|Part of a series on|
|Part of a series on|
Russell in 1916
Russell's teapot is an analogy, formulated by the philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872–1970), to illustrate that the philosophic burden of proof lies upon a person making unfalsifiable claims, rather than shifting the burden of disproof to others.
Russell specifically applied his analogy in the context of religion.He wrote that if he were to assert, without offering proof, that a teapot, too small to be seen by telescopes, orbits the Sun somewhere in space between the Earth and Mars, he could not expect anyone to believe him solely because his assertion could not be proven wrong.
Russell's teapot is still invoked in discussions concerning the existence of God, and has had influence in various fields and media.
In an article titled "Is There a God?" commissioned, but never published, by Illustrated magazine in 1952, Russell wrote:
Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.
In 1958, Russell elaborated on the analogy:
I ought to call myself an agnostic; but, for all practical purposes, I am an atheist. I do not think the existence of the Christian God any more probable than the existence of the Gods of Olympus or Valhalla. To take another illustration: nobody can prove that there is not between the Earth and Mars a china teapot revolving in an elliptical orbit, but nobody thinks this sufficiently likely to be taken into account in practice. I think the Christian God just as unlikely.
Chemist Peter Atkins said that the point of Russell's teapot is that there is no burden on anyone to disprove assertions. Occam's razor suggests that the simpler theory with fewer assertions (e.g., a universe with no supernatural beings) should be the starting point in the discussion rather than the more complex theory.However, philosopher Paul Chamberlain says it is logically erroneous to assert that positive truth claims bear a burden of proof while negative truth claims do not. He says that all truth claims bear a burden of proof, and that like Mother Goose and the tooth fairy, the teapot bears the greater burden not because of its negativity, but because of its triviality, arguing that "When we substitute normal, serious characters such as Plato, Nero, Winston Churchill, or George Washington in place of these fictional characters, it becomes clear that anyone denying the existence of these figures has a burden of proof equal to, or in some cases greater than, the person claiming they do exist."
In his books A Devil's Chaplain (2003) and The God Delusion (2006), geneticist Richard Dawkins used the teapot as an analogy of an argument against what he termed "agnostic conciliation", a policy of intellectual appeasement that allows for philosophical domains that concern exclusively religious matters.Science has no way of establishing the existence or non-existence of a god. Therefore, according to the agnostic conciliator, because it is a matter of individual taste, belief and disbelief in a supreme being are deserving of equal respect and attention. Dawkins presents the teapot as a reductio ad absurdum of this position: if agnosticism demands giving equal respect to the belief and disbelief in a supreme being, then it must also give equal respect to belief in an orbiting teapot, since the existence of an orbiting teapot is just as plausible scientifically as the existence of a supreme being.
Philosopher Brian Garvey argues that the teapot analogy fails with regard to religion because, with the teapot, the believer and non-believer are simply disagreeing about one item in the universe and may hold in common all other beliefs about the universe, which is not true of an atheist and a theist.Garvey argues that it is not a matter of the theist propounding existence of a thing and the atheist simply denying it – each is asserting an alternative explanation of why the cosmos exists and is the way it is: "the atheist is not just denying an existence that the theist affirms – the atheist is in addition committed to the view that the universe is not the way it is because of God. It is either the way it is because of something other than God, or there is no reason it is the way it is."
Philosopher Peter van Inwagen argues that while Russell's teapot is a fine piece of rhetoric, its logical argument form is less than clear, and attempting to make it clear reveals that the Teapot Argument is very far from cogent.Another philosopher, Alvin Plantinga states that a falsehood lies at the heart of Russell's argument. Russell's argument assumes that there is no evidence against the teapot, but Plantinga disagrees:
Clearly we have a great deal of evidence against teapotism. For example, as far as we know, the only way a teapot could have gotten into orbit around the sun would be if some country with sufficiently developed space-shot capabilities had shot this pot into orbit. No country with such capabilities is sufficiently frivolous to waste its resources by trying to send a teapot into orbit. Furthermore, if some country had done so, it would have been all over the news; we would certainly have heard about it. But we haven't. And so on. There is plenty of evidence against teapotism.
Philosopher Gary Gutting rejects Russell's teapot for similar reasons, arguing that Russell's argument accords theism far less support than it actually has. Gutting points out that numerous sensible, competent people appeal to personal experience and arguments in support of God's existence. Thus, to simply reject the existence of God, out of hand, seems unjustified, according to Gutting.
The literary critic James Wood, without believing in God, says that belief in God "is a good deal more reasonable than belief in a teapot" because God is a "grand and big idea" which "is not analogically disproved by reference to celestial teapots or vacuum cleaners, which lack the necessary bigness and grandeur" and "because God cannot be reified, cannot be turned into a mere thing".
One counter-argument, advanced by philosopher Eric Reitan,is that belief in God is different from belief in a teapot because teapots are physical and therefore in principle verifiable, and that given what we know about the physical world we have no good reason to think that belief in Russell's teapot is justified and at least some reason to think it not.
Other thinkers have posited non-disprovable analogies, such as J. B. Bury in his 1913 book, History of Freedom of Thought:
Some people speak as if we were not justified in rejecting a theological doctrine unless we can prove it false. But the burden of proof does not lie upon the rejecter.... If you were told that in a certain planet revolving around Sirius there is a race of donkeys who speak the English language and spend their time in discussing eugenics, you could not disprove the statement, but would it, on that account, have any claim to be believed? Some minds would be prepared to accept it, if it were reiterated often enough, through the potent force of suggestion.
Astronomer Carl Sagan in his 1995 book The Demon-Haunted World offered a similar non-disprovable analogy called the Dragon in the Garage as an example of skeptical thinking. If Sagan claimed there was a dragon in his garage, you would wish to verify it for yourself but if Sagan's dragon was impossible to detect:
Now, what's the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all? If there's no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists?
The concept of Russell's teapot has influenced more explicitly religion-parodying concepts such as the Invisible Pink Unicorn [ citation needed ]and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. 1960s musician and psychedelic poet Daevid Allen of the band Gong employed the image of a flying teapot in his Planet Gong Universe and the Flying Teapot album trilogy, and refers to Russell's teapot in his book Gong Dreaming 2: The Histories & Mysteries of Gong from 1969-1975.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Depictions of Russell's teapot .|
Agnosticism is the view that the existence of God, of the divine or the supernatural is unknown or unknowable. Another definition provided is the view that "human reason is incapable of providing sufficient rational grounds to justify either the belief that God exists or the belief that God does not exist."
The Invisible Pink Unicorn (IPU) is the goddess of a parody religion used to satirize theistic beliefs, taking the form of a unicorn that is paradoxically both invisible and pink. She is a rhetorical illustration used by atheists and other religious skeptics as a contemporary version of Russell's teapot, sometimes mentioned in conjunction with the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Sir Anthony John Patrick Kenny is an English philosopher whose interests lie in the philosophy of mind, ancient and scholastic philosophy, the philosophy of Wittgenstein and the philosophy of religion. With Peter Geach, he has made a significant contribution to Analytical Thomism, a movement whose aim is to present the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas in the style of analytic philosophy. He is one of the executors of Wittgenstein's literary estate. He is a former President of the British Academy and the Royal Institute of Philosophy.
Nontheism or non-theism is a range of both religious and nonreligious attitudes characterized by the absence of espoused belief in a God or gods. Nontheism has generally been used to describe apathy or silence towards the subject of God and differs from an antithetical, explicit atheism. Nontheism does not necessarily describe atheism or disbelief in God; it has been used as an umbrella term for summarizing various distinct and even mutually exclusive positions, such as agnosticism, ignosticism, ietsism, skepticism, pantheism, atheism, strong or positive atheism, implicit atheism, and apatheism. It is in use in the fields of Christian apologetics and general liberal theology.
A parody religion or mock religion is a belief system that challenges the spiritual convictions of others, often through humor, satire, or burlesque. Often constructed to achieve a specific purpose related to another belief system, a parody religion can be a parody of several religions, sects, gurus, cults, or new religious movements at the same time, or even a parody of no particular religion - instead parodying the concept of religious belief itself. Some parody religions emphasise having fun; the new faith may serve as a convenient excuse for pleasant social interaction among the like-minded.
The existence of God is a subject of debate in the philosophy of religion and popular culture.
Antony Garrard Newton Flew was an English philosopher. Belonging to the analytic and evidentialist schools of thought, Flew was most notable for his work related to the philosophy of religion. During the course of his career he taught at the universities of Oxford, Aberdeen, Keele and Reading, and at York University in Toronto.
Criticism of atheism is criticism of the concepts, validity, or impact of atheism, including associated political and social implications. Criticisms include positions based on the history of science, findings in the natural sciences, theistic apologetic arguments, arguments pertaining to ethics and morality, the effects of atheism on the individual, or the assumptions that underpin atheism.
In monotheistic thought, God is conceived of as the supreme being, creator deity, and principal object of faith. God is usually conceived as being omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful), omnipresent (all-present) and as having an eternal and necessary existence. These attributes are used either in way of analogy or are taken literally. God is most often held to be incorporeal (immaterial). Incorporeality and corporeality of God are related to conceptions of transcendence and immanence of God, with positions of synthesis such as the "immanent transcendence".
The God Delusion is a 2006 book by English biologist Richard Dawkins, a professorial fellow at New College, Oxford and former holder of the Charles Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford.
Dawkins' God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life is a book by Alister McGrath, a theologian who is currently Professor of Historical Theology at Oxford University. The book, published in 2004, with a second edition in 2015, aims to refute claims about religion made by another well-known professor at Oxford, Richard Dawkins. McGrath's book does not seek to demonstrate how Dawkins’ claims differ from Christianity, rather, it argues that Dawkins' arguments fall far short of the logical and evidence-based reasoning that Dawkins himself espouses.
The Ultimate Boeing 747 gambit is a counter-argument to modern versions of the argument from design for the existence of God. It was introduced by Richard Dawkins in chapter 4 of his 2006 book The God Delusion, "Why there almost certainly is no God".
The Dawkins Delusion? Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine is a book by the theologian Alister McGrath and the psychologist Joanna Collicutt McGrath. It is written from a Christian perspective as a response to arguments put forth in The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. The work was published in the United Kingdom in February 2007 by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and in the United States in July 2007.
Popularized by Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion, the spectrum of theistic probability is a way of categorizing one's belief regarding the probability of the existence of a deity.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to atheism:
Atheism is, in the broadest sense, an absence of belief in the existence of deities. Less broadly, atheism is a rejection of the belief that any deities exist. In an even narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Atheism is contrasted with theism, which, in its most general form, is the belief that at least one deity exists.
Agnostic atheism is a philosophical position that encompasses both atheism and agnosticism. Agnostic atheists are atheistic because they do not hold a belief in the existence of any deity and agnostic because they claim that the existence of a deity is either unknowable in principle or currently unknown in fact.
The burden of proof is the obligation on a party in a dispute to provide sufficient warrant for their position.
Skeptical theism is the view that we should remain skeptical of our ability to discern whether our perceptions about evil can be considered good evidence against the existence of the orthodox Christian God. The central thesis of skeptical theism is that it would not be surprising for an infinitely intelligent and knowledgeable being's reasons for permitting evils to be beyond human comprehension. That is, what may seem like pointless evils may be necessary for a greater good or to prevent equal or even greater evils. This central thesis may be argued from a theistic perspective, but is also argued to defend positions of agnosticism.
The Copleston–Russell debate is an exchange concerning the existence of God between Frederick Copleston and Bertrand Russell in a 1948 BBC radio broadcast. The debate centers on two points: the metaphysical and moral arguments for the existence of God. According to Graham Oppy and Nick Trakakis, the arguments used in this debate would typify the arguments presented by theists and atheists in the latter half of the 20th century, with Russell's approach often being used by atheists in the late 20th century.