Bertrand Russell

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Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell (1872 – 1970), was a British analytic philosopher, logician, mathematician and advocate for social reform.

“Logical errors are, I think, of greater practical importance than many people believe; they enable their perpetrators to hold the comfortable position on every subject in turn. Any logically coherent body of doctrine is sure to be in part painful and contrary to current prejudices.”
___ Bertrand Russell, History of Western Philosophy, 1945

Bertrand Russell was a famous debunker of religious nonsense and said in Is There a God?, “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.”

Russell, as ever, makes a good point. Any fantasist can concoct any fanciful story, padded with a layer of non-falsifiable protection, and can insist that the story is accurate by virtue of the glitch that it cannot be disproven. Such a claim, of course, commits the logical error of argumentum ad ignorantiam. If the claim was first made in antiquity, it is imbued with an undeserved veneer of credibility.

Mimble Wimble: Grump tank for disgruntled atheists.

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