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Quotations about science

Carl SaganWe live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.

 - Carl Sagan

Carl SaganThat kind of skeptical, questioning, "don't accept what authority tells you" attitude of science is also nearly identical to the attitude of mind necessary for a functioning democracy. Science and democracy have very consonant values and approaches, and I don't think you can have one without the other.

 - Carl Sagan

Carl SaganThere is no other species on the Earth that does science. It is, so far, entirely a human invention, evolved by natural selection in the cerebral cortex for one simple reason: it works. It is not perfect. It can be misused. It is only a tool. But it is by far the best tool we have, self-correcting, ongoing, applicable to everything. It has two rules. First: there are no sacred truths; all assumptions must be critically examined; arguments from authority are worthless. Second: whatever is inconsistent with the facts must be discarded or revised. We must understand the Cosmos as it is and not confuse how it is with how we wish it to be.

 - Carl Sagan

Isaac AsimovThe saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.

 - Isaac Asimov

Michael CrichtonLet's be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

 - Michael Crichton

Douglas AdamsThe invention of the scientific method and science is, I'm sure we'll all agree, the most powerful intellectual idea, the most powerful framework for thinking and investigating and understanding and challenging the world around us that there is, and that it rests on the premise that any idea is there to be attacked and if it withstands the attack then it lives to fight another day and if it doesn't withstand the attack then down it goes. Religion doesn't seem to work like that; it has certain ideas at the heart of it which we call sacred or holy or whatever. That's an idea we're so familiar with, whether we subscribe to it or not, that it's kind of odd to think what it actually means, because really what it means is 'Here is an idea or a notion that you're not allowed to say anything bad about; you're just not. Why not? - because you're not!

 - Douglas Adams

Bernard BaruchMillions saw the apple fall, Newton was the only one who asked why?

 - Bernard Baruch

Douglas AdamsThe fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.

 - Douglas Adams

Please don't make the mistake of thinking the arts and sciences are at odds with one another. That is a recent, stupid, and damaging idea. You don't have to be unscientific to make beautiful art, to write beautiful things.

If you need proof: Twain, Adams, Vonnegut, McEwen, Sagan, Shakespeare, Dickens. For a start.

You don't need to be superstitious to be a poet. You don't need to hate GM technology to care about the beauty of the planet. You don't have to claim a soul to promote compassion.

Science is not a body of knowledge nor a system of belief; it is just a term which describes humankind's incremental acquisition of understanding through observation. Science is awesome.

 - Tim Minchin

Neil deGrasse TysonKids are never the problem. They are born scientists. The problem is always the adults. They beat the curiosity out of the kids. They out-number kids. They vote. They wield resources. That's why my public focus is primarily adults.

 - Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse TysonPeople cited violation of the First Amendment when a New Jersey school teacher asserted that evolution and the big bang are not scientific and that Noah's ark carried dinosaurs. This case is not about the need to separate church and state; it's about the need to separate ignorant, scientifically illiterate people from the ranks of teachers.

 - Neil deGrasse Tyson

Isaac NewtonIf I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.

 - Isaac Newton

Isaac NewtonTo 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 than to explain all things by conjecture without making sure of any thing.

 - Isaac Newton

Bertrand RussellIn science the man of real genius is the man who invents a new method. The notable discoveries are often made by his successors, who can apply the method with fresh vigor, unimpaired by the previous labor of perfecting it; but the mental caliber of the thought required for their work, however brilliant, is not so great as that required by the first inventor of the method.

 - Bertrand Russell

Bertrand RussellThe kernel of the scientific outlook is a thing so simple, so obvious, so seemingly trivial, that the mention of it may almost excite derision. The kernel of the scientific outlook is the refusal to regard our own desires, tastes, and interests as affording a key to the understanding of the world. Stated thus baldly, this may seem no more than a trite truism. But to remember it consistently in matters arousing our passionate partisanship is by no means easy, especially where the available evidence is uncertain and inconclusive.

 - Bertrand Russell

Sigmund FreudIt sounds like a fairy-tale, but not only that; this story of what man by his science and practical inventions has achieved on this earth, where he first appeared as a weakly member of the animal kingdom, and on which each individual of his species must ever again appear as a helpless infant ... is a direct fulfillment of all, or of most, of the dearest wishes in his fairy-tales. All these possessions he has acquired through culture. Long ago he formed an ideal conception of omnipotence and omniscience which he embodied in his gods. Whatever seemed unattainable to his desires - or forbidden to him - he attributed to these gods.

One may say, therefore, that these gods were the ideals of his culture. Now he has himself approached very near to realizing this ideal, he has nearly become a god himself. But only, it is true, in the way that ideals are usually realized in the general experience of humanity. Not completely; in some respects not at all, in others only by halves.

Man has become a god by means of artificial limbs, so to speak, quite magnificent when equipped with all his accessory organs; but they do not grow on him and they still give him trouble at times... Future ages will produce further great advances in this realm of culture, probably inconceivable now, and will increase man's likeness to a god still more.

 - Sigmund Freud

Richard FeynmanNo government has the right to decide on the truth of scientific principles, nor to prescribe in any way the character of the questions investigated. Neither may a government determine the aesthetic value of artistic creations, nor limit the forms of literary or artistic expression. Nor should it pronounce on the validity of economic, historic, religious, or philosophical doctrines. Instead it has a duty to its citizens to maintain the freedom, to let those citizens contribute to the further adventure and the development of the human race.

 - Richard Feynman

Garry KasparovHaving spent a lifetime analyzing the game of chess and comparing the capacity of computers to the capacity of the human brain, I've often wondered, where does our success come from? The answer is synthesis, the ability to combine creativity and calculation, art and science, into a whole that is much greater than the sum of its parts. Chess is a unique cognitive nexus, a place where art and science come together in the human mind, and are then refined and improved by experience.

 - Garry Kasparov

Richard FeynmanSo my antagonist said, "Is it impossible that there are flying saucers? Can you prove that it's impossible?" "No", I said, "I can't prove it's impossible. It's just very unlikely". At that he said, "You are very unscientific. If you can't prove it impossible then how can you say that it's unlikely?" But that is the way that is scientific. It is scientific only to say what is more likely and what less likely, and not to be proving all the time the possible and impossible.

 - Richard Feynman

Richard FeynmanScientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty -- some most unsure, some nearly sure, none absolutely certain.

 - Richard Feynman

Carl SaganScience is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality.

 - Carl Sagan

Bertrand RussellThe power of using abstractions is the essence of intellect, and with every increase in abstraction the intellectual triumphs of science are enhanced.

 - Bertrand Russell

Marie CurieI am among those who think that science has great beauty. . .a scientist in his laboratory is not only a technician but also a child placed in front of natural phenomena which impresses him like a fairy tale.

 - Marie Curie

The profession I'm part of has, as its whole purpose, the rendering of the physical world understandable and beautiful. Without this you have only tables and statistics.

 - James Oppenheimer

Carl SaganHumans may crave absolute certainty; they may aspire to it; they may pretend, as partisans of certain religions do, to have attained it. But the history of science -- by far the most successful claim to knowledge accessible to humans teaches that the most we can hope for is successive improvement in our understanding, learning from our mistakes, an asymptotic approach to the Universe, but with the proviso that absolute certainty will always elude us. We will always be mired in error. The most each generation can hope for is to reduce the error bars a little, and to add to the body of data to which error bars apply.

 - Carl Sagan

David HumeThe sweetest and most inoffensive path of life leads through the avenues of science and learning; and whoever can either remove any obstruction in this way, or open up any new prospect, ought so far, to be esteemed a benefactor to mankind.

 - David Hume

Michel de MontaigneArts and sciences are not cast in a mould, but are found and perfected by degrees, by often handling and polishing, as bears leisurely lick their cubs into shape.

 - Michel de Montaigne

There is no scientific basis for how movement of planets and stars can influence our fate. There is no reason for time of birth to influence events years later. The predictions made are either obvious or shown to be random ... A culture based on superstitions will do worse than one based on scientific knowledge and rational thoughts.

 - Venkatraman Ramakrishnan

Jacob BronowskiThe essence of science: ask an impertinent question, and you are on the way to a pertinent answer.

 - Jacob Bronowski

John ZimanAlthough the best and most famous scientific discoveries seem to open whole new windows of the mind, a typical scientific paper has never pretended to be more than another piece in a large jig-saw; not significant in itself but as an element in a grander scheme. This technique, of soliciting many modest contributions to the vast store of human knowledge, has been the secret of western science since the seventeenth century, for it achieves a corporate collective power that is far greater than any one individual can exert. Primary scientific papers are not meant to be final statements of indisputable truths; each is merely a tiny tentative step forward, through the jungle of ignorance.

 - John Ziman

Marie CurieThe various reasons which we have enumerated lead us to believe that the new radioactive substance contains a new element to which we propose to give the name of radium.

 - Marie Curie

Charles DarwinFalse facts are highly injurious to the progress of science, for they often long endure; but false views, if supported by some evidence, do little harm, as everyone takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falseness; and when this is done, one path towards error is closed and the road to truth is often at the same time opened.

 - Charles Darwin