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Refute the Teapot Argument

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Pontiuth Pilate, May 25, 2007.

  1. Pontiuth Pilate

    Pontiuth Pilate Republican Jesus!

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    Sigh, I'm gettin like Curt in my old age, aren't I?

    Bertrand Russel, famous atheist, said thusly, about agnostics:

    The gist of the argument is that the argument "God is undisprovable, and thus we should all be agnostics" is bull.

    Logically, we are agnostics about the Space Teapot because its existence has not been proven and can never be absolutely disproven. However, no reasonable person would say they are "agnostic" about the holy teapot; rather they would say that its undisprovability does not restrain them from making a judgement as to its PROBABILITY. In practice, since a space teapot is immensely improbable, they are teapot-atheists.

    Now, having at one time been an agnostic myself, I would like to hear if there is any refutation to the teapot argument.

    DAMN THE SPAMEDOS, FULL STEAM AHEAD!
     
  2. Fifty

    Fifty !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    I generally agree with Russell's line of reasoning, and I'm a weak atheist myself, but one possible argument that the agnostic might make is that they do not feel that the existence of god is as probabalistically unlikely as the teapot. That is, if said agnostic honestly believed that there were good arguments both for and against the existence of god, then he might declare himself agnostic on the issue until the evidence weighs more favorably towards one side or the other.

    The teapot argument, I think, is really only effective at refuting that "God is undisprovable, and thus we should all be agnostics" form of agnosticism, not agnosticism broadly construed.

    Another possible reply, though I can't really imagine how it could be defended, might be that the question of a creator has some special epistemic status that subjects it to different standards than other questions (e.g. the teapot question). Under these hypothetical standards, one might be required to declare agnosticism in the absence of absolute proof or disproof. Again, I doubt such a position could be sensibly defended, but it's at least a possibility.
     
  3. Pontiuth Pilate

    Pontiuth Pilate Republican Jesus!

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    Does anyone think the Teapot is unsound as a refutation to a theistic defense of God?

    e.g. in a discussion with a theist usually along these lines:

    Atheist: You can't prove God.
    Theist: So what, you can't DISprove God.
    Atheist: I can't disprove the teapot either.

    And as a second point, is an argument FROM the teapot a strong argument in the atheist's arsenal, or a weak one?

    e.g. as an argument for parsimony:

    Atheist: The teapot is unobservable, does not affect anything that we observe, and is not required to explain anything we observe. Similarly God is unobservable, does not affect anything that we observe, and is not required to explain anything we observe. Therefore we should doubt the existence of God as much as the existence of the teapot.
    Theist: ...

    That is indeed the position argued here, although so poorly as to be nearly unreadable :mischief:
     
  4. Bill3000

    Bill3000 OOOH NOOOOOOO! Supporter

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    The Teapot argument has been transformed into the Flying Spaghetti Monster argument in our day, by the way.

    While it's a good argument against a good part of agnosticism, I don't think it would count as a good argument against theism. After all, one of the most fundamental differences between the two is the fact that theism generally doesn't believe in strict materialism; condemened as an error in the Catholic Church, for example. Without agreeing on those issues, what may construe as something merely a matter of "proof" quickly becomes irrelevant. IMO, it is much better to argue about problems with the fundamental nature of an omnipotent, omniscient, etc. God before any claim about proof.
     
  5. Stylesjl

    Stylesjl SOS Brigade Member

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    Being agnostic about Russel's teapot is a valid line of reasoning

    Being an agnostic is simply saying you will treat it as if it isn't true. An atheist actively proclaims that it is false (despite having no proof to back that assertion)
     
  6. Ziggy Stardust

    Ziggy Stardust New Englander

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    Wrong. Two three four.
     
  7. kuukkeli

    kuukkeli King

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    I agree with Russell's reasoning. While technically it's impossible to prove that gods don't exist I see no reason to give them the benefit of doubt.
     
  8. Arcadian83

    Arcadian83 Prince

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    Bertrand Russell was not necessarily an Atheist: see his own writing "Am I an Atheist or an Agnostic?" (1947) for more on that. For a short answer, a quote from him
    tells that strictly speaking, he was an agnostic.

    Stylesjl's definition:
    is close enough to Britannica's for me
    -at least along the line of argument that God cannot be disproven, which some Atheists might not agree with.

    I would be agnostic about the teapot. I have no reason to deny its existence, nor any reason to believe in it either.

    If it were further qualified that the Chinese (or any human) people put a teapot that they made into elliptical orbit around the sun (as opposed to Earth), I would become atheistic of it, due owing to technological constraints to accomplish that.

    In my opinion, being atheistic about the teapot leave little room for agnosticism with regards to alien life (not the Roswell kind, but the 'somewhere out there' kind).
     
  9. Smidlee

    Smidlee Deity

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    If I could fly I would be Superman. As it been written spiritual things seem foolish to a carnel minded (materialist) person. Teapot example still assume materialism is the absolute truth.
     
  10. Bozo Erectus

    Bozo Erectus Master Baker

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    Another day, another desperate suicidal charge into the breach in defense of teapots:crazyeye: Everytime somebody posts something from one of these marbleized heroes of yesteryear, Im surprised to see how simpleminded they were. How about this:

    If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars in the vacuum of space there are countless infinitely tiny particles, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the particles are too small to be revealed even by our most powerful microscopes. 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 these tiny invisible particles were affirmed in science text books, taught as the sacred truth in universities, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in their 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.
     
  11. Bad Player

    Bad Player Deity

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    One thing I suggest is that Christianity can be refuted by finding the body of Christ Jesus (as Paul said essentially).

    This relies on Jesus of Nazareth being a real person (which nearly all scholars accept as I understand it) and also that it would also be possible to find His body if it was still around (e.g. maybe if He had a personal tomb or whatever).
     
  12. Bad Player

    Bad Player Deity

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    I guess another difference in the analogy is that God is defined as creating all that is whereas the teapot is just some random object flying around and has not done anything. So, in relation to the above quote, a theist (of which I am, obviously) could argue that God is required to explain the existence of the universe whereas the teapot is not required to explain the existence of the universe.
     
  13. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    What.. You're an agnostic when it comes to electrons now? :crazyeye:
     
  14. Sparta

    Sparta Emperor

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    I think that at any one time, he's only agnostic in terms of either their position or momentum. ;)
     
  15. Fifty

    Fifty !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    Do not speak ill of Bertie!!!! :mad:

    Do you really think that's a good analogy?

    The existence of "invisible particles" is rigorously confirmed by repeated tests. Your analogy fails! And I think you know it!

    Bertie wins! :mwaha:
     
  16. Bozo Erectus

    Bozo Erectus Master Baker

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    :lol: No guys, I believe in electrons and neutrinos and whatever subatomic particles science discovers. My point is that the process is the same, whether we're talking about little teapots, God or subatomic particles. A small group of people get into a huddle, agree about what reality is, get their stories straight, report back to all the rest of us and then we decide to believe them. Doesnt matter if theyre scientists, or priests with funny hats. Ive been hearing about God since the day I was born. Ive never seen the guy, talked to him on the phone or had lunch with him. I choose to believe he exists. Also since the day I was born, Ive been hearing about subatomic particles. Ive certainly never seen any of those, but still I choose to believe in them. Bertie misses the point, IMO.

    Also I notice that in these discussions here, and even with good old Bertie, people always talk about faith in terms of it coming from other people, and whether these people should be believed, or trusted, without proof. Thats not how I see real faith though. It comes from inside a person, I dont think you can really talk people into faith. Buy into a religion, yes, but not faith. For most people their religion is like a political party, or their favorite baseball team.
     
  17. brennan

    brennan Argumentative Brit

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    Study science and you can see physical evidence of subatomic particles for yourself. Study God and you... have to 'believe'.
     
  18. classical_hero

    classical_hero In whom I trust

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    People have tried that many times and have failed miserably. So far there has been no evidence that we can find Jesus' body. To be truthful also, it would be highly unlikely for us to people from that era also, since on the rulers ever had marked graves.
     
  19. Bozo Erectus

    Bozo Erectus Master Baker

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    For people who 'study God' their words are their proofs. I know, doesnt make sense from a scientific point of view, but to religionists, science doesnt make alot of sense either.

    Remember though, at least with religion you get a free funny hat.
     
  20. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Your analogy fails.

    Scientists don't just get together and decide that these particles exist. They run experiments, the particles are observed, they are studied, conclusions are drawn, the conclusions are tested, all of this is repeated by other scientists, the results are either refuted or confirmed, scientific papers are written, they are published for all to see and scrutinize, if anyone can find a flaw in the reasoning then the process starts again, and so forth...

    Now, if you wanted to, you could sit down and examine all the evidence and all the reasoning behind the argument that these particles exist. You could read about the theoretical work that possibly predicted these particles, about all the work that went into observing them, studying them, you can read about what this means in the grand scheme of things, how various theories were proposed and how some were refuted, how scientists in other labs verified the results and confirmed them.. You can basically go through the process step by step to see how the conclusion that these particles exist came into existence. You can take it from "our theories predict this" to "this has been observed and verified".

    You are not just asked to blindly accept the theory of gravity. You are free to examine how the conclusions were reached, step by step, as well as scrutiny of other scientists, observations, calculations, logic.

    Now, can you do any of this with claims an invisible teapot or God? No, and this is why your analogy fails.
     

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