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Bob Lucky, General Editor & Ray Rasmussen, Technical Editor
January 2020 Vol. 15 No. 4

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David J Kelly

between the cracks

Russell’s teapot is an analogy. Its purpose is to show the philosophic burden of proof lies with a person making claims, rather than the burden of disproof lying with those who have no knowledge of the claim. If someone were to assert (without proof) that a teapot, too small to be detected by modern technology, is in orbit around the Sun, they should not expect anyone to believe them solely because their assertion could not be proved wrong.

false accusations
how people love to hate
tarnished silver

If someone was sent to look for the teapot, they could believe in its absence until they found it and probability theory tells us their chance of finding the teapot is vanishingly small. I’d be happy being an atheist if I could prove the absence of a God. Yet it seems I’m a philosophical astronaut, casting about for a teapot – loathe to believe in its existence, but unable to prove its absence - an agnostic, by default. Even so, I can’t help wondering what would happen if I lost my faith in statistics.

middle of nowhere
still finding solace
warm in a teacup