Controversy Quotes (20 quotes)
Benford's Law of Controversy: Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available.
Chemistry is yet, indeed, a mere embryon. Its principles are contested; experiments seem contradictory; their subjects are so minute as to escape our senses; and their result too fallacious to satisfy the mind. It is probably an age too soon to propose the establishment of a system.
Geologists have not been slow to admit that they were in error in assuming that they had an eternity of past time for the evolution of the earth's history. They have frankly acknowledged the validity of the physical arguments which go to place more or less definite limits to the antiquity of the earth. They were, on the whole, disposed to acquiesce in the allowance of 100 millions of years granted to them by Lord Kelvin, for the transaction of the whole of the long cycles of geological history. But the physicists have been insatiable and inexorable. As remorseless as Lear's daughters, they have cut down their grant of years by successive slices, until some of them have brought the number to something less than ten millions. In vain have the geologists protested that there must somewhere be a flaw in a line of argument which tends to results so entirely at variance with the strong evidence for a higher antiquity, furnished not only by the geological record, but by the existing races of plants and animals. They have insisted that this evidence is not mere theory or imagination, but is drawn from a multitude of facts which become hopelessly unintelligible unless sufficient time is admitted for the evolution of geological history. They have not been able to disapprove the arguments of the physicists, but they have contended that the physicists have simply ignored the geological arguments as of no account in the discussion.
I look upon statistics as the handmaid of medicine, but on that very account I hold that it befits medicine to treat her handmaid with proper respect, and not to prostitute her services for controversial or personal purposes.
In all matters of opinion and science ... the difference between men is ... oftener found to lie in generals than in particulars; and to be less in reality than in appearance. An explication of the terms commonly ends the controversy, and the disputants are surprised to find that they had been quarrelling, while at bottom they agreed in their judgement.
In mathematics there are no true controversies. (1811)
It is not only by the questions we have answered that progress may be measured, but also by those we are still asking. The passionate controversies of one era are viewed as sterile preoccupations by another, for knowledge alters what we seek as well as what we find.
Mathematics in gross, it is plain, are a grievance in natural philosophy, and with reason…Mathematical proofs are out of the reach of topical arguments, and are not to be attacked by the equivocal use of words or declamation, that make so great a part of other discourses; nay, even of controversies.
No doubt science cannot admit of compromises, and can only bring out the complete truth. Hence there must be controversy, and the strife may be, and sometimes must be, sharp. But must it even then be personal? Does it help science to attack the man as well as the statement? On the contrary, has not science the noble privilege of carrying on its controversies without personal quarrels?
No great advance has ever been made in science, politics, or religion, without controversy.
Notable enough, however, are the controversies over the series 1 – 1 + 1 – 1 + 1 – … whose sum was given by Leibniz as 1/2, although others disagree. … Understanding of this question is to be sought in the word “sum”; this idea, if thus conceived—namely, the sum of a series is said to be that quantity to which it is brought closer as more terms of the series are taken—has relevance only for convergent series, and we should in general give up the idea of sum for divergent series.
One of the principal obstacles to the rapid diffusion of a new idea lies in the difficulty of finding suitable expression to convey its essential point to other minds. Words may have to be strained into a new sense, and scientific controversies constantly resolve themselves into differences about the meaning of words. On the other hand, a happy nomenclature has sometimes been more powerful than rigorous logic in allowing a new train of thought to be quickly and generally accepted.
The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way. Persecution is used in theology, not in arithmetic.
There came in February the issue of Life saying on the cover “Dr. Teller Refutes 9000 Scientists”… I wrote to Life and said first that Teller hadn’t refuted 9000 scientists and second I felt that they should publish the article that I had written… They sent the article back and said that they didn’t want it and then I offered it to Look. The editor of Look called me and said they couldn’t get into a controversy with Life. Then I offered it to the Saturday Evening Post and the Ladies Home Journal and Readers Digest and none of them were interested in it. And then I thought, “What shall I do? I’ll have to write a book and see if I can’t get it published.”’
To smite all humbugs, however big; to give a nobler tone to science; to set an example of abstinence from petty personal controversies, and of toleration for everything but lying. … —are these my aims?
Traditional dinosaur theory is full of short circuits. Like the antiquated wiring in an old house, the details sputter and burn out when specific parts are tested.
Whenever … a controversy arises in mathematics, the issue is not whether a thing is true or not, but whether the proof might not be conducted more simply in some other way, or whether the proposition demonstrated is sufficiently important for the advancement of the science as to deserve especial enunciation and emphasis, or finally, whether the proposition is not a special case of some other and more general truth which is as easily discovered.
[I have a great] distaste for controversy…. I have often seen it do great harm, and yet remember few cases in natural knowledge where it has helped much either to pull down error or advance truth. Criticism, on the other hand, is of much value.
[I have] a strong conviction that controversial reply and rejoinder is but a vain occupation.
[The Royal Society] is quite simply the voice of science in Britain. It is intellectually rigorous, not afraid to be outspoken on controversial issues such as climate change, but it is not aggressively secular either, insisting on a single view of the world. In fact, there are plenty of eminent scientists – Robert Winston, for instance – who are also men of faith.