The God Delusion

Title: The God Delusion
Author(s): Richard Dawkins
Release year: 2006
Publisher: (ENG)

Why in Database: The turtle elements appears in this book in the form of a reference to Zeno’s paradoxes, including the Tortoise and Achilles paradox. It is mentioned in the text itself, and the explanation of it is in the form of a footnote.

The Greeks had a hard time seeing through Zeno’s ‘proof that Achilles would never catch the tortoise.* But they had the sense not to conclude that therefore Achilles really would fail to catch the tortoise. Instead, they called it a paradox and waited for later generations of mathematicians to explain it (with, as it turned out, the theory of infinite series converging on a limiting value). Russell himself, of course, was as well qualified as anyone to understand why no tobacco tins should be thrown up in celebration of Achilles’ failure to catch the tortoise.

* Zeno’s paradox is too well known for the details to be promoted out of a footnote. Achilles can run ten times as fast as the tortoise, so he gives the animal, say, 100 yards’ start. Achilles runs 100 yards, and the tortoise is now 10 yards ahead. Achilles runs the 10 yards and the tortoise is now 1 yard ahead. Achilles runs the 1 yard, and the tortoise is still a tenth of a yard ahead . . . and so on ad infinitum, so Achilles never catches the tortoise.

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