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.

Global Warming Resources

the science is too complicated to understand, unless you are a climatologist, so we need to put our trust in where the scientific consensus is at right now.  and the consensus is that ever since 1750[1] there has been a constant yearly increase of man-made global warming.  other questions about GW such as predicting the effects and future ruin of the earth is not known and one can have their own opinion about that part of the issue.

many articles here are authored by dr. steven novella, of the sgu.  he is my favorite science educator and skeptic on the planet.  he’s the closest thing to a “prophet” for me here on the earth.  i recommend listening to his podcast weekly.

articles on climate change:

“And in the end we have to trust scientists that they were able to detect a global warming trend of 1.5 degrees C since 1880, on the backdrop of all the local and short term fluctuations. I do trust the consensus (NASA can send out a probe and hit Saturn, so they have earned some trust) and I have not heard any arguments that I find compelling to distrust it. But I also understand why many in the public find it difficult to trust.”  (from article:  NASA – Last Decade Warmest on Record)

Scientific Consensus, Climate Change, and Vaccines



Dylan Ratigan vs. Glenn Beck good explanation of climate change

Bill Nye:Those who think Historic Snowstorm disproves Global

other great links showing the consensus amongst climatologists:

Is there a scientific consensus on global warming? (probably the best site with quick-access info)

Scientific Consensus on Global Warming | Union of Concerned Scientists

Is there a scientific consensus on global warming?


The Climategate Fiasco

hope that helps!

1.  IPCC. (2007) Climate change 2007: the physical science basis (summary for policy makers), IPCC.


Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
John Gee speaks to FAIR Conference audience on “the Larger Issue” pertaining to the authenticity of the Book of Abraham. Click for bio of FAIR Conference speakers

While critics of the Church often challenge the authenticity of the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price, they attach more importance to it than Church members do themselves, a Latter-day Saint Egyptologist said Aug. 6 at the annual conference of the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR).

Such critics lose sight of “the larger issue,” said John Gee, an associate research professor of Egyptology at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at BYU.

“The book of Abraham is true,” said Brother Gee, author of A Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri, at the end of his presentation. “I think it can be defended. I think it should be defended. But it’s not the be-all-and-end-all of either apologetics or research or the scriptures.”

Brother Gee said that in many cases the argument about the Book of Abraham has become so complex that even some of the sharpest critics lose perspective and fail to be consistent in their contentions.

“We cannot afford to lose sight of the big picture,” he said.

He offered a few rules for “apologists,” a word that in this context means defenders:

First, it is not necessary to refute every statement by a critic. “The critic may be wrong about a point, but if it is not central to the argument, one can often let it slide.”

Second, not every argument or point is worth defending. “Even widely held opinions do not need to be defended if they are mistaken,” he said.

Third, truth is not well-served by a bad argument. “We apologists make no claims to perfection, either in ourselves or our arguments, so it is simply better to let go of bad arguments.”

Fourth, though God knows everything, “we do not and cannot,” he said.

“So if what is most important needs to be defended, what are some of the things that need to be defended?” he asked.

He suggested six: God exists; Jesus Christ is His Son; God talked and still talks with men through the power of the Holy Ghost; Jesus Christ atoned for the sins of the world; the Atonement is available to those who trust Jesus, turn from sin, make and keep sacred covenants, and follow the course throughout their lives; and the Book of Mormon is true, an authentic record of God’s interactions with actual ancient people.

“Now, we may be called upon to defend smaller points than these, but if these six things are not true, there is no point in the rest,” Brother Gee said.

“Now where is the Book of Abraham in this?” he asked. “It isn’t. The Book of Abraham is not central to the restored gospel of Christ.”

To illustrate, he said that of all the scriptural citations in general conference since 1942, the Book of Abraham has been cited less than 1 percent of the time. Most of those citations are the seven verses in Abraham 3:22-29, which tell of the pre-mortal existence.

“This is what we as Latter-day Saints care about,” he said. “It is what is important.”

The critics may regard that as vain superstition, he said, “but they seem to deem it not even worthy of attack. What they attack is simply not important to the Latter-day Saints.”

He said that is not to say Church members can or should forego the Book of Abraham, “but simply to give an idea of its relative importance. It is more important than some things and much less important than others.”

Brother Gee gave these summary points:

“First, the arguments about the Book of Abraham have become so complex that even the best and brightest of critics end up arguing unwittingly in favor of the LDS position. “The Document of Breathings made by Isis is not the Book of Abraham, and most Latter-day Saints have never claimed it was,” he said. “Can we agree on that issue and move on?

“Second, the critics do not deal with the issues arising from the Book of Abraham that Latter-day Saints care about. In that sense, their approach is legerdemain and bait-and-switch.

“Third, how the Book of Abraham was translated is unimportant. The Church does not stand or fall on the Book of Abraham.

“And fourth, regardless of how the Book of Abraham was translated, it is a remarkable document that tells us more about Abraham’s day than Joseph Smith could have known.”

He concluded: “These larger issues overshadow the often petty issues that we deal with as apologists, and it is high time we paid attention to the larger issue.”

quotes roundup- SUMMER 09

every season i put out the best batch o’ comments that i’ve found in the last few months.  this edition may be my best yet!

Kirk Wilson

To say that the earth is only 6,000 years old is the mathematical equivalent of saying its radius is only 28 feet.

PZ Myers on an evolution-inspired school t-shirt:

Evolution is not a religion, no more than sky-is-blueism or gravityism or medicine or mathematics or their shop class. Would they shut down an auto repair class if an Amish family decried their heathen English ways? Pollitt is a pandering moron.

John Remy (from this personal, well-written post on his LDS ex-communication ritual):

Hopefully we’ll see each other as complex humans, worthy of compassion.  [there’s a lot of wisdom in these words!]

George Hrab:

Is sex with your clone gay or just extroverted masturbation? Continue reading

Multi-Level Marketing

today i was doing some research on Multi-Level-Marketing companies (e.g. MonaVie, Noni, Isagenix, NutraSkin, etc.).  living in utah county, (the most MLM-dense county in the USA) we’ve all been presented with MLM pitches- and we may have even signed up for some.  last year i met an older couple who had made tons of money in Vegas through a MLM they had done in the past.  The secret, they told me, was that the company marketed them as their golden couple and stuck dozens and dozens of people below them in their “down line” so everyone could see an exemplar of success.  they were very up front when they told me that they could not recreate those same earnings when they tried to do it on their own, after the successful MLM went bankrupt (as most do).  they even knew all the tricks of the trade and had experience- but it went nowhere when their only potential down line suddenly shrunk to the small number of friends and family they personally knew.

Note:  please use caution when sharing anything with someone who is involved in a MLM.  they very much act like “true believers” in the sense that they have faith in the potential of their MLM, are motivated more by feelings/personal testimony rather than hard evidence, and may take criticism very personally.  so proceed w/ caution when sharing with others- or don’t share at all.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a decision, In re Amway Corp., in 1979 in which it indicated that multi-level marketing was not illegal per se in the United States. However, Amway was found guilty of price fixing (by requiring “independent” distributors to sell at the low price) and making exaggerated income claims.[16]

The FTC advises that multi-level marketing organizations with greater incentives for recruitment than product sales are to be viewed skeptically. The FTC also warns that the practice of getting commissions from recruiting new members is outlawed in most states as “pyramiding”.[10] In April 2006, it proposed a Business Opportunity Rule intended to require all sellers of business opportunities—including MLMs—to provide enough information to enable prospective buyers to make an informed decision about their probability of earning money.

Another criticism of MLMs is that “MLM organizations have been described by some as cults (Butterfield, 1985), pyramid schemes (Fitzpatrick & Reynolds, 1997), or organizations rife with misleading, deceptive, and unethical behavior (Carter, 1999), such as the questionable use of evangelical discourse to promote the business (Hopfl & Maddrell, 1996), and the exploitation of personal relationships for financial gain (Fitzpatrick & Reynolds, 1997).” [18]

MLM’s are also criticized for being unable to fulfill their promises for the majority of participants due to basic conflicts with Western culture.[19] There are even claims that the success rate for breaking even or even making money are far worse than other types of businesses:[20][21][22] “The vast majority of MLM’s are recruiting MLM’s, in which participants must recruit aggressively to profit. Based on available data from the companies themselves, the loss rate for recruiting MLM’s is approximately 99.9%; i.e., 99.9% of participants lose money after subtracting all expenses, including purchases from the company.”[20] In part, this is because encouraging recruits to further “recruit people to compete with [them]”[23] leads to “market saturation.”[24]

Similar claims regarding profits have been stated by The Times (“The Government investigation claims to have revealed that just 10 per cent of Amway’s agents in Britain make any profit, with less than one in ten selling a single item of the group’s products.”[25]), high level “Emerald” Amway member Scheibeler (“UK Justice Norris found in 2008 that out of an IBO [Independent Business Owners] population of 33,000, ‘only about 90 made sufficient incomes to cover the costs of actively building their business.’ That’s a 99.7 percent loss rate for investors.” [26](case referred to is BERR vs Amway (Case No: 2651, 2652 and 2653 of 2007) which does list this as one of the points of objectionability: “c) because of the requirement that an IBO pay a joining and renewal fee and the likelihood that an IBO would purchase BSM there was a certainty that the Amway business would cause a loss to a large number of people (to the extent that out of an IBO population which exceeded 33,000 only building their business).”) and Newsweek (where it is stated based on MonaVie’s own 2007 income disclosure statement “fewer than 1 percent qualified for commissions and of those, only 10 percent made more than $100 a week.)[27]

hope this might help in some way!

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]

Lie to Me- Skeptics’ Take

i’m sure the skeptical/scientific community will add much more insight into the TV show “Lie to Me”, until then, here is what i was able to find in my short research (the following is in the format of a conversation between me my friend Keldwud):

some info on the show:

some people can tell when people are lying slightly better than others:



women are supposedly better than men at detecting lies in one’s face.  the information in those links still doesn’t show that the guy’s abilities in the movie can be seen as science-based, but it may be possible to some degree.  remember, though, that polygraphs are not based on science and can be fooled.


hope that helps!  as i get more info about that from the skeptic community i’ll share it with you.

he replied, and i then replied to his comments (see how hard this is to follow so far?  well i don’t have the time to edit it- i’m already spending precious saturday night time so deal with good luck with the format  🙂 :

On Fri, Feb 20, 2009 at 10:09 PM, KELDWUD> wrote:

Thanks for the links 🙂
Yeah, I was figuring they were basing a lot of it off of real studies
but the way they were spinning it made me wonder what parts of it
*weren’t* real. A lot of it is plausible and then they make a good
case by showing famous people with the same expressions as proof that
they are all experiencing the same emotion.

yes, and as you and i both suspect they may be committing a post-hoc fallacy where you have lots of data (lots of pictures of faces) and you match these faces with what you’re looking for to support your theory.  many celebrity faces are shown in one scene’s example (some 20 or so i think) but how many thousands of pictures of celebrities lying were not shown?  it sounds too much like quote-mining Nostradamus in order to get an ambiguous quote that sounded like he predicted 9/11 or something else after the fact.  the book The Bible Code commits this fallacy as well:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lk3VgQgxiqE

…The only thing that it is missing is when people show those
expressions and they *don’t* mean what the others are feeling when
they show those expressions.

Wondering how effective his technique is in real world scenarios and I
am betting that his technique would produce valid hits more often than

What do you think?

this is another very good point as to why even when someone may be generally better at telling when someone is lying, they will not be able to read many people who react differently when they lie.  at best, i think someone may be good at telling if people are lying if they are already familiar with the person (like in a family/friendship), or if they are women (like i said, it’s been shown that they are slightly better than males at detecting deception.from Michael Shermer’s The Science of Good and Evil, page 176 (emphasis mine):

To the extent that lie detection through the observation of body language and facial expressions is accurate (overall not very), women are better at it than men because they are more intuitively sensitive to subtle cues.  in experiments in which subjects observe someone either truth telling or lying, although no one is consistently correct in identifying the liar, women are correct significantly more often than men [source: Myers, David G. Intuition: Its Powers and Perils, p. 119].  […] People who are highly skilled in identifying “micromomentary” facial expressions are also more accurate in judging lying.  In testing such professionals as psychiatrist, polygraphists, court judges, police officers, and secret service agents on their ability to detect lies, only secret service agents trained to look for subtle cues scored above chance.  Most of us are not good at lie detection because we rely too heavily on what people say rather than on what they do.  Subjects with damage to the brain that renders them less attentive to speech are more accurate at detecting lies, such as aphasic stroke victims who were able to identify liars 73 percent of the time when focusing on facial expressions (normal subjects did no better than chance).

I think it’s kind of a mixed bag, but one thing i think must be on the bullshit side are the cute little face gestures he teaches as being indicators of dishonesty.  this black/white methodology sounds to simple to be true, too learnable that it would easily taught and widely used today in all of the professions listed above.  it seems that the aphasic stroke victims most likely used intuition and nothing that could be listed or depicted in a textbook (ie “this curl of the lip here suggests…”).

FWIW, that’s the info i could come up with so far… hope it helps someone else out in pointing them in the right direction.  good luck!  if you’re from San Fransisco, you can attend this on the subject as well:  http://www.psychologicalscience.org/convention/program_2009/search/viewProgram.cfm?Abstract_ID=15583