Russell's teapot

The other day I chanced upon this analogy by the philospher Bertrand Russell, which I haven't read in years. As true now as in the 50s:

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.

From Wikipedia's entry on Russell's teapot, Dawkins' extention of the analogy is worth noting:

The reason organized religion merits outright hostility is that, unlike belief in Russell's teapot, religion is powerful, influential, tax-exempt and systematically passed on to children too young to defend themselves. Children are not compelled to spend their formative years memorizing loony books about teapots. Government-subsidized schools don't exclude children whose parents prefer the wrong shape of teapot. Teapot-believers don't stone teapot-unbelievers, teapot-apostates, teapot-heretics and teapot-blasphemers to death. Mothers don't warn their sons off marrying teapot-shiksas whose parents believe in three teapots rather than one. People who put the milk in first don't kneecap those who put the tea in first.

Although this 'logic' is all good and well, I still feel that the ultimate truth lies in the touch of His Noodly Appendage

if god is a dj, and life is a dancefloor, what do you do if you're a quadriplegic with bad skin?


b said...

Reminds me of the quote "You cannot reason a person out of a position he did not reason himself into in the first place", by Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver's Travels.

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