Celebrating 18 Years on the Web
Find science on or your birthday

Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem it will avail us little to solve all others.”
more quiz questions >>
Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index I > Category: Improbability

Improbability Quotes (7 quotes)

Every river appears to consist of a main trunk, fed from a variety of branches, each running in a valley proportional to its size, and all of them together forming a system of vallies, communicating with one another, and having such a nice adjustment of their declivities that none of them join the principal valley on too high or too low a level; a circumstance which would be infinitely improbable if each of these vallies were not the work of the stream that flows in it.
Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of the Earth (1802), 102.
Science quotes on:  |  Adjustment (12)  |  Appearance (77)  |  Branch (61)  |  Circumstance (48)  |  Communication (58)  |  Feeding (7)  |  Flow (31)  |  Level (51)  |  Principal (15)  |  River (68)  |  Run (33)  |  Size (47)  |  System (141)  |  Trunk (10)  |  Valley (16)  |  Variety (53)  |  Work (457)

It has occurred to me that possibly the white corpuscles may have the office of picking up and digesting bacterial organisms when by any means they find their way into the blood. The propensity exhibited by the leukocytes for picking up inorganic granules is well known, and that they may be able not only to pick up but to assimilate, and so dispose of, the bacteria which come in their way does not seem to me very improbable in view of the fact that amoebae, which resemble them so closely, feed upon bacteria and similar organisms.
'A Contribution to the Study of the Bacterial Organisms Commonly Found Upon Exposed Mucous Surfaces and in the Alimentary Canal of Healthy Individuals', Studies from the Biological Laboratory (1883), 2, 175.
Science quotes on:  |  Amoeba (20)  |  Assimilation (9)  |  Bacteria (32)  |  Blood (95)  |  Corpuscle (8)  |  Digestion (23)  |  Disposal (4)  |  Feeding (7)  |  Granule (3)  |  Inorganic (11)  |  Leukocyte (2)  |  Organism (126)  |  Propensity (7)  |  Resemblance (18)  |  White (38)

It is probably no exaggeration to suppose that in order to improve such an organ as the eye at all, it must be improved in ten different ways at once. And the improbability of any complex organ being produced and brought to perfection in any such way is an improbability of the same kind and degree as that of producing a poem or a mathematical demonstration by throwing letters at random on a table.
[Expressing his reservations about Darwin's proposed evolution of the eye by natural selection.]
Opening address to the Belfast Natural History Society, as given in the 'Belfast Northern Whig,' (19 Nov 1866). As cited by Charles Darwin in The Variation of Animals & Plants Under Domestication (1868), 222.
Science quotes on:  |  Bring (53)  |  Complex (78)  |  Demonstration (51)  |  Eye (159)  |  Improve (39)  |  Letter (36)  |  Mathematics (587)  |  Organ (60)  |  Perfection (71)  |  Poem (85)  |  Produce (63)  |  Random (21)  |  Throw (31)

Natural selection is a mechanism for generating an exceedingly high degree of improbability.
This is not a verbatim quote, but it is a summary of Fisher’s idea, as appearing without quotation marks in the words of the editor, Julian Huxley, in J.S. Huxley, A.C. Hardy and E.B. Ford (eds.), Evolution as a Process (1954), 5. The lengthier quote is from Fisher’s full essay 'Retrospect of the Criticisms of the Theory of Natural Selection' which appears in the same book on p.91. See it elsewhere in this site’s collection, as the Fisher quote that begins: “It was Darwin’s chief contribution…”.
Science quotes on:  |  Mechanism (41)  |  Natural Selection (79)

Simultaneous discovery is utterly commonplace, and it was only the rarity of scientists, not the inherent improbability of the phenomenon, that made it remarkable in the past. Scientists on the same road may be expected to arrive at the same destination, often not far apart.
From review '[Arthur] Koestler’s Theory of the Creative Act: “The Act of Creation”', in New Statesman (19 Jun 1964). According to Michael Scammell in his biography (Koestler: The Literary and Political Odyssey of a Twentieth-Century Skeptic (2009), 491 and 654), Medawar eviscerated the book as “amateurish” with “overstretched metaphors” and “fatuous epigrams” while Koestler’s psychological insights were “in the style of the nineteenth century.” The review, with follow-ups, were reprinted in Medawar’s The Art of the Soluble: Creativity and Originality in Science (1967), 85-98.
Science quotes on:  |  Apart (6)  |  Arriving (2)  |  Commonplace (10)  |  Destination (7)  |  Discovery (591)  |  Expectation (46)  |  Far (77)  |  Inherent (27)  |  Past (109)  |  Phenomenon (218)  |  Rarity (9)  |  Remarkable (34)  |  Road (47)  |  Same (92)  |  Scientist (447)  |  Simultaneous (12)  |  Utterly (13)

That our being should consist of two fundamental elements [physical and psychical] offers I suppose no greater inherent improbability than that it should rest on one only.
The Integrative Action of the Nervous System (1947), Foreword to 1947 Edition, xx.
Science quotes on:  |  Element (129)  |  Fundamental (122)  |  Inherent (27)

The essence of life is statistical improbability on a colossal scale.
In The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design (1986), 317.
Science quotes on:  |  Colossal (10)  |  Essence (42)  |  Life (917)  |  Scale (49)  |  Statistics (125)

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
Quotations by:Albert EinsteinIsaac NewtonLord KelvinCharles DarwinSrinivasa RamanujanCarl SaganFlorence NightingaleThomas EdisonAristotleMarie CurieBenjamin FranklinWinston ChurchillGalileo GalileiSigmund FreudRobert BunsenLouis PasteurTheodore RooseveltAbraham LincolnRonald ReaganLeonardo DaVinciMichio KakuKarl PopperJohann GoetheRobert OppenheimerCharles Kettering  ... (more people)

Quotations about:Atomic  BombBiologyChemistryDeforestationEngineeringAnatomyAstronomyBacteriaBiochemistryBotanyConservationDinosaurEnvironmentFractalGeneticsGeologyHistory of ScienceInventionJupiterKnowledgeLoveMathematicsMeasurementMedicineNatural ResourceOrganic ChemistryPhysicsPhysicianQuantum TheoryResearchScience and ArtTeacherTechnologyUniverseVolcanoVirusWind PowerWomen ScientistsX-RaysYouthZoology  ... (more topics)
Sitewide search within all Today In Science History pages:
Visit our Science and Scientist Quotations index for more Science Quotes from archaeologists, biologists, chemists, geologists, inventors and inventions, mathematicians, physicists, pioneers in medicine, science events and technology.

Names index: | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |

Categories index: | 1 | 2 | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |

- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
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
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
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton

who invites your feedback
Thank you for sharing.
Today in Science History
Sign up for Newsletter
with quiz, quotes and more.