Assembled quotations about science, anti-science, evolution, creationism, religion, atheism, agnosticism, skepticism, mathematics, computer science, politics, censorship, law, academia, etc. Send corrections or suggestions to the address at the end of the list.

Note that inclusion of a quotation does not necessarily imply agreement with the point of view expressed therein. In fact, some quotes are deliberately included for their fatuousness. It is up to the reader to discover which quotes they are.

I assembled this page because of my dissatisfaction with well-known compendiums of quotations such as Bartlett's and The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. Neither of these, it seems to me, captures the kinds of quotations that appeal to the skeptical and scientific mind.

Howard Aiken

American computer pioneer.

Don't worry about people stealing an idea. If it's original, you will have to ram it down their throats.

Said to a graduate student worried about others stealing the results in his thesis. Quoted in Robert Slater, Portraits in Silicon , page 88.

Richard D. Alexander


The answer to the age-old riddle that even ordinary humans ask themselves [Are people basically selfish, or basically altruistic?] appears to be that we are selfish individualists in the sense and to the extent that this maximizes the survival by reproduction of the genes residing in our own bodies, and we are group altruists in the sense and to the extent that this maximizes the survival by reproduction of the copies of our genes residing in the bodies of others--that is, in the bodies of our genetic relatives, both descendant and non-descendant.

Darwinism and Human Affairs , University of Washington Press, Seattle, 1979, pages xii-xiii.

Ethan Allen (1738-1789)

American revolutionary.

Those who invalidate reason ought seriously to consider whether they argue against reason with or without reason; if with reason, then they establish the principle that they are laboring to dethrone: but if they argue without reason (which, in order to be consistent with themselves they must do), they are out of reach of rational conviction, nor do they deserve a rational argument.

Cited in Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World, Ballantine Books, 1996, p. 255.

Gordon W. Allport (1897-1967)

Professor of psychology, Harvard University.

College professors are suspect because whenever emotion is in control, anti-intellectualism prevails.

From The Nature of Prejudice, Doubleday Anchor Books, 1958, p. 246.

Alphonso the Wise (1221-1289)

If the Lord Almighty had consulted me before embarking on Creation, I should have recommended something simpler.

Quoted in J. D. Murray, Mathematical Biology, Springer-Verlag, 1989.

Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906)

Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world's estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathy with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences.

1860. From Lynn Sherr, Failure is Impossible: Susan B. Anthony in Her Own Words (1995).

The religious persecution of the ages has been done under what was claimed to be the command of God. I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do to their fellows, because it always coincides with their own desires.

A defense of Elizabeth Cady Stanton against a motion to repudiate her Woman's Bible at a meeting of the National-American Woman Suffrage Association 1896 Convention, HWS, IV (1902), p. 263.

Robert Ardrey (1908-1980)

American writer and anthropologist.

But we were born of risen apes, not fallen angels, and the apes were armed killers besides. And so what shall we wonder at? Our murders and massacres and missiles, and our irreconcilable regiments? Or our treaties whatever they may be worth; our symphonies however seldom they may be played; our peaceful acres, however frequently they may be converted into battlefields; our dreams however rarely they may be accomplished. The miracle of man is not how far he has sunk but how magnificently he has risen. We are known among the stars by our poems, not our corpses.

Isaac Asimov

Properly read, the bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.

1966. From Stanley Asimov, ed., Yours, Isaac Asimov, Doubleday, 1995, p. 316.

I am prejudiced against religion because I know the history of religion, and it is the history of human misery and of black crimes.

1976. From Stanley Asimov, ed., Yours, Isaac Asimov, Doubleday, 1995, p. 319.

My feeling is, quite simply, that if there is a God, He has done such a bad job that He isn't worth discussing.

1990. From Stanley Asimov, ed., Yours, Isaac Asimov, Doubleday, 1995, p. 319.

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."

1980. From "My Turn: A Cult of Ignorance", published in Newsweek, January 21 1980, p. 19.

St. Augustine (354-430)

It very often happens there is some question as to the earth or sky, or other elements of this world ... respecting which, one who is not a Christian has knowledge ... and it is very disgraceful and mischievous and of all things to be carefully avoided, that a Christian speaking of such matters as being according to the Christian Scriptures, should be heard by an unbeliever talking such nonsense that the unbeliever perceiving him to be as wide from the mark as east from west, can hardly restrain himself from laughing.

A. J. Ayer


An entity which is neither observable nor fulfills any explanatory function can have no interest for us.

Emmon Bach

American linguist.

The best argument in favor of the universality of natural language expressive power is the possibility of translation. The best argument against universality is the impossibility of translation.

From a Distinguished Faculty Lecture in the 1980's, as reported by Barbara Partee.

Richard Ernest Bellman (1920--1984)

American mathematician.

An interesting question is, "Where did the name, dynamic programming, come from?" The 1950's were not good years for mathematical research. We had a very interesting gentleman in Washington named Wilson. He was Secretary of Defense, and he actually had a pathological fear and hatred of the word, research. I'm not using the term lightly; I'm using it precisely. His face would suffuse, he would turn red, and he would get violent if people used the term, research, in his presence. You can imagine how he felt, then, about the term, mathematical. The RAND Corporation was employed by the Air Force, and the Air Force had Wilson as its boss, essentially. Hence, I felt I had to do something to shield Wilson and the Air Force from the fact that I was really doing mathematics inside the RAND Corporation. What title, what name, could I choose? In the first place I was interested in planning, in decision making, in thinking. But planning, is not a good word for various reasons. I decided therefore to use the word, `programming'. I wanted to get across the idea that this was dynamic, this was multistage, this was time-varying -- I thought, let's kill two birds with one stone. Let's take a word that has an absolutely precise meaning, namely dynamic, in the classical physical sense. It also has a very interesting property as an adjective, and that is it's impossible to use the word, dynamic, in a pejorative sense. Try thinking of some combination that will possibly give it a pejorative meaning. It's impossible. Thus, I thought dynamic programming was a good name. It was something not even a Congressman could object to. So I used it as an umbrella for my activities.

From Eye of the Hurricane, World Scientific, 1984, p. 159.

Jeremy Bentham (1748 - 1832)

In the darkness of secrecy, sinister and evil in every shape shall have full swing. Only in proportion as publicity has place can any of the checks applicable to judicial injustice operate. Where there is no publicity, there is no justice. Publicity is the very soul of justice. It is the keenest spur to exertion and the surest of all guards against improbity. It keeps the judge himself while trying under trial.

Ambrose Bierce (1842 - 1914?)

Conservative (n.) - A statesman who is enamoured of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.

The Devil's Dictionary

Cynic (n.) - a blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be.

The Devil's Dictionary

Faith (n.) - Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.

The Devil's Dictionary

"Josh Billings" (Henry Wheeler Shaw) (1818-1885)

American humorist.

I honestly beleave it iz better tew know nothing than two know what ain't so.

The Complete Works of Josh Billings, 1876, p. 286.

Bion (c. 325 - c. 255 B.C.E.)

Boys throw stones at frogs in sport, but the frogs do not die in sport. They die in earnest.

From Plutarch, Water and Land Animals, 7.

Niels Henrik David Bohr (1885-1962)

Danish physicist.

It is, indeed, perhaps the greatest prospect of humanistic studies to contribute through an increasing knowledge of the history of cultural development to that gradual removal of prejudices which is the common aim of all science.

From his Atomic Physics and Human Knowledge, Wiley, 1958, p. 31.

Robert H. Bork

Fomer judge and failed US Supreme Court nominee.

The fossil record is proving a major embarrassment to evolution. Though there is ample evidence of evolution and adaptation to environment within species, there is not evidence of the gradual change that is supposed to slowly change one species into another.

Demonstrating his deep mastery of biology, from Slouching Towards Gomorrah, page 294.

Louis Brandeis (1856-1941)

U. S. Supreme Court Justice.

The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.

Olmstead v. United States, 277 U. S. 438,479 [1928].

Fear of serious injury cannot alone justify suppression of free speech and assembly. Men feared witches and burnt women. It is the function of speech to free men from the bondage of irrational fears.

Whitney v. California, 274 U. S. 357 [1927].

Daniel R. Brooks

Evolution has been the unifying concept of biology for more than 130 years.

Daniel R. Brooks and Deborah A. McLennan, Phylogeny, Ecology, and Behavior: A Research Program in Comparative Biology.

Martin Buber

I'm not sure I can take your advice. You are dealing with English gentlemen. We are dealing with monsters.

The philosopher's response to Mahatma Gandhi's suggestion that passive resistance be used to combat the Nazi government in Germany, as was used against the British in India.

John Buchan (1875-1940)

An atheist is a man who has no invisible means of support.

Patrick Buchanan

American speechwriter and Republican political candidate.

Our culture is superior because our religion is Christianity and that is the truth that makes men free.

Speech to the Christian Coalition. Quoted in the New York Times, September 12 1992, Sect. 1, page 20.

Macfarlane Burnet

Australian scientist, winner of the 1960 Nobel Prize in Medicine.

[Of gene therapy] The chance of doing this will remain infinitely small to the last syllable of recorded time.

Remark, 1971 (cf. New York Times Book Review, October 19 1997, p. 33). Gene therapy clinical trials began in 1990.

George Herbert Walker Bush

Former U. S. President.

No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.

Demonstrating his understanding of the Bill of Rights to Illinois atheist Rob Sherman, in response to a question posed at O'Hare airport in Chicago. From Free Inquiry 8 (4), (Fall 1988), 16. Note: some have cast doubt on the accuracy of this quote.

Samuel Butler (1612-1680)

English satirical poet.

A credulous mind ... finds most delight in believing strange things, and the stranger they are the easier they pass with him; but never regards those that are plain and feasible, for every man can believe such.

Characters, 1667-1669.

Ada Augusta Byron, Countess of Lovelace

In almost every computation a great variety of arrangements for the succession of the processes is possible, and various considerations must influence the selections amongst them for the purposes of a calculating engine. One essential object is to choose that arrangement which shall tend to reduce to a minimum the time necessary for completing the calculation.

Many persons who are not conversant with mathematical studies imagine that because the business of [Babbage's Analytical Engine] is to give its results in numerical notation, the nature of its processes must consequently be arithmetical and numerical, rather than algebraical and analytical. This is an error. The engine can arrange and combine its numerical quantities exactly as if they were letters or any other general symbols; and it fact it might bring out its results in algebraical notation, were provisions made accordingly.


Herb Caen

Humor columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.

The trouble with born-again Christians is that they are an even bigger pain the second time around.

Charles, Baron Bowen (1835-1894)

The rain it raineth on the just
And also on the unjust fella:
But chiefly on the just, because
The unjust steals the just's umbrella.

Cited in the New York Times, March 3 1985, letter to the editor, by Barbara Celarent.

John Maurice Clark (1884-1963)

Knowledge is the only instrument of production that is not subject to diminishing returns.

From Studies in the Economics of Overhead Costs, University of Chicago Press, 1923, p. 120.

Arthur C. [Charles] Clarke (1917-)

I would defend the liberty of consenting adult creationists to practice whatever intellectual perversions they like in the privacy of their own homes; but it is also necessary to protect the young and innocent.

From 1984: Spring, page 265.

When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

From a chapter entitled "Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination", in his book Profiles of the Future, 1962, revised 1973, 1984. Also known as Clarke's First Law; see the chapter entitled "Technology and the Future" in Report on Planet Three and Other Speculations, Harper & Row, 1972, pp. 138-139. Also see Jeremy Bernstein, "Profiles: Out of the Ego Chamber", New Yorker 45 (25) (August 9 1969), 40-65.

Charles Alfred Coulson (1910-1974)

There is no `God of the gaps' to take over at those strategic places where science fails; and the reason is that gaps of this sort have the unpreventable habit of shrinking.

From Science and Christian Belief, University of North Carolina Press, 1955, p. 20.

Francis Crick (1916-2004)

British biologist and Nobel prize-winner.

Anybody who believes that the earth is less than 10,000 years old needs psychiatric help.

Quoted in Richard Dawkins, "Fossil fool", New Statesman & Society, Vol. 5, No. 217 (August 28, 1992), p. 33.

Everyone likes to show that philosophers are wrong.

From The Astonishing Hypothesis, Simon & Schuster, 1994, p. 54.

Philosophers have had such a poor record over the last two thousand years that they would do better to show a certain modesty rather than the lofty superiority that they usually display.

From The Astonishing Hypothesis, Simon & Schuster, 1994, p. 258.

Clarence Darrow (1857-1938)

The fear of God is not the beginning of wisdom. The fear of God is the death of wisdom. Skepticism and doubt lead to study and investigation, and investigation is the beginning of wisdom.

From a Columbus, Ohio symposium, March 12, 1929. Reprinted in Freethought Today, Vol. 21, No. 1 (January/February 2004), pp. 12-13.

Charles Darwin (1809-1882)

English naturalist.

[I]gnorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.

Introduction, The Descent of Man, 1871.

For my own part I would as soon be descended from that heroic little monkey, who braved his dreaded enemy in order to save the life of his keeper; or from that old baboon, who, descending from the mountains, carried away in triumph his young comrade from a crowd of astonished dogs -- as from a savage who delights to torture his enemies, offers up bloody sacrifices, practices infanticide without remorse, treats his wives like slaves, knows no decency, and is haunted by the grossest superstitions.

The Descent of Man, 1871, chapter 21.

Richard Dawkins (1941-)

British evolutionary biologist.

In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.

River Out of Eden

...it is true that scientists, more than others, impress their peers by admitting their mistakes.

A formative influence on my undergraduate self was the response of a respected elder statesmen of the Oxford Zoology Department when an American visitor had just publicly disproved his favorite theory. The old man strode to the front of the lecture hall, shook the American warmly by the hand and declared in ringing, emotional tones: "My dear fellow, I wish to thank you. I have been wrong these fifteen years." And we clapped our hands red. Can you imagine a government minister's being cheered in the House of Commons for a similar admission? "Resign, resign" is a much more likely response!

From "Science, Delusion and the the Appetite for Wonder", Reports of the National Center for Science Education, January/February 1997, Vol. 17, No. 1, pp. 8-14.

In practice, no civilized person uses Scripture as ultimate authority for moral reasoning.

Free Inquiry, Summer 1997.

Robertson Davies (1913-1995)

Canadian author.

We [Canadians] don't go for heroes. As soon as a man begins to achieve some sort of high stature, we want to cut him down and get rid of him, embarrass him.

Quoted in New York Times, December 15, 1994, page A4.

Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)

Yes, I am a Jew, and when the ancestors of the Right Honorable Gentleman were brutal savages on an unknown island, mine were priests in the temple of Solomon.

A reply to an Irish opponent who taunted him about his Jewish heritage, 1837.

All sensible men are of the same religion. But what religion that is, no sensible man will ever say.

Theodosius Dobzhansky (1900-1975)

Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.

Title of article, 1973 (see below).

The business of proving evolution has reached a stage when it is futile for biologists to work merely to discover more and more evidence of evolution. Those who choose to believe that God created every biological species separately in the state we observe them, but made them in a way calculated to lead us to the conclusion that they are the products of an evolutionary development are obviously not open to argument. All that can be said is that their belief is an implicit blasphemy, for it imputes to God an appalling deviousness.

"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution", American Biology Teacher vol. 35 (March 1973), reprinted in Evolution versus Creationism , J. Peter Zetterberg ed., ORYX Press, Phoenix, 1983.

Robert J. Dole (1923-)

Former U. S. Senator and unsuccessful presidential candidate.

Politicians like Steve Forbes and Bill Clinton are uncomfortable with religious conservatives. They think people of faith have no place in politics, but they're wrong.

New York Times, February 10, 1996, page A1. Here Dole is exhibiting his characteristic meanness and dishonesty -- Clinton is a Southern Baptist who attends church every week.

Russell F. Doolittle

...the next time you hear creationists railing about the "impossibility" of making a particular protein, whether hemoglobin or ribonuclease or cytochrome c, you can smile wryly and know that they are nowhere near a consideration of the real issues.

From "Probability and the origin of life", in Laurie R. Godfrey, Scientists Confront Creationism, W. W. Norton and Company, New York, 1983.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930)

English writer of Sherlock Holmes mysteries.

How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?

The Sign of Four.

Yet we must exhaust all natural explanation before we fall back upon such a theory as this.

The Adventure of the Devil's Foot .

"Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
"To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
"The dog did nothing in the night-time."
"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes.

Silver Blaze .

Ronald M. Dworkin

'Balanced' is code for 'denied': a right to free speech that must be 'balanced' against so exhaustive a list of other supposed values means a right that can be exercised only when those in power judge that the speech in question is innocuous to them.

From "Forked tongues, faked doctrines", Index on Censorship, March 1997.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.

Letter to philosopher Eric Gutkind, January 3 1954, sold at auction, May 2008.

Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence.

Appendix to Why I am Not a Christian by Bertrand Russell, written by Prof. Paul Edwards, New York University.

The scientist finds his reward in what Henri Poincare calls the joy of comprehension, and not in the possibilities of application to which any discovery may lead.

From The Quotable Einstein, Alice Calaprice, ed., Princeton University Press, 1996.

I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his own creation.

The World as I See It.

A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.

"Religion and Science", New York Times Magazine, November 9, 1930.

I cannot conceive of a personal God who would directly influence the actions of individuals, or would directly sit in judgment on creatures of his own creation. I cannot do this in spite of the fact that mechanistic causality has, to a certain extent, been placed in doubt by modern science.

My religiosity consists in a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehend of reality. Morality is of the highest importance -- but for us, not for God.

5 August 1927. Albert Einstein: The Human Side, Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffmann, eds., Princeton University Press, 1979, p. 58.

It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.

24 March 1954. In Albert Einstein: The Human Side, Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffmann, eds., Princeton University Press, 1979, p. 38.

Epicurus (341 BCE-270 BCE)

Greek philosopher.

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

Richard Feynman

American physicist.

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool.

Allan Fotheringham (1932-)

Grown-up nations do not need, as head of state, a woman - however nice - who lives across a large ocean in a castle in a foreign country.

Last Page First, 2000.

Anatole France (1844-1924)

The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.

Anatole France [Jacques Anatole Francois Thibault] Le Lys Rouge, 1894, ch. 7.

Felix Frankfurter (1882-1965)

U. S. Supreme Court Justice.

[Of Michigan's anti-obscenity legislation] The State insists that, by thus quarantining the general reading public against books not too rugged for grown men and women in order to shield juvenile innocence, it is exercising its power to promote the general welfare. Surely, this is to burn the house to roast the pig...

We have before us legislation not reasonably restricted to the evil with which it is said to deal. The incidence of this enactment is to reduce the adult population of Michigan to reading only what is fit for children.

Butler v. Michigan 352 U.S. 380 (1957).

Otto Robert Frisch (1904-1979)

Austrian-British physicist.

Uranium burning stations, plutonium breeders, even reactive lithium in hydrogen power stations will always be dangerous to human beings. I look forward to a world where men no longer depend on fossil fuels -- not on coal, wood, oil -- nor uranium or hydrogen. It may take a long time, but man must break the bad habit of using whatever happens to be lying around to meet his growing energy needs. In the end, he will be compelled to stop his wanderings into such thickets of danger and to turn back to the source of all energy. He must turn to the sun. I am sure that, finally, there will be dramatic advance in development of techniques for storing and using this natural font of power.

Quoted in Lennard Bickel, The Deadly Element: The Story of Uranium, Stein and Day, 1979, p. 288.

David Frost

A conservative is someone who demands a square deal for the rich.


Robert Fulford (1932-)

Canadian columnist.

Metaphor, the life of language, can be the death of meaning. It should be used in moderation, like vodka. Writers drunk on metaphor can forget they are conveying information and ideas.

Globe & Mail (Toronto), December 4 1996.

John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-)

The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy, that is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.

In all life one should comfort the afflicted, but verily, also, one should afflict the comfortable, and especially when they are comfortably, contentedly, even happily wrong.

The Guardian (London), July 28, 1989.

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)

I do not feel obliged to believe that same God who endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect had intended for us to forgo their use.

I. [Irving] J. [John] Good

When I hear the word `gun' I reach for my culture.

From I. J. Good, The Scientist Speculates: An Anthology of Partly-Baked Ideas , Capricorn Books, New York, 1965, p. 188. [A play on the line "When I hear the word `culture', I reach for my gun", frequently attributed to Hermann Goering. Actually, this line originated in Schlageter, a 1933 German play. See Ralph Keyes' Nice Guys Finish Seventh.]

Ralph William Gosper, Jr. (1943-)

American computer programmer.

Continued fractions are hard to like. People who like continued fractions eat pickled okra and drive Citroens. Books on the subject are filled with dull proofs of dull properties, and recent papers relating continued fractions to computers have bordered on libel.

Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002)

American paleontologist.

"Creation science" has not entered the curriculum for a reason so simple and so basic that we often forget to mention it: because it is false, and because good teachers understand exactly why it is false. What could be more destructive of that most fragile yet most precious commodity in our entire intellectual heritage -- good teaching -- than a bill forcing honorable teachers to sully their sacred trust by granting equal treatment to a doctrine not only known to be false, but calculated to undermine any general understanding of science as an enterprise?

The Skeptical Inquirer, Vol. 12, page 186.

It is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists -- whether through design or stupidity, I do not know -- as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level but are abundant between larger groups. The evolution from reptiles to mammals....is well documented.

"Evolution as Fact and Theory", Discover, May 1981.

The rise of creationism is politics, pure and simple; it represents one issue (and by no means the major concern) of the resurgent evangelical right. Arguments that seemed kooky just a decade ago have reentered the mainstream.

The basic attack of modern creationists falls apart on two general counts before we even reach the supposed factual details of their assault against evolution. First, they play upon a vernacular misunderstanding of the word `theory' to convey the false impression that we evolutionists are covering up the rotten core of our edifice. Second, they misuse a popular philosophy of science to argue that they are behaving scientifically in attacking evolution. Yet the same philosophy demonstrates that their own belief is not science, and that `scientific creationism' is a meaningless and self-contradictory phrase, an example of what Orwell called `newspeak'.

In the American vernacular, `theory' often means `imperfect fact' -- part of a hierarchy of confidence running downhill from fact to theory to hypothesis to guess. Thus creationists can (and do) argue: evolution is `only' a theory, and intense debate now rages about many aspects of the theory. If evolution is less than a fact, and scientists can't even make up their minds about the theory, then what confidence can we have in it? ...

Well, evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts do not go away while scientists debate rival theories for explaining them. Einstein's theory of gravitation replaced Newton's, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air pending the outcome. And human beings evolved from apelike ancestors whether they did so by Darwin's proposed mechanism or by some other, yet to be discovered.

Moreover, `fact' does not mean `absolute certainty'. The final proofs of logic and mathematics flow deductively from stated premises and achieve certainty only because they are not about the empirical world. Evolutionists make no claim for perpetual truth, though creationists often do (and then attack us for a style of argument that they themselves favor). In science, "fact" can only mean "confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent". I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.

"Evolution as Fact and Theory", in Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes, W. W. Norton, 1984.

John Burdon Sanderson Haldane (1892-1964)

I'd lay down my life for two brothers or eight cousins.

New Scientist, 8 Aug 1974, p. 325.

Now, my suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.

From Possible Worlds, 1927.

A single skeleton of a mammal in Silurian rock would wreck the theory of Evolution.

From Fact and Faith, Watts & Co., London, 1934, p. vi.

[Religion] endows excerpts from the laws of primitive peoples with an eternal significance, and stands in the way of any attempt to deal with the problem on constructive lines.

From Fact and Faith, Watts & Co., London, 1934, p. viii.

He must have an inordinate fondness for beetles.

Attributed. Said to a clergyman who asked what a life of studying biology revealed about the character of the Creator. See G. Evelyn Hutchinson, Homage to Santa Rosalia, or why are there so many kinds of animals? American Naturalist 93 (1959), 143-159. Also see Stephen Jay Gould's essay, "A special fondness for beetles" in his collection, Dinosaur in a Haystack, Harmony Books, New York, 1995.

Paul Halmos (1916--2006)

American mathematician.

Do not publish in 1975 the case of dimension 2 of an interesting conjecture in algebraic geometry, one that you don't know how to settle in general, and then follow it by dimension 3 in 1976, dimension 4 in 1977, and so on, with dimension k - 3 in 197k.

From "What to Publish", Amer. Math. Monthly 82 (1975), p. 15.

Butch Hancock (1945--)

American country/folk musician.

Life in Lubbock, Texas, taught me two things: One is that God loves you and you're going to burn in Hell. The other is that sex is the most awful, filthy thing on Earth and you should save it for someone you love.

From James Moore, "The Lies of Texas Are Upon You", September 4 2009, Huffington Post.

Sam Harris

American philosopher and writer.

We need to cease to reward people for pretending to know things they do not know. And the only area of discourse where we do this is on the subject of God.

Debate with Rabbi David Wolpe, 2009.

Heinrich Heine (1797-1856)

Where they have burned books, they will end in burning people.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988)

American science fiction writer.

A prude thinks that his own rules of propriety are natural laws.

From Stranger in a Strange Land.

Hippocrates (c. 460 B.C.E. -- 377 B.C.E.)

Greek physician.

Men think epilepsy divine, merely because they do not understand it. But if they called everything divine which they do not understand, why, there would be no end of divine things.

Quoted in Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World, Ballantine Books, 1996, p. 8.

Christopher Hitchens (1949-)

It is of course the height of conceit to believe that there is a divine being who takes a personal and immediate interest in your doings (only astrology comes close to this illusion, with its vulgar assertion that the heavens are arranged for our convenience).

The Nation, 259 (4) (July 25/August 1, 1994), p. 115.

That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1841-1935)

When men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas--that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment.

Abrams v. United States, 250 U.S. 616, 630 [1919].

Every idea is an incitement.

Gitlow v. New York, 268 U.S. 652, 673 [1925].

If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought -- not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.

U.S. v. Schwimmer [1928].

Victor Hugo (1802-1885)

French writer.

Waterloo! Waterloo! Waterloo! morne plaine!

Les Châtiments, Livre V. L'autorité est sacrée. XIII. L'Expiation. II.

Tr.: Waterloo! Waterloo! Waterloo! dismal plain!

David Hume (1711-1776)

Scottish philosopher.

Epicurus's old questions are yet unanswered.

Is he [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?

Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Part X.

[On doctrinaire religions] Men dare not avow, even to their own hearts, the doubts which they entertain on such subjects. They make a merit of implicit faith; and disguise to themselves their real infidelity, by the strongest asseverations and the most positive bigotry.

Quoted in Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World, Ballantine Books, 1996, p. 207.

No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish.

An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, 1748, pt. I, Of Miracles.

Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895)

I assert that a man has no reason to be ashamed of having an ape for a grandfather. If there were an ancestor whom I should feel shame in recalling, it would rather be a man endowed with great ability and a splendid position who used those gifts to obscure the truth.

Attributed, from the debate with Bishop Wilberforce. The quote may be apocryphal.

It is the customary fate of new truths to begin as heresies and to end as superstitions.

The Coming of Age of The Origin of Species, 1880.

Leopold Infeld (1898-1968)

Polish physicist.

It is probably unthinkable that in Canada a scientific lecture would be attended by a premier or a national hero.

Why I Left Canada: Reflections on Science and Politics, McGill-Queen's University Press, 1978, p. 35.

It must be good to die in Toronto. The transition between life and death would be continuous, painless, and scarcely noticeable in this silent town. I dreaded the Sundays and prayed to God that if he chose for me to die in Toronto he would let it be on a Saturday afternoon to save me from one more Toronto Sunday.

Quest:An Autobiography, Chelsea, 1990, p. 324.

Robert Ingersoll (1833-1899)

American freethinker.

Hands that help are better than lips that pray.

Robert H. Jackson (1892-1954)

US Supreme Court justice.

The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities ... One's right to life, liberty and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly and other fundamental rights... depend on the outcome of no elections.

Flag salute case, 1943.

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.

West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 1943.

William James (1842-1910)

A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

U. S. President.

Shake off all fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.

Letter to his nephew Peter Carr, August 10, 1787.

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.

Letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, 1802. From The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. A. E. Bergh, Thomas Jefferson Memorial Assoc. 1907, pp. 281-282.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

Your manuscript is both good and original, but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.


Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

From Boswell's Life of Johnson, vol. 2, p. 344 (6 Apr 1775).

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Assassinated US president, 1960-63.

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute --- where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote --- where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference --- and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant, nor Jewish --- where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source --- where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials --- and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, Rich Hotel, Houston, Texas, September 12, 1960.

Clark Kerr (1911-)

The purpose of a university is to make students safe for ideas -- not ideas safe for students.

Clark Kerr was President of the University of California.

Stephen Cole Kleene (1909-1994)

An algorithm is a finite answer to an infinite number of questions.


Donald E. Knuth (1938-)

[In the terminology used for describing trees] Some authors use the feminine designations "mother, daughter, sister" instead of "father, son, brother"; but for some reason the masculine words seem more professional.

Donald E. Knuth, The Art of Computer Programming, Volume I: Fundamental Algorithms, page 307.

Leslie Lamport

A distributed system is one in which the failure of a computer you didn't even know existed can render your own computer unusable.

From an e-mail message dated May 28 1987. (Thanks to Trevor Grove for pointing this out.) Sometimes quoted as ``A distributed system is one in which I cannot get something done because a machine I've never heard of is down.''

Derrick Henry Lehmer (1905-1991)

The real difficulty lies in the fact that only a finite number of angels can dance on the head of a pin, whereas the mathematician is more apt to be interested in the infinite angel problem only.

From "Mechanized mathematics", Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 72 (1966) 744.

Tom Lehrer

American mathematician and satirical songwriter.

Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

New York Times Magazine, November 2 1997, page 50.

Sinclair Lewis

American novelist.

I am convinced that everything that is worthwhile in the world has been accomplished by the free, inquiring, critical spirit, and that the preservation of this spirit is more important than any social system whatsoever. But the men of ritual and the men of barbarism are capable of shutting up the men of science and of silencing them forever.

From It Can't Happen Here.

Abbott Joseph Liebling (1904-1963)

Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.

Quoted in Richard Kluger, The Paper: The Life & Death of the NY Herald Tribune, Knopf, 1986.

László Lovász (1948-)

Hungarian mathematician.

The infinite is a good approximation of the large finite.

Talk at Knuth 80 conference, Pitea, Sweden, January 9 2018.

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

German Christian theologian.

Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed. Faith must trample underfoot all reason, sense, and understanding, and whatever it sees must be put out of sight and ... know nothing but the word of God.

V, 1312

Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but -- more frequently than not -- struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.

People gave ear to an upstart astrologer [Copernicus] who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon. Whoever wishes to appear clever must devise some new system, which of all systems is of course the very best. This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred scripture tells us [Joshua 10:13] that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth.

Works, Volume 22, c. 1543.

Reason is the Devil's greatest whore; by nature and manner of being she is a noxious whore; she is a prostitute, the Devil's appointed whore; whore eaten by scab and leprosy who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom ... Throw dung in her face to make her ugly. She is and she ought to be drowned in baptism... She would deserve, the wretch, to be banished to the filthiest place in the house, to the closets.

Erlangen Edition, v. 16, pp. 142-148.

Therefore be on your guard against the Jews, knowing that wherever they have their synagogues, nothing is found but a den of devils in which sheer self­glory, conceit, lies, blasphemy, and defaming of God and men are practiced most maliciously and veheming his eyes on them.

From The Jews and Their Lies, 1543.

... set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of his Son and of his Christians. For whatever we tolerated in the past unknowingly ­ and I myself was unaware of it ­ will be pardoned by God. But if we, now that we are informed, were to protect and shield such a house for the Jews, existing right before our very nose, in which they lie about, blaspheme, curse, vilify, and defame Christ and us (as was heard above), it would be the same as if we were doing all this and even worse ourselves, as we very well know.

From The Jews and Their Lies, 1543.

What harm would it do, if a man told a good strong lie for the sake of the good and for the Christian church...a lie out of necessity, a useful lie, a helpful lie, such lies would not be against God, he would accept them.

Max Lenz, ed., Briefwechsel Landgraf Philips des Grossmüthigen von Hessen mit Bucer, S. Hirzel, Leipzig, 1880-91, vol. 1, p. 373.

Royce MacGillivray (1936-)

We come now to one of the most distinctive characteristics of the Ontario mind. This way of dealing with ideas distinguishes us from the four founding nations. This is, that ideas are, in general, considered as orthodox or heretical, not as true or false. They fail or pass the test not of facts or logic, but of some dogmatic system, normally constructed by the user out of bits and pieces of the other dogmatic systems lying around. This way of dealing with ideas is naturally most evident in those classes of people who use ideas, the intelligentsia, academics, school teachers, journalists, and so forth.

The Mind of Ontario, Mika Publishing Company, Belleville, Ontario, 1985, p. 95.

John McCarthy

Artificial intelligence pioneer.

An atheist doesn't have to be someone who thinks he has a proof that there can't be a god. He only has to be someone who believes that the evidence on the God question is at a similar level to the evidence on the werewolf question.

From a posting to Usenet, April 14 1998.

My thermostat has three beliefs. My thermostat believes it's too hot in here, it's too cold in here, and it's just right in here.

Quoted in Searle, Minds, Brains and Science, 1984, p. 30.

H. L. Mencken (1880-1956)

American journalist.

The most curious social convention of the great age in which we live is the one to the effect that religious opinions should be respected. Its evil effects must be plain enough to everyone.

From an article "Immune", American Mercury, March 1930.

As democracy is perfected, the office of President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

Anticipating the results of the 2004 US Presidential election.

We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.

Minority Report : H.L. Mencken's Notebooks, 1956.

One horselaugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms.

Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.

Prejudices, Third Series, 1922, ch. 14.

God is the immemorial refuge of the incompetent, the helpless, the miserable. They find not only sanctuary in His arms, but also a kind of superiority, soothing to their macerated egos; He will set them above their betters.

Minority Report : H.L. Mencken's Notebooks, 1956.

Men become civilized, not in proportion to their willingness to believe, but in proportion to their readiness to doubt.

To sum up: 1. The cosmos is a gigantic fly-wheel making 10,000 revolutions a minute. 2. Man is a sick fly taking a dizzy ride on it. 3. Religion is the theory that the wheel was designed and set spinning to give him the ride.

Coda from Smart Set, December 1920

The effort to reconcile science and religion is almost always made not by theologians, but by scientists unable to shake off the piety they absorbed with their mother's milk.

Michel Mendès France

French mathematician.

A talk in mathematics should be one of four things: beautiful, deep, surprising... or short.

Remark, c. 1986.

Thomas Merton

Trappist monk.

It sometimes happens that men who preach most vehemently about evil and the punishment of evil, so that they seem to have practically nothing else on their minds except sin, are really unconscious haters of other men. They think the world does not appreciate them, and this is their way of getting even.

From Seeds of Reflection.

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)

English moral philosopher.

Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives.

John Milton

Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?

From Areopagitica.

Malcolm Muggeridge (1903-1990)

Nor, as far as I am concerned, is there any recompense in the so-called achievements of science. It is true that in my lifetime more progress has been made in unravelling the composition and the mechanism of the material universe than previously in the whole of recorded history. This does not at all excite my mind, or even my curiosity. The atom has been split; the universe has been discovered, and will soon be explored. Neither achievement has any bearing on what alone interests me -- which is why life exists, and what is the significance, if any, of my minute and so transitory part in it.

Quoted in Mark Booth, ed., What I Believe, Crossroad Publishing Company, New York, 1984, pp. 63-64. Also in Things Past, ed. by Ian Hunter.

Isaac Newton

We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearance.

John von Neumann (1903-1957)

Hungarian-American mathematician.

You insist that there is something a machine cannot do. If you will tell me precisely what it is that a machine cannot do, then I can always make a machine which will do just that!

Talk given at Princeton, in 1948, in response to question from the audience ("But of course, a mere machine can't really think, can it?"). Quoted in E. T. Jaynes, Probability Theory: The Logic of Science, Cambridge University Press, 2003, p. 7.

George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair)

I have heard it confidently stated, for instance, that the American troops had been brought to Europe not to fight the Germans but to crush an English revolution. One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.

From Notes on Nationalism, 1945. Often misquoted.

Thomas Paine (1737-1809)

Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the bible is filled, it would seem more consistent that we called it the word of a demon than the Word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind.

I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church. All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.

From Pensées (1670), no. 894.

Emo Philips (1956-)

When I was a kid, I used to pray every night for a new bike. Then I realised, the Lord doesn't work that way. So I just stole one and asked Him to forgive me ... and I got it!

Source: the Guardian, 29 September 2005.

Max Planck (1858-1947)

German physicist.

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers, Frank Gaynor, transl., pp. 33-34, 1950.

Chet Raymo

Coincidence is the evidence of the True Believer.

Skeptics and True Believers, Walker and Company, 1998, p. 107.

Mark Ridley

The theory of evolution is outstandingly the most important theory in biology.

Evolution, Blackwell Scientific, Boston, 1983.

Stephen F. Roberts

I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.

Usenet posting, c. 1995.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)

English mathematician and philosopher.

Obviousness is always the enemy of correctness.

I wish to propose for the reader's favourable consideration a doctrine which may, I fear, appear wildly paradoxical and subversive. The doctrine in question is this: that it is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true, I must of course admit that if such an opinion became common it would completely transform our social life and our political system; since both are at present faultless, this must weigh against it.

From his Sceptical Essays .

Many people would rather die than think; in fact, most do.

If I had control of education, I should expose children to the most vehement and eloquent advocates on all sides of every topical question, who should speak to the schools from the B. B. C. The teacher should afterwards invite the children to summarize the arguments used, and should gently insinuate the view that eloquence is inversely proportional to solid reason. To acquire immunity to eloquence is of the utmost importance to the citizens of a democracy.

Atlantic Monthly, October 1938.

In any case, the argument against the persecution of opinion does not depend upon what the excuse for persecution may be. The argument is that we none of us know all truth, that the discovery of new truth is promoted by free discussion and rendered very difficult by suppression, and that, in the long run, human welfare is increased by the discovery of truth and hindered by action based on error. New truth is often inconvenient to some vested interest; the Protestant doctrine that it is not necessary to fast on Fridays was vehemently resisted by Elizabethan fishmongers. But it is in the interest of the community at large that new truth should be freely promulgated.

And since, at first, it cannot be known whether a new doctrine is true, freedom for new truth involves equal freedom for error.

Religion and Science, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1935, pp. 262-263.

And if there were a God, I think it very unlikely that He would have such an uneasy vanity as to be offended by those who doubt His existence.

Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937)

New Zealand-born English physicist.

We cannot control atomic energy to an extent which would be of any value commercially, and I believe we are not likely ever to be able to do so.

Speech to the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1933. The first commercial nuclear power plant began operation in 1956.

Carl Sagan (1934-1997)

American astrophysicist.

Where skeptical observation and discussion are suppressed, the truth is hidden. The proponents of such borderline beliefs, when criticized, often point to geniuses of the past who were ridiculed. But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.

Broca's Brain, Random House, 1979, p. 64.

No contemporary religion and no New Age belief seems to me to take sufficient acount of the grandeur, magnificence, subtlety and intricacy of the Universe revealed by science. The fact that so little of the findings of modern science is prefigured in Scripture to my mind casts further doubt on its divine inspiration.

The Demon-Haunted World, Ballantine Books, 1996, p. 35.

Jerome David Salinger

American writer.

"What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn't happen much, though."

From Catcher in the Rye.

William Shakespeare (1564?-1616)

English playwright.

When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night,
And pay no worship to the garish sun.

Romeo and Juliet, III, ii, 21.

Roger C. Shank (1946-)

American computer scientist.

What most people really want to do in a conversation is to tell you their favorite stories about themselves and have you like them for it.

In David G. Stork, ed., HAL's Legacy: 2001's Computer as Dream and Reality, MIT Press, 1997, p. 185.

Georg Scheutz

And even if the larger and more complete engine [of Babbage] should later on remain the only example of its kind, it would suffice for the needs of the whole world.

Quoted in Michael Lindgren, Glory and Failure, The Difference Engines of Johann Müller, Charles Babbage, and Georg and Edvard Scheutz, MIT Press, 1990, p. 272.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

English playwright.

When astronomers tell me that a star is so far off that its light takes a thousand years to reach us, the magnitude of the lie seems to me inartistic.

Quoted by G. K Chesterton, 1910. In Chris Morgan and David Langford, Facts and Fallacies: A Book of Definitive Mistakes and Misguided Predictions, John Wiley & Sons Canada, Toronto, 1981, p. 25.

The medical broadcasters and writers of leading articles still keep repeating like parrots that vaccination abolished smallpox, though vaccinia is now killing more children than smallpox.

Everybody's Political What's What, 1944. Quoted in Chris Morgan and David Langford, Facts and Fallacies: A Book of Definitive Mistakes and Misguided Predictions, John Wiley & Sons Canada, Toronto, 1981, p. 77.

In the first frenzy of microbe killing, surgical instruments were dipped in carbolic oil ... Microbes are so fond of carbolic oil that they swarm in it.

Preface to The Doctor's Dilemma, 1911. Quoted in Chris Morgan and David Langford, Facts and Fallacies: A Book of Definitive Mistakes and Misguided Predictions, John Wiley & Sons Canada, Toronto, 1981, p. 78.

You know, Tolstoy, like myself, wasn't taken in by superstitions like science and medicine.

Quoted in Chris Morgan and David Langford, Facts and Fallacies: A Book of Definitive Mistakes and Misguided Predictions, John Wiley & Sons Canada, Toronto, 1981, p. 114.

The poor old theater is done for! ... [T]here will be nothing but `talkies' soon.

Quoted in New York Herald Tribune, August 7, 1930. Quoted in Christopher Cerf and Victor Navasky, The Experts Speak: The Definitive Compendium of Authoritative Misinformation, Pantheon Books, New York, 1984, p. 170.

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.

George Gaylord Simpson (1902-1984)

American paleontologist.

Organic evolution is one of the basic facts and characteristics of the objective world. From one point of view it is the basic thing about that world, because it is the process by which the universe's greatest complexities arise and systematic organization culminates. Being the process by which we ourselves came to be, it is crucial for comprehension of our place in and relationship to the objective world.

This View of Life: The World of an Evolutionist, Harcourt, Brace, and World, Inc., New York, 1964, p. vii.

It is obvious that the great majority of humans throughout history have had grossly, even ridiculously, unrealistic concepts of the world. Man is, among many other things, the mistaken animal, the foolish animal. Other species doubtless have much more limited ideas about the world, but what ideas they do have are much less likely to be wrong and are never foolish. White cats do not denigrate black, and dogs do not ask Baal, Jehovah, or other Semitic gods to perform miracles for them.

This View of Life: The World of an Evolutionist, Harcourt, Brace, and World, Inc., New York, 1964, p. viii.

The influence of Darwin, or more broadly of the concept of evolution, has had effects more truly profound [than other aspects of civilization]. It has literally led us into a different world.

This View of Life: The World of an Evolutionist, Harcourt, Brace, and World, Inc., New York, 1964, p. 3.

The fact -- not theory -- that evolution has occurred and the Darwinian theory as to how it occurred have become so confused in popular opinion that the distinction must be stressed.

This View of Life: The World of an Evolutionist, Harcourt, Brace, and World, Inc., New York, 1964, p. 10.

Until comparatively recently, many -- probably most -- biologists agreed with Darwin that the problem of the origin of life was not yet amenable to scientific study. Now, however, almost all biologists agree that the problem can be attacked scientifically. The consensus is that life did arise naturally from the nonliving and that even the first living things were not specially created.

This View of Life: The World of an Evolutionist, Harcourt, Brace, and World, Inc., New York, 1964, p. 11.

Few doubt that his [man's] closest living relatives are the apes. On this subject, by the way, there has been too much pussyfooting. Apologists emphasize that man cannot be a descendant of any living ape -- a statement that is obvious to the verge of imbecility -- and go on to state or imply that man is not really descended from an ape or monkey in popular speech by anyone who saw it... It is pusillanimous if not dishonest for an informed investigator to say otherwise.

This View of Life: The World of an Evolutionist, Harcourt, Brace, and World, Inc., New York, 1964, p. 12.

Suppose that the most fundamental and general principle of a science had been known for over a century and had long since become a main basis for understanding and research by scientists in that field. You would surely assume that the principle would be taken as a matter of course by everyone with even a nodding acquaintance with the science. It would obviously be taught everywhere as basic to the science at any level of education. If you think that about biology, however, you are wrong. Evolution is such a principle in biology. Although almost everyone has heard of it, most Americans have only the scantest and most distorted idea of its real nature and significance.

This View of Life: The World of an Evolutionist, Harcourt, Brace, and World, Inc., New York, 1964, p. 26.

It cannot be intellectually honest to undertake to teach a subject but to omit its most important principle. It [teaching biology without evolution] would, nowadays, be like teaching physics but leaving out atoms.

This View of Life: The World of an Evolutionist, Harcourt, Brace, and World, Inc., New York, 1964, p. 34.

The opposition to teaching evolution is, of course, almost always given a religious reason. That may usually be its real basis, but I think it is often a mask, perhaps unconscious, for underlying anti-intellectualism or antiscientism.

This View of Life: The World of an Evolutionist, Harcourt, Brace, and World, Inc., New York, 1964, p. 35.

If a sect does officially insist that its structure of belief demands that evolution be false, then no compromise is possible. An honest and competent biology teacher can only conclude that the sect's beliefs are wrong and that its religion is a false one. It is not the teacher's duty to point this out unnecessarily, but it is certainly his duty not to compromise the point.

This View of Life: The World of an Evolutionist, Harcourt, Brace, and World, Inc., New York, 1964, p. 35.

The question "What is man?" is probably the most profound that can be asked by man... The point I want to make now is that all attempts to answer that question before 1859 [when Darwin's Origin of Species was published] are worthless and that we will be better off if we ignore them completely. The reason is that no answer had a solid, objective base until it was recognized that man is the product of evolution from primeval apes and before that through billions of years of gradual but protean change from some spontaneously, that is, naturally, generated primordial monad.

"The Biological Nature of Man", Science 152 (1966), 472-478. The quote appears on page 472.

Upton Sinclair (1878-1968)

American writer and muckraker.

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!

I, Candidate for Governor: And How I Got Licked, repr. University of California Press, 1994, p. 109.

Jimmy Swaggart

American evangelical preacher.

Evolution is a bankrupt speculative philosophy, not a scientific fact. Only a spiritually bankrupt society could ever believe it. ... Only atheists could accept this Satanic theory.

Mortimer Taube (1910-1965)

[Alan Turing displayed] a common form of scientific aberration, namely, the tendency of computer experts to be pontifical about subjects in which they have no competence.

From Computers and Common Sense: The Myth of Thinking Machines, Columbia University Press, p. 51.

Edwin Way Teale (1899-)

It is morally as bad not to care whether a thing is true or not, so long as it makes you feel good, as it is not to care how you got your money as long as you have got it.

Circle of the Seasons, 1953.

Lewis Thomas (1913-1993)

American physician and author.

The great secret, known to internists and learned early in marriage by internists' wives, but still hidden from the general public, is that most things get better by themselves. Most things, in fact, are better by morning.

The Lives of a Cell

William Thomson (Lord Kelvin) (1824-1907)

When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind: it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your thoughts, advanced to the stage of science.

Popular Lectures and Addresses, 1891-4.

Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.

c. 1895? Quoted in Chris Morgan and David Langford, Facts and Fallacies: A Book of Definitive Mistakes and Misguided Predictions , John Wiley & Sons Canada, Toronto, 1981, p. 28.

Radio has no future.

c. 1897? Quoted in Chris Morgan and David Langford, Facts and Fallacies: A Book of Definitive Mistakes and Misguided Predictions, John Wiley & Sons Canada, Toronto, 1981, p. 19.

X-rays will prove to be a hoax.

c. 1900? Quoted in Chris Morgan and David Langford, Facts and Fallacies: A Book of Definitive Mistakes and Misguided Predictions , John Wiley & Sons Canada, Toronto, 1981, p. 116. Also in Wayne Coffey, 303 of the World's Worst Predictions, Tribeca Communications, New York, 1983, p. 59, where it is quoted as "X-rays are a hoax."

Robert Traver (1903-1991)

We write to show what life looks like through our own little broken piece of beer bottle.

Author of Anatomy of a Murder, heard on obituary of author on NPR's "Morning Edition", March 20, 1991.

Pierre Trudeau (1919-2000)

Canadian prime minister.

I've been called worse things by better men.

In response to hearing that Nixon had called him an "asshole". Reported by Canadian Press, December 8 2008.

Marcello Truzzi

And when such claims are extraordinary, that is, revolutionary in their implications for established scientific generalizations already accumulated and verified, we must demand extraordinary proof.

Editorial, The Zetetic, vol. 1 (1) (Fall/Winter 1976), page 3-6. The quote appears on page 4. Often abbreviated to "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof".

Alan Turing

In the time of Galileo it was argued that the texts, 'And the sun stood still ... and hasted not to go down about a whole day' (Joshua x. 13) and 'He laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not move at any time' (Psalm cv. 5) were an adequate refutation of the Copernican theory.

From "Computing Machinery and Intelligence", Mind 59 (October 1950), p. 443.

Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) (1835-1910)

American author and humorist.

Always do right. This will gratify some people, and astonish the rest.

To the Young People's Society, Greenpoint Presbyterian Church, Brooklyn, 1901.

I heard a Californian student in Heidelberg say, in one of his calmest moods, that he would rather decline two drinks than one German adjective.

"The Awful German Language", from A Tramp Abroad, 1880.

I believe that our Heavenly Father invented man because he was disappointed in the monkey. I believe that whenever a human being, of even the highest intelligence and culture, delivers an opinion upon a matter apart from his particular and especial line of interest, training and experience, it will always be an opinion of so foolish and so valueless a sort that it can be depended upon to suggest to our Heavenly Father that the human being is another disappointment and that he is no considerable improvement upon the monkey.

The Autobiography of Mark Twain.

Man has been here 32,000 years. That it took a hundred million years to prepare the world for him is proof that that is what it was done for. I suppose it is, I dunno. If the Eiffel Tower were now representing the world's age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle-knob at its summit would represent man's share of that age; and anybody would perceive that that skin was what the tower was built for. I reckon they would, I dunno.

The Damned Human Race.

A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.

Attributed. The real source may be a similar quote from Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

Michael Valpy

When Gallup asked Canadians a few years ago what they were proudest of in their country, the number one response was the Charter. The Charter has been decried as `Americanizing' us. In fact, it has kept us going.

(Toronto) Globe & Mail, October 12, 1994, page A2

Frans de Waal

Dutch primatologist.

Forgiveness is not, as some people seem to believe, a mysterious and sublime idea that we owe to a few millennia of Judeo-Christianity. It did not originate in the minds of people and cannot therefore be appropriated by an ideology or a religion. The fact that monkeys, apes, and humans all engage in reconciliation behavior means that it is probably over thirty million years old, preceding the evolutionary divergence of these primates.

Peacemaking Among Primates, Harvard University Press, 1990, p. 270.

James D. Watson (1928-)

American biologist and Nobel prize-winner.

Today, evolution is an accepted fact for everyone but a fundamentalist minority, whose objections are not based on reasoning but on doctrinaire adherence to religious principles.

From the first page of the first chapter of Watson, Hopkins, Roberts, Steitz and Weiner, Molecular Biology of the Gene, Fourth edition, Benjamin/Cummings, Menlo Park, CA, 1987.

Max Weber (1864-1920)

German sociologist.

It is characteristic of patriarchal and of patrimonial authority, which represents a variety of the former, that the system of inviolable norms is considered sacred; an infraction of them would result in magical or religious evils. Side by side with this sytem there is a realm of free arbitrariness and favor of the lord, who in principle judges only in terms of `personal', not `functional', relations. In this sense, traditionalist authority is irrational.

From "The Social Psychology of the World Religions", in H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills, eds., From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, Oxford University Press, 1958, p. 296.

Steven Weinberg

American Nobel laureate, physics.

The effort to understand the universe is one of the few things that lifts human life a little above the level of farce, and gives it some of the grace of tragedy.

From The First Three Minutes, 1977.

The fact that Newton and Michael Faraday and other scientists of the past were deeply religious shows that religious skepticism is not a prejudice that governed science from the beginning, but a lesson that has been learned through centures of experience in the study of nature.

From Facing Up: Science and Its Cultural Adversaries, Harvard University Press, 2001, pp. 26-27.

It seems a bit unfair to my relatives to be murdered in order to provide an opportunity for free will for Germans, but even putting that aside, how does free will account for cancer? Is it an opportunity of free will for tumors?

From Facing Up: Science and Its Cultural Adversaries, Harvard University Press, 2001, p. 240.

With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil---that takes religion.

From Facing Up: Science and Its Cultural Adversaries, Harvard University Press, 2001, p. 242.

People ought to be religious or not religious according to whether they believe in the teachings of religion, not because of any illusion that religion raises the moral level of society.

From Facing Up: Science and Its Cultural Adversaries, Harvard University Press, 2001, p. 256.

Joseph N. Welch

Boston trial lawyer.

Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

Questioning Senator Joseph McCarthy at the Army-McCarthy hearings in 1954, in his role as Counsel for the Army.

Tom Weller

Several thousand years ago, a small tribe of ignorant near-savages wrote various collections of myths, wild tales, lies, and gibberish. Over the centuries, these stories were embroidered, garbled, mutilated, and torn into small pieces that were then repeatedly shuffled. Finally, this material was badly translated into several languages successively. The resultant text, creationists feel, is the best guide to this complex and technical subject.

From Science Made Stupid.

John Wheelock (1754-1817)

Oh, Lord, we thank Thee for the Oxygen Gas; we thank Thee for the Hydrogen Gas; and for all the gases. We thank Thee for the Cerebrum; we thank Thee for the Cerebellum; and for the Medulla Oblongata. Amen!

Prayer given at meeting of medical students at Dartmouth College. Quoted in Howard Atwood Kelly, A Cyclopedia of American Medical Biography, W. B. Saunders, 1912, p. 389. (See here.)

Lynn White, Jr.

[W]e shall continue to have a worsening ecologic crisis until we reject the Christian axiom that nature has no reason for existence save to serve man.

From "The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis", Science 155 No. 3767 (10 March 1967), pp. 1203-1207.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Lady Windermere's Fan, 1892, Act III.

Frank Wilhoit

American musicologist.

Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protectes [sic] but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.

From a blog post, March 22 2018, https://crookedtimber.org/2018/03/21/liberals-against-progressives/#comment-729288 .

H. H. Williams

Furious activity is no substitute for understanding.

Quoted in Jon Bentley, More Programming Pearls: Confessions of a Coder, Addison-Wesley, 1988, p. 64.

Robert S. Wistrich (1945-)

`Antisemitism' is a problematic term, first invented in the 1870s by the German journalist Wilhelm Marr to describe the `non-confessional' hatred of Jews and Judaism which he and others like him advocated...

`Antisemitism' -- a term which came into general use as part of this politically motivated anti-Jewish campaign of the 1880s -- was never directed against `Semites' as such....

...As a result, for the last hundred years, the illogical term `antisemitism', which never really meant hatred of `Semites' (for example, Arabs) at all, but rather hatred of Jews, has come to be accepted in general usage as denoting all forms of hostility towards Jews and Judaism throughout history.

Antisemitism: The Longest Hatred , Thames Mandarin, 1992.

Walter Wriston (1919-)

American industrialist.

Satellites are no respecters of ideology.

The Twilight of Sovereignty, Charles Scribner's, 1992, p. 14.