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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 M > Category: Misery

Misery Quotes (30 quotes)


A game is on, at the other end of this infinite distance, and heads or tails will turn up. What will you wager? According to reason you cannot leave either; according to reason you cannot leave either undone... Yes, but wager you must; there is no option, you have embarked on it. So which will you have. Come. Since you must choose, let us see what concerns you least. You have two things to lose: truth and good, and two things to stake: your reason and your will, your knowledge and your happiness. And your nature has two things to shun: error and misery. Your reason does not suffer by your choosing one more than the other, for you must choose. That is one point cleared. But your happiness? Let us weigh gain and loss in calling heads that God is. Reckon these two chances: if you win, you win all; if you lose, you lose naught. Then do not hesitate, wager that He is.
Pensées (1670), Section I, aphorism 223. In H. F. Stewart (ed.), Pascal's Pensées (1950), 117-119.
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Disease is largely a removable evil. It continues to afflict humanity, not only because of incomplete knowledge of its causes and lack of individual and public hygiene, but also because it is extensively fostered by harsh economic and industrial conditions and by wretched housing in congested communities. ... The reduction of the death rate is the principal statistical expression and index of human social progress. It means the saving and lengthening of lives of thousands of citizens, the extension of the vigorous working period well into old age, and the prevention of inefficiency, misery, and suffering. These advances can be made by organized social effort. Public health is purchasable. (1911)
Quoted in Evelynn Maxine Hammonds, Childhood's Deadly Scourge: The Campaign to Control Diphtheria in New York City, 1880-1930(1999), 221.
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Employment, which Galen calls 'Nature's Physician,' is so essential to human happiness that indolence is justly considered as the mother of misery.
In Tryon Edwards, A Dictionary of Thoughts (1908), 243.
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For it is too bad that there are so few who seek the truth and so few who do not follow a mistaken method in philosophy. This is not, however, the place to lament the misery of our century, but to rejoice with you over such beautiful ideas for proving the truth. So I add only, and I promise, that I shall read your book at leisure; for I am certain that I shall find the noblest things in it. And this I shall do the more gladly, because I accepted the view of Copernicus many years ago, and from this standpoint I have discovered from their origins many natural phenomena, which doubtless cannot be explained on the basis of the more commonly accepted hypothesis.
Letter (4 Aug 1597) to Kepler, expressing thanks and interest in the book Kepler sent him. As quoted in translation in Jackson J. Spielvogel, Western Civilization: Alternate Volume: Since 1300 (2010), Vol. 2, 494.
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For it is too bad that there are so few who seek the truth and so few who do not follow a mistaken method in philosophy. This is not, however, the place to lament the misery of our century, but to rejoice with you over such beautiful ideas for proving the truth. So I add only, and I promise, that I shall read your book at leisure; for I am certain that I shall find the noblest things in it. And this I shall do the more gladly, because I accepted the view of Copernicus many years ago, and from this standpoint I have discovered from their origins many natural phenomena, which doubtless cannot be explained on the basis of the more commonly accepted hypothesis.
In Letter to Johannes Kepler. As quoted in The Portable Renaissance Reader (1968), 597.
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I complained to Mr. Johnson that I was much afflicted with melancholy, which was hereditary in our family. He said that he himself had been greatly distressed with it, and for that reason had been obliged to fly from study and meditation to the dissipating variety of life. He advised me to have constant occupation of mind, to take a great deal of exercise, and to live moderately; especially to shun drinking at night. “Melancholy people,” said he, are apt to fly to intemperance, which gives a momentary relief but sinks the soul much lower in misery.” He observed that laboring men who work much and live sparingly are seldom or never troubled with low spirits.
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If the misery of our poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.
Journal of Researches
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If there is technological advance without social advance, there is, almost automatically, an increase in human misery, in impoverishment.
The Other America (1962).
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In not a few the [opium-eating] habit has crept upon them almost unconsciously, during the medicinal use of opiates to soothe pain, to remove sleeplessness, or to arrest protracted bowel-complaint. The risk of this evil should therefore be carefully borne in mind, for life-long misery has often been caused by undue laxity in the prescribing of opiates.
In 'Clinical Lecture On The Treatment Of The Habit Of Opium-Eating', The British Medical Journal (15 Feb 1868), 1, No. 372, 137.
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Is not disease the rule of existence? There is not a lily pad floating on the river but has been riddled by insects. Almost every shrub and tree has its gall, oftentimes esteemed its chief ornament and hardly to be distinguished from the fruit. If misery loves company, misery has company enough. Now, at midsummer, find me a perfect leaf or fruit.
In The Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1893), Vol. 9, 458.
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It is one of the laws of life that each acquisition has its cost. No organism can exercise power without yielding up part of its substance. The physiological law of Transfer of Energy is the basis of human success and happiness. There is no action without expenditure of energy and if energy be not expended the power to generate it is lost. This law shows itself in a thousand ways in the life of man. The arm which is not used becomes palsied. The wealth which comes by chance weakens and destroys. The good which is unused turns to evil. The charity which asks no effort cannot relieve the misery she creates.
In The Strength of Being Clean: A Study of the Quest for Unearned Happiness (1900), 6.
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It is reported of Margaret Fuller that she said she accepted the universe. “Gad, she'd better!” retorted Carlyle. Carlyle himself did not accept the universe in a very whole-hearted manner. Looking up at the midnight stars, he exclaimed: “A sad spectacle! If they be inhabited, what a scope for misery and folly; if they be na inhabited, what a waste of space!”
Opening paragraph of book of collected essays, Accepting the Universe (1920), 3. “‘I accept the universe’ is reported to have been a favorite utterance of our New England transcendentalist, Margaret Fuller…” was stated by William James in The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), 41. James continues, “and when some one repeated this phrase to Thomas Carlyle, his sardonic comment is said to have been: ‘Gad! she'd better!’” Note that James does not here merge Carlyle's remark about the universe. Burroughs’ attribution of the “sad spectacle” quote is, so far, the earliest found by the Webmaster, who has not located it in a printed work by Carlisle himself. If you know a primary source, or earlier attribution, please contact Webmaster.
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Knowledge and wisdom are indeed not identical; and every man’s experience must have taught him that there may be much knowledge with little wisdom, and much wisdom with little knowledge. But with imperfect knowledge it is difficult or impossible to arrive at right conclusions. Many of the vices, many of the miseries, many of the follies and absurdities by which human society has been infested and disgraced may be traced to a want of knowledge.
Presidential Address to Anniversary meeting of the Royal Society (30 Nov 1859), Proceedings of the Royal Society of London (1860), 10, 163.
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Knowledge is like a knife. In the hands of a well-balanced adult it is an instrument for good of inestimable value; but in the hands of a child, an idiot, a criminal, a drunkard or an insane man, it may cause havoc, misery, suffering and crime. Science and religion have this in common, that their noble aims, their power for good, have often, with wrong men, deteriorated into a boomerang to the human race.
In 'Applied Chemistry', Science (22 Oct 1915), New Series, 42, No. 1086, 548.
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Malthus argued a century and a half ago that man, by using up all his available resources, would forever press on the limits of subsistence, thus condemning humanity to an indefinite future of misery and poverty. We can now begin to hope and, I believe, know that Malthus was expressing not a law of nature, but merely the limitation then of scientific and social wisdom. The truth or falsity of his prediction will depend now, with the tools we have, on our own actions, now and in the years to come.
From Address to the Centennial Convocation of the National Academy of Sciences (22 Oct 1963), 'A Century of Scientific Conquest'. Online at The American Presidency Project.
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Physical misery is great everywhere out here [Africa]. Are we justified in shutting our eyes and ignoring it because our European newspapers tell us nothing about it? We civilised people have been spoilt. If any one of us is ill the doctor comes at once. Is an operation necessary, the door of some hospital or other opens to us immediately. But let every one reflect on the meaning of the fact that out here millions and millions live without help or hope of it. Every day thousands and thousands endure the most terrible sufferings, though medical science could avert them. Every day there prevails in many and many a far-off hut a despair which we could banish. Will each of my readers think what the last ten years of his family history would have been if they had been passed without medical or surgical help of any sort? It is time that we should wake from slumber and face our responsibilities!
In On the Edge of the Primeval Forest, trans. C. T. Campion (1948, 1998), 126-127.
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The astronomer who studies the motion of the stars is surely like a blind man who, with only a staff [mathematics] to guide him, must make a great, endless, hazardous journey that winds through innumerable desolate places. What will be the result? Proceeding anxiously for a while and groping his way with his staff, he will at some time, leaning upon it, cry out in despair to Heaven, Earth and all the Gods to aid him in his misery.
In The Sleepwalkers by Arthur Koestler (1968).
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The difficulties connected with my criterion of demarcation (D) are important, but must not be exaggerated. It is vague, since it is a methodological rule, and since the demarcation between science and nonscience is vague. But it is more than sharp enough to make a distinction between many physical theories on the one hand, and metaphysical theories, such as psychoanalysis, or Marxism (in its present form), on the other. This is, of course, one of my main theses; and nobody who has not understood it can be said to have understood my theory.
The situation with Marxism is, incidentally, very different from that with psychoanalysis. Marxism was once a scientific theory: it predicted that capitalism would lead to increasing misery and, through a more or less mild revolution, to socialism; it predicted that this would happen first in the technically highest developed countries; and it predicted that the technical evolution of the 'means of production' would lead to social, political, and ideological developments, rather than the other way round.
But the (so-called) socialist revolution came first in one of the technically backward countries. And instead of the means of production producing a new ideology, it was Lenin's and Stalin's ideology that Russia must push forward with its industrialization ('Socialism is dictatorship of the proletariat plus electrification') which promoted the new development of the means of production.
Thus one might say that Marxism was once a science, but one which was refuted by some of the facts which happened to clash with its predictions (I have here mentioned just a few of these facts).
However, Marxism is no longer a science; for it broke the methodological rule that we must accept falsification, and it immunized itself against the most blatant refutations of its predictions. Ever since then, it can be described only as nonscience—as a metaphysical dream, if you like, married to a cruel reality.
Psychoanalysis is a very different case. It is an interesting psychological metaphysics (and no doubt there is some truth in it, as there is so often in metaphysical ideas), but it never was a science. There may be lots of people who are Freudian or Adlerian cases: Freud himself was clearly a Freudian case, and Adler an Adlerian case. But what prevents their theories from being scientific in the sense here described is, very simply, that they do not exclude any physically possible human behaviour. Whatever anybody may do is, in principle, explicable in Freudian or Adlerian terms. (Adler's break with Freud was more Adlerian than Freudian, but Freud never looked on it as a refutation of his theory.)
The point is very clear. Neither Freud nor Adler excludes any particular person's acting in any particular way, whatever the outward circumstances. Whether a man sacrificed his life to rescue a drowning, child (a case of sublimation) or whether he murdered the child by drowning him (a case of repression) could not possibly be predicted or excluded by Freud's theory; the theory was compatible with everything that could happen—even without any special immunization treatment.
Thus while Marxism became non-scientific by its adoption of an immunizing strategy, psychoanalysis was immune to start with, and remained so. In contrast, most physical theories are pretty free of immunizing tactics and highly falsifiable to start with. As a rule, they exclude an infinity of conceivable possibilities.
'The Problem of Demarcation' (1974). Collected in David Miller (ed.) Popper Selections (1985), 127-128.
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The gambling reasoner is incorrigible; if he would but take to the squaring of the circle, what a load of misery would be saved.
Quoted in D. MacHale, Comic Sections (1993).
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The introduction of men into the lying in chamber in place of female attendants, has increased the suffering and dangers of childbearing women, and brought multiplied injuries and fatalities upon mothers and children; it violates the sensitive feelings of husbands and wives and causes an untold amount of domestic misery. The unlimited intimacy between a male profession and the female population silently and effectually wears away female delicacy and professional morality, and tends probably more than any other cause in existence, to undermine the foundation of public virtue.
Man-midwifery Exposed and Corrected (1848) quoted in The Male Midwife and the Female Doctor: The Gynecology Controversy in Nineteenth Century America Charles Rosenburg and Carroll Rovenberg Smith (Editors) publ. Arno, 1974.
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The mere man of pleasure is miserable in old age, and the mere drudge in business is but little better, whereas, natural philosophy, mathematical and mechanical science, are a continual source of tranquil pleasure, and in spite of the gloomy dogmas of priests and of superstition, the study of these things is the true theology; it teaches man to know and admire the Creator, for the principles of science are in the creation, and are unchangeable and of divine origin.
Age of Reason (1794, 1818), 35.
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The most revolutionary aspect of technology is its mobility. Anybody can learn it. It jumps easily over barriers of race and language. … The new technology of microchips and computer software is learned much faster than the old technology of coal and iron. It took three generations of misery for the older industrial countries to master the technology of coal and iron. The new industrial countries of East Asia, South Korea, and Singapore and Taiwan, mastered the new technology and made the jump from poverty to wealth in a single generation.
Infinite in All Directions: Gifford lectures given at Aberdeen, Scotland (2004), 270.
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There is no fundamental difference between man and the higher animals in their mental faculties ... The lower animals, like man, manifestly feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery.
…...
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There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent & omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice.
Letter to Asa Gray (22 May 1860). In Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), Charles Darwin: His Life Told in an Autobiographical Chapter, and in a Selected Series of His Published Letters (1892), 236.
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Through it [Science] we believe that man will be saved from misery and degradation, not merely acquiring new material powers, but learning to use and to guide his life with understanding. Through Science he will be freed from the fetters of superstition; through faith in Science he will acquire a new and enduring delight in the exercise of his capacities; he will gain a zest and interest in life such as the present phase of culture fails to supply.
'Biology and the State', The Advancement of Science: Occasional Essays & Addresses (1890), 108-9.
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Thy shadow, Earth, from Pole to Central Sea,
Now steals along upon the Moon's meek shine
In even monochrome and curving line Of imperturbable serenity.
How shall I link such sun-cast symmetry
With the torn troubled form I know as thine,
That profile, placid as a brow divine,
With continents of moil and misery?
'At a Lunar Eclipse'. In James Gibson (ed.), The Complete Poems of Thomas Hardy (1976), 116.
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Twice in my life I have spent two weary and scientifically profitless years seeking evidence to corroborate dearly loved hypotheses that later proved to be groundless; times such as these are hard for scientists—days of leaden gray skies bringing with them a miserable sense of oppression and inadequacy.
From Advice to a Young Scientist (1979), 6.
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Unless we practice conservation, those who come after us will have to pay the price of misery, degradation, and failure for the progress and prosperity of our day.
…...
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With the introduction of agriculture mankind entered upon a long period of meanness, misery, and madness, from which they are only now being freed by the beneficent operation of the machine.
In The Conquest of Happiness (1930), 152.
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[Alchemists] finde out men so covetous of so much happiness, whom they easily perswade that they shall finde greater Riches in Hydargyrie [mercury], than Nature affords in Gold. Such, whom although they have twice or thrice already been deluded, yet they have still a new Device wherewith to deceive um again; there being no greater Madness…. So that the smells of Coles, Sulphur, Dung, Poyson, and Piss, are to them a greater pleasure than the taste of Honey; till their Farms, Goods, and Patrimonies being wasted, and converted into Ashes and Smoak, when they expect the rewards of their Labours, births of Gold, Youth, and Immortality, after all their Time and Expences; at length, old, ragged, famisht, with the continual use of Quicksilver [mercury] paralytick, onely rich in misery, … a laughing-stock to the people: … compell’d to live in the lowest degree of poverty, and … at length compell’d thereto by Penury, they fall to Ill Courses, as Counterfeiting of Money.
In The Vanity of the Arts and Sciences (1530), translation (1676), 313.
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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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- 50 -
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- 40 -
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- 30 -
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- 20 -
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