Bertrand RussellThis is a featured page

Bertrand Russell nsIn hmolscience, Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) (IQ:180|94) (CR=44) (DN=7) was a British mathematician, philosopher, and top-ranked greatest atheist ever, a Stokes 100 (#77), noted for his second law of thermodynamics based dismal view of human future in the explanation of his rejection of religion. The source of his main opinion on the second law seems to stem from his 1927 book Why I Am Not a Christian; a book listed by the New York Public Library as one of the most influential 150 books of the 20th century. [1]

In 1910, Russell met Ludwig Wittgenstein, who became his pupil. [8]

Mill | Atheism sentence
Russell was the godson of John Mill. [7] In 1890, at age 18, Russell began reading Mill’s autobiography, wherein he found a sentence that, as he says, began to turn him into an atheist, and event which he describes in his own autobiography as follows: [10]

“At the age of eighteen ... I read Mill’s Autobiography, where I found a sentence to the effect that his father taught him that the question ‘Who made me?’ cannot be answered, since it immediately suggests the further question ‘Who made God?’. This led me to abandon the ‘first cause’ argument, and to become an atheist. Throughout the long period of religious doubt, I had been rendered very unhappy by the gradual loss of belief, but when the process was completed, I found to my surprise that I was quite glad to be done with the whole subject.”

(add discussion)

Earlier years
In adolescence, Russell stated that his thought time was divided among the following three subjects: [7]

“I was obliged to preserve an impenetrable secrecy towards my people. My interests were divided between sex, religion, and mathematics.”

great events of his reaction existence (life), Russell commenting that it was “as dazzling as first love”, but one that left him with lasting questions about the foundations of mathematics—questions which went on to seed his so-called greatest desire, namely: “to find some reasons for supposing mathematics true.”

At age sixteen, however, in dis-alignment with his own desire, in alignment with his mother’s wishes for him to become a Unitarian minister, over that of his preference to follow a career in mathematics, he was sent to a “crammer” to prepare for scholarship examination at Trinity College, Cambridge. On this state of existence, as Russell explains in his autobiography: [6]

“I was profoundly unhappy. There was a footpath leading across the fields to New Southgate, and I used to go there alone to watch the sunset and contemplate suicide. I did not, however, commit suicide, because I wished to know more of mathematics.”

In reflection of his early years, Russell recalling the following from his youth: [6]

During the course of this tumultuous period of existence, Russell claimed that beginning at age 15, he spent considerable time thinking about the validity of Christian religious dogma, and by 18 had decided to discard the last of it.

Purpose, god, and heat death
In his 1927 lecture “Why I Am Not a Christian”, delivered in London on a Sunday, in a subsection on objections to religions, Russell states his opinion on the relationship between conclusions of thermodynamics and religion as follows: [2]

“Considered as the climax to such a vast process, we do not really seem to me sufficiently marvelous … nevertheless, even after making allowances under this head, I cannot but think that Omnipotence operating through all eternity might have produced something better. And then we have to reflect that even this result is only a flash in the pan. The earth will not always remain habitable; the human race will die out, and if the cosmic process is to justify itself hereafter it will have to do so elsewhere than on the surface of our planet. And even if this should occur, it must stop sooner or later.”

He then famously remarks, in a negation of religious thermodynamics, that:

“The second law of thermodynamics makes it scarcely possible to doubt that the universe is running down, and that ultimately nothing of the slightest interest will be possible anywhere. Of course, it is open to us to say that when the time comes God will wind up the machinery again; but if we do say this, we can base our assertion only upon faith, not upon one shred of scientific evidence. So far as scientific evidence goes, the universe has crawled by slow stages to a somewhat pitiful result on this earth and is going to crawl by still more pitiful stages to a condition of universal death.”

In conclusion, he says:

“If this is to be taken as evidence of purpose, I can only say that the purpose is one that does not appeal to me. I see no reason, therefore, to believe in any sort of God, however vague and however attenuated.”

In his 1927 Analysis of Matter, to note, Russell was ambivalent on the possibility of reversibility of photon and electron movement according to quantum theory in relation to irreversibility in thermodynamics. [3]

A notable student of Russell’s was American mathematician Norbert Wiener who studied under Russell during a fellowship at Cambridge in 1912. [4]

Russell won the 1950 Nobel Prize in literature in recognition of “his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought.” In his Nobel Lecture “What Desires are Politically Important”, Russell comments on the topic of desire that: [5]

“All human activity is prompted by desire. There is a wholly fallacious theory advanced by some earnest moralists to the effect that it is possible to resist desire in the interests of duty and moral principle. I say this is fallacious, not because no man ever acts from a sense of duty, but because duty has no hold on him unless he desires to be dutiful. If you wish to know what men will do, you must know not only, or principally, their material circumstances, but rather the whole system of their desires with their relative strengths.”

(add discussion)

The following are noted quotes:

“Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.”
— Bertrand Russell (1956), “What I Have Lived For”, Prologue to Autobiography [9]

“I am myself a dissenter from all known religions, and I hope that every kind of religious belief will die out.”
— Bertrand Russell (1958), The Will to Doubt (pg. 17) [11]

“There can’t be a practical belief for believing what isn’t true. Either a thing is true or it isn’t. If it is true, you should believe it. If it isn’t, you shouldn’t. If you can’t find out whether it is true or it isn’t, you should suspend judgment.”
— Bertrand Russell (1959), response to query: “do you think there’s a practical reason for having religious beliefs?” (Ѻ)

1. (a) Davies, Paul. (1997). The Last Three Minutes (pgs. 12-13). Basic Books.
(b) Diefendorf, Elizabeth and Bryan, Diana. (1997). The New York Public Library’s Books of the Century (Section: Mind & Spirit, pgs. 84-101, book: Why I Am Not a Christian (1927), pg. 92). Oxford University Press.
2. (a) Russell, Bertrand. (1927). Why I Am Not a Christian. Rationalist Association of South Africa.
(b) Russell, Bertrand and Edwards, Paul. (1957). Why I Am Not a Christian: and other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects (keyword: second law, pgs. 32-33). Simon & Schuster.
(c) Why I Am Not a Christian – Wikipedia.
3. Russell, Bertrand. (1927). The Analysis of Matter (keyword: thermodynamics, pg. 381). Dover.
4. Campbell, Jeremy. (1982). Grammatical Man - Information, Entropy, Language, and Life (pgs. 24). New York: Simon and Schuster.
5. Russell, Bertrand. (1950). “What Desires are Politically Important.” Nobel Lecture, Dec. 11.
6. (a) Scharfstein, Ben-Ami. (1980). The Philosophers: Their Lives and Nature of Their Thought (pgs. 306-07). Oxford University Press.
(b) Dunham, William. (1991). Journey through Genius: the Great Theorems of Mathematics (pg. v). Penguin Books.
7. Scharfstein, Ben-Ami. (1980). The Philosophers: Their Lives and Nature of Their Thought (pgs. 306-07). Oxford University Press.
8. Palmer, Michael. (2013). Atheism for Beginners: a Coursebook for Schools and Colleges (§:Bertrand Russell, pgs. 209-10). Lutterworth Press.
9. (a) Russell, Bertrand. (1956), “What I Have Lived For” (Ѻ), Prologue to Autobiography, Jul 15.
(b) The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell – WikiQuote.
(c) Palmer, Michael. (2013). Atheism for Beginners: a Coursebook for Schools and Colleges (pg. 209). Lutterworth Press.
10. (a) Russell, Bertrand. (1967). The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell (§2: Adolescence, pg. 36). Publisher.
(b) The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell – WikiQuote.
11. Lundberg, George. (1947). Can Science Save Us? (pg. 126). Longmans, Green and Co.

Further reading
● Russell, Bertrand and Seckel, Al. (1986). Bertrand Russell on God and Religion (thermodynamics, 168-69, 175-78, 202). Prometheus Books.

● Thims, Libb. (2011). “What’s your Dawkins number?” (V), HumanChemistry101, Nov 1.

External links
Bertrand Russell – Wikipedia.

TDics icon ns

Latest page update: made by Sadi-Carnot , Oct 19 2015, 10:45 PM EDT (about this update About This Update Sadi-Carnot Edited by Sadi-Carnot

71 words added
1 word deleted

view changes

- complete history)
More Info: links to this page

Anonymous  (Get credit for your thread)

There are no threads for this page.  Be the first to start a new thread.

Related Content

  (what's this?Related ContentThanks to keyword tags, links to related pages and threads are added to the bottom of your pages. Up to 15 links are shown, determined by matching tags and by how recently the content was updated; keeping the most current at the top. Share your feedback on WikiFoundry Central.)