Heisenberg at the bottom of the glass

The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.

Attr. Werner Heisenberg

Wikiquote contributors have done some legwork on this, and I base what follows on what I found there.

The original quotation in German is: “Der erste Trunk aus dem Becher der Naturwissenschaft macht atheistisch, aber auf dem Grund des Bechers wartet Gott.” The source “cited in Ulrich Hildebrand: ‘Das Universum – Hinweis auf Gott?’, in ‘Ethos. Die Zeitschrift für die ganze Familie,’ Berneck, Schweiz: Schwengeler Verlag AG, No. 10, Oktober 1988, p. 10. The quote can not be found in Heisenberg’s published works, and Hildebrand apparently does not declare his source. The renowned journalist Eike Christian Hirsch

A friend of Heisenberg, Dr. Eike Christian Hirsch PhD, said that the content and the style are “foreign to Heisenberg’s convictions and the way he used to express himself.” Also according to Wikiquote, Heisenberg’s children “did not recognize their father in this quote”.

Two sources are suggested: Francis Bacon, “Of Atheism” (1601): “A little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion,” and Alexander Pope, “An Essay on Criticism“ (1709): “A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again.”

I can hear the axes being ground in the Wikiquote material, so I did a little extra searching on my own.

  1. Google searching for the English quotation adds no new information.
  2. Wikiquote as above.
  3. Wikiquote is right that the quotation is attributed to Heisenberg in the source cited, and no original source appears to be given there.
  4. I Googled for the German version of the quotation as given above, though apparently there are several competing variations. Since I speak basically no German beyond “Gesundheit,” I wasn’t able to gain much, but at least I tried.
  5. Heisenberg was a practicing Lutheran. Here’s an authentic quotation: “In the history of science, ever since the famous trial of Galileo, it has repeatedly been claimed that scientific truth cannot be reconciled with the religious interpretation of the world. Although I am now convinced that scientific truth is unassailable in its own field, I have never found it possible to dismiss the content of religious thinking as simply part of an outmoded phase in the consciousness of mankind, a part we shall have to give up from now on. Thus in the course of my life I have repeatedly been compelled to ponder on the relationship of these two regions of thought, for I have never been able to doubt the reality of that to which they point.” From “Scientific and Religious Truth” (1974).

So I’m not going to say 100% that he never said it, but I’m going to say that it takes much more evidence than I have yet seen to prove that he did, or even to make it likely that he did.

PSA on soon-to-be St. Teresa of Calcutta

I’m quite happy that Mother Teresa will soon be St. Teresa of Calcutta, and not even fauxtations will tarnish that. But, out of respect for her, please don’t attribute to her things it’s known she didn’t say.

“How do I know if she didn’t say something?” I hear you cry. One way is to see if it shows up on the awkwardly (but descriptively) titled page Quotes falsely attributed to Mother Teresa and significantly paraphrased versions or personal interpretations of statements that are not her authentic words.


Of particular note, the “Anyway prayer” is not hers. She liked it but did not write it.

The worst kind of heretic: Pope Leo XIII

The worst kind of heretic is the one who, while teaching mostly true Catholic doctrine, adds a word of heresy, like a drop of poison in a cup of water.

Attr. Pope Leo XIII.

I have left the record of my original search below. The reason I couldn’t find it is that it’s heavily meme-ified. It’s heavily paraphrased from Pope Leo’s Satis Cognitun (9), where the Holy Father is in turn quoting an anonymous author:

There can be nothing more dangerous than those heretics who admit nearly the whole cycle of doctrine, and yet by one word, as with a drop of poison, infect the real and simple faith taught by our Lord and handed down by Apostolic tradition (Auctor Tract. de Fide Orthodoxa contra Arianos).

So it’s sort of him and sort of not.

Original post follows:

  1. Google Search = Pinterest, tumblr, comments boxes, angry blog posts about Pope Francis, no citations, and no posts that I can find from more than a couple years ago.
  2. Wikiquote = only one quotation from Pope Leo XIII, and this isn’t it. There’s not even a list of disputed quotations or a discussion page.
  3. Direct search of Vatican web site: Your search – site:www.vatican.va The worst kind of heretic is the one who, while teaching mostly true … – did not match any documents.
  4. Hit #3 on Google Books is The Stepford Wives (I am not making this up). None of the hits are useful.

Conclusion: fauxtation until someone gives a real source. Sort of authentic.

Drinking and not sinning

Qui bibit, dormit; qui dormit, non peccat; qui non peccat, sanctus est; ergo: qui bibit sanctus est


He who drinks, sleeps; he who sleeps, does not sin; he who does not sin, is holy; therefore he who drinks is holy.

This one’s going around FB in a nice mock-illuminated manuscript; it’s also going around in a slightly varying form in English with an attribution to Martin Luther, which Wikiquote disputes.

I hate to burst anyone’s bubbleOK, bursting bubbles is kind of the purpose of this blog. Anyhow, this particular Latin aphorism really has been around for centuries; I found it on Google Books in a 1658 book from the British Museum,  Ἑρμηνεια logica, which appears to be a work on logic.

The quotation (in slight variation) shows up in the midst of the discussion of a sorites, a.k.a. a polysyllogismwhich is “a sequence of syllogisms such that the conclusion of each syllogism, together with the next proposition, is a premise for the next.” Formally speaking, this quotation is an example of a sorites, but, to quote the book linked above:

Si vero termini in sorite sunt causae subordinatae per accidens, sorites non valet; ut ia hoc, Qui bene bibit, bene dormit; qui bene dormit, non peccat; qui non peccat, est beatus; ergo: qui bene bibit est beatus. Vitium est, quod bene bibere sit causa per accidens somni.

If your Latin’s a little rusty: “If, however, the conclusions in the sorite are subordinate by accident, the sorites is not valid; as in this one, He who sleeps well, drinks well; he who sleeps well, does not sin; he who does not sin, is blessed; therefore, he who drinks well is blessed. The problem is that to drink well is a cause of sleep only by accident.”

By all means, have your fun with the quotation–really, I’m not a grouch–but don’t think it’s medieval sage advice. It’s a medieval example of bad logic.