The philosopher Bertrand Russell argued it was religious people’s job to prove the existence of God rather than shifting the burden of disproof to others. That burden should be carried by people who make the unfalsifiable claim. But it turns out that Russell’s reasoning itself contained an unfalsifiable claim for which no proof has ever been submitted, namely the assumption of materialism.
Russell’s famous teapot analogy, often invoked as an argument against the existence of God, goes as follows:
“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.” (Bertrand Russell)
No telescope, so far, has ever caught a glimpse of a teapot floating in the space between Earth and Mars. Though such a teapot might exist, atheists such as Richard Dawkins can say that the existence of God is just as unlikely.
However, Russell’s teapot analogy contains a fallacy, namely a fallacy of reduction. To make his analogy work, Russell first had to assume that all unfalsifiable claims, such as the existence of God or of the cosmic teapot, exclusively pertain to the physical world. But the assumption that reality is strictly material is itself an unfalsifiable claim.
Since we cannot observe any physical entity sitting on a throne somewhere in the universe, we may conclude the existence of a material God is highly unlikely, like the existence of the floating teapot. A non-material god, however, a spiritual being, can easily escape Russell’s analogy. Russell didn’t prove God’s existence is unlikely, he only proved God is not a teapot—God is not material.
Keeping this in mind, we can now turn Russell’s analogy on its head, and in favor of religious people’s beliefs:
To make the laws of physics work out, scientists have had to assume the existence of invisible matter and energy, called dark matter and dark energy, which they say constitute about 95% of the universe.
Ergo, in the space between the Earth and Mars, scientists must assume the likely existence of invisible matter and energy. And therefore, the existence of an invisible god is equally likely.