Turtles all the way down
This phrase comes from a famous story and is used to illustrate the absurdity of the cosmological argument.
Origin of the Phrase
- "A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) 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 centre 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.'"
This phrase is used by non-believers when debating the cosmological argument. Positing that God was the "unmoved mover", i.e. the first cause, of the universe raises the question of who created the creator, and on and on. In other words, it's turtles all the way down.