Decision Quotes (60 quotes)
Usus quem penes arbitrium est et jus norma loquendi.
Usage, in which lies the decision, the law, and the norm of speech.
Usage, in which lies the decision, the law, and the norm of speech.
A discovery must be, by definition, at variance with existing knowledge. During my lifetime, I made two. Both were rejected offhand by the popes of the field. Had I predicted these discoveries in my applications, and had those authorities been my judges, it is evident what their decisions would have been.
About 85 per cent of my “thinking” time was spent getting into a position to think, to make a decision, to learn something I needed to know. Much more time went into finding or obtaining information than into digesting it. Hours went into the plotting of graphs... When the graphs were finished, the relations were obvious at once, but the plotting had to be done in order to make them so.
After five years' work I allowed myself to speculate on the subject, and drew up some short notes; these I enlarged in 1844 into a sketch of the conclusions, which then seemed to me probable: from that period to the present day I have steadily pursued the same object. I hope that I may be excused for entering on these personal details, as I give them to show that I have not been hasty in coming to a decision.
As soon as questions of will or decision or reason or choice of action arise, human science is at a loss.
Create a vision and never let the environment, other people’s beliefs, or the limits of what has been done in the past shape your decisions. Ignore conventional wisdom.
Decision differs from willfulness as atmospheric pressure from the fitful wind.
Events and developments, such as … the Copernican Revolution, … occurred only because some thinkers either decided not to be bound by certain “obvious” methodological rules, or because they unwittingly broke them.
Given a situation, a system with a Leerstelle [a gap], whether a given completion (Lueckenfuellung) does justice to the structure, is the “right” one, is often determined by the structure of the system, the situation. There are requirements, structurally determined; there are possible in pure cases unambiguous decisions as to which completion does justice to the situation, which does not, which violates the requirements and the situation.
Good lawyers know that in many cases where the decisions are correct, the reasons that are given to sustain them may be entirely wrong. This is a thousand times more likely to be true in the practice of medicine than in that of the law, and hence the impropriety, not to say the folly, in spending your time in the discussion of medical belief and theories of cure that are more ingenious and seductive than they are profitable.
Human judgment is notoriously fallible and perhaps seldom more so than in facile decisions that a character has no adaptive significance because we do not know the use of it.
I believe [the Department of Energy] should be judged not by the money we direct to a particular State or district, company, university or national lab, but by the character of our decisions. The Department of Energy serves the country as a Department of Science, a Department of Innovation, and a Department of Nuclear Security.
I conclude that, while it is true that science cannot decide questions of value, that is because they cannot be intellectually decided at all, and lie outside the realm of truth and falsehood. Whatever knowledge is attainable, must be attained by scientific methods; and what science cannot discover, mankind cannot know.
I decided that life rationally considered seemed pointless and futile, but it is still interesting in a variety of ways, including the study of science. So why not carry on, following the path of scientific hedonism? Besides, I did not have the courage for the more rational procedure of suicide.
I have long recognized the theory and aesthetic of such comprehensive display: show everything and incite wonder by sheer variety. But I had never realized how power fully the decor of a cabinet museum can promote this goal until I saw the Dublin [Natural History Museum] fixtures redone right ... The exuberance is all of one piece–organic and architectural. I write this essay to offer my warmest congratulations to the Dublin Museum for choosing preservation–a decision not only scientifically right, but also ethically sound and decidedly courageous. The avant-garde is not an exclusive locus of courage; a principled stand within a reconstituted rear unit may call down just as much ridicule and demand equal fortitude. Crowds do not always rush off in admirable or defendable directions.
I know few significant questions of public policy which can safely be confided to computers. In the end, the hard decisions inescapably involve imponderables of intuition, prudence, and judgment.
If enough of us stop looking away and decide that climate change is a crisis worthy of Marshall Plan levels of response, then it will become one.
If I make a decision it is a possession. I take pride in it, I tend to defend it and not listen to those who question it. If I make sense, then this is more dynamic, and I listen and I can change it. A decision is something you polish. Sensemaking is a direction for the next period.
In our way of life … with every decision we make, we always keep in mind the seventh generation of children to come. … When we walk upon Mother Earth, we always plant our feet carefully, because we know that the faces of future generations are looking up at us from beneath the ground. We never forget them.
It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be … This, in turn, means that our statesmen, our businessmen, our everyman must take on a science fictional way of thinking.
It is for these reasons that I regard the decision last year to shift our efforts in space from low to high gear as among the most important decisions that will be made during my incumbency in the office of the Presidency.
It would seem that more than function itself, simplicity is the deciding factor in the aesthetic equation. One might call the process beauty through function and simplification.
I’m supposed to be a scientific person but I use intuition more than logic in making basic decisions.
I’ve met a lot of people in important positions, and he [Wernher von Braun] was one that I never had any reluctance to give him whatever kind of credit they deserve. He owned his spot, he knew what he was doing, and he was very impressive when you met with him. He understood the problems. He could come back and straighten things out. He moved with sureness whenever he came up with a decision. Of all the people, as I think back on it now, all of the top management that I met at NASA, many of them are very, very good. But Wernher, relative to the position he had and what he had to do, I think was the best of the bunch.
Let us sum up the three possible explanations of the decision to drop the bomb and its timing. The first that it was a clever and highly successful move in the field of power politics, is almost certainly correct; the second, that the timing was coincidental, convicts the American government of a hardly credible tactlessness [towards the Soviet Union]; and the third, the Roman holiday theory [a spectacular event to justify the cost of the Manhattan Project], convicts them of an equally incredible irresponsibility.
Life through many long periods has been manifested in a countless host of varying structures, all circumscribed by one general plan, each appointed to a definite place, and limited to an appointed duration. On the whole the earth has been thus more and more covered by the associated life of plants and animals, filling all habitable space with beings capable of enjoying their own existence or ministering to the enjoyment of others; till finally, after long preparation, a being was created capable of the wonderful power of measuring and weighing all the world of matter and space which surrounds him, of treasuring up the past history of all the forms of life, and considering his own relation to the whole. When he surveys this vast and co-ordinated system, and inquires into its history and origin, can he be at a loss to decide whether it be a work of Divine thought and wisdom, or the fortunate offspring of a few atoms of matter, warmed by the anima mundi, a spark of electricity, or an accidental ray of sunshine?
Logic is not concerned with human behavior in the same sense that physiology, psychology, and social sciences are concerned with it. These sciences formulate laws or universal statements which have as their subject matter human activities as processes in time. Logic, on the contrary, is concerned with relations between factual sentences (or thoughts). If logic ever discusses the truth of factual sentences it does so only conditionally, somewhat as follows: if such-and-such a sentence is true, then such-and-such another sentence is true. Logic itself does not decide whether the first sentence is true, but surrenders that question to one or the other of the empirical sciences.
Man not only survives and functions in his environment, he shapes it and he is shaped by it.
Measurement has too often been the leitmotif of many investigations rather than the experimental examination of hypotheses. Mounds of data are collected, which are statistically decorous and methodologically unimpeachable, but conclusions are often trivial and rarely useful in decision making. This results from an overly rigorous control of an insignificant variable and a widespread deficiency in the framing of pertinent questions. Investigators seem to have settled for what is measurable instead of measuring what they would really like to know.
Modern man is weighed down more by the burden of responsibility than by the burden of sin. We think him more a savior who shoulders our responsibilities than him who shoulders our sins. If instead of making decisions we have but to obey and do our duty, we feel it as a sort of salvation.
My decision to begin research in radio astronomy was influenced both by my wartime experience with electronics and antennas and by one of my teachers, Jack Ratcliffe, who had given an excellent course on electromagnetic theory during my final undergraduate year.
My decision to leave applied mathematics for economics was in part tied to the widely-held popular belief in the 1960s that macroeconomics had made fundamental inroads into controlling business cycles and stopping dysfunctional unemployment and inflation.
My original decision to devote myself to science was a direct result of the discovery which has never ceased to fill me with enthusiasm since my early youth—the comprehension of the far from obvious fact that the laws of human reasoning coincide with the laws governing the sequences of the impressions we receive from the world about us; that, therefore, pure reasoning can enable man to gain an insight into the mechanism of the latter. In this connection, it is of paramount importance that the outside world is something independent from man, something absolute, and the quest for the laws which apply to this absolute appeared to me as the most sublime scientific pursuit in life.
My “"thinking”" time was devoted mainly to activities that were essentially clerical or mechanical: searching, calculating, plotting, transforming, determining the logical or dynamic consequences of a set of assumptions or hypotheses, preparing the way for a decision or an insight. Moreover ... the operations that fill most of the time allegedly devoted to technical thinking are operations that can be performed more effectively by machines than by men.
Not enough of our society is trained how to understand and interpret quantitative information. This activity is a centerpiece of science literacy to which we should all strive—the future health, wealth, and security of our democracy depend on it. Until that is achieved, we are at risk of making under-informed decisions that affect ourselves, our communities, our country, and even the world.
Not only are there meaningless questions, but many of the problems with which the human intellect has tortured itself turn out to be only 'pseudo problems,' because they can be formulated only in terms of questions which are meaningless. Many of the traditional problems of philosophy, of religion, or of ethics, are of this character. Consider, for example, the problem of the freedom of the will. You maintain that you are free to take either the right- or the left-hand fork in the road. I defy you to set up a single objective criterion by which you can prove after you have made the turn that you might have made the other. The problem has no meaning in the sphere of objective activity; it only relates to my personal subjective feelings while making the decision.
Our commercial and mercantile law was no sudden invention. It was not the work of a day, or of one set of minds… In the incipient, the early existence of this system, a single maxim obtained force, others succeeded; one rule of right formed a nucleus around which other kindred rules might cling; the necessities of trade originated customs, customs ripened into law; a few feeble decisions of courts laid the foundation for others; the wisdom and experience of each succeeding generation improved upon the wisdom and experience of generations that were past; and thus the edifice arose, perfect in its parts, beautiful in its proportions.
Racism is an ism to which everyone in the world today is exposed; for or against, we must take sides. And the history of the future will differ according to the decision which we make.
Science, by itself, cannot supply us with an ethic. It can show us how to achieve a given end, and it may show us that some ends cannot be achieved. But among ends that can be achieved our choice must be decided by other than purely scientific considerations. If a man were to say, “I hate the human race, and I think it would be a good thing if it were exterminated,” we could say, “Well, my dear sir, let us begin the process with you.” But this is hardly argument, and no amount of science could prove such a man mistaken.
Scientists like ripping problems apart, collecting as much data as possible and then assembling the parts back together to make a decision. [Reflecting on being president of Princeton University.]
Scientists, therefore, are responsible for their research, not only intellectually but also morally. This responsibility has become an important issue in many of today's sciences, but especially so in physics, in which the results of quantum mechanics and relativity theory have opened up two very different paths for physicists to pursue. They may lead us—to put it in extreme terms—to the Buddha or to the Bomb, and it is up to each of us to decide which path to take.
So-called extraordinary events always split into two extremes naturalists who have not witnessed them: those who believe blindly and those who do not believe at all. The latter have always in mind the story of the golden goose; if the facts lie slightly beyond the limits of their knowledge, they relegate them immediately to fables. The former have a secret taste for marvels because they seem to expand Nature; they use their imagination with pleasure to find explanations. To remain doubtful is given to naturalists who keep a middle path between the two extremes. They calmly examine facts; they refer to logic for help; they discuss probabilities; they do not scoff at anything, not even errors, because they serve at least the history of the human mind; finally, they report rather than judge; they rarely decide unless they have good evidence.
Talent, in difficult situations, strives to untie knots, which genius instantly cuts with one swift decision.
Technocrats are turning us into daredevils. The haphazard gambles they are imposing on us too often jeopardize our safety for goals that do not advance the human cause but undermine it. By staking our lives on their schemes, decision makers are not meeting the mandate of a democratic society; they are betraying it. They are not ennobling us; they are victimizing us. And, in acquiescing to risks that have resulted in irreversible damage to the environment, we ourselves are not only forfeiting our own rights as citizens. We are, in turn, victimizing the ultimate nonvolunteers: the defenseless, voiceless—voteless—children of the future.
The atom bomb was no “great decision.” It was used in the war, and for your information, there were more people killed by fire bombs in Tokyo than dropping of the atomic bombs accounted for. It was merely another powerful weapon in the arsenal of righteousness. The dropping of the bombs stopped the war, save millions of lives.
The choice of technology, whether for a rich or a poor country, is probably the most important decision to be made.
The dedicated doctor knows that he must be both scientist and humanitarian; his most agonizing decisions lie in the field of human relations.
The politician … is sometimes tempted to encroach on the normal territory of the scientific estate. Sometimes he interferes directly with the scientist’s pursuit of basic science; but he is more likely to interfere when the scientist proposes to publish findings that upset the established political or economic order, or when he joins with the engineering or medical profession in proposing to translate the findings of science into new policies. … Who decides when the apparent consensus of scientific opinion on the relation of cigarettes to lung cancer is great enough to justify governmental regulatory action, and of what kind? In such issues the problem is less often whether politics will presume to dictate to science than it is how much politics is to be influenced by the new findings of science.
The wisest decision I ever made with regard to science, I made as a child. In the summer of 1932, shortly after my thirteenth birthday, I decided to become a zoologist, because I thought it would be fascinating to visit distant parts of the world and study exotic animals. I was right. It has been.
To the extent that remaining old-growth Douglas fir ecosystems possess unique structural and functional characteristics distinct from surrounding managed forests, the analogy between forest habitat islands and oceanic islands applies. Forest planning decision variables such as total acreage to be maintained, patch size frequency distribution, spatial distribution of patches, specific locations, and protective measures all need to be addressed.
We are faced today with a social decision resulting from our progress in molecular genetics at least equal to, and probably greater than, that required of us twenty years ago with the maturity of nuclear power.
We have decided to call the entire field of control and communication theory, whether in the machine or in the animal, by the name Cybernetics, which we form from the Greek … for steersman. In choosing this term, we wish to recognize that the first significant paper on feedback mechanisms is an article on governors, which was published by Clerk Maxwell in 1868, and that governor is derived from a Latin corruption … We also wish to refer to the fact that the steering engines of a ship are indeed one of the earliest and best-developed forms of feedback mechanisms.
We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of preeminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war.
What is more difficult, to think of an encampment on the moon or of Harlem rebuilt? Both are now within the reach of our resources. Both now depend upon human decision and human will.
When I came back from Munich, it was September, and I was Professor of Mathematics at the Eindhoven University of Technology. Later I learned that I had been the Department’s third choice, after two numerical analysts had turned the invitation down; the decision to invite me had not been an easy one, on the one hand because I had not really studied mathematics, and on the other hand because of my sandals, my beard and my ‘arrogance’ (whatever that may be).
While the method of the natural sciences is... analytic, the method of the social sciences is better described as compositive or synthetic. It is the so-called wholes, the groups of elements which are structurally connected, which we learn to single out from the totality of observed phenomena... Insofar as we analyze individual thought in the social sciences the purpose is not to explain that thought, but merely to distinguish the possible types of elements with which we shall have to reckon in the construction of different patterns of social relationships. It is a mistake... to believe that their aim is to explain conscious action ... The problems which they try to answer arise only insofar as the conscious action of many men produce undesigned results... If social phenomena showed no order except insofar as they were consciously designed, there would indeed be no room for theoretical sciences of society and there would be, as is often argued, only problems of psychology. It is only insofar as some sort of order arises as a result of individual action but without being designed by any individual that a problem is raised which demands a theoretical explanation... people dominated by the scientistic prejudice are often inclined to deny the existence of any such order... it can be shown briefly and without any technical apparatus how the independent actions of individuals will produce an order which is no part of their intentions... The way in which footpaths are formed in a wild broken country is such an instance. At first everyone will seek for himself what seems to him the best path. But the fact that such a path has been used once is likely to make it easier to traverse and therefore more likely to be used again; and thus gradually more and more clearly defined tracks arise and come to be used to the exclusion of other possible ways. Human movements through the region come to conform to a definite pattern which, although the result of deliberate decision of many people, has yet not be consciously designed by anyone.
While the nature of Texas fever is by no means made clear as yet, we are able to affirm that ticks can produce it. Whether the disease can be transmitted by any other agency must be decided by future investigations. Meanwhile the evidence accumulated thus far seems to favor very strongly the dictum: No ticks, no Texas fever.
Who shall decide, when Doctors disagree?
[Describing a freshman seminar titled “How the Tabby Cat Got Her Stripes or The Silence of the Genes”:] The big idea we start with is: “How is the genome interpreted, and how are stable decisions that affect gene expression inherited from one cell to the next? This is one of the most competitive areas of molecular biology at the moment, and the students are reading papers that in some instances were published this past year. As a consequence, one of the most common answers I have to give to their questions is, “We just don't know.”
[The National Academy of Sciences] would be unable to give a unanimous decision if asked whether the sun would rise tomorrow.