ArtDigital ArtDrawingSkepticism

Russell’s Teapot Helps Filter Bullshit

With all of the political propaganda, allegations of fake news, and wild conspiracy theories making their rounds on social media and the news, actually having a real effect on our lives, I thought it was high time to bring out some classical ideas that help teach critical thinking and theory. First up is a fun drawing based on a design I have used on my Surly-Ramics necklaces for a while. This illustration is of the thought experiment known as Russell’s Teapot.

Russell’s Teapot is often used to illustrate the basic idea that just because you can not disprove the existence of something it does not make it any more plausible or respectable of a concept.

Bertrand Russell said the following:

“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.”

In a more practical, current sense, think of this: Just because you can not immediately disprove an outrageous news story that you hear said or see someone tweet, that doesn’t make it any more likely to be true. Or more specifically, just because someone or a group of people believe strongly in something that still doesn’t legitimize it without proof. Be careful what information you accept as truth, investigate everything, research sources and demand citations from only credible, vetted and preferably unbiased sources.

While you are fact checking, enjoy some tea! Good luck out there!

This art was originally posted on my Patreon. If you like my writing or my art, please support me there. Thanks!

The featured image by me is available as stickers, shirts and more in my RedBubble shop.

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia, science-loving artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics and is currently in love with pottery. Daily maker of art and leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Tip Jar is here.

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