Turtles all the way down

The most widely known version appears in Stephen Hawking’s 1988 book A Brief History of Time, which starts:

A well-known scientist once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: “What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.” The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, “What is the tortoise standing on?” “You’re very clever, young man, very clever”, said the old lady. “But it’s turtles all the way down!”

OK, I’ll have to admit to intellectual laziness since I learned about this from the first season of QI instead of reading Stephen Hawking. Where I picked it up isn’t as important as the concept of knowledge and myth.

For some reason some ancient beliefs and superstitions have not given way to logic and science. The popular imagination holds a belief, yet refuses to shed it to fact. Ignorance keeps hold even though knowledge has tried to explain facts.

“But it’s turtles all the way down!”

The argumentum ad populum. Someting is true because many or all people believe it. There is a converse to this the argumentum ad verecundiam, the argument from authority or appeal to authority is a logical fallacy, where it is argued that a statement is correct because the statement is made by a person or source that is commonly regarded as authoritative.

But, if the people or the authority is wrong, then that does not make the proposition true. So, even if 5 out of 4 of the Supreme Court justices rule that someting is the law, that does not make it proper law.

I have to admit, that any legal scholar if pressed would say that if something is not mentioned in a law, that it is not applicable, yet the argument in DC v. Heller was given court time.

The question is how does one educate the people that the popular beliefs about the Second Amendment, in particular it’s being an “individual right” are The Emperor’s New Clothes. There really isn’t anything there. Heller was pure partisan politics which is the only reason that piece of intellectual dishonesty could have been written.

Everyone who has read the decision has found it wanting, with the exception of some gun control groups who are happy that it allows for reasonable restrictions and the “me too” crowd of Second Amendment “Scholars”–of couse. I have to admit that it is a harbinger of ill when I think of this in light of Cass Sunstein: “The Second Amendment: The Constitution’s Most Mysterious Right”, but I am not sure how the ill will come about.

The problem is that it is difficult dealing with ignorance as the quote at the beginning points out.

So, it is a chore to deal with it whether the ignorance comes from the people or those in power

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