Submit a question to our community and get an answer from real people.
Submit

If Russell's teapot is an analogy to faith, then wouldn't that mean, by definition, that nothing can be trusted?

It is a known fact that religion is based on faith (for the most part) and as a result many atheists turn to Russell's teapot to completely debunk faith's legitimacy (i've been around the internet lately). However, wouldn't using Russell's teapot as a "viable tool against religion" also mean that things like hope, love, and morality are just as "petty" as belief in a God "without evidence"? I'm confused. It seems like a perfect case of false analogy to me. Can y'all shed some light as the core thinking behind this concept?

Report as

Russell's teapot reveals how ridiculous it is to shift the burden of proof. You can't disprove that there isn't a teapot orbiting Earth, but you don't believe that there is, do you? It's impossible to disprove an omnipresent deity, but why should we believe in it without evidence? When a theist tells us that their deities are real because we can't disprove them, their argument is just as ridiculous as believing in a teapot that orbits the planet just because we can't disprove it.

Helpful (8) Fun Thanks for voting Comments (2)
Report as
Ahh so this only works when a theist makes that assertion that "God exists because he can't be disproven"?
Report as
Yes. The analogy was made to counter a specific claim. Kind of like how a skeptic might argue "what made god" even if he doesn't believe in one. It's in response to a specific claim of some theists that everything that exists needs a cause therefore the universe does and this MUST be god. The skeptic then points out that this would mean god would also need a creator otherwise you are engaging in a number of logical fallacies. The skeptic doesn't actually think any gods exist TO need a creator, it is a counter argument for a specific claim.
Report as
Add a comment...

My Bible can be trusted:: I read about things that I see today.. But I have never seen a floating teapot.. Have you ?
Proverbs 30:24-28 shows me these things :
24 There be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise:
25 The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer;
26 The conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks;
27 The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands;
28 The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings' palaces.

Helpful Fun Thanks for voting Comments (5)
Report as
Sorry Betty, this little biology exercise has no relation to proof of God or anything else. It shows that Biblical authors could compose metaphors about bugs. You may want to reread the question.
Report as
Yes I know .. I didnt know what the question was about .. Never heard of it .. But you know women ..we think we can answer anything .. Ha ha
.. Maybe only smart people will notice !!!
Report as
Although we often disagree I respect your views, Betty, because I'm sure you speak from honesty. I will always be courteous to you.
Report as
Thank you so much
Report as
awww....:) Amen, betty!! The scripture explains it before biologists figured it out.
Report as
Add a comment...

Basically it states that if a statement or position cannot be proven false, it must therefore be true. Bertrand Russell pointed out that orthodox (believers) felt it up to nonbelievers to disprove religious doctrines, not for believers to prove the truth in it. Russell hypothesized that if he stated that a china teapot was in orbit outside of Mars, but was too small to detect, it must be there because naysayers couldn't prove otherwise. In relation to God, the lack of proof of his existence doesn't necessarily mean there is some we haven't found, but until proven otherwise, orthodox will insist He exists by default. Hope that helps.

Helpful (5) Fun Thanks for voting Comments (2)
Report as
Thank you very much. That shed quite a bit of light on the matter; thank you
Report as
I would add that hope, love and morality aren't relevant to the teapot analogy, you either have them or you don't. Such things are definable, evident. How you define them is the question.
Report as
Add a comment...

Actually, emotions and morality are shared experiences amongst humans. Therefore, we all agree they exist. However, I have no such trusted evidence of God. Therefore, I have no reason to assume God exists. It's all about evidence. There is a physiological. environmental, and/or evolutionary basis for the fact that emotions and morality exist. I feel emotions and I choose to follow a moral code of conduct, so I have trust that they exist and are real. I do not feel God. Therefore, I do not trust that he exists and is real.

Helpful (4) Fun Thanks for voting Comments (7)
Report as
Really? Can you feel love? Taste love? See love? Can you measure it in a lab? Detect what composes it? To experience emotions you have to have been exposed to them or at least make conclusions by deducing body language, but that only lets you know WHEN and IF someone is conveying or experiencing an emotion. It isn't the emotion itself
Report as
@XxWrath: You have a point in so far as I do not trust that when one says they love or hate, that they actually do. I cannot trust that one has a moral compass, and further more, that he will implement it. Same as one who says I feel the presence of God. While I have a pretty good idea what emotions and moral behavior feel like (sometimes we don't really know what emotion we are experiencing), I do not feel the presence of God in my life. Therefore, for me, given the available data, God does not exist. If someone else believes God exists then fine, but for me to believe that they must convince me with evidence. On the other hand, I need no convincing that emotions exist.

Hopefully someone will come up with a better answer. I don't feel I answered your question all that well.
Report as
I get what you are saying lol. I was just pointing out that many aspects of our lives can't be proven by modern science by conventional scientific method. Emotion was simply an example
Report as
Proof doesn't have to be scientific unless the proof is expected to be accepted by the public. Then you need ways to measure. Evidence of emotions can be seen in MRIs and other devices and techniques. Here's a link to one such device and the research into this field: http://www.kurzweilai.net/how-to-measure-emotions. However, each of us have our own truths.
Report as
Caltex, the emotions on an MRI , isn't an emotion itself. It only shows how the brain/body reacts/correlates to an emotion. Correlation does not establish causation. When you are looking at a neuron, you aren't looking at an emotion because we cannot see an emotion.
Report as
@Lolo: By that logic when we look at a teapot we are not actually seeing a teapot, but are only seeing the effects of light being reflected off the surface of a teapot. When we feel a teapot we are not actually feeling a teapot, but feeling the effects of our nerve endings interacting with the temperature, shape, and surface texture. We experience everything through our senses, and make determinations and judgements about those things. It is true that sensing the reactions of neurons from an MRI is not emotion, but it is one measurable way that we can use to know some emotion is taking place, albeit not necessarily a specific emotion. Generally we do not use MRIs to make such a determination, just like we can identify a teapot in the absence of reflected light by evaluating the temperature, shape, and surface texture alone.
Report as
Yep...except we cannot touch and feel an emotion.
Report as
Add a comment...

First, I acknowledge the bias of this article, but it is something I found interesting, as I acknowledge faith goes beyond religion and even dare say it permeates our own sciences. God bless.

http://powertochange.com/discover/life/five-things-science-explain/

Helpful (2) Fun Thanks for voting Comments (11)
Report as
But here is one less biased if your interested. Again God bless.
http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/12-things-science-cant-explain/
Report as
Thanks for the links! Have a great night! (Or day depending on where you are)
Report as
You too. And again God bless.
Report as
And I just hope you find them as interesting as I did. :)
Report as
Very interesting. The add a completely different take on morality in general
Report as
And science. Sorry sentence got cut off lol
Report as
Except some of the things on that list are not even in the purview of science but rather philosophy ( so science wouldn't be dealing with them in the first place), and some flat out wrong, like the claim this universe is find tuned ( which has no evidence and is begging the question).
Not to mention it's one long Argument from Ignorance fallacy (you don't have an explanation for this, therefore the answer must be magic/gods).

And what did those links have to do with Russell's Teapot?
Report as
The articles address wrath's remarks regarding how can we scientifically prove things such as love and morality. With no disrespect intended, but I find that the constant use of fallacious and fallacy is an example of the old saying, "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing." This is why I don't like to point them out. But if we want to look at fallacies, then we can start off with the fact that there is a big deference between using absence as evidence and the lack of evidence. Argument from silence (argumentum e silentio) ? where the conclusion is based on the absence of evidence, rather than the existence of evidence. Now, lets look at the article directly. Lets say that there are some fallacies in these passages, I would say this could be Argument from fallacy ? assumes that if an argument for some conclusion is fallacious, then the conclusion itself is false. Because your statements Leaves me believing that the conclusion must be wrong. Now lets go back to the tea pot argument itself; it can be considered a False analogy ? an argument by analogy in which the analogy is poorly suited. As for the proving a negative, regarding God, i believe it is just a matter of wording. This is why I believe many atheist get so offended when atheism is defined as a belief. For example: I lack a belief that life started on its own. This is a negative claim, for those that believes negative truths need no proof, it is now up to the other to provide evidence. When we do discuss this, we will have to use terms such as dark matter and antimatter. Being a lack of evidence for such terms, we are brought back to faith. Even then, I would dare say we couldn't go back to the start. But there again, that was a negative claim :). I hope you have a wonderful day. God bless.
Report as
Sorry kitty, I have got to learn not to be so wordy. Again God bless.
Report as
Wiserrt,
That is a good point. Wether or not an assertion is negative or positive it still requires a person's acceptance or rejection of either type. Like the analogy of light or darkness...one is has no distinction without the other.
Report as
Thanks dk. God bless. :)
Report as
Add a comment...

Russell's Teapot is an analogy for a specific CLAIM of the religious- a fallacy called Shifting the Burden of Proof. Theists often claim that unless atheists can prove no god exists it remains a valid claim. This is fallacious for several reasons, the first of which is that the Burden of Proof rests on the positive claimant, ie the person claiming a god exists. The second reason is what Russell's Teapot addresses- the fact that universal negatives cannot be disproven and that it is ludicrous to claim a person must disprove extraordinary claims.
Carl Sagan had a version of this. He posited that if he were to claim he had an invisible dragon in his garage, one would not expect you to disprove it, but for Sagan to prove it.

Helpful (6) Fun Thanks for voting Comments (2)
Report as
Hmm very interesting. Is there a link to Sagan's theory?
Report as
Not really a theory, just a restatement of Russell's teapot using a dragon instead of chinaware. But here's his original on the topic:
http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/Dragon.htm
Report as
Add a comment...

You've already received some excellent answers, I'm just saving this page, thanks.

Helpful (2) Fun (1) Thanks for voting Comments (1)
Report as
Be sure and save mine.. Ha ha .. I told Z I didn't have a clue.
Report as
Add a comment...

These answers are great, I just want to say I really admire your sincere curiosity and open mind. Many weeks ago I could not have expected you to take this route wrath. It shows intellectual honesty and maturity to investigate the alternate world views. I just wanted to say good job and you should know you are taking courageous steps that many Christians would be frightened to death to even consider.
... Even if you may very well be just trying to formulate a counter argument ;)

Helpful (1) Fun Thanks for voting Comments (0)
Report as
Add a comment...

I really can't see how it means that nothing can be trusted. The problem with the tea pot analogy isn't the point of "proof" (that part is a valid point), rather it's what logicians generally refer to as a problem of "relevance". In order for an analogy to establish true knowledge one must first demonstrate that the analogy has actual relevance to the thing in question (in this case "God(s)"). The imagined celestial tea pot however doubtable it probably is to all of us is still not God. The actual "relevant" issue is if God is real, not a tea pot floating in space. So the analogy is fine to illustrate a reason why atheists/agnostics don't want to bother with God, but it does nothing to establish the believability nor reality of God (in this way it commits the fallacy of "false analogy" as you suggest). It seems like a handy excuse to ignore the possibility of God....as if God where the same as a tea pot claim, yet it establishes nothing in terms of actual reality of God. Another important distinction is that the celestial tea pot is a strictly empirically perceived thing, while God (of the Bible anyways) is the creator of empirical reality and is therefore of a different or trans-category. This means to doubt the one can't possibly mean the same as doubting the other. What it comes down to is what one knows or doesn't know. The whole "burden of proof" thing is neither hear nor there. Each person has a "burden" to consider and know God or not. The truth that one arrives at has zero to do with a "positive" or "negative" claim (as both are logically inseparable from the other). There are three other points to make, but I'm already kind of rambling (1. The existential significance of the "celestial tea pot" 2. The manor of determining what constitutes as "proof" 3. What is the significance of "imagination").

Helpful (1) Fun Thanks for voting Comments (19)
Report as
@Dk: You wrote, "It seems like a handy excuse to ignore the possibility of God..." No one is ignoring the possibility of God just as no one is doubting the possibility of Russel's Teapot. Both are theoretically possible, but without evidence, neither can be accepted as real.

You wrote, "Another important distinction is that the celestial tea pot is a strictly empirically perceived thing, while God (of the Bible anyways) is the creator of empirical reality and is therefore of a different or trans-category." You jumped ahead and speak of God as if the evidence has already be presented and accepted. God is NOT the creator of anything unless it is first proven that he exists.

You wrote, "The whole 'burden of proof' thing is neither hear nor there." That is true if one is choosing to believe for ones self. No physical proof is needed in that case. But anyone arguing the existence of any entity which is undetectable by physical means and expects a non-believer to accept that reality, has the burden of proof.
Report as
Thanks for reading and responding!
I agree that both can be seen as "possibilities", but not as equally significant. Also, I'm not sure how the God I seek is "theoretical". How can God be theoretical when "He" is absolute and irreducible in essence? This is of a category of utter "inextricable source" where as the tea pot is dependent on "source". Anything theoretical must be empirically deduced (at least from the common assumption of what is meant by "evidence") in order to consider it's "thereness" (a mode of reality). I can't see how God can be theorized for this very reason. Either God Is or isn't. It is perhaps indecipherable from the question "is reality truly known?" I do not have "evidence" that what I believe reality to be is in fact true, yet I have no problem believing it just the same. I presuppose that it is true to the extent that I am conscious of it. There is no real difference (both logically or intuitively) between knowing God vs Reality. This of course opens up all the questions of "personality" and "will" but this would surely explode this Ask format! Lol
Yes, I agree that if I "expect" u to believe in God as being real then I have "burden" to convince u, just not all the burden. Anyone dismissing God because they have no empirical evidence can't logically be relieved of any burden, especially since such a God would be the source of the human empirical capacity and this expecting that kind of evidence is irrelevant to the reality of God. Lack of evidence that I here atheists referring to logically does not demand the conclusion: no God. Lack of evidence cant equal evidence in the negative, Therefore the "search" remains. In this way one can be seeking God without a degree of knowing. That's ok since it doesn't hinge on the nature of our human knowledge (after all what else do we have?). Likewise, as refered to earlier I can't demonstrate that my knowledge of Reality is true, yet I accept it with confidence as I imagine u do as well.
It is from the personal decision point that i'm meaning, since that is where the "rubber meats the road" in my view, not if "I" can "make you" believe. Intellectual disbelief isn't a "deal breaker" necessarily in itself. If God is real, then He knows more of ourselves then we do at any given point.
Report as
Star dk. God bless. :)
Report as
Wiserrt,
Thanks, and you deserve a star for reading my super long answer! Lol
Report as
@Dk: I present myself as evidence that your absolute assumption that "Either God Is or isn't" is false in that it is my view that God either might exist or might not. Even if I am the only human that has ever lived, or will ever live, that holds to that view, it makes that assumption false--unless you have irrefutable information about what I think to which I am not privy. That is the problem with absolutes. It only takes one instance of deviation for it to become invalid.
Report as
Caltex,
Very interesting. Well that seems to come down to one assumption vs another, not that mine is necessary false simply because u state it as "might or may not". Something can't both be real and unreal at the same time and more specifically in the case of God, God can't stop being real if He "ever was"....otherwise we aren't talking about God then. The idea of "might" seems to clearly point to the probability of a thing, but God-Reality-Absololute (whatever linguistic symbol we wish to ascribe) can't logically be a matter of probability because probability requires a reference point to make a "likelihood" rationally decipherable. The Absolute God is by definition what all probable things (relative things) occur from. As far as absolutes being a problem due to a single variation making them null and void I would certainly agree. All that really means is that whatever was supposed to be absolute ended up not being so. This in no way negates the reality of absolute.
Report as
@Dk: As far as I know, I never put forth the idea that something can both be real and unreal simultaneously. And that applies to all gods, teapots, unicorns, dinosaurs, and any other conceivable or imagined natural or supernatural entity. Therefore the teapot analogy is relevant.
Report as
Lol, dk, I can be wordy sometimes too. :)
Report as
Wiserrt,
Well it's like I don't really take time to condense what's in my head when I'm on Ask....just too busy with other priorities. So what happens are long wordy comments. Plus it's partly my analytical personality.
Report as
Caltex, I'm very sorry for not paying closer attention, plus I think I partly misunderstood part of your comment just prior to my last one. So, in your last comment we both agree! Lol
There is a "blunder of category" (false analogy) however to compare creatively imagined and empirically deduced things with Absolute God. Everything we can creatively consider (celestial tea pot, unicorn, etc.) all are fashioned "from" things we know by our senses. Where as God cannot (only by metaphor or symbol such as "Father" or "Lord"). It truly begs the question for me as to how we can conceive of an Absolute source and being: God, without such a conception coming from something that is in fact real. Why would just that One conception be based upon nothing, where as ALL other imagined things have a root in something perceived (I.e. Unicorn: conceived from a horse and a horn). There is nothing that I know of in ourselves that can produce such a conception. I mean if we simply live and then die (as in that's it. Consciousness "dies", no "after life") then surely there is nothing within such a reality and experience that can be a source for a mere imagination of God. I don't claim this is "proof", but simply a partial thought process that allows belief in this conception as real in a reasonable way.
Report as
What gets me is...how you men all have time during the middle of the day to write this stuff. ummm....shouldn't you be working? lol
Report as
Lolo,
Yes, mam! Oh, wait I don't have a boss....well the my clients and family are my "boss". He he he
Report as
@Lolo: You make a good point, but it appears that my work situation is much like Dk's. I work from home doing quick-turn graphics work, usually with little or no notice, sent in via emails from my clients, often any time of day or night. I need to be at my computer as much as possible in order to keep the stuff moving out of my queue. Unfortunately, things have slowed down to the point that I have WAY to much time on my hands :-(
Report as
@DkL Fair enough. Unicorns are a product of our imaginations based on a priori knowledge. So lets make that an invisible pink unicorn. Does that equate with the god concept?
Report as
I understand cal. Work has been off and on for the past few years of my self employed husand, too. Its not easy. I thought maybe you would day u r old and retired. He he are u married? Kids?
Report as
Regarding pink umicorns and God...that's like comparing invisible viruses (to the eye) to outer space.
Report as
Caltex,
Unicorns (we covered), pink (a Priori known visual experience), invisible?, well that may be empirically deduced such as "air", hydrogen gas, etc. This can be related to God, but only by analogy ( just like when some believers compare the wind to God). God is not invisible in a total existential sense, only empirically invisible. So, if it's the former "invisible" u mean, then that unicorn would still be born of what would be created by God (not to mention it wouldn't actually be pink, except in one's memory of what pink looks like - still an empirically deduced knowledge! Lol). If you mean the latter "invisible"(as in transcendent) then you are merely describing a key "feature" of God and creatively appending it to the conglomerate myth (pink-unicorn).
Report as
The point was the combination of pink and invisible. If it is pink, how would anyone know if the entity is invisible? Therefore, there is no a priori knowledge which supports what something looks like if it is invisible--like god.
Report as
Wow, I thought I sent a response, but it dis-appeared! Hey maybe it's invisible!! Ha ha
Well basically, an invisible and simultaneously pink thing is an absurdity since color requires empirical sense perception to be a color. This analogy shows maybe a superficial reason for u to reject believing in God, but it is still a false analogy because not only is it a logical absurdity (the color/invisible part), but God is not a "thing" that is directly empirically perceived. The use of "invisible" does not have the same meaning. To clarify a bit more is also say that "visibility" is irrelevant as far as God is concerned...only relevant to the unicorn. Any creative example we can conceive of will invariably make the same mistake. There can be no parallel to the Absolute-God-Reality, otherwise it's wouldn't be God we are talking about. ;)
Report as
Add a comment...
Do you have an answer?
Answer this question...
Did you mean?
Login or Join the Community to answer
Popular Searches