Classical scholars have, I believe, a general principle, difficilior lectio potior–the more difficult reading is to be preferred–in textual criticism. If the Archbishop of Canterbury tells one man that he believes in God, and another that he does not, then it is probably the second assertion which is true, since otherwise it is very difficult to understand why he should have made it, while there are many excellent reasons for his making the first whether it be true or false. Similarly, if a strict rahmin like Ramanujan told me, as he certainly did, that he had no definite beliefs, then it is 100 to 1 that he meant what he said.
G. H. Hardy, Ramanujan: Twelve Lectures on Subjects Suggested by His Life and Work, Cambridge, 1940, p. 4
If mankind were capable of deriving the most obvious lessons from the facts before them, in opposition to their preconceived opinions, Mormonism would be to them one of the most highly instructive phenomena of the present age. Here we have a new religion, laying claim to revelation and miraculous powers, forming within a few years a whole nation of proselytes, with adherents scattered all over the earth, in an age of boundless publicity, and in the face of a hostile world. And the author of all this, in no way imposing or even respectable by his moral qualities, but, before he became a prophet, a known cheat and liar. And with this example before them, people can still think the success of Christianity in an age of credulity and with neither newspapers nor public discussion a proof of its divine origin!
John Stuart Mill, ‘Diary’ (April 10, 1854), in The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Toronto, 1988, vol. 27, p. 667
I try not to think with my gut. If I’m serious about understanding the world, thinking with anything besides my brain, as tempting as that might be, is likely to get me into trouble. Really, it’s okay to reserve judgment until the evidence is in.
Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, London, 1996, p. 170
I wish to propose for the reader’s favourable consideration a doctrine which may, I fear, appear wildly paradoxical and subversive. The doctrine in question is this: that it is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true.
Bertrand Russell, ‘Introduction’, in Sceptical Essays, London, 1928