Quotes Roundup- Fall- Winter 2010

Anatole France:

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.


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.

Steven Novella:

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.

Arthur C. Clarke:

Sometimes I think we’re alone in the universe, and sometimes I think we’re not. In either case, the idea is quite staggering.

Carl Sagan:

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.


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.

Goethe, 18th/19th-century German poet, novelist, playwright and philosopher:
You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.

Thomas Paine:

It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry.

Martin Gardner:

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.

Randall Monroe (Author XKCD):

You don’t use science to show you’re right, you use science to become right.

Mark Twain

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.

Bertrand Russell

There are two motives for reading a book: one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it.

From Sara Robinson, explaining perfectly the entire reason for the faux controversy over the “ground zero mosque”:

Conservatives can do without a god, but they can’t get through the day without a devil. Their entire model of reality revolves around the existence of an existential enemy who’s out to annihilate them. Take that focal point away, and their whole worldview collapses into incoherence. This need is so central to their thinking that if there are no actual enemies around, they’ll go to considerable lengths to make some (or just make some up).

Sir Winston Churchill:

Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.

William Osler:

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.

Fred Brooks:

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.


The best substitute for brains is silence.

John Cleese:

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.

kim hebert:

homeopathy is like paying to watch your body heal itself.

Samuel Butler

The man who lets himself be bored is even more contemptible than the bore.

PZ Myers, on burying his bible:

And so I have. I have treated my copies of the Koran and the Bible with greater respect than they deserve.

Right now, the pages swell with moisture, the fibers separate and the chapters turn into pulpy masses. Bacteria bloom and their colonies expand; fungi flourish and their hyphae infiltrate and convert cellulose into spores. The ink runs as nematodes writhe over the surfaces, etching the words with slime and replacing the follies of dead men with the wisdom of worms. The roots of flowers and grasses will fumble downwards to embrace the decaying leaves, and the roots of trees will impale the volumes laterally. Given only a little time, the madness will be reduced to compost.

At every instant in this gradual process of degradation, the books are being improved and given greater value. And with my decision to discard the poisonous symbols of past ignorance, I became a little more free.

J.B.S. Haldane:

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.

Quotes Roundup- Spring-Summer 2010

friends, these are my most recent biannual quotes i have read and enjoyed; please comment if you also enjoy.  🙂

Thomas Paine (via froggey):

Any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks the mind of a child, cannot be a true system.”


Nothing is worth more than this day.

Peter Walker:

The supreme arrogance of religious thinking: that a carbon-based bag of mostly water on a spec of iron-silicate dust around a boring dwarf star … would look up at the sky and declare, ‘It was all made so that I could exist!

H.G. Wells:

When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race”

Bertrand Russell:

Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.

Neil deGrasse Tyson:

The stars in the universe far outnumber all the words ever uttered by all the humans who have ever lived.

Aldous Huxley:

At least two-thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity: idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religous or political ideas.

Brennen McKenzie:

If you try to picture a pack of Chihuahuas bringing down and savaging an elk, the impact of thousands of years of artificial selection is obvious.

John Cage:

I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.

Bob McCue (oh, how i heart mister mccue):

The most satisfying aspect of parenthood so far has been witnessing my children come into their own as adults. Becoming friends with these surprising human beings is as fresh as life gets. In this and so many other ways, life is sweet. I am a lucky guy who spends most of each day feeling grateful.

R. Feynman:

Physics is like sex. Sure, it may give some practical results, but that’s not why we do it.

Gerald Massey

They must find it difficult, those who have taken authority as the truth, rather than truth as the authority.

Arthur C. Clarke (in his Third Law of Prediction):

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

John Erskine

Music is the only language in which you cannot say a mean or sarcastic thing.

Richard Dawkins:

Hydrogen is a tasteless, invisible gas – and if you give it enough time, it will turn into people.


Every morning I wake up on the wrong side of Capitalism.

something to ponder on the fourth of july

Which of the following is more inclusive and better represents the ideals of maximum freedom as outlined in the US constitution? (h/t)

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under the gods, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under no God or gods, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands; one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all.
Interjects that the person must adhere to a monotheistic belief system. Interjects that the person must adhere to a polytheistic belief system. Interjects that the person must not adhere to any theistic belief system. Does not interject any presuppositions about religion. The person is free to believe whatever they want.

Happy Independence Day, y’all. As the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said, “The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”

I invite you to read that quote 1nce more. Have fun today. 🙂

Quotes Roundup- Fall 09

Dwight D. Eisenhower:

In preparing for battle, I have found that planning is essential, but plans are useless.

Kail Nielson:

A man who says, “If God is dead, nothing matters,” is a spoilt child who has never looked at his fellow men with compassion.

Robert Green Ingersoll:

This crime called blasphemy was invented by priests for the purpose of defending doctrines not able to take care of themselves.

Dan Christiansen, BYU Student:

As a child, it seemed so simple;
Every step was clearly marked.
Priesthood, mission, sweetheart, temple;
Bright with hope I soon embarked.
But now I have become a man,
And doubt the promise of the plan.

For the path is growing steeper,
And a slip could mean my death.
Plunging upward, ever deeper,
I can barely catch my breath.
Oh, where within this untamed wild
Is the star that led me as a child?

As I crest the shadowed mountain,
I embrace the endless sky;
The expanse of heaven’s fountain
Now unfolds before my eye.
A thousand stars shine on the land,
The chart drafted by my own hand.

Sam Harris said that the timing of when young Earth creationists claim God created the Universe:

… is, incidentally, about a thousand years after the Sumerians invented glue. [Link goes to The Onion]

Robert Ingersoll:

Anger is a wind which blows out the lamp of the mind.

quotes roundup- winter 08- spring 09

a little late in posting this, but here goes!:

stephen hawking, der spiegel (17 october 1988):

we are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. but we can understand the universe. that makes us something very special.


A little inaccuracy sometimes saves tons of explanation.

Gerry Spence:

I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief.

fred doyle:

Space isn’t remote at all. It’s only an hour’s drive away if your car could go straight upwards.

Tri-fecta of doubt….

Carl Sagan:

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Marcello Truzzi:

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.

Pierre-Simon Marquis de Laplace

The weight of evidence for an extraordinary claim must be proportioned to its strangeness.

Paul Bert :

Modern societies march towards morality in proportion as they leave religion behind.

Louis Pasteur

When I approach a child, he inspires in me two sentiments; tenderness for what he is, and respect for what he may become.

Charles Richet

I never said it was possible. I only said it was true.

Jean Rostand

I should have no use for a paradise in which I should be deprived of the right to prefer hell.

Jean Rostand

In order to remain true to oneself one ought to renounce one’s party three times a day.

Publilius Syrus:

I have often regretted my speech, never my silence.

Dale McGowen (author of Raising Children Beyond Belief):

Much of the protest over “nonbeliever” is that it defines us in terms of religious believers. I care about this no more than the fact that “nonsmoker” defines me in terms of smokers and “non-idiot” defines me in terms of idiots. You don’t find many non sequiturs up in arms about being defined in terms of the hated sequitur, nor are the nondescript or noncommital often irate about comparisons to the descript and commital.

Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. seemed not to find their advocacy of nonviolence diminished by the lexical negation of violence. Nor does Nonviolent Peaceforce, the nonpartisan, nonprofit NGO (that’s “non-governmental organization”) for which I work. For each and all of these terms, the prefix is a non-issue.

So why do we continue to waste our pique on such terms as “nonbeliever” and “nonreligious”? I find them both useful and economical. Pile on your polysyllables and modifiers as you wish. I have things to do.

Jean Rostand

Kill a man, and you are a murderer. Kill millions of men, and you are a conquerer. Kill everyone, and you are a god.

Jean Rostand

Science has made us gods even before we are worthy of being men.

Jean Rostand

The divine is perhaps that quality in man which permits him to endure the lack of God.

Jean Rostand

When a scientist is ahead of his times, it is often through misunderstanding of current, rather than intuition of future truth. In science there is never any error so gross that it won’t one day, from some perspective, appear prophetic.

Alexis de Tocqueville

Consider any individual at any period of his life, and you will always find him preoccupied with fresh plans to increase his comfort.

He was as great as a man can be without morality.
Alexis de Tocqueville

History is a gallery of pictures in which there are few originals and many copies.
Alexis de Tocqueville

Slayer (lyrics):

Holy man open up your eyes
To the ways of the world you’ve been so blind
As the walls of religion come crashing down
How’s the ignorance taste the second time around

Tell me how it feels knowing chaos will never end
Tell me what it’s like when the celebration begins

Welcome to the horror of the revelation
Tell me what you think of your savior now
I reject all the Biblical views of the truth
Dismiss it as the folklore of the times
I won’t be force fed prophecies
From a book of untruths for the weakest mind
Join the new faith for the celebration
Cult of new faith fuels the devastation

[Read the complete lyrics]