Get my new weekly sketch in your inbox

Join over 30,000 people learning something new in a moment each Sunday.

Russell's Teapot illustration: an unexceptional china teapot floats peacefully in space with part of a large burnt-red planet visible in the background. Bertrand Russell's quote fills the space: "If I were to claim "there's a teapot, too small to spot, orbiting between Earth and Mars", the burden of proof lies on me."

Russell's Teapot

Russell's teapot is a memorable example illustrating how, if you are going to make claims that are difficult to verify, the burden of proof lies on the one making a claim — not on any skeptics to disprove it.

The example he gave was claiming there's a china teapot in elliptical orbit somewhere between Earth and Mars that's too small to spot with a telescope. He suggests it would be unreasonable to expect anyone to believe such a patently unfalsifiable claim.

Bertrand Russell original invoked the teapot in the context of religion and the existence of an unverifiable God, in a similar vein to the Flying Spaghetti Monster and Carl Sagan's invisible dragon. It can however be applied much wider than that.

I learned about it from a helpful commenter on the BS Asymmetry Principle, also known as Brandolini's Law.

You’re welcome to use and share this image and text for non-commercial purposes with attribution. Go wild!
See licence

Buy Me A Coffee