July 12, 2010
Comparing God and Taste
First off let me apologize for my last post. It was something I felt compelled to write about, but I think it fell below the standard that I try to maintain. There are some redeeming qualities about the post and the comparison between denialism and skepticism will be a future full length post. Anyway, onwards and upwards.
I talked before how it is useless to make arguments about taste. No one ever changes their opinion, the forms of the argument are fallacy filled appeals with nothing real to appeal to, and despite what people think the matter really isn't important for the most part anyway. Now I was thinking of how the argument for God's existence is similar enough to provide a comparison about it. In this comparison I will forgo any claims of evidence of proof of God's existence (the design of the universe, the first cause and arguments like this) and limit the talk on the claims are unverifiable by their nature.
Arguments about taste and arguments about Gods existence can be categorized as the same through the types of appeals they make, appeals devoid scientific evidence. People can support why they like a certain movie like Crash, with an appeal to the awards it won and the critical acclaim that it received. They can also point to its popularity and appeal to people who have taste that I respect (i.e. Roger Ebert liked the movie you should too).
The problem is that despite all that I still think the movie was hallow and reduced the characters motivations to purely racial interactions. I was horrified when it won best picture, and further horrified when they showed it in a political science class I was taking. Taste just appeals to how one person feels or how many people feel about the subject and this is the same, for the most part, with the appeals claiming God's existence.
This similarity can be shown in the way people justify their belief in God. Proponents of Gods existence note that 92% of Americans have a belief in God, and that respected scientists from Copernicus to Einstein believed in god. They are supporting their views in the same way that they support the issues of taste by using appeals to popularity or authority.
When someone of inferior intelligence says that Crash was a good movie and I say that they are sorrily mistaken, and both us agree that Crash exists. Further we agree that the movie we are both taking about is the same movie. Of course I may be referring to the 1996 film Crash, but if I am then we really aren't arguing with each other, we are instead having a misunderstanding.
When someone says that they believe in God (whatever they think that is), there is a contention to be had with the subject matter before any issue of support can be brought up. To talk about appeals is to skip the level of agreement about the existence of the subject.
So when someone says, "I believe in God and it is my choice." they are not saying anything like, "I like the band Primus." They are making a statement of belief, but that statement isn't akin personal taste. It is more like an appeal to the existence of extraterrestrials, bigfoot, or the Easter bunny, because the subjects existence isn't already agreed upon.
When someone says, "I like Crash" I dislike their taste, but really can't criticize them too much about it. They just enjoyed the film and that's fine, although I think there are good reasons for not liking it as well. When someone says something that isn't built on any foundation and the subjects existence can't be shown then there is a real reason to say that the belief is unfounded. You are no longer questioning a persons taste, you are rather looking into their logic for believing in something and their ability to weight evidence. I think a good future post will be a comparison between ethical beliefs and beliefs in God done in this same sort of manner.
Thanks for reading,
-the moral skeptic