Bertrand Russell’s Celestial Teapot.

In my opinion, this paragraph is among to most beautiful pieces of writing ever:

Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them.  This, of course, is a mistake.  If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in a 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, hesitiation 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. (Bertrand Russell, 1952)

My thanks to reader “entech” in Australia for reminding me of Russell’s teapot.

The invisible god was addressed by the parody character, ”Flying Spaghetti Monster.” He  noted correctly this irony: People are more likely to believe a god is real if it is invisible.

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About Jon Lindgren

I am a former President of the Red River Freethinkers in Fargo, ND, a retired NDSU economics professor and was Mayor of Fargo for 16 years.
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22 Responses to Bertrand Russell’s Celestial Teapot.

  1. Michael Ross says:

    “Bertrand Russell’s Celestial Teapot.”

    You say its beautiful, I say its crap.

    I celebrate: “In the beginning, God created . . .

    You celebrate: “In the beginning was the hydrogen atom. . .

    Just came from the Fargodome with something we can both celebrate:

    Bison 42 South Dakota 0

  2. entech says:

    … 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 …

    Similarly for some of the more exotic variations people invent, a vague reference to an old book is enough. If not many believe you, you get a padded cell, get enough followers you get unearned respect and a tax break.

    If you are really out of it you get “persecuted” and then you have an excuse to kill all your members and yourself, Jonestown, branch Davidian. follow that comet :?:

    Michael once again you put your thoughts into our thinking, you watch too many creationist videos and read too much creationist literature. If you want to discover truth and reality the Discovery Institute will not supply it:
    I celebrate: “In the beginning, God created . . .
    You celebrate: “In the beginning was the hydrogen atom. . .

    I don’t celebrate anything like that, I do think that the standard model is as close to an accurate explanation as we have at the moment, that is as much as anyone can claim. Your imposition of two possibilities, it is yours and correct and true, or, in your delightful expression it is crap, is so limiting you should try and use your own imagination and reasoning and leave the bronze age shepherds to their peaceful dreams.

    • Michael Ross says:

      But what about the Bison? 42-0

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      entech 2:33 re Michael’s use of “your delightful expression it is crap.”

      I can’t pass up a little story about the word “crap”. We have had dear friends here for over 40 years who are natives of England and moved to the US as young adults, a brother and sister. The sister, a professor, tells of her first year of teaching college in the U. S. She heard someone use the word “crap” and asked what it meant. Someone told her it is probably like the British word, “rubbish”. So, when she was grading student essays a few days later, and encountered answers that were not correct, she wrote the word, “CRAP”, on the student papers. Someone informed her it was a borderline vulgar word for a professor to use on papers–much to her embarrassment of course.

      (I don’t want to imply I have any objection to Michael’s use of it here.)

  3. H.P.Drifter says:

    Jon

    Invisisble magic, invisible majesty, evendinetly the emporer had no clothes and no body as well. I know now I never should have followed the rabbit down the hole, there was no rabbit either. No wonder I ended up with the mud in my head.

    H.P. Drifter

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      H. P. 11:56 “I now know I should never have followe the rabbit down the hole.”

      That’s the best description of a born again nonbeliever I’ve heard. We’re taught to follow the rabbit from the time we are toddlers. Some of us find the bottom of the hole where there is nothing–others keep digging.

  4. H.P.Drifter says:

    “Never rush into print” Betram Russell

    H.P.Drifter

  5. H.P.Drifter says:

    Entech Fair Dinkum

    I knew it was too good to be true that someone like you lived around here. Thought you might be the (CTO) Chief Technologhy Officer at Gennie-O. Your grasp of the vernacular spoken around here is great.

    You need to know about American football, we have more people around here suffering from concussions and the aftermath than any other spot locally in the tri-state area.

    This explains a lot of behavior and things people say. I got my first concussion at eleven months, when I wandered behind the large swing in the playground when the fat girl was swinging, got knocked up against a brick wall twenty feet away.

    I am still in recovery.

    H.P.D.

  6. Michael Ross says:

    ‘I myself am convinced that the theory of evolution, especially the extent to which it’s been applied, will be one of the great jokes in the history books of the future. Posterity will marvel that so very flimsy and dubious an hypothesis could be accepted with the incredible credulity that it has.’

    ~Malcolm Muggeridge

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Michael 4:29 re Malcolm Muggeridge “…Posterity will marvel …”

      On Muggeridge, Wicapedia says, “Muggeridge was a controversial figure, known earlier in his life as a drinker, heavy smoker and womanizer, only to become later…protesting the commercial exploitation of sex and violence in Britain and advocating the teaching of Christianity as a key to recovering moral stability.”

      I think posterity will marvel at the hippocrisy of Malcolm Muggeridge.

    • entech says:

      So powerful is the illusion of design, it took humanity until the mid-19th century to realize that it is an illusion. In 1859, Charles Darwin announced one of the greatest ideas ever to occur to a human mind: cumulative evolution by natural selection. Living complexity is indeed orders of magnitude too improbable to have come about by chance. But only if we assume that all the luck has to come in one fell swoop. When cascades of small chance steps accumulate, you can reach prodigious heights of adaptive complexity. That cumulative build-up is evolution. Its guiding force is natural selection.

      Richard Dawkins

      • Michael Ross says:

        Natural selection has been refuted as a mechanism for evolution.

        http://www.sciforums.com/showthread.php?109149-Science-Disproves-Evolution

        It seems Darwin borrowed that just as he did his theory from Wallace.

        • entech says:

          Might as well go to the Australian site noanswersingenesis for information on Christianity as some of yours for Evolution.
          Love to chat got a bus to catch,

      • Wolfy32 says:

        I agree with you Entech. Evolution is most likely one of the most supported theories on life on earth there is.. I guess I find it more sad that life on earth has been around a few hundred million years, and the best we have for creation is Evolution.. I believe we can do better, or may have discovered better and the truth is held back for fear of religious and societal breakdowns in society.

        I also believe that’s why if there is evidence of Extra Terestrial life on earth, that much of it is squashed when it’s discovered with the fear that society would fall a part if it’s religious views are put into question….

        I hate to say it, but proving factually how life evolved, could damage the fabric of religion on society and there’s most likely a decision at the top somewhere that society is much easier to control (in terms of thinking) if the religious organizations supply the thinking for the people.

        The politicians can do what they want within some limits and the church tells people what to think…. It’s ironic really, we’ve got a modern day England…. The church still tells us what to think the only difference is that theres several thousand church denominations instead of 1 giving the illusion of free thinking churches…

        And somewhere the truth, the facts, illude us or are withheld.

        All that said, as an independant free thinker void of influences from either none – believers or believers, all must acknowledge that the first spark of life on earth is unexplainable… Not even evolution has a good replicatable explanation for how the first microbe came into existence.

        So, to the concept of the invisible teapot… Well, Evolution is more real, but, still lacks facts. I’m not going to blindly believe creationism or evolution until there’s provable and replicatable facts to support either.

        • Avatar of seaofstories seaofstories says:

          It’s much simpler than this. You don’t need a conspiracy. People simply have a hard time believing things that they’re not already convinced are true.

          We’ve had the required proof for evolution for several generations now and still many if not most refuse to believe it.

          Most people are uncomfortable with not having explanations for things. Most people are uncomfortable with contingent explanations. Most people are uncomfortable with even a small degree of uncertainty. Living with that discomfort, embracing it, is a prerequisite for science.

  7. Michael Ross says:

    “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

    Sounds like he is a testimony to the transforming power of the Gospel.

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