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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index C > Category: Catastrophe

Catastrophe Quotes (16 quotes)

Almost daily we shudder as prophets of doom announce the impending end of civilization and universe. We are being asphyxiated, they say, by the smoke of the industry; we are suffocating in the ever growing mountain of rubbish. Every new project depicts its measureable effects and is denounced by protesters screaming about catastrophe, the upsetting of the land, the assault on nature. If we accepted this new mythology we would have to stop pushing roads through the forest, harnessing rivers to produce the electricity, breaking grounds to extract metals, enriching the soil with chemicals, killing insects, combating viruses … But progress—basically, an effort to organise a corner of land and make it more favourable for human life—cannot be baited. Without the science of pomiculture, for example, trees will bear fruits that are small, bitter, hard, indigestible, and sour. Progress is desirable.
Anonymous
Uncredited. In Lachman Mehta, Stolen Treasure (2012), 117.
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Geologists have usually had recourse for the explanation of these changes to the supposition of sundry violent and extraordinary catastrophes, cataclysms, or general revolutions having occurred in the physical state of the earth's surface.
As the idea imparted by the term Cataclysm, Catastrophe, or Revolution, is extremely vague, and may comprehend any thing you choose to imagine, it answers for the time very well as an explanation; that is, it stops further inquiry. But it also has had the disadvantage of effectually stopping the advance of science, by involving it in obscurity and confusion.
Considerations on Volcanoes (1825), iv.
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Geology got into the hands of the theoreticians who were conditioned by the social and political history of their day more than by observations in the field. … We have allowed ourselves to be brainwashed into avoiding any interpretation of the past that involves extreme and what might be termed “catastrophic” processes. However, it seems to me that the stratigraphical record is full of examples of processes that are far from “normal” in the usual sense of the word. In particular we must conclude that sedimentation in the past has often been very rapid indeed and very spasmodic. This may be called the “Phenomenon of the Catastrophic Nature of the Stratigraphic Record.”
In The Nature of the Stratigraphical Record (3rd ed., 1993), 70.
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Have the changes which lead us from one geologic state to another been, on a long average uniform in their intensity, or have they consisted of epochs of paroxysmal and catastrophic action, interposed between periods of comparative tranquillity? These two opinions will probably for some time divide the geological world into two sects, which may perhaps be designated as the Uniformitarians and the Catastrophists.
In 'Review of Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology', Quarterly Review (1832), 47, 126.
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I always love geology. In winter, particularly, it is pleasant to listen to theories about the great mountains one visited in the summer; or about the Flood or volcanoes; about great catastrophes or about blisters; above all about fossils … Everywhere there are hypotheses, but nowhere truths; many workmen, but no experts; priests, but no God. In these circumstances each man can bring his hypothesis like a candle to a burning altar, and on seeing his candle lit declare ‘Smoke for smoke, sir, mine is better than yours’. It is precisely for this reason that I love geology.
In Nouvelles Genevoises (1910), 306. First edition, 1841.
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I won’t let anyone take us backward, deny our economy the benefits of harnessing a clean energy future, or force our children to endure the catastrophe that would result from unchecked climate change.
In Hillary Clinton, 'Hillary Clinton: America Must Lead at Paris Climate Talks', Time (29 Nov 2015)
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If catastrophic geology had at times pushed Nature to almost indecent extremes of haste, uniformitarian geology, on the other hand, had erred in the opposite direction, and pictured Nature when she was 'young and wantoned [sic] in her prime', as moving with the lame sedateness of advanced middle age. It became necessary, therefore, as Dr. [Samuel] Haughton expresses it, 'to hurry up the phenomena'.
The Age of the Earth and other Geological Studies (1908), 303.
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Many people believe the whole catastrophe is the oil we spill, but that gets diluted and eventually disarmed over time. In fact, the oil we don't spill, the oil we collect, refine and use, produces CO2 and other gases that don't get diluted.
As quoted by Mark Bittman in 'What's Worse Than an Oil Spill?', New York Times (20 Apr 2011), A23.
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Natural causes, as we know, are at work, which tend to modify, if they do not at length destroy, all the arrangements and dimensions of the earth and the whole solar system. But though in the course of ages catastrophes have occurred and may yet occur in the heavens, though ancient systems may be dissolved and new systems evolved out of their ruins, the molecules [i.e. atoms] out of which these systems are built—the foundation stones of the material universe—remain unbroken and unworn.‎ They continue to this day as they were created—perfect in number and measure and weight.
Lecture to the British Association at Bradford, 'Molecules', Nature (1873), 8, 437-441. Reprinted in James Clerk Maxwell and W. D. Niven, editor, The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (2003), 377. By
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Notwithstanding, therefore, that we have not witnessed of a large continent, yet, as we may predict the future occurrence of such catastrophes, we are authorized to regard them as part of the present order of Nature.
Principles of Geology (1837), Vol. 1, 94.
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Science fiction writers foresee the inevitable, and although problems and catastrophes may be inevitable, solutions are not.
'How Easy to See the Future'. In Asimov on Science Fiction (1981), 86.
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The Author of nature has not given laws to the universe, which, like the institutions of men, carry in themselves the elements of their own destruction; he has not permitted in his works any symptom of infancy or of old age, or any sign by which we may estimate either their future or their past duration. He may put an end, as he no doubt gave a beginning, to the present system at some determinate period of time; but we may rest assured, that this great catastrophe will not be brought about by the laws now existing, and that it is not indicated by any thing which we perceive.
'Biographical Account of the Late Dr James Hutton, F.R.S. Edin.' (read 1803), Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1805), 5, 55.
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The worst thing that will probably happen—in fact is already well underway—is not energy depletion, economic collapse, conventional war, or the expansion of totalitarian governments. As terrible as these catastrophes would be for us, they can be repaired in a few generations. The one process now going on that will take millions of years to correct is loss of genetic and species diversity by the destruction of natural habitats. This is the folly our descendants are least likely to forgive us.
Biophilia (1984), 121.(1990), 182.
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We have not done the things that are necessary to lower emissions because these things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism… We are stuck because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe–and would benefit the vast majority–are extremely threatening to an elite minority that has a stranglehold over our economy, our political process, and most of our major media outlets.
From This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (2014), 18.
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We should stop the non-scientific, pseudo-scientific, and anti-scientific nonsense emanating from the right wing, and start demanding immediate action to reduce global warming and prevent catastrophic climate change that may be on our horizon now. We must not let the [Bush] Administration distort science and rewrite and manipulate scientific reports in other areas. We must not let it turn the Environmental Protection Agency into the Environmental Pollution Agency.
Address to National Press Club, Washington, DC (12 Jan 2005). In Bill Adler (ed.), The Wit and Wisdom of Ted Kennedy (2011).
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When we mention the end of the world, the idea of some kind of catastrophe always comes to mind.
In Teilhard de Chardin and Sara Appleton-Weber (trans.), The Human Phenomenon (1999, 2003), 196. Originally published in French as Le Phénomene Humain (1955).
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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