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Who said: “Nature does nothing in vain when less will serve; for Nature is pleased with simplicity and affects not the pomp of superfluous causes.”
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Contradict Quotes (40 quotes)


A central lesson of science is that to understand complex issues (or even simple ones), we must try to free our minds of dogma and to guarantee the freedom to publish, to contradict, and to experiment. Arguments from authority are unacceptable.
Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millenium (1998), 190.
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A religion contradicting science and a science contradicting religion are equally false.
In 'Forms of Knowledge', Tertium Organum: The Third Canon of Thought; a Key to the Enigmas of the World (1922), 231.
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As chemists, we must rename [our] scheme and insert the symbols Ba, La, Ce in place of Ra, Ac, Th. As nuclear chemists closely associated with physics, we cannot yet convince ourselves to make this leap, which contradicts all previous experience in nuclear physics.
Co-author with Fritz Strassmann, German chemist (1902-80)
Otto Hahn
'(Über den nachweis und das Verhalten der bei der Bestrahlung des Urans mittels Neutronen entstehenden Erdalkallmetalle', Die Naturwissenschaften, 1939, 27, 11-15. Trans. J. Heilbron and Robert W. Seidel, Lawrence and his Laboratory: A History of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (1989), Vol. 1, 436-7.
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As for me ... I would much rather be a perfected ape than a degraded Adam. Yes, if it is shown to me that my humble ancestors were quadrupedal animals, arboreal herbivores, brothers or cousins of those who were also the ancestors of monkeys and apes, far from blushing in shame for my species because of its genealogy and parentage, I will be proud of all that evolution has accomplished, of the continuous improvement which takes us up to the highest order, of the successive triumphs that have made us superior to all of the other species ... the splendid work of progress.
I will conclude in saying: the fixity of species is almost impossible, it contradicts the mode of succession and of the distribution of species in the sequence of extant and extinct creatures. It is therefore extremely likely that species are variable and are subject to evolution. But the causes, the mechanisms of this evolution are still unknown.
'Discussion sur la Machoire Humaine de la Naulette (Belgique)', Bulletin de la Societé d'Anthropologie de Paris, 2nd Series, I (1866), 595. Trans. Erik Trinkaus and Pat Shipman, The Neanderthals: Changing the Image of Mankind (1993), 103-4.
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At this stage you must admit that whatever is seen to be sentient is nevertheless composed of atoms that are insentient. The phenomena open to our observation so not contradict this conclusion or conflict with it. Rather they lead us by the hand and compel us to believe that the animate is born, as I maintain, of the insentient.
In On the Nature of the Universe, translated by R. E. Latham (1951, 1994), 59.
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Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)
From poem, 'Song of Myself', Leaves of Grass (1881), Part 51, 78.
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Geometry, which should only obey Physics, when united with it sometimes commands it. If it happens that the question which we wish to examine is too complicated for all the elements to be able to enter into the analytical comparison which we wish to make, we separate the more inconvenient [elements], we substitute others for them, less troublesome, but also less real, and we are surprised to arrive, notwithstanding a painful labour, only at a result contradicted by nature; as if after having disguised it, cut it short or altered it, a purely mechanical combination could give it back to us.
From Essai d’une nouvelle théorie de la résistance des fluides (1752), translated as an epigram in Ivor Grattan-Guinness, Convolutions in French Mathematics, 1800-1840: From the Calculus and Mechanics to Mathematical Analysis and Mathematical Physics (1990), Vol. 1, 33.
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Given any rule, however “fundamental” or “necessary” for science, there are always circumstances when it is advisable not only to ignore the rule, but to adopt its opposite. For example, there are circumstances when it is advisable to introduce, elaborate and defend ad hoc hypotheses, or hypotheses which contradict well-established and generally accepted experimental results, or hypotheses whose content is smaller than the content of the existing and empirically adequate alternative, or self-inconsistent hypotheses, and so on.
Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge (1975, 1993), 14-15.
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I like quoting Einstein. … Because nobody dares contradict you.
From interview reported by Oliver Burkeman, 'Voice of America', The Guardian (1 Mar 2002) newspaper.
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In science the new is an advance; but in morals, as contradicting our inner ideals and historic idols, it is ever a retrogression.
Levana, or, The Doctrine of Education translated from the German (1880), 123.
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In these researches I followed the principles of the experimental method that we have established, i.e., that, in presence of a well-noted, new fact which contradicts a theory, instead of keeping the theory and abandoning the fact, I should keep and study the fact, and I hastened to give up the theory.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 164.
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It is often held that scientific hypotheses are constructed, and are to be constructed, only after a detailed weighing of all possible evidence bearing on the matter, and that then and only then may one consider, and still only tentatively, any hypotheses. This traditional view however, is largely incorrect, for not only is it absurdly impossible of application, but it is contradicted by the history of the development of any scientific theory. What happens in practice is that by intuitive insight, or other inexplicable inspiration, the theorist decides that certain features seem to him more important than others and capable of explanation by certain hypotheses. Then basing his study on these hypotheses the attempt is made to deduce their consequences. The successful pioneer of theoretical science is he whose intuitions yield hypotheses on which satisfactory theories can be built, and conversely for the unsuccessful (as judged from a purely scientific standpoint).
Co-author with Raymond Arthur Lyttleton, in 'The Internal Constitution of the Stars', Occasional Notes of the Royal Astronomical Society 1948, 12, 90.
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Life is order, death is disorder. A fundamental law of Nature states that spontaneous chemical changes in the universe tend toward chaos. But life has, during milliards of years of evolution, seemingly contradicted this law. With the aid of energy derived from the sun it has built up the most complicated systems to be found in the universe—living organisms. Living matter is characterized by a high degree of chemical organisation on all levels, from the organs of large organisms to the smallest constituents of the cell. The beauty we experience when we enjoy the exquisite form of a flower or a bird is a reflection of a microscopic beauty in the architecture of molecules.
The Nobel Prize for Chemistry: Introductory Address'. Nobel Lectures: Chemistry 1981-1990 (1992), 69.
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Nothing is more flatly contradicted by experience than the belief that a man, distinguished in one of the departments of science is more likely to think sensibly about ordinary affairs than anyone else.
In 'Has the Intellect A Function?', The Collected Papers of Wilfred Trotter, FRS (1941), 181.
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Nothing is more interesting to the true theorist than a fact which directly contradicts a theory generally accepted up to that time, for this is his particular work.
A Survey of Physics (1925).
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Our belief is not a belief. Our principles are not a faith. We do not rely solely upon science and reason, because these are necessary rather than sufficient factors, but we distrust anything that contradicts science or outrages reason.
…...
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Read not to contradict and confute, not to believe and take for granted, not to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider.
'Of Studies.' Translation in Francis Bacon, James Spedding (ed.) et al., Works of Francis Bacon (1858) Vol. 6, 497.
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Science and religion no more contradict each other than light and electricity.
In Tryon Edwards, C. N. Catrevas, The New Dictionary of Thoughts: a Cyclopedia of Quotations (1891, 1960), 554.
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Significant advances in science often have a peculiar quality: they contradict obvious, commonsense opinions.
A Slot Machine, A Broken Test Tube: An Autobiography (1984).
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Since religion intrinsically rejects empirical methods, there should never be any attempt to reconcile scientific theories with religion. [An infinitely old universe, always evolving may not be compatible with the Book of Genesis. However, religions such as Buddhism get along without having any explicit creation mythology and are in no way contradicted by a universe without a beginning or end.] Creatio ex nihilo, even as religious doctrine, only dates to around AD 200. The key is not to confuse myth and empirical results, or religion and science.
Quoted in Anthony L. Peratt, 'Dean of the Plasma Dissidents', Washington Times, supplement: The World and I (May 1988),196.
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Sociological researchers maintain a mask of objectivity. But … when students in these movements report facts that contradict the tenets of their group's creed, they are … punished for their heresy. … forcing them “to leave the movement.” A similar mechanism of repression is at work in every scientific discipline that I know.
In 'The Conformity Police', Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century (2000), 86.
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Some say that everything that is called a psychical law is nothing but the psychological reflex of physical combinations, which is made up of sensations joined to certain central cerebral processes... It is contradicted by the fact of consciousness itself, which cannot possibly be derived from any physical qualities of material molecules or atoms.
An Introduction to Psychology (1912)
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The framing of hypotheses is, for the enquirer after truth, not the end, but the beginning of his work. Each of his systems is invented, not that he may admire it and follow it into all its consistent consequences, but that he may make it the occasion of a course of active experiment and observation. And if the results of this process contradict his fundamental assumptions, however ingenious, however symmetrical, however elegant his system may be, he rejects it without hesitation. He allows no natural yearning for the offspring of his own mind to draw him aside from the higher duty of loyalty to his sovereign, Truth, to her he not only gives his affections and his wishes, but strenuous labour and scrupulous minuteness of attention.
Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences (1847), Vol. 2, 57.
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The great basic thought that the world is not to be comprehended as a complex of ready-made things, but as a complex of processes, in which the things apparently stable no less than their mind-images in our heads, the concepts, go through an uninterrupted change of coming into being and passing away, in which, in spite of all seeming accidents and of all temporary retrogression, a progressive development asserts itself in the end—this great fundamental thought has, especially since the time of Hegel, so thoroughly permeated ordinary consciousness that in this generality it is scarcely ever contradicted.
Ludwig Feuerbach and the Outcome of Classical German Philosophy (1886). C. P. Dutt (ed.) (1934), 54.
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The law that entropy always increases—the Second Law of Thermodynamics—holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations—then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation—well these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.
Gifford Lectures (1927), The Nature of the Physical World (1928), 74.
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The major religions on the Earth contradict each other left and right. You can’t all be correct. And what if all of you are wrong? It’s a possibility, you know. You must care about the truth, right? Well, the way to winnow through all the differing contentions is to be skeptical. I’m not any more skeptical about your religious beliefs than I am about every new scientific idea I hear about. But in my line of work, they’re called hypotheses, not inspiration and not revelation.
Contact (1997), 162.
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The original question, “Can machines think?,” I believe too meaningless to deserve discussion. Nevertheless I believe that at the end of the century the use of words and general educated opinion will have altered so much that one will be able to speak of machines thinking without expecting to be contradicted.
(1950) As quoted in The World of Mathematics (1956), 2083.
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The phrase is self-contradictory; “sense” is never “common”.
In Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 47.
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The principles which constituted the triumph of the preceding stages of the science, may appear to be subverted and ejected by the later discoveries, but in fact they are, (so far as they were true), taken up into the subsequent doctrines and included in them. They continue to be an essential part of the science. The earlier truths are not expelled but absorbed, not contradicted but extended; and the history of each science, which may thus appear like a succession of revolutions, is, in reality, a series of developments.
In History of the Inductive Sciences (1837) Vol. 1, 10.
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The publication in 1859 of the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin made a marked epoch in my own mental development, as it did in that of human thought generally. Its effect was to demolish a multitude of dogmatic barriers by a single stroke, and to arouse a spirit of rebellion against all ancient authorities whose positive and unauthenticated statements were contradicted by modern science.
Memories of My Life (1908), 287.
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The quantum entered physics with a jolt. It didn’t fit anywhere; it made no sense; it contradicted everything we thought we knew about nature. Yet the data seemed to demand it. ... The story of Werner Heisenberg and his science is the story of the desperate failures and ultimate triumphs of the small band of brilliant physicists who—during an incredibly intense period of struggle with the data, the theories, and each other during the 1920s—brought about a revolutionary new understanding of the atomic world known as quantum mechanics.
Beyond Uncertainty: Heisenberg, Quantum Physics, and the Bomb (2009), 90. Selected and contributed to this website by the author.
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The Requisites of a good Hypothesis are:
That It be Intelligible.
That It neither Assume nor Suppose anything Impossible, unintelligible, or demonstrably False.
That It be consistent with Itself.
That It be lit and sufficient to Explicate the Phaenomena, especially the chief.
That It be, at least, consistent, with the rest of the Phaenomena It particularly relates to, and do not contradict any other known Phaenomena of nature, or manifest Physical Truth.
The Qualities and Conditions of an Excellent Hypothesis are:
That It be not Precarious, but have sufficient Grounds In the nature of the Thing Itself or at least be well recommended by some Auxiliary Proofs.
That It be the Simplest of all the good ones we are able to frame, at least containing nothing that is superfluous or Impertinent.
That It be the only Hypothesis that can Explicate the Phaenomena; or at least, that do’s Explicate them so well.
That it enable a skilful Naturailst to foretell future Phaenomena by the Congruity or Incongruity to it; and especially the event of such Experlm’ts as are aptly devis’d to examine It, as Things that ought, or ought not, to be consequent to It.
Boyle Papers, 37. Quoted In Barbara Kaplan (ed.), Divulging of Useful Truths in Physick:The Medical Agenda of Robert Boyle (1993), 50.
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The truth in one sphere does not contradict the truth in another sphere. Truth is one and in harmony with itself.
The Homiletic Review, Vol. 83-84 (1922), Vol. 84, 380.
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The truth may be puzzling. It may take some work to grapple with. It may be counterintuitive. It may contradict deeply held prejudices. It may not be consonant with what we desperately want to be true. But our preferences do not determine what's true. We have a method, and that method helps us to reach not absolute truth, only asymptotic approaches to the truth—never there, just closer and closer, always finding vast new oceans of undiscovered possibilities. Cleverly designed experiments are the key.
In 'Wonder and Skepticism', Skeptical Enquirer (Jan-Feb 1995), 19, No. 1.
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The voice of the intelligence … is drowned out by the roar of fear. It is ignored by the voice of desire. It is contradicted by the voice of shame. It is biased by hate and extinguished by anger. Most of all it is silenced by ignorance.
The Progressive Oct 55
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Two truths cannot contradict one another.
Letter to Madame Christina of Lorraine, Grand Duchess of Tuscany: concerning the Use of Biblical Quotations in Matters of Science (1615), Maurice A. Finocchiaro (trans.) The Essential Galileo (2008), 120. Also expressed in Letter to Castelli (1613) as “it is impossible for two truths to contradict wach other” (p.107). However, the concept predates Galileo, and was, for example, expressed by Averroes.
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We could present spatially an atomic fact which contradicted the laws of physics, but not one which contradicted the laws of geometry.
In Tractatus Logico Philosophicus (1922), 45 (proposition 3.021).
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When anybody contradicted Einstein he thought it over, and if he was found wrong he was delighted, because he felt that he had escaped from an error, and that now he knew better than before.
As quoted in Max F. Perutz, I Wish I’d Made You Angry Earlier: Essays on Science, Scientists, and Humanity (2002), 312.
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When we meet a fact which contradicts a prevailing theory, we must accept the fact and abandon the theory, even when the theory is supported by great names and generally accepted.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (reprint 1999), 164.
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Wherever possible, scientists experiment. Which experiments suggest themselves often depends on which theories currently prevail. Scientists are intent of testing those theories to the breaking point. They do not trust what is intuitively obvious. That the Earth is flat was once obvious. That heavy bodies fall faster than light ones was once obvious. That bloodsucking leeches cure most diseases was once obvious. That some people are naturally and by divine decree slaves was once obvious. That there is such a place as the center of the Universe, and that the Earth sits in that exalted spot was once obvious. That there is an absolute standard of rest was once obvious. The truth may be puzzling or counterintuitive. It may contradict deeply held beliefs. Experiment is how we get a handle on it.
In The Demon-Haunted World: Science As A Candle in the Dark (1995), 36.
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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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- 40 -
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