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Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”
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Critical Quotes (34 quotes)

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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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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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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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.
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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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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 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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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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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 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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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 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 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 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 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.
‘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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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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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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[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
…...
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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 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Euclid
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
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Bible
Thomas Huxley
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- 70 -
Samuel Morse
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Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
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Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
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Martin Fischer
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Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
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Rachel Carson
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Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
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Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
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- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
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Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
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- 20 -
Carl Sagan
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- 10 -
Aristotle
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