Turtles All the Way Down

yertle

Turtles all the way down‘ is a jocular expression of the infinite regress problem in cosmology. The joke goes as follows: An Eastern guru affirms that the earth is supported on the back of a tiger. When asked what supports the tiger, he says it stands upon an elephant; and when asked what supports the elephant he says it is a giant turtle. When asked, finally, what supports the giant turtle, he is briefly taken aback, but quickly replies ‘Ah, after that it is turtles all the way down.’

The phrase was popularized by Stephen Hawking in 1988. The ‘turtle’ metaphor in the anecdote represents a popular notion of a primitive cosmological myth, viz. the flat earth supported on the back of a World Turtle.

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