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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index D > Category: Democracy

Democracy Quotes (33 quotes)

Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey-cage.
A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949), 622.
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Democracy might therefore almost in a sense be termed that practice of which science is the theory.
In The Grand Titration (1969).
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Democracy: everyone should have an equal opportunity to obstruct everybody else.
In The Decline and Fall of Science (1976), 4.
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I am an adherent of the ideal of democracy, although I well know the weaknesses of the democratic form of government. Social equality and economic protection of the individual appeared to me always as the important communal aims of the state.
…...
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I don’t think many people remember what life was like in those days. This was the era when the Russians were claiming superiority, and they could make a pretty good case—they put up Sputnik in ’57; they had already sent men into space to orbit the earth. There was this fear that perhaps communism was the wave of the future. The astronauts, all of us, really believed we were locked in a battle of democracy versus communism, where the winner would dominate the world.
As reported by Howard Wilkinson in 'John Glenn Had the Stuff U.S. Heroes are Made of', The Cincinnati Enquirer (20 Feb 2002).
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If the great story of the last century was the conflict among various political ideologies—communism, fascism and democracy—then the great narrative of this century will be the changes wrought by astonishing scientific breakthroughs
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, column also distributed by United Press Syndicate, American Know-How Hobbled by Know-Nothings (9 Aug 2005). In Eve Herold, George Daley, Stem Cell Wars (2007), 21.
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If this cynicism and apathy are allowed to continue to fester, it will not only be dangerous, but in our democracy it will be suicidal.
Stating (1998) his commitment upon the announcement of the creation of the John Glenn Institute of Public Service and Public Policy Institute. As quoted on the OSU website, which also gives that in letters and documents from 1997, when he announced his retirement after four U.S. Senate terms, Glenn underscored his intent to dedicate his time toward dispelling “the apathy, mistrust and outright cynicism among our young people", which he saw as “a looming danger for the future of the country.”
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In a democracy dissent is an act of faith. Like medicine, the test of its value is not in its taste, but its effects.
Speech to the U.S. Senate (21 Apr 1966). In Tristram Coffin, Senator Fulbright; Portrait of a Public Philosopher (1966), 12.
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In an autocracy, one person has his way; in an aristocracy a few people have their way; in a democracy, no one has his way.
In The Decline and Fall of Science (1976), 5.
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In the next twenty centuries … humanity may begin to understand its most baffling mystery—where are we going? The earth is, in fact, traveling many thousands of miles per hour in the direction of the constellation Hercules—to some unknown destination in the cosmos. Man must understand his universe in order to understand his destiny. Mystery, however, is a very necessary ingredient in our lives. Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis for man’s desire to understand. Who knows what mysteries will be solved in our lifetime, and what new riddles will become the challenge of the new generation? Science has not mastered prophesy. We predict too much for the next year yet far too little for the next ten. Responding to challenges is one of democracy’s great strengths. Our successes in space can be used in the next decade in the solution of many of our planet’s problems.
In a speech to a Joint Meeting of the Two Houses of Congress to Receive the Apollo 11 Astronauts (16 Sep 1969), in the Congressional Record.
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Increasingly, our leaders must deal with dangers that threaten the entire world, where an understanding of those dangers and the possible solutions depends on a good grasp of science. The ozone layer, the greenhouse effect, acid rain, questions of diet and heredity. All require scientific literacy. Can Americans choose the proper leaders and support the proper programs if they themselves are scientifically illiterate? The whole premise of democracy is that it is safe to leave important questions to the court of public opinion—but is it safe to leave them to the court of public ignorance?
In Los Angeles Times (31 Mar 1989).
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Indeed, the ideal for a well-functioning democratic state is like the ideal for a gentleman’s well-cut suit—it is not noticed. For the common people of Britain, Gestapo and concentration camps have approximately the same degree of reality as the monster of Loch Ness. Atrocity propaganda is helpless against this healthy lack of imagination.
In 'A Challenge to “Knights in Rusty Armor”', The New York Times (14 Feb 1943), Sunday Magazine, 5.
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Injustice or oppression in the next street...or any spot inhabited by men was a personal affront to Thomas Addis and his name, from its early alphabetical place, was conspicuous on lists of sponsors of scores of organizations fighting for democracy and against fascism. He worked on more committees than could reasonably have been expected of so busy a man... Tom Addis was happy to have a hand in bringing to the organization of society some of the logic of science and to further that understanding and to promote that democracy which are the only enduring foundations of human dignity.
Kevin V. Lemley and Linus Pauling, 'Thomas Addis: 1881-1949', Biographical Memoirs, National Academy of Sciences, 63, 27-29.
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My political ideal is democracy. Let every man be respected as an individual and no man idolized.
…...
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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.
From email message, as published on Huffington Post website (5 Feb 2015).
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One most necessary function of the brain is to exert an inhibitory power over the nerve centres that lie below it, just as man exercises a beneficial control over his fellow animals of a lower order of dignity; and the increased irregular activity of the lower centres surely betokens a degeneration: it is like the turbulent, aimless action of a democracy without a head.
The Physiology and Pathology of Mind (1868), 94.
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Science is far from a perfect instrument of knowledge. It’s just the best one we have. In this respect, as in many others, it’s like democracy.
In 'With Science on Our Side', Washington Post (9 Jan 1994).
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Science is neither a single tradition, nor the best tradition there is, except for people who have become accustomed to its presence, its benefits and its disadvantages. In a democracy it should be separated from the state just as churches are now separated from the state.
Against Method, p. 238 (1975).The author's warning against allowing scientists to become the new 'high priests' of society.
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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.
In 'Boredom or Doom in a Scientific World', United Nations World (Sep 1948), Vol. 2, No. 8, 16.
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Science through its physical technological consequences is now determining the relations which human beings, severally and in groups, sustain to one another. If it is incapable of developing moral techniques which will also determine those relations, the split in modern culture goes so deep that not only democracy but all civilized values are doomed.
In Freedom and Culture (1939).
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The century after the Civil War was to be an Age of Revolution—of countless, little-noticed revolutions, which occurred not in the halls of legislatures or on battlefields or on the barricades but in homes and farms and factories and schools and stores, across the landscape and in the air—so little noticed because they came so swiftly, because they touched Americans everywhere and every day. Not merely the continent but human experience itself, the very meaning of community, of time and space, of present and future, was being revised again and again, a new democratic world was being invented and was being discovered by Americans wherever they lived.
In The Americans: The Democratic Experience (1973, 1974), ix.
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The long fight to save wild beauty represents democracy at its best. It requires citizens to practice the hardest of virtues-self-restraint.
Circle of the Seasons
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The problem of modern democracy is not that the people have lost their power, but that they have lost their appreciation for the extraordinary power they wield. Consider one astonishing truth: Famine has never struck a democracy.
In Jacques Cousteau and Susan Schiefelbein, The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus: Exploring and Conserving Our Natural World (2007), 102.
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The whole premise of democracy is that it is safe to leave important questions to the court of public opinion—but is it safe to leave them to the court of public ignorance?
In 'Combatting U.S. Scientific Illiteracy', Los Angeles Times (31 Mar 1989).
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There is no area in our minds reserved for superstition, such as the Greeks had in their mythology; and superstition, under cover of an abstract vocabulary, has revenged itself by invading the entire realm of thought. Our science is like a store filled with the most subtle intellectual devices for solving the most complex problems, and yet we are almost incapable of applying the elementary principles of rational thought. In every sphere, we seem to have lost the very elements of intelligence: the ideas of limit, measure, degree, proportion, relation, comparison, contingency, interdependence, interrelation of means and ends. To keep to the social level, our political universe is peopled exclusively by myths and monsters; all it contains is absolutes and abstract entities. This is illustrated by all the words of our political and social vocabulary: nation, security, capitalism, communism, fascism, order, authority, property, democracy. We never use them in phrases such as: There is democracy to the extent that… or: There is capitalism in so far as… The use of expressions like “to the extent that” is beyond our intellectual capacity. Each of these words seems to represent for us an absolute reality, unaffected by conditions, or an absolute objective, independent of methods of action, or an absolute evil; and at the same time we make all these words mean, successively or simultaneously, anything whatsoever. Our lives are lived, in actual fact, among changing, varying realities, subject to the casual play of external necessities, and modifying themselves according to specific conditions within specific limits; and yet we act and strive and sacrifice ourselves and others by reference to fixed and isolated abstractions which cannot possibly be related either to one another or to any concrete facts. In this so-called age of technicians, the only battles we know how to fight are battles against windmills.
From 'The Power of Words', collected in Siân Miles (ed.), Simone Weil: An Anthology (2000), 222-223.
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There is no democracy in physics. We can’t say that some second-rate guy has as much right to opinion as Fermi.
Quoted in Daniel S. Greenberg, The Politics of American Science (1968), 43.
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This is not the age of pamphleteers. It is the age of the engineers. The spark-gap is mightier than the pen. Democracy will not be salvaged by men who talk fluently, debate forcefully and quote aptly.
In Science for the Citizen (1938), 1075.
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We have really, that I know of, no philosophical basis for high and low. Moreover, the vegetable kingdom does not culminate, as the animal kingdom does. It is not a kingdom, but a common-wealth; a democracy, and therefore puzzling and unaccountable from the former point of view.
Asa Gray
Letter to Charles Darwin (27 Jan 1863), collected in Letters of Asa Gray (1893), Vol. 2, 496. Gray was replying to Darwin’s question, “If flowers of an Oak or Beech tree had fine well-colored corolla & calyx, would they still be classed as low in the Vegetable Kingdom?”
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We live in a democracy and I do not understand why highly respected scientists from top international branches are not able express themselves!
…...
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We've been fighting from the beginning for organic architecture. That is, architecture where the whole is to the part as the part is to the whole, and where the nature of materials, the nature of the purpose, the nature of the entire performance becomes a necessity—architecture of democracy.
Quoted in Aline B. Louchheim, 'Wright Analyzes Architect's Need', New York Times (26 May 1953), 23. Wright was interviewed at age 83 for the opening of a small exhibition of his work at the gallery of the National Institute and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York.
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Whenever there is a great deal of energy in one region and very little in a neighboring region, energy tends to travel from the one region to the other, until equality is established. This whole process may be described as a tendency towards democracy.
In 'Science and Religion', collected in Al Seckel (ed.), >Bertrand Russell on God and Religion (1986), 175.
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Who is running the science and technology in a democracy if the people don’t know anything about it?
From transcript of interview on PBS TV show, Charlie Rose (27 May 1996). On Charlie Rose website.
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… the world of science may be the only existing participatory democracy.
In A Slot Machine, A Broken Test Tube: An Autobiography (1984).
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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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