Lisa Furberg, Stockholm University

Why god isn’t really a teapot.

by Lisa Furberg

Russell’s teapot is an analogy intended to refute the idea that the burden of proof lies upon the sceptic to disprove the existence of god. The argument roughly goes something like this: If I were to claim that there is a teapot revolving about the sun and then further suggest that because my claim cannot be disproved there is no reason to doubt it, then I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense.
In line with Russell’s analogy, some atheists have “invented” more things in which belief seems just as ridiculous as that in a an orbiting teapot: a flying spaghetti monster, an invisible pink unicorn -to mention a few. This kind of criticism, often coming from people who are self purportedly “scientifically minded” seem to use variants of the original analogy into an argument that seem to have little resemblance to Russell’s original one. This new argument has considerably more “bite” to it, suggesting that belief in god is something of an absolute “no-no”: If you are a rational person who believes in the methods of science, the critics seem to say, you simply ought not believe in the existence of god (or gods) any more than you should believe in an orbiting teapot. So, does a belief in god transgress any of the principles of (good) science?

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