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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index M > Category: Moral

Moral Quotes (100 quotes)


A first step in the study of civilization is to dissect it into details, and to classify these in their proper groups. Thus, in examining weapons, they are to be classed under spear, club, sling, bow and arrow, and so forth; among textile arts are to be ranged matting, netting, and several grades of making and weaving threads; myths are divided under such headings as myths of sunrise and sunset, eclipse-myths, earthquake-myths, local myths which account for the names of places by some fanciful tale, eponymic myths which account for the parentage of a tribe by turning its name into the name of an imaginary ancestor; under rites and ceremonies occur such practices as the various kinds of sacrifice to the ghosts of the dead and to other spiritual beings, the turning to the east in worship, the purification of ceremonial or moral uncleanness by means of water or fire. Such are a few miscellaneous examples from a list of hundreds … To the ethnographer, the bow and arrow is the species, the habit of flattening children’s skulls is a species, the practice of reckoning numbers by tens is a species. The geographical distribution of these things, and their transmission from region to region, have to be studied as the naturalist studies the geography of his botanical and zoological species.
In Primitive Culture (1871), Vol. 1, 7.
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A great man, [who] was convinced that the truths of political and moral science are capable of the same certainty as those that form the system of physical science, even in those branches like astronomy that seem to approximate mathematical certainty.
He cherished this belief, for it led to the consoling hope that humanity would inevitably make progress toward a state of happiness and improved character even as it has already done in its knowledge of the truth.
Describing administrator and economist Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot in Essai sur l’application de l’analyse à la probabilité des décisions rendues à la pluralité des voix (1785), i. Cited epigraph in Charles Coulston Gillispie, Science and Polity in France: The End of the Old Regime (2004), 3
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A political law or a scientific truth may be perilous to the morals or the faith of individuals; but it cannot on this ground be resisted by the Church. … A discovery may be made in science which will shake the faith of thousands; yet religion cannot regret it or object to it. The difference in this respect between a true and a false religion is, that one judges all things by the standard of their truth, the other by the touchstone of its own interests. A false religion fears the progress of all truth; a true religion seeks and recognises truth wherever it can be found.
From 'Cardinal Wiseman and the Home and Foreign Review' (1862), collected in John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton Baron Acton, John Neville Figgis (ed.) and Reginald Vere Laurence (ed.), The History of Freedom and Other Essays (1907), 449-450. The Darwinian controversy was at its height when this was written.
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All good moral philosophy is ... but the handmaid to religion.
In The Advancement of Learning, book 2, xxii, 14. In Francis Bacon and Basil Montagu, The Works of Francis Bacon (1825), 252.
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All human affairs follow nature's great analogue, the growth of vegetation. There are three periods of growth in every plant. The first, and slowest, is the invisible growth by the root; the second and much accelerated is the visible growth by the stem; but when root and stem have gathered their forces, there comes the third period, in which the plant quickly flashes into blossom and rushes into fruit.
The beginnings of moral enterprises in this world are never to be measured by any apparent growth. ... At length comes the sudden ripeness and the full success, and he who is called in at the final moment deems this success his own. He is but the reaper and not the labourer. Other men sowed and tilled and he but enters into their labours.
Life Thoughts (1858), 20.
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All that science can achieve is a perfect knowledge and a perfect understanding of the action of natural and moral forces.
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As our own species is in the process of proving, one cannot have superior science and inferior morals. The combination is unstable and self-destroying.
Voices From the Sky: Previews of the Coming Space Age (1967), 156.
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At Gabriel College there was a very holy object on the high altar of the Oratory, covered with a black velvet cloth... At the height of the invocation the Intercessor lifted the cloth to reveal in the dimness a glass dome inside which there was something too distant to see, until he pulled a string attached to a shutter above, letting a ray of sunlight through to strike the dome exactly. Then it became clear: a little thing like a weathervane, with four sails black on one side and white on the other, began to whirl around as the light struck it. It illustrated a moral lesson, the Intercessor explained, for the black of ignorance fled from the light, whereas the wisdom of white rushed to embrace it.
[Alluding to Crookes's radiometer.]
Northern Lights (2001), 149.
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Besides agreeing with the aims of vegetarianism for aesthetic and moral reasons, it is my view that a vegetarian manner of living by its purely physical effect on the human temperament would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.
In letter to Harmann Huth (27 Dec 1930). Presumably published in Vegetarische Warte (Vegetarian Watch, some time before 1935), a German magazine published by the society Vegetarier-Bund of which Harmann Huth was vice-president. As cited by Alice Calaprice (ed.) in The Ultimate Quotable Einstein (2010), 453. This might be the inspiration for a much-circulated and much-elaborated version attributed, but apparently wrongly, to Einstein. The questionable quote appears as: “Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet,” but no reliable source has been found for this as Einstein’s own words. Calaprice included this quote in her earlier edition of The Quotable Einstein (1996) in a final section of “Attributed to Einstein,” but it was removed from the final edition (2010), presumably because after much effort, it remained unsubstantiated.
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Besides love and sympathy, animals exhibit other qualities connected with the social instincts which in us would be called moral.
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Can any thoughtful person admit for a moment that, in a society so constituted that these overwhelming contrasts of luxury and privation are looked upon as necessities, and are treated by the Legislature as matters with which it has practically nothing do, there is the smallest probability that we can deal successfully with such tremendous social problems as those which involve the marriage tie and the family relation as a means of promoting the physical and moral advancement of the race? What a mockery to still further whiten the sepulchre of society, in which is hidden ‘all manner of corruption,’ with schemes for the moral and physical advancement of the race!
In 'Human Selection', Fortnightly Review (1890),48, 330.
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Conscience is merely our own judgment of the moral rectitude or turpitude of our own actions
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Considered as a mere question of physics, (and keeping all moral considerations entirely out of sight,) the appearance of man is a geological phenomenon of vast importance, indirectly modifying the whole surface of the earth, breaking in upon any supposition of zoological continuity, and utterly unaccounted for by what we have any right to call the laws of nature.
'Address to the Geological Society, delivered on the Evening of the 18th of February 1831', Proceedings of the Geological Society (1834), 1, 306.
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Darwin grasped the philosophical bleakness with his characteristic courage. He argued that hope and morality cannot, and should not, be passively read in the construction of nature. Aesthetic and moral truths, as human concepts, must be shaped in human terms, not ‘discovered’ in nature. We must formulate these answers for ourselves and then approach nature as a partner who can answer other kinds of questions for us–questions about the factual state of the universe, not about the meaning of human life. If we grant nature the independence of her own domain–her answers unframed in human terms–then we can grasp her exquisite beauty in a free and humble way. For then we become liberated to approach nature without the burden of an inappropriate and impossible quest for moral messages to assuage our hopes and fears. We can pay our proper respect to nature’s independence and read her own ways as beauty or inspiration in our different terms.
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Embryonic stem cell research is at the leading edge of a series of moral hazards.
'Address to the Nation on Stem Cell Research', (9 Aug 2001) in Public Papers Of The Presidents Of The United States, George W. Bush, 2001 (2004), Book 2, 955.
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I am glad that the life of pandas is so dull by human standards, for our efforts at conservation have little moral value if we preserve creatures only as human ornaments; I shall be impressed when we show solicitude for warty toads and slithering worms.
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I do not believe that a moral philosophy can ever be founded on a scientific basis. … The valuation of life and all its nobler expressions can only come out of the soul’s yearning toward its own destiny. Every attempt to reduce ethics to scientific formulas must fail. Of that I am perfectly convinced.
In 'Science and God: A Dialogue', Forum and Century (June 1930), 83, 374. Einstein’s dialogue was with James Murphy and J.W.N. Sullivan. Excerpted in David E. Rowe and Robert J. Schulmann, Einstein on Politics: His Private Thoughts and Public Stands on Nationalism, Zionism, War, Peace, and the Bomb (2007), 230. The book introduces this quote as Einstein’s reply when Murphy asked, in the authors’ words, “how far he thought modern science might be able to go toward establishing practical ideals of life on the ruins of religious ideals.”
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I have often been amused by our vulgar tendency to take complex issues, with solutions at neither extreme of a continuum of possibilities, and break them into dichotomies, assigning one group to one pole and the other to an opposite end, with no acknowledgment of subtleties and intermediate positions–and nearly always with moral opprobrium attached to opponents.
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I strongly oppose cloning, as do most Americans. We recoil at the idea of growing human beings for spare body parts or creating life for our convenience. And while we must devote enormous energy to conquering disease, it is equally important that we pay attention to the moral concerns raised by the new frontier of human embryo stem cell research. Even the most noble ends do not justify any means.
'Address to the Nation on Stem Cell Research', (9 Aug 2001) in Public Papers Of The Presidents Of The United States, George W. Bush, 2001 (2004), Book 2, 955.
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I well know what a spendidly great difference there is [between] a man and a bestia when I look at them from a point of view of morality. Man is the animal which the Creator has seen fit to honor with such a magnificent mind and has condescended to adopt as his favorite and for which he has prepared a nobler life; indeed, sent out for its salvation his only son; but all this belongs to another forum; it behooves me like a cobbler to stick to my last, in my own workshop, and as a naturalist to consider man and his body, for I know scarcely one feature by which man can be distinguished from apes, if it be not that all the apes have a gap between their fangs and their other teeth, which will be shown by the results of further investigation.
T. Fredbärj (ed.), Menniskans Cousiner (Valda Avhandlingar av Carl von Linné nr, 21) (1955), 4. Trans. Gunnar Broberg, 'Linnaeus's Classification of Man', in Tore Frängsmyr (ed.), Linnaeus: The Man and his Work (1983), 167.
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If the historical development of science has indeed sometimes pricked our vanity, it has not plunged us into an abyss of immorality ... it has liberated us from misconceptions, and thereby aided us in our moral progress.
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If the Weismann idea triumphs, it will be in a sense a triumph of fatalism; for, according to it, while we may indefinitely improve the forces of our education and surroundings, and this civilizing nurture will improve the individuals of each generation, its actual effects will not be cumulative as regards the race itself, but only as regards the environment of the race; each new generation must start de novo, receiving no increment of the moral and intellectual advance made during the lifetime of its predecessors. It would follow that one deep, almost instinctive motive for a higher life would be removed if the race were only superficially benefited by its nurture, and the only possible channel of actual improvement were in the selection of the fittest chains of race plasma.
'The Present Problem of Heredity', The Atlantic Monthly (1891), 57, 363.
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In my view, aiming at simplicity and lucidity is a moral duty of all intellectuals: lack of clarity is a sin, and pretentiousness is a crime.
Objective Knowledge: an Evolutionary Approach (1972), 44
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In science the new is an advance; but in morals, as contradicting our inner ideals and historic idols, it is ever a retrogression.
Levana, or, The Doctrine of Education translated from the German (1880), 123.
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In scientific matters there was a common language and one standard of values; in moral and political problems there were many. … Furthermore, in science there is a court of last resort, experiment, which is unavailable in human affairs.
In Enrico Fermi: Physicist (1970), 149. Segrè refers to the issues regarding the consequences of mastering the release of atomic energy.
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In the twenties the late Dr. Glenn Frank, an eminent social scientist, developed a new statement of the scientific code, which has been referred to as the “Five Fingers of the Scientific Method.” It may be outlined as follows: find the facts; filter the facts; focus the facts; face the facts; follow the facts. The facts or truths are found by experimentation; the motivation is material. The facts are filtered by research into the literature; the motivation is material. The facts are focused by the publication of results; again the motivation is material. Thus the first three-fifths of the scientific method have a material motivation. It is about time scientists acknowledge that there is more to the scientific convention than the material aspect. Returning to the fourth and fifth fingers of Dr. Frank's conception of the scientific method, the facts should be faced by the proper interpretation of them for society. In other words, a scientist must assume social responsibility for his discoveries, which means that he must have a moral motivation. Finally, in the fifth definition of the scientific method, the facts are to be followed by their proper application to everyday life in society, which means moral motivation through responsibility to society.
From 'Scientists and Society', American Scientist (Jul 1954), 42, No. 3, 495.
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It is clear that all the valuable things, material, spiritual, and moral, which we receive from society can be traced back through countless generations to certain creative individuals. The use of fire, the cultivation of edible plants, the steam engine–each was discovered by one man.
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It is clear that the degradation of the position of the scientist as an independent worker and thinker to that of a morally irresponsible stooge in a science-factory has ‘proceeded even more rapidly and devastatingly than I had expected. This subordination of those who ought to think to those who have the administrative power is ruinous for the morale of the scientist, and quite to the same extent it is ruinous to the quality of the subjective scientific output of the country.
In 'A Rebellious Scientist after Two Years', Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, (1948), 4, 338.
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It is easy to follow in the sacred writings of the Jewish people the development of the religion of fear into the moral religion, which is carried further in the New Testament. The religions of all civilized peoples, especially those of the Orient, are principally moral religions. An important advance in the life of a people is the transformation of the religion of fear into the moral religion.
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It is not of the essence of mathematics to be conversant with the ideas of number and quantity. Whether as a general habit of mind it would be desirable to apply symbolic processes to moral argument, is another question.
An Investigation of the Laws of Thought (1854), 12.
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It is not the business of science to inherit the earth, but to inherit the moral imagination; because without that, man and beliefs and science will perish together.
In The Ascent of Man (1973, 2011), 323.
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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 is something to be able to paint a particular picture or to carve a statue and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.
In Walden: or, Life in the Woods (1854, 1893), 143.
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It seemed that animals always behave in a manner showing the rightness of the philosophy entertained by the man who observes them… . Throughout the reign of Queen Victoria all apes were virtuous monogamists, but during the dissolute twenties their morals underwent a disastrous deterioration.
From 'Theory of Knowledge', My Philosophical Development (1959), collected in Robert E. Egner and Lester E. Denonn (eds), The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell (1961), 225.
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It seems perfectly clear that Economy, if it is to be a science at all, must be a mathematical science. There exists much prejudice against attempts to introduce the methods and language of mathematics into any branch of the moral sciences. Most persons appear to hold that the physical sciences form the proper sphere of mathematical method, and that the moral sciences demand some other method—I know not what.
The Theory of Political Economy (1871), 3.
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It was through living among these groups and much more I think, through moving regularly from one to the other and back again that I got occupied with the problem of what, long before I put it on paper, I christened to myself as the ‘two cultures’. For constantly I felt I was moving among two groups [scientists and literary intellectuals] comparable in intelligence, identical in race, not grossly different in social origin, earning about the same incomes, who had almost ceased to communicate at all, who in intellectual, moral and psychological climate had so little in common that instead of going from Burlington House or South Kensington to Chelsea, one might have crossed an ocean.
The Two Cultures: The Rede Lecture (1959), 2. The places mentioned are all in London. Burlington House is the home of the Royal Society and South Kensington is the site of the Natural History Museum, whereas Chelsea represents an affluent centre of artistic life.
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It would appear... that moral phenomena, when observed on a great scale, are found to resemble physical phenomena; and we thus arrive, in inquiries of this kind, at the fundamental principle, that the greater the number of individuals observed, the more do individual peculiarities, whether physical or moral, become effaced, and leave in a prominent point of view the general facts, by virtue of which society exists and is preserved.
A Treatise on Man and the Development of his Faculties (1842). Reprinted with an introduction by Solomon Diamond (1969), 6.
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Modern civilisation rests upon physical science; take away her gifts to our own country, and our position among the leading nations of the world is gone to-morrow; for it is physical science only that makes intelligence and moral energy stronger than brute force
By Thomas Henry Huxley and Henrietta A. Huxley (ed.), Aphorisms and Reflections (1908), 80.
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My profession often gets bad press for a variety of sins, both actual and imagined: arrogance, venality, insensitivity to moral issues about the use of knowledge, pandering to sources of funding with insufficient worry about attendant degradation of values. As an advocate for science, I plead ‘mildly guilty now and then’ to all these charges. Scientists are human beings subject to all the foibles and temptations of ordinary life. Some of us are moral rocks; others are reeds. I like to think (though I have no proof) that we are better, on average, than members of many other callings on a variety of issues central to the practice of good science: willingness to alter received opinion in the face of uncomfortable data, dedication to discovering and publicizing our best and most honest account of nature’s factuality, judgment of colleagues on the might of their ideas rather than the power of their positions.
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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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Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right.
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One of the principal results of civilization is to reduce more and more the limits within which the different elements of society fluctuate. The more intelligence increases the more these limits are reduced, and the nearer we approach the beautiful and the good. The perfectibility of the human species results as a necessary consequence of all our researches. Physical defects and monstrosities are gradually disappearing; the frequency and severity of diseases are resisted more successfully by the progress of modern science; the moral qualities of man are proving themselves not less capable of improvement; and the more we advance, the less we shall have need to fear those great political convulsions and wars and their attendant results, which are the scourges of mankind.
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Only the individual can think, and thereby create new values for society–nay, even set up new moral standards to which the life of the community conforms. Without creative, independently thinking and judging personalities the upward development of society is as unthinkable as the development of the individual personality without the nourishing soil of the community.
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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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Our time is distinguished by wonderful achievements in the fields of scientific understanding and the technical application of those insights. Who would not be cheered by this? But let us not forget that human knowledge and skills alone cannot lead humanity to a happy and dignified life. Humanity has every reason to place the proclaimers of high moral standards and values above the discoverers of objective truth.
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Physical pain is easily forgotten, but a moral chagrin lasts indefinitely.
In Charlas de Café: pensamientos, anécdotas y confidencias (1920). (Café Chats: Thoughts, Anecdotes and Confidences). As translated in Peter McDonald (ed.) Oxford Dictionary of Medical Quotations (2004), 83.
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Pope has elegantly said a perfect woman's but a softer man. And if we take in the consideration, that there can be but one rule of moral excellence for beings made of the same materials, organized after the same manner, and subjected to similar laws of Nature, we must either agree with Mr. Pope, or we must reverse the proposition, and say, that a perfect man is a woman formed after a coarser mold.
Letter XXII. 'No Characteristic Difference in Sex'. In Letters on Education with Observations on Religious and Metaphysical Subjects (1790), 128.
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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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Religion cannot object to science on moral grounds. The history of religious intolerance forbids it.
Epigraph in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 273.
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Religion shows a pattern of heredity which I think is similar to genetic heredity. ... There are hundreds of different religious sects, and every religious person is loyal to just one of these. ... The overwhelming majority just happen to choose the one their parents belonged to. Not the sect that has the best evidence in its favour, the best miracles, the best moral code, the best cathedral, the best stained-glass, the best music when it comes to choosing from the smorgasbord of available religions, their potential virtues seem to count for nothing compared to the matter of heredity.
From edited version of a speech, at the Edinburgh International Science Festival (15 Apr 1992), as reprinted from the Independent newspaper in Alec Fisher, The Logic of Real Arguments (2004), 82-83.
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Science cannot resolve moral conflicts, but it can help to more accurately frame the debates about those conflicts.
The Dreams of Reason: The Computer and the Rise of the Sciences of Complexity (1988). In Vicki Cassman, Human Remains (2008), 69.
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Science does not have a moral dimension. It is like a knife. If you give it to a surgeon or a murderer, each will use it differently.
Quoted in Bob Seidensticker, Future Hype: The Myths of Technology Change (2006), 11. Contact Webmaster if you know the primary source.
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Science enhances the moral value of life, because it furthers a love of truth and reverence—love of truth displaying itself in the constant endeavor to arrive at a more exact knowledge of the world of mind and matter around us, and reverence, because every advance in knowledge brings us face to face with the mystery of our own being.
In Where is Science Going? (1932), 169.
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Science in England, in America, is jealous of theory, hates the name of love and moral purpose. There's revenge for this humanity. What manner of man does science make? The boy is not attracted. He says, I do not wish to be such a kind of man as my professor is.
In essay. 'Beauty', collected in The Conduct of Life (1860), 250.
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Science is a magnificent force, but it is not a teacher of morals. It can perfect machinery, but it adds no moral restraints to protect society from the misuse of the machine. It can also build gigantic intellectual ships, but it constructs no moral rudders for the control of storm tossed human vessel. It not only fails to supply the spiritual element needed but some of its unproven hypotheses rob the ship of its compass and thus endangers its cargo.
Proposed summation written for the Scopes Monkey Trial (1925), in Genevieve Forbes Herrick and John Origen Herrick ,The Life of William Jennings Bryan (1925), 405. This speech was prepared for delivery at the trial, but was never heard there, as both sides mutually agreed to forego arguments to the jury.
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Science is out of the reach of morals, for her eyes are fixed upon eternal truths. Art is out of the reach of morals, for her eyes are fixed upon things beautiful and immortal and ever-changing.
In his dialogue 'The Critic As Artist', collected in Intentions (1904), 174.
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Scientific truth is marvellous, but moral truth is divine; and whoever breathes its air and walks by its light has found the lost paradise.
'A Few Thoughts for a Young Man' Monthly Literary Miscellany (1851), Vol. 4 & 5, 155.
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Scientists, therefore, are responsible for their research, not only intellectually but also morally. This responsibility has become an important issue in many of today's sciences, but especially so in physics, in which the results of quantum mechanics and relativity theory have opened up two very different paths for physicists to pursue. They may lead us—to put it in extreme terms—to the Buddha or to the Bomb, and it is up to each of us to decide which path to take.
In The Turning Point: Science, Society, and the Rising Culture (1983), 87.
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Seeing and thinking have done much for human progress; in the sphere of mind and morals everything, and could the world have been saved by armchair philosophy, the Greeks would have done it; but only a novum organon could do this, the powerful possibilities of which were only revealed when man began to search our the secrets of nature by way of experiment, to use the words of Harvey.
Address at the opening of the new Pathological Institute of the Royal Infirmary, Glasgow (4 Oct 1911). Printed in 'The Pathological Institute of a General Hospital', Glasgow Medical Journal (1911), 76, 326.
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Some men who call themselves pessimists because they cannot read good into the operations of nature forget that they cannot read evil. In morals the law of competition no more justifies personal, official, or national selfishness or brutality than the law of gravity justifies the shooting of a bird.
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Such explosives [atomic bombs] in men’s hands, while their moral and intellectual status is declining, is about as useful as giving out firearms to all inmates of a gaol and then saying that you hope ‘this will ensure peace’.
From Letter (No. 102) to Christopher Tolkien (9 Aug 1945). In Humphrey Carpenter (ed.) assisted by Christopher Tolkien, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (1995, 2014), 116, Letter No. 102.
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The desire for guidance, love, and support prompts men to form the social or moral conception of God. This is the God of Providence, who protects, disposes, rewards, and punishes; the God who, according to the limits of the believer’s outlook, loves and cherishes the life of the tribe or of the human race, or even or life itself; the comforter in sorrow and unsatisfied longing; he who preserves the souls of the dead. This is the social or moral conception of God.
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The earth's becoming at a particular period the residence of human beings, was an era in the moral, not in the physical world, that our study and contemplation of the earth, and the laws which govern its animate productions, ought no more to be considered in the light of a disturbance or deviation from the system, than the discovery of the satellites of Jupiter should be regarded as a physical event in the history of those heavenly bodies, however influential they may have become from that time in advancing the progress of sound philosophy among men.
In Principles of Geology, Being an Attempt to Explain the Former Changes of the of the Earth's Surface, by Reference to Causes Now in Operation(1830), Vol. 1, 163.
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The eye which can appreciate the naked and absolute beauty of a scientific truth is far more rare than that which is attracted by a moral one.
A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1873), 382.
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The fact that man knows right from wrong proves his intellectual superiority to other creatures; but the fact that he can do wrong proves his moral inferiority to any creature that cannot.
Spoken by Old Man in What is Man? In What is Man? and Other Essays (1917), 89.
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The fact which interests us most is the life of the naturalist. The purest science is still biographical. Nothing will dignify and elevate science while it is sundered so wholly from the moral life of its devotee.
A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1873), 383.
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The great moral teachers of humanity were, in a way, artistic geniuses in the art of living.
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The greatest slave is not he who is ruled by a despot, great though that evil be, but he who is in the thrall of his own moral ignorance, selfishness, and vice.
In Self-help: With Illustrations of Character and Conduct (1859, 1861), 17.
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The history of a species, or any natural phenomenon that requires unbroken continuity in a world of trouble, works like a batting streak. All are games of a gambler playing with a limited stake against a house with infinite resources. The gambler must eventually go bust. His aim can only be to stick around as long as possible, to have some fun while he’s at it, and, if he happens to be a moral agent as well, to worry about staying the course with honor.
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The idea of winning a doctor’s degree gradually assumed the aspect of a great moral struggle, and the moral fight possessed immense attraction for me.
In Pioneer Work in Opening the Medical Profession to Women (1895), 29.
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The idea that the bumps or depressions on a man's head indicate the presence or absence of certain moral characteristics in his mental equipment is one of the absurdities developed from studies in this field that has long since been discarded by science. The ideas of the phrenologist Gall, however ridiculous they may now seem in the light of a century's progress, were nevertheless destined to become metamorphosed into the modern principles of cerebral localization.
From 'Looking for "The Face Within the Face" in Man', in the New York Times, 4 Mar 1906, SM page 3.
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The institutional goal of science is the extension of certified knowledge. The technical methods employed toward this end provide the relevant definition of knowledge: empirically confirmed and logically consistent predictions. The institutional imperatives (mores) derive from the goal and the methods. The entire structure of technical and moral norms implements the final objective. The technical norm of empirical evidence, adequate, valid and reliable, is a prerequisite for sustained true prediction; the technical norm of logical consistency, a prerequisite for systematic and valid prediction. The mores of science possess a methodologic rationale but they are binding, not only because they are procedurally efficient, but because they are believed right and good. They are moral as well as technical prescriptions. Four sets of institutional imperatives–universalism, communism, disinterestedness, organized scepticism–comprise the ethos of modern science.
Social Theory and Social Structure (1957), 552-3.
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The Jewish scriptures admirably illustrate the development from the religion of fear to moral religion, a development continued in the New Testament. The religions of all civilized peoples, especially the peoples of the Orient, are primarily moral religions. The development from a religion of fear to moral religion is a great step in peoples’ lives. And yet, that primitive religions are based entirely on fear and the religions of civilized peoples purely on morality is a prejudice against which we must be on our guard. The truth is that all religions are a varying blend of both types, with this differentiation: that on the higher levels of social life the religion of morality predominates.
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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 tie s 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.
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The moral attitudes of a people that is supported by religion need always aim at preserving and promoting the sanity and vitality of the community and its individuals, since otherwise this community is bound to perish. A people that were to honor falsehood, defamation, fraud, and murder would be unable, indeed, to subsist for very long.
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The moral faculties are generally and justly esteemed as of higher value than the intellectual powers. But we should bear in mind that the activity of the mind in vividly recalling past impressions is one of the fundamental though secondary bases of conscience. This affords the strongest argument for educating and stimulating in all possible ways the intellectual faculties of every human being.
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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 naturalists, you know, distribute the history of nature into three kingdoms or departments: zoology, botany, mineralogy. Ideology, or mind, however, occupies so much space in the field of science, that we might perhaps erect it into a fourth kingdom or department. But inasmuch as it makes a part of the animal construction only, it would be more proper to subdivide zoology into physical and moral.
Letter (24 Mar 1824) to Mr. Woodward. Collected in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson: Correspondence (1854), 339.
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The progress of mankind is due exclusively to the progress of natural sciences, not to morals, religion or philosophy.
Letter to Schoenbein (1 Aug 1866). In Liebig und Schoenbein: Briefwechsel (1900), 221. Trans. W. H. Brock.
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The real crisis we face today is a spiritual one; at root, it is a test of moral will and faith.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 28
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The science of constructing a commonwealth, or renovating it, or reforming it, is, like every other experimental science, not to be taught a priori. Nor is it a short experience that can instruct us in that practical science, because the real effects of moral causes are not always immediate.
Reflections on the Revolution in France, p. 53, ed. Pocock (1790).
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The value of history is, indeed, not scientific but moral: by liberalizing the mind, by deepening the sympathies, by fortifying the will, it enables us to control, not society, but ourselves—a much more important thing; it prepares us to live more humanely in the present and to meet rather than to foretell the future.
In 'A New Philosophy of History', The Dial (2 Sep 1915), 148. This is Becker’s concluding remark in his review of a book by L. Cecil Jane, The Interpretation of History. Becker refutes Jane’s idea that the value of history lies in whether it consists in furnishing “some clue as to what the future will bring.”
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There are no shortcuts to moral insight. Nature is not intrinsically anything that can offer comfort or solace in human terms–if only because our species is such an insignificant latecomer in a world not constructed for us. So much the better. The answers to moral dilemmas are not lying out there, waiting to be discovered. They reside, like the kingdom of God, within us–the most difficult and inaccessible spot for any discovery or consensus.
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There is a moral or metaphysical part of nature as well as a physical. A man who denies this is deep in the mire of folly. ’Tis the crown and glory of organic science that it does through final cause, link material and moral; and yet does not allow us to mingle them in our first conception of laws, and our classification of such laws, whether we consider one side of nature or the other. You have ignored this link; and, if I do not mistake your meaning, you have done your best in one or two pregnant cases to break it. Were it possible (which, thank God, it is not) to break it, humanity, in my mind, would suffer a damage that might brutalize it, and sink the human race into a lower grade of degradation than any into which it has fallen since its written records tell us of its history.
Letter to Charles Darwin (Nov 1859). 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), 217.
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This is a moment to seize. The kaleidoscope has been shaken. The pieces are in flux. Soon they will settle again. Before they do, let us re-order this world around us. Today, humankind has the science and technology to destroy itself or to provide prosperity to all. Yet science can’t make that choice for us. Only the moral power of a world acting as a community can.
Address to Labour Party Conference, Brighton (2 Oct 2001), in the wake of the 9/11 destruction of the World Trade Center. Quoted in Tony Blair, A Journey: My Political Life (2011), 367.
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Those individuals who give moral considerations a much greater weight than considerations of expediency represent a comparatively small minority, five percent of the people perhaps. But, In spite of their numerical inferiority, they play a major role in our society because theirs is the voice of the conscience of society.
In J. Robert Moskin, Morality in America (1966), 17. Otherwise unconfirmed in this form. Please contact webmaster if you know a primary print source.
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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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Today every city, town, or village is affected by it. We have entered the Neon Civilization and become a plastic world.. It goes deeper than its visual manifestations, it affects moral matters; we are engaged, as astrophysicists would say, on a decaying orbit.
On the official Raymond Loewry website.
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We are the generation that searched on Mars for evidence of life, but couldn’t rouse enough moral sense to stop the destruction of even the grandest manifestations of life on earth. In that sense, we are like the Romans whose works of an, architecture, and engineering inspire our awe but whose traffic in slaves and gladiatorial combat is mystifying and loathsome.
[Co-author with Anna Sequoia.]
67 Ways to Save the Animals
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We cannot but think there is something like a fallacy in Mr. Buckle’s theory that the advance of mankind is necessarily in the direction of science, and not in that of morals.
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We claim to be more moral than other nations, and to conquer and govern and tax and plunder weaker peoples for their good! While robbing them we actually claim to be benefactors! And then we wonder, or profess to wonder, why other Governments hate us! Are they not fully justified in hating us? Is it surprising that they seek every means to annoy us, that they struggle to get navies to compete with us, and look forward to a time when some two or three of them may combine together and thoroughly humble and cripple us? And who can deny that any just Being, looking at all the nations of the earth with impartiality and thorough knowledge, would decide that we deserve to be humbled, and that it might do us good?
In 'Practical Politics', The Clarion (30 Sep 1904), 1.
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We must examine the moral alchemy through which the in-group readily transmutes virtue into vice and vice into virtue, as the occasion may demand. … We begin with the engagingly simple formula of moral alchemy: the same behavior must be differently evaluated according to the person who exhibits it. For example, the proficient alchemist will at once know that the word “firm” is properly declined as follows:
I am firm,
Thou art obstinate,
He is pig-headed.
There are some, unversed in the skills of this science, who will tell you that one and the same term should be applied to all three instances of identical behavior.
In article, 'The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy', The Antioch Review (Summer 1948), 8, No. 2, 195-196. Included as Chap. 7 of Social Theory and Social Structure (1949), 201.
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We should therefore, with grace and optimism, embrace NOMA’s tough-minded demand: Acknowledge the personal character of these human struggles about morals and meanings, and stop looking for definite answers in nature’s construction. But many people cannot bear to surrender nature as a ‘transitional object’–a baby’s warm blanket for our adult comfort. But when we do (for we must) , nature can finally emerge in her true form: not as a distorted mirror of our needs, but as our most fascinating comp anion. Only then can we unite the patches built by our separate magisteria into a beautiful and coherent quilt called wisdom.
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Wheeler’s First Moral Principle: Never make a calculation until you know the answer. Make an estimate before every calculation, try a simple physical argument (symmetry! invariance! conservation!) before every derivation, guess the answer to every paradox and puzzle. Courage: No one else needs to know what the guess is. Therefore make it quickly, by instinct. A right guess reinforces this instinct. A wrong guess brings the refreshment of surprise. In either case life as a spacetime expert, however long, is more fun!
In E.F. Taylor and J.A. Wheeler, Spacetime Physics (1992), 20.
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When a Parliament, acting against the declared Sense of the Nation, would have appeared as surprising a phœnomenon in the moral World, as a retrograde Motion of the Sun, or any other signal Deviation of Things from their ordinary Course in the natural World.
In A Dissertation Upon Parties: In Several Letters to Caleb D’Anvers, Esq. (1733, 1735), 39.
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When I quitted business and took to science as a career, I thought I had left behind me all the petty meannesses and small jealousies which hinder man in his moral progress; but I found myself raised into another sphere, only to find poor human nature just the same everywhere—subject to the same weaknesses and the same self-seeking, however exalted the intellect.
As quoted “as well as I can recollect” by Mrs. Cornelia Crosse, wife of the scientist Andrew Crosse. She was with him during a visit by Andrew to see his friend Faraday at the Royal Institution, and she had some conversation with him. This was Faraday’s reply to her comment that he must be happy to have elevated himself (presumably, from his apprenticeship as a bookbinder) above all the “meaner aspects and lower aims of common life.” As stated in John Hall Gladstone, Michael Faraday (1872), 117.
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When men are engaged in war and conquest, the tools of science become as dangerous as a razor in the hands of a child of three. We must not condemn man because his inventiveness and patient conquest of the forces of nature are being exploited for false and destructive purposes. Rather, we should remember that the fate of mankind hinges entirely upon man’s moral development.
In 'I Am an American' (22 Jun 1940), Einstein Archives 29-092. Excerpted in David E. Rowe and Robert J. Schulmann, Einstein on Politics: His Private Thoughts and Public Stands on Nationalism, Zionism, War, Peace, and the Bomb (2007), 470. The British Library Sound Archive holds a recording of this statement by Einstein. It was during a radio broadcast for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, interviewed by a State Department Official. Einstein spoke following an examination on his application for American citizenship in Trenton, New Jersey. The attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s declaration of war on Japan was still over a year in the future.
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While the easiest way in metaphysics is to condemn all metaphysics as nonsense, the easiest way in morals is to elevate the common practice of the community into a moral absolute.
In The Lost World of Thomas Jefferson (1948, 1993), 111.
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Why do they prefer to tell stories about the possible medicinal bene-fits of the Houston toad rather than to offer moral reasons for sup-porting the Endangered Species Act? That law is plainly ideological; it is hardly to be excused on economic grounds.
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You can be a thorough-going Neo-Darwinian without imagination, metaphysics, poetry, conscience, or decency. For “Natural Selection” has no moral significance: it deals with that part of evolution which has no purpose, no intelligence, and might more appropriately be called accidental selection, or better still, Unnatural Selection, since nothing is more unnatural than an accident. If it could be proved that the whole universe had been produced by such Selection, only fools and rascals could bear to live.
Back to Methuselah: A Metabiological Pentateuch (1921), lxi-lxii.
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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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