Lots of quotes about "science", some of them serious, some of them humorous.
[FIXME: move quotes from database/Lindberg.txt]
[FIXME: header] updated 2003-06-02
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"free will" is one of those common-sense concepts that most people intuitively understand, yet David Cary struggles with it. I suppose one of the problems is that "free will" is such a deeply rooted concept that many explainations of it make it a hidden assumption (circular logic, begging the question), while many others are just plain wrong.
The fact that "computers do not have free will" is often used to show that computers will never be "intelligent" in the same way that humans are intelligent.
I'm skeptical -- maybe they will, maybe they wont -- but meanwhile I'm certainly learning a lot about both humans and current computer technology in the process of trying to make computers act more like humans.
[FIXME: free will is a philosophical concept; is there a better place for it than this page on science quotes ?] [Maybe the Lanier quotes belong over in 3D Design] [perhaps move to quotes.html]
"Let's take a magic technological ride: a talk with the pioneer of virtual reality" article in _designfax_ 1997 Sept Marie Pompili interviewing Jaron Lanier http://www.well.com/user/jaron/ .
I think the core of what it means to be human, and to me that means to be conscious, ... cannot be studied by science. ... science is based on a process of studying the world with empirical techniques and I don't think that consciousness can even be demonstrated to exist empirically, much less truly studied according to empirical method.
However, there are quite a few intimate aspects of what it means to be human and (I'm using the word /intimate/ to mean something that isn't quite at the core) that are being addressed by scientific inquiry. These things that I would call the intimate parts of being human really cover just about everything about the identity of people, which makes one person different from another, such as their personality and the way their sweat smells and all of that.
... if you look at let's say, a human being and a cinder block. They're pretty different objects. However, if you take a photograph of the two of them, they become somewhat more similar because you have two photographs. The only difference is the distribution of the chemical smears of the photograph. If you take a digital picture ... there are no longer any real definitive points that one can be said to be different from the other. There is more continuity. So, the higher the technology you use, the less differentiation between people and things there is, and this is deeply confusing to people because people need that differentiation in order to have a basis for moral action and a basis for meaningful life and meaningful aesthetics. And so I believe that differentiation is there but we need to understand it in a much more sophisticated way than we did before.
... We must recognize that we can't always follow our ideals perfectly but it's still very worth trying to follow them ...
It you imagine the types of technologies we'll be inventing if we keep on progressing in the way we are now, in say 50 years or 100 years, every new advance will be capable of total annihilation. Right now it's only the occasional thing that is so powerful but it really will be each person controlling enough energy to destroy the world and each person controlling enough information to have intelligence to screw up the world, and it will be each person having enough access to biological manipulation techniques to ruin the world ... right now ... imperative for very powerful people, such as heads of state, to become more moral than they have before because of the amount of power that is involved in modern weapons ... In the future, that same imperative is going to apply to every individual. We'll have to become not just a world of moral nations ... but ... a world of moral individuals and that's going to be the greatest challenge that technology presents to us.
... certain ideas about computers, such as the way information is broken down into files, come to appear as if they were natural law when, in fact, they were invented by somebody. But because they're so locked in place ... no way of changing them, they are being treated as if they are natural law even though they're actually human inventions. That process bothers me ... losing touch with what is human versus what is natural is one of the ways to screw up aesthetics. It can lead to pomposity on the human side and it can lead to a lack of sensitivity on the natural side. But it also can lead to a more profound problem -- thinning or encroaching blandness of the quality of life.
...this process of computer ideas becoming as natural laws ... which I call sedimentation. ... when you make designs on the computer, you are working within the sort of design language of certain underlying layers of software, such as PostScript, which happens to be pretty good ... In the muscal arts, you're working with a layer of software known as MIDI, which is extremely bad. Musicians are held back and popular music has actually changed ... diverges between highly analog forms that avoid the computer ... and rather rigid repetitive forms which are not necessarily bad ... the reason it's bad is it's a human invention, we forget that it's a human invention and start treating it as if it's nature and living inside it; we end up narrowing ourselves instead of broadening ourselves.
people who are technical, can they be creative ... ? ... I think that if you approach nature honestly, which means that you should be in total awe, then creativity results and I think that's true in both the sciences and the arts.
The role of the designer is going to be much more important than it has in the past. ... the way your individual access machine (laughs) is designed simply changes the way you think. ... the way that your personal self surgical manipulation kit (laughs) or whatever will be in the future, these things will change the fabric of who you are physically and the design of those things is practically a sacred task. And so, design is going to become something of a much more intimate and powerful kind of meaning than it has before.
various serious tips on constructing a good argument and responding to an argument. Also some related humor.
Second System Effect
. Second systems are typified by huge lists of new features,
are often approached with a dangerous degree of
complacency ("we've done this before so it much be easy").
-- Charlie Stross, paraphrasing _The Mythical Man-Month_ by Fred Brooks
Constructing a Logical Argumentis mirrored on many places on the Web, including http://polyticks.com/home/LetLexi/fallacy.htm includes a list of some common logical fallacies (serious)
DAV especially liked number 3:
Use meaningless but weightly-sounding words and phrases.
- Memorize this list:
- Let me put it this way
- In terms of
- Per se
- As it were
- So to speak
You should also memorize some Latin abbreviations such as "Q.E.D.," "e.g.," and "i.e." These are all short for "I speak Latin, and you do not."
Here's how to use these words and phrases. Suppose you want to say: "Peruvians would like to order appetizers more often, but they don't have enough money."
You never win arguments talking like that. But you WILL win if you say: "Let me put it this way. In terms of appetizers vis-a-vis Peruvians qua Peruvians, they would like to order them more often, so to speak, but they do not have enough money per se, as it were. Q.E.D."
Only a fool would challenge that statement.
-- Philip Broughton, "How to Win at Wordsmanship"Column 1 Column 2 Column 3 0. integrated 0. management 0. options 1. total 1. organizational 1. flexibility 2. systematized 2. monitored 2. capability 3. parallel 3. reciprocal 3. mobility 4. functional 4. digital 4. programming 5. responsive 5. logistical 5. concept 6. optional 6. transitional 6. time-phase 7. synchronized 7. incremental 7. projection 8. compatible 8. third-generation 8. hardware 9. balanced 9. policy 9. contingency
The procedure is simple. Think of any three-digit number, then select the corresponding buzzword from each column. For instance, number 257 produces "systematized logistical projection," a phrase that can be dropped into virtually any report with that ring of decisive, knowledgeable authority. "No one will have the remotest idea of what you're talking about," says Broughton, "but the important thing is that they're not about to admit it."
"science is ...": definitions of science.
DAV learned a crisp definition of "science" in science class in high school, including the 5 steps of "the" "scientific method". I assumed these had been handed down since Galileo unchanged. So did lots of other people. We were surprised to discover that we were given different definitions, some with more or less steps in the "scientific method".
I started collecting various definitions of science. Please tell me about any other definitions you find (especially funny ones).
[FIXME: consider moving to http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?ScientificMethod or perhaps http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method ]
... ... words and definitions, ... it is necessary to learn the words. It is not science. That doesn't mean, just because it is not science, that we don't have to teach the words. We are not talking about what to teach; we are talking about what science is. It is not science to know how to change Centigrade to Fahrenheit. It's necessary, but it is not exactly science. In the same sense, if you were discussing what art is, you wouldn't say art is the knowledge of the fact that a 3-B pencil is softer than a 2-H pencil. It's a distinct difference. That doesn't mean an art teacher shouldn't teach that, or that an artist gets along very well if he doesn't know that. (Actually, you can find out in a minute by trying it; but that's a scientific way that art teachers may not think of explaining.) In order to talk to each other, we have to have words, and that's all right. It's a good idea to try to see the difference, and it's a good idea to know when we are teaching the tools of science, such as words, and when we are teaching science itself. ... I finally figured out a way to test whether you have taught an idea or you have only taught a definition. Test it this way: you say, "Without using the new word which you have just learned, try to rephrase what you have just learned in your own language." Without using the word "energy," tell me what you know now about the dog's motion." You cannot. So you learned nothing about science. That may be all right. You may not want to learn something about science right away. You have to learn definitions. But for the very first lesson, is that not possibly destructive? I think for lesson number one, to learn a mystic formula for answering questions is very bad. The book has some others: "gravity makes it fall;" "the soles of your shoes wear out because of friction." Shoe leather wears out because it rubs against the sidewalk and the little notches and bumps on the sidewalk grab pieces and pull them off. To simply say it is because of friction, is sad, because it's not science. ... So there came a time in which the ideas, although accumulated very slowly, were all accumulations not only of practical and useful things, but great accumulations of all types of prejudices, and strange and odd beliefs. Then a way of avoiding the disease was discovered. This is to doubt that what is being passed from the past is in fact true, and to try to find out ab initio again from experience what the situation is, rather than trusting the experience of the past in the form in which it is passed down. And that is what science is: the result of the discovery that it is worthwhile rechecking by new direct experience, and not necessarily trusting the [human] race['s] experience from the past. I see it that way. That is my best definition. ... Another of the qualities of science is that it teaches the value of rational thought as well as the importance of freedom of thought; the positive results that come from doubting that the lessons are all true. You must here distinguish--especially in teaching-- the science from the forms or procedures that are sometimes used in developing science. It is easy to say, "We write, experiment, and observe, and do this or that." You can copy that form exactly. But great religions are dissipated by following form without remembering the direct content of the teaching of the great leaders. In the same way, it is possible to follow form and call it science, but that is pseudo-science. In this way, we all suffer from the kind of tyranny we have today in the many institutions that have come under the influence of pseudoscientific advisers. ... When someone says, "Science teaches such and such," he is using the word incorrectly. Science doesn't teach anything; experience teaches it. If they say to you, "Science has shown such and such," you might ask, "How does science show it? How did the scientists find out? How? What? Where?" It should not be "science has shown" but "this experiment, this effect, has shown." And you have as much right as anyone else, upon hearing about the experiments--but be patient and listen to all the evidence--to judge whether a sensible conclusion has been arrived at. In a field which is so complicated [as education] that true science is not yet able to get anywhere, we have to rely on a kind of old-fashioned wisdom, a kind of definite straightforwardness. I am trying to inspire the teacher at the bottom to have some hope and some self-confidence in common sense and natural intelligence. The experts who are leading you may be wrong. ... I think we live in an unscientific age in which almost all the buffeting of communications and television--words, books, and so on--are unscientific. As a result, there is a considerable amount of intellectual tyranny in the name of science. Finally, with regard to this time-binding, a man cannot live beyond the grave. Each generation that discovers something from its experience must pass that on, but it must pass that on with a delicate balance of respect and disrespect, so that the [human] race--now that it is aware of the disease to which it is liable-- does not inflict its errors too rigidly on its youth, but it does pass on the accumulated wisdom, plus the wisdom that it may not be wisdom. It is necessary to teach both to accept and to reject the past with a kind of balance that takes considerable skill. ... So carry on. Thank you.
-- "Why Science?" essay by Don Radler ( - 2003-04-01), Editor of UniSci News http://unisci.com/science2.shtml
... Herbert Spencer once defined science as "organized knowledge." But your current shopping list is an example of organized knowledge, and it's not science. ...
Science is the design or conduct of reproducible experiments to test how nature works, or the creation of theories that can themselves be tested by such experiments. Science is also the orderly observation of events that cannot yet be manipulated, and, ultimately, the testing of ... theories to explain the events.
This makes science the one human activity that seeks knowledge in an organized way. It's not the knowledge that's organized, it's the seeking. ...
Seeking is a uniquely humble human experience. It doesn't say I know, it says I need to find out. It doesn't declare one thing better than another, it merely describes each thing as it finds it. It doesn't tell anyone how to do anything, it merely discovers how nature does things.
Humble, nonjudgmental, nondirective. What other human enterprise has this cluster of attributes, this quiet dignity? ...
Science is mankind's organized search for truth. That in itself answers the question, Why Science? - Don Radler, Editor
-- from ``Oppressed by Evolution'' article by Matt Cartmill http://www.discover.com/cover_story/comment.html which links to other interesting documents on evolution / creation / origins, such as ``Philosophy, Science, and Skepticism'' by Mark I. Vuletic. http://vuletic.com/hume/
Like it or not, science is judgmental. It undertakes to weigh all the conflicting stories and find tests that will tell us which one is the least unlikely. If no such tests can be found, then science has nothing to say on the issue.
... People have been arguing about it for millennia and getting nowhere. The creationists point to all the things in nature that look beautiful, orderly, and efficient. The skeptics respond by pointing to other things that look ugly, messy, cruel, and wasteful. The creationists retort that they only seem that way to the finite human mind. Maybe so. But since no tests are possible, all that science can do is shrug.
... Having offended both the fundamentalists and the postmodernists, I am going to annoy my scientific colleagues by admitting that the antievolutionists of left and right have a point nestled deep in their rhetoric.
Science has nothing to tell us about moral values or the purpose of existence or the realm of the supernatural. That doesn't mean there is nothing to be said about these things. It just means that scientists don't have any expert opinions. Science looks exclusively at the finite facts of nature, and unfortunately, logical reasoning can't carry you from facts to values, or from the finite to the infinite. As the philosopher David Hume pointed out 250 years ago, you can't infer an infinite cause from a finite effect. But science's necessary silence on these questions doesn't prove that there isn't any infinite cause -- or that right and wrong are arbitrary conventions, or that there is no plan or purpose behind the world.
Evolutionists seem to be especially prone to this mistake.
Science and Christianity are both objective, in that they both posit external standards for the evaluation of new truth claims.
The original meaning of "science" was "knowledge," so that "a scientific explanation" was, as Arnold Lunn says in The Revolt Against Reason, "an explanation which is in accord with all the known facts" (105). However, "science" has been redefined to mean "knowledge of the material world as explained by reference to the material world" thus, by definition, eliminating knowledge of non-material entities and truths and prohibiting supernatural explanations. Thus, if the truth is that God has created the natural world, then the truth -- that is, the real, actual explanation -- is by definition "unscientific." Such a definition of science is therefore question begging.
Scientific theories such that the confidence in them is so high that nobody reasonably doubts their validity are sometimes referred to as "laws" or even "facts". An example is the theory that the Earth revolves around the Sun.
A common misperception is that a theory is "only a guess", which is mainly a misunderstanding about the development of theories. A theory is not only an educated guess, but the best explanation according to available knowledge.
Do not use theory to mean guess or speculation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Words_to_avoid
... the definition of science used in all 50 states and found that there is a traditional definition in 40 states and no definition in 8 states. Then there's Kansas. ...
Here are a few samples of how other states define science:
Ohio: "Science is a systematic method of continuing investigation, based on observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, and theory building, which leads to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena."
Connecticut: "Scientific inquiry is a thoughtful and coordinated attempt to search out, describe, explain and predict natural phenomena."
West Virginia: "Science is a process of discovery. Students will engage in active inquiry through investigations, ... These investigations explore the natural world, require critical thinking and develop process skills."
South Dakota: "Science is a process of gathering and evaluating information, looking for patterns, and then devising and testing possible explanations."
Arizona: "Science is a process of gathering and evaluating information, looking for patterns, and then devising and testing possible explanations."
"clean" science: emphasis on understanding small parts of the problem definitively. ... > The structure of this kind of research approach is technologically oriented > rather than academic. It is a "moonshot" mentality rather than a "doctoral > dissertation" mentality. This is _not_ to slight the thousands of toiling > scientists working on mono-modal treatments and teasing out basic > biological pathways of injury: these people made our work possible. -- > Date: Tue, 5 May 1998 02:24:29 -0400 > From: Mike Darwin <email@example.com> [DAV: i.e., *not* focused on a end-point of how to do something or how to stop something from happing,... ... creating a procedure that works ... ]
Anthropic reasoning, the theory of how to detect, diagnose and cure the biases of observation selection effects, is a philosophical goldmine. Few fields are so rich in empirical implications, touch on so many important scientific questions, pose such intricate paradoxes, and contain such generous quantities of conceptual and methodological confusion that need to be sorted out. Working in this area is a lot of intellectual fun.
-- Arthur Fisher _Popular Science_ 2000-01 p. 72
... let go of some myths: that science is especially hard, that you have to know a lot about it to help your kids, that you need special equipment.
On the contrary. Parents can help simply by sharing science experiences -- such as visits to museums, airports, farms, dairies, shorelines, and parks -- and talking about what they see. No equipment is needed, nor any special knowledge, to walk with a child in the woods and compare the shapes of different leaves and see if they fall into categories, or to ... ... or to measure how long it takes an ice cube to melt on different surfaces.
In this way parents can focus on developing skills such as observing, building models, recognizing patterns, exploring, experimenting, estimating, measuring, and sharing information.
-- Alexander Bogomolny 2002 http://www.cut-the-knot.com/language/ [FIXME: #modified_english ?]
every science and a human activity field has its own lingo and a word usage in many instances much different from that one may be more comfortable with.
Lest you think that my defense of the mathematical language has no solid basis, I began collecting word usage surprises from non-mathematical fields of activity and sciences. I welcome any examples of language misuse or inherent ambiguity you may want to send me.
Oswald Spengler ... it is by means of names and numbers that the human understanding obtains power over the world.
-- Bob Butler http://polyticks.com/psi/single.htm [quantum physics speculations]
What does it mean that the possibility of a photon passing through B interferes with the possibility of the same photon passing through C ? Under Classic Copenhagen Convention and Neo Copenhagen, the answer is don't ask. The equations predict where the photons are most likely to go. Asking difficult questions like "why" or "how" is avoided for doing so gives one a headache. Under Many Worlds theory, one might suggest that the alternate realities are interacting with each other. One still gets a headache, but the nature of the headache is qualitatively different.
70 percent of Americans still do not understand the scientific process, defined in the study as comprehending probability, the experimental method and hypothesis testing. One solution is more and better science education ... The key here is teaching how science works, not just what science has discovered.
... Michael Shermer is publisher of Skeptic magazine (www.skeptic.com) and author of In Darwin's Shadow and Why People Believe Weird Things , just reissued.
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 ??? http://www.eugeneres.org/darwinday.htm
when a scientist identifies a field as a "descriptive science," he is politely saying it is not a science.http://arachnoid.com/psychology/
first put on web 1999-03-27
Original Author: David Cary.
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