Those who promote “atheism” as a-theism also have a tendency to promote “agnosticism” as a-gnosticism. This makes “agnosticism” everything that is not pure gnosticism and makes it compatible with having beliefs. Again, these atheists are reconstructing words. “Agnosticism” comes from the Greek word “agnostos”. That is the root word, with the a- already permanently attached, and -ic and -ism suffixes added.
agnostos = no/not/without knowledge
ic = someone who is
ism = a belief system or doctrine
What did Huxley mean by “someone who is without knowledge”? He clearly defined it as a form of demarcation. No testable objective evidence = an unfalsifiable subjective claim. Results: inconclusive, no belief either way. Karl Popper, who also self-identified as an agnostic, cemented this line of thinking into the scientific method. This is “I don’t know”, as in a complete lack of certainty, not “I don’t know”, as in a lack of complete certainty.
Agnosticism is of the essence of science, whether ancient or modern. 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.
That which Agnostics deny and repudiate, as immoral, is the contrary doctrine, that there are propositions which men ought to believe, without logically satisfactory evidence; and that reprobation ought to attach to the profession of disbelief in such inadequately supported propositions.
Still speaking for myself, I add, that though Agnosticism is not, and cannot be, a creed, except in so far as its general principle is concerned; yet that the application of that principle results in the denial of, or the suspension of judgment concerning, a number of propositions respecting which our contemporary ecclesiastical “gnostics” profess entire certainty.
The extent of the region of the uncertain, the number of the problems the investigation of which ends in a verdict of not proven, will vary according to the knowledge and the intellectual habits of the individual Agnostic. I do not very much care to speak of anything as “unknowable.” What I am sure about is that there are many topics about which I know nothing; and which, so far as I can see, are out of reach of my faculties. But whether these things are knowable by any one else is exactly one of those matters which is beyond my knowledge, though I may have a tolerably strong opinion as to the probabilities of the case. Relatively to myself, I am quite sure that the region of uncertainty–the nebulous country in which words play the part of realities –is far more extensive than I could wish.
Huxley’s agnosticism clearly covers the question of belief, and positive disbelief, not just knowledge. He outright stated he thought it immoral to form a belief, without evidence to support said belief. He outright stated it was a suspension of judgement. His agnosticism was very clearly not compatible with theism, nor the narrow definition atheism of the time.
Theism and Atheism; the doctrine of the soul and its mortality or immortality–appear in the history of philosophy like the shades of Scandinavian heroes, eternally slaying one another and eternally coming to life again in a metaphysical “Nifelheim.” It is getting on for twenty-five centuries, at least, since mankind began seriously to give their minds to these topics. Generation after generation, philosophy has been doomed to roll the stone uphill; and, just as all the world swore it was at the top, down it has rolled to the bottom again. All this is written in innumerable books; and he who will toil through them will discover that the stone is just where it was when the work began. Hume saw this; Kant saw it; since their time, more and more eyes have been cleansed of the films which prevented them from seeing it; until now the weight and number of those who refuse to be the prey of verbal mystifications has begun to tell in practical life.