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Who said: “A people without children would face a hopeless future; a country without trees is almost as helpless.”
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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index D > Category: Destruction

Destruction Quotes (125 quotes)

Newsreader: A huge asteroid could destroy Earth! And by coincidence, that's the subject of tonight's miniseries.
Dogbert: In science, researchers proved that this simple device can keep idiots off your television screen. [TV remote control] Click.
Dilbert cartoon strip (30 Apr 1993).
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A grove of giant redwoods or sequoias should be kept just as we keep a great or beautiful cathedral. The extermination of the passenger pigeon meant that mankind was just so much poorer; exactly as in the case of the destruction of the cathedral at Rheims. And to lose the chance to see frigate-birds soaring in circles above the storm, or a file of pelicans winging their way homeward across the crimson afterglow of the sunset, or a myriad terns flashing in the bright light of midday as they hover in a shifting maze above the beach—why, the loss is like the loss of a gallery of the masterpieces of the artists of old time.
In A Book-Lover's Holidays in the Open (1916), 316-317.
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A science is said to be useful if its development tends to accentuate the existing inequalities in the distribution of wealth, or more directly promotes the destruction of human life.
In A Mathematician's Apology (1940, reprint with Foreward by C.P. Snow 1992), 113. Note that Hardy wrote these words while World War II was raging.
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After death, life reappears in a different form and with different laws. It is inscribed in the laws of the permanence of life on the surface of the earth and everything that has been a plant and an animal will be destroyed and transformed into a gaseous, volatile and mineral substance.
Quoted in Patrice Debré, Louis Pasteur, trans. Elborg Forster (1994), 110.
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All that we can do, is to keep steadily in mind that each organic being is striving to increase at a geometrical ratio; that each at some period of its life, during some season of the year, during each generation or at intervals, has to struggle for life, and to suffer great destruction. When we reflect on this struggle, we may console ourselves with the full belief, that the war of nature is not incessant, that no fear is felt, that death is generally prompt, and that the vigorous, the healthy, and the happy survive and multiply.
From On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1861), 76.
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And by the influence of heat, light, and electrical powers, there is a constant series of changes [in animal and vegetal substances]; matter assumes new forms, the destruction of one order of beings tends to the conservation of another, solution and consolidation, decay and renovation, are connected, and whilst the parts of the system, continue in a state of fluctuation and change, the order and harmony of the whole remain unalterable.
The Elements of Agricultural Chemistry (1813), in J. Davy (ed.) The Collected Works of Sir Humphry Davy(1839-40), Vol 7, 182.
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Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away; and if they could, they would still be destroyed,—chased and hunted down as long as fun or a dollar could be got out of their bark hides, branching horns, or magnificent bole backbones. Few that fell trees plant them; nor would planting avail much towards getting back anything like the noble primeval forests. During a man’s life only saplings can be grown, in the place of the old trees—tens of centuries old—that have been destroyed.
John Muir
In 'The American Forests', Atlantic Monthly (Aug 1897), Vol. 80, 157.
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As our technology evolves, we will have the capacity to reach new, ever-increasing depths. The question is: What kind of technology, in the end, do we want to deploy in the far reaches of the ocean? Tools of science, ecology and documentation, or the destructive tools of heavy industry? Some parts of our oceans, like the rich and mysterious recesses of our Atlantic submarine canyons and seamounts, are so stunning and sensitive they deserve to be protected from destructive activities.
In 'Ocean Oases: Protecting Canyons & Seamounts of the Atlantic Coast', The Huffington Post (8 Jun 2011).
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As the Director of the Theoretical Division of Los Alamos, I participated at the most senior level in the World War II Manhattan Project that produced the first atomic weapons.
Now, at age 88, I am one of the few remaining such senior persons alive. Looking back at the half century since that time, I feel the most intense relief that these weapons have not been used since World War II, mixed with the horror that tens of thousands of such weapons have been built since that time—one hundred times more than any of us at Los Alamos could ever have imagined.
Today we are rightly in an era of disarmament and dismantlement of nuclear weapons. But in some countries nuclear weapons development still continues. Whether and when the various Nations of the World can agree to stop this is uncertain. But individual scientists can still influence this process by withholding their skills.
Accordingly, I call on all scientists in all countries to cease and desist from work creating, developing, improving and manufacturing further nuclear weapons - and, for that matter, other weapons of potential mass destruction such as chemical and biological weapons.
[On the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of Hiroshima.]
Letter, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (Nov 1995), 51:6, 3.
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Built up of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, together with traces of a few other elements, yet of a complexity of structure that has hitherto resisted all attempts at complete analysis, protoplasm is at once the most enduring and the most easily destroyed of substances; its molecules are constantly breaking down to furnish the power for the manifestations of vital phenomena, and yet, through its remarkable property of assimilation, a power possessed by nothing else upon earth, it constantly builds up its substance anew from the surrounding medium.
In History of the Human Body (1919), 1.
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But of all environments, that produced by man’s complex technology is perhaps the most unstable and rickety. In its present form, our society is not two centuries old, and a few nuclear bombs will do it in.
To be sure, evolution works over long periods of time and two centuries is far from sufficient to breed Homo technikos… .
The destruction of our technological society in a fit of nuclear peevishness would become disastrous even if there were many millions of immediate survivors.
The environment toward which they were fitted would be gone, and Darwin’s demon would wipe them out remorselessly and without a backward glance.
Asimov on Physics (1976), 151. Also in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 181.
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Calculation touches, at most, certain phenomena of organic destruction. Organic creation, on the contrary, the evolutionary phenomena which properly constitute life, we cannot in any way subject to a mathematical treatment.
In Creative Evolution (1911).
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Chemical analysis and synthesis go no farther than to the separation of particles one from another, and to their reunion. No new creation or destruction of matter is within the reach of chemical agency. We might as well attempt to introduce a new planet into the solar system, or to annihilate one already in existence, as to create or destroy a particle of hydrogen.
A New System of Chemical Philosophy (1808), Vol. 1, 212.
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Civilisations as yet have only been created and directed by a small intellectual aristocracy, never by crowds. Crowds are only powerful for destruction.
From original French, “Les civilisations n’ont été créées et guidées jusqu’ici que par une petite aristocratie intellectuelle, jamais par les foules. Les foules n’ont de puissance que pour détruire,” in Psychologie des Foules (1895), Preface, 6. English text in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1897), Introduction, xviii. Also seen translated as, “All the civilizations we know have been created and directed by small intellectual aristocracies, never by people in the mass. The power of crowds is only to destroy.”
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Creation science has not entered the curriculum for a reason so simple and so basic that we often forget to mention it: because it is false, and because good teachers understand why it is false. What could be more destructive of that most fragile yet most precious commodity in our entire intellectual heritage—good teaching—than a bill forcing our honorable teachers to sully their sacred trust by granting equal treatment to a doctrine not only known to be false, but calculated to undermine any general understanding of science as an enterprise?.
In 'The Verdict on Creationism' The Sketical Inquirer (Winter 1987/88), 12, 186.
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Descartes' immortal conclusion cogito ergo sum was recently subjected to destruction testing by a group of graduate researchers at Princeton led by Professors Montjuic and Lauterbrunnen, and now reads, in the Shorter Harvard Orthodoxy:
(a) I think, therefore I am; or
(b) Perhaps I thought, therefore I was; but
(c) These days, I tend to leave that side of things to my wife.
Tom Holt
Ye Gods! (1992), 223.
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Drunkenness, the ruin of reason, the destruction of strength, premature old age, momentary death.
Homilies, No. XIV, Ch. 7.
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Faced with the widespread destruction of the environment, people everywhere are coming to understand that we cannot continue to use the goods of the earth as we have in the past … [A] new ecological awareness is beginning to emerge which rather than being downplayed, ought to be encouraged to develop into concrete programs and initiatives. (8 Dec 1989)
The Ecological Crisis: A Common Responsibility. Quoted in Al Gore, Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit (2000), 262.
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Thomas Robert Malthus quote Famine … the most dreadful resource of nature.
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Famine seems to be the last, the most dreadful resource of nature. The power of population is so superior to the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction; and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague, advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and ten thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow, levels the population with the food of the world.
In An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798), 140, and in new enlarged edition (1803), 350.
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Fear of something is at the root of hate for others and hate within will eventually destroy the hater. Keep your thoughts free from hate, and you will have no fear from those who hate you. ...
David, though small, was filled with truth, right thinking and good will for others. Goliath represents one who let fear into his heart, and it stayed there long enough to grow into hate for others.
In Alvin D. Smith, George Washington Carver: Man of God (1954), 43. Cited in Linda O. McMurry, George Washington Carver, Scientist and Symbol (1982), 107. Smith's book is about his recollections of G.W. Carver's Sunday School classes at Tuskegee, some 40 years earlier. Webmaster, who has not yet been able to see the original book, cautions this quote may be the gist of Carver's words, rather than a verbatim quote.
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Fleets are not confined to the ocean, but now sail over the land. … All the power of the British Navy has not been able to prevent Zeppelins from reaching England and attacking London, the very heart of the British Empire. Navies do not protect against aerial attack. … Heavier-than-air flying machines of the aeroplane type have crossed right over the heads of armies, of million of men, armed with the most modern weapons of destruction, and have raided places in the rear. Armies do not protect against aerial war.
In 'Preparedness for Aerial Defense', Addresses Before the Eleventh Annual Convention of the Navy League of the United States, Washington, D.C., April 10-13, 1916 (1916), 70.
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Florey was not an easy personality. His drive and ambition were manifest from the day he arrived ... He could be ruthless and selfish; on the other hand, he could show kindliness, a warm humanity and, at times, sentiment and a sense of humour. He displayed utter integrity and he was scathing of humbug and pretence. His attitude was always—&ldqo;You must take me as you find me” But to cope with him at times, you had to do battle, raise your voice as high as his and never let him shout you down. You had to raise your pitch to his but if you insisted on your right he was always, in the end, very fair. I must say that at times, he went out of his way to cut people down to size with some very destructive criticism. But I must also say in the years I knew him he did not once utter a word of praise about himself.
Personal communication (1970) to Florey's Australian biographer, Lennard Bickel. By letter, Drury described his experience as a peer, being a research collaborator while Florey held a Studentship at Cambridge in the 1920s. This quote appears without naming Drury, in Eric Lax, The Mold in Dr. Florey's Coat: The Story of the Penicillin Miracle (2004), 40. Dury is cited in Lennard Bickel, Rise Up to Life: A Biography of Howard Walter Florey Who Gave Penicillin to the World (1972), 24. Also in Eric Lax
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I am told that the wall paintings which we had the happiness of admiring in all their beauty and freshness [in the chapel she discovered at Abu Simbel] are already much injured. Such is the fate of every Egyptian monument, great or small. The tourist carves it over with names and dates, and in some instances with caricatures. The student of Egyptology, by taking wet paper “squeezes” sponges away every vestige of the original colour. The “Collector” buys and carries off everything of value that he can, and the Arab steals it for him. The work of destruction, meanwhile goes on apace. The Museums of Berlin, of Turin, of Florence are rich in spoils which tell their lamentable tale. When science leads the way, is it wonderful that ignorance should follow?
Quoted in Margaret S. Drower, The Early Years, in T.G.H. James, (ed.), Excavating in Egypt: The Egypt Exploration Society, 1882-1982 (1982), 10. As cited in Wendy M.K. Shaw, Possessors and Possessed: Museums, Archaeology, and the Visualization of History in the Late Ottoman Empire (2003), 37. Also quoted in Margaret S. Drower, Flinders Petrie: A Life in Archaeology (1995), 57.
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I beg this committee to recognize that knowledge is not simply another commodity. On the contrary. Knowledge is never used up, it increases by diffusion, and grows by dispersion. Knowledge and information cannot be quantitatively assessed, as a percentage of the G.N.P. Any willful cut in our resources of knowledge is an act of self-destruction.
While Librarian of Congress, asking a House Appropriations subcommittee to restore money cut from the library’s budget. As reported in New York Times (23 Feb 1986).
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I don’t think America can just drill itself out of its current energy situation. We don’t need to destroy the environment to meet our energy needs. We need smart, comprehensive, common-sense approaches that balance the need to increase domestic energy supplies with the need to maximize energy efficiency.
Statement on New Long-Term Energy Solutions (22 Mar 2001). In Bill Adler (ed.), The Wit and Wisdom of Ted Kennedy (2011).
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I have been asked whether I would agree that the tragedy of the scientist is that he is able to bring about great advances in our knowledge, which mankind may then proceed to use for purposes of destruction. My answer is that this is not the tragedy of the scientist; it is the tragedy of mankind.
S. R. Weart and G. W. Sallard (eds.), Leo Szilard: His Version of the Facts (1978), 229.
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I have destroyed almost the whole race of frogs, which does not happen in that savage Batrachomyomachia of Homer. For in the anatomy of frogs, which, by favour of my very excellent colleague D. Carolo Fracassato, I had set on foot in order to become more certain about the membranous substance of the lungs, it happened to me to see such things that not undeservedly I can better make use of that [saying] of Homer for the present matter—
“I see with my eyes a work trusty and great.”
For in this (frog anatomy) owing to the simplicity of the structure, and the almost complete transparency of the vessels which admits the eye into the interior, things are more clearly shown so that they will bring the light to other more obscure matters.
De Pulmonibus (1661), trans. James Young, Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine (1929-30), 23, 7.
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I know no study which is so unutterably saddening as that of the evolution of humanity, as it is set forth in the annals of history. Out of the darkness of prehistoric ages man emerges with the marks of his lowly origin strong upon him. He is a brute, only more intelligent than the other brutes, a blind prey to impulses, which as often as not led him to destruction; a victim to endless illusions, which make his mental existence a terror and a burden, and fill his physical life with barren toil and battle.
'Agnosticism' (1889). In Collected Essays (1894), Vol. 5, 256.
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I was suffering from a sharp attack of intermittent fever, and every day during the cold and succeeding hot fits had to lie down for several hours, during which time I had nothing to do but to think over any subjects then particularly interesting me. One day something brought to my recollection Malthus's 'Principles of Population', which I had read about twelve years before. I thought of his clear exposition of 'the positive checks to increase'—disease, accidents, war, and famine—which keep down the population of savage races to so much lower an average than that of more civilized peoples. It then occurred to me that these causes or their equivalents are continually acting in the case of animals also; and as animals usually breed much more rapidly than does mankind, the destruction every year from these causes must be enormous in order to keep down the numbers of each species, since they evidently do not increase regularly from year to year, as otherwise the world would long ago have been densely crowded with those that breed most quickly. Vaguely thinking over the enormous and constant destruction which this implied, it occurred to me to ask the question, Why do some die and some live? The answer was clearly, that on the whole the best fitted live. From the effects of disease the most healthy escaped; from enemies, the strongest, swiftest, or the most cunning; from famine, the best hunters or those with the best digestion; and so on. Then it suddenly flashed upon me that this self-acting process would necessarily improve the race, because in every generation the inferior would inevitably be killed off and the superior would remain—that is, the fittest would survive.
[The phrase 'survival of the fittest,' suggested by the writings of Thomas Robert Malthus, was expressed in those words by Herbert Spencer in 1865. Wallace saw the term in correspondence from Charles Darwin the following year, 1866. However, Wallace did not publish anything on his use of the expression until very much later, and his recollection is likely flawed.]
My Life: A Record of Events and Opinions (1905), Vol. 1, 361-362, or in reprint (2004), 190.
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If in a given community unchecked popular rule means unlimited waste and destruction of the natural resources—soil, fertility, waterpower, forests, game, wild-life generally—which by right belong as much to subsequent generations as to the present generation, then it is sure proof that the present generation is not yet really fit for self-control, that it is not yet really fit to exercise the high and responsible privilege of a rule which shall be both by the people and for the people. The term “for the people” must always include the people unborn as well as the people now alive, or the democratic ideal is not realized.
In A Book-Lover's Holidays in the Open (1916), 319.
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If one looks with a cold eye at the mess man has made of history, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that he has been afflicted by some built-in mental disorder which drives him towards self-destruction.
In The Ghost in the Machine (1967).
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If we are still here to witness the destruction of our planet some five billion years or more hence ..., then we will have achieved something so unprecedented in the history of life that we should be willing to sing our swan song with joy.
…...
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In every combustion there is disengagement of the matter of fire or of light. A body can burn only in pure air [oxygen]. There is no destruction or decomposition of pure air and the increase in weight of the body burnt is exactly equal to the weight of air destroyed or decomposed. The body burnt changes into an acid by addition of the substance that increases its weight. Pure air is a compound of the matter of fire or of light with a base. In combustion the burning body removes the base, which it attracts more strongly than does the matter of heat, which appears as flame, heat and light.
'Memoire sur la combustion en général', Mémoires de l'Académie des Sciences, 1777, 592. Reprinted in Oeuvres de Lavoisier (1864), Vol. 2, 225-33, trans. M. P. Crosland.
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In studying the fate of our forest king, we have thus far considered the action of purely natural causes only; but, unfortunately, man is in the woods, and waste and pure destruction are making rapid headway. If the importance of the forests were even vaguely understood, even from an economic standpoint, their preservation would call forth the most watchful attention of government
John Muir
In The Mountains of California (1894), 198.
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In the year of our Lord’s incarnation 729, two comets appeared about the sun, to the great terror of the beholders. One of them went before the rising sun in the morning, the other followed him when he set at night, as it were presaging much destruction to the east and west; one was the forerunner of the day, and the other of the night, to signify that mortals were threatened with calamities at both times. They carried their flaming tails towards the north, as it were ready to set the world on fire. They appeared in January, and continued nearly a fortnight. At which time a dreadful plague of Saracens ravaged France with miserable slaughter; … the beginning and progress of Ceolwulf’s reign were so filled with commotions, that it cannot yet be known what is to be said concerning them, or what end they will have.
Bede
From Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum, Book V, Chap. XXIII, as translated in J.A. Giles (ed.), The Venerable Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of England. Also the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (1894), 291-292. The editor reprinted the translation based on the 1723 work of John Stevens into modern English. Note: The observation likely was on a single comet seen twice each day. The event is also in both the Laud and Parker manuscripts of The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.
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In war, science has proven itself an evil genius; it has made war more terrible than it ever was before. Man used to be content to slaughter his fellowmen on a single plane—the earth’s surface. Science has taught him to go down into the water and shoot up from below and to go up into the clouds and shoot down from above, thus making the battlefield three times as bloody as it was before; but science does not teach brotherly love. Science has made war so hellish that civilization was about to commit suicide; and now we are told that newly discovered instruments of destruction will make the cruelties of the late war seem trivial in comparison with the cruelties of wars that may come in the future.
Proposed summation written for the Scopes Monkey Trial (1925), in Genevieve Forbes Herrick and John Origen Herrick, The Life of William Jennings Bryan (1925), 405. This speech was prepared for delivery at the trial, but was never heard there, as both sides mutually agreed to forego arguments to the jury.
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It appears that all that can be, is. The Creator's hand does not appear to have been opened in order to give existence to a certain determinate number of species, but it seems that it has thrown out all at once a world of relative and non-relative creatures, an infinity of harmonic and contrary combinations and a perpetuity of destructions and replacements. What idea of power is not given us by this spectacle! What feeling of respect for its Author is not inspired in us by this view of the universe!
'Premier Discours: De la Manière d'Étudier et de Traiter l'Histoire naturelle', Histoire Naturelle, Generale et Particulière, Avec la Description du Cabinet du Roi (1749), Vol. I, 11. Trans. Phillip R. Sloan.
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It can even be thought that radium could become very dangerous in criminal hands, and here the question can be raised whether mankind benefits from knowing the secrets of Nature, whether it is ready to profit from it or whether this knowledge will not be harmful for it. The example of the discoveries of Nobel is characteristic, as powerful explosives have enabled man to do wonderful work. They are also a terrible means of destruction in the hands of great criminals who lead the peoples towards war. I am one of those who believe with Nobel that mankind will derive more good than harm from the new discoveries.
Nobel Lecture (6 June 1905), 'Radioactive Substances, Especially Radium', collected in Stig Lundqvist (ed.), Nobel Lectures: Physics 1901-1921 (1998), 78.
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It is estimated that thirty-five to fifty acres of rain forest are chopped down every minute.
From interview collected in Pamela Weintraub (ed.), The Omni Interviews (1984), 80.
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It is folly to think that we can destroy one species and ecosystem after another and not affect humanity. When we save species, we’re actually saving ourselves.
On the 'About' page of his web site.
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It is for such inquiries the modern naturalist collects his materials; it is for this that he still wants to add to the apparently boundless treasures of our national museums, and will never rest satisfied as long as the native country, the geographical distribution, and the amount of variation of any living thing remains imperfectly known. He looks upon every species of animal and plant now living as the individual letters which go to make up one of the volumes of our earth’s history; and, as a few lost letters may make a sentence unintelligible, so the extinction of the numerous forms of life which the progress of cultivation invariably entails will necessarily render obscure this invaluable record of the past. It is, therefore, an important object, which governments and scientific institutions should immediately take steps to secure, that in all tropical countries colonised by Europeans the most perfect collections possible in every branch of natural history should be made and deposited in national museums, where they may be available for study and interpretation. If this is not done, future ages will certainly look back upon us as a people so immersed in the pursuit of wealth as to be blind to higher considerations. They will charge us with having culpably allowed the destruction of some of those records of Creation which we had it in our power to preserve; and while professing to regard every living thing as the direct handiwork and best evidence of a Creator, yet, with a strange inconsistency, seeing many of them perish irrecoverably from the face of the earth, uncared for and unknown.
In 'On the Physical Geography of the Malay Archipelago', Journal of the Royal Geographical Society (1863), 33, 234.
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It is hard to think of fissionable materials when fashioned into bombs as being a source of happiness. However this may be, if with such destructive weapons men are to survive, they must grow rapidly in human greatness. A new level of human understanding is needed. The reward for using the atom’s power towards man’s welfare is great and sure. The punishment for its misuse would seem to be death and the destruction of the civilization that has been growing for a thousand years. These are the alternatives that atomic power, as the steel of Daedalus, presents to mankind. We are forced to grow to greater manhood.
Atomic Quest: A Personal Narrative (1956), xix.
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It may be that ... when the advance of destructive weapons enables everyone to kill everybody else nobody will want to kill anyone at all. [Referring to the hydrogen bomb.]
Parliamentary debate concerning the hydrogen bomb (Nov 1953). In Robert Rhodes James, ed. Winston Churchill: His Complete Speeches, 1897-1963 (1974), Vol. 6, p.8505.
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It was astonishing that for some considerable distance around the mould growth the staphococcal colonies were undergoing lysis. What had formerly been a well-grown colony was now a faint shadow of its former self...I was sufficiently interested to pursue the subject.
[Sep 1928, the first observation of penicillin. Lysis is the dissolution or destruction of cells.]
Sarah R. Riedman and Elton T. Gustafson, Portraits of Nobel Laureates in Medicine and Physiology (1964), 72.
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It were indeed to be wish’d that our art had been less ingenious, in contriving means destructive to mankind; we mean those instruments of war, which were unknown to the ancients, and have made such havoc among the moderns. But as men have always been bent on seeking each other’s destruction by continual wars; and as force, when brought against us, can only be repelled by force; the chief support of war, must, after money, be now sought in chemistry.
A New Method of Chemistry, 3rd edition (1753), Vol. I, trans. P. Shaw, 189-90.
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It’s like seeing a light at the end of the tunnel and the tunnel has leaves on it.
About rain forest destruction and species extinction.
Quoted in Douglas Martin, 'A Brief Walk Through Time', New York Times (4 Jan 2002), E39.
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Leo Szilard’s Ten Commandments:
1. Recognize the connections of things and the laws of conduct of men, so that you may know what you are doing.
2. Let your acts be directed towards a worthy goal, but do not ask if they will reach it; they are to be models and examples, not means to an end.
3. Speak to all men as you do to yourself, with no concern for the effect you make, so that you do not shut them out from your world; lest in isolation the meaning of life slips out of sight and you lose the belief in the perfection of the creation.
4. Do not destroy what you cannot create.
5. Touch no dish, except that you are hungry.
6. Do not covet what you cannot have.
7. Do not lie without need.
8. Honor children. Listen reverently to their words and speak to them with infinite love.
9. Do your work for six years; but in the seventh, go into solitude or among strangers, so that the memory of your friends does not hinder you from being what you have become.
10. Lead your life with a gentle hand and be ready to leave whenever you are called.
Circulated by Mrs. Szilard in July 1964, in a letter to their friends (translated by Dr. Jacob Bronowski). As printed in Robert J. Levine, Ethics and Regulation of Clinical Research (1988), 431.
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Many Species of Animals have been lost out of the World, which Philosophers and Divines are unwilling to admit, esteeming the Destruction of anyone Species a Dismembring of the Universe, and rendring the World imperfect; whereas they think the Divine Providence is especially concerned, and solicitous to secure and preserve the Works of the Creation. And truly so it is, as appears, in that it was so careful to lodge all Land Animals in the Ark at the Time of the general Deluge; and in that, of all Animals recorded in Natural Histories, we cannot say that there hath been anyone Species lost, no not of the most infirm, and most exposed to Injury and Ravine. Moreover, it is likely, that as there neither is nor can be any new Species of Animals produced, all proceeding from Seeds at first created; so Providence, without which one individual Sparrow falls not to the ground, doth in that manner watch over all that are created, that an entire Species shall not be lost or destroyed by any Accident. Now, I say, if these Bodies were sometimes the Shells and Bones of Fish, it will thence follow, that many Species have been lost out of the World... To which I have nothing to reply, but that there may be some of them remaining some where or other in the Seas, though as yet they have not come to my Knowledge. Far though they may have perished, or by some Accident been destroyed out of our Seas, yet the Race of them may be preserved and continued still in others.
John Ray
Three Physico-Theological Discourses (1713), Discourse II, 'Of the General Deluge, in the Days of Noah; its Causes and Effects', 172-3.
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Moreover, within the hollows of the earth,
When from one quarter the wind builds up, lunges,
Muscles the deep caves with its headstrong power,
The earth leans hard where the force of wind has pressed it;
Then above ground, the higher the house is built,
The nearer it rises to the sky, the worse
Will it lean that way and jut out perilously,
The beams wrenched loose and hanging ready to fall.
And to think, men can't believe that for this world
Some time of death and ruin lies in wait,
Yet they see so great a mass of earth collapse!
And the winds pause for breath—that's lucky, for else
No force could rein things galloping to destruction.
But since they pause for breath, to rally their force,
Come building up and then fall driven back,
More often the earth will threaten ruin than
Perform it. The earth will lean and then sway back,
Its wavering mass restored to the right poise.
That explains why all houses reel, top floor
Most then the middle, and ground floor hardly at all.
On the Nature of Things, trans. Anthony M. Esolen (1995), Book 6, lines 558-77, 216.
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Nature being capricious and taking pleasure in creating and producing a continuous sucession of lives and forms because she knows that they serve to increase her terrestrial substance, is more ready and swift in her creating than time is in destroying, and therefore she has ordained that many animals shall serve as food one for the other; and as this does not satisfy her desire she sends forth frequently certain noisome and pestilential vapours and continual plagues upon the vast accumulations and herds of animals and especially upon human beings who increase very rapidly because other animals do not feed upon them.
'Philosophy', in The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, trans. E. MacCurdy (1938), Vol. 1 80.
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Nevertheless if any skillful Servant of Nature shall bring force to bear on matter, and shall vex it and drive it to extremities as if with the purpose of reducing it to nothing, then will matter (since annihilation or true destruction is not possible except by the omnipotence of God) finding itself in these straits, turn and transform itself into strange shapes, passing from one change to another till it has gone through the whole circle and finished the period.
From 'Proteus; or Matter', De Sapientia Veterum (1609), Sec. 13. As translated in James Spedding, Robert Ellis and Douglas Heath (eds.), The Works of Francis Bacon (1857), Vol. 6, 726.
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No creature is too bulky or formidable for man's destructive energies—none too minute and insignificant for his keen detection and skill of capture. It was ordained from the beginning that we should be the masters and subduers of all inferior animals. Let us remember, however, that we ourselves, like the creatures we slay, subjugate, and modify, are the results of the same Almighty creative will—temporary sojourners here, and co-tenants with the worm and the whale of one small planet. In the exercise, therefore, of those superior powers that have been intrusted to us, let us ever bear in mind that our responsibilities are heightened in proportion.
Lecture to the London Society of Arts, 'The Raw Materials of the Animal Kingdom', collected in Lectures on the Results of the Great Exhibition of 1851' (1852), 131.
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Non-violence … is the only thing that the atom bomb cannot destroy.
In William Borman, Gandhi and Non-Violence (1986), 170.
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Not to destroy but to construct,
I hold the unconquerable belief
that science and peace will triumph over ignorance and war
that nations will come together
not to destroy but to construct
and that the future belongs to those
who accomplish most for humanity.
[His 1956 Christmas card.]
In Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1980), 366-367. The card used a variant of Louis Pasteur's earlier remark in 1892 (q.v.)
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Nothing is indifferent, nothing is powerless in the universe; an atom might destroy everything, an atom might save everything!
In Aurélia ou Le Rêve et la vie (1855).
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Nothing is more detestable to the physical anthropologist than... [the] wretched habit of cremating the dead. It involves not only a prodigal waste of costly fuel and excellent fertilizer, but also the complete destruction of physical historical data. On the other hand, the custom of embalming and mummification is most praiseworthy and highly to be recommended.
Up From the Ape (1931), 531.
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Nothing is sudden in nature: whereas the slightest storms are forecasted several days in advance, the destruction of the world must have been announced several years beforehand by heat waves, by winds, by meteorites, in short, by an infinity of phenomena.
L' Antiquité devoilée par ses usages ou Examen critique des principales Opinions, Cérémonies & Institutions religieuses & politiques des differens Peuples de la Terre (1766), 373-4.
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Nothing that you do in science is guaranteed to result in benefits for mankind. Any discovery, I believe, is morally neutral and it can be turned either to constructive ends or destructive ends. That’s not the fault of science.
Quoted by Jeremy Pearce in 'Arthur Galston, Agent Orange Researcher, Is Dead at 88', New York Times (23 Jun 2008), B6.
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Now the American eagle is verging on extinction. Even the polar bear on its ice floes has become easy game for flying sportsmen. A peninsula named Udjung Kulon holds the last two or three dozen Javan rhinoceroses. The last known herd of Arabian oryx has been machine-gunned by a sheik. Blue whales have nearly been harpooned out of their oceans. Pollution ruins bays and rivers. Refuse litters beaches. Dam projects threaten Colorado canyons, Hudson valleys, every place of natural beauty that can be a reservoir for power. Obviously the scientific progress so alluring to me is destroying qualities of greater worth.
In 'The Wisdom of Wilderness', Life (22 Dec 1967), 63, No. 25, 8-9. (Note: the Arabian oryx is no longer listed as extinct.)
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One can learn imitation history—kings and dates, but not the slightest idea of the motives behind it all; imitation literature—stacks of notes on Shakespeare’s phrases, and a complete destruction of the power to enjoy Shakespeare.
In Mathematician's Delight (1943), 8.
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One must expect a war between U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. which will begin with the total destruction of London. I think the war will last 30 years, and leave a world without civilised people, from which everything will have to build afresh—a process taking (say) 500 years.
Stated just one month after the Hiroshima atomic explosion. Russell became one of the best-known antinuclear activists of his era.
Letter to Gamel Brenan (1 Sep 1945). In Nicholas Griffin (Ed.), The Selected Letters of Bertrand Russell (2002), 410.
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One of the most immediate consequences of the electrochemical theory is the necessity of regarding all chemical compounds as binary substances. It is necessary to discover in each of them the positive and negative constituents... No view was ever more fitted to retard the progress of organic chemistry. Where the theory of substitution and the theory of types assume similar molecules, in which some of the elements can be replaced by others without the edifice becoming modified either in form or outward behaviour, the electrochemical theory divides these same molecules, simply and solely, it may be said, in order to find in them two opposite groups, which it then supposes to be combined with each other in virtue of their mutual electrical activity... I have tried to show that in organic chemistry there exist types which are capable, without destruction, of undergoing the most singular transformations according to the nature of the elements.
Traité de Chemie Appliquée aux Arts, Vol. I (1828), 53. Trans. J. R. Partington, A History of Chemistry, Vol. 4, 366.
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Our intelligence has brought us far, but it has also brought us to the brink of total destruction. It cuts both ways, its application sometimes terrifies us, but it also reveals a humbling, sobering perspective of our cosmological home.
…...
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Our world faces a crisis as yet unperceived by those possessing power to make great decisions for good or evil. The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe. We scientists who released this immense power have an overwhelming responsibility in this world life-and-death struggle to harness the atom for the benefit of mankind and not for humanity’s destruction. … We need two hundred thousand dollars at once for a nation-wide campaign to let people know that a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels. This appeal is sent to you only after long consideration of the immense crisis we face. … We ask your help at this fateful moment as a sign that we scientists do not stand alone.
In 'Atomic Education Urged by Einstein', New York Times (25 May 1946), 13. Extract from a telegram (24 May 1946) to “several hundred prominent Americans”, signed by Albert Einstein as Chairman, with other members, of the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists. It was also signed by the Federation of American Scientists.
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Probably if half a kilogram [of radium] were in a bottle on that table it would kill us all. It would almost certainly destroy our sight and burn our skins to such an extent that we could not survive. The smallest bit placed on one’s arm would produce a blister which it would need months to heal.
As quoted in 'Radium', New York Times (22 Feb 1903), 6. Note that X-rays were discovered only a few years before, in 1895, radioactivity in 1896, and the electron in 1897. Full knowledge of the harmful radiation did not exist at the time. Nevertheless, Crookes’ remark, in the words of the reporter, “would seem to indicate that it [radium] emits something more than light. Heat and actinic energy must make up a large part of its radiation. It also emits electrons with [great] velocity…”
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Science and technology have freed humanity from many burdens and given us this new perspective and great power. This power can be used for the good of all. If wisdom governs our actions; but if the world is mad or foolish, it can destroy itself just when great advances and triumphs are almost without its grasp.
As quoted in Suranjan Das 'The Nehru Years in Indian politics', Edinburgh Papers on South Asian Studies (16 Nov 2001), 16, 230. As cited in M.J. Vinod and Meena Deshpande, Contemporary Political Theory (2013), 507. Vinod and Deshpande introduce the quote by writing “Nehru was largely instrumental for building a scientific temper and culture in India” and “emphasized the need for building national laboratories and research institutes.”
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See, thro' this air, this ocean, and this earth,
All matter quick, and bursting into birth.
Above, how high progressive life may go!
Around, how wide! how deep extend below!
Vast chain of being, which from God began,
Natures ethereal, human, angel, man,
Beast, bird, fish, insect! what no eye can see,
No glass can reach! from Infinite to thee,
From thee to Nothing—On superior pow'rs
Were we to press, inferior might on ours:
Or in the full creation leave a void,
Where, one step broken, the great scale's destroy'd:
From Nature's chain whatever link you strike,
Tenth or ten thousandth, breaks the chain alike.
'An Essay on Man' (1733-4), Epistle I. In John Butt (ed.), The Poems of Alexander Pope (1965), 513.
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Several of my young acquaintances are in their graves who gave promise of making happy and useful citizens and there is no question whatever that cigarettes alone were the cause of their destruction. No boy living would commence the use of cigarettes if he knew what a useless, soulless, worthless thing they would make of him.
Quoted in Henry Ford, The Case Against the Little White Slaver (1914), Vol. 1, 20.
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Suppose a number of equal waves of water to move upon the surface of a stagnant lake, with a certain constant velocity, and to enter a narrow channel leading out of the lake. Suppose then another similar cause to have excited another equal series of waves, which arrive at the same time, with the first. Neither series of waves will destroy the other, but their effects will be combined: if they enter the channel in such a manner that the elevations of one series coincide with those of the other, they must together produce a series of greater joint elevations; but if the elevations of one series are so situated as to correspond to the depressions of the other, they must exactly fill up those depressions. And the surface of the water must remain smooth; at least I can discover no alternative, either from theory or from experiment.
A Reply to the Animadversions of the Edinburgh Reviewers on Some Papers Published in the Philosophical Transactions (1804), 17-8.
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Suppose that we are wise enough to learn and know—and yet not wise enough to control our learning and knowledge, so that we use it to destroy ourselves? Even if that is so, knowledge remains better than ignorance. It is better to know—even if the knowledge endures only for the moment that comes before destruction—than to gain eternal life at the price of a dull and swinish lack of comprehension of a universe that swirls unseen before us in all its wonder. That was the choice of Achilles, and it is mine, too.
Widely seen on the Web, but always without citation, so regard attribution as uncertain. Webmaster has not yet found reliable verification. Contact Webmaster if you know a primary print source.
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Teaching a school is but another word for sure and not very slow destruction.
In Thomas Carlyle and ‎Charles Eliot Norton (ed.), Early Letters of Thomas Carlyle (1886), Vol. 1, 281.
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That atomic energy though harnessed by American scientists and army men for destructive purposes may be utilised by other scientists for humanitarian purposes is undoubtedly within the realm of possibility. … An incendiary uses fire for his destructive and nefarious purpose, a housewife makes daily use of it in preparing nourishing food for mankind.
In The Words of Gandhi (2001), 87.
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The Arts & Sciences are the Destruction of Tyrannies or Bad Governments. Why should a good government endeavour to depress what is its chief and only support.
Marginal note (c. 1808) written in his copy of The Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds (1798), on table of contents. As given in William Blake, Edwin John Ellis (ed.) and William Butler Yeats (ed.), The Works of William Blake (1893), Vol. 2, 319.
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The Author of nature has not given laws to the universe, which, like the institutions of men, carry in themselves the elements of their own destruction; he has not permitted in his works any symptom of infancy or of old age, or any sign by which we may estimate either their future or their past duration. He may put an end, as he no doubt gave a beginning, to the present system at some determinate period of time; but we may rest assured, that this great catastrophe will not be brought about by the laws now existing, and that it is not indicated by any thing which we perceive.
'Biographical Account of the Late Dr James Hutton, F.R.S. Edin.' (read 1803), Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1805), 5, 55.
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The beauty and genius of a work of art may be reconceived, though its first material expression be destroyed; a vanished harmony may yet again inspire the composer, but when the last individual of a race of living things breathes no more, another heaven and another earth must pass before such a one can be again.
In The Bird: Its Form and Function (1906), Vol. 1, 18.
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The choice to 'do nothing' in response to the mounting evidence is actually a choice to continue and even accelerate the reckless environmental destruction that is creating the catastrophe at hand.
Al Gore
Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit (2006), 37.
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The city of Hiroshima stands as more than a monument to massive death and destruction. It stands as a living testament to the necessity for progress toward nuclear disarmament.
Speech (11 Jan 1978)). In Bill Adler (ed.), The Wit and Wisdom of Ted Kennedy (2011).
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The continued destruction of mangrove swamps in poor countries to provide shrimp for people living in rich countries is simply the market operating in a vacuum untroubled by ethics.
In The End of the Line: How Overfishing Is Changing the World and What We Eat (2008), 300.
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The Dark Ages may return—the Stone Age may return on the gleaming wings of Science; and what might now shower immeasureable material blessings upon mankind may even bring about its total destruction. Beware! I say. Time may be short.
Referring to the discovery of atomic energy.
“Iron Curtain” speech at Fulton, Missouri (5 Mar 1946). Maxims and Reflections (1947), 164.
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The development of civilization and industry in general has always shown itself so active in the destruction of forests that everything that has been done for their conservation and production is completely insignificant in comparison.
Karl Marx
…...
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The experiments that we will do with the LHC [Large Hadron Collider] have been done billions of times by cosmic rays hitting the earth. ... They're being done continuously by cosmic rays hitting our astronomical bodies, like the moon, the sun, like Jupiter and so on and so forth. And the earth's still here, the sun's still here, the moon's still here. LHC collisions are not going to destroy the planet.
As quoted in Alan Boyle, 'Discovery of Doom? Collider Stirs Debate', article (8 Sep 2008) on a msnbc.com web page.
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The eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding.
Address at Rice University in Houston (12 Sep 1962). On website of John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
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The fateful question for the human species seems to me to be whether and to what extent their cultural development will succeed in mastering the disturbance of their communal life by the human instinct of aggression and self-destruction … One thing only do I know for certain and that is that man's judgements of value follow directly from his wihes for happiness—that, accordingly, they are an attempt to support his illusions with arguments. (1930)
Civilization and its Discontents (2005), 154.
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The forest is a peculiar organism of unlimited kindness and benevolence that makes no demands for its sustenance and extends generously the products of its life activity; it provides protection to all beings, offering shade even to the axeman who destroys it.
In Sergius Alexander Wilde, Forest Soils and Forest Growth (1946), 6.
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The future of mankind is going to be decided within the next two generations, and there are two absolute requisites: We must aim at a stable-state society [with limited population growth] and the destruction of nuclear stockpiles. … Otherwise I don't see how we can survive much later than 2050.
Quoted in John C. Hess, 'French Nobel Biologist Says World Based On Chance', New York Times (15 Mar 1971), 6.
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The history of chemistry is properly divided into the mythologic, the obscure, and the certain. The first period exhibits it from its infancy, deformed by fictions, until the destruction of the library of Alexandria by the Arabs. —The second, though freed in some measure from these absurdities, yet is still clothed in numberless enigmas and allegorical expressions.— The third period commences at the middle of the seventeenth century, with the first establishment of societies and academies of science; of which the wise associates, in many places uniting their efforts, determined to pursue the study of Natural Philosophy by observation and experiments, and candidly to publish their attempts in a general account of their transactions.
In Essays, Physical and Chemical (1791), 4, translated from the original Latin.
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The Industrial Revolution as a whole was not designed. It took shape gradually as industrialists and engineers figured out how to make things. The result is that we put billions of pounds of toxic materials in the air, water and soil every year and generate gigantic amounts of waste. If our goal is to destroy the world—to produce global warming and toxicity and endocrine disruption—we're doing great.
In interview article, 'Designing For The Future', Newsweek (15 May 2005).
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The inexperienced and presumptuous band of medical tyros let loose upon the world destroys more of human life in one year than all the Robin Hoods, Cartouches, and Macheaths do in a century.
In letter to Caspar Wistar (21 Jun 1807). Memoir, Correspondence, And Miscellanies, From The Papers Of Thomas Jefferson (1829), Vol. 4, 93. (Jefferson regards Robin Hood as a villain, on a par with with Cartouche, an 18th-century highwayway, and Macheath, the cutthroat in John Gay’s Beggar’s Opera.)
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The meaning of the evolution of culture is no longer a riddle to us. It must present to us the struggle between Eros and Death, between the instincts of life and the instincts of destruction, as it works itself out in the human species.
In Sigmund Freud and Joan Riviere (trans.), Civilization and Its Discontents (1930, 1994), 49.
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The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.
…...
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The more innocuous the name of a weapon, the more hideous its impact. (Some of the most horrific weapons of the Vietnam era were named “Bambi”, “Infant”, “Daisycutter”, “Grasshopper”, and “Agent Orange.” Nor is the trend new: from the past we have “Mustard Gas”, “Angel Chasers” (two cannonballs linked with a chain for added destruction) and “The Peacemaker” to name but a few.)
The Official Explanations (1980), 48.
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The news today about ‘Atomic bombs’ is so horrifying one is stunned. The utter folly of these lunatic physicists to consent to do such work for war-purposes: calmly plotting the destruction of the world!
From Letter (No. 102) to Christopher Tolkien (9 Aug 1945). In Humphrey Carpenter (ed.) assisted by Christopher Tolkien, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (1995, 2014), 116, Letter No. 102.
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The ravages committed by man subvert the relations and destroy the balance which nature had established between her organized and her inorganic creations; and she avenges herself upon the intruder, by letting loose upon her defaced provinces destructive energies hitherto kept in check by organic forces destined to be his best auxiliaries, but which he has unwisely dispersed and driven from the field of action. When the forest is gone, the great reservoir of moisture stored up in its vegetable mould is evaporated, and returns only in deluges of rain to wash away the parched dust into which that mould has been converted. The well-wooded and humid hills are turned to ridges of dry rock, which encumbers the low grounds and chokes the watercourses with its debris, and–except in countries favored with an equable distribution of rain through the seasons, and a moderate and regular inclination of surface–the whole earth, unless rescued by human art from the physical degradation to which it tends, becomes an assemblage of bald mountains, of barren, turfless hills, and of swampy and malarious plains. There are parts of Asia Minor, of Northern Africa, of Greece, and even of Alpine Europe, where the operation of causes set in action by man has brought the face of the earth to a desolation almost as complete as that of the moon; and though, within that brief space of time which we call “the historical period,” they are known to have been covered with luxuriant woods, verdant pastures, and fertile meadows, they are now too far deteriorated to be reclaimable by man, nor can they become again fitted for human use, except through great geological changes, or other mysterious influences or agencies of which we have no present knowledge, and over which we have no prospective control. The earth is fast becoming an unfit home for its noblest inhabitant, and another era of equal human crime and human improvidence, and of like duration with that through which traces of that crime and that improvidence extend, would reduce it to such a condition of impoverished productiveness, of shattered surface, of climatic excess, as to threaten the depravation, barbarism, and perhaps even extinction of the species.
Man and Nature, (1864), 42-3.
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The results of even a cursory examination exceeded all the tales of eyewitnesses and my wildest expectations.
Writing his recollection of his first sight of the Tunguska destruction.
Quoted in Alan E. Rubin, Disturbing the Solar System (2002), 186
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The ruthless destruction of their forests by the Chinese is one of the reasons why famine and plague today hold this nation in their sinister grasp. Denudation, wherever practiced, leaves naked soil; floods and erosion follow, and when the soil is gone men must also go—and the process does not take long. The great plains of Eastern China were centuries ago transformed from forest into agricultural land. The mountain plateau of Central China have also within a few hundred years been utterly devastated of tree growth, and no attempt made at either natural or artificial reforestation. As a result, the water rushes off the naked slopes in veritable floods, gullying away the mountain sides, causing rivers to run muddy with yellow soil, and carrying enormous masses of fertile earth to the sea. Water courses have also changed; rivers become uncontrollable, and the water level of the country is lowered perceptibly. In consequence, the unfortunate people see their crops wither and die for lack of water when it is most needed.
Statement (11 May 1921) by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) concerning the famine in China in seven out of every ten years. Reported in 'Blames Deforestation: Department of Agriculture Ascribes Chinese Famine to it', New York Times (12 May 1921), 12.
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The same society which receives the rewards of technology must, as a cooperating whole, take responsibility for control. To deal with these new problems will require a new conservation. We must not only protect the countryside and save it from destruction, we must restore what has been destroyed and salvage the beauty and charm of our cities. Our conservation must be not just the classic conservation of protection and development, but a creative conservation of restoration and innovation. Its concern is not with nature alone, but with the total relation between man and the world around him. Its object is not just man's welfare, but the dignity of man's spirit.
In his 'Message to Congress on Conservation and Restoration of Natural Beauty' written to Congress (8 Feb 1965). It was a broad initiative aimed at beautifying America, guaranteeing water and air quality, and preserving natural areas. In Lyndon B. Johnson: Containing the Public Messages, Speeches, and Statements of the President (1965), Vol.1, 156. United States. President (1963-1969 : Johnson), Lyndon Baines Johnson, United States. Office of the Federal Register - 1970
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The simple fact is that the world is not paying for the services the forests provide. At the moment, they are worth more dead than alive–for soya, for beef, for palm oil and for logging, feeding the demand from other countries. … I think we need to be clear that the drivers of rainforest destruction do not originate in the rainforest nations, but in the more developed countries which, unwittingly or not, have caused climate change.
Presidential Lecture (3 Nov 2008) at the Presidential Palace, Jakarta, Indonesia. On the Prince of Wales website.
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The so-called “scientific revolution,” popularly associated with the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but reaching back in an unmistakably continuous line to a period much earlier still. Since that revolution overturned the authority in science not only of the middle ages but of the ancient world—since it ended not only in the eclipse of scholastic philosophy but in the destruction of Aristotelian physics—it outshines everything since the rise of Christianity and reduces the Renaissance and Reformation to the rank of mere episodes, mere internal displacements, within the system of medieval Christendom … It looms so large as the real origin of the modern world and of the modern mentality that our customary periodisation of European history has become an anachronism and an encumbrance.
The Origins of Modern Science (1949), viii.
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The sole precoccupation of this learned society was the destruction of humanity for philanthropic reasons and the perfection of weapons as instruments of civilization.
From the Earth to the Moon, translated by Walter James Miller (1978)
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The star [Tycho’s supernova] was at first like Venus and Jupiter, giving pleasing effects; but as it then became like Mars, there will next come a period of wars, seditions, captivity and death of princes, and destruction of cities, together with dryness and fiery meteors in the air, pestilence, and venomous snakes. Lastly, the star became like Saturn, and there will finally come a time of want, death, imprisonment and all sorts of sad things.
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The successful launching of the Sputnik was a demonstration of one of the highest scientific and technological achievements of man—a tantalizing invitation both to the militarist in search of ever more devastating means of destruction and to the astronomer searching for new means of carrying his instruments away from their earthbound environment.
In BBC Reith Lecture (9 Nov 1958), 'Astronomy Breaks Free', published as The Individual and the Universe (1959, 1961), 72.
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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.
From Anthony Bennett Anderson (ed.), Alternatives to Deforestation: Steps Toward Sustainable Use of the Amazon Rain Forest (1990), xi. As cited in Lykke E. Andersen (ed.), The Dynamics of Deforestation and Economic Growth in the Brazilian Amazon (2002), 2.
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The trees have not only been regarded by man as his lawful plunder, but he has even seemed to find a positive pleasure in their destruction. He … has been reckless of the future. The supply has seemed to be abundant, and the future has been left to take care of itself.
'What We Owe to the Trees', Harper's New Monthly Magazine (Apr 1882), 46, No. 383, 675.
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The trouble about always trying to preserve the health of the body is that it is so difficult to do it without destroying the health of the mind.
In 'The Health of the Mind', Illustrated London News (10 Aug 1929), collected in Selected Essays (1955), 22.
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The United States at this moment occupies a lamentable position as being perhaps the chief offender among civilized nations in permitting the destruction and pollution of nature. Our whole modern civilization is at fault in the matter. But we in America are probably most at fault ... We treasure pictures and sculpture. We regard Attic temples and Roman triumphal arches and Gothic cathedrals as of priceless value. But we are, as a whole, still in that low state of civilization where we do not understand that it is also vandalism wantonly to destroy or permit the destruction of what is beautiful in nature, whether it be a cliff, a forest, or a species of mammal or bird. Here in the United States we turn our rivers and streams into sewers and dumping-grounds, we pollute the air, we destroy forests and exterminate fishes, birds and mammals'not to speak of vulgarizing charming landscapes with hideous advertisements.
'Our Vanishing Wild Life', The Outlook, 25 Jan 1913. In Donald Davidson (Ed.) The Wisdom of Theodore Roosevelt (2003), 19.
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The worst thing that will probably happen—in fact is already well underway—is not energy depletion, economic collapse, conventional war, or the expansion of totalitarian governments. As terrible as these catastrophes would be for us, they can be repaired in a few generations. The one process now going on that will take millions of years to correct is loss of genetic and species diversity by the destruction of natural habitats. This is the folly our descendants are least likely to forgive us.
Biophilia (1984), 121.(1990), 182.
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This compassion, or sympathy with the pains of others, ought also to extend to the brute creation, as far as our necessities will admit; for we cannot exist long without the destruction of other animal or vegetable beings either in their mature or embryon state. Such is the condition of mortality, that the first law of nature is “eat, or be eaten.” Hence for the preservation of our existence we may be supposed to have a natural right to kill those brute creatures, which we want to eat, or which want to eat us; but to destroy even insects wantonly shows an unreflecting mind, or a depraved heart.
In A Plan for the Conduct of Female Education in Boarding Schools (1797), 48.
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This new power, which has proved itself to be such a terrifying weapon of destruction, is harnessed for the first time for the common good of our community. [Upon opening Calder Hall nuclear power station in 1956.]
Speech, reproduced in Nuclear Power: The Journal of British Nuclear Engineering (1956), Vol. 1, 274.
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This preservation of favourable variations and the destruction of injurious variations, I call Natural Selection, or the Survival of the Fittest. Variations neither useful nor injurious would not be affected by natural selection and would be left a fluctuating element.
From Origin of Species (fifth edition, 1869), 81. The phrase “survival of the fittest” was not added until the fifth edition (1869), and is absent from earlier editions. Also in the fifth edition, the word “destruction” replaced “rejection” used in the earlier editions (1859, 1860, 1861, 1866) to the fourth edition.
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Those who love fairy-tales do not like it when people speak of the innate tendencies in mankind toward aggression, destruction, and, in addition, cruelty.
In Sigmund Freud and Joan Riviere (trans.), Civilization and Its Discontents (1930, 1994), 47.
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Thus we conclude, that the strata both primary and secondary, both those of ancient and those of more recent origin, have had their materials furnished from the ruins of former continents, from the dissolution of rocks, or the destruction of animal or vegetable bodies, similar, at least in some respects, to those that now occupy the surface of the earth.
Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of the Earth (1802), 14-5.
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Two contrary laws seem to be wrestling with each other nowadays: the one, a law of blood and of death, ever imagining new means of destruction and forcing nations to be constantly ready for the battlefield—the other, a law of peace, work and health, ever evolving new means for delivering man from he scourges which beset him. The one seeks violent conquests, the other the relief of humanity. The latter places one human life above any victory: while the former would sacrifice hundreds and thousands of lives to the ambition of one.
Address at the Inauguration of the Pasteur Institute. In René Vallery-Radot, The Life of Pasteur, translated by Mrs. R. L. Devonshire (1919), 444.
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We are consuming our forests three times faster than they are being reproduced. Some of the richest timber lands of this continent have already been destroyed, and not replaced, and other vast areas are on the verge of destruction. Yet forests, unlike mines, can be so handled as to yield the best results of use, without exhaustion, just like grain fields.
Address to the Deep Waterway Convention, Memphis, Tennessee (4 Oct 1907), 'Our National Inland Waterways Policy'. In American Waterways (1908), 9.
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We are the generation that searched on Mars for evidence of life, but couldn’t rouse enough moral sense to stop the destruction of even the grandest manifestations of life on earth. In that sense, we are like the Romans whose works of an, architecture, and engineering inspire our awe but whose traffic in slaves and gladiatorial combat is mystifying and loathsome.
[Co-author with Anna Sequoia.]
67 Ways to Save the Animals
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We do live in a conceptual trough that encourages such yearning for unknown and romanticized greener pastures of other times. The future doesn’t seem promising, if only because we can extrapolate some disquieting present trends in to further deterioration: pollution, nationalism, environmental destruction, and aluminum bats. Therefore, we tend to take refuge in a rose-colored past ... I do not doubt the salutary, even the essential, properties of this curiously adaptive human trait, but we must also record the down side. Legends of past golden ages become impediments when we try to negotiate our current dilemma.
…...
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We have spent the best part of the past century enthusiastically testing the world to utter destruction; not looking closely enough at the long-term impact our actions will have.
Speech, awards ceremony for green entrepreneurs, Buckingham Palace (30 Jan 2014). As quoted in Benn Quinn, 'Climate Change Sceptics are ‘Headless Chickens’, Says Prince Charles', The Guardian (31 Jan 2014).
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We need to be realistic. There is very little we can do now to stop the ice from disappearing from the North Pole in the Summer. And we probably cannot prevent the melting of the permafrost and the resulting release of methane. In addition, I fear that we may be too late to help the oceans maintain their ability to absorb carbon dioxide. But there is something we can do—and it could make the whole difference and buy us time to develop the necessary low carbon economies. We can halt the destruction of the world’s rainforests—and even restore parts of them—in order to ensure that the forests do what they are so good at—in other words storing carbon naturally. This is a far easier, cheaper and quicker option than imagining we can rely on as yet unproven technology to capture carbon at a cost of some $50 per tonne or, for that matter, imagining we can achieve what is necessary through plantation timber.
Presidential Lecture (3 Nov 2008) at the Presidential Palace, Jakarta, Indonesia. On the Prince of Wales website.
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When men are engaged in war and conquest, the tools of science become as dangerous as a razor in the hands of a child of three. We must not condemn man because his inventiveness and patient conquest of the forces of nature are being exploited for false and destructive purposes. Rather, we should remember that the fate of mankind hinges entirely upon man’s moral development.
In 'I Am an American' (22 Jun 1940), Einstein Archives 29-092. Excerpted in David E. Rowe and Robert J. Schulmann, Einstein on Politics: His Private Thoughts and Public Stands on Nationalism, Zionism, War, Peace, and the Bomb (2007), 470. The British Library Sound Archive holds a recording of this statement by Einstein. It was during a radio broadcast for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, interviewed by a State Department Official. Einstein spoke following an examination on his application for American citizenship in Trenton, New Jersey. The attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s declaration of war on Japan was still over a year in the future.
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When rich men are thus brought to regard themselves as trustees, and poor men learn to be industrious, economical, temperate, self-denying, and diligent in the acquisition of knowledge, then the deplorable strife between capital and labor, tending to destroy their fundamental, necessary, and irrefragable harmony will cease, and the world will no longer be afflicted with such unnatural industrial conflicts as we have seen during the past century...
Address (31 May 1871) to the 12th annual commencement at the Cooper Union, honoring his 80th birthday, in New York City Mission and Tract Society, Annual report of the New York City Mission and Tract Society (1872), 69.
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While there are several chronic diseases more destructive to life than cancer, none is more feared.
Charles H. Mayo and William A. Hendricks, 'Carcinoma of the Right Segment of the Colon', presented to Southern Surgical Assoc. (15 Dec 1925). In Annals of Surgery (Mar 1926), 83, 357.
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Why then be concerned about the conservation of wildlife when for all practical purposes we would be much better off if humans and their domestic animals and pets were the only living creatures on the face of the earth? There is no obvious and demolishing answer to this rather doubtful logic although in practice the destruction of all wild animals would certainly bring devastating changes to our existence on this planet as we know it today...The trouble is that everything in nature is completely interdependent. Tinker with one part of it and the repercussions ripple out in all directions...Wildlife - and that includes everything from microbes to blue whales and from a fungus to a redwood tree - has been so much part of life on the earth that we are inclined to take its continued existence for granted...Yet the wildlife of the world is disappearing, not because of a malicious and deliberate policy of slaughter and extermination, but simply because of a general and widespread ignorance and neglect.
…...
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With such wisdom has nature ordered things in the economy of this world, that the destruction of one continent is not brought about without the renovation of the earth in the production of another.
Theory of the Earth, with Proofs and Illustrations, Vol. 1 (1795), 183.
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Without preparing fluorine, without being able to separate it from the substances with which it is united, chemistry has been able to study and to analyze a great number of its compounds. The body was not isolated, and yet its place was marked in our classifications. This well demonstrates the usefulness of a scientific theory, a theory which is regarded as true during a certain time, which correlates facts and leads the mind to new hypotheses, the first causes of experimentation; which, little by little, destroy the theory itself, in order to replace it by another more in harmony with the progress of science.
[Describing the known history of fluorine compounds before his isolation of the element.]
'Fluorine', lecture at the Royal Institution (28 May 1897), translated from the French, in Proceedings of the Royal Institution (1897). In Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution to July 1897 (1898), 262.
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You bring me the deepest joy that can be felt by a man [Pasteur himself] whose invincible belief is that Science and Peace will triumph over Ignorance and War, that nations will unite, not to destroy, but to build, and that the future will belong to those who will have done most for suffering humanity. But whether our efforts are or are not favored by life, let us be able to say, when we come near to the great goal, “I have done what I could.”
Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, France (27 Dec 1892) where his 70th birth was recognized. His son presented the speech due to the weakness of Pastuer's voice. In René Vallery-Radot, The Life of Pasteur, R. L. Devonshire (trans.) (1902), Vol. 2, 297.
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[O]ur long-term security is threatened by a problem at least as dangerous as chemical, nuclear or biological weapons, or indeed international terrorism: human-induced climate change. … The impacts of global warming are such that I have no hesitation in describing it as a “weapon of mass destruction.” Like terrorism, this weapon knows no boundaries. It can strike anywhere, in any form…
London Guardian (28 Jul 2003)
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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
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- 80 -
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- 70 -
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- 60 -
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Avicenna
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- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
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Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton



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