There are certain beliefs that we know to dismiss, not because these beliefs are morally repugnant, but because they are ridiculous.
One pays a social price among most of us for espousing ideas like the existence of fairies or unicorns. Holders of these beliefs are at best laughed at by society, and at worst considered mad by it – the reason being that we have absolutely no legitimate evidence for these beliefs.
Note that we have no evidence against fairies or unicorns, we just have no evidence for them. Society has learned, for the most part, to reject that which we have no evidence for.
A strange exception is made when these beliefs abide in religion, namely the belief in a God.
I hope that no one reading this will protest that there is evidence for the existence of a god.
Every design argument that I have heard has been cut to pieces and religious intellectuals themselves usually spurn pseudoscientific movements like Creation Science. Indeed, the wiser believers will make the claim that their theism exists outside of the realm of evidence – that it is an abstract, personal truth, unaffected by worldly truths.
This is a satisfactory stance for many because it allows believers to remain believers and it does not impede science.
“Society has learned, for the most part, to reject that which we have no evidence for. A strange exception is made when these beliefs abide in religion, namely the belief in a God.” – Iain Carlos ’20
In fact, this is the way that many a scientist is able to maintain their faith.
What most have not realized is that not only is this almost as ridiculous as stating there is evidence for God, it is in some ways much more dangerous.
I can apply the line of reasoning that my belief exists outside of the realm of evidence for just about any claim I want.
I can say that a celestial banana exists in the expanse that created you and is responsible for all of your joys and miseries.
If someone tells me I’m delusional, all I have to say is that my claim is an abstract, personal truth, and suddenly my celestial banana is on level logical footing with many a believer’s argument for God.
Suddenly, the fairy and unicorn believers need only adopt this line of reasoning to render a great number of their adversaries hypocrites.
I hope that my readers understand how silly using this reasoning is. But why is it dangerous?
We tend to derive ought from is.
In other words, what we should do tends to be determined after we formulate conceptions of reality.
I can only make the moral decision to push someone out of the way of a train if I can perceive the train. If the train is imperceptible, I cannot make this decision. If I perceive a train that does not exist outside of my mind headed toward someone, I am still likely to push the person out of its way.
Humanity already has a difficult time determining oughts from an agreed upon is.
It is in all of our best interest not to have people running around with the notion that their is can include truths without evidence.
We give platforms to fairies, unicorns, the celestial banana and a God by giving the go ahead on this line of reasoning. The sillier and more inaccurate our is, the more problematic and incapable our ought.
For the non-believers reading, you may find the conversion enterprise to be useless. Remember that you condescend to your neighbor when you are apathetic toward his delusion.
If your best friend took up belief in unicorns, would you not try to change his mind?
Iain Carlos ’20 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is from Chicago, Ill. He majors in music and religion.