bookweevil

22 June 2007

russell’s teapot

Filed under: atheism, quotes — bookweevil @ 1:13 pm

Russell’s teapot, from Bertrand Russell, “Is There a God?” (1952), in The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell, vol. 11: Last Philosophical Testament (ed. John C. Slater and Peter Kollner) (London: Routledge, 1997), pp. 543:

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 an 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.

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