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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index E > Category: Ethical

Ethical Quotes (34 quotes)

Dilbert: Wow! According to my computer simulation, it should be possible to create new life forms from common household chemicals
Dogbert: This raises some thorny issues.
Dilbert: You mean legal, ethical and religious issues?
Dogbert: I was thinking about parking spaces.
Dilbert comic strip (31 May 1989).
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All attempts to adapt our ethical code to our situation in the technological age have failed.
Max Born
My Life & My Views (1968), 52.
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All knowledge attains its ethical value and its human significance only by the human sense with which it is employed. Only a good man can be a great physician.
Inaugural address (1882), quoted in Johann Hermann Baas, Henry Ebenezer Handerson (trans.), Outlines of the History of Medicine and the Medical Profession (1889), 966.
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Altering a gene in the gene line to produce improved offspring is likely to be very difficult because of the danger of unwanted side effects. It would also raise obvious ethical problems.
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As for “Don’t be evil,” we have tried to define precisely what it means to be a force for good—always do the right, ethical thing. Ultimately, “Don’t be evil” seems the easiest way to summarize it.
From interview, 'Google Guys', Playboy (Sep 2004).
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Can the cultural evolution of higher ethical values gain a direction and momentum of its own and completely replace genetic evolution? I think not. The genes hold culture an a leash. The leash is very long, but inevitably values will be constrained in accordance with their effects in the human gene pool. The brain is a product of evolution. Human behaviour—like the deepest capacities for emotional response which drive and guide it—is the circuitous technique by which human genetic material has been and will be kept intact. Morality has no other demonstrable ultimate function.
In On Human Nature (1978), 167. In William Andrew Rottschaefer, The Biology and Psychology of Moral Agency (1998), 58.
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Ethical axioms are found and tested not very differently from the axioms of science. Truth is what stands the test of experience.
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For any one who is pervaded with the sense of causal law in all that happens, who accepts in real earnest the assumption of causality, the idea of a Being who interferes with the sequence of events in the world is absolutely impossible! Neither the religion of fear nor the social-moral religion can have, any hold on him. A God who rewards and punishes is for him unthinkable, because man acts in accordance with an inner and outer necessity, and would, in the eyes of God, be as little responsible as an inanimate object is for the movements which it makes. Science, in consequence, has been accused of undermining morals—but wrongly. The ethical behavior of man is better based on sympathy, education and social relationships, and requires no support from religion. Man’s plight would, indeed, be sad if he had to be kept in order through fear of punishment and hope of rewards after death.
From 'Religion and Science', The New York Times Magazine, (9 Nov 1930), 1. Article in full, reprinted in Edward H. Cotton (ed.), Has Science Discovered God? A Symposium of Modern Scientific Opinion (1931), 101. The wording differs significantly from the version collected in 'Religion And Science', Ideas And Opinions (1954), 39, giving its source as: “Written expressly for the New York Times Magazine. Appeared there November 9, 1930 (pp. 1-4). The German text was published in the Berliner Tageblatt, November 11, 1930.” This variant form of the quote from the book begins, “The man who is thoroughly convinced of the universal operation of the law of causation….” and is also on the Albert Einstein Quotes page on this website. As for why the difference, Webmaster speculates the book form editor perhaps used a revised translation from Einstein’s German article.
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I am of the decided opinion, that mathematical instruction must have for its first aim a deep penetration and complete command of abstract mathematical theory together with a clear insight into the structure of the system, and doubt not that the instruction which accomplishes this is valuable and interesting even if it neglects practical applications. If the instruction sharpens the understanding, if it arouses the scientific interest, whether mathematical or philosophical, if finally it calls into life an esthetic feeling for the beauty of a scientific edifice, the instruction will take on an ethical value as well, provided that with the interest it awakens also the impulse toward scientific activity. I contend, therefore, that even without reference to its applications mathematics in the high schools has a value equal to that of the other subjects of instruction.
In 'Ueber das Lehrziel im mathemalischen Unterricht der höheren Realanstalten', Jahresbericht der Deutschen Mathematiker Vereinigung, 2, 192. (The Annual Report of the German Mathematical Association. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-Book (1914), 73.
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I think it’s time we recognized the Dark Ages are over. Galileo and Copernicus have been proven right. The world is in fact round; the Earth does revolve around the sun. I believe God gave us intellect to differentiate between imprisoning dogma and sound ethical science, which is what we must do here today.
Debating federal funding for stem cell research as Republican Representative (CT).
In Eve Herold, George Daley, Stem Cell Wars (2007), 57.
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I would teach the world that science is the best way to understand the world, and that for any set of observations, there is only one correct explanation. Also, science is value-free, as it explains the world as it is. Ethical issues arise only when science is applied to technology – from medicine to industry.
Response to question “What is the one thing everyone should learn about science?” in 'Life Lessons' The Guardian (7 Apr 2005).
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If it is good to teach students about the chemical industry then why is it not good to assign ethical qualities to substances along with their physical and chemical ones? We might for instance say that CS [gas] is a bad chemical because it can only ever be used by a few people with something to protect against many people with nothing to lose. Terylene or indigotin are neutral chemicals. Under capitalism their production is an exploitive process, under socialism they are used for the common good. Penicillin is a good chemical.
Quoted in T. Pateman (ed.), Countercourse (1972), 215.
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In an objective system … any mingling of knowledge with values is unlawful, forbidden. But [the] … “first commandment” which ensures the foundation of objective knowledge, is not itself objective. It cannot be objective: it is an ethical guideline, a rule for conduct. True knowledge is ignorant of values, but it cannot be grounded elsewhere than upon a value judgment…
In Chance and Necessity (1970), 176.
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In particular, and most importantly, this is the reason why the scientific worldview contains of itself no ethical values, no esthetical values, not a word about our own ultimate scope or destination, and no God, if you please. Whence came I and whither go I?
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In the secondary schools mathematics should be a part of general culture and not contributory to technical training of any kind; it should cultivate space intuition, logical thinking, the power to rephrase in clear language thoughts recognized as correct, and ethical and esthetic effects; so treated, mathematics is a quite indispensable factor of general education in so far as the latter shows its traces in the comprehension of the development of civilization and the ability to participate in the further tasks of civilization.
The purposes of instruction in mathematics in secondary schools formulated by the German Society for the Advancement of Instruction. From Unterrichtsblätter fur Mathematik und Naturwissenschaft (1904), 128. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-Book (1914), 72-73.
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It is so hard for an evolutionary biologist to write about extinction caused by human stupidity ... Let me then float an unconventional plea, the inverse of the usual argument ... The extinction of Partula is unfair to Partula. That is the conventional argument, and I do not challenge its primacy. But we need a humanistic ecology as well, both for the practical reason that people will always touch people more than snails do or can, and for the moral reason that humans are legitimately the measure of all ethical questions–for these are our issues, not nature’s.
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It [an ethical problem with in vitro fertilization] depends on whether you're talking ethics from the standpoint of some religious denomination or from just truly religious people. The Jewish or Catholic faiths, for example, have their own rules. But just religious people, who will make very devoted parents, have no problem with in vitro fertilization.
From address to the annual meeeting of the American Fertility Society in San Francisco (5 Feb 1979), as quoted in a UPI news article, reprinted in, for example, 'Steptoe Discusses Test Tube Ethics', The Milwaukee Journal (6 Feb 1979), 5. As reported, each sentence was separated in its own quote marks, separated by “Dr. Patrick Steptoe said” and “he said,” so the quote may not have been delivered as a single statement.
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Man is an animal with primary instincts of survival. Consequently his ingenuity has developed first and his soul afterwards. The progress of science is far ahead of man's ethical behavior.
My Autobiography (1964), 471.
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Man is no new-begot child of the ape, bred of a struggle for existence upon brutish lines—nor should the belief that such is his origin, oft dinned into his ears by scientists, influence his conduct. Were he to regard himself as an extremely ancient type, distinguished chiefly by the qualities of his mind, and to look upon the existing Primates as the failures of his line, as his misguided and brutish collaterals, rather than as his ancestors, I think it would be something gained for the ethical outlook of Homo—and also it would be consistent with present knowledge.
The Origin of Man (1918), a pamphlet published by The Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge, reprinted in Arthur Dendy (ed.), Animal Life and Human Progress (1919), 131.
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My visceral perception of brotherhood harmonizes with our best modern biological knowledge ... Many people think (or fear) that equality of human races represents a hope of liberal sentimentality probably squashed by the hard realities of history. They are wrong. This essay can be summarized in a single phrase, a motto if you will: Human equality is a contingent fact of history. Equality is not true by definition; it is neither an ethical principle (though equal treatment may be) nor a statement about norms of social action. It just worked out that way. A hundred different and plausible scenarios for human history would have yielded other results (and moral dilemmas of enormous magnitude). They didn’t happen.
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Obviously everyone wants to be successful, but I want to be looked back on as being very innovative, very trusted and ethical and ultimately making a big difference in the world.
Concerning philanthropy and investment in alternative energy research. In Tim Walker, 'Sergey Brin: Engine Driver', Independent (15 Jan 2010).
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Our failure to discern a universal good does not record any lack of insight or ingenuity, but merely demonstrates that nature contains no moral messages framed in human terms. Morality is a subject for philosophers, theologians, students of the humanities, indeed for all thinking people. The answers will not be read passively from nature; they do not, and cannot, arise from the data of science. The factual state of the world does not teach us how we, with our powers for good and evil, should alter or preserve it in the most ethical manner.
…...
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Reliable scientific knowledge is value free and has no moral or ethical value. Science tells us how the world is. … Dangers and ethical issue arise only when science is applied as technology.
Nobel Symposium, at Stockholm, Sweden on 'Virtual Museums and Public Understanding of Science and Culture' (26-29 May 2002), Lecture 'Is Science Dangerous'. Published in 'Is Cell Science Dangerous?', Journal of Medical Ethics (Jun 2007), 33, No. 6, 345.
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Science, as long as it limits itself to the descriptive study of the laws of nature, has no moral or ethical quality and this applies to the physical as well as the biological sciences.
'Social Responsibility and the Scientist', New Scientist, 22 October 1970, 166.
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The doctrine of foods is of great ethical and political significance. Food becomes blood, blood becomes heart and brain, thoughts and mind stuff. Human fare is the foundation of human culture and thought. Would you improve a nation? Give it, instead of declamations against sin, better food. Man is what he eats [Der Mensch ist, was er isst].
Advertisement to Moleschott, Lehre der Nahrungsmittel: Für das Volk (1850).
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The fact that no limits exist to the destructiveness of this weapon [the “Super”, i.e. the hydrogen bomb] makes its very existence and the knowledge of its construction a danger to humanity as a whole. It is necessarily an evil thing considered in any light. For these reasons, we believe it important for the President of the United States to tell the American public and the world what we think is wrong on fundamental ethical principles to initiate the development of such a weapon.
Enrico Fermi and I.I. Rabi, 'Minority Report of the General Advisory Committee', United States Atomic Energy Commission: In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer: Transcript of Hearing before Personnel Security Board, Washington, D.C. April 12th 1954—May 6th 1954 (1954), 79-80.
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The man who is thoroughly convinced of the universal operation of the law of causation cannot for a moment entertain the idea of a being who interferes in the course of events–provided, of course, that he takes the hypothesis of causality really seriously. He has no use for the religion of fear and equally little for social or moral religion. A God who rewards and punishes is inconceivable to him for the simple reason that a man’s actions are determined by necessity, external and internal, so that in God’s eyes he cannot be responsible, any more than an inanimate object is responsible for the motions it undergoes. Science has therefore been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hopes of reward after death.
From 'Religion And Science', as collected in Ideas And Opinions (1954), 39, given its source as: “Written expressly for the New York Times Magazine. Appeared there November 9, 1930 (pp. 1-4). The German text was published in the Berliner Tageblatt, November 11, 1930.” The NYT Magazine article in full, is reprinted in Edward H. Cotton (ed.), Has Science Discovered God? A Symposium of Modern Scientific Opinion (1931), 101. This original version directly from the magazine has significantly different wording, beginning, “For anyone who is pervaded with the sense of causal law….” See this alternate form on the Albert Einstein Quotes page on this website. As for why the difference, Webmaster speculates the book form editor perhaps used a revised translation from Einstein’s German article.
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The meaning that we are seeking in evolution is its meaning to us, to man. The ethics of evolution must be human ethics. It is one of the many unique qualities of man, the new sort of animal, that he is the only ethical animal. The ethical need and its fulfillment are also products of evolution, but they have been produced in man alone.
The Meaning of Evolution: A Study of the History of Life and of its Significance for Man (1949), 309.
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The moral principle inherent in evolution, that nothing can be gained in this world without an effort; the ethical principle inherent in evolution is that only the best has the right to survive; the spiritual principle in evolution is the evidence of beauty, of order, and of design in the daily myriad of miracles to which we owe our existence.
'Evolution and Religion', New York Times (5 Mar 1922), 91.
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The next decade will perhaps raise us a step above despair to a cleaner, clearer wisdom and biology cannot fail to help in this. As we become increasingly aware of the ethical problems raised by science and technology, the frontiers between the biological and social sciences are clearly of critical importance—in population density and problems of hunger, psychological stress, pollution of the air and water and exhaustion of irreplaceable resources.
As quoted in 'H. Bentley Glass', New York Times (12 Jan 1970), 96.
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The only ethical principle which has made science possible is that the truth shall be told all the time. If we do not penalize false statements made in error, we open up the way for false statements by intention. And a false statement of fact, made deliberately, is the most serious crime a scientist can commit.
In The Search (1934, rev. ed. 1959). Also seen attributed to Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night (1935). Webmaster has not yet solved the mystery of which author wrote it first. If you have access to both books, and can identify the first to publish, please contact Webmaster.
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The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living.
Speech (10 Nov 1948) in Boston, Massachusetts, preceding Armistice Day, Collected Writings (1967), Vol. 1. Quoted in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (Apr 1952), 8, No. 4, 114.
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Through our scientific and technological genius we’ve made of this world a neighborhood. And now through our moral and ethical commitment we must make of it a brotherhood. We must all learn to live together as brothers—or we will all perish together as fools.
Commencement Address for Oberlin College, Ohio, 'Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution' ,(Jun 1965). Oberlin College website.
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Under the Providence of God, our means of education are the grand machinery by which the 'raw material' of human nature can be worked up into inventors and discoverers, into skilled artisans and scientific farmers, into scholars and jurists, into the founders of benevolent institutions, and the great expounders of ethical and theological science.
Annual Reports of the Secretary of the Board of Education of Massachusetts for the years 1845-1848, Life and Works of Horace Mann (1891), Vol. 4, 228.
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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 -
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- 80 -
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- 70 -
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- 60 -
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- 40 -
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