Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Scalia on Agnostics

Lovely tidbit from Justice Scalia's opinion for the Court in Allentown Mack Sales and Services, Inc. v. NLRB (1998):
The Board asserted at argument that the word “doubt” may mean either “uncertainty” or “disbelief,” and that its polling standard uses the word only in the latter sense. We cannot accept that linguistic revisionism. “Doubt” is precisely that sort “disbelief ” (failure to believe) which consists of an uncertainty rather than a belief in the opposite. If the subject at issue were the existence of God, for example, “doubt” would be the disbelief of the agnostic, not of the atheist. A doubt is an uncertain, tentative, or provisional disbelief. See, e.g., Webster’s New International Dictionary 776 (2d ed. 1949) (def. 1: “A fluctuation of mind arising from defect of knowledge or evidence; uncertainty of judgment or mind; unsettled state of opinion concerning the reality of an event, or the truth of an assertion, etc.”); 1 The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary 734 (1993) (def. 1: “Uncertainty as to the truth or reality of something or as to the wisdom of a course of action; occasion or room for uncertainty”); American Heritage Dictionary 555 (3d ed. 1992) (def. 1: “A lack of certainty that often leads to irresolution”).