"The ability to quote is a serviceable substitute for wit."
- W. Somerset Maugham
"I am not very skeptical... a good deal of skepticism in a scientific man is advisable to avoid much loss of time, but I have met not a few men, who... have often thus been deterred from experiments or observations which would have proven servicable." - Charles Darwin "Round about the accredited and orderly facts of every science there ever floats a sort of dust-cloud of exceptional observations, of occurrences minute and irregular and seldom met with, which it always proves more easy to ignore than to attend to... Anyone will renovate his science who will steadily look after the irregular phenomena, and when science is renewed, its new formulas often have more of the voice of the exceptions in them than of what were supposed to be the rules." - William James "I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." -Tolstoy "It is really quite amazing by what margins competent but conservative scientists and engineers can miss the mark, when they start with the preconceived idea that what they are investigating is impossible. When this happens, the most well-informed men become blinded by their prejudices and are unable to see what lies directly ahead of them." - Arthur C. Clarke, 1963 "When even the brightest mind in our world has been trained up from childhood in a superstition of any kind, it will never be possible for that mind, in its maturity, to examine sincerely, dispassionately, and conscientiously any evidence or any circumstance which shall seem to cast a doubt upon the validity of that superstition. I doubt if I could do it myself." - Mark Twain "Doubt everything or believe everything: these are two equally convenient strategies. With either we dispense with the need for reflection." - Henri Poincare "It is not uncommon for engineers to accept the reality of phenomena that are not yet understood, as it is very common for physicists to disbelieve the reality of phenomena that seem to contradict contemporary beliefs of physics" - H. Bauer "If a man is in too big a hurry to give up an error he is liable to give up some truth with it." - Wilbur Wright, 1902 "It's like religion. Heresy [in science] is thought of as a bad thing, whereas it should be just the opposite." - Dr. Thomas Gold "New and stirring things are belittled because if they are not belittled, the humiliating question arises, 'Why then are you not taking part in them?' " - H. G. Wells "New opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they are not already common." - John Locke "There are some people that if they don't know, you can't tell 'em." - Louis Armstrong "The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also." - Mark Twain "I believe there is no source of deception in the investigation of nature which can compare with a fixed belief that certain kinds of phenomena are IMPOSSIBLE." -William James "Almost all really new ideas have a certain aspect of foolishness when they are first produced." - Alfred North Whitehead "When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong." - Arthur C. Clarke's First Law "There is nothing particularly scientific about excessive caution. Science thrives on daring generalizations." - L. Hogben "It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow." - Robert Goddard "Science might be better served when some scientists generate novel ideas while others carp at everything new, than if all scientists could somehow become disinterestedly skeptical." Dr. Henry H. Bauer "It would seem to me... an offense against nature, for us to come on the same scene endowed as we are with the curiosity, filled to overbrimming as we are with questions, and naturally talented as we are for the asking of clear questions, and then for us to do nothing about, or worse, to try to suppress the questions..." -Lewis Thomas "The creative person pays close attention to what appears discordant and contradictory... and is challenged by such irregularities." - F. Barron "Genius in truth means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an unhabitual way" - William James "Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought." - Albert Szent-Gyoergi "A man receives only what he is ready to receive... The phenomenon or fact that cannot in any wise be linked with the rest of what he has observed, he does not observe. - H. D. Thoreau "You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus." - Mark Twain "The man who cannot occasionally imagine events and conditions of existence that are contrary to the causal principle as he knows it will never enrich his science by the addition of a new idea." - Max Planck "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." - Phillip K. Dick "There are children playing in the street who could solve some of my top problems in physics, because they have modes of sensory perception that I lost long ago." - Robert Oppenheimer "The discovery of truth is prevented more effectively not by the false appearance of things present and which mislead into error, not directly by weakness of the reasoning powers, but by preconceived opinion, by prejudice." - Schopenhauer "They are ill discoverers that think there is no land when they see nothing but sea." - Francis Bacon "The universe is wider than our views of it." - Henry David Thoreau "Everyone takes the limits of his own vision for the limits of the world." - Arthur Schopenhauer "Who never walks save where he sees men's tracks makes no discoveries." - J.G. Holland "In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual." - Galileo Galilei "It is as fatal as it is cowardly to blink facts because they are not to our taste." - John Tyndall "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." - Sir Martin Rees (astronomer) "I can't see any farther. Giants are standing on my shoulders!" - unknown "When I examined myself and my methods of thought, I came to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge." - A. Einstein "Advances are made by answering questions. Discoveries are made by questioning answers." - Bernhard Haisch, astrophysicist "The most erroneous stories are those we think we know best -- and therefore never scrutinize or question." -Stephen Jay Gould "In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts." - Ralph Waldo Emerson "There is no better soporific and sedative than skepticism." -Nietzche "All truth passes through three stages: First, it is ridiculed; Second, it is violently opposed; and Third, it is accepted as self-evident." - Arthur Schopenhauer "The soft-minded man always fears change. He feels security in the status quo, and he has an almost morbid fear of the new. For him, the greatest pain is the pain of a new idea." - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. "Loyalty to a petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul." - Mark Twain "No Pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit" - Helen Keller "A danger sign of the lapse from true skepticism in to dogmatism is an inability to respect those who disagree" - Dr. Leonard George "If you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you." - Carl Sagan "New ideas are always criticized - not because an idea lacks merit, but because it might turn out to be workable, which would threaten the reputations of many people whose opinions conflict with it. Some people may even lose their jobs." - physicist, requested anonymity "Now, my suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose... I suspect that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of, in any philosophy" - J.B.S. Haldane "The farther the experiment is from theory, the closer it is to the Nobel Prize." - Joliet-Curie "Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward; they may be defeated, but they start a winning game." - Goethe "If we want to solve a problem that we have never solved before, we must leave the door to the unknown ajar." -Richard Feynman "As long as we do science, some things will always remain unexplained." - Fritjof Capra "The philosophies of one age have become the absurdities of the next, and the foolishness of yesterday has become the wisdom of tomorrow." - Sir William Osler "The altar cloth of one aeon is the doormat of the next." -Mark Twain "Perhaps the only thing that saves science from invalid conventional wisdom that becomes effectively permanent is the presence of mavericks in every generation - people who keep challenging convention and thinking up new ideas for the sheer hell of it or from an innate contrariness." - Dr. D. M. Raup, Paleontologist, U. Chicago. "One thing I have learned in a long life: that all our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike - and yet it is the most precious thing we have." - Einstein "We do not understand much of anything, from... the "big bang" , all the way down to the particles in the atoms of a bacterial cell. We have a wilderness of mystery to make our way through in the centuries ahead." -Lewis Thomas "If we will only allow that, as we progress, we remain unsure, we will leave opportunities for alternatives. We will not become enthusiastic for the fact, the knowledge, the absolute truth of the day, but remain always uncertain... In order to make progress, one must leave the door to the unknown ajar." - Richard Feynman "There is no natural phenomenon that is comparable with the sudden and apparently accidentally timed development of science, except perhaps the condensation of a super-saturated gas or the explosion of some unpredictable explosives." - Eugene P. Wigner "It is through science that we prove, but through intuition that we discover." - H. Poincare "Nothing is too wonderful to be true if it be consistent with the laws of nature." - Michael Faraday "The skeptic will say, 'It may well be true that this system of equations is reasonable from a logical standpoint, but this does not prove that it corresponds to nature.' You are right, dear skeptic. Experience alone can decide on truth. - Albert Einstein Unnamed Law: If it happens, it must be possible. "I have steadily endeavored to keep my mind free so as to give up any hypothesis, however much beloved (and I cannot resist forming one on every subject), as soon as the facts are shown to be opposed to it." - Charles Darwin "I love fools' experiments, I am always making them." - Darwin "It is a fool's prerogative to utter truths that no one else will speak." - Shakespeare "The whole of science consists of data that, at one time or another, were inexplicable." - B. O'Regan "A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a joke, or worried to death by a frown on the right person's brow." - Charles Brower "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny...' - Isaac Asimov "The only solid piece of scientific truth about which I feel totally confident is that we are profoundly ignorant about nature... It is this sudden confrontation with the depth and scope of ignorance that represents the most significant contribution of twentieth-century science to the human intellect." - Lewis Thomas "The end of our exploring will be to arrive at where we started, and to know the place for the first time." - T.S. Eliot "Sit down before facts like a child, and be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses Nature leads, or you shall learn nothing." -T.H. Huxley "Let the mind be enlarged... to the grandeur of the mysteries, and not the mysteries contracted to the narrowness of the mind" - Francis Bacon "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." - F. Scott Fitzgerald "I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong." - Richard Feynman "You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him find it within himself." - Galileo "The high-minded man must care more for the truth than for what people think." - Aristotle "In real life, every field of science is incomplete, and most of them - whatever the record of accomplisment during the last 200 years - are still in their very earliest stages." -Lewis Thomas "There are many hypotheses in science which are wrong. That's perfectly all right; they're the aperture to finding out what's right. - Carl Sagan "I personally feel it is presumptuous to believe that man can determine the whole temporal structure of the universe, its evolution, development and ultimate fate from the first nanosecond of creation to the last 10^10 years, on the basis of three or four facts which are not very accurately known and are disputed among the experts." - J. Bahcall, senior astrophysicist, Institute for Advanced Study "In philosophical discussion, the merest hint of dogmatic certainty as to finality of statement is an exhibition of folly." - Whitehead "On any Tuesday morning, if asked, a good working scientist will tell you with some self-satisfaction that the affairs of his field are nicely in order, that things are finally looking clear and making sense, and all is well. But come back again on another Tuesday, and the roof may have just fallen in on his life's work." -Lewis Thomas "No matter how we may single out a complex from nature...its theoretical treatment will never prove to be ultimately conclusive... I believe that this process of deepening of theory has no limits." - Albert Einstein, 1917 "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it." - M. Planck "Science advances funeral by funeral." (Planck?) "When the human race has once acquired a supersitition, nothing short of death is ever likely to remove it." - Mark Twain "You can recognize a pioneer by the arrows in his back." - Beverly Rubik "If the man doesn't believe as we do, we say he is a crank, and that settles it. I mean, it does nowadays, because now we can't burn him." - Mark Twain "Science for me is very close to art. Scientific discovery is an irrational act. It's an intuition which turns out to be reality at the end of it--and I see no difference between a scientist developing a marvellous discovery and an artist making a painting." - C. Rubbia, Nobelist and director of CERN "The person who thinks there can be any real conflict between science and religion must be either very young in science or very ignorant of religion." - Joseph Henry, early American physicist "If you restrict the journal to publishing only what pleases the referees, you end up publishing what is popular, and while it does make everyone feel more comfortable, you are guaranteed to miss the occasional breakthrough." - A. Dessler, Editor, Geophysical Research Letters, (regarding small-comet bombardment of Earth.) "Scientists are not the paragons of rationality, objectivity, openmindedness and humility that many of them might like others to believe." - Marcello Truzzi, CSICOP "The common idea that scientists reject a theory as soon as it leads to a contradiction is just not so. When they get something that works at all they plunge ahead with it and ignore its weak spots... scientists are just as bad as the rest of the public in following fads and being influenced by mass enthusiasm." - Vannevar Bush "For every expert, there is an equal and opposite expert." - anon "One could not be a successful scientist without realizing that, in contrast to the popular conception supported by newspapers and mothers of scientists, a goodly number of scientists are not only narrow-minded and dull, but also just stupid." -- J. D. Watson _The Double Helix_ "Desire for approval and recognition is a healthy motive, but the desire to be acknowledged as better, stronger, or more intelligent than a fellow being or fellow scholar easily leads to an excessively egoistic psychological adjustment, which may become injurious for the individual and for the community." - Albert Einstein "A man with a new idea is a crank until he succeeds." - M. Twain "Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are that good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats." - Howard Aiken "Physical concepts are the free creations of the human mind and are not, however it may seem, uniquely determined by the external world." - Einstein/Infeld in "The Evolution of Physics" 1938 "A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices." - William James "If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you; but if you really make them think they'll hate you." - Don Marquis "We must care to think about the unthinkable things, because when things become unthinkable, thinking stops and action becomes mindless." - James W. Fulbright "Wisest is she who knows she does not know." -anon "The only means of strengthening one's intellect is to make up one's mind about nothing -- to let the mind be a thoroughfare for all thoughts. Not a select party." - John Keats "A lie repeated often enough becomes the truth." - G. Goebbles "Never attribute to conspiracy that which is adequately explained by stupidity." - paraphrase of "Hanlon's Razor" (fm R. Heinlein) What I don't understand I despise, what I despise I reject. - THE REFEREE'S CREED "Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible." - Frank Zappa AND FINALLY... "A witty saying proves nothing." - Voltaire
SOME SKEPTICS' MISTAKES OF THE PAST ( "So many centuries after the Creation, it is unlikely that anyone could find hitherto unknown lands of any value." - Spanish Royal Commission, rejecting Christopher Columbus' proposal to sail west. "I would sooner believe that two Yankee professors lied, than that stones fell from the sky" - Thomas Jefferson, after hearing reports of meteorites. "The more important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered, and these are now so firmly established that the possibility of their ever being supplanted in consequence of new discoveries is exceedingly remote.... Our future discoveries must be looked for in the sixth place of decimals." -Albert. A. Michelson, speech given in 1894 at the dedication of Ryerson Physics Lab, Univ. of Chicago, "It is apparent to me that the possibilities of the aeroplane, which two or three years ago were thought to hold the solution to the [flying machine] problem, have been exhausted, and that we must turn elsewhere." - Thomas Edison, 1895 "Such startling announcements as these should be deprecated as being unworthy of science and mischievious to to its true progress." - Sir William Siemens, 1880, on Edison's announcement of a sucessful light bulb. "We are probably nearing the limit of all we can know about astronomy." - Simon Newcomb, astronomer, 1888 "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." - Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895. "There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement" - Lord Kelvin, ?1900? "The demonstration that no possible combination of known substances, known forms of machinery, and known forms of force can be united in a practicable machine by which men shall fly for long distances through the air, seems to the writer as complete as it is possible for the demonstration of any physical fact to be." - astronomer S. Newcomb, 1906 "Professor Goddard does not know the relation between action and reaction and the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react. He seems to lack the basic knowledge ladled out daily in high schools." - 1921 New York Times editorial about Robert Goddard's revolutionary rocket work. "This foolish idea of shooting at the moon is an example of the absurd lengths to which vicious specialisation will carry scientists." -A.W. Bickerton, physicist, NZ, 1926 "Space travel is utter bilge!" -Sir Richard Van Der Riet Wolley "The whole procedure [of shooting rockets into space]...presents difficulties of so fundamental a nature, that we are forced to dismiss the notion as essentially impracticable, in spite of the author's insistent appeal to put aside prejudice and to recollect the supposed impossibility of heavier-than-air flight before it was actually accomplished." -Sir Richard van der Riet Wooley, British astronomer, reviewing P.E. Cleator's "Rockets in Space", Nature, March 14, 1936 "Space travel is bunk" -Sir Harold Spencer Jones, Astronomer Royal of Britain, 1957, two weeks before the launch of Sputnik
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