Turtles, turtles, turtles... (was Re: Creationists)

Jeff Fabijanic (jeff@primordialsoft.com)
Mon, 22 Jun 1998 10:52:57 -0400

Michelle Jones <spike66@ibm.net> wrote:

> > The principle of creation implies a creator...BUT...who created the
> > creator...and who created the creator who created the creator...and who
> > created the creator who created the creator who...............

> there is an apocryphal story of a young student who asks his
> guru: mater, upon what does the earth rest? guru: upon the back
> of a great tortoise, my son. student: but master, upon what does
> this great tortoise stand? guru: upon the back of a still
> greater tortoise. student: but master, upon what... guru: this
> is an interesting line of questioning, my son, but i can assure
> you, it is tortoises all the way down.

In one of his biographies, Physisist Richard Feynman claims to have had an
exchange much like this with an older woman after he presented a lecture on
basic physics principles. She told him that she knew how the world was
*really* set up, and when he queried her, she responded with the tortise
premise. When he questioned her further, she scolded him and said that she
knew he was trying to confuse her, but it was "turtles turtles turtles all
the way down".

Kelly and I use this expression as shorthand to gently point out
unsupportable premises in the statements of others or ourselves.

However, it is worth pointing out that even in modern physics, we seem to
have infinitely-regressing-turtle-like situations, eg the apparently always
receding "smallest things". First we thought it was gross elements, then
atoms, then subatomic particles (mesons, leptons etc), and now even these
themselves appear to be composed of yet smaller elements - the quarks. I
for one, would not be suprised to hear scientists speak of even more
fundamental objects/concepts of reality. It certainly seems sometimes as
though the grain of the universe is always just small enough for us to
barely make out, but when our "eyes" get better we see that the grain is
finer still.


- jeff