Monday, February 20, 2017

The difficulty of understanding teapots

A few weeks ago I was having a conversation with Pinkie Pie about religion and belief in God.  We talked about some of the reasons for believing in God and Pinkie Pie brought up the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the One True God.  She found the idea of the FSM hilarious, needless to say.

I took the opportunity to talk about why the FSM exists as an idea.  I described how it was a response  to various specious 'proofs' of the existence of one god or another.  After all, there isn't anything to convince us that an omnipotent creator isn't a FSM instead of whatever other version of god people have cooked up.

I also talked some about Russell's teapot.  That is, I presume that there is a teapot floating out in space, perhaps full of warm tea with two lumps of sugar.  It is just far enough away from Earth that our telescopes cannot detect it.  Since you cannot disprove the existence of the teapot, I presume that it does exist.  Just like the FSM this is an argument that shows how silly the 'God exists because you can't prove he doesn't' line of reasoning is.  The burden of proof on someone making a specific claim that lies outside any observed phenomenon lies with the person making the claim, not those who would ignore it.

I thought I was so clever.  Teaching my child about reasoning and argument and debate.  Look at me imparting wisdom to a young mind and inoculating her against propaganda!

On Friday Pinkie Pie was watching Futurama with a friend of hers and the FSM came up in the episode they were soaking in.  Pinkie Pie then proceeded to explain the FSM and Russell's teapot to her friend.  What Pinkie Pie got across was that in space there is a giant spaghetti god and also a teacup full of tea with sugar.  The teacup is there, but also not there, and it is tremendously funny.

The part about the burden of proof didn't quite make it into her explanation.  Nothing about skepticism, science, or debate was covered.  Just hilarity and various foodstuffs in the cold dark of space.

There are days where I am convinced I am a good parent and teaching my child things is useful.  Then there are days full of giggles and space food and the crushing sense of impending doom that comes from knowing that these children are one day going to be running the world and the people trying to teach them about it are failing miserably.

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