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Who said: “Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.”
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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index G > Category: Gradation

Gradation Quotes (17 quotes)

About weak points [of the Origin] I agree. The eye to this day gives me a cold shudder, but when I think of the fine known gradations, my reason tells me I ought to conquer the cold shudder.
Letter to Asa Gray, 8 or 9 February 1860. In F. Burkhardt and S. Smith (eds.), The Correspondence of Charles Darwin 1860 (1993), Vol. 8, 75.
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After having produced aquatic animals of all ranks and having caused extensive variations in them by the different environments provided by the waters, nature led them little by little to the habit of living in the air, first by the water's edge and afterwards on all the dry parts of the globe. These animals have in course of time been profoundly altered by such novel conditions; which so greatly influenced their habits and organs that the regular gradation which they should have exhibited in complexity of organisation is often scarcely recognisable.
Hydrogéologie (1802), trans. A. V. Carozzi (1964), 69-70.
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All the different classes of beings which taken together make up the universe are, in the ideas of God who knows distinctly their essential gradations, only so many ordinates of a single curve so closely united that it would be impossible to place others between any two of them, since that would imply disorder and imperfection. Thus men are linked with the animals, these with the plants and these with the fossils which in turn merge with those bodies which our senses and our imagination represent to us as absolutely inanimate. And, since the law of continuity requires that when the essential attributes of one being approximate those of another all the properties of the one must likewise gradually approximate those of the other, it is necessary that all the orders of natural beings form but a single chain, in which the various classes, like so many rings, are so closely linked one to another that it is impossible for the senses or the imagination to determine precisely the point at which one ends and the next begins?all the species which, so to say, lie near the borderlands being equivocal, at endowed with characters which might equally well be assigned to either of the neighboring species. Thus there is nothing monstrous in the existence zoophytes, or plant-animals, as Budaeus calls them; on the contrary, it is wholly in keeping with the order of nature that they should exist. And so great is the force of the principle of continuity, to my thinking, that not only should I not be surprised to hear that such beings had been discovered?creatures which in some of their properties, such as nutrition or reproduction, might pass equally well for animals or for plants, and which thus overturn the current laws based upon the supposition of a perfect and absolute separation of the different orders of coexistent beings which fill the universe;?not only, I say, should I not be surprised to hear that they had been discovered, but, in fact, I am convinced that there must be such creatures, and that natural history will perhaps some day become acquainted with them, when it has further studied that infinity of living things whose small size conceals them for ordinary observation and which are hidden in the bowels of the earth and the depth of the sea.
Lettre Prétendue de M. De Leibnitz, à M. Hermann dont M. Koenig a Cité le Fragment (1753), cxi-cxii, trans. in A. O. Lovejoy, Great Chain of Being: A Study of the History of an Idea (1936), 144-5.
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Hereafter we shall be compelled to acknowledge that the only distinction between species and well-marked varieties is, that the latter are known, or believed to be connected at the present day by intermediate gradations whereas species were formerly thus connected.
From On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1861), 421.
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How near one Species to the next is join'd,
The due Gradations please a thinking Mind;
and there are Creatures which no eye can see,
That for a Moment live and breathe like me:
Whom a small Fly in bulk as far exceeds,
As yon tall Cedar does the waving Reeds:
These we can reach—and may we not suppose
There still are Creatures more minute than those.
'The Enquiry'. In Poems Upon Several Occasions (1748), 198.
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I have stated, that in the thirteen species of ground-finches [in the Galapagos Islands], a nearly perfect gradation may be traced, from a beak extraordinarily thick, to one so fine, that it may be compared to that of a warbler. I very much suspect, that certain members of the series are confined to different islands; therefore, if the collection had been made on any one island, it would not have presented so perfect a gradation. It is clear, that if several islands have each their peculiar species of the same genera, when these are placed together, they will have a wide range of character. But there is not space in this work, to enter on this curious subject.
Journal of Researches: into the Natural History and Geology of the Countries Visited During the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle Round the World (1839), ch. XIX, 475.
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In the distant future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be based on a new foundation, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation. Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history.
On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859, 1882), 428 .
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In the real changes which animals undergo during their embryonic growth, in those external transformations as well as in those structural modifications within the body, we have a natural scale to measure the degree or the gradation of those full grown animals which corresponds in their external form and in their structure, to those various degrees in the metamorphoses of animals, as illustrated by embryonic changes, a real foundation for zoological classification.
From Lecture 4, collected in Twelve Lectures on Comparative Embryology: Delivered Before the Lowell Institute in Boston: December and January 1848-9 (1849), 29.
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It has been asserted … that the power of observation is not developed by mathematical studies; while the truth is, that; from the most elementary mathematical notion that arises in the mind of a child to the farthest verge to which mathematical investigation has been pushed and applied, this power is in constant exercise. By observation, as here used, can only be meant the fixing of the attention upon objects (physical or mental) so as to note distinctive peculiarities—to recognize resemblances, differences, and other relations. Now the first mental act of the child recognizing the distinction between one and more than one, between one and two, two and three, etc., is exactly this. So, again, the first geometrical notions are as pure an exercise of this power as can be given. To know a straight line, to distinguish it from a curve; to recognize a triangle and distinguish the several forms—what are these, and all perception of form, but a series of observations? Nor is it alone in securing these fundamental conceptions of number and form that observation plays so important a part. The very genius of the common geometry as a method of reasoning—a system of investigation—is, that it is but a series of observations. The figure being before the eye in actual representation, or before the mind in conception, is so closely scrutinized, that all its distinctive features are perceived; auxiliary lines are drawn (the imagination leading in this), and a new series of inspections is made; and thus, by means of direct, simple observations, the investigation proceeds. So characteristic of common geometry is this method of investigation, that Comte, perhaps the ablest of all writers upon the philosophy of mathematics, is disposed to class geometry, as to its method, with the natural sciences, being based upon observation. Moreover, when we consider applied mathematics, we need only to notice that the exercise of this faculty is so essential, that the basis of all such reasoning, the very material with which we build, have received the name observations. Thus we might proceed to consider the whole range of the human faculties, and find for the most of them ample scope for exercise in mathematical studies. Certainly, the memory will not be found to be neglected. The very first steps in number—counting, the multiplication table, etc., make heavy demands on this power; while the higher branches require the memorizing of formulas which are simply appalling to the uninitiated. So the imagination, the creative faculty of the mind, has constant exercise in all original mathematical investigations, from the solution of the simplest problems to the discovery of the most recondite principle; for it is not by sure, consecutive steps, as many suppose, that we advance from the known to the unknown. The imagination, not the logical faculty, leads in this advance. In fact, practical observation is often in advance of logical exposition. Thus, in the discovery of truth, the imagination habitually presents hypotheses, and observation supplies facts, which it may require ages for the tardy reason to connect logically with the known. Of this truth, mathematics, as well as all other sciences, affords abundant illustrations. So remarkably true is this, that today it is seriously questioned by the majority of thinkers, whether the sublimest branch of mathematics,—the infinitesimal calculus—has anything more than an empirical foundation, mathematicians themselves not being agreed as to its logical basis. That the imagination, and not the logical faculty, leads in all original investigation, no one who has ever succeeded in producing an original demonstration of one of the simpler propositions of geometry, can have any doubt. Nor are induction, analogy, the scrutinization of premises or the search for them, or the balancing of probabilities, spheres of mental operations foreign to mathematics. No one, indeed, can claim preeminence for mathematical studies in all these departments of intellectual culture, but it may, perhaps, be claimed that scarcely any department of science affords discipline to so great a number of faculties, and that none presents so complete a gradation in the exercise of these faculties, from the first principles of the science to the farthest extent of its applications, as mathematics.
In 'Mathematics', in Henry Kiddle and Alexander J. Schem, The Cyclopedia of Education, (1877.) As quoted and cited in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 27-29.
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It is in everything else as it is in colors; bad eyes can distinguish between black and white; better eyes, and eyes much exercised, can distinguish every nicer gradation.
As translated in definition for 'Extreme', A Philosophical Dictionary: From the French (1824), Vol. 3, 139.
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Look Nature thro’, ’tis neat Gradation all.
By what minute Degrees her Scale ascends!
Each middle Nature join’d at each Extreme,
To that above it join’d, to that beneath.
The Complaint: or, Night-Thoughts on Life, Death, and Immortality (1742, 1750), Night 6, 140.
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Nature progresses by unknown gradations and consequently does not submit to our absolute division when passing by imperceptible nuances, from one species to another and often from one genus to another. Inevitably there are a great number of equivocal species and in-between specimens that one does not know where to place and which throw our general systems into turmoil.
Jean Piveteau (ed.), Oeuvres Philosophiques de Buffon (1965), 10. Trans. in Paul Farber, 'Buffon and the Concept of Species', in Journal of the History of Biology, 1972, 5, 260.
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Seeing this gradation and diversity of structure in one small, intimately related group of birds, one might really fancy that from an original paucity of birds in this archipelago, one species had been taken and modified for different ends.
[Comment added to the second edition (1845) of Voyage of the Beagle (1839) concerning the variations he found of finches in the Galapagos Islands. In the first edition (p.461) he had merely described the thirteen allied species of finch but without further commentary.]
Voyage of the Beagle, 2nd ed., (1845), 380.
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To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree. When it was first said that the sun stood still and the world turned round, the common sense of mankind declared the doctrine false; but the old saying of Vox populi, vox Dei, as every philosopher knows, cannot be trusted in science. Reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a perfect and complex eye to one very imperfect and simple, each grade being useful to its possessor, can be shown to exist; if further, the eye does vary ever so slightly, and the variations be inherited, which is certainly the case; and if any variation or modification in the organ be ever useful to an animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, can hardly be considered real.
On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859, 1882), 143-144.
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We come back then to our records of nervous messages with a reasonable assurance that they do tell us what the message is like. It is a succession of brief waves of surface breakdown, each allowing a momentary leakage of ions from the nerve fibre. The waves can be set up so that they follow one another in rapid or in slow succession, and this is the only form of gradation of which the message is capable. Essentially the same kind of activity is found in all sorts of nerve fibres from all sorts of animals and there is no evidence to suggest that any other kind of nervous transmission is possible. In fact we may conclude that the electrical method can tell us how the nerve fibre carries out its function as the conducting unit of the nervous system, and that it does so by reactions of a fairly simple type.
The Mechanism of Nervous Action (1932), 21.
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We pass by imperceptible gradations from the brute to the savage and from the savage to Euler and Newton.
In 'Esquisse', Oeuvres, Vol. 6, 346. As cited by Frank Edward Manuel, Utopian Thought in the Western World (1979, 2009), 492.
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When I first read Plato and came upon this gradation of beings which rises from the lightest atom to the Supreme Being, I was struck with admiration. But when I looked at it more closely, the great phantom vanished. … At first the imagination takes a pleasure in seeing the imperceptible transition from inanimate to organic matter, from plants to zoophytes, from these to animals, from these to genii, … and finally angels.
As quoted in Arthur O. Lovejoy, The Great Chain of Being: A Study of the History of an Idea (2011), 252.
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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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