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Who said: “A change in motion is proportional to the motive force impressed and takes place along the straight line in which that force is impressed.”
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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index C > Category: Critical

Critical Quotes (66 quotes)

'Normal' science, in Kuhn's sense, exists. It is the activity of the non-revolutionary, or more precisely, the not-too-critical professional: of the science student who accepts the ruling dogma of the day... in my view the 'normal' scientist, as Kuhn describes him, is a person one ought to be sorry for... He has been taught in a dogmatic spirit: he is a victim of indoctrination... I can only say that I see a very great danger in it and in the possibility of its becoming normal... a danger to science and, indeed, to our civilization. And this shows why I regard Kuhn's emphasis on the existence of this kind of science as so important.
'Normal Science and its Dangers', in I. Lakatos and A. Musgrave (eds.), Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge (1970), 52-3.
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...the scientific cast of mind examines the world critically, as if many alternative worlds might exist, as if other things might be here which are not. Then we are forced to ask why what we see is present and not something else. Why are the Sun and moon and the planets spheres? Why not pyramids, or cubes, or dodecahedra? Why not irregular, jumbly shapes? Why so symmetrical, worlds? If you spend any time spinning hypotheses, checking to see whether they make sense, whether they conform to what else we know. Thinking of tests you can pose to substantiate or deflate hypotheses, you will find yourself doing science.
…...
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I cannot give any scientist of any age better advice than this: the intensity of the conviction that a hypothesis is true has no bearing on whether it is true or not. The importance of the strength of our conviction is only to provide a proportionally strong incentive to find out if the hypothesis will stand up to critical examination.
In Advice to a Young Scientist (1979), 39.
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A new era of ocean exploration can yield discoveries that will help inform everything from critical medical advances to sustainable forms of energy. Consider that AZT, an early treatment for HIV, is derived from a Caribbean reef sponge, or that a great deal of energy—from offshore wind, to OTEC (ocean thermal energy conservation), to wind and wave energy—is yet untapped in our oceans.
In 'Why Exploring the Ocean is Mankind’s Next Giant Leap', contributed to CNN 'Lightyears Blog' (13 Mar 2012).
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A system such as classical mechanics may be ‘scientific’ to any degree you like; but those who uphold it dogmatically — believing, perhaps, that it is their business to defend such a successful system against criticism as long as it is not conclusively disproved — are adopting the very reverse of that critical attitude which in my view is the proper one for the scientist.
In The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1959, reprint 2002), 28.
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Almost everyone... seems to be quite sure that the differences between the methodologies of history and of the natural sciences are vast. For, we are assured, it is well known that in the natural sciences we start from observation and proceed by induction to theory. And is it not obvious that in history we proceed very differently? Yes, I agree that we proceed very differently. But we do so in the natural sciences as well.
In both we start from myths—from traditional prejudices, beset with error—and from these we proceed by criticism: by the critical elimination of errors. In both the role of evidence is, in the main, to correct our mistakes, our prejudices, our tentative theories—that is, to play a part in the critical discussion, in the elimination of error. By correcting our mistakes, we raise new problems. And in order to solve these problems, we invent conjectures, that is, tentative theories, which we submit to critical discussion, directed towards the elimination of error.
The Myth of the Framework: In Defence of Science and Rationality (1993), 140.
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Behind and permeating all our scientific activity, whether in critical analysis or in discovery, there is an elementary and overwhelming faith in the possibility of grasping the real world with out concepts, and, above all, faith in the truth over which we have no control but in the service of which our rationality stands or falls. Faith and intrinsic rationality are interlocked with one another
Christian Theology of Scientific Culture (1981), 63. In Vinoth Ramachandra, Subverting Global Myths: Theology and the Public Issues Shaping our World (2008), 187.
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Beyond a critical point within a finite space, freedom diminishes as numbers increase. ...The human question is not how many can possibly survive within the system, but what kind of existence is possible for those who do survive.
Dune
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Both biological and cultural diversity are now severely threatened and working for their preservation is a critical task.
The Quark and the Jaguar: Adventure in the Simple and Compex (1994), 374-375.
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Chemistry is the study of material transformations. Yet a knowledge of the rate, or time dependence, of chemical change is of critical importance for the successful synthesis of new materials and for the utilization of the energy generated by a reaction. During the past century it has become clear that all macroscopic chemical processes consist of many elementary chemical reactions that are themselves simply a series of encounters between atomic or molecular species. In order to understand the time dependence of chemical reactions, chemical kineticists have traditionally focused on sorting out all of the elementary chemical reactions involved in a macroscopic chemical process and determining their respective rates.
'Molecular Beam Studies of Elementary Chemical Processes', Nobel Lecture, 8 Dec 1986. In Nobel Lectures: Chemistry 1981-1990 (1992), 320.
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Every mathematical discipline goes through three periods of development: the naive, the formal, and the critical.
Quoted in R Remmert, Theory of complex functions (New York, 1989).
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Forests and trees make significant direct contributions to the nutrition of poor households ... [as] rural communities in Central Africa obtained a critical portion of protein and fat in their diets through hunting wildlife from in and around forests. The five to six million tonnes of bushmeat eaten yearly in the Congo Basin is roughly equal to the total amount of beef produced annually in Brazil – without the accompanying need to clear huge swathes of forest for cattle.
In 'Forests and food security: What we know and need to know', Forest News online blog by the Center for International Forestry Research (20 Apr 2011).
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Google can aggregate all web and paper-based information, and they can build fantastic search engines, but that will not directly lead to truth or wisdom. For that we will continue to need education, training in critical thought, and good editors who can help us winnow the fact from the fiction.
From post 're:The Pursuit of Knowledge, from Genesis to Google' to the 'Interesting People' List (6 Jan 2005) maintained by David J. Farber, now archived at interesting-people.org website.
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Hands-on experience at the critical time, not systematic knowledge, is what counts in the making of a naturalist. Better to be an untutored savage for a while, not to know the names or anatomical detail. Better to spend long stretches of time just searching and dreaming.
In Naturalist (1994), 11-12.
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I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves–this critical basis I call the ideal of a pigsty. The ideals that have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth. Without the sense of kinship with men of like mind, without the occupation with the objective world, the eternally unattainable in the field of art and scientific endeavors, life would have seemed empty to me. The trite objects of human efforts–possessions, outward success, luxury–have always seemed to me contemptible.
In 'What I Believe,' Forum and Century (1930).
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I resolved to obtain from myself [through automatic writing] what we were trying to obtain from them, namely a monologue spoken as rapidly as possible without any intervention on the part of the critical faculties, a monologue consequently unencumbered by the slightest inhibition and which was, as closely as possible akin to spoken thought. It had seemed to me, and still does … that the speed of thought does not necessarily defy language, nor even the fast-moving pen.
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If the universe is measurably curved today, cosmologists must accept the miraculous fact that this is so for the first time in the 1010-year history of the universe; if it had been measurably non-flat at much earlier times, it would be much more obviously curved today than it is. This line of reasoning suggests that the observable universe is essentially exactly flat: that it contains precisely the critical density of mass.
(1986). As quoted in Isaac Asimov's Book of Science and Nature Quotations.
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If this “critical openminded attitude” … is wanted, the question at once arises, Is it science that should be studied in order to achieve it? Why not study law? A judge has to do everything that a scientist is exhorted to do in the way of withholding judgment until all the facts are in, and then judging impartially on the merits of the case as well as he can. … Why not a course in Sherlock Holmes? The detectives, or at least the detective-story writers, join with the scientists in excoriating “dogmatic prejudice, lying, falsification of facts, and data, and willful fallacious reasoning.”
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 191.
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In addition, the oil royalties the Federal Government does not collect from big oil will starve the Land and Water Conservation Fund of critical financial resources.
Ron Kind
…...
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In this great society wide lying around us, a critical analysis would find very few spontaneous actions. It is almost all custom and gross sense.
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It is also vital to a valuable education that independent critical thinking be developed in the young human being, a development that is greatly jeopardized by overburdening with too much and too varied subjects. Overburdening necessarily leads to superficiality.
From interview with Benjamin Fine, 'Einstein Stresses Critical Thinking', New York Times (5 Oct 1952), 37. [Here, “superficiality” has been inserted as a correction for a typo, “superciality”, in the original text. —Webmaster]
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It is not his possession of knowledge, of irrefutable truth, that makes the man of science, but his persistent and recklessly critical quest for truth.
In The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1959, 1972), 281.
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It may be true, that as Francis Thompson noted, ‘Thou canst not stir a flower without troubling a star’, but in computing the motion of stars and planets, the effects of flowers do not loom large. It is the disregarding of the effect of flowers on stars that allows progress in astronomy. Appropriate abstraction is critical to progress in science.
…...
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It sometimes seems necessary to suspend one's normal critical faculties not to find the problems of fusion overwhelming.
Science (1976). In Ervan G. Garrison, A History of Engineering and Technology
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Let us be cautious in making assertions and critical in examining them, but tolerant in permitting linguistic forms.
[Carnap’s famous plea for tolerance to which W.V. Quine took exception.]
Concluding sentence in article, 'Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology,' Revue International de Philosophie (1950), 11. Article reprinted in Richard Boyd, Philip Gasper and J.D. Trout (editors)The Philosophy of Science (1950), 96.
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Mathematicians can and do fill in gaps, correct errors, and supply more detail and more careful scholarship when they are called on or motivated to do so. Our system is quite good at producing reliable theorems that can be backed up. It’s just that the reliability does not primarily come from mathematicians checking formal arguments; it come from mathematicians thinking carefully and critically about mathematical ideas.
Concerning revision of proofs. In 'On Proof and Progress in Mathematics', For the Learning of Mathematics (Feb 1995), 15, No. 1, 33. Reprinted from Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society (1994), 30, No. 2, 170.
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Mathematics is a structure providing observers with a framework upon which to base healthy, informed, and intelligent judgment. Data and information are slung about us from all directions, and we are to use them as a basis for informed decisions. … Ability to critically analyze an argument purported to be logical, free of the impact of the loaded meanings of the terms involved, is basic to an informed populace.
In 'Mathematics Is an Edifice, Not a Toolbox', Notices of the AMS (Oct 1996), 43, No. 10, 1108.
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Natural science is founded on minute critical views of the general order of events taking place upon our globe, corrected, enlarged, or exalted by experiments, in which the agents concerned are placed under new circumstances, and their diversified properties separately examined. The body of natural science, then, consists of facts; is analogy,—the relation of resemblance of facts by which its different parts are connected, arranged, and employed, either for popular use, or for new speculative improvements.
'Introductory Lecture to the Chemistry of Nature' (1807), in J. Davy (ed.), The Collected Works of Sir Humphry Davy (1839-40), Vol 8, 167-8.
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No one believes an hypothesis except its originator but everyone believes an experiment except the experimenter. Most people are ready to believe something based on experiment but the experimenter knows the many little things that could have gone wrong in the experiment. For this reason the discoverer of a new fact seldom feels quite so confident of it as others do. On the other hand other people are usually critical of an hypothesis, whereas the originator identifies himself with it and is liable to become devoted to it.
The Art of Scientific Investigation (1950), 47.
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Now and then, in the course of the century, a great man of science, like Darwin; a great poet, like Keats; a fine critical spirit, like M. Renan; a supreme artist, like Flaubert, has been able to isolate himself, to keep himself out of reach of the clamorous claims of others, to stand “under the shelter of the wall,” as Plato puts it, and so to realise the perfection of what was in him, to his own incomparable gain, and to the incomparable and lasting gain of the whole world.
In Sebastian Melmoth (1908), 133-134.
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One can truly say that the irresistible progress of natural science since the time of Galileo has made its first halt before the study of the higher parts of the brain, the organ of the most complicated relations of the animal to the external world. And it seems, and not without reason, that now is the really critical moment for natural science; for the brain, in its highest complexity—the human brain—which created and creates natural science, itself becomes the object of this science.
Natural Science and Brain (1909), 120.
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One of the most conspicuous and distinctive features of mathematical thought in the nineteenth century is its critical spirit. Beginning with the calculus, it soon permeates all analysis, and toward the close of the century it overhauls and recasts the foundations of geometry and aspires to further conquests in mechanics and in the immense domains of mathematical physics. … A searching examination of the foundations of arithmetic and the calculus has brought to light the insufficiency of much of the reasoning formerly considered as conclusive.
In History of Mathematics in the Nineteenth Century', Congress of Arts and Sciences (1906), Vol. 1, 482. As quoted and cited in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 113-114.
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One of the most disturbing ways that climate change is already playing out is through what ecologists call “mismatch” or “mistiming.” This is the process whereby warming causes animals to fall out of step with a critical food source, particularly at breeding times, when a failure to find enough food can lead to rapid population losses.
In 'The Change Within: The Obstacles We Face Are Not Just External', The Nation (12 May 2014).
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One way of dealing with errors is to have friends who are willing to spend the time necessary to carry out a critical examination of the experimental design beforehand and the results after the experiments have been completed. An even better way is to have an enemy. An enemy is willing to devote a vast amount of time and brain power to ferreting out errors both large and small, and this without any compensation. The trouble is that really capable enemies are scarce; most of them are only ordinary. Another trouble with enemies is that they sometimes develop into friends and lose a great deal of their zeal. It was in this way the writer lost his three best enemies. Everyone, not just scientists, needs a good few enemies.
Quoted in George A. Olah, A Life of Magic Chemistry (2001), 146.
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Research is fundamentally a state of mind involving continual re­examination of doctrines and axioms upon which current thought and action are based. It is, therefore, critical of existing practices.
In 'The Influence of Research in Bringing into Closer Relationship the Practice of Medicine and Public Health Activities', American Journal of Medical Sciences (Dec 1929), No. 178. As cited in Bill Swainson (ed.), The Encarta Book of Quotations (2000), 885.
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Scientific findings do not threaten anyone (except to the extent that Homo sapiens may prove incapable of controlling what science makes possible). But what is critical to understand is that our species (or, for that matter, God) is not in the least diminished by the idea that we emerged thanks to the processes of evolution.
In The Monkey in the Mirror: Essays on the Science of What Makes Us Human (2003), 55.
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Skepticism and debate are always welcome and are critically important to the advancement of science, [but] skepticism that fails to account for evidence is no virtue.
Letter (21 Jun 2017) to climate change skeptic, U.S. Energy Secretary, Rick Perry. As quoted in Dino Grandoni, 'The Energy 202: Trump takes on Wind Energy, Talks Solar-Powered Border Wall in Iowa Speech', Washington Post (22 Jun 2017).
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The computational formalism of mathematics is a thought process that is externalised to such a degree that for a time it becomes alien and is turned into a technological process. A mathematical concept is formed when this thought process, temporarily removed from its human vessel, is transplanted back into a human mold. To think ... means to calculate with critical awareness.
Mathematics and Physics (1981), Foreward. Reprinted in Mathematics as Metaphor: Selected Essays of Yuri I. Manin (2007), 90.
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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 such 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. Also in Science (1912), New Series, 35, 107.
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The degree of exactness of the intuition of space may be different in different individuals, perhaps even in different races. It would seem as if a strong naive space-intuition were an attribute pre-eminently of the Teutonic race, while the critical, purely logical sense is more fully developed in the Latin and Hebrew races. A full investigation of this subject, somewhat on the lines suggested by Francis Gallon in his researches on heredity, might be interesting.
In The Evanston Colloquium Lectures (1894), 46.
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The difference between myth and science is the difference between divine inspiration of “unaided reason” (as Bertrand Russell put it) on the one hand and theories developed in observational contact with the real world on the other. It is the difference between the belief in prophets and critical thinking, between Credo quia absurdum (I believe because it is absurd–Tertullian) and De omnibus est dubitandum (Everything should be questioned–Descartes). To try to write a grand cosmical drama leads necessarily to myth. To try to let knowledge substitute ignorance in increasingly large regions of space and time is science.
In 'Cosmology: Myth or Science?' Journal of Astrophysics and Astronomy (1984), 5, 79-98.
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The events of the past few years have led to a critical examination of the function of science in society. It used to be believed that the results of scientific investigation would lead to continuous progressive improvements in conditions of life; but first the War and then the economic crisis have shown that science can be used as easily for destructive and wasteful purposes, and voices have been raised demanding the cessation of scientific research as the only means of preserving a tolerable civilization. Scientists themselves, faced with these criticisms, have been forced to consider, effectively for the first time, how the work they are doing is connected around them. This book is an attempt to analyse this connection; to investigate how far scientists, individually and collectively, are responsible for this state of affairs, and to suggest what possible steps could be taken which would lead to a fruitful and not to a destructive utilization of science.
The Social Function of Science (1939), xlii.
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The full story of successful organ transplantation in man weaves together three separate pathways: the study of renal disease, skin grafting in twins, and surgical determination. A leitmotif permeates each of these pathways, i.e. a single event or report was critical for medical progress.
In Tore Frängsmyr and Jan E. Lindsten (eds.), Nobel Lectures: Physiology Or Medicine: 1981-1990 (1993), 558.
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The great upheavals which precede changes of civilisation, such as the fall of the Roman Empire and the founding of the Arabian Empire, for example, seem to have been determined mainly by considerable political transformations, invasions, or the overthrow of dynasties. But … most often, the real cause is … a profound modification in the ideas of the peoples. … The memorable events of history are the visible effects of the invisible changes of human thought. … The present epoch is one of these critical moments in which the thought of mankind is undergoing a process of transformation.
From Psychologie des Foules (1895), Introduction, 1-2. English text in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1897), Introduction, xiii-xiv, tweaked by Webmaster. Original French text: “Les grands bouleversements qui précèdent les changements de civilisations, tels que la chute de l’Empire romain et la fondation de l’Empire arabe par exemple semblent … déterminés surtout par des transformations politiques considérables: invasions de peuples ou renversements de dynasties. Mais … se trouve le plus souvent, comme cause réelle, une modification profonde dans les peuples. … Les événements mémorables de l’histoire sont les effets visibles des invisibles changements de la pensée des hommes. … L’époque actuelle constitue un de ces moments critiques où la pensée des hommes est en voie de se transformer.”
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The most remarkable discovery made by scientists is science itself. The discovery must be compared in importance with the invention of cave-painting and of writing. Like these earlier human creations, science is an attempt to control our surroundings by entering into them and understanding them from inside. And like them, science has surely made a critical step in human development which cannot be reversed. We cannot conceive a future society without science.
In Scientific American (Sep 1958). As cited in '50, 100 & 150 years ago', Scientific American (Sep 2008), 299, No. 3, 14.
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The next decade will perhaps raise us a step above despair to a cleaner, clearer wisdom and biology cannot fail to help in this. As we become increasingly aware of the ethical problems raised by science and technology, the frontiers between the biological and social sciences are clearly of critical importance—in population density and problems of hunger, psychological stress, pollution of the air and water and exhaustion of irreplaceable resources.
As quoted in 'H. Bentley Glass', New York Times (12 Jan 1970), 96.
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The phenomenon of emergence takes place at critical points of instability that arise from fluctuations in the environment, amplified by feedback loops. Emergence results in the creation of novelty, and this novelty is often qualitatively different from the phenomenon out of which it emerged.
In The Hidden Connections (2002), 116-117.
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The physicist cannot simply surrender to the philosopher the critical contemplation of the theoretical foundations for he himself knows best and feels most surely where the shoe pinches. … he must try to make clear in his own mind just how far the concepts which he uses are justified … The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking. It is for this reason that the critical thinking of the physicist cannot possibly be restricted by the examination of the concepts of his own specific field. He cannot proceed without considering critically a much more difficult problem, the problem of analyzing the nature of everyday thinking.
‘Physics and Reality’, Franklin Institute Journal (Mar 1936). Collected in Out of My Later Years (1950), 59.
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The principal goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done—men who are creative, inventive, and discovers. The second goal of education is to form minds which can be critical, can verify, and not accept everything they are offered.
From remarks at a conference on cognitive development, Cornell University (1964). In Philip Hampson Taylor, New Directions in Curriculum Studies (1979), 90.
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The question is not whether “big is ugly,” “small is beautiful,” or technology is “appropriate.” It is whether technologists will be ready for the demanding, often frustrating task of working with critical laypeople to develop what is needed or whether th
Technology Review (Feb 1980).
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The scientific tradition is distinguished from the pre-scientific tradition by having two layers. Like the latter, it passes on its theories; but it also passes on a critical attitude towards them.
Conjectures and Refutations: the Growth of Scientific Knowledge (2002), 66.
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This spontaneous emergence of order at critical points of instability, which is often referred to simply as “emergence,” is one of the hallmarks of life. It has been recognized as the dynamic origin of development, learning, and evolution. In other words, creativity—the generation of new forms—is a key property of all living systems.
From 'Complexity and Life', in Fritjof Capra, Alicia Juarrero, Pedro Sotolongo (eds.) Reframing Complexity: Perspectives From the North and South (2007), 16.
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Thus science must begin with myths, and with the criticism of myths; neither with the collection of observations, nor with the invention of experiments, but with the critical discussion of myths, and of magical techniques and practices.
In Conjectures and Refutations: the Growth of Scientific Knowledge (1963, 2002), 66.
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To turn Karl [Popper]'s view on its head, it is precisely the abandonment of critical discourse that marks the transition of science. Once a field has made the transition, critical discourse recurs only at moments of crisis when the bases of the field are again in jeopardy. Only when they must choose between competing theories do scientists behave like philosophers.
'Logic of Discovery or Psychology of Research', in I. Lakatos and A. Musgrave (eds.), Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge (1970), 6-7.
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Truly, we do live on a “water planet.” For us, water is that critical issue that we need. It’s the most precious substance on the planet, and it links us to pretty much every environmental issue, including climate change, that we’re facing.
From interview by Kathleen Walter, Newsmax (28 Sep 2009).
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We are … led to a somewhat vague distinction between what we may call “hard” data and “soft” data. This distinction is a matter of degree, and must not be pressed; but if not taken too seriously it may help to make the situation clear. I mean by “hard” data those which resist the solvent influence of critical reflection, and by “soft” data those which, under the operation of this process, become to our minds more or less doubtful.
Our Knowledge of the External World (1925), 75.
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We believe that biotechnology has a critical role to play in increasing agricultural productivity, particularly in light of climate change. We also believe it can help to improve the nutritional value of staple foods.
U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee. Hearing on the President’s FY2009 War Supplemental Request. (30 Apr 2009).
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We’ve arranged a global civilization in which most critical elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.
From The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (1996), 26.
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When the ability to have movement across social class becomes virtually impossible, I think it is the beginning of the end of a country. And because education is so critical to success in this country, if we don't figure out a way to create greater mobility across social class, I do think it will be the beginning of the end.
In a segment from PBS TV program, Newshour (9 Sep 2013).
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Who has studied the works of such men as Euler, Lagrange, Cauchy, Riemann, Sophus Lie, and Weierstrass, can doubt that a great mathematician is a great artist? The faculties possessed by such men, varying greatly in kind and degree with the individual, are analogous with those requisite for constructive art. Not every mathematician possesses in a specially high degree that critical faculty which finds its employment in the perfection of form, in conformity with the ideal of logical completeness; but every great mathematician possesses the rarer faculty of constructive imagination.
In Presidential Address British Association for the Advancement of Science, Sheffield, Section A, Nature (1 Sep 1910), 84, 290.
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[about Fourier] It was, no doubt, partially because of his very disregard for rigor that he was able to take conceptual steps which were inherently impossible to men of more critical genius.
As quoted in P. Davis and R. Hersh The Mathematical Experience (1981).
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[About the great synthesis of atomic physics in the 1920s:] It was a heroic time. It was not the doing of any one man; it involved the collaboration of scores of scientists from many different lands. But from the first to last the deeply creative, subtle and critical spirit of Niels Bohr guided, restrained, deepened and finally transmuted the enterprise.
Quoted in Bill Becker, 'Pioneer of the Atom', New York Times Sunday Magazine (20 Oct 1957), 54.
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[Great scientists] are men of bold ideas, but highly critical of their own ideas: they try to find whether their ideas are right by trying first to find whether they are not perhaps wrong. They work with bold conjectures and severe attempts at refuting their own conjectures.
'The Problem of Demarcation' (1974). Collected in David Miller (ed.) Popper Selections (1985), 118-119.
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[L]et us not overlook the further great fact, that not only does science underlie sculpture, painting, music, poetry, but that science is itself poetic. The current opinion that science and poetry are opposed is a delusion. ... On the contrary science opens up realms of poetry where to the unscientific all is a blank. Those engaged in scientific researches constantly show us that they realize not less vividly, but more vividly, than others, the poetry of their subjects. Whoever will dip into Hugh Miller's works on geology, or read Mr. Lewes's “Seaside Studies,” will perceive that science excites poetry rather than extinguishes it. And whoever will contemplate the life of Goethe will see that the poet and the man of science can co-exist in equal activity. Is it not, indeed, an absurd and almost a sacrilegious belief that the more a man studies Nature the less he reveres it? Think you that a drop of water, which to the vulgar eye is but a drop of water, loses anything in the eye of the physicist who knows that its elements are held together by a force which, if suddenly liberated, would produce a flash of lightning? Think you that what is carelessly looked upon by the uninitiated as a mere snow-flake, does not suggest higher associations to one who has seen through a microscope the wondrously varied and elegant forms of snow-crystals? Think you that the rounded rock marked with parallel scratches calls up as much poetry in an ignorant mind as in the mind of a geologist, who knows that over this rock a glacier slid a million years ago? The truth is, that those who have never entered upon scientific pursuits know not a tithe of the poetry by which they are surrounded. Whoever has not in youth collected plants and insects, knows not half the halo of interest which lanes and hedge-rows can assume. Whoever has not sought for fossils, has little idea of the poetical associations that surround the places where imbedded treasures were found. Whoever at the seaside has not had a microscope and aquarium, has yet to learn what the highest pleasures of the seaside are. Sad, indeed, is it to see how men occupy themselves with trivialities, and are indifferent to the grandest phenomena—care not to understand the architecture of the Heavens, but are deeply interested in some contemptible controversy about the intrigues of Mary Queen of Scots!—are learnedly critical over a Greek ode, and pass by without a glance that grand epic written by the finger of God upon the strata of the Earth!
Education: Intellectual, Moral, and Physical (1889), 82-83.
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[With] our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition. … We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. We might get away with it for a while, but eventually this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.
In 'With Science on Our Side', Washington Post (9 Jan 1994).
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… the embryological record, as it is usually presented to us, is both imperfect and misleading. It may be compared to an ancient manuscript, with many of the sheets lost, others displaced, and with spurious passages interpolated by a later hand. … Like the scholar with his manuscript, the embryologist has by a process of careful and critical examination to determine where the gaps are present, to detect the later insertions, and to place in order what has been misplaced.
A Treatise on Comparative Embryology (1885), Vol. 1, 3-4.
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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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- 80 -
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- 70 -
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- 60 -
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- 50 -
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- 40 -
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- 30 -
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- 20 -
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