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Science

  • Science and vivisection make no appeal to a theological idea, much less a political one. You can argue with a theologian or a politician, but doctors are sacrosanct. They know; you do not. Science has its mystique much more powerful than any religion active today.

  • Scientists are rarely to be counted among the fun people. Awkward at parties, shy with strangers, deficient in irony — they have had no choice but to turn their attention to the close study of everyday objects.

  • ... modern science was largely conceived of as an answer to the servant problem and ... it is generally practiced by those who lack a flair for conversation.

  • Physics has never been a comfortable subject for human psychology. The desire to regard everything outside the human race's purview as insignificant, and everything within that purview as firmly under the control of tribal myth and custom, is as strong today as it was in the time of Galileo.

  • The chief difficulty of modern theoretical physics resides not in the fact that it expresses itself almost exclusively in mathematical symbols, but in the psychological difficulty of supposing that complete nonsense can be seriously promulgated and transmitted by persons who have sufficient intelligence of some kind to perform operations in differential and integral calculus ...

  • Alas! the scientific conscience had got into the debasing company of money obligation and selfish respects.

  • Science is providing answers with such phenomenal speed that philosophy has lost track of the questions.

    • Helen Hayes,
    • with Marion Glasserow Gladney, Loving Life ()
  • ... it is only when science asks why, instead of simply describing how, that it becomes more than technology. When it asks why, it discovers Relativity. When it only shows how, it invents the atomic bomb ...

  • There is one quality that characterizes all of us who deal with the sciences of the earth and its life — we are never bored.

    • Rachel Carson,
    • 1963, in Paul Brooks, The House of Life: Rachel Carson at Work ()
  • ... we assume that knowledge of science is the prerogative of only a small number of human beings, isolated and priestlike in their laboratories. This is not true. The materials of science are the materials of life itself. Science is part of the reality of living; it is the what, the how, and the why of everything in our experience.

    • Rachel Carson,
    • 1952, in Paul Brooks, The House of Life: Rachel Carson at Work ()
  • All cell biologists are condemned to suffer from an incurable secret sorrow: the size of the objects of their passion. Almost anyone with an obsession can share it with someone else. ... But those of us enamored of the cell must resign ourselves to the perverse, lonely fascination of a human being for things invisible to the naked human eye.

  • Ah, the architecture of this world. Amoebas may not have backbones, brains, automobiles, plastic, television, Valium or any other of the blessings of a technologically advanced civilization; but their architecture is two billion years ahead of its time. The amoeba had the architectural ideas of R. Buckminster Fuller before there was anyone around capable of having an idea.

  • Almost anyone can do science; almost no one can do good science.

  • ... good science is almost always so very simple. After it has been done by someone else, of course.

  • Scientists have a second brain where other people have their hearts.

  • The entire history of science is a progression of exploded fallacies, not of achievements.

  • A science which does not bring us nearer to God is worthless.

  • The true definition of science is this: the study of the beauty of the world.

  • One could count on one's fingers the number of scientists throughout the world with a general idea of the history and development of their particular science: there is none who is really competent as regards sciences other than his own. As science forms an indivisible whole, one may say that there are no longer, strictly speaking, scientists, but only drudges doing scientific work ...

  • ... science has now been for a long time — and to an ever-increasing extent — a collective enterprise. Actually, new results are always, in fact, the work of specific individuals; but, save perhaps for rare exceptions, the value of any result depends on such a complex set of interrelations with past discoveries and possible future researches that even the mind of the inventor cannot embrace the whole.

  • Science is voiceless; it is the scientists who talk.

  • The villagers seldom leave the village; many scientists have limited and poorly cultivated minds apart from their specialty ...

  • Our science is like a store filled with the most subtle intellectual devices for solving the most complex problems, and yet we are almost incapable of applying the elementary principles of rational thought.

    • Simone Weil,
    • "The Power of Words," The Simone Weil Reader ()
  • Science is not neutral in its judgments, nor dispassionate, nor detached ...

  • Science and religion, religion and science, put it as I may, they are two sides of the same glass, through which we see darkly until these two, focusing together, reveal the truth.

  • Only when the poet and the scientist work in unison will we have living experiences and knowledge of the marvels of the universe as they are being discovered.

  • ... in science, all facts, no matter how trivial or banal, enjoy democratic equality.

  • 'Faith' is a fine invention / When Gentlemen can see — / But microscopes are prudent / In an Emergency.

    • Emily Dickinson,
    • c. 1860, in Thomas H. Johnson, ed., The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson ()
  • [On biologists:] Happy fishermen, we stand together on the pier casting and reeling, mesmerized by a certain shimmer visible from this or that angle, enchanted by the concentric rings here and there, imagining things just below the dimpled surface. If something leaps into the air, we all lift eyebrows together as if we were one great being with one eyebrow — that? Is it alone, or part of a school? What else lies below?

    • Katy Payne,
    • in Kay Redfield Jamison, Exuberance ()
  • ... the negative cautions of science are never popular.

  • ... most people prefer to carry out the kinds of experiments that allow the scientist to feel that he is in full control of the situation rather than surrendering himself to the situation, as one must in studying human beings as they actually live.

  • ... science never threatens God — it opens up more possibilities.

  • Scientific illiteracy in our populations is leaving too many of us unprepared to discuss or understand much of the damage we are wreaking on our atmosphere, our habitat, and even the food that enters our mouths.

  • ... scientific progress makes moral progress a necessity; for if man's power is increased, the checks that restrain him from abusing it must be strengthened.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • 1800, in J. Christopher Herold, Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Staël ()
  • Louis [Leakey] was anxious to initiate a scientific study of these chimpanzees. It would be difficult, he emphasized, for nothing was known; there were no guidelines for such a field study; and the habitat was remote and rugged. Dangerous wild animals would be living there, and chimpanzees themselves were considered at least four times stronger than humans. I remember wondering what kind of scientist he would find for such a herculean task.

    • Jane Goodall,
    • in Jane Goodall with Phillip Berman, Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey ()
  • You might say that science operates pragmatically and religion by divine guidance. If valid, they would reach the same conclusions but science would take a lot longer.

  • ... science progresses by trial and error, and when it is forbidden to admit error there can be no progress.

  • There was some sort of maze-learning experiment involved in my final grade and since I remember the rat who was my colleague as uncooperative, or perhaps merely incompetent at being a rat, or tired of the whole thing, I don't remember how I passed.

  • ... a good part of the trick to being a first-rate scientist is in asking the right questions or asking them in ways that make it possible to find answers.

  • Sociology, the guilty science, functions best by alarm.

  • ... I do not believe there is any one study that can be taken up that will broaden the imagination, that will be the source from which will spring more deep thinking and sincere research than the study of astronomy.

    • Gene Stratton-Porter,
    • in Jeannette Porter Meehan, The Lady of the Limberlost: Life and Letters of Gene Stratton-Porter ()
  • ... like most scientists, he imagines he can explain a thing by naming it ...

  • ... women have been more systematically excluded from doing serious science than from performing any other social activity except, perhaps, frontline warfare.

  • [Geology] opens up such wide intellectual vistas and supplies a more perfectly unified and more comprehensive conception of nature than any other science.

  • 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.

  • After all, science is essentially international, and it is only through lack of the historical sense that national qualities have been attributed to it.

    • Marie Curie,
    • "Intellectual Cooperation," in Memorandum ()
  • Humanity, surely, needs practical men who make the best of their work for the sake of their own interests, without forgetting the general interest. But it also needs dreamers, for whom the unselfish following of a purpose is so imperative that it becomes impossible for them to devote much attention to their own material benefit. No doubt it could be said that these idealists do not deserve riches since they do not have the desire for them. It seems, however, that a society well organized ought to assure to these workers the means for efficient labor, in a life from which material care is excluded so that this life may be freely devoted to the service of scientific research.

  • It is possible for science to make the world like the Garden of Eden! Amen. But it is also possible, and sometimes it seems more probable, that science will make the world a very good imitation of hell.

    • A. Maude Royden,
    • "The World at the Crossroads," Women at the World's Crossroads ()
  • There is at present in the United States a powerful activist movement that is anti-intellectual, anti-science, and anti-technology. If we are to have faith that mankind will survive and thrive on the face of the Earth, we must depend on the continued revolutions brought about by science.

    • Rosalyn Yalow,
    • in Sharon Bertsch McGrayne, Nobel Prize Women in Science ()
  • [On cloning sheep:] Oh great, just what we need — more sheep.

  • Do not undertake a scientific career in quest of fame or money. There are easier and better ways to reach them. Undertake it only if nothing else will satisfy you; for nothing is probably what you will receive. Your reward will be the widening of the horizon as you climb. And if you achieve that reward you will ask no other.

  • Peanuts became the first gorilla ever to touch me. ... After looking intently at my hand, Peanuts stood up and extended his hand to touch his fingers against my own for a brief instant. Thrilled at his own daring, he gave vent to his excitement by a quick chestbeat before going off to rejoin his group. ... The contact was among the most memorable of my life among the gorillas.

  • I find the scientific mind horrendous. All those brains and not a moral imperative between them.

  • Once upon a time, everybody 'did' science. Long before science was a career, people tried to understand nature for their own amusement and excitement. They collected specimens, experimented, built microscopes and telescopes. Although some of these hobby scientists became famous, it hardly occurs to us that they were untrained in the formal sense; they wrote no dissertations for graduate schools. And we were all scientists, too — curious children, testing substances on our tongues, discovering gravity, peering underneath rocks, seeing patterns in the stars, wondering what makes the night scary and the sky blue. Partly because the educational system has taught science only in a reductionist, left-brain style and partly because of the society's demands for practical applications of technology, the romance of science fades quickly for most youngsters. ... Most of us end up feeling that science is something special, separate, outside our ken, like Greek or archeology. A minority pursue it narrowly, and we have C.P. Snow's Two Cultures, Science and Art, each a little superior, a little envious, and tragically incomplete.

  • Averages ... seduce us away from minute observation.

  • Gravity: more than a good idea — it's the law!

  • We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics, nor all logic, but it is somewhat beauty and poetry.

    • Maria Mitchell,
    • diary (1866), in Phebe Mitchell Kendall, ed., Maria Mitchell, Life, Letters, and Journals ()
  • The phrase 'popular science' has in itself a touch of absurdity. That knowledge which is popular is not scientific.

    • Maria Mitchell,
    • diary (1866), in Phebe Mitchell Kendall, ed., Maria Mitchell, Life, Letters, and Journals ()
  • Besides learning to see, there is another art to be learned — not to see what is not.

    • Maria Mitchell,
    • diary (1878), in Phebe Mitchell Kendall, ed., Maria Mitchell, Life, Letters, and Journals ()
  • No scientist knew anything about money except that he needed a lot of it and never had enough. Never.

  • Physics is puzzle-solving ... puzzles created by nature, not by the mind of man.

  • Science, like art, religion, political theory, or psychoanalysis — is work that holds out the promise of philosophic understanding, excites in us the belief that we can 'make sense of it all.'

  • ... a scientist or a writer is one who ruminates continuously on the nature of physical or imaginative life, experiences repeated relief and excitement when the insight comes, and is endlessly attracted to working out the idea.

  • Whatever a scientist is doing — reading, cooking, talking, playing — science thoughts are always there at the edge of the mind. They are the way the world is taken in; all that is seen is filtered through an everpresent scientific musing.

  • To do science today is to experience a dimension unique in contemporary working lives; the work promises something incomparable: the sense of living both personally and historically. That is why science now draws to itself all kinds of people — charlatans, mediocrities, geniuses — everyone who wants to touch the flame, feel alive to the time.

  • Anthropology is the science which tells us that people are the same the world over — except when they are different.

  • To know the history of science is to recognize the mortality of any claim to universal truth.


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  • If we are going to teach 'creation science' as an alternative to evolution, then we should also teach the stork theory as an alternative to biological reproduction.

  • Astronomers are pure of heart and appealingly puerile. They look into the midnight sky and ask big questions, just as we did when we were in college: Who are we? Where do we come from? And why are we standing around outside on the night before finals, do we want to end up making elevator parts for a living like our father or what?

  • Astronomy is so easy to love. ... Fairly or not, physics is associated with nuclear bombs and nuclear waste, chemistry with pesticides, biology with Frankenfood and designer-gene superbabies. But astronomers are like responsible ecotourists, squinting at the scenery through high-quality optical devices, taking nothing but images that may be computer-enhanced for public distribution, leaving nothing but a few Land Rover footprints on faraway Martian soil, and OK, OK, maybe the Land Rover, too.

  • ... evolution is a tinkerer, an ad-hocker, and a jury-rigger. It works with what it has on hand, not with what it has in mind. Some of its inventions prove elegant, while in others you can see the seams and dried glue.

  • ... scientists ... resist ... making more of the data than the data make of themselves.

  • Science is not a body of facts. Science is a state of mind. It is a way of viewing the world, of facing reality square on but taking nothing on its face. It is about attacking a problem with the most manicured of claws and tearing it down into sensible, edible pieces.

  • It was like a new world opened to me, the world of science, which I was at last permitted to know in all liberty.

  • Science fiction is not predictive; it is descriptive.

  • Science fiction properly conceived, like all serious fiction, however funny, is a way of trying to describe what is in fact going on, what people actually do and feel, how people relate to everything else in this vast sack, this belly of the universe, this womb of things to be and tomb of things that were, this unending story.

  • Fantasy is the oldest form of literature and science fiction is just a new twist on it.