Is belief in God like belief in a cosmic teapot – undisprovable yet unreasonable?

by Chaitanya Charan dasJune 12, 2014

Answer Podcast

Transcription by– Keshavgopal Das & Ambuj Gupta

Question: Some atheists argue that belief in God is like belief in a cosmic teapot. Suppose somebody says that there is some small teapot between Jupiter and Saturn and this teapot is so small that it cannot be detected by any telescope. Therefore, there is no way to disprove its existence. Similarly they say that somebody can claim that there is God and then say that God is invisible, God is beyond the senses and there is no way to disprove him. Is God simply an imaginary conception like cosmic teapot which just because it cannot be disproved doesn’t mean that it exists? So atheists use this argument to try to say that atheists don’t have the burden of disproving God’s existence, theists have the burden of proving God’s existence just as cosmic teapot nobody can disprove that, similarly nobody can disprove God’s existence but that doesn’t prove that the cosmic teapot exists over there. Similarly it doesn’t prove that God exists.

Answer: This is a disanalogy.

Disanalogy means that which is a false analogy use to derive a false conclusion. Why it is a false analogy? Several reasons.

Firstly in principle there is a way to disprove the cosmic teapot. If we send space crafts, if we send space sensors, if we send telescopes, then it may cost a lot but in principle it is possible if somebody wants to scourge the entire space between Jupiter and Saturn and to show that there is no teapot over there. In practice the cost may be prohibitive but in principle it is possible. Whereas when we talk about God, because God by definition is not material, so He is not a material thing. So even in principle it is not possible.

By giving an analogy like this what happens is, two objects which are actually different. One which is an imaginary object, unlikely object, by comparing that with something else we do a disanalogy.

Second problem with this analogy is that, actually there is the belief or disbelief in the cosmic teapot is not something which is taken seriously by anyone and there are no serious reasons to believe in the existence of cosmic teapot. But there are many serious reasons to believe in the existence of God. There is the cosmological argument, that everything needs to have a source. So the ultimate source is God. There is a design argument, the artistry, the intricacy, there is a moral argument. There are many arguments. Atheists may not find it convincing but there are many eminent scientists, right from the time of Newton, Galileo, Copernicus down to today there are Nobel laureates, very eminent scientists, who believe in God, believe in a divine intelligence underlying the order of this world. So the fact that there are serious arguments for contributing towards the reasoning for the existence of God but there are no such arguments for talking about the teapot.

Beyond that the scriptures which talk about the existence of God do also give us a process by which we can purify ourselves, develop our spiritual perception and thereby actually see God. But there is no such process by which worshipping a cosmic teapot one day will get the eyes

om agyana timirandhasya, gyananjana shalakaya

our eyes will open and we will see a cosmic teapot. Nobody has proposed a process like this and there is no serious process for inner transformation like this. So by giving a disanalogy, actually one only weakens one’s case. It is not that the belief in God is weakened or minimized, rather it is the absurdity of those who propose such arguments that is exposed.

Most importantly when we talk about this type of conception the central point is that nobody can, actually the whole idea of proving something fantastic or proposing something fantastic as equivalent to God is a subtle way of saying that God itself a fantasy but the whole reasoning that is given for the existence of God is neglected. Yes, the conception of God is extraordinary. The most important difference is that, when any religions talks about the existence of God, God is not a thing of the world. The cosmic teapot or somebody may talk about some fairy or talk about some spaghetti monster or whatever, but those are just things either of the imagination or the things in the world. But God is not the thing of the world. God is a thing beyond the world, He is the source of the world, He is the sustainer of the world and He is the basis for everything that exists.

To conclude, wheneverone gives an analogy, what are the points of similarity and what are the points of dissimilarity they need to be discussed. Without that any analogy can be used, proposed to come up with any kind of misleading conclusion. What is the similarity between a cosmic teapot and God? Just the fact that there existence is non provable, just that both the existence is non disprovable but that is no basis for similarity, that is simply the point one wants to prove. Similarity between them is that one is the physical object and other is not a physical object. Second is that with respect to teapot there are no reasons to believe in its existence whereas in God there are many reasons to believe in His existence. Third is that, practically no serious thinkers believe in the whole idea of cosmic teapot, where many of the eminent thinkers in the world including eminent scientists have believed in the existence of God and continue to do so. Lastly, teapot is just one object in this world whose existence or non existence can be proven or disproven by empirical methods where as God is not a thing of this world, God is the source, the sustainer, the foundation of this world. To perceive the existence that requires whole different methodology. Actually when one tries to compare two things which are entirely dissimilar, having no similarities then one simply exposes one own either poor understanding of logic or one’s own biased reasoning by which one tries to simply without defeating the opponent just pretend that one has defeated the opponent. Thank you.

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Chaitanya Charan das

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