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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index I > Category: Ignorant

Ignorant Quotes (40 quotes)

Wer fremde Sprachen nicht kennt, weiss nichts von seiner eigenen
He who is ignorant of foreign languages knows not his own.
Original German in Über Kunst und Alterthum (1821), 30. Quoted, in translation, in Samuel Arthur Bent, Short Sayings of Great Men: With Historical and Explanatory Notes (1882). Also seen as, “He who knows but one language knows none.”
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A newspaper is a device for making the ignorant more ignorant and the crazy crazier.
In A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949, 1956), 625.
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A student who wishes now-a-days to study geometry by dividing it sharply from analysis, without taking account of the progress which the latter has made and is making, that student no matter how great his genius, will never be a whole geometer. He will not possess those powerful instruments of research which modern analysis puts into the hands of modern geometry. He will remain ignorant of many geometrical results which are to be found, perhaps implicitly, in the writings of the analyst. And not only will he be unable to use them in his own researches, but he will probably toil to discover them himself, and, as happens very often, he will publish them as new, when really he has only rediscovered them.
From 'On Some Recent Tendencies in Geometrical Investigations', Rivista di Matematica (1891), 43. In Bulletin American Mathematical Society (1904), 443.
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According to the theory of aerodynamics, as may be readily demonstrated through wind tunnel experiments, the bumblebee is unable to fly. This is because the size, weight and shape of his body in relation to the total wingspread make flying impossible. But the bumblebee, being ignorant of these scientific truths, goes ahead and flies anyway—and makes a little honey every day.
Anonymous
Sign in a General Motors Corporation factory. As quoted in Ralph L. Woods, The Businessman's Book of Quotations (1951), 249-50. Cited in Suzy Platt (ed)., Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989), 118.
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All Pretences of foretelling by Astrology, are Deceits; for this manifest Reason, because the Wise and Learned, who can only judge whether there be any Truth in this Science, do all unanimously agree to laugh at and despise it; and none but the poor ignorant Vulgar give it any Credit.
'An Account of the Death of Mr. Patrige' (1708), collected in The Works of Jonathan Swift (1746), Vol. 1, 124.
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An ignorant or half-informed teacher may present science as an accumulation of unconnected facts. … To teach in that fashion is like going to the tree of science with its glorious fruit in order to pick up a handful of the dry fallen leaves from the ground.
In Inaugural Presidential Address (9 Sep 1885) to the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Aberdeen, Scotland, 'Relations of Science to the Public Weal', Report to the Fifty-Fifth Meeting of the British Association (1886), 11.
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As for France and England, with all their pre-eminence in science, the one is a den of robbers, and the other of pirates. If science produces no better fruits than tyranny, murder, rapine, and destitution of national morality, I would rather wish our country to be ignorant, honest, and estimable as our neighboring savages are.
Letter (21 Jan 1812) to John Adams. Collected in Thomas Jefferson Randolph (ed.), Memoirs, Correspondence and Private Papers (1829), Vol. 4, 173.
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Bacon himself was very ignorant of all that had been done by mathematics; and, strange to say, he especially objected to astronomy being handed over to the mathematicians. Leverrier and Adams, calculating an unknown planet into a visible existence by enormous heaps of algebra, furnish the last comment of note on this specimen of the goodness of Bacon’s view… . Mathematics was beginning to be the great instrument of exact inquiry: Bacon threw the science aside, from ignorance, just at the time when his enormous sagacity, applied to knowledge, would have made him see the part it was to play. If Newton had taken Bacon for his master, not he, but somebody else, would have been Newton.
In Budget of Paradoxes (1872), 53-54.
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But when great and ingenious artists behold their so inept performances, not undeservedly do they ridicule the blindness of such men; since sane judgment abhors nothing so much as a picture perpetrated with no technical knowledge, although with plenty of care and diligence. Now the sole reason why painters of this sort are not aware of their own error is that they have not learnt Geometry, without which no one can either be or become an absolute artist; but the blame for this should be laid upon their masters, who are themselves ignorant of this art.
In The Art of Measurement (1525). As quoted in Albrecht Dürer and R.T. Nichol (trans.), 'Preface', Of the Just Shaping of Letters (1965), Book 3, 1-2.
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He is unworthy of the name of man who is ignorant of the fact that the diagonal of a square is incommensurable with its side.
Plato
Quoted by Sophie Germain: Mémorie sur les Surfaces Élastiques. In Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica (1914), 211
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He who is ignorant of the art of arithmetic is but half a man.
As quoted in, without source, in John Holmes Agnew, 'Pleasures, Objects, and Advantages of Literature Indicated', The Eclectic Museum of Foreign Literature, Science and Art (Dec 1843), 499. Reprinted from Frazier’s Magazine. The quote alone is seen earlier, attributed to only “a writer of other times” in Ezra Sampson, The Brief Remarker on the Ways of Man (1818), 411.
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He [Lord Bacon] appears to have been utterly ignorant of the discoveries which had just been made by Kepler’s calculations … he does not say a word about Napier’s Logarithms, which had been published only nine years before and reprinted more than once in the interval. He complained that no considerable advance had been made in Geometry beyond Euclid, without taking any notice of what had been done by Archimedes and Apollonius. He saw the importance of determining accurately the specific gravities of different substances, and himself attempted to form a table of them by a rude process of his own, without knowing of the more scientific though still imperfect methods previously employed by Archimedes, Ghetaldus and Porta. He speaks of the εὕρηκα of Archimedes in a manner which implies that he did not clearly appreciate either the problem to be solved or the principles upon which the solution depended. In reviewing the progress of Mechanics, he makes no mention either of Archimedes, or Stevinus, Galileo, Guldinus, or Ghetaldus. He makes no allusion to the theory of Equilibrium. He observes that a ball of one pound weight will fall nearly as fast through the air as a ball of two, without alluding to the theory of acceleration of falling bodies, which had been made known by Galileo more than thirty years before. He proposed an inquiry with regard to the lever,—namely, whether in a balance with arms of different length but equal weight the distance from the fulcrum has any effect upon the inclination—though the theory of the lever was as well understood in his own time as it is now. … He speaks of the poles of the earth as fixed, in a manner which seems to imply that he was not acquainted with the precession of the equinoxes; and in another place, of the north pole being above and the south pole below, as a reason why in our hemisphere the north winds predominate over the south.
From Spedding’s 'Preface' to De Interpretations Naturae Proœmium, in The Works of Francis Bacon (1857), Vol. 3, 511-512. [Note: the Greek word “εὕρηκα” is “Eureka” —Webmaster.]
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I do not forget that Medicine and Veterinary practice are foreign to me. I desire judgment and criticism upon all my contributions. Little tolerant of frivolous or prejudiced contradiction, contemptuous of that ignorant criticism which doubts on principle, I welcome with open arms the militant attack which has a method of doubting and whose rule of conduct has the motto “More light.”
In Louis Pasteur and Harold Clarence Ernst (trans), The Germ Theory and Its Application to Medicine and Surgery, Chap. 12. Reprinted in Charles W. Eliot (ed.), The Harvard Classics: Scientific Papers: Physiology, Medicine, Surgery, Geology (1897, 1910), Vol. 38, 401-402. Cited as read before French Academy of Science (20 Apr 1878), published in Comptes Rendus de l’Académie des Sciences, 84, 1037-43.
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If I am given a sign [formula], and I am ignorant of its meaning, it cannot teach me anything, but if I already know it what does the formula teach me?
In De Magistro (400s), Book 1, chap 10, 23. As quoted in Ettore Carruccio, Mathematics And Logic in History And in Contemporary Thought (1964), 152.
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In a world that is rightly so concerned about climate change and the atmosphere, to be so ignorant and neglectful of our oceans is deeply troubling. However, … having woken up to this living disaster and having realized that there are limits to how much abuse we can inflict, it’s not too late to turn things around.
In 'Can We Stop Killing Our Oceans Now, Please?', Huffington Post (14 Aug 2013).
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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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It has been said by a distinguished philosopher that England is “usually the last to enter into the general movement of the European mind.” The author of the remark probably meant to assert that a man or a system may have become famous on the continent, while we are almost ignorant of the name of the man and the claims of his system. Perhaps, however, a wider range might be given to the assertion. An exploded theory or a disadvantageous practice, like a rebel or a patriot in distress, seeks refuge on our shores to spend its last days in comfort if not in splendour.
Opening from essay, 'Elementary Geometry', included in The Conflict of Studies and Other Essays (1873), 136.
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It is a great deal easier to believe in the existence of parapsychological phenomena, if one is ignorant of, or indifferent to, the nature of scientific evidence.
Epigraph in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 207.
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Mathematics is a type of thought which seems ingrained in the human mind, which manifests itself to some extent with even the primitive races, and which is developed to a high degree with the growth of civilization. … A type of thought, a body of results, so essentially characteristic of the human mind, so little influenced by environment, so uniformly present in every civilization, is one of which no well-informed mind today can be ignorant.
In Teaching of Mathematics in the Elementary and the Secondary School (1906), 14.
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Mathematics is the gate and key of the sciences. ... Neglect of mathematics works injury to all knowledge, since he who is ignorant of it cannot know the other sciences or the things of this world. And what is worse, men who are thus ignorant are unable to perceive their own ignorance and so do not seek a remedy.
In Opus Majus, Part 4, Distinctia Prima, cap. 1.
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Modesty. Never think you know all. Though others may flatter you, retain the courage to say, “I am ignorant”.
Translation of a note, 'Bequest of Pavlov to the Academic Youth of his Country', written a few days before his death for a student magazine, The Generation of the Victors. As published in 'Pavlov and the Spirit of Science', Nature (4 Apr 1936), 137, 572.
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Neither you nor I nor anybody else knows what makes a mathematician tick. It is not a question of cleverness. I know many mathematicians who are far abler than I am, but they have not been so lucky. An illustration may be given by considering two miners. One may be an expert geologist, but he does not find the golden nuggets that the ignorant miner does.
In 'Reminiscences of an Octogenarian Mathematician', The American Mathematical Monthly (Nov 1971), 78, No. 9, 960-961.
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No more harmful nonsense exists than the common supposition that deepest insight into great questions about the meaning of life or the structure of reality emerges most readily when a free, undisciplined, and uncluttered (read, rather, ignorant and uneducated) mind soars above mere earthly knowledge and concern.
…...
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No one can know and understand everything. Even individual scientists are ignorant about most of the body of scientific knowledge, and it is not simply that biologists do not understand quantum mechanics.
From review, 'Billions and Billions of Demons', of the book, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, by Carl Sagan, in New York Review of Books (9 Jan 1997).
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Students using astrophysical textbooks remain essentially ignorant of even the existence of plasma concepts, despite the fact that some of them have been known for half a century. The conclusion is that astrophysics is too important to be left in the hands of astrophysicists who have gotten their main knowledge from these textbooks. Earthbound and space telescope data must be treated by scientists who are familiar with laboratory and magnetospheric physics and circuit theory, and of course with modern plasma theory.
[Lamenting the traditional neglect of plasma physics]
Quoted in Anthony L. Peratt, 'Dean of the Plasma Dissidents', Washington Times, supplement: The World and I (May 1988),197.
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Suppose then I want to give myself a little training in the art of reasoning; suppose I want to get out of the region of conjecture and probability, free myself from the difficult task of weighing evidence, and putting instances together to arrive at general propositions, and simply desire to know how to deal with my general propositions when I get them, and how to deduce right inferences from them; it is clear that I shall obtain this sort of discipline best in those departments of thought in which the first principles are unquestionably true. For in all our thinking, if we come to erroneous conclusions, we come to them either by accepting false premises to start with—in which case our reasoning, however good, will not save us from error; or by reasoning badly, in which case the data we start from may be perfectly sound, and yet our conclusions may be false. But in the mathematical or pure sciences,—geometry, arithmetic, algebra, trigonometry, the calculus of variations or of curves,— we know at least that there is not, and cannot be, error in our first principles, and we may therefore fasten our whole attention upon the processes. As mere exercises in logic, therefore, these sciences, based as they all are on primary truths relating to space and number, have always been supposed to furnish the most exact discipline. When Plato wrote over the portal of his school. “Let no one ignorant of geometry enter here,” he did not mean that questions relating to lines and surfaces would be discussed by his disciples. On the contrary, the topics to which he directed their attention were some of the deepest problems,— social, political, moral,—on which the mind could exercise itself. Plato and his followers tried to think out together conclusions respecting the being, the duty, and the destiny of man, and the relation in which he stood to the gods and to the unseen world. What had geometry to do with these things? Simply this: That a man whose mind has not undergone a rigorous training in systematic thinking, and in the art of drawing legitimate inferences from premises, was unfitted to enter on the discussion of these high topics; and that the sort of logical discipline which he needed was most likely to be obtained from geometry—the only mathematical science which in Plato’s time had been formulated and reduced to a system. And we in this country [England] have long acted on the same principle. Our future lawyers, clergy, and statesmen are expected at the University to learn a good deal about curves, and angles, and numbers and proportions; not because these subjects have the smallest relation to the needs of their lives, but because in the very act of learning them they are likely to acquire that habit of steadfast and accurate thinking, which is indispensable to success in all the pursuits of life.
In Lectures on Teaching (1906), 891-92.
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The Chinese, who aspire to be thought an enlightened nation, to this day are ignorant of the circulation of the blood; and even in England the man who made that noble discovery lost all his practice in the consequence of his ingenuity; and Hume informs us that no physician in the United Kingdom who had attained the age of forty ever submitted to become a convert to Harvey’s theory, but went on preferring numpsimus to sumpsimus to the day of his death.
Reflection 352, in Lacon: or Many things in Few Words; Addressed to Those Who Think (1820), 164-165.
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The fact is, a biologist to-day [1928] is pretty much where an engineer would be if he knew even in detail the cycle of chemical changes which took place within an internal combustion engine but was wholly ignorant of the disposition of tho moving parts.
As guest of honour, closing day address (Jun 1928), Sixth Colloid Symposium, Toronto, Canada, 'Living Matter', printed in Harry Boyer Weiser (ed.), Colloid Symposium Monograph (1928), Vol. 6, 7.
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The first step in knowledge is to learn that we are ignorant.
In Hialmer Day Gould, New Practical Spelling (1905), 15.
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The invertebrated classes include the most numerous and diversified forms of the Animal Kingdom. At the very beginning of our inquiries into their vital powers and acts we are impressed with their important relations to the maintenance of life and organization on this planet, and their influence in purifying the sea and augmenting and enriching the land—relations of which the physiologist conversant only with the vertebrated animals must have remained ignorant.
In Lecture, delivered at the Royal College of Surgeons, collected in Lecture 24, 'Cephalopoda', Lectures on the Comparative Anatomy and Physiology of the Invertebrate Animals (1843), Vol. 1, 362.
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The only solid piece of scientific truth about which I feel totally confident is that we are profoundly ignorant about nature. Indeed, I regard this as the major discovery of the past hundred years of biology. It is, in its way, an illuminating piece of news. … It is this sudden confrontation with the depth and scope of ignorance that represents the most significant contribution of twentieth-century science to the human intellect.
Essay, 'The Hazards of Science', collected in The Medusa and the Snail: More Notes of a Biology Watcher (1979), 73.
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The prominent reason why a mathematician can be judged by none but mathematicians, is that he uses a peculiar language. The language of mathesis is special and untranslatable. In its simplest forms it can be translated, as, for instance, we say a right angle to mean a square corner. But you go a little higher in the science of mathematics, and it is impossible to dispense with a peculiar language. It would defy all the power of Mercury himself to explain to a person ignorant of the science what is meant by the single phrase “functional exponent.” How much more impossible, if we may say so, would it be to explain a whole treatise like Hamilton’s Quaternions, in such a wise as to make it possible to judge of its value! But to one who has learned this language, it is the most precise and clear of all modes of expression. It discloses the thought exactly as conceived by the writer, with more or less beauty of form, but never with obscurity. It may be prolix, as it often is among French writers; may delight in mere verbal metamorphoses, as in the Cambridge University of England; or adopt the briefest and clearest forms, as under the pens of the geometers of our Cambridge; but it always reveals to us precisely the writer’s thought.
In North American Review (Jul 1857), 85, 224-225.
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There is much about which even experts are ignorant; this will probably always be the case.
In 'With Science on Our Side', Washington Post (9 Jan 1994).
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Those who have dissected or inspected many [bodies] have at least learnt to doubt; while others who are ignorant of anatomy and do not take the trouble to attend it are in no doubt at all.
Letter xvi, Art. 25, as translated by Benjamin Alexander. Cited in Edward W. Adams, 'Founders of Modern Medicine II: Giovanni Battista Morgagni', Medical Library and Historical Journal (1903), Vol. 1, 276.
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True science teaches, above all, to doubt and to be ignorant.
Tragic Sense of Life (1913), translated by John Ernest Crawford Flitch (1954), 93.
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What we know here is very little, but what we are ignorant of is immense
In Hialmer Day Gould, New Practical Spelling (1905), 15.
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When the principles of breeding and of inheritance are better understood, we shall not hear ignorant members of our legislature rejecting with scorn a plan for ascertaining by an easy method whether or not consanguineous marriages are injurious to man.
…...
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When you know a thing, to hold that you know it; and when you do not know a thing, to allow that you do not know it;—this is knowledge.
Confucius
In James Legge (trans.), 'The Confucian Analects', The Chinese Classics: Life and Teachings of Confucius (1861), Vol. 1, Book 2, Chap. 17, 15
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Without this language [mathematics] most of the intimate analogies of things would have remained forever unknown to us; and we should forever have been ignorant of the internal harmony of the world, which is the only true objective reality. …
This harmony … is the sole objective reality, the only truth we can attain; and when I add that the universal harmony of the world is the source of all beauty, it will be understood what price we should attach to the slow and difficult progress which little by little enables us to know it better.
From La Valeur de la Science, as translated by George Bruce Halsted, in 'The Value of Science', Popular Science Monthly (Sep 1906), 69 195-196.
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[About early aircraft:] We were ignorant, and we were ignorant of the fact that we were ignorant! This was ignorance squared, and it often led to disaster.
In The Story of the Winged-S: The Autobiography of Igor I. Sikorsky (2011).
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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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