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Russell's teapot: how do we think about the existence of God?

Russell's teapot: how do we think about the existence of God?

June 21, 2022

Science and religion are two concepts that have often been seen as contrary, being two ways of trying to explain the reality that surrounds us and the same existence. Each one of them has its own characteristics, which even though they are not per se, they make their perspectives and ways of functioning differ in basic elements.

One of them is the position regarding the existence of God, something that various authors have debated long and hard throughout history. And within that debate, the discussion has stood out as to whether its existence is probable or not and in any case if what should be provided are proofs of its existence or non-existence. One of the concepts that have been used in this regard is the Russell teapot , this being the concept we are going to talk about throughout this article.


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What is Russell's teapot?

In 1952 the magazine Illustrated Magazine commissioned the famous philosopher, mathematician and writer and already then awarded with the Nobel Prize for Literature Bertrand Russell the writing of an article in which it reflected his opinion regarding the existence of God and the arguments used to debate that existence .

It would be in that article, which was finally not published, in which the renowned author used the analogy that is now known as Russell's teapot. The latter reads as follows:

If I had to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a Chinese teapot rotating around the sun in an elliptical orbit, no one would be able to reject my claim if I had taken the precaution of adding that the teapot is too small to be observed even by our telescopes. more powerful. But if I said that, since my affirmation can not be rejected, it is intolerable the presumption on the part of the human reason to doubt it, it would be thought that I am saying nonsense. Yes, however, the existence of such a teapot was affirmed in ancient books, taught as sacred truth every Sunday and instilled in the minds of children in school, the hesitation to believe in its existence would be a sign of eccentricity, and who I doubt it would deserve the attention of a psychiatrist in an enlightened time or an inquisitor in earlier times.


Thus, Russell's teapot is an analogy or simile that the author uses in order to present a skeptical perspective with regard to the discussion and the bias that is committed when considering as an argument of the existence of God the fact of not being able to prove its nonexistence.

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What is this argument really defending?

Keep in mind that while it may seem an argument contrary to religion or belief in God and in fact is often used in this regard, the truth is that the Russell teapot argument it is not deterministic and does not establish that there really can not be a deity : it only tries to show that the argumentation of its existence can not be based on the impossibility of denying it absolutely.

In other words, what the Russell teapot concept tells us is not that God exists or not (although Russell himself was skeptical about his existence at the time he wrote the argument we are dealing with in this article). ), but it does not make sense to define saying yes it does because there is no evidence to the contrary or pretend that such proof is necessary in order to deny it.


Thus, we would be facing a skeptical position that would rather be against a dogmatic position that demands the need to demonstrate that something does not exist to be able to say that it does not.

And it is that this way of thinking can not have a result other than that offered to dogma: as with the previous teapot, if God did not exist, it would not be possible to know it with complete certainty if we consider that perhaps our technology and ability to look for it not for the sufficient moment.

Thus, it defines the existence or nonexistence of the deity as something that it is neither verifiable nor falsifiable since it is not possible to perform checks with parameters that can test either of the two positions.

Not only applicable to religion

The argument or analogy of the teapot of Russell was originally raised in order to assess the fact that some orthodox religious positions suggest that the dogma and the very existence of God is demonstrated by the inability to provide evidence to deny it .

But beyond the religious sphere itself the analogy would still be applicable in all that situation in which it was demanded of a test that given the conditions presented in the assumed hypothesis or belief it was not impossible to carry out a verification or falsification of the matter. This serves as a basis, for example, for subjective aspects such as the beliefs and prejudices we make about others, certain moral precepts or organizational aspects such as leadership or power.

Bibliographic references:

  • Russell, B. (1952). Is there a God? Illustrated Magazine (unpublished). [On-line]. Available at: //web.archive.org/web/20130710005113///www.cfpf.org.uk/articles/religion/br/br_god.html

What is RUSSELL'S TEAPOT? What does RUSSELL'S TEAPOT mean? RUSSELL'S TEAPOT meaning & explanation (June 2022).


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