The Absence of Proof
I’m back to inviting readers to submit quotations whose origins they want me to try to trace, using my book, The Yale Book of Quotations, and my more recent researches.
James A Smith asked:
“‘Absence of proof is not proof of absence.’ Attributed to William Cowper, as a retort to one who claimed God does not exist because we can’t prove his existence.”
I believe any attribution to William Cowper is anachronistic. The Yale Book of Quotations lists a similar saying under the name of Martin Rees, an English astronomer:
“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”
Quoted in Project Cyclops: A Design Study of a System for Detecting Extraterrestrial Intelligent Life, rev. ed., ed. B. M. Oliver and J. Billingham (1973). An earlier version by A. R. Burn appeared in a book review by Burn in The Classical Review, June 1969: “absence of evidence is not identical with evidence of absence.”
Can any readers of this blog supply earlier versions?
Do any readers have any other quotations whose origins they would like me to attempt to trace?