Skeptical Quote Collection

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The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe has included a 'Skeptical Quote of the Week' segment since episode 60, September 13th 2006. These quotes are collected in the table below, and can be sorted by author or episode number.

If a quote is repeated, it is sorted by the first episode it was featured in.

Quote Name SGU ep.
Science, the only true magic. Dexter
from Dexter's Laboratory
It's curious, isn't it, that with low-grade, chronic conditions (back pain, seasonal affective disorder, what have you) people are eager to try alternative hocus-pocus. But bring on something virulent, acute, and truly terrifying, then, brother, bring on Western medicine! Nothing like your eyeballs leaking blood to put things in perspective, hey? kWe 60
Science is best defined as a careful, disciplined, logical search for knowledge about any and all aspects of the universe, obtained by examination of the best available evidence and always subject to correction and improvement upon discovery of better evidence. What's left is magic. And it doesn't work. James Randi 61
Pseudoscience is like a virus. At low levels, it's no big deal, but when it reaches a certain threshold it becomes sickening. Phil Plait 62
Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. Voltaire 63
Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. Carl Sagan 64
If I was a religious person, I would consider creationism nothing less than blasphemy. Do its adherents imagine that God is a cosmic hoaxer who has created that whole vast fossil record for the sole purpose of misleading mankind? Arthur C. Clarke 65
The least questioned assumptions are often the most questionable. Paul Broca 67
For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love. Carl Sagan 68
I viewed my fellow man not as a fallen angel, but as a risen ape. Desmond Morris 69
A Hubble Space Telescope photograph of the universe evokes far more awe for creation than light streaming through a stained glass window in a cathedral. Michael Shermer 70
What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out, which is the exact opposite. Bertrand Russell 71
What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning. Werner Heisenberg 72
Coincidence is the science of the true believer. Chet Raymo 73
In science it often happens that scientists say, "You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken", and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. Carl Sagan 74
The method of science, as stodgy and grumpy as it may seem, is far more important than the findings of science. Carl Sagan 74
Creationists make it sound as though a 'theory' is something you dreamt up after being drunk all night. Isaac Asimov 75
The fact that a believer is happier than a sceptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality. George Bernard Shaw 76
The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny'. Isaac Asimov 77
Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence. John Adams 78
I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief. Gerry Spence 79
I am not a fan of Sigmund Freud because his theories are not testicle. Richard Wiseman 80
Everything has a natural explanation. The moon is not a god, but a great rock, and the sun a hot rock. Anaxagoras 81
I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I'll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.

- response to the question "Don't you believe in anything?"
Isaac Asimov 82
Aquarius is a miscellaneous set of stars all at different distances from us, which have no connection with each other except that they constitute a (meaningless) pattern when seen from a certain (not particularly special) place in the galaxy (here). Richard Dawkins 83
If you haven't found something strange during the day, it hasn't been much of a day. J. A. Wheeler 84
The deepest sin against the human mind is to believe things without evidence. Thomas Henry Huxley 85
The cure for a fallacious argument is a better argument, not the suppression of ideas. Carl Sagan 86
I am tired of all this sort of thing called science here... We have spent millions in that sort of thing for the last few years, and it is time it should be stopped. Simon Cameron 87
Believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it. André Gide 88
If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it's still a foolish thing. Anatole France 89
De omnibus dubitandum.
All is to be doubted.
René Descartes 90
Death is an engineering problem. Bart Kosko 92
Science ... looks skeptically at all claims to knowledge, old and new. It teaches not blind obedience to those in authority but to vigorous debate, and in many respects that's the secret of its success. Carl Sagan 93
The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious...the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Albert Einstein 94
Great intellects are skeptical. Friedrich Nietzsche 95
The natural cause of the human mind is certainly from credulity to skepticism. Thomas Jefferson 96
What is wrong with priests and popes is that instead of being apostles and saints, they are nothing but empirics who say 'I know' instead of 'I am learning,' and pray for credulity and inertia as wise men pray for skepticism and activity. George Bernard Shaw 97
Skepticism, like chastity, should not be relinquished too readily. George Santayana 98
Education has failed in a very serious way to convey the most important lesson science can teach: skepticism. David Suzuki 99
The amount of years that she will live longer than us because of the diet is directly proportional to the horror of her life.

- commenting on Rebecca Watson's vegetarian diet

Perry DeAngelis 100
The path of sound credence is through the thick forest of skepticism. George Jean Nathan 101
The primary tool of science is skepticism, whose light shrivels unquestioning faith. Mike Huben 102
There is not sufficient love and goodness in the world to permit us to give some of it away to imaginary beings. Friedrich Nietzsche 103
Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 105
Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death. Albert Einstein 106
To believe with certainty we must begin with doubting. Stanisław Leszczyński 107
Thinking critically is a chore. It does not come naturally or easily. And if the fruits of such efforts are not carefully displayed to young minds, then they will not harvest them. Every school child must be implanted with the wonder of the atom, not the thrall of magic. Perry DeAngelis 110
There is joy in rationality, happiness in clarity of mind. Freethought is thrilling and fulfilling—absolutely essential to mental health and happiness. Dan Barker 111
I maintain there is much more wonder in science than in pseudoscience. And in addition, to whatever measure this term has any meaning, science has the additional virtue, and it is not an inconsiderable one, of being true. Carl Sagan 112
(Last words) I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me. Sir Isaac Newton 113
To know the history of science is to recognize the mortality of any claim to universal truth. Evelyn Fox Keller 114
It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. Aristotle 115
Those who believe in telekinetics, raise my hand. Kurt Vonnegut 116
There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened. Douglas Adams 117
The value of a college education is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think. Albert Einstein 118
Offense is what people take when they can't take argument. Richard Dawkins 119
Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science. Edwin Hubble 120
Those afraid of the universe as it really is, those who pretend to nonexistent knowledge and envision a Cosmos centered on human beings will prefer the fleeting comforts of superstition. Carl Sagan 121
The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge. Stephen Hawking 122
The effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things that lifts human life a little above the level of farce, and gives it some of the grace of tragedy. Steven Weinberg 123
No amount of experiments can ever prove me right; a single experiment may at anytime prove me wrong. Albert Einstein 124
The most common of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind. H. L. Mencken 125
A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer. Bruce Lee 126
A ghost is someone who hasn't made it—in other words, who died, and they don't know they're dead. So they keep walking around and thinking that you're inhabiting their—let's say, their domain. So they're aggravated with you.

A spirit is, like, your mother, my dad, who've made it. They can come around, but they come around in a loving way because they've already made it to God. Most people make it.

Animal totems, like the tiger, come from the Other Side to protect us while we are away from Home.

Let me assure you that all of our pets, and animals of every kind will be with us for eternity on the Other Side.

The more painful it is, tragically, the more you do learn, though, that's the good part.

The weeds keep multiplying in our garden, which is our mind ruled by fear. Rip them out and call them by name.

–What age is the spirit?
–Thirty. All thirty. When I found this out, I said, Why 30? Why not 40? Why not 50? Why not 12? It just happens to be 30.
Sylvia Browne 128
If you would be a real seeker after truth it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things. René Descartes 129
I am among those who think that science has great beauty. A scientist in his laboratory is not only a technician: he is also a child placed before natural phenomena which impress him like a fairy tale. Marie Curie 130
Science is simply common sense at its best—that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic. Thomas Henry Huxley 131
An experiment is a question which science poses to Nature, and a measurement is the recording of Nature's answer. Max Planck 132
Why are things as they are and not otherwise? Johannes Kepler 133
For it is the natural tendency of the ignorant to believe what is not true. In order to overcome that tendency it is not sufficient to exhibit the true; it is also necessary to expose and denounce the false. H. L. Mencken 134
I like to think that the moon is there even if I am not looking at it. Albert Einstein 135
Humanity has the stars in its future, and that future is too important to be lost under the burden of juvenile folly and ignorant superstition. Isaac Asimov 136
There is a single light of Science and to brighten anywhere is to brighten it everywhere. Isaac Asimov 137
When a man finds a conclusion agreeable, he accepts it without argument, but when he finds it disagreeable, he will bring against it all the forces of logic and reason. Thucydides 138
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Arthur C. Clarke 139
It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small. Neil Armstrong 140
There are in fact two things, science and opinion; the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance. Hippocrates 141
There is no absolute knowledge. And those who claim it, whether they are scientists or dogmatists, open the door to tragedy. All information is imperfect. We have to treat it with humility. Jacob Bronowski 143
It is unwise to be too sure of one's own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err. Gandhi 144
Everyone takes the limits of his own vision for the limits of the world. Arthur Schopenhauer 145
It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts. Sherlock Holmes 146
I love agitation and investigation and glory in defending unpopular truth against popular error. James Garfield 147
Man masters nature not by force but by understanding. That is why science has succeeded where magic failed: because it has looked for no spell to cast on nature. Jacob Bronowski 148
The high-minded man must care more for the truth than for what people think. Aristotle 149
A popular feel for scientific endeavors should, if possible, be restored given the needs of the twenty-first century. This does not mean that every literature major should take a watered-down physics course or that a corporate lawyer should stay abreast of quantum mechanics. Rather, it means that an appreciation for the methods of science is a useful asset for a responsible citizenry. What science teaches us, very significantly, is the correlation between factual evidence and general theories, something well illustrated in Einstein's life. Walter Isaacson 150
If I am fool, it is, at least, a doubting one; and I envy no one the certainty of his self-approved wisdom. Lord Byron 151
Skeptical scrutiny is the means in both Science and Religion by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense. Carl Sagan 152
I deny nothing, but doubt everything. Lord Byron 153
I can't believe it. Maybe there is a God after all. Herbal supplement sales only grew 1 percent last year. The years before, it was 17 percent, 12 percent, 18 percent. Dr. Dean Edell 154
When did ignorance become a point of view? Scott Adams 155
If you believe everything you read, you better not read. Japanese Proverb 156
We despise all reverences and all the objects of reverence which are outside the pale of our own list of sacred things. And yet, with strange inconsistency, we are shocked when other people despise and defile the things which are holy to us. Mark Twain 157
Science is the poetry of reality. Richard Dawkins 159
We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. Plato 160
To defy the authority of empirical evidence is to disqualify oneself as someone worthy of critical engagement in a dialogue. The 14th Dalai Lama 161
Truth is sought for its own sake. And those who are engaged upon the quest for anything for its own sake are not interested in other things. Finding the truth is difficult, and the road to it is rough. Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) 162
The wise skeptic does not teach doubt but how to look for the permanent in the mutable and fleeting. Ralph Waldo Emerson 164
When men are most sure and arrogant they are commonly most mistaken, giving views to passion without that proper deliberation which alone can secure them from the grossest absurdities. David Hume 165
...I think the popular view of Science is a solid body of truth, shared by a whole lot of learned men in a room, all agreeing on the answers to the questions of how the Universe works. Whereas nothing could be further from the truth!!! The one truth that I see emerging from the History of Science is that experiment has always surprised theorists. Einstein included! Dr. Brian May 166
The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference. Charles Darwin 167
The scientist does not study nature because it is useful; he studies it because he delights in it, and he delights in it because it is beautiful. Henri Poincaré 168
Astrology is as vacuous as the space it worships. Perry DeAngelis 169
And remember, "chi" spelled backwards is crap! Perry DeAngelis 169
How can two mathematicians come to two different conclusions? Well, one of them's a dick. Perry DeAngelis 169
I believe that China will control the weather. It doesn't cooperate, they'll have it shot. Perry DeAngelis 169
There are two possible outcomes: if the result confirms the hypothesis, then you've made a measurement. If the result is contrary to the hypothesis, then you've made a discovery. Enrico Fermi 170
We need science, more and better science, not for its technology, not for leisure, not even for health or longevity, but for the hope of wisdom which our kind of culture must acquire for its survival. Dr. Lewis Thomas 171
A certain portion of the human race has certainly a taste for being diddled. Thomas Hood 172
Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones. Bertrand Russell 173
I feel no need for any other faith than my faith in the kindness of human beings. I am so absorbed in the wonder of earth and the life upon it that I cannot think of heaven and angels. Pearl S. Buck 174
Whatever people in general do not understand, they are always prepared to dislike; the incomprehensible is always the obnoxious. Letitia E. Landon 175
Instead of calling it worthless Chinese energy piece of crap, I'm gonna keep it simple and call it chi. Live with it. Marc Crislip 176
Get the facts, or the facts will get you. And when you get them, get them right, or they will get you wrong. Dr. Thomas Fuller 177
When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir? John Maynard Keynes 178
The truth of things is the chief nutriment of superior intellects. Leonardo da Vinci 179
You see, I can live with doubt, and uncertainty, and not knowing. I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing, than to have answers that might be wrong. I have approximate answers, and possible beliefs, and different degrees of certainty about different things, but I'm not absolutely sure about anything, and many things I don't know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask, "why are we here?"... But I don't have to have an answer; I don't feel frightened by not knowing things. Richard Feynman 181
No, our science is no illusion. But an illusion it would be to suppose that what science cannot give us we can get elsewhere. Sigmund Freud 182
The scientific tradition is distinguished from the pre-scientific tradition in having two layers. Like the latter, it passes on its theories; but it also passes on a critical attitude towards them. The theories are passed on, not as dogmas, but rather with the challenge to discuss them and improve upon them. Sir Karl Popper 183
I'm very scared to do it. What if I don't come back? With the whole light-years thing, what if I come back 10,000 years later, and everyone I know is dead? I'll be like, 'Great. Now I have to start all over'. Paris Hilton 183
Truth, sir, is a cow that will yield such people no more milk, and so they are gone to milk the bull. Samuel Johnson 184
I am not ashamed to confess that I am ignorant of what I do not know. Marcus Tullius Cicero 185
In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed. Incorrectly attributed to Charles Darwin 186
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change. Incorrectly attributed to Charles Darwin 186
Long experience has taught me this about the status of mankind with regard to matters requiring thought: the less people know and understand about them, the more positively they attempt to argue concerning them, while on the other hand to know and understand a multitude of things renders men cautious in passing judgment upon anything new. Galileo Galilei 188
I bought a doughnut and they gave me a receipt for the doughnut... I don't need a receipt for the doughnut. I give you money and you give me the doughnut, end of transaction. We don't need to bring ink and paper into this. I can't imagine a scenario that I would have to prove that I bought a doughnut. To some skeptical friend, 'Don't even act like I didn't get that doughnut, I've got the documentation right here... It's in my file at home. ...Under "D"' Mitch Hedberg 189
The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand. Frank Herbert 191
She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. Jean-Paul Sartre 192
I know not any crime so great that a man could contrive to commit as poisoning the sources of eternal truth. Samuel Johnson 193
To teach superstitions as truth is a most terrible thing. Hypatia of Alexandria 193
Reserve your right to think, for even to think wrongly is better than not to think at all. Hypatia of Alexandria 194
There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact. Mark Twain 196
Every man has a right to his opinion, but no man has a right to be wrong in his facts. Bernard Baruch 197
Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear. Thomas Jefferson 198
Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it. Buddha 199
I have adequately answered all your inquiries. I ask you to quietly rephrase these inquiries to yourself until they match my replies. Elbot (a chatterbot created by Fred Roberts) 201
Some people try to tell me that science will never answer the big questions we have in life. To them I say: baloney! The real problem is your questions aren't big enough. Phil Plait 202
If there is anything that can bind the heavenly mind of man to this dusty exile of our earthy home and can reconcile us with our fate so that we can enjoy living—then it is verily the enjoyment of... the mathematical sciences and astronomy. Johannes Kepler 203
In science, "fact" can only mean "confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent". I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms. Stephen Jay Gould 204
Agnosticism simply means that a man shall not say he knows or believes that for which he has no grounds for professing to believe. Thomas Henry Huxley 205
Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction. Blaise Pascal 206
Even if you can't imagine the explanation, Sister, remember there are things beyond your knowledge. Even if you feel certainty, it is an emotion, not a fact. Father Flynn 207
Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong. Thomas Jefferson 209
The greatest discoveries of science have always been those that force us to re-think our beliefs about the universe and our place in it. Robert L. Park 210
Your victim was smothered. That's not opinion. That's science and science is one cold-hearted bitch with a 14-inch strap-on. Vince Masuka 211
There is no other species on 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. Carl Sagan 213
In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual. Galileo Galilei 214
You look at science (or at least talk of it) as some sort of demoralizing invention of man, something apart from real life, and which must be cautiously guarded and kept separate from everyday existence. But science and everyday life cannot and should not be separated. Science, for me, gives a partial explanation for life. In so far as it goes, it is based on fact, experience and experiment. Rosalind Franklin 215
Skeptics...pfft! They only believe in science. Anonymous
Dragon*Con Loser
What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof. Christopher Hitchens 217
Yo Oprah, I'm really happy for you, and I'm gonna let you finish, but Jenny McCarthy is one of the biggest idiots of all time. Kanye West (a parodying the MTV Music Awards) 218
When you hear hoofbeats behind you, don't expect to see a zebra. Theodore E. Woodward 219
The universe doesn't give a f*** about you. You're a speck in this shit. Shit my Dad Says 221
Doubt, skepticism, innovation, and inquiry are the only means by which wonder, beauty, awe, and symmetry will be discovered. Christopher Hitchens 222
If anyone can show me, and prove to me, that I am wrong in thought or deed, I will gladly change. I seek the truth, which never yet hurt anybody. It is only persistence in self-delusion and ignorance which does harm. Marcus Aurelius 223
The skeptic does not mean him who doubts, but him who investigates or researches, as opposed to him who asserts and thinks that he has found. Miguel de Unamuno 224
I believe that through its rational evaluation of truth and indifference to personal belief, science transcends religious and political divisions and so does bind us into a greater, more resilient whole. Brian Greene 225
No one who cannot rejoice in the discovery of his own mistakes deserves to be called a scholar. Donald Foster 226
Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a hum-drum star, lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people. Carl Sagan 227
Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less. Marie Curie 273
Science makes a lousy religion and religion makes a lousy science. Linda Rosa 229
Weary the path that does not challenge. Doubt is an incentive to truth and patient inquiry leadeth the way. Hosea Ballou 235
One special advantage of the skeptical attitude of mind is that a man is never vexed to find that after all he has been in the wrong. Sir William Osler 236
It appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against Christianity & theism produce hardly any effect on the public; and freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men's minds which follow[s] from the advance of science. Charles Darwin 237
The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike. Delos B. McKown 238
It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry. Thomas Paine 239
All you need is ignorance and confidence and the success is sure. Mark Twain 240
The only new ideas that are not subject to our skepticism or suspicion are our own. Cullen Hightower 241
Large skepticism leads to large understanding. Small skepticism leads to small understanding. No skepticism leads to no understanding. Xi Zhi 242
The best substitute for brains is silence. Unknown 243
To science, not even the bark of a tree or a drop of pond water is dull or a handful of dirt banal. They all arouse awe and wonder. Jane Jacobs 244
My brain is the key that sets my mind free. Harry Houdini 245
To doubt everything or to believe everything are two equally convenient solutions; both dispense with the necessity of reflection. Henri Poincaré 246
Sometimes I think we're alone in the universe, and sometimes I think we're not. In either case, the idea is quite staggering. Arthur C. Clarke 247
Be warned that if you wish, as I do, to build a society in which individuals cooperate generously and unselfishly towards a common good, you can expect little help from biological nature. Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish. Richard Dawkins 248
Every mind was made for growth, for knowledge; and its nature is sinned against when it is drowned in ignorance. William Channing 249
You don't use science to show you're right, you use science to become right. Randall "xkcd" Munroe 250
For a scientist must indeed be freely imaginative and yet skeptical, creative and yet a critic. There is a sense in which he must be free, but another in which his thought must be very precisely regimented; there is poetry in science, but also a lot of bookkeeping. Sir Peter B. Medawar 251
Hegel was right when he said that we learn from history that man can never learn anything from history. George Bernard Shaw 252
Imagination is as vital to any advance in science as learning and precision are essential for starting points. Percival Lowell 253
Biographical history, as taught in our public schools, is still largely a history of boneheads: ridiculous kings and queens, paranoid political leaders, compulsive voyagers, ignorant generals - the flotsam and jetsam of historical currents. The men who radically altered history, the great scientists and mathematicians, are seldom mentioned, if at all. Martin Gardner 254
Mortal as I am, I know that I am born for a day. But when I follow at my pleasure the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth. Claudius Ptolemy 255
Nothing is so fatal to the progress of the human mind as to suppose that our views of science are ultimate; that there are no mysteries in nature; that our triumphs are complete, and that there are no new worlds to conquer. Sir Humphrey Davy 256
Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened. Winston Churchill 257
...owners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are god. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realize that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are gods. Christopher Hitchens 258
Science is the attempt to make the chaotic diversity of our sense experience correspond to a logically uniform system of thought. Albert Einstein 259
Science has a simple faith, which transcends utility. Nearly all men of science, all men of learning for that matter, and men of simple ways too, have it in some form and in some degree. It is the faith that it is the privilege of man to learn to understand, and that this is his mission. If we abandon that mission under stress we shall abandon it forever, for stress will not cease. Knowledge for the sake of understanding, not merely to prevail, that is the essence of our being. None can define its limits, or set its ultimate boundaries. Vannevar Bush 260
Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver after the cozy indoor warmth of traditional humanizing myths, in the end the fresh air brings vigor, and the great spaces have a splendor of their own. Bertrand Russell 261
I think Bigfoot is blurry, that's the problem. It's not the photographer's fault. Bigfoot is blurry. And that's extra scary to me, because there's a large, out-of-focus monster roaming the countryside. Run. He's fuzzy. Get outta here! Mitch Hedberg 262
The really good idea is always traceable back quite a long way, often to a not very good idea which sparked off another idea that was only slightly better, which somebody else misunderstood in such a way that they then said something which was really rather interesting. John Cleese 263
For every expert, there is an equal and opposite expert. Anon 264
You know that chemistry has an impact on your daily life, but the extent of that impact can be mind-boggling. Consider just the beginning of a typical day from a chemical point of view. Molecules align in the liquid crystal display of your clock, electrons flow through its circuitry to create a rousing sound, and you throw off a thermal insulator of manufactured polymer. You jump in the shower, to emulsify fatty substances on your skin and hair with chemically treated water and formulated detergents. You adorn yourself in an array of processed chemicals - pleasant-smelling pigmented materials suspended in cosmetic gels, dyed polymeric fibers, synthetic footware, and metal-alloyed jewelry. Today, breakfast is a bowl of nutrient-enriched, spoilage-retarded cereal and milk, a piece of fertilizer-grown, pesticide-treated fruit, and a cup of a hot, aqueous solution of neurally stimulating alkaloid. Ready to leave, you collect some books - processed cellulose and plastic, electrically printed with light-and-oxygen-resistant inks - hop in your hydrocarbon-fuelled metal-vinyl-ceramic vehicle, electrically ignite a synchronized series of controlled, gaseous explosions, and you're off to class! Martin S. Silberberg 266
The correspondence between reality and my beliefs comes from reality controlling my beliefs, not the other way around. Eliezer S. Yudkowsky 267
You can learn more from failure than success. In failure you're forced to find out what part did not work. But in success you can believe everything you did was great, when in fact some parts may not have worked at all. Failure forces you to face reality. Fred Brooks 268
It is an unfortunate fact that every man who seeks to disseminate knowledge must contend not only against ignorance itself, but against false instruction as well. No sooner do we deem ourselves free from a particularly gross superstition, than we are confronted by some enemy to learning who would set aside all the intellectual progress of years, and plunge us back into the darkness of mediaeval disbelief. H.P. Lovecraft 269
Before we work on artificial intelligence why don't we do something about natural stupidity? Steve Polyak 270
The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits. Albert Einstein 271
I'm a Youth Worker with the Boys and Girls Club. Specifically I work with kids at an after school program. It was towards the end of the day and I was sitting with a small group of kids playing Apples to Apples. I forget what led up to it but a little boy says, "I believe in aliens." The little girl sitting next to me says, "Aliens haven't been proven yet. That's scientific!" Anon 272
An education isn't how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It's being able to differentiate between what you do know and what you don't. Anatole France 274
All scientific work is incomplete - whether it be observational or experimental. All scientific work is liable to be upset or modified by advancing knowledge. That does not confer upon us a freedom to ignore the knowledge we already have, or to postpone the action that is appears to demand at a given time. "Who knows", asked Robert Browning, "but the world may end tonight? True, but on available evidence most of us make ready to commute on the 8:30 the next day." Austin Bradford Hill 276
The World is full of wonders, but they become more Wonderful, not less Wonderful when Science looks at them. Sir David Attenborough 277
We have never seen, in our time, nature go out of her course. But we have good reason to believe that millions of lies have been told in the same time. It is therefore at least millions to one that the reporter of a miracle tells a lie. Thomas Paine 279
Truth is a shining goddess, always veiled, always distant, never wholly approachable, but worthy of all the devotion of which the human spirit is capable. Bertrand Russell 280
We work by exorcising incessant superstition that there are mysterious tribal gods against you. Nature has neither rewards nor punishments, only consequences. You can use science to make it work for you. Edwin Land 281
Everything alive will die someday. But in the meantime I got to see her smile, and that made it OK for awhile. To look into her eyes was worth the eventual demise of earth. George Hrab 282
My practice as a scientist is atheistic. That is to say, when I set up an experiment I assume that no god, angel or devil is going to interfere with its course; and this assumption has been justified by such success as I have achieved in my professional career. I should therefore be intellectually dishonest if I were not also atheistic in the affairs of the world. J. B. S. Haldane 283
I am somehow less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein's brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops. Stephen Jay Gould 284
Questioning our own motives, and our own process, is critical to a skeptical and scientific outlook. We must realize that the default mode of human psychology is to grab onto comforting beliefs for purely emotional reasons, and then justify those beliefs to ourselves with post-hoc rationalizations. It takes effort to rise above this tendency, to step back from our beliefs and our emotional connection to conclusions and focus on the process. The process (i.e science, logic, and intellectual rigor) has to be more important than the belief. Steven Novella 285
That which can be destroyed by the truth should be. P.C. Hodgell 286
Reality has been around since long before you showed up. Don't go calling it nasty names like 'bizarre' or 'incredible'. The universe was propagating complex amplitudes through configuration space for ten billion years before life ever emerged on Earth. Quantum physics is not 'weird'. You are weird. Eliezer S. Yudkowsky 287
The tough mind is sharp and penetrating, breaking through the crust of legends and myths and sifting the true from the false. Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 288
Anecdotal evidence leads us to conclusions that we wish to be true, not conclusions that actually are true. Barry Beyerstein 289
Oh, the truth, oh yeah, lot of trouble that got us into, didn't it, over the last maybe thousand years? Hitler knew the truth, so did Stalin, so did Mao Zedong, so did the Inquisition. They all knew the truth and that caused such horror. Certainty is the enemy. Sir Anthony Hopkins 290
The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him. Leo Tolstoy 291
Reason is not automatic. Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it. Do not count on them. Leave them alone. Ayn Rand 292
Microbiology and meteorology now explain what only a few centuries ago was considered sufficient cause to burn women to death. Carl Sagan 293
God give me the wisdom to see the truth however contrary to my established beliefs. Robert Quillen 294
We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time. T.S. Elliot 294
The church says the earth is flat, but I know that it is round, for I have seen the shadow on the moon, and I have more faith in a shadow than in the church. Ferdinand Magellan 295
An unsophisticated forecaster uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts - for support rather than for illumination. Andrew Lang 296
Galileo was a man of science oppressed by the irrational and superstitious. Today, he is used by the irrational and the superstitious who say they are being oppressed by science. So 1984. Marc Crislip 297
There are two sources of error: Either you lack sufficient data, or you fail to take advantage of the data that you have. Bryan Caplan 298
If an outsider perceives 'something wrong' with a core scientific model, the humble and justified response of that curious outsider should be to ask 'what mistake am I making?' before assuming 100% of the experts are wrong. David Brin 299
You can't believe everything you read on the internet. Abraham Lincoln 300
I think that it is much more likely, that the reports of flying saucers are the results of the known irrational characteristics of terrestrial intelligence, rather than the unknown rational efforts of extraterrestrial intelligence. Richard Feynman 301
Thinking is skilled work. It is not true that we are naturally endowed with the ability to think clearly and logically—without learning how, or without practicing... People with untrained minds should no more expect to think clearly and logically than people who have never learned and never practiced can expect to find themselves good carpenters, golfers, bridge-players, or pianists. Alfred Mander 302
I love science, and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awed by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and reinvigorate it. Robert Sapolsky 303
Homeopathy is the idea that we just cured the world of terrorism by dumping Osama's corpse in the ocean. Sean Mcfly 304
I believed in reincarnation in my last life but I'm not to sure about it in this one. Stephanie Beach 304
I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark. Stephen Hawking 305
The capacity to blunder slightly is the real marvel of DNA. Without this special attribute, we would still be anaerobic bacteria and there would be no music. Dr. Lewis Thomas 306
It is astonishing what force, purity, and wisdom it requires for a human being to keep clear of falsehoods. Margaret Fuller 307
Seeing is not believing; believing is seeing! You see things, not as they are, but as you are. Eric Butterworth 308
In cases where prior knowledge is available, the alternative to "an open mind" is not a "closed mind". It is "an informed mind". In such contexts, any appeal to "keep an open mind" is an appeal to prefer ignorance over knowledge. This is not advisable. Ian Rowland 309
He who only knows his side of the case knows little. His reasons may have been good and no one may have been able to refute them, but if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side then he has no ground for preferring either option. John Stuart Mill 310
If the human race wishes to have a prolonged and indefinite period of material prosperity, they have only got to behave in a peaceful and helpful way toward one another, and science will do for them all they wish and more than they can dream. Sir Winston Churchill 311
If agricultural land be left uncultivated, in a few years the jungle returns, and signs are not lacking that a similar danger is always lying in wait for the fields of thought, which, by the labour of three hundred years, have been cleared and brought into cultivation by men of science. The destruction of a very small percentage of the population would suffice to annihilate scientific knowledge, and lead us back to almost universal belief in magic, witchcraft and astrology. Sir William Cecil Dampier-Whetham 312
When you know the answer you want, it is often all too easy to figure out a way of getting it. Brian Greene 313
Science is the best thing that humanity has ever come up with. And if it isn't, then science will fix it. Bill Nye 314
A live body and a dead body contain the same number of particles. Structurally, there's no discernible difference. Life and death are unquantifiable abstracts. Why should I be concerned? Dr. Manhattan 315
I have something to say. It's better to burn out than to fade away. The Kurgan 316
And when we die our empty bodies turn to dust
There'll be no pit of fire
No angels singing songs for us
There's nothing we can say that people won't forget some day
There's nothing we can do that matters/And that's okay.
From 'The Future'
by The Limousines
Don't be afraid to learn. Knowledge is weightless, and a treasure you can always carry easily. Cheap fortune cookie 318
Science is like a blabbermouth that ruins the end of a movie. Well I say there are things we don't want the answers to. Important things. Ned Flanders 319
The difference between faith and insanity is that faith is the ability to hold firmly to a conclusion that is incompatible with the evidence, whereas insanity is the ability to hold firmly to a conclusion that is incompatible with the evidence. William Harwood 320
I admit that reason is a small and feeble flame, a flickering torch by stumblers carried in the starless night, blown and flared by passion's storm, and yet, it is the only light. Extinguish and and naught remain. Robert Ingersoll 321
Every generation has the obligation to free men's minds for a look at new worlds... to look out from a higher plateau than the last generation. Ellison Onizuka 323
Imagination should give wings to our thoughts but we always need decisive experimental proof, and when the moment comes to draw conclusions and to interpret the gathered observations, imagination must be checked and documented by the factual results of the experiment. Louis Pasteur 326
How baffling it was that even the most cunning and clever people would frequently see only what they wanted to see, and would rarely look beyond the thinnest of facades. Or they would ignore reality, dismissing it as the facade. And then, when their whole world fell to pieces...they would tear their topknots or rend their clothes and bewail their karma, blaming gods or kami or luck or their lords or husbands or vassals--anything or anyone--but never themselves. James Clavell 327
If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful at all. Michelangelo 327
There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge". Isaac Asimov 328
The advance of scientific knowledge does not seem to make either our universe or our inner life in it any less mysterious J. B. S. Haldane 329
Questioner: As a scientist, would you deny the possibility of water having been changed into wine in the Bible?
CS: Deny the possibility? Certainly not. I would not deny any such possibility. But I would, of course, not spend a moment on it unless there was some evidence for it.
Carl Sagan 330
Perfect as the wing of a bird may be, it will never enable the bird to fly if unsupported by the air. Facts are the air of science. Without them a man of science can never rise. Ivan Pavlov 331
At every croasroads on the road that leads to the future, tradition has placed against us ten thousand men to guard the past. Maurice Polydore Marie Bernard Maeterlinck 332
In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men (and women) of flesh and blood.
(written by William Safire)
Richard Nixon 333
The scientific method consists of the use of procedures designed to show not that our predictions and hypotheses are right, but that they might be wrong. Scientific reasoning is useful to anyone in any job because it makes us face the possibility, even the dire reality, that we were mistaken. It forces us to confront our self-justifications and put them on public display for others to puncture. At its core, therefore, science is a form of arrogance control. Carol Tavris 334
Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness and dies by chance. Jean-Paul Sartre 335
The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism. It is not a creed. Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more. Christopher Hitchens 336
To a clear eye the smallest fact is a window through which the infinite may be seen. Thomas Henry Huxley 337
Where there is shouting there is no true knowledge. Leonardo da Vinci 339
As I look back on nearly half a century of research, I am struck by the fact that my life in science has never proceeded along a straight line toward a goal, but in a series of steps in different and unexpected directions. It reminds me of the walks I loved to take in Paris- not journeys toward a particular goal, but random strolls that were directed, at each corner, by the curious or beautiful that appeared down one street or the other. I think it's a good way to explore and a great way to live. K. E. van Holde 340
...if we offer too much silent assent about mysticism and superstition – even when it seems to be doing a little good – we abet a general climate in which skepticism is considered impolite, science tiresome, and rigorous thinking somehow stuffy and inappropriate. Figuring out a prudent balance takes wisdom. Carl Sagan 342
Feminism is best served by embracing reality, by thinking critically, and advancing rational arguments. This sloppy Newage shit-slurry of ingenuous gullibility is pure poison to the cause. PZ Myers 343
It is a truly wonderful fact – the wonder of which we are apt to overlook from familiarity – that all animals and all plants throughout all time and space should be related to each other in group subordinate to group. Charles Darwin 344
Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards. Vernon Sanders Law 345
How weak our mind is; how quickly it is terrified and unbalanced as soon as we are confronted with a small, incomprehensible fact. Instead of dismissing the problem with: "We do not understand because we cannot find the cause," we immediately imagine terrible mysteries and supernatural powers. Henri René Albert Guy de Maupassant 346
You know the greatest danger facing us is ourselves, an irrational fear of the unknown. But there's no such thing as the unknown– only things temporarily hidden, temporarily not understood. Captain James T. Kirk 347
Science is a way to teach how something gets to be known, what is not known, to what extent things are known (for nothing is known absolutely), how to handle doubt and uncertainty, what the rules of evidence are, how to think about things so that judgements can be made, how to distinguish truth from fraud, and from show. Richard Feynman 348
Advances are made by answering questions. Discoveries are made by questioning answers. Bernard Haisch 349
Fear believes, courage doubts. Fear falls upon the earth and prays. Courage stands erect and thanks. Fear is barbarism. Courage is civilization. Fear believes in witchcraft, in devils and in ghosts. Fear is religion. Courage is science. Robert Ingersoll 350
If a man, holding a belief, which he was taught in childhood, or persuaded of afterwards, keeps down and pushes away any doubts which arise about it in his mind, purposely avoids the reading of books and the company of men who call into question or discuss it, and regards as impious those questions which cannot easily be asked without disturbing it, the life of that man is one long sin against mankind William K. Clifford 351
One sure mark of a fool is to dismiss anything outside his experience as being impossible. Farengar Secret-Fire 352
Everyone, in some small sacred sanctuary of the self, is nuts. Leo Rosten 353
The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynisism by those who have not got it. George Bernard Shaw 354
The suppression of uncomfortable ideas may be common in religion or in politics, but it is not the path to knowledge, and there's no place for it in the endeavor of science. We do not know beforehand where fundamental insights will arise from about our mysterious and lovely solar system. The history of our study of our solar system shows us clearly that accepted and conventional ideas are often wrong, and that fundamental insights can arise from the most unexpected sources. Carl Sagan 355
Skepticism is the highest duty and blind faith the one unpardonable sin Thomas Henry Huxley 356
You are neither right nor wrong because the crowd disagrees with you. You are right because your data and reasoning are right. Benjamin Graham 357
No 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 literacy 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 358
The greatest obstacle to discovering the shape of the earth, the continents, and the oceans was not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge. Daniel J. Boorstin 359
The best scientist is open to experience and begins with romance - the idea that anything is possible. Ray Bradbury 360
Science does not aim at establishing immutable truths and eternal dogmas; its aim is to approach the truth by successive approximations, without claiming that at any stage final and complete accuracy has been achieved. Bertrand Russell 361
I believe in nothing, never have, never will. What matters is what I can see, hear, smell, taste, touch. Tangible things, physical things, reality. The rest is imagination. Wolverine 362
Ripley: Ash, can you hear me? Ash?
Ash: [speaking in an electronic, distorted voice] Yes, I can hear you.
Ripley: What was your special order?
Ash: You read it. I thought it was clear.
Ripley: What was it?
Ash: Bring back life form. Priority One. All other priorities rescinded.
Parker: The damn company. What about our lives, you son of a bitch?
Ash: I repeat, all other priorities are rescinded.
Ripley: How do we kill it, Ash? There's gotta be a way of killing it. How? How do we do it?
Ash: You can't.
Parker: That's bullshit.
Ash: You still don't understand what you're dealing with, do you? Perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility.
Lambert: You admire it.
Ash: I admire its purity. A survivor... unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.
Parker: Look, I am... I've heard enough of this, and I'm asking you to pull the plug.
Ash: [Ripley goes to disconnect Ash, who interrupts] Last word.
Ripley: What?
Ash: I can't lie to you about your chances, but... you have my sympathies.
Scene from
the movie Alien
I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road. Stephen Hawking 364
The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death--however mutable man may be able to make them--our existence as a species can have a genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light. Stanley Kubrick 365
Sometimes, even by accident, the universe makes beauty, and we can stand back in awe of it. Even better - we can figure out why. Science! I love this stuff. Phil Plait 366
Homeopaths do not have a physical brain, but merely 'skull water' with the memory of brains. Robin Ince 367
Yes, there is a conspiracy, indeed there are a great number of conspiracies, all tripping each other up… the main thing that I learned about conspiracy theories is that conspiracy theorists actually believe in the conspiracy because that is more comforting. The truth of the world is that it is chaotic. The truth is, that it is not the Jewish banking conspiracy, or the grey aliens, or the twelve-foot reptiloids from another dimension that are in control, the truth is far more frightening; no-one is in control, the world is rudderless. Alan Moore 368
One of the peculiar sins of the twentieth century which we've developed to a very high level is the sin of credulity. It has been said that when human beings stop believing in God they believe in nothing. The truth is much worse: they believe in anything. Malcolm Muggeridge 369
For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. Benjamin Franklin 370
Hence the ways of men part: if you wish to strive for peace of soul and pleasure, then believe; if you wish to be a devotee of truth, then inquire. Friedrich Nietzsche 371
This is one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind. Neil Armstrong 372
Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man's desire to understand. Neil Armstrong 372
All superstition is much the same whether it be that of astrology, dreams, omen, retributive judgment, or the like, in all of which the deluded believers observe events which are fulfilled, but neglect and pass over their failure, though it be much more common. Francis Bacon 373
If history and science have taught us anything, it is that passion and desire are not the same as truth. E. O. Wilson 374
The most important service rendered by the press and the magazines is that of educating people to approach printed matter with distrust. Samuel Butler 375
An intellectual? Yes. And never deny it. An intellectual is someone whose mind watches itself. I like this, because I am happy to be both halves, the watcher and the watched. "Can they be brought together?" This is a practical question. We must get down to it. "I despise intelligence" really means: "I cannot bear my doubts." Albert Camus 376
For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst and provide for it. Patrick Henry 377
The scientific man does not aim at an immediate result. He does not expect that his advanced ideas will be readily taken up. His work is like that of the planter – for the future. His duty is to lay the foundation for those who are to come, and point the way. He lives and labors and hopes. Nikola Tesla 378
You can do magic with science, but you can't do science with magic. Erika Dunning
Brian Dunning's daughter
The Web is great for finding a list of the ten biggest cities in the United States, but if the scientific literature is merely littered with wrong facts, then cyberspace is an enticing quagmire of falsehoods, propaganda, and just plain bunkum. There simply is no substitute for skepticism. Samuel Arbesman 380
Skepticism is essential to the quest for knowledge, for it is in the seedbed of puzzlement that genuine inquiry takes root. Without skepticism, we may remain mired in unexamined belief systems that are accepted as sacrosanct yet have no factual basis in reality. Paul Kurtz 381
[Space exploration] is in financial trouble. Yet by many standards, such missions are inexpensive. Mariner Jupiter/Saturn costs about the same as the American aircraft shot down in Vietnam in the week in which I am writing these words (Christmas 1972). The Viking mission itself costs about a fortnight of the Vietnam war. I find these comparisons particularly poignant: life versus death, hope versus fear. Space exploration and the highly mechanized destruction of people use similar technology and manufacturers, and similar human qualities of organization and daring. Can we not make the transition from automated aerospace killing to automated aerospace exploration of the solar system in which we live? Carl Sagan 382
I'm a scientist and I know what constitutes proof. But the reason I call myself by my childhood name is to remind myself that a scientist must also be absolutely like a child. If he sees a thing, he must say that he sees it, whether it was what he thought he was going to see or not. See first, think later, then test. But always see first. Otherwise you will only see what you were expecting. Most scientists forget that. Wonko the Sane 383
The aim of science is not to open the door to infinite wisdom but to set a limit to infinite error. Bertolt Brecht 384
I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of uncertainty about different things, but I am not absolutely sure of anything and there are many things I don't know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we're here. I don't have to know an answer. I don't feel frightened not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without any purpose, which is the way it really is as far as I can tell. Richard Feynman 385
When a man eminent in science tells us of something in his particular sphere, into which no fraud can intrude, and which can be verified under scientific conditions, he is entitled to a respectful hearing, but if he states that on a particular night his cow jumped over the postoffice his testimony on that point is no more valid than the testimony of other persons. The mere fact that a man is noted in his particular field of research, astronomy, physics, or mathematics should not be considered as presumptive evidence of his ability to see correctly things outside his experience. Joseph Rinn 386
Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. George Bernard Shaw 387
There is not to be found, in all history, any miracle attested by a sufficient number of men, of such unquestioned good sense, education and learning, as to secure us against all delusion in themselves. David Hume 388
It has become my conviction that things mean pretty much what we want them to mean. We'll pluck significance from the least consequential happenstance if it suits us and happily ignore the most flagrantly obvious symmetry between separate aspects of our lives if it threatens some cherished prejudice or cosily comforting belief; we are blindest to precisely whatever might be most illuminating. Iain Banks 389
Our imagination is stretched to the utmost, not, as in fiction, to imagine things which are not really there, but just to comprehend things which are there. Richard Feynman 390
Captain, the most elementary and valuable statement in science, the beginning of wisdom, is 'I do not know.' Data 391
No facts are to me sacred; none are profane; I simply experiment, an endless seeker with no past at my back. Ralph Waldo Emerson 392
By doubting we all come at truth. Marcus Tullius Cicero 393
Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler. Albert Einstein 394
Nothing exists except atoms and empty space; everything else is opinion. Democritus 395
Nothing is so firmly believed as what is least known. Michel de Montaigne 396
The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is. Winston Churchill 397
The world is much more interesting than any one discipline. Edward Tufte 398
Neither evolution nor creation qualifies as a scientific theory. Duane Gish 399
Our inner weighing of evidence is not a careful mathematical calculation resulting in a probabilistic estimate of truth, but more like a whirlpool blending of the objective and the personal. The result is a set of beliefs - both conscious and unconscious - that guide us in interpreting all the events of our lives. Leonard Mlodinow 400
I appear as a skeptic, who believes that doubt is the great engine, the great fuel of all inquiry, all discovery and all innovation. Christopher Hitchens 401
There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn't true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true. Søren Kierkegaard 402
Design in nature is but a concatenation of accidents, culled by natural selection until the result is so beautiful or effective as to seem a miracle of purpose. Michael Pollan 403
Science is so awesome. It is breathtaking and mind-blowing, intertwining and unifying; and sometimes it's just a little bit crazy. The discoveries we make about our world are incredibly humbling. They move us forward and have the potential to benefit all of mankind. Clara Ma 404
Still our knowledge of the planets was meager, and where ignorance lurks, so too do the frontiers of discovery and imagination. Neil deGrasse Tyson 405
Education is the path from cocky ignorance to miserable uncertainty. Mark Twain 406
Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. William Butler Yeats 407
For all its beauty, honesty, and effectiveness at improving the human condition, science demands a terrible price—that we accept what experiments tell us about the universe, whether we like it or not. It’s about consensus and teamwork and respectful critical argument, working with, and through, natural law. It requires that we utter, frequently, those hateful words—"I might be wrong." David Brin 408
Every kid starts out as a natural-born scientist, and then we beat it out of them. A few trickle through the system with their wonder and enthusiasm for science intact. Carl Sagan 409
What do you think science is? There's nothing magical about science. It is simply a systematic way for carefully and thoroughly observing nature and using consistent logic to evaluate results. Which part of that exactly do you disagree with? Do you disagree with being thorough? Using careful observation? Being systematic? Or using consistent logic? Steven Novella 410
Whenever a theory appears to you as the only possible one, take this as a sign that you have neither understood the theory nor the problem which it was intended to solve. Sir Karl Popper 411
It takes a fearless, unflinching love and deep humility to accept the universe as it is. The most effective way he knew to accomplish that, the most powerful tool at his disposal, was the scientific method, which over time winnows out deception. It can't give you absolute truth because science is a permanent revolution, always subject to revision, but it can give you successive approximations of reality. Ann Druyan 412
The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 413
Everybody has opinions: I have them, you have them. And we are all told from the moment we open our eyes, that everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. Well, that’s horsepuckey, of course. We are not entitled to our opinions; we are entitled to our informed opinions. Without research, without background, without understanding, it's nothing Harlan Ellison 414
Data is not information, information is not knowledge, knowledge is not wisdom, wisdom is not truth. Robert Royar 415
The pursuit of truth in science transcends national boundaries. It takes us beyond hatred and anger and fear. It is the best of us. Arthur Eddington 416
I believe that all clear-minded people should remain two things throughout their lifetimes: Curious and teachable. Roger Ebert 417
If you strip the horrors of history from history, the flip side of that is you strip the nobility of rising above such horrors. Perry DeAngelis 418
He is a barbarian, who thinks the customs of his tribe are the laws of nature.
Caesar, from Caesar and Cleopatra, Act II
George Bernard Shaw 419
Why should anyone bother to study at least a little logic? To sharpen the mind in a world saturated by streams of propaganda and advertising. To know when a pitchman is conning you, when some 'expert' or pundit is propounding a dubious doctrine, when someone is making an apocryphal claim about miracles or divinity or the afterlife. To chasten one's own thinking, to develop an appreciation for tenable arguments and a respect for good reasoning. To become more adept at solving problems, whether they're encountered in business, science, politics, or the law. Philosophical Society 420
Simplicity and beauty are the signs not of truth but of a well-constructed approximate model of a limited domain of phenomena. Lee Smolin 421
It’s funny when people accuse science of being narrow merely because it asks for proof. Science expanded the number of elements from four to over 100. It expanded treatment options from bloodletting, herbs and purgatives to the untold riches we have today. It expanded the universe from a series of armillary spheres to the current, nigh-endless void. It expanded the number of worlds from two to billions upon billions. It expanded the age of the universe from 7,000 to 13.5 billion. Science expanded our senses from a tiny range of sound and light to an endless modulation of wavelengths revealing whole worlds we knew nothing about. It extended our senses from millimeters to angstroms, from kilometers to light years. Science discovered volcanoes under the oceans, terrible lizards who ruled our murine predecessors, asteroids that shattered the world, glaciers that circled the globe, the origins of man in ape rather than god. Science exposed the lie of vitalism, extended lives, cured cancer, discovered vitamins, discovered radiation (then found it was bad for us). And in the last group of discoveries, quacks were poised to kill the discoveries and loot their corpses. William Lawrence Utridge 422
It is morally as bad not to care whether a thing is true or not, so long as it makes you feel good, as it is not to care how you got your money as long as you have got it. Edmund Way Teale 423
A faith that cannot survive collision with the truth is not worth many regrets.

- from The Exploration of Space (1951)

Arthur C. Clarke 424
Science is the only thing that disproves science, and it does it all the time. Matt Dillahunty 425
When he found that his long cherished beliefs did not agree with the most precise observations, he accepted the uncomfortable facts. He preferred the hard truth to his dearest delusions, that is the heart of science. Carl Sagan 426
No. No. Be of good cheer. If science teaches us anything, it teaches us to accept our failures, as well as our successes, with quiet dignity and grace.
from Young Frankenstein
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein 427
The grand aim of all science [is] to cover the greatest number of empirical facts by logical deduction from the smallest possible number of hypotheses or axioms. Albert Einstein 428
In an argument, you may silence your opponent by pressing an advantage of strength or of wealth, or of education. But you do not really convince him. Though he is no longer saying anything, in his heart he still keeps to his opinion, the only way to make him change that opinion is to speak quietly and reasonably. When he understands that you are not trying to defeat him, but only to find the truth, he will listen to you and perhaps accept what you tell him. Jigorō Kanō 429
The claim of alternative practitioners to not treat disease labels but the whole patient...allows alternative practitioners to live in a fool’s paradise of quackery where they believe themselves to be protected from any challenges and demands for evidence. Edzard Ernst 430
...academic credentials are neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for having your ideas taken seriously. If a famous professor repeatedly says stupid things, then tries to claim he never said them, there’s no rule against calling him a mendacious idiot — and no special qualifications required to make that pronouncement other than doing your own homework.Conversely, if someone without formal credentials consistently makes trenchant, insightful observations, he or she has earned the right to be taken seriously, regardless of background. Paul Krugman 431
The pursuit of balance can create imbalance because sometimes something is true.
(Okrent's Law)
Daniel Okrent 432
Seeking what it true is not seeking what is desirable. Albert Camus 433
If we go back to the beginnings of things, we shall always find that ignorance and fear created the gods; that imagination, rapture and deception embellished them; that weakness worships them; that custom spares them; and that tyranny favors them in order to profit from the blindness of men. Baron d'Holbach 434
For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong. H. L. Mencken 435
Although scientific revolutions in how we see the world do occur, the bulk of our scientific understanding comes from the cumulative impact of numerous incremental studies that together paint an increasingly coherent picture of how nature works. Michael E. Mann 436
The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie—deliberate, contrived and dishonest—but the myth—persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. John F. Kennedy 437
The real advantage which truth has, consists in this, that when an opinion is true, it may be extinguished once, twice, or many times, but in the course of ages there will generally be found persons to rediscover it, until some one of its reappearances falls on a time when from favourable circumstances it escapes persecution until it has made such head as to withstand all subsequent attempts to suppress it. John Stuart Mill 438
Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd. Voltaire 439
It's hard to light a candle / Easy to curse the dark instead
- from "Last Ride of the Day"
Nightwish 440
Not wrong; there is just more to learn. The Doctor 441
Science advances through tentative answers to a series of more and more subtle questions which reach deeper and deeper into the essence of natural phenomena. Louis Pasteur 442
I do not know anything about luck, apart from that the more I practice, the luckier I get. Ingemar Stenmark 443
The line between what is known scientifically and what has to be assumed in order to support knowledge is impossible to draw. Memory itself is an internal rumour. George Santayana 444
On my 70th birthday, I was asked how I felt about mankind’s prospects. This is my reply: We are behaving like yeasts in a brewer’s vat, multiplying mindlessly while greedily consuming the substance of a finite world. If we continue to imitate the yeasts, we will perish as they perish, having exhausted our resources and poisoned ourselves in the lethal brew of our own wastes. Unlike the yeasts, we have a choice. What will it be? Farley Mowat 445
Sometimes it happens that a man's intellectual horizon becomes smaller and smaller, and as the radius approaches zero it concentrates on one point. And then that becomes his point of view. David Hilbert 446
Fables should be taught as fables, myths as myths, and miracles as poetic fantasies. To teach superstitions as truths is a most terrible thing. The child mind accepts and believes them, and only through great pain and perhaps tragedy can he be in later years relieved of them. Hypatia 447
The inclination to sink into the slumber of dogma is so natural to every generation that the most uncompromising critical intellect must without intermission stand upon the watch against it. Otto Pfleiderer 449
Ignorance is nothing shameful; imposing ignorance is shameful. Most people are not to blame for their own ignorance, but if they wilfully pass it on, they are to blame.
-Breaking the Spell
Daniel Dennett 450
Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that 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 or to write beautiful things… science is not a body of knowledge or a belief system, it is just a term that describes humankind’s incremental acquisition of understanding through observation. Science is awesome. The arts and sciences need to work together to improve how knowledge is communicated. Tim Minchin 451
Humanity and life are reflected in the stars, and the Universe itself is poetry. Phil Plait 452
Once a scientific truth emerges from consensus of experiments and observations, it is the way of the world. So say science… When different experiments give you the same result, it is no longer subject to your opinion. That's the good thing about (science). It is true whether or not you believe in it. That's why it works. Neil deGrasse Tyson 453
The discovery of a complete unified theory... may not aid the survival of our species. It may not even affect our life style. But ever since the dawn of civilization, people have not been content to see events as unconnected and inexplicable. They have craved an understanding of the underlying order in the world. Today we still yearn to know why we are here and where we came from. Humanity's deepest desire for knowledge is justification enough for our continuing quest. And our goal is nothing less than a complete description of the universe we live in.
- The Illustrated A Brief History of Time
Stephen Hawking 454
A thing is not proved just because no one has ever questioned it. What has never been gone into impartially has never been properly gone into. Hence skepticism is the first step toward truth. It must be applied generally, because it is the touchstone. Denis Diderot 455
My personal philosophy would be: don't whine, don't let opportunities pass you by, be willing to work hard, and remember that you don't know as much as you think you do, ever. James Marsters 456
Belief also is less than featherweight as evidence. Before method reined in the human tendency to motif-seeking madness, beliefs led us into all kinds of cul de sacs of thinking. Belief has no place in discussing the biological origins of a human condition. Emily Willingham 457
Science: If you don't make mistakes, you're doing it wrong. If you don't correct those mistakes, you're doing it really wrong. If can't accept that you're mistaken, you're not doing it at all. Anonymous 458
The patient, treated on the fashionable theory, sometimes gets well in spite of the medicine. Thomas Jefferson 459
The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they've found it. Terry Pratchett 460
The difference between faith and insanity is that faith is the ability to hold firmly to a conclusion that is incompatible with the evidence, whereas insanity is the ability to hold firmly to a conclusion that is incompatible with the evidence. William Harwood 461
Science is more than a body of knowledge. It is a way of thinking; a way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility. If we are not able to ask skeptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority, then, we are up for grabs for the next charlatan (political or religious) who comes rambling along. Carl Sagan 462
People who devote their lives to studying something often come to believe that the object of their fascination is the key to understanding everything. Jonathan Haidt 463
It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so. Attributed to Mark Twain 464
Don't let us forget that the causes of human actions are usually immeasurably more complex and varied than our subsequent explanations of them. And these can rarely be distinctly defined. The best course for the story-teller at times is to confine himself to a simple narrative of events.
From The Idiot
Fyodor Dostoevsky 465
Anyone is entitled to have his hunch, but before a hunch can attain even the modest dignity of an informed guess it needs to be shaped by an understanding of the evidence. Thomas Charles Edwards 466
We establish no religion in this country, we command no worship, we mandate no belief, nor will we ever. Church and state are, and must remain, separate. Ronald Reagan 467
The significance of our lives and our fragile planet is then determined only by our own wisdom and courage. We are the custodians of life’s meaning. We long for a parent to care for us, to forgive us our errors, to save us from our childish mistakes. But knowledge is preferable to ignorance. Better by far to embrace the hard truth than a reassuring fable.If we crave some cosmic purpose, then let us find ourselves a worthy goal. Carl Sagan 468
Where there is evidence, no one speaks of faith. We do not speak of faith that two and two are four or that the earth is round. We only speak of faith when we wish to substitute emotion for evidence. Bertrand Russell 469
The capacity to blunder slightly is the real marvel of DNA. Without this special attribute, we would still be anaerobic bacteria and there would be no music. Lewis Thomas 470
We have to live today by what truth we can get today and be ready tomorrow to call it falsehood. William James 471
Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof. John Kenneth Galbraith 472
I hope that every [person] at one point in their life has the opportunity to have something that is at the heart of their being, something so central to their being that if they lose it they won’t feel they’re human anymore, to be proved wrong because that’s the liberation that science provides. The realization that to assume the truth, to assume the answer before you ask the questions leads you nowhere. Lawrence M. Krauss 473
You got it buddy: the large print giveth, and the small print taketh away /Step right up Tom Waits 474
There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily. George Washington 475
The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend. Henri-Louis Bergson 476
Scientific method is based on the principle that observation is the judge of whether something is so or not. All other aspects and characteristics of science can be understood directly when we understand that observation is the ultimate and final judge of the truth of an idea. Or, put another way, 'the exception proves that the rule is wrong.' That is the principle of science. If there is an exception to any rule, and if it can be proved by observation, that rule is wrong. So the more specific the rule, the more powerful it is, the more liable it is to exceptions, and the more interesting and valuable it is to check. The method is 'try it and see' and accumulate the information and so on. And so the question 'if I do it what will happen?' is typically scientific question. Richard Feynman 477
People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster. James Baldwin 479
False opinions are like false money, struck first of all by guilty men and thereafter circulated by honest people who perpetuate the crime without knowing what they are doing. Joseph de Maistre 480
'If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?' 'Oh jeez. Probably.' 'What!? Why!?' 'Because all my friends did. Think about it — which scenario is more likely: every single person I know, many of them levelheaded and afraid of heights, abruptly went crazy at exactly the same time… …or the bridge is on fire?'
-xkcd #1170
Randall "xkcd" Monroe 481
Hope lies in dreams, in imagination and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality. Jonas Salk 482
The journalistic tradition so exalts novelty and flashy discovery, as reputable and newsworthy, that standard accounts for the public not only miss the usual activity of science but also, and more unfortunately, convey a false impression about what drives research. Stephen Jay Gould 483
A democratic society, an open society, places an extraordinary intellectual responsibility on ordinary men and women because we are governed by what we think, we are governed by our opinions, so the content of our opinions and the quality of our opinions and the quality of the formation of our opinions basically determines the character of our society. That means in a democracy, in an open society, a thoughtless citizen of a democracy is a delinquent citizen of a democracy Leon Wieseltier 484
Having a minister of health that believes in homeopathy is like having a minister of transportation who believes in broomsticks. The Now Show 485
Biographical history, as taught in our public schools, is still largely a history of boneheads: ridiculous kings and queens, paranoid political leaders, compulsive voyagers, ignorant generals, the flotsam and jetsam of historical currents. The men who radically altered history, the great creative scientists and mathematicians, are seldom mentioned if at all. Martin Gardner 486
Boy, the idea of chaos is a scary proposition to some people. It is a scary proposition. And they will believe some ridiculous things to avoid the idea of having to deal with chaos. I say bring it on. George Hrab 487
Without precisely defined sources, methods, and concepts, it is possible to see absolutely everything and its opposite. Thomas Piketty 488
The voice of reason is small, but very persistent. Sigmund Freud memorial 489
Convictions are more dangerous foes of truth than lies. Friedrich Nietzsche 490
For a star to be born there is one thing that must happen: a gaseous nebula must collapse. So collapse. Crumble. This is not your destruction. This is your birth. Unknown 491
Isn’t this enough? Just this world? Just this beautiful, complex wonderfully unfathomable world? How does it so fail to hold our attention that we have to diminish it with the invention of cheap, man-made myths and monsters? Tim Minchin 492
The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves and wiser people so full of doubts. Bertrand Russell 493
The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent, but if we can come to terms with this indifference, then our existence as a species can have genuine meaning. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light. Stanley Kubrick 494
You know the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don't alter their views to fit the facts. They alter the facts to fit their views. Which can be uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering. Doctor Who 495, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without a rudder, is the sport of every wind. With such persons, gullibility which they call faith, takes the helm from the hand of reason, and the mind becomes a wreck. Thomas Jefferson 496
Does a man of sense run after every silly tale of hobgoblins or fairies, and canvass particularly the evidence? I never knew anyone, that examined and deliberated about nonsense who did not believe it before the end of his enquiries. David Hume 497
From my experience let me say this: in today's world it is no bad thing for a politician to have had the benefit of a scientific background. And not only politicians. Those who work in industry, in commerce, in investment. Indeed, so important has it become that I believe we are right to make science a compulsory subject for all schoolchildren. Margaret Thatcher 498
To every complex question there is a simple answer and it is wrong. H. L. Mencken 499
If you are searching for sacred knowledge and not just a palliative for your fears, then you will train yourself to be a good skeptic. Ann Druyan 500
For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring. Carl Sagan 501
For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled. Richard Feynman 502
There is not a discovery in science, however revolutionary, however sparkling with insight, that does not arise out of what went before. Isaac Asimov 503
Accepting death - by understanding that every life comes to an end, when time demands it. Loss of life is to be mourned, but only if the life was wasted. Spock 504
All things must be examined, debated, investigated without exception and without regard for anyone's feelings... We must run roughshod over all these ancient puerilities, overturn the barriers that reason never erected, give back to the arts and sciences the liberty that is so precious to them. Denis Diderot 505
The man of science has learned to believe in justification, not by faith, but by verification. Thomas Henry Huxley [[1]]