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Who said: “Every body perseveres in its state of being at rest or of moving uniformly straight forward, except insofar as it is compelled to change its state by forces impressed.”
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Certain Quotes (84 quotes)


Quelli che s'innamorano della pratica senza la diligenza, ovvero scienza, per dir meglio,sono come i nocchieri, che entrano in mare sopra nave senza timone o bussola, che mai hanno certezza dove si vadano.
Those who are enamoured of practice without science, are like the pilot who embarks in a ship without rudder or compass and who is never certain where he is going.
Original Italian in Trattato Della Pittura (Treatise on Painting) (1817), Part 2, 69. Translated in Anthony Lejeune, The Concise Dictionary of Foreign Quotations (2001), 234.
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A good method of discovery is to imagine certain members of a system removed and then see how what is left would behave: for example, where would we be if iron were absent from the world: this is an old example.
Aphorism 258 in Notebook J (1789-1793), as translated by R. J. Hollingdale in Aphorisms (1990). Reprinted as The Waste Books (2000), 181.
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A good physiological experiment like a good physical one requires that it should present anywhere, at any time, under identical conditions, the same certain and unequivocal phenomena that can always be confirmed.
Bestätigung des Bell'schen Lehrsatzes, dass die doppelten Wurzeln der Rückenmarksnerven verschiedene Functionen haben, durch neue nod entscheidende Experimente' (1831). Trans. Edwin Clarke and C. D. O'Malley, The Human Brain and Spinal Cord (1968), 304.
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A perfect thermo-dynamic engine is such that, whatever amount of mechanical effect it can derive from a certain thermal agency; if an equal amount be spent in working it backwards, an equal reverse thermal effect will be produced.
'Thomson on Carnot’s Motive Power of Heat' (appended to 'Réflexions sur la puissance motrice du feu' (1824) translated by R.H. Thurston) in Reflections on the Motive Power of Fire, and on Machines Fitted to Develop that Power (1890), 139.
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After a certain high level of technical skill is achieved, science and art tend to coalesce in esthetics, plasticity, and form. The greatest scientists are always artists as well.
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All great scientists have, in a certain sense, been great artists; the man with no imagination may collect facts, but he cannot make great discoveries.
From The Grammar of Science (1892), 37.
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As regards religion, on the other hand, one is generally agreed that it deals with goals and evaluations and, in general, with the emotional foundation of human thinking and acting, as far as these are not predetermined by the inalterable hereditary disposition of the human species. Religion is concerned with man’s attitude toward nature at large, with the establishing of ideals for the individual and communal life, and with mutual human relationship. These ideals religion attempts to attain by exerting an educational influence on tradition and through the development and promulgation of certain easily accessible thoughts and narratives (epics and myths) which are apt to influence evaluation and action along the lines of the accepted ideals.
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Bad philosophers may have a certain influence; good philosophers, never.
Uncertain attribution. Often seen, but Webmaster has not yet found this wording in a primary source, and remains uncertain that this is an actual Russell quote. It is included here to provide this caution. Contact Webmaster if you have more information.
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Certain elements have the property of producing the same crystal form when in combination with an equal number of atoms of one or more common elements, and the elements, from his point of view, can be arranged in certain groups. For convenience I have called the elements belonging to the same group … isomorphous.
Originally published in 'Om Förhållandet emellan chemiska sammansättningen och krystallformen hos Arseniksyrade och Phosphorsyrade Salter', (On the Relation between the Chemical Composition and Crystal Form of Salts of Arsenic and Phosphoric Acids), Kungliga Svenska vetenskapsakademiens handlingar (1821), 4. In F. Szabadváry article on 'Eilhard Mitscherlich' in Charles Coulston Gillispie (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1974), Vol. 9, 424; perhaps from J.R. Partington, A History of Chemistry, Vol. 4 (1964), 210.
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Debate is an art form. It is about the winning of arguments. It is not about the discovery of truth. There are certain rules and procedures to debate that really have nothing to do with establishing fact–which creationists have mastered. Some of those rules are: never say anything positive about your own position because it can be attacked, but chip away at what appear to be the weaknesses in your opponent’s position. They are good at that. I don’t think I could beat the creationists at debate. I can tie them. But in courtrooms they are terrible, because in courtrooms you cannot give speeches. In a courtroom you have to answer direct questions about the positive status of your belief. We destroyed them in Arkansas. On the second day of the two-week trial we had our victory party!
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Falsity cannot keep an idea from being beautiful; there are certain errors of such ingenuity that one could regret their not ranking among the achievements of the human mind.
Pensées d'un Biologiste (1939). Translated in The Substance of Man (1962), 89.
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For that which can shewn only in a certain Light is questionable. Truth, ’tis suppos’d, may bear all Lights: and one of those principal Lights or natural Mediums, by which Things are to be view’d, in order to a thorow Recognition, is Ridicule it-self.
Also seen in short form: “Ridicule is the test of truth.”
In 'An Essay on the Freedom of Wit and Humour', Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times (1723), Vol. 1, 61.
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Herrmann Pidoux and Armand Trousseau stated 'Disease exists within us, because of us, and through us', Pasteur did not entirely disagree, 'This is true for certain diseases', he wrote cautiously, only to add immediately: 'I do not think that it is true for all of them'.
Pasteur Vallery-Radot (ed.), Oeuvres de Pasteur (1922-1939), Vol. 6, 167. Quoted in Patrice Debré, Louis Pasteur, trans. Elborg Forster (1994), 261.
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Human life is proverbially uncertain; few things are more certain than the solvency of a life-insurance company.
In The Nature of the Physical World (1928), 300.
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I believe that certain erroneous developments in particle theory ... are caused by a misconception by some physicists that it is possible to avoid philosophical arguments altogether. Starting with poor philosophy, they pose the wrong questions. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that good physics has at times been spoiled by poor philosophy.
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I can understand your aversion to the use of the term ‘religion’ to describe an emotional and psychological attitude which shows itself most clearly in Spinoza ... I have not found a better expression than ‘religious’ for the trust in the rational nature of reality that is, at least to a certain extent, accessible to human reason.
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If all the parts of the universe are interchained in a certain measure, any one phenomenon will not be the effect of a single cause, but the resultant of causes infinitely numerous.
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If you thought that science was certain well, that is just an error on your part.
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In light of new knowledge ... an eventual world state is not just desirable in the name of brotherhood, it is necessary for survival ... Today we must abandon competition and secure cooperation. This must be the central fact in all our considerations of international affairs; otherwise we face certain disaster. Past thinking and methods did not prevent world wars. Future thinking must prevent wars.
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In the search for truth there are certain questions that are not important. Of what material is the universe constructed? Is the universe eternal? Are there limits or not to the universe? ... If a man were to postpone his search and practice for Enlightenment until such questions were solved, he would die before he found the path.
Budha
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In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will; these relations of production correspond to a definite stage of development of their material forces of production. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society - the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life determines the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces in society come in conflict with the existing relations of production, or - what is but a legal expression for the same thing - with the property relations within which they have been at work before. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into fetters. Then begins an epoch of social revolution. With the change of the economic foundation the entire immense superstructure is more or less rapidly transformed. In considering such transformations a distinction should always be made between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, aesthetic or philosophic - in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out. Just as our opinion of an individual is not based on what he thinks of himself, so we can not judge of such a period of transformation by its own consciousness; on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained rather from the contradictions of material life, from the existing conflict between the social productive forces and the relations of production. No social order ever disappears before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have been developed; and new, higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society itself. Therefore, mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve; since, looking at the matter more closely, we will always find that the task itself arises only when the material conditions necessary for its solution already exist or are at least in the process of formation. In broad outlines we can designate the Asiatic, the ancient, the feudal, and the modern bourgeois modes of production as so many progressive epochs in the economic formation of society. The bourgeois relations of production are the last antagonistic form of the social process of production - antagonistic not in the sense of individual antagonism, but of one arising from the social conditions of life of the individuals; at the same time the productive forces developing in the womb of bourgeois society create the material conditions for the solution of that antagonism. This social formation constitutes, therefore, the closing chapter of the prehistoric stage of human society.
Karl Marx
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Induction, then, is that operation of the mind by which we infer that what we know to be true in a particular case or cases, will be true in all cases which resemble the former in certain assignable respects. In other words, induction is the process by which we conclude that what is true of certain individuals of a class is true of the whole class, or that what is true at certain times will be true in similar circumstances at all times.
In A System of Logic, Ratiocinative and Inductive: Being a Connected View of the Principles of Evidence, and the Methods of Scientific Investigation (1843), Vol. 1, 352.
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Insofar as mathematics is about reality, it is not certain, and insofar as it is certain, it is not about reality.
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It is certain that as a nation we are all smoking a great deal too much ... Smoking among boys—to whom it cannot possibly do any kind of good, while it may do a vast amount of active harm—is becoming prevalent to a most pernicious extent. ... It would be an excellent thing for the morality of the people could the use of “intoxicants and tobacco” be forbidden to all persons under twenty years of age. (1878)
In London Daily Telegraph (22 Jan 1878). Reprinted in English Anti-Tobacco Society and Anti-Narcotic League, Monthly letters of the Committee of the English Anti-Tobacco Society and Anti-Narcotic League 1878, 1879, 1880, (1 Feb 1878), 85.
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It is clear that all the valuable things, material, spiritual, and moral, which we receive from society can be traced back through countless generations to certain creative individuals. The use of fire, the cultivation of edible plants, the steam engine–each was discovered by one man.
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It is easier to love humanity as a whole than to love one’s neighbor. There may even be a certain antagonism between love of humanity and love of neighbor; a low capacity for getting along with those near us often goes hand in hand with a high receptivity to the idea of the brotherhood of men. About a hundred years ago a Russian landowner by the name of Petrashevsky recorded a remarkable conclusion: “Finding nothing worthy of my attachment either among women or among men, I have vowed myself to the service of mankind.” He became a follower of Fourier, and installed a phalanstery on his estate. The end of the experiment was sad, but what one might perhaps have expected: the peasants—Petrashevsky’s neighbors-burned the phalanstery.
In 'Brotherhood', The Ordeal of Change (1963), 91.
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It is mathematics that offers the exact natural sciences a certain measure of security which, without mathematics, they could not attain.
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It may be observed of mathematicians that they only meddle with such things as are certain, passing by those that are doubtful and unknown. They profess not to know all things, neither do they affect to speak of all things. What they know to be true, and can make good by invincible arguments, that they publish and insert among their theorems. Of other things they are silent and pass no judgment at all, chusing [choosing] rather to acknowledge their ignorance, than affirm anything rashly. They affirm nothing among their arguments or assertions which is not most manifestly known and examined with utmost rigour, rejecting all probable conjectures and little witticisms. They submit nothing to authority, indulge no affection, detest subterfuges of words, and declare their sentiments, as in a Court of Judicature [Justice], without passion, without apology; knowing that their reasons, as Seneca testifies of them, are not brought to persuade, but to compel.
Mathematical Lectures (1734), 64.
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Just as certain as death, Westinghouse will kill a customer within six months after he puts in a [alternating current] system of any size.
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Leave the beaten track occasionally and dive into the woods. Every time you do so you will be certain to find something that you have never seen before. Of course, it will be a little thing, but do not ignore it. Follow it up, explore all around it: one discovery will lead to another, and before you know it, you will have something worth thinking about to occupy your mind. All really big discoveries are the results of thought.
Address (22 May 1914) to the graduating class of the Friends’ School, Washington, D.C. Printed in 'Discovery and Invention', The National Geographic Magazine (1914), 25, 650.
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Looking back over the geological record it would seem that Nature made nearly every possible mistake before she reached her greatest achievement Man—or perhaps some would say her worst mistake of all. ... At last she tried a being of no great size, almost defenseless, defective in at least one of the more important sense organs; one gift she bestowed to save him from threatened extinction—a certain stirring, a restlessness, in the organ called the brain.
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My attitude was: “Just look at all the interesting atoms in that region of the periodic table; certainly the reason that carbon dominates chemistry is our own ignorance.”
Recollection of being unimpressed in high school when taught that carbon, being the basic building block of life, was the most important element in the periodic table. In Chappell Brown, 'A Carbon Copy of the Real Thing', Electronic Engineering Times (28 Dec 1998), 50.
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Nirvana is a state of pure blissful knowledge ... It has nothing to do with the individual. The ego or its separation is an illusion. Indeed in a certain sense two ‘I’s are identical namely when one disregards all special contents–their Karma. The goal of man is to preserve his Karma and to develop it further ... when man dies his Karma lives and creates for itself another carrier.
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Nobody, certainly, will deny that the idea of the existence of an omnipotent, just, and omnibeneficent personal God is able to accord man solace, help, and guidance; also, by virtue of its simplicity it is accessible to the most undeveloped mind. But, on the other hand, there are decisive weaknesses attached to this idea in its elf, which have been painfully felt since the beginning of history. That is, if this being is omnipotent, then every occurrence, including every human action, every human thought, and every human feeling and aspiration is also His work; how is it possible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an almighty Being? In giving out punishment and rewards He would to a certain extent be passing judgment on Himself. How can this be combined with the goodness and righteousness ascribed to Him?
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One reason why mathematics enjoys special esteem, above all other sciences, is that its laws are absolutely certain and indisputable, while those of other sciences are to some extent debatable and in constant danger of being overthrown by newly discovered facts.
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Only two things are certain: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not certain about the universe.
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Our mind, by virtue of a certain finite, limited capability, is by no means capable of putting a question to Nature that permits a continuous series of answers. The observations, the individual results of measurements, are the answers of Nature to our discontinuous questioning.
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Our mistake is that we doubt what is certain and want to establish what is uncertain. My maxim in the study of Nature is this: hold fast what is certain and keep a watch on what is uncertain.
In The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe (1906), 196.
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Our science is a drop, our ignorance a sea. Whatever else be certain, this at least is certain—that the world of our present natural knowledge is enveloped in a larger world of some sort of whose residual properties we at present can frame no positive idea.
In Address to Harvard Young Men’s Christian Association, 'Is Life Worth Living?', collected in The Will to Believe and other Essays in Popular Philosophy, (1897, 2006), 54. Published earlier in International Journal of Ethics (Oct 1895).
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Perhaps the problem is the seeming need that people have of making black-and-white cutoffs when it comes to certain mysterious phenomena, such as life and consciousness. People seem to want there to be an absolute threshold between the living and the nonliving, and between the thinking and the “merely mechanical,” ... But the onward march of science seems to force us ever more clearly into accepting intermediate levels of such properties.
‘Shades of Gray Along the Consciousness Continuum’, Fluid Concepts & Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought (1995), 310.
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Properly speaking, there is no certitude. All there is is men who are certain.
In Traité de psychologie rationnelle, Vol. 1, 366. As quoted by William James in 'Bain and Renouvier', (1876), in Ralph Barton Perry (ed.), Collected Essays and Reviews (1920), 33. French source as cited in David G. Schultenover, The Reception of Pragmatism in France and the Rise of Roman Catholic Modernism, 1890-1914 (2009), 112.
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Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.
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Science is knowledge certain and evident in itself, or by the principles from which it is deducted, or with which it is certainly connected. It is subjective, as existing in the mind; objective, as embodied in truths; speculative, as leading to do something, as in practical science.
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Scientific research can reduce superstition by encouraging people to think and survey things in terms of cause and effect. Certain it is that a conviction, akin to religious feeling, of the rationality or intelligibility of the world lies behind all scientific work of a higher order.
From 'Scientific Truth' in Essays in Science (1934, 2004), 11.
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So why fret and care that the actual version of the destined deed was done by an upper class English gentleman who had circumnavigated the globe as a vigorous youth, lost his dearest daughter and his waning faith at the same time, wrote the greatest treatise ever composed on the taxonomy of barnacles, and eventually grew a white beard, lived as a country squire just south of London, and never again traveled far enough even to cross the English Channel? We care for the same reason that we love okapis, delight in the fossil evidence of trilobites, and mourn the passage of the dodo. We care because the broad events that had to happen, happened to happen in a certain particular way. And something unspeakably holy –I don’t know how else to say this–underlies our discovery and confirmation of the actual details that made our world and also, in realms of contingency, assured the minutiae of its construction in the manner we know, and not in any one of a trillion other ways, nearly all of which would not have included the evolution of a scribe to record the beauty, the cruelty, the fascination, and the mystery.
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The critical mathematician has abandoned the search for truth. He no longer flatters himself that his propositions are or can be known to him or to any other human being to be true; and he contents himself with aiming at the correct, or the consistent. The distinction is not annulled nor even blurred by the reflection that consistency contains immanently a kind of truth. He is not absolutely certain, but he believes profoundly that it is possible to find various sets of a few propositions each such that the propositions of each set are compatible, that the propositions of each set imply other propositions, and that the latter can be deduced from the former with certainty. That is to say, he believes that there are systems of coherent or consistent propositions, and he regards it his business to discover such systems. Any such system is a branch of mathematics.
In George Edward Martin, The Foundations of Geometry and the Non-Euclidean Plane (1982), 94.
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The digestive canal is in its task a complete chemical factory. The raw material passes through a long series of institutions in which it is subjected to certain mechanical and, mainly, chemical processing, and then, through innumerable side-streets, it is brought into the depot of the body. Aside from this basic series of institutions, along which the raw material moves, there is a series of lateral chemical manufactories, which prepare certain reagents for the appropriate processing of the raw material.
Speech to the Society of Russian Physicians (Dec 1874). as translated in Daniel P. Todes, Pavlov’s Physiology Factory: Experiment, Interpretation, Laboratory Enterprise (2002), 155.
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The essential character of a species in biology is, that it is a group of living organisms, separated from all other such groups by a set of distinctive characters, having relations to the environment not identical with those of any other group of organisms, and having the power of continuously reproducing its like. Genera are merely assemblages of a number of these species which have a closer resemblance to each other in certain important and often prominent characters than they have to any other species.
In 'The Method of Organic Evolution', Fortnightly Review (1895), 57, 441.
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The fool rushed to certain conclusions.
The middling man approached them warily, and with circumspection.
And the wise man, perceiving them from afar, decided to go round another way.
'Discretion' in Little Stings (1907, 1908), 140.
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The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.
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The history of chemistry is properly divided into the mythologic, the obscure, and the certain. The first period exhibits it from its infancy, deformed by fictions, until the destruction of the library of Alexandria by the Arabs. —The second, though freed in some measure from these absurdities, yet is still clothed in numberless enigmas and allegorical expressions.— The third period commences at the middle of the seventeenth century, with the first establishment of societies and academies of science; of which the wise associates, in many places uniting their efforts, determined to pursue the study of Natural Philosophy by observation and experiments, and candidly to publish their attempts in a general account of their transactions.
In Essays, Physical and Chemical (1791), 4, translated from the original Latin.
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The mind of man may be compared to a musical instrument with a certain range of notes, beyond which in both directions we have an infinitude of silence. The phenomena of matter and force lie within our intellectual range, and as far as they reach we will at all hazards push our inquiries. But behind, and above, and around all, the real mystery of this universe [Who made it all?] lies unsolved, and, as far as we are concerned, is incapable of solution.
In 'Matter and Force', Fragments of Science for Unscientific People (1871), 93.
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The number of humble-bees in any district depends in a great degree on the number of field-mice, which destroy their combs and nests; and Mr. H. Newman, who has long attended to the habits of humble-bees, ... says “Near villages and small towns I have found the nests of humble-bees more numerous than elsewhere, which I attribute to the number of cats that destroy the mice.” Hence it is quite credible that the presence of a feline animal in large numbers in a district might determine, through the intervention first of mice and then of bees, the frequency of certain flowers in that district!
From On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1861), 72.
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The only certainty is that nothing is certain.
As quoted, without citation, in John Walker, A Fork in the Road: Answers to Daily Dilemmas from the Teachings of Jesus Christ (2005), 169.
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The people of Sydney who can speak of my work [on flying-machine models] without a smile are very scarce; it is doubtless the same with American workers. I know that success is dead sure to come, and therefore do not waste time and words in trying to convince unbelievers.
As quoted in Octave Chanute, Progress in Flying Machines (1894), 231.
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The physician being, then, truly a blind man, armed with a club, who, as chance directs the weight of his blow, will be certain of annihilating nature or the disease.
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The planned and orderly development and conservation of our natural resources is the first duty of the United States. It is the only form of insurance that will certainly protect us against disasters that lack of foresight has repeatedly brought down on nations since passed away.
In 'The Conservation of Natural Resources', The Outlook (12 Oxt 1907), 87, 294.
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The routine produces. But each day, nevertheless, when you try to get started you have to transmogrify, transpose yourself; you have to go through some kind of change from being a normal human being, into becoming some kind of slave.
I simply don’t want to break through that membrane. I’d do anything to avoid it. You have to get there and you don’t want to go there because there’s so much pressure and so much strain and you just want to stay on the outside and be yourself. And so the day is a constant struggle to get going.
And if somebody says to me, You’re a prolific writer—it seems so odd. It’s like the difference between geological time and human time. On a certain scale, it does look like I do a lot. But that’s my day, all day long, sitting there wondering when I’m going to be able to get started. And the routine of doing this six days a week puts a little drop in a bucket each day, and that’s the key. Because if you put a drop in a bucket every day, after three hundred and sixty-five days, the bucket’s going to have some water in it.
https://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/5997/john-mcphee-the-art-of-nonfiction-no-3-john-mcphee
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The University is a Mecca to which students come with something less than perfect faith. It is important that students bring a certain ragamuffin, barefoot irreverence to their studies; they are not here to worship what is known, but to question it.
From The Ascent of Man (1973,2011), 275.
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The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.
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The ‘mad idea’ which will lie at the basis of a future fundamental physical theory will come from a realization that physical meaning has some mathematical form not previously associated with reality. From this point of view the problem of the ‘mad idea’ is the problem of choosing, not of generating, the right idea. One should not understand that too literally. In the 1960s it was said (in a certain connection) that the most important discovery of recent years in physics was the complex numbers. The author [Yuri Manin] has something like that in mind.
Mathematics and Physics (1981), Foreward. Reprinted in Mathematics as Metaphor: Selected Essays of Yuri I. Manin (2007), 90.
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There are many different styles of composition. I characterize them always as Mozart versus Beethoven. When Mozart began to write at that time he had the composition ready in his mind. He wrote the manuscript and it was ‘aus einem Guss’ (casted as one). And it was also written very beautiful. Beethoven was an indecisive and a tinkerer and wrote down before he had the composition ready and plastered parts over to change them. There was a certain place where he plastered over nine times and one did remove that carefully to see what happened and it turned out the last version was the same as the first one.
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There are pessimists who hold that such a state of affairs is necessarily inherent in human nature; it is those who propound such views that are the enemies of true religion, for they imply thereby that religious teachings are utopian ideals and unsuited to afford guidance in human affairs. The study of the social patterns in certain so-called primitive cultures, however, seems to have made it sufficiently evident that such a defeatist view is wholly unwarranted.
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There are things out there that are very simple and you never think would work. … Wikipedia is one of those that it would never occur to me that something like that would work. … But it does work. … People who have taken fairly simple ideas, … at a certain scale and after they gain a certain amount of momentum, they can really take off and work. And that’s really an amazing thing.
Guest Lecture, UC Berkeley, 'Search Engines, Technology, and Business' (3 Oct 2005). At 1:13 in the YouTube video.
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There could not be a language more universal and more simple, more exempt from errors and obscurities, that is to say, more worthy of expressing the invariable relations of natural objects. Considered from this point of view, it is coextensive with nature itself; it defines all the sensible relations, measures the times, the spaces, the forces, the temperatures; this difficult science is formed slowly, but it retains all the principles it has once acquired. It grows and becomes more certain without limit in the midst of so many errors of the human mind.
From introduction to Theory of Heat as quoted in F.R. Moulton, 'The Influence of Astronomy on Mathematics', Science (10 Mar 1911), N.S. Vol. 33, No. 845, 359.
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There is no science which does not spring from pre-existing knowledge, and no certain and definite idea which has not derived its origin from the senses.
In Willis (trans.) and Alex Bowie (trans.), 'The First Anatomical Disquisition on the Circulation of the Blood, Addressed to Jo. Riolan', On the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals (1889), 93.
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There isn’t one, not one, instance where it’s known what pattern of neural connectivity realizes a certain cognitive content, inate or learned, in either the infant’s nervous system or the adult’s. To be sure, our brains must somehow register the contents of our mental states. The trouble is: Nobody knows how—by what neurological means—they do so. Nobody can look at the patterns of connectivity (or of anything else) in a brain and figure out whether it belongs to somebody who knows algebra, or who speaks English, or who believes that Washington was the Father of his country.
In Critical Condition: Polemic Essays on Cognitive science and the Philosophy of the Mind (1988), 269-71. In Vinoth Ramachandra, Subverting Global Myths: Theology and the Public Issues Shaping our World (2008), 180.
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Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolution, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it—we mean to lead it.
Address at Rice University in Houston (12 Sep 1962). On website of John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
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Throughout his last half-dozen books, for example, Arthur Koestler has been conducting a campaign against his own misunderstanding of Darwinism. He hopes to find some ordering force, constraining evolution to certain directions and overriding the influence of natural selection ... Darwinism is not the theory of capricious change that Koestler imagines. Random variation may be the raw material of change, but natural selection builds good design by rejecting most variants while accepting and accumulating the few that improve adaptation to local environments.
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Thus you can throw yourself flat on the ground, stretched out upon Mother Earth, with certain conviction that you are one with her and she with you ... For eternally and always there is only now, one and the same now; the present is the only thing that has no end.
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To say that a man is made up of certain chemical elements is a satisfactory description only for those who intend to use him as a fertilizer.
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To say that mind is a product or function of protoplasm, or of its molecular changes, is to use words to which we can attach no clear conception. You cannot have, in the whole, what does not exist in any of the parts; and those who argue thus should put forth a definite conception of matter, with clearly enunciated properties, and show, that the necessary result of a certain complex arrangement of the elements or atoms of that matter, will be the production of self-consciousness. There is no escape from this dilemma—either all matter is conscious, or consciousness is something distinct from matter, and in the latter case, its presence in material forms is a proof of the existence of conscious beings, outside of, and independent of, what we term matter. The foregoing considerations lead us to the very important conclusion, that matter is essentially force, and nothing but force; that matter, as popularly understood, does not exist, and is, in fact, philosophically inconceivable. When we touch matter, we only really experience sensations of resistance, implying repulsive force; and no other sense can give us such apparently solid proofs of the reality of matter, as touch does. This conclusion, if kept constantly present in the mind, will be found to have a most important bearing on almost every high scientific and philosophical problem, and especially on such as relate to our own conscious existence.
In 'The Limits of Natural Selection as Applied to Man', last chapter of Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection (1870), 365-366.
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Travel by canoe is not a necessity, and will nevermore be the most efficient way to get from one region to another, or even from one lake to another anywhere. A canoe trip has become simply a rite of oneness with certain terrain, a diversion off the field, an art performed not because it is a necessity but because there is value in the art itself.
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Truth, like Gold, is not the less so, for being newly brought out of the Mine. ’Tis Trial and Examination must give it price, and not any antick Fashion: And though it be not yet current by the publick stamp; yet it may, for all that, be as old as Nature, and is certainly not the less genuine.
In 'The Epistle Dedicatory', Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), second unnumbered page.
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We are more than just flesh and bones. There’s a certain spiritual nature and something of the mind that we can’t measure.… With all our sophisticated equipment, we cannot monitor or define it, and yet it’s there.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 44
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We are placed here with certain talents and capabilities. It is up to each of us to use those talents and capabilities as best you can. If you do that, I think there is a power greater than any of us that will place the opportunities in our way, and if we use our talents properly, we will be living the kind of life we should live.
At NASA press conference (9 Apr 1959) to introduce the Mercury 7 astronauts. As quoted in Joseph N. Bell, Seven Into Space: The Story of the Mercury Astronauts (1960), 69.
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We see a universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws, but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations. I am fascinated by Spinoza’s pantheism, but admire even more his contributions to modern thought because he is the first philosopher to deal with the soul and the body as one, not two separate things.
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What quality is shared by all objects that provoke our aesthetic emotions? Only one answer seems possible—significant form. In each, lines and colors combined in a particular way; certain forms and relations of forms, stir our aesthetic emotions. These relations and combinations of lines and colours, these æsthetically moving forms, I call “Significant Form”; and “Significant Form” is the one quality common to all works of visual art.
In Art (1913), 8.
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What we do may be small, but it has a certain character of permanence and to have produced anything of the slightest permanent interest, whether it be a copy of verses or a geometrical theorem, is to have done something utterly beyond the powers of the vast majority of men.
From Inaugural Lecture, Oxford (1920). Recalled in A Mathematician’s Apology (1940, 1967), 76.
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When we seek a textbook case for the proper operation of science, the correction of certain error offers far more promise than the establishment of probable truth. Confirmed hunches, of course, are more upbeat than discredited hypotheses. Since the worst traditions of ‘popular’ writing falsely equate instruction with sweetness and light, our promotional literature abounds with insipid tales in the heroic mode, although tough stories of disappointment and loss give deeper insight into a methodology that the celebrated philosopher Karl Popper once labeled as ‘conjecture and refutation.’
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Winwood Reade … remarks that while a man is an insoluble puzzle, in the aggregate he becomes a mathematical certainty. You can, for example, never foretell what any one man will do, but you can say with precision what an average number will be up to. Individuals vary, but percentages remain constant. So says the statistician.
Character Sherlock Holmes recommends Winwood Reade’s book The Martyrdom of Man to Dr. Watson in The Sign of the Four (1890), 196. Earlier in the novel, Holmes calls Reade’s book “one of the most remarkable ever penned.” Reade is a real person and his book was published in 1872. The actual statement in it reads: “As a single atom man is an enigma: as a whole he is a mathematical problem.”
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Write a paper promising salvation, make it a ‘structured’ something or a ‘virtual’ something, or ‘abstract’, ‘distributed’ or ‘higher-order’ or ‘applicative’ and you can almost be certain of having started a new cult.
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[Defining Life] the sum of the phenomena proper to organized beings. In consists essentially in this, that organized beings are all, during a certain time, the centres to which foreign substances penetrate and are appropriated, and from which others issue.
Béclard, "Anatomie Générale." In The British Controversialist and Literary Magazine (1865), 234.
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[Jethro Tull] was the first Englishman—perhaps the first writer, ancient and modern—who has attempted, with any tolerable degree of success, to reduce the art of agriculture to certain and uniform principles; and it must be acknowledged that he has done more towards establishing a rational and practical method of husbandry than all the writers who have gone before him.
Anonymous
In Letter (18 Oct 1764), signed only “D.Y.” from Hungerford, in Sylvanus Urban (ed.), 'Observations on the late Improvements in Agriculture', The Gentleman’s Magazine (Nov 1764), 525.
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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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- 90 -
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- 70 -
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- 40 -
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