Saturday, June 04, 2005

How it is and how it should be

Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake. 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 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.

-- Bertrand Russell, "Is There a God?" commissioned by, but never published in, Illustrated Magazine (1952: repr. The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell, Volume 11: Last Philosophical Testament, 1943-68, ed. John G. Slater and Peter K├Âllner (London: Routledge, 1997), pp. 543-48, quoted from S. T. Joshi, Atheism: A Reader

2 Comments:

Anonymous dave said...

and how would Russel treat quantum mechanics? talking about existence at this level, in an "objective" manner, is a little bit slippery as far as i know. things are getting quite close to metaphysics down there. and who could brush it aside? i mean, supposedly chemistry and biology kinda need physics - in a contingency sense. perhaps even the question of existence needs to be rethought and reformed. you know i kinda feel sorry for these types - they just can't shake this god thing. Russel is writing well after god was proclaimed dead by N. yet here he is trying to kill him agian. they teach you in school that when someone is annoying you to try ignoring him. maybe that's what these hard-core rationalists/empiricists should try. ignore God and he'll go away. i think secretly we know that that won't work either. Man it's a real motherfucker to get rid of something that doesn't exist!

1:06 PM  
Blogger Darren said...

It would seem that getting rid of something that (likely) does not exist (i.e., God) isn't the difficulty. It is getting rid of the idea of believing in something that doesn't exist.

I guess one could just try to get rid of the people who have the idea, but many people in this group have been trying for many years to do this to various sub-sections of their group. It has yet to be shown to be effective.

As for the quirky, quarky, charming quantum theory, it is currently, empirically validated. Consequently, more is not required.

2:06 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home