ollila, “Heads We Win, Tails We Win As cellphones continue their takeover of the world, one company is certain to succeed: Here's how Qualcomm does it.“ Fortune Magazine by James Aley and Ann Harrington (March 3, 2003)
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
agnostic (æɡˈnɒstɪk)
 
n
1.  atheist Compare theist a person who holds that knowledge of a Supreme Being, ultimate cause, etc, is impossible
2.  a person who claims, with respect to any particular question, that the answer cannot be known with certainty
 
adj
3.  of or relating to agnostics
 
[C19: coined 1869 by T. H. Huxley from a-1 + gnostic]
 
ag'nosticism
 
n

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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

agnostic
1870, "one who professes that the existence of a First Cause and the essential nature of things are not and cannot be known." Coined by T.H. Huxley (1825-1895) from Gk. agnostos "unknown, unknowable," from a- "not" + gnostos "(to be) known" (see gnostic). Sometimes said
to be a reference to Paul's mention of the altar to "the Unknown God," but according to Huxley it was coined with ref. to the early Church movement known as Gnosticism (see Gnostic).
"I ... invented what I conceived to be the appropriate title of 'agnostic,' ... antithetic to the 'Gnostic' of Church history who professed to know so much about the very things of which I was ignorant." [T.H. Huxley, "Science and Christian Tradition," 1889]
The adj. is first recorded 1873. Agnosticism also is recorded from 1870.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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