Quotations about   science

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Just how Sparks are able to warp the laws of time and motion (among others) has never been successfully analyzed. People who try to carefully watch them report suffering a sort of cognitive dissonance where they simply cannot remember what happened even though it happened right in front of them. These, as it turns out, are the lucky ones, as most people who get too close to a Spark who is happily building something tend to wake up and realize that they have become components.

Phil Foglio (b. 1956) American writer, cartoonist
Agatha H and the Voice of the Castle (2014) [with Kaja Foglio]
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Added on 4-Apr-22 | Last updated 4-Apr-22
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I, having built a house, reject
The feud of eye and intellect,
And find in my experience proof
One pleasure runs from root to roof,
One thrust along a streamline arches
The sudden star, the budding larches.

The force that makes the winter grow
Its feathered hexagons of snow,
and drives the bee to match at home
Their calculated honeycomb,
Is abacus and rose combined.
An icy sweetness fills my mind,

A sense that under thing and wing
Lies, taut yet living, coiled, the spring.

Jacob Bronowski (1908-1974) Polish-English humanist and mathematician
“The Abacus and the Rose” (1965)
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First published in Bronowski, Science and Human Values (1965 ed.).
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Faith is a fine invention
For gentlemen who see;
But microscopes are prudent
In an emergency.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) American poet
Poems: Second Series, #30 (1891)
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Added on 12-Jan-22 | Last updated 12-Jan-22
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Everyone had heard about Abominations of Science but, like unicorns, they didn’t actually believe they existed. Thus everyone was rather grateful when the third Madrid Conference of Scientific Inquiry and Philosophical Horrors — Unleashed! released a codified list of things that constituted actual Abominations of Science. Over the years, this useful list has been updated and curated by our own Transylvanian Polygnostic University and has proven of great use to teachers, courts, and record books.

The only downside was that one of the conference members — a Herr Doktor Spanakopita — was so embarrassed that none of his previous efforts met the requirements that he, in a fit of pique, bred a race of unicorns, who went about stabbing people while quoting the parts of the list that covered biological abominations. Before he was stabbed to death, he was graciously acknowledged as a genuine Tamperer in Things Man Was Not Meant to Know and his oft-desecrated gravestone lists his accomplishments in full.

Phil Foglio (b. 1956) American writer, cartoonist
Agatha H. and the Siege of Mechanicsburg (2020) [with Kaja Foglio]
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Added on 8-Nov-21 | Last updated 8-Nov-21
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Science is in far greater danger from the absence of challenge than from the coming of any number of even absurd challenges.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian-American author, polymath, biochemist
“The Role of the Heretic,” Foreword to Donald W. Goldsmith (ed.), Scientists Confront Velikovsky (1977)
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Added on 3-Nov-21 | Last updated 3-Nov-21
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The radical novelty of modern science lies precisely in the rejection of the belief, which is at the heart of all popular religion, that the forces which move the stars and atoms are contingent upon the preferences of the human heart.

Walter Lippmann (1889-1974) American journalist and author
A Preface to Morals, Part 1, ch. 7 (1929)
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Added on 23-Aug-21 | Last updated 23-Aug-21
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As an experimental psychologist, I have been trained not to believe anything unless it can be demonstrated in the laboratory on rats or sophomores.

Steven Pinker (b. 1954) Canadian-American cognitive psychologist, linguist, author
Words and Rules, ch. 4 (1999)
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Added on 16-Jun-21 | Last updated 16-Jun-21
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Science: essentially math disguised as dinosaurs and outer space in order to seem interesting.

John Oliver (b. 1977) British-American comedian, writer, producer, political commentator
Last Week Tonight, ep. 136 (1 Jul 2018)

Segment on CRISPR and genome editing.
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Some people think that evolutionary psychology claims to have discovered that human nature is selfish and wicked. But they are flattering the researchers and anyone who would claim to have discovered the opposite. No one needs a scientist to measure whether humans are prone to knavery. The question has been answered in the history books, the newspapers, the ethnographic record, and the letters to Ann Landers. But people treat it like an open question, as if someday science might discover that it’s all a bad dream and we will wake up to find that it is human nature to love one another.

Steven Pinker (b. 1954) Canadian-American cognitive psychologist, linguist, author
How the Mind Works, ch. 7 (1997)
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Added on 9-Jun-21 | Last updated 9-Jun-21
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If every trace of any single religion were wiped out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly that way again. There might be some other nonsense in its place, but not that exact nonsense. If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it all out again.

Penn Jillette (b. 1955) American stage magician, actor, musician, author
“Passing Down the Joy of Not Collecting Stamps,” God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales (2011)
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Added on 20-May-21 | Last updated 20-May-21
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That is, natural selection built the brain to survive in the world and only incidentally to understand it at a depth greater than is needed to survive. The proper task of scientists is to diagnose and correct the misalignment.

E. O. Wilson (1929-2021) American biologist, naturalist, writer [Edward Osborne Wilson]
Consilience, ch. 4 (1998)
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Added on 29-Apr-21 | Last updated 29-Apr-21
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A common fallacy in much of the adverse criticism to which science is subjected today is that it claims certainty, infallibility and complete emotional objectivity. It would be more nearly true to say that it is based upon wonder, adventure and hope.

Cyril Norman Hinshelwood (1897-1967) British chemist and Nobel laureate
“Classics among the intellectual disciplines,” Presidential Address to the Classical Association, Hull, UK (9 Apr 1959)
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When I hear scientists say, “The data speak for themselves,” I cringe. Data never speak.

Andrew J. Hoffman (b. 1961) American environmental scientist, sustainable enterprise scholar
“Taking On Climate Skepticism as a Field of Study,” Interview by Felicity Barringer, New York Times (9 Apr 2011)
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Added on 13-Apr-21 | Last updated 19-Apr-21
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If you try and take a cat apart to see how it works, the first thing you have on your hands is a non-working cat.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
Speech, Digital Biota 2 conference, Cambridge, UK (Sep 1998)
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Segments of this impromptu speech are quoted in Richard Dawkins, "Eulogy for Douglas Adams," Church of Saint Martin in the Fields, London (27 Sep 2001). A variant of the quotation ("If you try and take a cat apart to see how it works, you end up with a non-working cat. Do not try this.") is often attributed to that article, but the Dawkins eulogy contains the correct form of the quote.
Added on 6-Apr-21 | Last updated 19-Apr-21
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It must be remembered that evidence is never complete, that knowledge of truth is always partial, and that to await certainty is to await eternity.

John Bowlby 1907-1990) British psychologist, psychiatrist, psychoanalyst
Maternal Care and Mental Health (1951)
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The last phrase is often attributed to Jonas Salk, who used it ("It is said to await certainty is to await eternity") in a telegram to Basil O'Connor (8 Nov 1954). But as Salk himself noted, it was not original to him.
Added on 5-Apr-21 | Last updated 19-Apr-21
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Since we can never know anything for sure, it is simply not worth searching for certainty; but it is well worth searching for truth; and we do this chiefly by searching for mistakes, so that we have to correct them.

Sir Karl Popper (1902-1994) Austrian-British philosopher
“Knowledge and the Shaping of Reality,” lecture, Alpbach (Aug 1982)
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Reprinted in In Search of a Better World, ch. 1 (1994).
Added on 29-Mar-21 | Last updated 29-Mar-21
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Physics is, hopefully, simple. Physicists are not.

Edward Teller (1908-2003) Hungarian-American theoretical physicist
Conversations on the Dark Secrets of Physics, ch. 10 (1991) [with Wendy Teller and Wilson Talley]
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Added on 9-Mar-21 | Last updated 9-Mar-21
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A fact is a simple statement that everyone believes. It is innocent, unless found guilty. A hypothesis is a novel suggestion that no one wants to believe. It is guilty, until found effective.

Edward Teller (1908-2003) Hungarian-American theoretical physicist
Conversations on the Dark Secrets of Physics, ch. 5 (1991) [with Wendy Teller, Wilson Talley]
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Added on 2-Mar-21 | Last updated 2-Mar-21
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What certainty can there be in a Philosophy which consists in as many Hypotheses as there are Phenomena to be explained. To explain all nature is too difficult a task for any one man or even for any one age. ‘Tis much better to do a little with certainty, & leave the rest for others that come after you, than to explain all things by conjecture without making sure of any thing.

Isaac Newton (1642-1727) English physicist and mathematician
Opticks, Preface (unpublished) (1703)
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Added on 1-Mar-21 | Last updated 1-Mar-21
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Bigotry and science can have no communication with each other, for science begins where bigotry and absolute certainty end. The scientist believes in proof without certainty, the bigot in certainty without proof. Let us never forget that tyranny most often springs from a fanatical faith in the absoluteness of one’s beliefs.

Ashley Montagu (1905-1999) British-American anthropologist and humanist [b. Israel Ehrenberg, a/k/a Montague Francis Ashley-Montagu]
Science and Creationism, Introduction (1984)

The second sentence is frequently (mis)quoted:
  • "Science has proof without any certainty. Creationists have certainty without any proof."
  • "Religion gives us certainty without proof; science gives us proof without certainty."
Added on 22-Feb-21 | Last updated 22-Feb-21
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It is difficult to pronounce on the opinion of the ministers of our Church as a body: one portion of them, by far the least informed, protests against anything which can advance the honour and the interests of science, because, in their limited and mistaken view, science is adverse to religion. This is not the place to argue that great question. It is sufficient to remark, that the best-informed and most enlightened men of all creeds and pursuits, agree that truth can never damage truth, and that every truth is allied indissolubly by chains more or less circuitous with all other truths; whilst error, at every step we make in its diffusion, becomes not only wider apart and more discordant from all truths, but has also the additional chance of destruction from all rival errors.

Charles Babbage (1791-1871) English mathematician, computer pioneer, philosopher
The Exposition of 1851: Views Of The Industry, The Science, and the Government Of England, ch. 17 (1851)
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Added on 19-Feb-21 | Last updated 19-Feb-21
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Artists and scientists realize that no solution is ever final, but that each new creative step points the way to the next artistic or scientific problem. In contrast, those who embrace religious revelations and delusional systems tend to see them as unshakeable and permanent.

Anthony Storr (1920-2001) English psychiatrist and author
Feet of Clay: Saints, Sinners and Madmen, Introduction (1996)
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Added on 11-Feb-21 | Last updated 11-Feb-21
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If a man were to leap off the Eiffel Tower, mathematics could predict how long it would take him to hit the ground, but not why he chose to jump in the first place.

Ian Stewart b. 1945) English mathematician, author
Does God Play Dice? (1989)
Added on 20-Jan-21 | Last updated 20-Jan-21
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I can calculate the movement of the stars, but not the madness of the people.

Isaac Newton (1642-1727) English physicist and mathematician
(Attributed)
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Supposedly after the ruinous stock price collapse of the "South Sea Bubble" in 1720, in which Newton lost £20,000.

The earliest mention of this is found in Joseph Spence, Second Memorandum Book (1756), collected in Joseph Spence (ed. Samuel Weller Singer), Anecdotes, Observations, and Characters, of Books and Men (1820). There a Lord Radnor is quoted as saying: "When Sir Isaac Newton was asked about the continuance of the rising of South Sea stock? — He answered, 'that he could not calculate the madness of the people.'" (Note that this supposedly takes place before the bubble bursts.)

Variants:
  • I can calculate the motions of erratic bodies, but not the madness of a multitude. ["Mammon and the Money Market," The Church of England Quarterly Review (1850)]
  • I can calculate the motions of the heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people.
  • I can calculate the motions of heavenly bodies but not the madness of men.
  • I can calculate the movement of stars, but not the madness of men.
Added on 14-Jan-21 | Last updated 14-Jan-21
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It is now quite lawful for a Catholic woman to avoid pregnancy by a resort to mathematics, though she is still forbidden to resort to physics and chemistry.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
Minority Report, ch. 62 (1956)
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Regarding the Pope allowing the "rhythm" method of contraception.
Added on 4-Jan-21 | Last updated 4-Jan-21
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It has often and confidently been asserted, that man’s origin can never be known: but ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.

Charles Darwin (1809-1882) English naturalist
The Descent of Man, Introduction (1871)
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Added on 23-Nov-20 | Last updated 23-Nov-20
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Newton and Descartes started to try and prove that God existed in the same way as they would try and prove something in the laboratory or with their mathematics … And when you try and mix science and religion you get bad science and bad religion. The two are doing two different things. … Science can give you a diagnosis of cancer. It can even cure your disease, but it cannot touch your grief and disappointment, nor can it help you to die well.

Karen Armstrong (b. 1944) British author, comparative religion scholar
“The Reason of Faith,” Interview with Michael Brunton, Ode (Sep-Oct 2009)
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Added on 26-Oct-20 | Last updated 26-Oct-20
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A lot of the arguments about religion going on at the moment spring from a rather inept understanding of religious truth. Our notion changed during the early modern period when we became convinced that the only path to any kind of truth was reason. That works beautifully for science but doesn’t work so well for the humanities. Religion is really an art form and a struggle to find value and meaning amid the ghastly tragedy of human life.

Karen Armstrong (b. 1944) British author, comparative religion scholar
“The Reason of Faith,” Interview with Michael Brunton, Ode (Sep-Oct 2009)
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Added on 19-Oct-20 | Last updated 19-Oct-20
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Protestant theology has restricted the meaning of Faith too much — explaining it as subjective assurance or trust. It has sometimes been assumed that this attitude of throwing oneself into the arms of Divine grace may dispense us from the duty of forming rational convictions, and of directing our lives in accordance with them. Faith and fact come to be divorced. Either they are supposed to be directed to different objects, or we are told that the same proposition may be true for faith and false for science — in which case we are on a quicksand, and are driven to play fast and loose with veracity.

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
Assessments and Anticipations, ch. 7 “Faith” (1929)
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Added on 21-Sep-20 | Last updated 21-Sep-20
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Ideas come when we do not expect them, and not when we are brooding and searching at our desks. Yet ideas would certainly not come to mind had we not brooded at our desks and searched for answers with passionate devotion.

Max Weber (1864-1920) German sociologist, philosopher, political economist [Maximilian Karl Emil Weber]
“Science as a Vocation [Wissenscahft als Beruf],” Speech, Munich University (1918) [tr. Gerth & Mills (1948)]
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Alt. trans.:
  • "Ideas come when they are least expected, rather than while you are racking your brains at your desk. But, by the same token, they would not have made their appearance if we had not spent many hours pondering at our desks or brooding passionately over the problems facing us." [tr. Livingstone]
  • "[Ideas] come, at any rate, when one does not expect them, not while racking one's brains and pondering at one's desk. Of course, the ideas would not have occurred to us without our having been through the state of racking our brains and being engaged in impassioned questioning." [tr. Wells (2018)]
Added on 6-Aug-20 | Last updated 6-Aug-20
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We may be through with the past, but the past is not through with us. Ideas of the Stone Age exist side by side with the latest scientific thought. Only a fraction of mankind has emerged from the Dark Ages, and in the most lucid brains, as Logan Pearsall Smith has said, we come upon “nests of woolly caterpillars.”

Bergen Evans (1904-1978) American educator, writer, lexicographer
The Natural History of Nonsense, ch. 1 “Adam’s Navel” (1946)

The Smith reference.
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When the heavy-handed dogmatist requires a categorical assent to the literal truth of the miraculous, in exactly the same sense in which physical facts are true, a tension between faith and reason cannot be avoided.

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
“Bishop Gore and the Church of England” (1908), Outspoken Essays: First Series (1911)
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Science is the belief in the ignorance of the experts.

Richard Feynman (1918-1988) American physicist
“What Is Science?” address, National Science Teachers Association, New York (1966)
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We therefore must not recoil with childish aversion from the examination of the humbler animals. Every realm of nature is marvelous: and as Heraclitus, when the strangers who came to visit him found him warming himself at the furnace in the kitchen and hesitated to go in, reported to have bidden them not to be afraid to enter, as even in that kitchen divinities were present, so we should venture on the study of every kind of animal without distaste; for each and all will reveal to us something natural and something beautiful.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Parts of Animals [De Partibus Animalium], Book 1, part 5 (645a.15) (c. 350 BC) [tr. Ogle (1912)]
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Alt. trans.: "For this reason we should not be childishly disgusted at the examination of the less valuable animals. For in all natural things there is something marvelous. Even as Heraclitus is said to have spoken to those strangers who wished to meet him but stopped as they were approaching when they saw him warming himself by the oven -- he bade them enter without fear, "for there are gods here too" -- so too one should approach research about each of the animals without disgust, since in every one there is something natural and good." [tr. Lennox (2001)]
Added on 27-Jan-20 | Last updated 27-Jan-20
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Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can — if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong — to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it. There is also a more subtle problem. When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else come out right, in addition. In summary, the idea is to try to give all of the information to help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgment in one particular direction or another.

Richard Feynman (1918-1988) American physicist
“Cargo Cult Science,” commencement address, California Institute of Technology (1974)
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So we have to make guesses in order to give any utility at all to science. In order to avoid simply describing experiments that have been done, we have to propose laws beyond their observed range. There is nothing wrong with that, despite the fact that it makes science uncertain. If you thought before that science was certain — well, that is just an error on your part.

Richard Feynman (1918-1988) American physicist
The Character of Physical Law, ch. 3 “The Great Conservation Principles” (1965)
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Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.

Timothy Snyder (b. 1969) American historian, author
On Tyranny, ch. 10 (2017)
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An answer is invariably the parent of a great family of new questions.

John Steinbeck (1902-1968) American writer
The Log from the Sea of Cortez, ch. 16, March 25 (1951)
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Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill.

Barbara W. Tuchman (1912-1989) American historian and author
“Papyrus to Paperbacks: The World That Books Made,” Washington Post (30 Dec 1979)
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The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian-American author, polymath, biochemist
Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Questions (1988) [with Jason A. Schulman]
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The flip side … the flip side is that scientific research is a bottomless money pit. You can approximate Doing Science to standing on the Crack of Doom throwing banknotes down it by the double-handful, in the hope that if you choke the volcano with enough paper it will cough up the One Ring. Unless you’re doing pure mathematics or philosophy, of course, in which case it’s HB pencils and ruled A4 notepads all the way down.

Charles "Charlie" Stross (b. 1964) British writer
The Annihilation Score (2015)
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Added on 20-Jun-17 | Last updated 20-Jun-17
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It is a good morning exercise for a research scientist to discard a pet hypothesis every day before breakfast. It keeps him young.

Konrad Lorenz (1903-1989) Austrian zoologist, ethologist, ornithologist
On Aggression, ch. 2 (1966)
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And the great danger facing us today is not so much the atomic bomb that was created by physical science. Not so much that atomic bomb that you can put in an aeroplane and drop on the heads of hundreds and thousands of people — as dangerous as that is. But the real danger confronting civilization today is that atomic bomb which lies in the hearts and souls of men, capable of exploding into the vilest of hate and into the most damaging selfishness — that’s the atomic bomb that we’ve got to fear today. Problem is with the men. Within the heart and the souls of men. That is the real basis of our problem.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
“Rediscovering Lost Values,” Sermon, Second Baptist Church, Detroit (28 Feb 1954)
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Added on 21-Apr-17 | Last updated 21-Apr-17
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There is something wrong with our world, something fundamentally and basically wrong. I don’t think we have to look too far to see that. I’m sure that most of you would agree with me in making that assertion. And when we stop to analyze the cause of our world’s ills, many things come to mind. We begin to wonder if it is due to the fact that we don’t know enough. But it can’t be that. Because in terms of accumulated knowledge we know more today than men have known in any period of human history. We have the facts at our disposal. We know more about mathematics, about science, about social science, and philosophy than we’ve ever known in any period of the world’s history. So it can’t be because we don’t know enough. And then we wonder if it is due to the fact that our scientific genius lags behind. That is, if we have not made enough progress scientifically. Well then, it can’t be that. For our scientific progress over the past years has been amazing. Man through his scientific genius has been able to warp distance and place time in chains, so that today it’s possible to eat breakfast in New York City and supper in London, England. Back in about 1753 it took a letter three days to go from New York City to Washington, and today you can go from here to China in less time than that. It can’t be because man is stagnant in his scientific progress. Man’s scientific genius has been amazing. I think we have to look much deeper than that if we are to find the real cause of man’s problems and the real cause of the world’s ills today. If we are to really find it I think we will have to look in the hearts and souls of men.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
“Rediscovering Lost Values,” Sermon, Second Baptist Church, Detroit (28 Feb 1954)
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The real problem is that through our scientific genius we’ve made of the world a neighborhood, but through our moral and spiritual genius we’ve failed to make of it a brotherhood.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
“Rediscovering Lost Values,” sermon, Second Baptist Church, Detroit (28 Feb 1954)
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As the man put it: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Any sufficiently advanced alien intelligence is indistinguishable from God — the angry monotheistic sadist subtype. And the elder ones … aren’t friendly. (See? I told you I’d rather be an atheist!)

Charles "Charlie" Stross (b. 1964) British writer
The Fuller Memorandum (2010)

See Clarke. .
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Dissent is the native activity of the scientist, and it has got him into a good deal of trouble in the last years. But if that is cut off, what is left will not be a scientist. And I doubt whether it will be a man.

Jacob Bronowski (1908-1974) Polish-English humanist and mathematician
Lecture, MIT (19 Mar 1953)
    (Source)

Reprinted as Science and Human Values, Part 3, sec. 5 "The Sense of Human Dignity" (1961).
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Man masters nature not by force but by understanding. This is why science has succeeded where magic failed: because it has looked for no spell to cast over nature.

Jacob Bronowski (1908-1974) Polish-English humanist and mathematician
Lecture, MIT (26 Feb 1953)

Reprinted in "The Creative Mind," Sec. 4, Science and Human Values (1961).
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Fifty years from now, if an understanding of man’s origins, his evolution, his history, his progress is not in the common place of the school books, we shall not exist.

Jacob Bronowski (1908-1974) Polish-English humanist and mathematician
The Ascent of Man, Ep. 13 “The Long Childhood” (1973)
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It’s said that science will dehumanize people and turn them into numbers. That’s false, tragically false. Look for yourself. This is the concentration camp and crematorium at Auschwitz. This is where people were turned into numbers. Into this pond were flushed the ashes of some four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by arrogance, it was done by dogma, it was done by ignorance. When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality, this is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods.

Jacob Bronowski (1908-1974) Polish-English humanist and mathematician
The Ascent of Man, Ep. 11 “Knowledge or Certainty” (1973)
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Nature is more subtle, more deeply intertwined and more strangely integrated than any of our pictures of her — than any of our errors. It is not merely that our pictures are not full enough; each of our pictures in the end turns out to be so basically mistaken that the marvel is that it worked at all.

Jacob Bronowski (1908-1974) Polish-English humanist and mathematician
Science and Human Values, Part 4 “The Abacus and the Rose” (1956)
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No fact in the world is instant, infinitesimal and ultimate, a single mark. There are, I hold, no atomic facts. In the language of science, every fact is a field — a crisscross of implications, those that lead to it and those that lead from it. We condense the laws around concepts. Science takes its coherence, its intellectual and imaginative strength together, from the concepts at which its laws cross, like knots in a mesh.

Jacob Bronowski (1908-1974) Polish-English humanist and mathematician
Science and Human Values, Part 3: “The Sense of Human Dignity”, §1 (1956)
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That which seems the height of absurdity in one generation often becomes the height of wisdom in the next.

mill-height-of-absurdity-wisdom-wist_info-quote

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) English philosopher and economist
(Attributed)
    (Source)

Often cited from a quote in Adlai Stevenson, Call to Greatness (1954), but appears earlier in, e.g., National Magazine (Nov 1911). Unverified in Mills' writings.
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In effect what Luther said in 1517 was that we may appeal to a demonstrable work of God, the Bible, to override any established authority. The Scientific Revolution begins when Nicolaus Copernicus implied the bolder proposition that there is another work of God to which we may appeal even beyond this: the great work of nature. No absolute statement is allowed to be out of reach of the test, that its consequence must conform to the facts of nature.

Jacob Bronowski (1908-1974) Polish-English humanist and mathematician
Science and Human Values, Part 2 “The Habit of Truth”, §11 (1956)
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To furnish the means of acquiring knowledge is the greatest benefit that can be conferred upon mankind. It prolongs life itself and enlarges the sphere of existence.

John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) US President (1825-29)
Report on the Establishment of the Smithsonian Institution (c. 1846)
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