Cultural Quotes (26 quotes)
Biological evolution is a system of constant divergence without subsequent joining of branches. Lineages, once distinct, are separate forever. In human history, transmission across lineages is, perhaps, the major source of cultural change. Europeans learned about corn and potatoes from Native Americans and gave them smallpox in return.
Cultural anthropology is essentially a descriptive rather than a predictive exercise.
Each worldview was a cultural product, but evolution is true and separate creation is not ... Worldviews are social constructions, and they channel the search for facts. But facts are found and knowledge progresses, however fitfully. Fact and theory are intertwined, and all great scientists understand the interaction.
Goethe said that he who cannot draw on 3,000 years of learning is living hand to mouth. It could just as well be said that individuals who do tap deeply into this rich cultural legacy are wealthy indeed. Yet the paradox is that much of this wisdom is buried in a sea of lesser books or like lost treasure beneath an ocean of online ignorance and trivia. That doesn’t mean that with a little bit of diligence you can’t tap into it. Yet many people, perhaps most, never take advantage of all this human experience. They aren’t obtaining knowledge beyond what they need to know for work or to get by. As a result, their view of our amazing world is diminished and their lives greatly circumscribed.
In our daily lives, we enjoy the pervasive benefits of long-lived robotic spacecraft that provide high-capacity worldwide telecommunications; reconnaissance of Earth’s solid surface and oceans, with far-reaching cultural and environmental implications; much-improved weather and climatic forecasts; improved knowledge about the terrestrial effects of the Sun’s radiations; a revolutionary new global navigational system for all manner of aircraft and many other uses both civil and military; and the science of Earth itself as a sustainable abode of life.
In our preoccupations with sex, our submission to gods and leaders, our sometimes suicidal commitment to ideas, religions, and trivial details of cultural style, we become the unconscious creators of the social organism’s exploits.
It is our great collective misfortune that the scientific community made its decisive diagnosis of the climate threat at the precise moment when an elite minority was enjoying more unfettered political, cultural, and intellectual power than at any point since the 1920s.
Mathematics knows no races or geographic boundaries; for mathematics, the cultural world is one country.
Mathematics was born and nurtured in a cultural environment. Without the perspective which the cultural background affords, a proper appreciation of the content and state of present-day mathematics is hardly possible.
Modern anthropology has taught us, through comparative investigation of so-called primitive cultures, that the social behavior of human beings may differ greatly, depending upon prevailing cultural patterns and the types of organisation which predominate in society. It is on this that those who are striving to improve the lot of man may ground their hopes: human beings are not condemned, because of their biological constitution, to annihilate each other or to be at the mercy of a cruel, self-inflicted fate.
My position is that it is high time for a calm debate on more fundamental questions. Does human spaceflight continue to serve a compelling cultural purpose and/or our national interest?
Nature is objective, and nature is knowable, but we can only view her through a glass darkly–and many clouds upon our vision are of our own making: social and cultural biases, psychological preferences, and mental limitations (in universal modes of thought, not just individualized stupidity).
Never look for a psychological explanation unless every effort to find a cultural one has been exhausted.
No serious student of human behavior denies the potent influence of evolved biology upon our cultural lives. Our struggle is to figure out how biology affects us, not whether it does.
Our school curricula, by stripping mathematics of its cultural content and leaving a bare skeleton of technicalities, have repelled many a fine mind.
Overemphasis on the competitive system and premature specialization on the ground of immediate usefulness kill the spirit on which all cultural life depends.
Science can give us only the tools in the box, these mechanical miracles that it has already given us. But of what use to us are miraculous tools until we have mastered the humane, cultural use of them? We do not want to live in a world where the machine has mastered the man; we want to live in a world where man has mastered the machine.
Science may be a boon if war can be abolished and democracy and cultural liberty preserved. If this cannot be done, science will precipitate evils greater than any that mankind has ever experienced.
That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology, but that land is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethics. That land yields a cultural harvest is a fact long known, but latterly often forgotten.
The maintenance of biological diversity requires special measures that extend far beyond the establishment of nature reserves. Several reasons for this stand out. Existing reserves have been selected according to a number of criteria, including the desire to protect nature, scenery, and watersheds, and to promote cultural values and recreational opportunities. The actual requirements of individual species, populations, and communities have seldom been known, nor has the available information always been employed in site selection and planning for nature reserves. The use of lands surrounding nature reserves has typically been inimical to conservation, since it has usually involved heavy use of pesticides, industrial development, and the presence of human settlements in which fire, hunting, and firewood gathering feature as elements of the local economy.
The mythology of science asserts that with many different scientists all asking their own questions and evaluating the answers independently, whatever personal bias creeps into their individual answers is cancelled out when the large picture is put together. This might conceivably be so if scientists were women and men from all sorts of different cultural and social backgrounds who came to science with very different ideologies and interests. But since, in fact, they have been predominantly university-trained white males from privileged social backgrounds, the bias has been narrow and the product often reveals more about the investigator than about the subject being researched.
The results of mathematics are seldom directly applied; it is the definitions that are really useful. Once you learn the concept of a differential equation, you see differential equations all over, no matter what you do. This you cannot see unless you take a course in abstract differential equations. What applies is the cultural background you get from a course in differential equations, not the specific theorems. If you want to learn French, you have to live the life of France, not just memorize thousands of words. If you want to apply mathematics, you have to live the life of differential equations. When you live this life, you can then go back to molecular biology with a new set of eyes that will see things you could not otherwise see.
The tragedy of deforestation in Amazonia as well as elsewhere in the tropics is that its costs, in... economic, social, cultural, and aesthetic terms, far outweigh its benefits. In many cases, destruction of the region’s rainforests is motivated by short-term gains rather than the long-term productive capacity of the land. And, as a result, deforestation usually leaves behind landscapes that are economically as well as ecologically impoverished.
The value of fundamental research does not lie only in the ideas it produces. There is more to it. It affects the whole intellectual life of a nation by determining its way of thinking and the standards by which actions and intellectual production are judged. If science is highly regarded and if the importance of being concerned with the most up-to-date problems of fundamental research is recognized, then a spiritual climate is created which influences the other activities. An atmosphere of creativity is established which penetrates every cultural frontier. Applied sciences and technology are forced to adjust themselves to the highest intellectual standards which are developed in the basic sciences. This influence works in many ways: some fundamental students go into industry; the techniques which are applied to meet the stringent requirements of fundamental research serve to create new technological methods. The style, the scale, and the level of scientific and technical work are determined in pure research; that is what attracts productive people and what brings scientists to those countries where science is at the highest level. Fundamental research sets the standards of modern scientific thought; it creates the intellectual climate in which our modern civilization flourishes. It pumps the lifeblood of idea and inventiveness not only into the technological laboratories and factories, but into every cultural activity of our time. The case for generous support for pure and fundamental science is as simple as that.
The Wright Brothers created the single greatest cultural force since the invention of writing. The airplane became the first World Wide Web, bringing people, languages, ideas, and values together.
We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. 'Mimeme' comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like 'gene'. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme. If it is any consolation, it could alternatively be thought of as being related to 'memory', or to the French word même. It should be pronounced to rhyme with 'cream'.