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.

Eliezer_Yudkowsky:

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.

Galileo:

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.

Unknown:

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.”

Goethe:

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.

Anon:

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

videos:

http://cogitatute.blogspot.com/2010/05/climate-denial-crock-of-week.html

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?

climategate:

The Climategate Fiasco

hope that helps!

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

SANDY, UTAH

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.”

How to: Report on a “boring” science news story

watching the local tv nighttime news, there was a 90-second story on the spirit being stuck.  they continued saying it’s been stuck for about a year.  they said they’re going to let the solar panels charge until the weather warms up and then give it another go to free it.

this left my friend laughing at nasa’s news update: “wow, so the news is that spirit is stuck…and that it’s been stuck for a year?  …umm ok, thanks for the update, nasa!”.

i told him that i thought mainstream media just doesn’t get science news items done right, and that there’s probably a clearer, more interesting story behind the announcement.

well today i checked phil plait’s blog feed and wow!  my man knows how to take a science news item and make it easy for the layman to understand.  and instead of leaving us confused (like the news report), he leaves us excited for more!

spiritIn a press conference yesterday, NASA and JPL scientists announced that the Mars rover Spirit is stuck. The little-spaceprobe-that-could has been trapped in the sand near a crater called Troy for almost a year now, and for that time has been doing little or no science; instead, engineers have been trying to figure out how to get the rover unstuck. After all that time, NASA has decided to throw in the towel. Martian winter is coming for Spirit, and they are now focusing on getting it positioned so that it can survive the coming drop in temperature.

Three notes:

1) This doesn’t mean Spirit is dead! If they are able to get it set up to survive the winter (mainly by tilting it toward the Sun so the solar panels can collect energy) then once its revived it will still be able to do plenty of science from where it is. After all, it’s a laboratory sitting on another world. I imagine there’s lots of stuff the scientists can do with it.

2) Emily Lakdawalla, as usual, has the details of all this on The Planetary Society blog, including some evidence-based speculation that it’s NASA calling the shots here and not JPL, which controls the rover.

3) We have to remember something rather important: when the two rovers (Opportunity is the other, which is still running fine on the other side of the planet) landed on Mars, they had a planned operational lifetime of 90 days.

That was in January 2004.

In other words, Spirit has been on Mars for over 2200 days, and even counting when it first got stuck, it still ran well for more than 20 times it’s nominal lifespan. Cars these days have a standard warranty for 7 years; how’d you like yours to run for 140 years?

So for me, while this news is not great, it has to be put in context: Spirit is one of the most successful NASA missions of all time. And its sister, Opportunity, is still running like a champ. I hope I’ll be doing as well when I’m 1400 years old.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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

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.

Saki:

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]