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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index O > Category: Opinion

Opinion Quotes (281 quotes)

The supreme task of the physicist is to arrive at those universal elementary laws from which the cosmos can be built up by pure deduction. There is no logical path to these laws; only intuition, resting on sympathetic understanding of experience, can reach them. In this methodological uncertainty, one might suppose that there were any number of possible systems of theoretical physics all equally well justified; and this opinion is no doubt correct, theoretically. But the development of physics has shown that at any given moment, out of all conceivable constructions, a single one has always proved itself decidedly superior to all the rest.
Address (1918) for Max Planck's 60th birthday, at Physical Society, Berlin, 'Principles of Research' in Essays in Science (1934), 4.
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...I may say that in my opinion true Science and true Religion neither are nor could be opposed.
Quoted in James Joseph Walsh, Religion and Health (1920), 15 .
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...That day in the account of creation, or those days that are numbers according to its recurrence, are beyond the experience and knowledge of us mortal earthbound men. And if we are able to make any effort towards an understanding of those days, we ought not to rush forward with an ill considered opinion, as if no other reasonable and plausible interpretation could be offered.
iv.44
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Speaking as a Prolife leader, the founder and chairman of Focus on the Family. After speaking on a 3 Aug 2005 radio show, he drew criticism for his extreme opinion that embryonic stem cell compares with Nazi deathcamp experiments.
…...
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Apud me omnia fiunt Mathematicè in Natura
In my opinion, everything happens in nature in a mathematical way.
In letter (11 Mar 1640) to Père Marin Mersenne. English version inspired by a translation of the original Latin in German, “Nach meiner Ansicht geschieht alles in der Natur auf mathematische Art,” in René Descartes and Artur Buchenau (trans., ed.), René Descartes' Philosophische Werke (1905), 246. The Latin is often seen misquoted as “omnia apud me mathematica fiunt.” See context in longer quote that begins, “I have no doubt….” on the René Descartes Quotes page of this website.
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Die Gewohnheit einer Meinung erzeugt oft völlige Ueberzeugung von ihrer Richtigkeit, sie verbirgt die schwächeren Theile davon, und macht uns unfähig, die Beweise dagegen anzunehmen.
The habit of an opinion often leads to the complete conviction of its truth, it hides the weaker parts of it, and makes us incapable of accepting the proofs against it.
(1827). German text in Ira Freund, The Study of Chemical Composition (1904), 31. Translated form in Carl Schorlemmer, The Rise and Development of Organic Chemistry (1894), 49.
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In a 1852 letter, Nightingale records the opinion of a young surgeon:
The account he gives of nurses beats everything that even I know of. This young prophet says that they are all drunkards, without exception, Sisters and all, and that there are but two whom the surgeon can trust to give the patients their medicines.
Letter to Miss H. Bonham Carter (8 Jan 1852), quoted in Edward Tyas Cook, The Life of Florence Nightingale (1914), Vol. 1, 116.
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Opinionum commenta delet dies, naturae judicia confirmat
Time obliterates the fictions of opinion and confirms the decisions of nature.
De Natura Deorum, II, ii, 5. In Samuel Johnson, W. Jackson Bate, The Selected Essays from the Rambler, Adventurer, and Idler (1968),167
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That was excellently observ'd, say I, when I read a Passage in an Author, where his Opinion agrees with mine. When we differ, there I pronounce him to be mistaken.
In 'Thoughts On Various Subjects' (1727), collected in The Works of Jonathan Swift (1746), Vol. 1, 318.
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Wenige sind imstande, von den Vorurteilen der Umgebung abweichende Meinungen gelassen auszusprechen; die Meisten sind sogar unfähig, überhaupt zu solchen Meinungen zu gelangen.
Few people are able to express opinions that dissent from the prejudices of their social group. The majority are even incapable of forming such opinions at all.
Original German in Essays Presented to Leo Baeck on the Occasion of His Eightieth Birthday (1954), 26. English text by Webmaster assisted by online translation tools.
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A bilious philosopher’s opinion of the world can only be accepted with a pinch of salt, of Epsom salt by preference.
From essay in Proper Studies: The Proper Study of Mankind Is Man (1927). Extract published in Vanity Fair (1927), 28, No. 4, 100.
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A doctor whose breath smells has no right to medical opinion.
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A poem in my opinion, is opposed to a work of science by having for its immediate object, pleasure, not truth.
'Letter to B——— ———', in Southern Literary Messenger (Jul 1836). Quoted in Poems of Edgar Allan Poe (1917), 169, and Appendix, 311. According to different commentators, B——— may be merely a fictional character, or Bulwer-Lyton, or the publisher Elam Bliss.
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A process which led from the amoeba to man appeared to the philosophers to be obviously a progress—though whether the amoeba would agree with this opinion is not known.
From 'Current Tendencies', delivered as the first of a series of Lowell Lectures in Boston (Mar 1914). Collected in Our Knowledge of the External World (1914), 12.
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A rock has no detectable opinion about gravity.
In Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld (2014), 10, footnote.
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All that can be said upon the number and nature of elements is, in my opinion, confined to discussions entirely of a metaphysical nature. The subject only furnishes us with indefinite problems, which may be solved in a thousand different ways, not one of which, in all probability, is consistent with nature. I shall therefore only add upon this subject, that if, by the term elements, we mean to express those simple and indivisible atoms of which matter is composed, it is extremely probable we know nothing at all about them; but, if we apply the term elements, or principles of bodies, to express our idea of the last point which analysis is capable of reaching, we must admit, as elements, all the substances into which we are capable, by any means, to reduce bodies by decomposition.
Elements of Chemistry (1790), trans. R. Kerr, Preface, xxiv.
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Although few expressions are more commonly used in writing about science than “science revolution,” there is a continuing debate as to the propriety of applying the concept and term “revolution” to scientific change. There is, furthermore, a wide difference of opinion as to what may constitute a revolution. And although almost all historians would agree that a genuine alteration of an exceptionally radical nature (the Scientific Revolution) occurred in the sciences at some time between the late fifteenth (or early sixteenth) century and the end of the seventeenth century, the question of exactly when this revolution occurred arouses as much scholarly disagreement as the cognate question of precisely what it was.
The Newtonian Revolution (1980), 3.
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Although my Aachen colleagues and students at first regarded the “pure mathematician” with suspicion, I soon had the satisfaction of being accepted a useful member not merely in teaching but also engineering practice; thus I was requested to render expert opinions and to participate in the Ingenieurverein [engineering association].
As quoted in Paul Forman and Armin Hermann, 'Sommerfeld, Arnold (Johannes Wilhelm)', Biography in Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1975), Vol. 12, 527. Cited from 'Autobiographische Skizze', Gesammelte Schriften, Vol 4, 673–682.
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Among the authorities it is generally agreed that the Earth is at rest in the middle of the universe, and they regard it as inconceivable and even ridiculous to hold the opposite opinion. However, if we consider it more closely the question will be seen to be still unsettled, and so decidedly not to be despised. For every apparent change in respect of position is due to motion of the object observed, or of the observer, or indeed to an unequal change of both.
'Book One. Chapter V. Whether Circular Motion is Proper to the Earth, and of its Place', in Copernicus: On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres (1543), trans. A. M. Duncan (1976), 40.
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An autocratic system of coercion, in my opinion, soon degenerates. For force always attracts men of low morality, and I believe it to be an invariable rule that tyrants of genius are succeeded by scoundrels. For this reason I have always been passionately opposed to systems such as we see in Italy and Russia to-day.
In The World As I See It (1934), 240.
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An old medical friend gave me some excellent practical advice. He said: “You will have for some time to go much oftener down steps than up steps. Never mind! win the good opinions of washerwomen and such like, and in time you will hear of their recommendations of you to the wealthier families by whom they are employed.” I did so, and found it succeed as predicted.
[On beginning a medical practice.]
From Reminiscences of a Yorkshire Naturalist (1896), 94. Going “down steps” refers to the homes of lower-class workers of the era that were often in basements and entered by exterior steps down from street level.
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Anaximander son of Praxiades, of Miletus: he said that the principle and element is the Indefinite, not distinguishing air or water or anything else. … he was the first to discover a gnomon, and he set one up on the Sundials (?) in Sparta, according to Favorinus in his Universal History, to mark solstices and equinoxes; and he also constructed hour indicators. He was the first to draw an outline of earth and sea, but also constructed a [celestial] globe. Of his opinions he made a summary exposition, which I suppose Apollodorus the Athenian also encountered. Apollodorus says in his Chronicles that Anaximander was sixty-four years old in the year of the fifty-eighth Olympiad [547/6 B.C.], and that he died shortly afterwards (having been near his prime approximately during the time of Polycrates, tyrant of Samos).
Diogenes Laërtius II, 1-2. In G.S. Kirk, J.E. Raven and M. Schofield (eds), The Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History with a Selection of Texts (1957), 99. The editors of this translation note that Anaximander may have introduced the gnomon into Greece, but he did not discover it—the Babylonians used it earlier, and the celestial sphere, and the twelve parts of the day.
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And men ought to know that from nothing else but thence [from the brain] come joys, delights, laughter and sports, and sorrows, griefs, despondency, and lamentations. And by this, in an especial manner, we acquire wisdom and knowledge, and see and hear, and know what are foul and hat are fair, what are bad and what are good, what are sweet, and what unsavory... And by the same organ we become mad and delirious, and fears and terrors assail us... All these things we endure from the brain, when it is not healthy... In these ways I am of the opinion that the brain exercises the greatest power in the man. This is the interpreter to us of those things which emanate from the air, when it [the brain] happens to be in a sound state.
The Genuine Works of Hippocrates, trans. Francis Adams (1886), Vol. 2, 344-5.
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Another argument of hope may be drawn from this–that some of the inventions already known are such as before they were discovered it could hardly have entered any man's head to think of; they would have been simply set aside as impossible. For in conjecturing what may be men set before them the example of what has been, and divine of the new with an imagination preoccupied and colored by the old; which way of forming opinions is very fallacious, for streams that are drawn from the springheads of nature do not always run in the old channels.
Translation of Novum Organum, XCII. In Francis Bacon, James Spedding, The Works of Francis Bacon (1864), Vol. 8, 128.
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Another diversity of Methods is according to the subject or matter which is handled; for there is a great difference in delivery of the Mathematics, which are the most abstracted of knowledges, and Policy, which is the most immersed ... , yet we see how that opinion, besides the weakness of it, hath been of ill desert towards learning, as that which taketh the way to reduce learning to certain empty and barren generalities; being but the very husks and shells of sciences, all the kernel being forced out and expulsed with the torture and press of the method.
Advancement of Learning, Book 2. In James Spedding, The Works of Francis Bacon (1863), Vol. 6, 292-293 . Peter Pešić, explains that 'By Mathematics, he had in mind a sterile and rigid scheme of logical classifications, called dichotomies in his time,' inLabyrinth: A Search for the Hidden Meaning of Science (2001), 73.
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Any clod can have the facts; having opinions is an art.
McCabe's motto (?) as columnist for San Francisco Chronicle. Margin quote, in Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Computer Group, Computer (1984), 89.
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Any opinion as to the form in which the energy of gravitation exists in space is of great importance, and whoever can make his opinion probable will have, made an enormous stride in physical speculation. The apparent universality of gravitation, and the equality of its effects on matter of all kinds are most remarkable facts, hitherto without exception; but they are purely experimental facts, liable to be corrected by a single observed exception. We cannot conceive of matter with negative inertia or mass; but we see no way of accounting for the proportionality of gravitation to mass by any legitimate method of demonstration. If we can see the tails of comets fly off in the direction opposed to the sun with an accelerated velocity, and if we believe these tails to be matter and not optical illusions or mere tracks of vibrating disturbance, then we must admit a force in that direction, and we may establish that it is caused by the sun if it always depends upon his position and distance.
Letter to William Huggins (13 Oct 1868). In P. M. Hannan (ed.), The Scientific Letters and Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1995), Vol. 2, 1862-1873, 451-2.
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Aristotle’s opinion … that comets were nothing else than sublunary vapors or airy meteors … prevailed so far amongst the Greeks, that this sublimest part of astronomy lay altogether neglected; since none could think it worthwhile to observe, and to give an account of the wandering and uncertain paths of vapours floating in the Ether.
Attributed.
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As soon as the circumstances of an experiment are well known, we stop gathering statistics. … The effect will occur always without exception, because the cause of the phenomena is accurately defined. Only when a phenomenon includes conditions as yet undefined,Only when a phenomenon includes conditions as yet undefined, can we compile statistics. … we must learn therefore that we compile statistics only when we cannot possibly help it; for in my opinion, statistics can never yield scientific truth.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 134-137.
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Ask a scientist what he conceives the scientific method to be, and he will adopt an expression that is at once solemn and shifty eyed: solemn because he feels he ought to declare an opinion; shifty eyed because he is wondering how to conceal the fact that he has no opinion to declare. If taunted he would probably mumble something about “Induction” and “Establishing the Laws of Nature”, but if anyone working in a laboratory professed to be trying to establish the Laws of Nature by induction, we should think he was overdue for leave.
From a Jayne Lecture (1968), 'Induction and Intuition in Scientific Thought', printed in Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society (1969), Vol. 75. Lecture republished as Induction and Intuition in Scientific Thought (2009), 11. Also included in Peter Medawar, Pluto’s Republic (1984), 80.
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At last gleams of light have come, and I am almost convinced (quite contrary to opinion I started with) that species are not (it is like confessing a murder) immutable. Heaven forfend me from Lamarck nonsense of a “tendency to progression”, “adaptations from the slow willing of animals”, &c! But the conclusions I am led to are not widely different from his; though the means of change are wholly so. I think I have found out (here’s presumption!) the simple way by which species become exquisitely adapted to various ends.
Letter to Sir Joseph Hooker (11 Jan 1844). 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), 173-174.
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Belief is a luxury—only those who have real knowledge have a right to believe; otherwise belief is merely plausible opinion.
In On Love & Psychological Exercises: With Some Aphorisms & Other Essays (1998), 55.
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Besides accustoming the student to demand, complete proof, and to know when he has not obtained it, mathematical studies are of immense benefit to his education by habituating him to precision. It is one of the peculiar excellencies of mathematical discipline, that the mathematician is never satisfied with à peu près. He requires the exact truth. Hardly any of the non-mathematical sciences, except chemistry, has this advantage. One of the commonest modes of loose thought, and sources of error both in opinion and in practice, is to overlook the importance of quantities. Mathematicians and chemists are taught by the whole course of their studies, that the most fundamental difference of quality depends on some very slight difference in proportional quantity; and that from the qualities of the influencing elements, without careful attention to their quantities, false expectation would constantly be formed as to the very nature and essential character of the result produced.
In An Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy (1878), 611. [The French phrase, à peu près means “approximately”. —Webmaster]
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Beware of the problem of testing too many hypotheses; the more you torture the data, the more likely they are to confess, but confessions obtained under duress may not be admissible in the court of scientific opinion.
In Matthew H. Nitecki and Antoni Hoffman (eds.), 'Testing Hypotheses or Fitting Models? Another Look at Mass Extinctions', Neutral Models in Biology (1987), 148.
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But at the same time, there must never be the least hesitation in giving up a position the moment it is shown to be untenable. It is not going too far to say that the greatness of a scientific investigator does not rest on the fact of his having never made a mistake, but rather on his readiness to admit that he has done so, whenever the contrary evidence is cogent enough.
Principles of General Physiology (1915), x.xi.
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But in my opinion we can now be assured sufficiently that no animals, however small they may be, take their origin in putrefaction, but exclusively in procreation… For seeing that animals, from the largest down to the little despised animal, the flea, have animalcules in their semen, seeing also that some of the vessels of the lungs of horses and cows consist of rings and that these rings can occur on the flea's veins, why cannot we come to the conclusion that as well as the male sperm of that large animal the horse and similar animals, and of all manner of little animals, the flea included, is furnished with animalcules (and other intestines, for I have often been astonished when I beheld the numerous vessels in a flea), why, I say should not the male sperm of the smallest animals, smaller than a flea may even the very smallest animalcules have the perfection that we find in a flea.
Letter to Robert Hooke, 12 Nov 1680. In The Collected Letters of Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (1957), Vol. 3, 329.
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But when we face the great questions about gravitation Does it require time? Is it polar to the 'outside of the universe' or to anything? Has it any reference to electricity? or does it stand on the very foundation of matter–mass or inertia? then we feel the need of tests, whether they be comets or nebulae or laboratory experiments or bold questions as to the truth of received opinions.
Letter to Michael Faraday, 9 Nov 1857. In P. M. Harman (ed.), The Scientific Letters and Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1990), Vol. 1, 1846-1862, 551-2.
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But, as Bacon has well pointed out, truth is more likely to come out of error, if this is clear and definite, than out of confusion, and my experience teaches me that it is better to hold a well-understood and intelligible opinion, even if it should turn out to be wrong, than to be content with a muddle-headed mixture of conflicting views, sometimes miscalled impartiality, and often no better than no opinion at all.
Principles of General Physiology (1915), x.
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Delusions are often functional. A mother’s opinions about her children’s beauty, intelligence, goodness, et cetera ad nauseam, keep her from drowning them at birth.
In 'From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long', Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 257.
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Democritus sometimes does away with what appears to the senses, and says that none of these appears according to truth but only according to opinion: the truth in real things is that there are atoms and void. “By convention sweet”, he says, “by convention bitter, by convention hot, by convention cold, by convention colour: but in reality atoms and void.”
Against the Professors, 7, 135. In G. S. Kirk, J. E. Raven and M. Schofield (eds.), The Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History with a Selection of Texts (1983), 410.
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Development of Western science is based on two great achievements: the invention of the formal logical system (in Euclidean geometry) by the Greek philosophers, and the discovery of the possibility to find out causal relationships by systematic experiment (during the Renaissance). In my opinion, one has not to be astonished that the Chinese sages have not made these steps. The astonishing thing is that these discoveries were made at all.
Letter to J. S. Switzer, 23 Apr 1953, Einstein Archive 61-381. Quoted in Alice Calaprice, The Quotable Einstein (1996), 180.
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Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
…...
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Einstein, twenty-six years old, only three years away from crude privation, still a patent examiner, published in the Annalen der Physik in 1905 five papers on entirely different subjects. Three of them were among the greatest in the history of physics. One, very simple, gave the quantum explanation of the photoelectric effect—it was this work for which, sixteen years later, he was awarded the Nobel prize. Another dealt with the phenomenon of Brownian motion, the apparently erratic movement of tiny particles suspended in a liquid: Einstein showed that these movements satisfied a clear statistical law. This was like a conjuring trick, easy when explained: before it, decent scientists could still doubt the concrete existence of atoms and molecules: this paper was as near to a direct proof of their concreteness as a theoretician could give. The third paper was the special eory of relativity, which quietly amalgamated space, time, and matter into one fundamental unity. This last paper contains no references and quotes no authority. All of them are written in a style unlike any other theoretical physicist's. They contain very little mathematics. There is a good deal of verbal commentary. The conclusions, the bizarre conclusions, emerge as though with the greatest of ease: the reasoning is unbreakable. It looks as though he had reached the conclusions by pure thought, unaided, without listening to the opinions of others. To a surprisingly large extent, that is precisely what he had done.
Variety of Men (1966), 100-1.
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Either one or the other [analysis or synthesis] may be direct or indirect. The direct procedure is when the point of departure is known-direct synthesis in the elements of geometry. By combining at random simple truths with each other, more complicated ones are deduced from them. This is the method of discovery, the special method of inventions, contrary to popular opinion.
Ampère gives this example drawn from geometry to illustrate his meaning for “direct synthesis” when deductions following from more simple, already-known theorems leads to a new discovery. In James R. Hofmann, André-Marie Ampère (1996), 159. Cites Académie des Sciences Ampère Archives, box 261.
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Error is often nourished by good sense. … The meaning is, that the powers of the understanding are frequently employed to defend favourite errors; and that a man of sense frequently fortifies himself in his prejudices, or in false opinions which he received without examination, by such arguments as would not have occurred to a fool.
In Maxims, Characters, and Reflections, Critical, Satyrical and Moral (2nd ed., 1757), 9. The meaning is given as a footnote.
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Error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.
From his First Inaugural Address (4 Mar 1801). In Annals of the Congress of the United States (1801), 11, 583.
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Even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds
On Liberty (1859), 95.
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Even those to whom Providence has allotted greater strength of understanding, can expect only to improve a single science. In every other part of learning, they must be content to follow opinions, which they are not able to examine; and, even in that which they claim as peculiarly their own, can seldom add more than some small particle of knowledge, to the hereditary stock devolved to them from ancient times, the collective labour of a thousand intellects.
In Samuel Johnson and W. Jackson Bate (Ed.), ',The Rambler, No. 121, Tuesday, 14 May 1751.' The Selected Essays from the Rambler, Adventurer, and Idler (1968), 172.
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Every investigator must before all things look upon himself as one who is summoned to serve on a jury. He has only to consider how far the statement of the case is complete and clearly set forth by the evidence. Then he draws his conclusion and gives his vote, whether it be that his opinion coincides with that of the foreman or not.
In The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe (1906), 190.
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Every variety of philosophical and theological opinion was represented there [The Metaphysical Society], and expressed itself with entire openness; most of my colleagues were -ists of one sort or another; and, however kind and friendly they might be, I, the man without a rag of a label to cover himself with, could not fail to have some of the uneasy feelings which must have beset the historical fox when, after leaving the trap in which his tail remained, he presented himself to his normally elongated companions. So I took thought, and invented what I conceived to be the appropriate title of “agnostic” .
'Agnosticism' (1889). In Collected Essays (1894), Vol. 5, 239.
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Fact is not enough, opinion is too much.
Anonymous
Seen on the web attributed to Todor Simeonov, but Webmaster has not been able to verify. Contact Webmaster if you have a primary source.
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Facts do not “speak for themselves”; they are read in the light of a theory. Creative thought, in science as much as in the arts, is the motor of changing opinion.
In Perspectives in Biological Medicine (1985).
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Finally, in regard to those who possess the largest shares in the stock of worldly goods, could there, in your opinion, be any police so vigilant and effetive, for the protections of all the rights of person, property and character, as such a sound and comprehensive education and training, as our system of Common Schools could be made to impart; and would not the payment of a sufficient tax to make such education and training universal, be the cheapest means of self-protection and insurance?
Annual Reports of the Secretary of the Board of Education of Massachusetts for the years 1839-1844, Life and Works of Horace Mann (1891), Vol. 3, 100.
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For those [observations] that I made in Leipzig in my youth and up to my 21st year, I usually call childish and of doubtful value. Those that I took later until my 28th year [i.e., until 1574] I call juvenile and fairly serviceable. The third group, however, which I made at Uraniborg during approximately the last 21 years with the greatest care and with very accurate instruments at a more mature age, until I was fifty years of age, those I call the observations of my manhood, completely valid and absolutely certain, and this is my opinion of them.
In H. Raeder, E. and B. Stromgren (eds. and trans.), Tycho Brahe’s Description of his Instruments and Scientific Work: as given in Astronomiae Instauratae Mechanica, Wandesburgi 1598 (1946), 110.
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For, however much we may clench our teeth in anger, we cannot but confess, in opposition to Galen’s teaching but in conformity with the might of Aristotle’s opinion, that the size of the orifice of the hollow vein at the right chamber of the heart is greater than that of the body of the hollow vein, no matter where you measure the latter. Then the following chapter will show the falsity of Galen’s view that the hollow vein is largest at the point where it joins the hump of the liver.
From De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem (1543), Book III, 275, as translated by William Frank Richardson and John Burd Carman, in 'The Arguments Advanced by Galen in Opposition to Aristotl’s Views about the Origin of the Hollow Vein Do Not Have Oracular Authority', On The Fabric of the Human Body: Book III: The Veins And Arteries; Book IV: The Nerves (1998), 45.
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Frequently, I have been asked if an experiment I have planned is pure or applied science; to me it is more important to know if the experiment will yield new and probably enduring knowledge about nature. If it is likely to yield such knowledge, it is, in my opinion, good fundamental research; and this is more important than whether the motivation is purely aesthetic satisfaction on the part of the experimenter on the one hand or the improvement of the stability of a high-power transistor on the other.
Quoted in Richard R. Nelson, 'The Link Between Science and Invention: The Case of the Transistor,' The Rate and Direction of the Inventive Activity (1962). In Daniel S. Greenberg, The Politics of Pure Science (1999), 32, footnote.
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Freud expressed the opinion—not quite in earnest, though, it seeemed to me—that philosophy was the most decent form of sublimation of repressed sexuality, nothing more. In response I put the question, 'What then is science, particularly psychoanalytic psychology?' Whereup on he, visible a bit surprised, answered evasively: 'At least psychology has a social purpose.'
Recollection by Binswanger of conversation during his third visit to Vienna to see Freud (17-18 May 1913), in Gerhard Fichtner (ed.) and Arnold J. Pomerans (trans.), The Sigmund Freud-Ludwig Binswanger Correspondence 1908-1938 (2003), 237.
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From man or angel the great Architect did wisely to conceal, and not divulge his secrets to be scanned by them who ought rather admire; or if they list to try conjecture, he his fabric of the heavens left to their disputes, perhaps to move his laughter at their quaint opinions wide hereafter, when they come to model heaven calculate the stars, how they will wield the mighty frame, how build, unbuild, contrive to save appearances, how gird the sphere with centric and eccentric scribbled o’er, and epicycle, orb in orb.
Paradise Lost (1674, 1754), Book 8, 231.
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From very ancient times, the question of the constitution of matter with respect to divisibility has been debated, some adopting the opinion that this divisibility is infinite …. We have absolutely no means at our disposal for deciding such a question, which remains at the present day in the same state as when it first engaged the attention of the Greek philosophers, or perhaps that of the sages of Egypt and Hindostan long before them.
In Elementary Chemistry, Theoretical and Practical (1854), 206. Note: this was the limit of knowledge, or even speculation, decades before the discovery of the nucleus, electron, proton and other particles.
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GUNPOWDER, n. An agency employed by civilized nations for the settlement of disputes which might become troublesome if left unadjusted. By most writers the invention of gunpowder is ascribed to the Chinese, but not upon very convincing evidence. Milton says it was invented by the devil to dispel angels with, and this opinion seems to derive some support from the scarcity of angels.
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  124-125.
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Have the changes which lead us from one geologic state to another been, on a long average uniform in their intensity, or have they consisted of epochs of paroxysmal and catastrophic action, interposed between periods of comparative tranquillity? These two opinions will probably for some time divide the geological world into two sects, which may perhaps be designated as the Uniformitarians and the Catastrophists.
In 'Review of Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology', Quarterly Review (1832), 47, 126.
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Here are the opinions on which my facts are based.
Anonymous
Saying.
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Hitherto the principle of causality was universally accepted as an indispensable postulate of scientific research, but now we are told by some physicists that it must be thrown overboard. The fact that such an extraordinary opinion should be expressed in responsible scientific quarters is widely taken to be significant of the all-round unreliability of human knowledge. This indeed is a very serious situation.
In Max Planck and James Vincent Murphy (trans.), Where is Science Going?, (1932), 66.
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I am about to discuss the disease called “sacred”. It is not, in my opinion, any more divine or more sacred that other diseases, but has a natural cause, and its supposed divine origin is due to men's inexperience, and to their wonder at its peculiar character.
From 'The Sacred Disease', in Hippocrates, trans. W.H.S. Jones (1923), Vol. 2, 139.
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I am astonished that in the United States a scientist gets into such trouble because of his scientific beliefs; that your activity in 1957 and 1958 in relation to the petition to the United Nations asking for a bomb-test agreement causes you now to be called before the authorities and ordered to give the names of the scientists who have the same opinions that you have and who have helped you to gather signatures to the petition. I think that I must be dreaming!
Letter to Linus Pauling (23 Jul 1960). As quoted on the Linus Pauling and the International Peace Movement website at scarc.library.oregonstate.edu.
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I am not one of those who in expressing opinions confine themselves to facts.
Speech to the Savage Club (6 Jul 1907). In Mark Twain and William Dean Howells (ed.), Mark Twain’s Speeches? (1910), 389.
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I am of opinion, then, ... that, if there is any circumstance thoroughly established in geology, it is, that the crust of our globe has been subjected to a great and sudden revolution, the epoch of which cannot be dated much farther back than five or six thousand years ago; that this revolution had buried all the countries which were before inhabited by men and by the other animals that are now best known; that the same revolution had laid dry the bed of the last ocean, which now forms all the countries at present inhabited; that the small number of individuals of men and other animals that escaped from the effects of that great revolution, have since propagated and spread over the lands then newly laid dry; and consequently, that the human race has only resumed a progressive state of improvement since that epoch, by forming established societies, raising monuments, collecting natural facts, and constructing systems of science and of learning.
'Preliminary discourse', to Recherches sur les Ossemens Fossiles (1812), trans. R. Kerr Essay on the Theory of the Earth (1813), 171-2.
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I am of the decided opinion, that mathematical instruction must have for its first aim a deep penetration and complete command of abstract mathematical theory together with a clear insight into the structure of the system, and doubt not that the instruction which accomplishes this is valuable and interesting even if it neglects practical applications. If the instruction sharpens the understanding, if it arouses the scientific interest, whether mathematical or philosophical, if finally it calls into life an esthetic feeling for the beauty of a scientific edifice, the instruction will take on an ethical value as well, provided that with the interest it awakens also the impulse toward scientific activity. I contend, therefore, that even without reference to its applications mathematics in the high schools has a value equal to that of the other subjects of instruction.
In 'Ueber das Lehrziel im mathemalischen Unterricht der höheren Realanstalten', Jahresbericht der Deutschen Mathematiker Vereinigung, 2, 192. (The Annual Report of the German Mathematical Association. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-Book (1914), 73.
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I can assure you, reader, that in a very few hours, even during the first day, you will learn more natural philosophy about things contained in this book, than you could learn in fifty years by reading the theories and opinions of the ancient philosophers. Enemies of science will scoff at the astrologers: saying, where is the ladder on which they have climbed to heaven, to know the foundation of the stars? But in this respect I am exempt from such scoffing; for in proving my written reason, I satisfy sight, hearing, and touch: for this reason, defamers will have no power over me: as you will see when you come to see me in my little Academy.
The Admirable Discourses (1580), trans. Aurele La Rocque (1957), 27.
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I can well appreciate, Holy Father, that as soon as certain people realise that in these books which I have written about the Revolutions of the spheres of the universe I attribute certain motions to the globe of the Earth, they will at once clamour for me to be hooted off the stage with such an opinion.
'To His Holiness Pope Paul III', in Copernicus: On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres (1543), trans. A.M. Duncan (1976), 23.
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I don’t think necessity is the mother of invention. Invention, in my opinion, arises directly from idleness, possibly also from laziness—to save oneself trouble.
In An Autobiography (1977, 19990), 121.
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I have a boundless admiration for the solitary genius which enabled [Hermann Oberth] to bring into focus all of the essential elements of a gigantic concept, together with the human greatness which allowed him, in shy reserve, to bear with equanimity the “crucify hims” as well as the “hosannas” of public opinion. I myself owe him a debt of gratitude not only for being the guiding light of my life, but also for my first contact with the theoretical and practical aspects of rocket technology and space travel.
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I have from my childhood, in conformity with the precepts of a mother void of all imaginary fear, been in the constant habit of taking toads in my hand, and applying them to my nose and face as it may happen. My motive for doing this very frequently is to inculcate the opinion I have held, since I was told by my mother, that the toad is actually a harmless animal; and to whose manner of life man is certainly under some obligation as its food is chiefly those insects which devour his crops and annoy him in various ways.
Letter to an unknown correspondent, quoted by Bowdler Sharpe, The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne (1900), Vol. 1, 69. In Averil M. Lysaght, Joseph Banks in Newfoundland and Labrador, 1766: his Diary, Manuscripts, and Collections (1971), 44.
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I have long held an opinion, almost amounting to conviction, in common I believe with many other lovers of natural knowledge, that the various forms under which the forces of matter are made manifest have one common origin; or, in other words, are so directly related and mutually dependent, that they are convertible, as it were, one into another, and possess equivalents of power in their action.
Paper read to the Royal Institution (20 Nov 1845). 'On the Magnetization of Light and the Illumination of Magnetic Lines of Force', Series 19. In Experimental Researches in Electricity (1855), Vol. 3, 1. Reprinted from Philosophical Transactions (1846), 1.
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I have no doubt that many small strikes of a hammer will finally have as much effect as one very heavy blow: I say as much in quantity, although they may be different in mode, but in my opinion, everything happens in nature in a mathematical way, and there is no quantity that is not divisible into an infinity of parts; and Force, Movement, Impact etc. are types of quantities.
From the original French, “Ie ne doute point que plusieurs petits coups de Marteau ne fassent enfin autant d’effet qu’vn fort grand coup, ie dis autant en quantité, bien qu’ils puissent estre différents, in modo; mais apud me omnia fiunt Mathematicè in Natura, & il n’y a point de quantité qui ne soit divisible en une infinité de parties; Or la Force, le Mouuement, la Percussion, &c. sont des Especes de quantitez,” in letter (11 Mar 1640) to Père Marin Mersenne (AT III 36), collected in Lettres de Mr Descartes (1659), Vol. 2, 211-212. English version by Webmaster using online resources.
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I have very often reflected on what it is that really distinguishes the great genius from the common crowd. Here are a few observations I have made. The common individual always conforms to the prevailing opinion and the prevailing fashion; he regards the State in which everything now exists as the only possible one and passively accepts it ail. It does not occur to him that everything, from the shape of the furniture up to the subtlest hypothesis, is decided by the great council of mankind of which he is a member. He wears thin-soled shoes even though the sharp stones of the Street hurt his feet, he allows fashion to dictate to him that the buckles of his shoes must extend as far as the toes even though that means the shoe is often hard to get on. He does not reflect that the form of the shoe depends as much upon him as it does upon the fool who first wore thin shoes on a cracked pavement. To the great genius it always occurs to ask: Could this too not be false! He never gives his vote without first reflecting.
Aphorism 24 in Notebook C (1772-1773), as translated by R.J. Hollingdale in Aphorisms (1990). Reprinted as The Waste Books (2000), 36.
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I here present the reader with a new sign which I have discovered for detecting diseases of the chest. This consists in percussion of the human thorax, whereby, according to the character of the particular sounds then elicited, an opinion is formed of the internal state of that cavity.
New Invention by Means of Percussing the Human Thorax for Detecting Signs of Obscure Disease of the Interior of the Chest, Inventum novum ex percussione (31 Dec 1761).
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I submit a body of facts which cannot be invalidated. My opinions may be doubted, denied, or approved, according as they conflict or agree with the opinions of each individual who may read them; but their worth will be best determined by the foundation on which they rest—the incontrovertible facts.
Experiments and Observations on the Gastric Juice, and the Physiology of Digestion (1833), Preface.
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I therefore took this opportunity and also began to consider the possibility that the Earth moved. Although it seemed an absurd opinion, nevertheless, because I knew that others before me had been granted the liberty of imagining whatever circles they wished to represent the phenomena of the stars, I thought that I likewise would readily be allowed to test whether, by assuming some motion of the Earth's, more dependable representations than theirs could be found for the revolutions of the heavenly spheres.
'To His Holiness Pope Paul III', in Copernicus: On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres (1543), trans. A. M. Duncan (1976), 26.
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I thought that the wisdom of our City had certainly designed the laudable practice of taking and distributing these accompts [parish records of christenings and deaths] for other and greater uses than [merely casual comments], or, at least, that some other uses might be made of them; and thereupon I ... could, and (to be short) to furnish myself with as much matter of that kind ... the which when I had reduced into tables ... so as to have a view of the whole together, in order to the more ready comparing of one Year, Season, Parish, or other Division of the City, with another, in respect of all Burials and Christnings, and of all the Diseases and Casualties happening in each of them respectively...
Moreover, finding some Truths and not-commonly-believed opinions to arise from my meditations upon these neglected Papers, I proceeded further to consider what benefit the knowledge of the same would bring to the world, ... with some real fruit from those ayrie blossoms.
From Natural and Political Observations Mentioned in a Following Index and Made upon Bills of Mortality (1662), Preface. Reproduced in Cornelius Walford, The Insurance Cyclopaedia (1871), Vol. 1, 286-287.
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I was ever of the opinion that the philosopher’s stone, and an holy war, were but the rendezvous of cracked brains, that wore their feather in their heads.
From essay, An Advertisement Touching a Holy War (1622). As collected and translated in Francis Bacon and Basil Montagu, The Works of Francis Bacon (1844), Vol. 2, 439. As quoted in Samuel Austin Allibone, Prose Quotations From Socrates to Macaulay (1876), 28. [Note: In Bacon’s time, the 17th century, the meaning of “advertise” was to give knowledge, advice or counsel. An “advertisement” meant the same in the form of a written statement. —Webmaster]
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I would beg the wise and learned fathers (of the church) to consider with all diligence the difference which exists between matters of mere opinion and matters of demonstration. ... [I]t is not in the power of professors of the demonstrative sciences to alter their opinions at will, so as to be now of one way of thinking and now of another. ... [D]emonstrated conclusions about things in nature of the heavens, do not admit of being altered with the same ease as opinions to what is permissible or not, under a contract, mortgage, or bill of exchange.
Letter to Cristina di Lorena, Grand Duchess of Tuscany (the mother of his patron Cosmo), 1615. Quoted in Sedley Taylor, 'Galileo and Papal Infallibility' (Dec 1873), in Macmillan's Magazine: November 1873 to April 1874 (1874) Vol 29, 94.
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I, Galileo Galilei, son of the late Vincenzo Galilei, of Florence, aged seventy years, being brought personally to judgment, and kneeling before your Most Eminent and Most Reverend Lords Cardinals, General Inquisitors of the universal Christian republic against heretical depravity, having before my eyes the Holy Gospels, which I touch with my own hands, swear that I have always believed, and now believe, and with the help of God will in future believe, every article which the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Rome holds, teaches, and preaches. But because I have been enjoined by this Holy Office altogether to abandon the false opinion which maintains that the sun is the centre and immovable, and forbidden to hold, defend, or teach the said false doctrine in any manner, and after it hath been signified to me that the said doctrine is repugnant with the Holy Scripture, I have written and printed a book, in which I treat of the same doctrine now condemned, and adduce reasons with great force in support of the same, without giving any solution, and therefore have been judged grievously suspected of heresy; that is to say, that I held and believed that the sun is the centre of the universe and is immovable, and that the earth is not the centre and is movable; willing, therefore, to remove from the minds of your Eminences, and of every Catholic Christian, this vehement suspicion rightfully entertained toward me, with a sincere heart and unfeigned faith, I abjure, curse, and detest the said errors and heresies, and generally every other error and sect contrary to Holy Church; and I swear that I will never more in future say or assert anything verbally, or in writing, which may give rise to a similar suspicion of me; but if I shall know any heretic, or anyone suspected of heresy, that I will denounce him to this Holy Office, or to the Inquisitor or Ordinary of the place where I may be; I swear, moreover, and promise, that I will fulfil and observe fully, all the penances which have been or shall be laid on me by this Holy Office. But if it shall happen that I violate any of my said promises, oaths, and protestations (which God avert!), I subject myself to all the pains and punishments which have been decreed and promulgated by the sacred canons, and other general and particular constitutions, against delinquents of this description. So may God help me, and his Holy Gospels which I touch with my own hands. I, the above-named Galileo Galilei, have abjured, sworn, promised, and bound myself as above, and in witness thereof with my own hand have subscribed this present writing of my abjuration, which I have recited word for word. At Rome, in the Convent of Minerva, June 22, 1633. I, Galileo Galilei, have abjured as above with my own hand.
Abjuration, 22 Jun 1633. In J.J. Fahie, Galileo, His Life and Work (1903), 319-321.
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If I had to define life in a single phrase, I should clearly express my thought of throwing into relief one characteristic which, in my opinion, sharply differentiates biological science. I should say: life is creation.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 93.
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If it can’t be expressed in figures, it is not science; it is opinion.
In Time Enough For Love: the Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 257.
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If it can’t be expressed in figures, it’s not science it’s opinion.
…...
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If materialism is true, it seems to me that we cannot know that it is true. If my opinions are the result of the chemical processes going on in my brain, they are determined by the laws of chemistry, not those of logic.
The Inequality of Man (1932), 162.
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If the views we have ventured to advance be correct, we may almost consider {greek words} of the ancients to be realised in hydrogen, an opinion, by the by, not altogether new. If we actually consider the specific gravities of bodies in their gaseous state to represent the number of volumes condensed into one; or in other words, the number of the absolute weight of a single volume of the first matter ({greek words}) which they contain, which is extremely probable, multiples in weight must always indicate multiples in volume, and vice versa; and the specific gravities, or absolute weights of all bodies in a gaseous state, must be multiples of the specific gravity or absolute weight of the first matter, ({Greek words}), because all bodies in the gaseous state which unite with one another unite with reference to their volume.
'Correction of a Mistake in the Essay on the Relation between the Specific Gravities of Bodies in their Gaseous State and the Weights of their Atoms', Annals of Philosophy (1816), 7, 113.
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If you want my opinion on the mystery of life and all that, I can give it to you in a nutshell; the universe is like a safe to which there is a key. But the key is locked up in the safe.
John Mitchinson and John Lloyd, If Ignorance Is Bliss, Why Aren't There More Happy People?: Smart Quotes for Dumb Times (2009), 217.
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In 1905, a physicist measuring the thermal conductivity of copper would have faced, unknowingly, a very small systematic error due to the heating of his equipment and sample by the absorption of cosmic rays, then unknown to physics. In early 1946, an opinion poller, studying Japanese opinion as to who won the war, would have faced a very small systematic error due to the neglect of the 17 Japanese holdouts, who were discovered later north of Saipan. These cases are entirely parallel. Social, biological and physical scientists all need to remember that they have the same problems, the main difference being the decimal place in which they appear.
In William G. Cochran, Frederick Mosteller and John W. Tukey, 'Principles of Sampling', Journal of the American Statistical Society, 1954, 49, 31. Collected in Selected Papers of Frederick Mosteller (2006), 290.
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In all matters of opinion and science ... the difference between men is ... oftener found to lie in generals than in particulars; and to be less in reality than in appearance. An explication of the terms commonly ends the controversy, and the disputants are surprised to find that they had been quarrelling, while at bottom they agreed in their judgement.
Dissertation IV, 'Of the Standard of Taste', Four Dissertations (1757), 204.
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In all things, therefore, where we have clear evidence from our ideas, and those principles of knowledge I have above mentioned, reason is the proper judge; and revelation, though it may, in consenting with it, confirm its dictates, yet cannot in such cases invalidate its decrees: nor can we be obliged, where we have the clear and evident sentience of reason, to quit it for the contrary opinion, under a pretence that it is matter of faith: which can have no authority against the plain and clear dictates of reason.
in Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), book 4, ch. 18, sec. 20.
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In arranging the bodies in order of their electrical nature, there is formed an electro-chemical system which, in my opinion, is more fit than any other to give an idea of chemistry.
Essai sur le théorie des proportions chimiques (1819). Translated in Henry M. Leicester and Herbert S. Klickstein, A Source Book in Chemistry 1400-1900 (1952), 260.
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In departing from any settled opinion or belief, the variation, the change, the break with custom may come gradually; and the way is usually prepared; but the final break is made, as a rule, by some one individual, … who sees with his own eyes, and with an instinct or genius for truth, escapes from the routine in which his fellows live. But he often pays dearly for his boldness.
In The Harveian Oration, delivered before the Royal College of Physicians of London (18 Oct 1906). Printed in 'The Growth of Truth, as Illustrated in the Discovery of the Circulation of Blood', The Lancet (27 Oct 1906), Vol. 2, Pt. 2, 1114.
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In fact, no opinion should be with fervour. No one holds with fervour that seven times eight is fifty-six, because it can be shown to be the case. Fervour is only necessary in commending an opinion which is doubtful or demonstrably false.
In Institut et Musée Voltaire, Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century (1994), 314. Also quoted in Max Perutz, Is Science Necessary? (1991), 196.
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In formal logic a contradiction is the signal of a defeat, but in the evolution of real knowledge it marks the first step in progress toward a victory. This is one great reason for the utmost toleration of variety of opinion. Once and forever, this duty of toleration has been summed up in the words, “Let both grow together until the harvest.”
In 'Religion and Science', The Atlantic (Aug 1925).
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In general I would be cautious against … plays of fancy and would not make way for their reception into scientific astronomy, which must have quite a different character. Laplace’s cosmogenic hypotheses belong in that class. Indeed, I do not deny that I sometimes amuse myself in a similar manner, only I would never publish the stuff. My thoughts about the inhabitants of celestial bodies, for example, belong in that category. For my part, I am (contrary to the usual opinion) convinced … that the larger the cosmic body, the smaller are the inhabitants and other products. For example, on the sun trees, which in the same ratio would be larger than ours, as the sun exceeds the earth in magnitude, would not be able to exist, for on account of the much greater weight on the surface of the sun, all branches would break themselves off, in so far as the materials are not of a sort entirely heterogeneous with those on earth.
Letter to Heinrich Schumacher (7 Nov 1847). Quoted in G. Waldo Dunnington, Carl Friedrich Gauss: Titan of Science (2004), 411.
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In long intervals I have expressed an opinion on public issues whenever they appeared to be so bad and unfortunate that silence would have made me feel guilty of complicity.
…...
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In my considered opinion the peer review system, in which proposals rather than proposers are reviewed, is the greatest disaster visited upon the scientific community in this century. No group of peers would have approved my building the 72-inch bubble chamber. Even Ernest Lawrence told me he thought I was making a big mistake. He supported me because he knew my track record was good. I believe that U.S. science could recover from the stultifying effects of decades of misguided peer reviewing if we returned to the tried-and-true method of evaluating experimenters rather than experimental proposals. Many people will say that my ideas are elitist, and I certainly agree. The alternative is the egalitarianism that we now practice and I’ve seen nearly kill basic science in the USSR and in the People's Republic of China.
Alvarez: Adventures of a Physicist (1987), 200-1.
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In my opinion a mathematician, in so far as he is a mathematician, need not preoccupy himself with philosophy—an opinion, moreover, which has been expressed by many philosophers.
In George Edward Martin, The Foundations of Geometry and the Non-Euclidean Plane (1982), 19.
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In my opinion instruction is very purposeless for such individuals who do no want merely to collect a mass of knowledge, but are mainly interested in exercising (training) their own powers. One doesn't need to grasp such a one by the hand and lead him to the goal, but only from time to time give him suggestions, in order that he may reach it himself in the shortest way.
Letter to Heinrich Schumacher (2 Oct 1808). Quoted in G. Waldo Dunnington, Carl Friedrich Gauss: Titan of Science (2004), 416.
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In my opinion it is not right to bring politics into scientific matters, nor should individuals be held responsible for the government of the country to which they happen to belong.
In Einstein: A Centenary Volume edited by A. P. French (1979).
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In my opinion progress in science is usually made by dropping assumptions.
As quoted from first-hand conversation by Paul Davies, in About Time: Einstein's Unfinished Revolution (1995, 1996), 199.
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In my opinion the English excel in the art of writing text-books for mathematical teaching; as regards the clear exposition of theories and the abundance of excellent examples, carefully selected, very few books exist in other countries which can compete with those of Salmon and many other distinguished English authors that could be named.
In Projective Geometry (1886), Preface.
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In my opinion the separation of the c- and ac-stars is the most important advancement in stellar classification since the trials by Vogel and Secchi ... To neglect the c-properties in classifying stellar spectra, I think, is nearly the same thing as if a zoologist, who has detected the deciding differences between a whale and a fish, would continue classifying them together.
Letter to Edward Pickering (22 Jul 1908). In Charles Coulston Gillespie (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1974), Vol. 9, 194.
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In my opinion there is no other salvation for civilization and even for the human race than the creation of a world government with security on the basis of law. As long as there are sovereign states with their separate armaments and armament secrets, new world wars cannot be avoided.
Interview comment reported in 'For a World Government: Einstein Says This is Only Way to Save Mankind', New York Times (15 Sep 1945), 11.
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In my opinion, there is absolutely no trustworthy proof that talents have been improved by their exercise through the course of a long series of generations. The Bach family shows that musical talent, and the Bernoulli family that mathematical power, can be transmitted from generation to generation, but this teaches us nothing as to the origin of such talents. In both families the high-watermark of talent lies, not at the end of the series of generations, as it should do if the results of practice are transmitted, but in the middle. Again, talents frequently appear in some member of a family which has not been previously distinguished.
In 'On Heredity', Essays upon Heredity and Kindred Biological Problems (1889), Vol. 1, 95-96.
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In my studies of astronomy and philosophy I hold this opinion about the universe, that the Sun remains fixed in the centre of the circle of heavenly bodies, without changing its place; and the Earth, turning upon itself, moves round the Sun.
Letter to Cristina di Lorena, Grand Duchess of Tuscany (the mother of his patron Cosmo), 1615. Quoted in Sedley Taylor, 'Galileo and Papal Infallibility' (Dec 1873), in Macmillan's Magazine: November 1873 to April 1874 (1874) Vol 29, 93.
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In my work I now have the comfortable feeling that I am so to speak on my own ground and territory and almost certainly not competing in an anxious race and that I shall not suddenly read in the literature that someone else had done it all long ago. It is really at this point that the pleasure of research begins, when one is, so to speak, alone with nature and no longer worries about human opinions, views and demands. To put it in a way that is more learned than clear: the philological aspect drops out and only the philosophical remains.
In Davis Baird, R.I.G. Hughes and Alfred Nordmann, Heinrich Hertz: Classical Physicist, Modern Philosopher (1998), 157.
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In order to comprehend and fully control arithmetical concepts and methods of proof, a high degree of abstraction is necessary, and this condition has at times been charged against arithmetic as a fault. I am of the opinion that all other fields of knowledge require at least an equally high degree of abstraction as mathematics,—provided, that in these fields the foundations are also everywhere examined with the rigour and completeness which is actually necessary.
In 'Die Theorie der algebraischen Zahlkorper', Vorwort, Jahresbericht der Deutschen Mathematiker Vereinigung, Bd. 4.
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In science, address the few; in literature, the many. In science, the few must dictate opinion to the many; in literature, the many, sooner or later, force their judgement on the few. But the few and the many are not necessarily the few and the many of the passing time: for discoverers in science have not un-often, in their own day, had the few against them; and writers the most permanently popular not unfrequently found, in their own day, a frigid reception from the many. By the few, I mean those who must ever remain the few, from whose dieta we, the multitude, take fame upon trust; by the many, I mean those who constitute the multitude in the long-run. We take the fame of a Harvey or a Newton upon trust, from the verdict of the few in successive generations; but the few could never persuade us to take poets and novelists on trust. We, the many, judge for ourselves of Shakespeare and Cervantes.
Caxtoniana: A Series of Essays on Life, Literature, and Manners (1863), Vol. 2, 329- 30.
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In the discovery of hidden things and the investigation of hidden causes, stronger reasons are obtained from sure experiments and demonstrated arguments than from probable conjectures and the opinions of philosophical speculators of the common sort...
De Magnete (1600). In William Gilbert and P. Fleury Mottelay (trans.), William Gilbert of Colchester, physician of London: On the load stone and magnetic bodies (1893), xlvii.
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In the mountains of Parma and Piacenza, multitudes of shells and corals filled with worm-holes may be seen still adhering to the rocks, and when I was making the great horse at Milan a large sack of those which had been found in these parts was brought to my workshop by some peasants... The red stone of the mountains of Verona is found with shells all intermingled, which have become part of this stone... And if you should say that these shells have been and still constantly are being created in such places as these by the nature of the locality or by potency of the heavens in these spots, such an opinion cannot exist in brains possessed of any extensive powers of reasoning because the years of their growth are numbered upon the outer coverings of their shells; and both small and large ones may be seen; and these would not have grown without feeding, or fed without movement, and here [embedded in rock] they would not have been able to move... The peaks of the Apennines once stood up in a sea, in the form of islands surrounded by salt water... and above the plains of Italy where flocks of birds are flying today, fishes were once moving in large shoals.
'Physical Geography', in The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, trans. E. MacCurdy (1938), Vol. 1, 355-6, 359.
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In the world of science, however, these sentiments have never been of much account. There everything depends on making opinion prevail and dominate; few men are really independent; the majority draws the individual after it.
In The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe (1906), 191.
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Increasingly, our leaders must deal with dangers that threaten the entire world, where an understanding of those dangers and the possible solutions depends on a good grasp of science. The ozone layer, the greenhouse effect, acid rain, questions of diet and heredity. All require scientific literacy. Can Americans choose the proper leaders and support the proper programs if they themselves are scientifically illiterate? The whole premise of democracy is that it is safe to leave important questions to the court of public opinion—but is it safe to leave them to the court of public ignorance?
In Los Angeles Times (31 Mar 1989).
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Indeed the modern developments of mathematics constitute not only one of the most impressive, but one of the most characteristic, phenomena of our age. It is a phenomenon, however, of which the boasted intelligence of a “universalized” daily press seems strangely unaware; and there is no other great human interest, whether of science or of art, regarding which the mind of the educated public is permitted to hold so many fallacious opinions and inferior estimates.
In Lectures on Science, Philosophy and Arts (1908), 8.
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It has often been said that, to make discoveries, one must be ignorant. This opinion, mistaken in itself, nevertheless conceals a truth. It means that it is better to know nothing than to keep in mind fixed ideas based on theories whose confirmation we constantly seek, neglecting meanwhile everything that fails to agree with them.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 37.
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It is admitted by all that a finished or even a competent reasoner is not the work of nature alone; the experience of every day makes it evident that education develops faculties which would otherwise never have manifested their existence. It is, therefore, as necessary to learn to reason before we can expect to be able to reason, as it is to learn to swim or fence, in order to attain either of those arts. Now, something must be reasoned upon, it matters not much what it is, provided it can be reasoned upon with certainty. The properties of mind or matter, or the study of languages, mathematics, or natural history, may be chosen for this purpose. Now of all these, it is desirable to choose the one which admits of the reasoning being verified, that is, in which we can find out by other means, such as measurement and ocular demonstration of all sorts, whether the results are true or not. When the guiding property of the loadstone was first ascertained, and it was necessary to learn how to use this new discovery, and to find out how far it might be relied on, it would have been thought advisable to make many passages between ports that were well known before attempting a voyage of discovery. So it is with our reasoning faculties: it is desirable that their powers should be exerted upon objects of such a nature, that we can tell by other means whether the results which we obtain are true or false, and this before it is safe to trust entirely to reason. Now the mathematics are peculiarly well adapted for this purpose, on the following grounds:
1. Every term is distinctly explained, and has but one meaning, and it is rarely that two words are employed to mean the same thing.
2. The first principles are self-evident, and, though derived from observation, do not require more of it than has been made by children in general.
3. The demonstration is strictly logical, taking nothing for granted except self-evident first principles, resting nothing upon probability, and entirely independent of authority and opinion.
4. When the conclusion is obtained by reasoning, its truth or falsehood can be ascertained, in geometry by actual measurement, in algebra by common arithmetical calculation. This gives confidence, and is absolutely necessary, if, as was said before, reason is not to be the instructor, but the pupil.
5. There are no words whose meanings are so much alike that the ideas which they stand for may be confounded. Between the meaning of terms there is no distinction, except a total distinction, and all adjectives and adverbs expressing difference of degrees are avoided.
In On the Study and Difficulties of Mathematics (1898), chap. 1.
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It is contrary to the usual practice of professional men to give their opinions upon each other's work unless regularly called upon in the way of their profession.
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It is idle to dispute with old men. Their opinions, like their cranial sutures, are ossified.
In Charlas de Café as cited in Peter McDonald (ed.) Oxford Dictionary of Medical Quotations (2004), 83.
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It is impossible for the strength of an elderly person to be great. Some physicians think that children also do not have great strength, but they are mistaken in their opinion.
As quoted in Robert Taylor, White Coat Tales: Medicine's Heroes, Heritage, and Misadventures (2010), 125.
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It is indeed an Opinion strangely prevailing amongst Men, that Houses, Mountains, Rivers, and in a word all sensible Objects have an Existence Natural or Real, distinct from their being perceived by the Understanding. But with how great an Assurance and Acquiescence soever this Principle may be entertained in the World; yet whoever shall find in his Heart to call it in Question, may, if I mistake not, perceive it to involve a manifest Contradiction. For what are the forementioned Objects but the things we perceive by Sense, and what do we perceive besides our own Ideas or Sensations; and is it not plainly repugnant that anyone of these or any Combination of them should exist unperceived?
A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge [first published 1710], (1734),38.
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It is not surprising, in view of the polydynamic constitution of the genuinely mathematical mind, that many of the major heros of the science, men like Desargues and Pascal, Descartes and Leibnitz, Newton, Gauss and Bolzano, Helmholtz and Clifford, Riemann and Salmon and Plücker and Poincaré, have attained to high distinction in other fields not only of science but of philosophy and letters too. And when we reflect that the very greatest mathematical achievements have been due, not alone to the peering, microscopic, histologic vision of men like Weierstrass, illuminating the hidden recesses, the minute and intimate structure of logical reality, but to the larger vision also of men like Klein who survey the kingdoms of geometry and analysis for the endless variety of things that flourish there, as the eye of Darwin ranged over the flora and fauna of the world, or as a commercial monarch contemplates its industry, or as a statesman beholds an empire; when we reflect not only that the Calculus of Probability is a creation of mathematics but that the master mathematician is constantly required to exercise judgment—judgment, that is, in matters not admitting of certainty—balancing probabilities not yet reduced nor even reducible perhaps to calculation; when we reflect that he is called upon to exercise a function analogous to that of the comparative anatomist like Cuvier, comparing theories and doctrines of every degree of similarity and dissimilarity of structure; when, finally, we reflect that he seldom deals with a single idea at a tune, but is for the most part engaged in wielding organized hosts of them, as a general wields at once the division of an army or as a great civil administrator directs from his central office diverse and scattered but related groups of interests and operations; then, I say, the current opinion that devotion to mathematics unfits the devotee for practical affairs should be known for false on a priori grounds. And one should be thus prepared to find that as a fact Gaspard Monge, creator of descriptive geometry, author of the classic Applications de l’analyse à la géométrie; Lazare Carnot, author of the celebrated works, Géométrie de position, and Réflections sur la Métaphysique du Calcul infinitesimal; Fourier, immortal creator of the Théorie analytique de la chaleur; Arago, rightful inheritor of Monge’s chair of geometry; Poncelet, creator of pure projective geometry; one should not be surprised, I say, to find that these and other mathematicians in a land sagacious enough to invoke their aid, rendered, alike in peace and in war, eminent public service.
In Lectures on Science, Philosophy and Art (1908), 32-33.
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It is not worth a first class man’s time to express a majority opinion. By definition, there are already enough people to do that.
Quoted in the foreward to A Mathematician's Apology (1941, reprint with Foreward by C.P. Snow 1992), 46.
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It is possible to read books on Natural History with intelligence and profit, and even to make good observations, without a scientific groundwork of biological instruction; and it is possible to arrive at empirical facts of hygiene and medical treatment without any physiological instruction. But in all three cases the absence of a scientific basis will render the knowledge fragmentary and incomplete; and this ought to deter every one from offering an opinion on debatable questions which pass beyond the limit of subjective observations. The psychologist who has not prepared himself by a study of the organism has no more right to be heard on the genesis of the psychical states, or of the relations between body and mind, than one of the laity has a right to be heard on a question of medical treatment.
The Physical Basis of Mind (1877), 4.
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It is the man of science, eager to have his every opinion regenerated, his every idea rationalised, by drinking at the fountain of fact, and devoting all the energies of his life to the cult of truth, not as he understands it, but as he does not understand it, that ought properly to be called a philosopher. To an earlier age knowledge was power—merely that and nothing more—to us it is life and the summum bonum.
As quoted in Sir Richard Gregory, Discovery: Or, The Spirit and Service of Science (1916), 24.
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It is the reciprocity of these appearances—that each party should think the other has contracted—that is so difficult to realise. Here is a paradox beyond even the imagination of Dean Swift. Gulliver regarded the Lilliputians as a race of dwarfs; and the Lilliputians regarded Gulliver as a giant. That is natural. If the Lilliputians had appeared dwarfs to Gulliver, and Gulliver had appeared a dwarf to the Lilliputians—but no! that is too absurd for fiction, and is an idea only to be found in the sober pages of science. …It is not only in space but in time that these strange variations occur. If we observed the aviator carefully we should infer that he was unusually slow in his movements; and events in the conveyance moving with him would be similarly retarded—as though time had forgotten to go on. His cigar lasts twice as long as one of ours. …But here again reciprocity comes in, because in the aviator’s opinion it is we who are travelling at 161,000 miles a second past him; and when he has made all allowances, he finds that it is we who are sluggish. Our cigar lasts twice as long as his.
In Space, Time and Gravitation: An Outline of the General Relativity Theory (1920, 1921), 23-24.
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It is true that Fourier had the opinion that the principal end of mathematics was public utility and the explanation of natural phenomena; but a philosopher as he is should have known that the unique end of science is the honor of the human mind and that from this point of view a question of [the theory of] number is as important as a question of the system of the world.
From letter to Legendre, translation as given in F.R. Moulton, 'The Influence of Astronomy on Mathematics', Science (10 Mar 1911), N.S. Vol. 33, No. 845, 359. A different translation begins, “It is true that M. Fourier believed…” on the Karl Jacobi Quotes web page on this site.
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It is true that M. Fourier believed that the main aim of mathematics was public utility and the explanation of natural phenomena; but a philosopher of his ability ought to have known that the sole aim of science is the honour of the human intellect, and that on this ground a problem in numbers is as important as a problem on the system of the world.
In Letter to Legendre, as quoted in an Address by Emile Picard to the Congress of Science and Art, St. Louis (22 Sep 1904), translated in 'Development of Mathematical Analysis', The Mathematical Gazette (Jul 1905), 3, No. 52, 200. A different translation begins, “It is true that Fourier had the opinion…” on the Karl Jacobi Quotes web page on this site.
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It is useless for the sheep to pass resolutions in favour of vegetarianism, while the wolf remains of a different opinion.
Dean Inge
In 'Patriotism' (Aug 1919), Outspoken Essays (1919), 42-43.
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It must, however, be confessed that this species of scepticism, when more moderate, may be understood in a very reasonable sense, and is a necessary preparative to the study of philosophy by preserving a proper impartiality in our judgments and weaning our mind from all those prejudices which we may have imbibed from education or rash opinion.
From 'An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding', Sec. 7, Pt. 1, collected in Essays and Treatises on Various Subjects: With a Brief Sketch of the (1849), 85.
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It often happens that men, even of the best understandings and greatest circumspection, are guilty of that fault in reasoning which the writers on logick call the insufficient, or imperfect enumeration of parts, or cases: insomuch that I will venture to assert, that this is the chief, and almost the only, source of the vast number of erroneous opinions, and those too very often in matters of great importance, which we are apt to form on all the subjects we reflect upon, whether they relate to the knowledge of nature, or the merits and motives of human actions. It must therefore be acknowledged, that the art which affords a cure to this weakness, or defect, of our understandings, and teaches us to enumerate all the possible ways in which a given number of things may be mixed and combined together, that we may be certain that we have not omitted anyone arrangement of them that can lead to the object of our inquiry, deserves to be considered as most eminently useful and worthy of our highest esteem and attention. And this is the business of the art, or doctrine of combinations ... It proceeds indeed upon mathematical principles in calculating the number of the combinations of the things proposed: but by the conclusions that are obtained by it, the sagacity of the natural philosopher, the exactness of the historian, the skill and judgement of the physician, and the prudence and foresight of the politician, may be assisted; because the business of all these important professions is but to form reasonable conjectures concerning the several objects which engage their attention, and all wise conjectures are the results of a just and careful examination of the several different effects that may possibly arise from the causes that are capable of producing them.
Ars conjectandi (1713). In F. Maseres, The Doctrine of Permutations and Combinations (1795), 36.
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It was his [Leibnitz’s] love of method and order, and the conviction that such order and harmony existed in the real world, and that our success in understanding it depended upon the degree and order which we could attain in our own thoughts, that originally was probably nothing more than a habit which by degrees grew into a formal rule. This habit was acquired by early occupation with legal and mathematical questions. We have seen how the theory of combinations and arrangements of elements had a special interest for him. We also saw how mathematical calculations served him as a type and model of clear and orderly reasoning, and how he tried to introduce method and system into logical discussions, by reducing to a small number of terms the multitude of compound notions he had to deal with. This tendency increased in strength, and even in those early years he elaborated the idea of a general arithmetic, with a universal language of symbols, or a characteristic which would be applicable to all reasoning processes, and reduce philosophical investigations to that simplicity and certainty which the use of algebraic symbols had introduced into mathematics.
A mental attitude such as this is always highly favorable for mathematical as well as for philosophical investigations. Wherever progress depends upon precision and clearness of thought, and wherever such can be gained by reducing a variety of investigations to a general method, by bringing a multitude of notions under a common term or symbol, it proves inestimable. It necessarily imports the special qualities of number—viz., their continuity, infinity and infinite divisibility—like mathematical quantities—and destroys the notion that irreconcilable contrasts exist in nature, or gaps which cannot be bridged over. Thus, in his letter to Arnaud, Leibnitz expresses it as his opinion that geometry, or the philosophy of space, forms a step to the philosophy of motion—i.e., of corporeal things—and the philosophy of motion a step to the philosophy of mind.
In Leibnitz (1884), 44-45. [The first sentence is reworded to better introduce the quotation. —Webmaster]
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It was not just the Church that resisted the heliocentrism of Copernicus. Many prominent figures, in the decades following the 1543 publication of De Revolutionibus, regarded the Copernican model of the universe as a mathematical artifice which, though it yielded astronomical predictions of superior accuracy, could not be considered a true representation of physical reality: 'If Nicolaus Copernicus, the distinguished and incomparable master, in this work had not been deprived of exquisite and faultless instruments, he would have left us this science far more well-established. For he, if anybody, was outstanding and had the most perfect understanding of the geometrical and arithmetical requisites for building up this discipline. Nor was he in any respect inferior to Ptolemy; on the contrary, he surpassed him greatly in certain fields, particularly as far as the device of fitness and compendious harmony in hypotheses is concerned. And his apparently absurd opinion that the Earth revolves does not obstruct this estimate, because a circular motion designed to go on uniformly about another point than the very center of the circle, as actually found in the Ptolemaic hypotheses of all the planets except that of the Sun, offends against the very basic principles of our discipline in a far more absurd and intolerable way than does the attributing to the Earth one motion or another which, being a natural motion, turns out to be imperceptible. There does not at all arise from this assumption so many unsuitable consequences as most people think.'
from Letter to Christopher Rothman, 20 Jan 1587
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It was not noisy prejudice that caused the work of Mendel to lie dead for thirty years, but the sheer inability of contemporary opinion to distinguish between a new idea and nonsense.
In 'The Commemoration of Great Men', British Medical Journal (20 Feb 1932). In The Adelphi (1932), 4, 480, and in The Collected Papers of Wilfred Trotter, FRS (1941), 27.
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It [analysis] lacks at this point such plan and unity that it is really amazing that it can be studied by so many people. The worst is that it has not at all been treated with rigor. There are only a few propositions in higher analysis that have been demonstrated with complete rigor. Everywhere one finds the unfortunate manner of reasoning from the particular to the general, and it is very unusual that with such a method one finds, in spite of everything, only a few of what many be called paradoxes. It is really very interesting to seek the reason.
In my opinion that arises from the fact that the functions with which analysis has until now been occupied can, for the most part, be expressed by means of powers. As soon as others appear, something that, it is true, does not often happen, this no longer works and from false conclusions there flow a mass of incorrect propositions.
From a letter to his professor Hansteen in Christiania, Oslo in Correspondence (1902), 23 . In Umberto Bottazzini and Warren Van Egmond, The Higher Calculus (1986), 87-88.
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Kepler’s discovery would not have been possible without the doctrine of conics. Now contemporaries of Kepler—such penetrating minds as Descartes and Pascal—were abandoning the study of geometry ... because they said it was so UTTERLY USELESS. There was the future of the human race almost trembling in the balance; for had not the geometry of conic sections already been worked out in large measure, and had their opinion that only sciences apparently useful ought to be pursued, the nineteenth century would have had none of those characters which distinguish it from the ancien régime.
From 'Lessons from the History of Science: The Scientific Attitude' (c.1896), in Collected Papers (1931), Vol. 1, 32.
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Mathematical science is in my opinion an indivisible whole, an organism whose vitality is conditioned upon the connection of its parts. For with all the variety of mathematical knowledge, we are still clearly conscious of the similarity of the logical devices, the relationship of the ideas in mathematics as a whole and the numerous analogies in its different departments.
In 'Mathematical Problems', Bulletin American Mathematical Society, 8, 478.
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Mr Humphry Davy is a lively and talented man, and a thorough chemist; but if I might venture to give an opinion... he is rather too lively to fill the Chair of the Royal Society with that degree of gravity it is most becoming to assume.
Sir Joseph Banks, President of the Royal Society. Quoted in John Barrow, Sketches of the Royal Society (1849), 52.
Royal Society;Davy_Humphry
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Mr Justus Liebig is no doubt a very clever gentleman and a most profound chemist, but in our opinion he knows as much of agriculture as the horse that ploughs the ground, and there is not an old man that stands between the stilts of a plough in Virginia, that cannot tell him of facts totally at variance with his finest spun theories.
Magazine
The Southern Planter (1845), 3, 23.
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My lectures were highly esteemed, but I am of opinion my operations rather kept down my practice, than increased it.
Quoted in Bransby Blake Cooper, The Life of Sir Astley Cooper (1843), Vol. 2, 471.
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My Opinion is this—that deep Thinking is attainable only by a man of deep Feeling, and that all Truth is a species of Revelation. The more I understand of Sir Isaac Newton’s works, the more boldly I dare utter to my own mind … that I believe the Souls of 500 Sir Isaac Newtons would go to the making up of a Shakspere [sic] or a Milton… Mind in his system is always passive—a lazy Looker-on on an external World. If the mind be not passive, if it be indeed made in God's Image, & that too in the sublimest sense—the image of the Creator—there is ground for suspicion, that any system built on the passiveness of the mind must be false, as a system.
Letter to Thomas Poole, 23 March 1801. In Earl Leslie Griggs (ed.), The Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1956), Vol. 2, 709.
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My opinion is, that more harm than good is done by physicians; and I am convinced, that, had I left my patients to nature, instead of prescribing drugs, more would have been saved.
Quoted by E.T.M. Hurlbut, 'Homeopathy, Hygiene, and Opium,' Address at Annual Meeting of the Nebraska State Homeopathic Medical Association, 19 May 1874. In William Riddle Childs, et al., Pamphlets - Homeopathic (1851), Vol. 6, 3.
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My present and most fixed opinion regarding the nature of alcoholic fermentation is this: The chemical act of fermentation is essentially a phenomenon correlative with a vital act, beginning and ending with the latter. I believe that there is never any alcoholic fermentation without their being simultaneously the organization, development, multiplication of the globules, or the pursued, continued life of globules which are already formed.
In 'Memoire sur la fermentation alcoolique', Annales de Chemie et de Physique (1860), 58:3, 359-360, as translated in Joseph S. Fruton, Proteins, Enzymes, Genes: The Interplay of Chemistry and Biology (1999), 137.
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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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Never ask me what I have said or what I have written; but if you will ask what my present opinions are, I will tell you.
As quoted by Drewry Ottley, 'The Life of John Hunter', in James Frederick Palmer (ed.), The Works of John Hunter (1835), Vol. 1, 48.
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New opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they are not already common.
In 'The Epistle Dedicatory', Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), second unnumbered page.
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No! What we need are not prohibitory marriage laws, but a reformed society, an educated public opinion which will teach individual duty in these matters. And it is to the women of the future that I look for the needed reformation. Educate and train women so that they are rendered independent of marriage as a means of gaining a home and a living, and you will bring about natural selection in marriage, which will operate most beneficially upon humanity. When all women are placed in a position that they are independent of marriage, I am inclined to think that large numbers will elect to remain unmarried—in some cases, for life, in others, until they encounter the man of their ideal. I want to see women the selective agents in marriage; as things are, they have practically little choice. The only basis for marriage should be a disinterested love. I believe that the unfit will be gradually eliminated from the race, and human progress secured, by giving to the pure instincts of women the selective power in marriage. You can never have that so long as women are driven to marry for a livelihood.
In 'Heredity and Pre-Natal Influences. An Interview With Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace', Humanitarian (1894), 4, 87.
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Nobody knows how the stand of our knowledge about the atom would be without him. Personally, [Niels] Bohr is one of the amiable colleagues I have met. He utters his opinions like one perpetually groping and never like one who believes himself to be in possession of the truth.
Quoted in Bill Becker, 'Pioneer of the Atom', New York Times Sunday Magazine (20 Oct 1957), 52.
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Nothing is more important than to see the sources of invention which are, in my opinion more interesting than the inventions themselves.
Epigraph, without citation, in R.P. Watkins, Computer Problem Solving (1980). Webmaster has not yet been able to find a primary source. Can you help?
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Now that we locate them [genes] in the chromosomes are we justified in regarding them as material units; as chemical bodies of a higher order than molecules? Frankly, these are questions with which the working geneticist has not much concern himself, except now and then to speculate as to the nature of the postulated elements. There is no consensus of opinion amongst geneticists as to what the genes are—whether they are real or purely fictitious—because at the level at which the genetic experiments lie, it does not make the slightest difference whether the gene is a hypothetical unit, or whether the gene is a material particle. In either case the unit is associated with a specific chromosome, and can be localized there by purely genetic analysis. Hence, if the gene is a material unit, it is a piece of chromosome; if it is a fictitious unit, it must be referred to a definite location in a chromosome—the same place as on the other hypothesis. Therefore, it makes no difference in the actual work in genetics which point of view is taken. Between the characters that are used by the geneticist and the genes that his theory postulates lies the whole field of embryonic development.
'The Relation of Genetics to Physiology and Medicine', Nobel Lecture (4 Jun 1934). In Nobel Lectures, Physiology or Medicine 1922-1941 (1965), 315.
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Observation is simple, indefatigable, industrious, upright, without any preconceived opinion. Experiment is artificial, impatient, busy, digressive; passionate, unreliable. We see every day one experiment after another, the second outweighing the impression gained from the first, both, often enough, carried out by men who are neither much distinguished for their spirit, nor for carrying with them the truth of personality and self denial. Nothing is easier than to make a series of so-called interesting experiments. Nature can only in some way be forced, and in her distress, she will give her suffering answer. Nothing is more difficult than to explain it, nothing is more difficult than a valid physiological experiment. We consider as the first task of current physiology to point at it and comprehend it.
Inaugural lecture as docent of physiology at the University of Bonn (19 Oct) 1824. Published in Johannes Muller, Zur vergleichenden Physiologie des Gesichtssinnes des Menschen und der Thiere (1826), 20.
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Ohm found that the results could be summed up in such a simple law that he who runs may read it, and a schoolboy now can predict what a Faraday then could only guess at roughly. By Ohm's discovery a large part of the domain of electricity became annexed by Coulomb's discovery of the law of inverse squares, and completely annexed by Green's investigations. Poisson attacked the difficult problem of induced magnetisation, and his results, though differently expressed, are still the theory, as a most important first approximation. Ampere brought a multitude of phenomena into theory by his investigations of the mechanical forces between conductors supporting currents and magnets. Then there were the remarkable researches of Faraday, the prince of experimentalists, on electrostatics and electrodynamics and the induction of currents. These were rather long in being brought from the crude experimental state to a compact system, expressing the real essence. Unfortunately, in my opinion, Faraday was not a mathematician. It can scarely be doubted that had he been one, he would have anticipated much later work. He would, for instance, knowing Ampere's theory, by his own results have readily been led to Neumann’s theory, and the connected work of Helmholtz and Thomson. But it is perhaps too much to expect a man to be both the prince of experimentalists and a competent mathematician.
From article 'Electro-magnetic Theory II', in The Electrician (16 Jan 1891), 26, No. 661, 331.
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On Sept 15th [1852] Mr Goulburn, Chancellor of the Exchequer, asked my opinion on the utility of Mr Babbage's calculating machine, and the propriety of spending further sums of money on it. I replied, entering fully into the matter, and giving my opinion that it was worthless.
In George Biddell Airy and Wilfrid Airy (ed.), Autobiography of Sir George Biddell Airy (1896), 152.
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Our advice is that every man should remain in the path he has struck out for himself, and refuse to be overawed by authority, hampered by prevalent opinion, or carried away by fashion.
In The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe (1906), 188-189.
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Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.
In A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom (State of Virginia, 1779). Jefferson declared he had drafted it in 1777, but it was not until he had just taken office as governor of Virginia that the Bill was presented to the General Assembly of Virginia, by Harvie, on 12 Jun 1779. It was not passed, though a broadside was printed (privately?) and circulated for the consideration of the people. It was eventually passed 16 Dec 1785.
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People have now a-days got a strange opinion that every thing should be taught by lectures. Now, I cannot see that lectures can do as much good as reading the books from which the lectures are taken.
Entry for Feb 1776. In George Birkbeck-Hill (ed.), Boswell's Life of Johnson (1934-50), Vol. 2, 7.
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People have now-a-days got a strange opinion that everything should be taught by lectures. Now, I cannot see that lectures can do so much good as reading the books from which the lectures are taken. I know nothing that can best be taught by lectures, except where experiments are to be shewn. You may teach chemistry by lectures.
Elements of Chemistry (1830)
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Perfections of means and confusion of goals seem—in my opinion to characterize our age.
In Out of My Later Years (1950, 1956), 113. Footnoted on page 277 as from 'The Common Language of Science', a broadcast recording for the Science Conference, London (28 Sep 1941) and published in Advancement of Science, 2, No. 5, 16.
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Persecution is used in theology, not in arithmetic, because in arithmetic there is knowledge, but in theology there is only opinion. So whenever you find yourself getting angry about a difference of opinion, be on your guard, you will probably find, on examination, that your belief is going beyond what the evidence warrants?
In An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish (1943), 22.
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Philosophers say, that Man is a Microcosm, or little World, resembling in Miniature every Part of the Great: And, in my Opinion, the Body Natural may be compared to the Body Politic: and if this be so, how can the Epicureans Opinion be true, that the Universe was formed by a fortuitous Concourse of Atoms; which I will no more believe, than that the accidental Jumbling of the Letters of the Alphabet, could fall by Chance into a most ingenious and learned Treatise of Philosophy. Risum teneatis Amici, Hor.
In 'A Tritical Essay Upon the Faculties of the Mind' (6 Aug 1707), collected in various volumes and editions, for example, The Works of J.S, D.D, D.S.P.D.: Volume 1: Miscellanies in Prose (1739), 173. An earlier, undated, fourth volume of Miscellanies gives the 6 Aug 1707 date the essay was written. The final Latin phrase can be translated as, “Can you help laughing, friends?” attributed to Horace. In Jonathan Swift and Temple Scott (ed.), The Prose Works of Jonathan Swift: A Tale of a Tub: the Battle of the Books, and Other Early Works (1897, reprint 1907), Vol. 1, 291, the editor footnotes that “this essay is a parody on the pseudo-philosophical essays of the time, in which all sense was lost in the maze of inconsequential quotations.” Indeed, the rest of the essay is, by design, a jumble of disjointed thoughts and makes next to no sense.
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Philosophy is that part of science which at present people chose to have opinions about, but which they have no knowledge about. Therefore every advance in knowledge robs philosophy of some problems which formerly it had …and will belong to science.
'The Philosophy of Logical Atomism' (1918). In Betrand Russell and Robert Charles Marsh (Ed.), Logic and Knowledge: Essays, 1901-1950 (1988), 281.
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Physical science comes nearest to that complete system of exact knowledge which all sciences have before them as an ideal. Some fall far short of it. The physicist who inveighs against the lack of coherence and the indefiniteness of theological theories, will probably speak not much less harshly of the theories of biology and psychology. They also fail to come up to his standard of methodology. On the other side of him stands an even superior being—the pure mathematician—who has no high opinion of the methods of deduction used in physics, and does not hide his disapproval of the laxity of what is accepted as proof in physical science. And yet somehow knowledge grows in all these branches. Wherever a way opens we are impelled to seek by the only methods that can be devised for that particular opening, not over-rating the security of our finding, but conscious that in this activity of mind we are obeying the light that is in our nature.
Swarthmore Lecture (1929) at Friends’ House, London, printed in Science and the Unseen World (1929), 77-78.
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Physics is NOT a body of indisputable and immutable Truth; it is a body of well-supported probable opinion only .... Physics can never prove things the way things are proved in mathematics, by eliminating ALL of the alternative possibilities. It is not possible to say what the alternative possibilities are.... Write down a number of 20 figures; if you multiply this by a number of, say, 30 figures, you would arrive at some enormous number (of either 49 or 50 figures). If you were to multiply the 30-figure number by the 20-figure number you would arrive at the same enormous 49- or 50-figure number, and you know this to be true without having to do the multiplying. This is the step you can never take in physics.
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 68, 88, 179.
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Poore soule, in this thy flesh what do'st thou know?
Thou know'st thy selfe so little, as thou know'st not.
How thou did'st die, nor how thou wast begot.
Thou neither know'st how thou at first camest in,
Nor how thou took'st the poyson of mans sin.
Nor dost thou, (though thou know'st, that thou art so)
By what way thou art made immortall, know.
Thou art too narrow, wretch, to comprehend
Even thy selfe; yea though thou wouldst but bend
To know thy body. Have not all soules thought
For many ages, that our body'is wrought
Of Ayre, and Fire, and other Elements?
And now they thinke of new ingredients,
And one soule thinkes one, and another way
Another thinkes, and 'tis an even lay.
Knowst thou but how the stone doth enter in
The bladder's Cave, and never breake the skin?
Knowst thou how blood, which to the hart doth flow,
Doth from one ventricle to th'other go?
And for the putrid stuffe, which thou dost spit,
Knowst thou how thy lungs have attracted it?
There are no passages, so that there is
(For aught thou knowst) piercing of substances.
And of those many opinions which men raise
Of Nailes and Haires, dost thou know which to praise?
What hope have we to know our selves, when wee
Know not the least things, which for our use bee?
Of the Progresse of the Soule. The Second Anniversarie, I. 254-280. The Works of John Donne (Wordsworth edition 1994), 196-7.
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Professor Whitehead has recently restored a seventeenth century phrase—"climate of opinion." The phrase is much needed. Whether arguments command assent or not depends less upon the logic that conveys them than upon the climate of opinion in which they are sustained.
In The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers (1932, 2003), 5
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Rampant scientific illiteracy in the general public is, in my opinion, one major cause of the current lack of opportunities for scientists. … A public that is ignorant of science, and of how science is done, is not going to support scientific research enthusiastically.
Alan Hale
In 'Shattered Hopes and Dreams: The Dim Prospect for Careers in Science', Chronicle of Higher Education (5 Dec 1997). As cited in chapter 13 epigraph, Daniel S. Greenberg, Science, Money, and Politics: Political Triumph and Ethical Erosion (2003), 205.
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Refusing to have an opinion is a way of having one, isn’t it?
From the original Italian, “E non le sembra già questa un’opinione?” in Ciascuno a Suo Modo (1925), 4. English translation in 17 Plays: Sophocles to Baraka (1976), 596.
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Science begets knowledge; opinion, ignorance.
In Fielding Hudson Garrison, An Introduction to the History of Medicine (1929), 14.
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Science embraces the facts and debates opinion; religion embraces opinion and debates the facts.
In The Well-Spoken Thesaurus (2011), 58.
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Science has hitherto been proceeding without the guidance of any rational theory of logic, and has certainly made good progress. It is like a computer who is pursuing some method of arithmetical approximation. Even if he occasionally makes mistakes in his ciphering, yet if the process is a good one they will rectify themselves. But then he would approximate much more rapidly if he did not commit these errors; and in my opinion, the time has come when science ought to be provided with a logic. My theory satisfies me; I can see no flaw in it. According to that theory universality, necessity, exactitude, in the absolute sense of these words, are unattainable by us, and do not exist in nature. There is an ideal law to which nature approximates; but to express it would require an endless series of modifications, like the decimals expressing surd. Only when you have asked a question in so crude a shape that continuity is not involved, is a perfectly true answer attainable.
Letter to G. F. Becker, 11 June 1893. Merrill Collection, Library of Congress. Quoted in Nathan Reingold, Science in Nineteenth-Century America: A Documentary History (1966), 231-2.
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Science, history and politics are not suited for discussion except by experts. Others are simply in the position of requiring more information; and, till they have acquired all available information, cannot do anything but accept on authority the opinions of those better qualified.
The Foundations of Mathematics and Other Logical Essays (1931), Epilogue, 287-8.
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Scientists should always state the opinions upon which their facts are based.
Anonymous
…...
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Significant advances in science often have a peculiar quality: they contradict obvious, commonsense opinions.
A Slot Machine, A Broken Test Tube: An Autobiography (1984).
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Since men are really interested in nothing but their own opinions, every one who puts forward an opinion looks about him right and left for means of strengthening himself and others in it.
In The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe (1906), 193.
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Since the discovery of secret things and in the investigation of hidden causes, stronger reasons are obtained from sure experiments and demonstrated arguments than from probable conjectures and the opinions of philosophical speculators of the common sort; therefore to the end that the noble substance of that great loadstone, our common mother (the earth), still quite unknown, and also the forces extraordinary and exalted of this globe may the better be understood, we have decided first to begin with the common stony and ferruginous matter, and magnetic bodies, and the parts of the earth that we may handle and may perceive with the senses; then to proceed with plain magnetic experiments, and to penetrate to the inner parts of the earth.
On the Loadstone and Magnetic Bodies and on the Great Magnet the Earth: A New Physiology, Demonstrated with many Arguments and Experiments (1600), trans. P. Fleury Mottelay (1893), Author’s Preface, xlvii.
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So many people today–and even professional scientists–seem to me like someone who has seen thousands of trees but has never seen a forest . A knowledge of the historic and philosophical background gives that kind of independence from prejudices of his generation from which most scientists are suffering. This independence created by philosophical insight is–in my opinion–the mark of distinction between a mere artisan or specialist and a real seeker after truth.
…...
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Some of the scientists, I believe, haven’t they been changing their opinion a little bit on global warming? There’s a lot of differing opinions and before we react I think it’s best to have the full accounting, full understanding of what’s taking place.
Presidential Debate (2000). In Historic Documents of 2000 (2001), 823.
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Taking him for all and all, I think it will be conceded that Michael Faraday was the greatest experimental philosopher the world has ever seen; and I will add the opinion, that the progress of future research will tend, not to dim or to diminish, but to enhance and glorify the labours of this mighty investigator.
Faraday as a Discoverer (1868), 147.
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That a free, or at least an unsaturated acid usually exists in the stomachs of animals, and is in some manner connected with the important process of digestion, seems to have been the general opinion of physiologists till the time of SPALLANZANI. This illustrious philosopher concluded, from his numerous experiments, that the gastric fluids, when in a perfectly natural state, are neither acid nor alkaline. Even SPALLANZANI, however, admitted that the contents of the stomach are very generally acid; and this accords not only with my own observation, but with that, I believe, of almost every individual who has made any experiments on the subject. ... The object of the present communication is to show, that the acid in question is the muriatic [hydrochloric] acid, and that the salts usually met with in the stomach, are the alkaline muriates.
'On the Nature of the Acid and Saline Matters Usually Existing in the Stomachs of Animals', Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London (1824), 114, 45-6.
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That no real Species of Living Creatures is so utterly extinct, as to be lost entirely out of the World, since it was first Created, is the Opinion of many Naturalists; and 'tis grounded on so good a Principle of Providence taking Care in general of all its Animal Productions, that it deserves our Assent. However great Vicissitudes may be observed to attend the Works of Nature, as well as Humane Affairs; so that some entire Species of Animals, which have been formerly Common, nay even numerous in certain Countries; have, in Process of time, been so perfectly soft, as to become there utterly unknown; tho' at the same time it cannot be denyed, but the kind has been carefully preserved in some other part of the World.
'A Discourse concerning the Large Horns frequently found under Ground in Ireland, Concluding from them that the great American Deer, call'd a Moose, was formerly common in that Island: With Remarks on some other things Natural to that Country', Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London (1697), 19, 489.
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That radioactive elements created by us are found in nature is an astounding event in the history of the earth. And of the Human race. To fail to consider its importance and its consequences would be a folly for which humanity would have to pay a terrible price. When public opinion has been created in the countries concerned and among all the nations, an opinion informed of the dangers involved in going on with the tests and led by the reason which this information imposes, then the statesmen may reach an agreement to stop the experiments.
In 'Excerpts from Message by Schweitzer', New York Times (24 Apr 1957), 4, translated from a letter issued by Schweitzer through the Nobel Committee, asking that public opinion demand an end to nuclear tests.
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That science has long been neglected and declining in England, is not an opinion originating with me, but is shared by many, and has been expressed by higher authority than mine. (1830)
In Reflections on the Decline of Science in England, and on Some of Its Causes (1830), Preface, v.
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The arithmetization of mathematics … which began with Weierstrass … had for its object the separation of purely mathematical concepts, such as number and correspondence and aggregate, from intuitional ideas, which mathematics had acquired from long association with geometry and mechanics. These latter, in the opinion of the formalists, are so firmly entrenched in mathematical thought that in spite of the most careful circumspection in the choice of words, the meaning concealed behind these words, may influence our reasoning. For the trouble with human words is that they possess content, whereas the purpose of mathematics is to construct pure thought. But how can we avoid the use of human language? The … symbol. Only by using a symbolic language not yet usurped by those vague ideas of space, time, continuity which have their origin in intuition and tend to obscure pure reason—only thus may we hope to build mathematics on the solid foundation of logic.
In Tobias Dantzig and Joseph Mazur (ed.), Number: The Language of Science (1930, ed. by Joseph Mazur 2007), 99.
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The alternative to the Big Bang is not, in my opinion, the steady state; it is instead the more general theory of continuous creation. Continuous creation can occur in bursts and episodes. These mini-bangs can produce all the wonderful element-building that Fred Hoyle discovered and contributed to cosmology. This kind of element and galaxy formation can take place within an unbounded, non-expanding universe. It will also satisfy precisely the Friedmann solutions of general relativity. It can account very well for all the facts the Big Bang explains—and also for those devastating, contradictory observations which the Big Bang must, at all costs, pretend are not there
In 'Letters: Wrangling Over the Bang', Science News (27 Jul 1991), 140, No. 4, 51. Also quoted in Roy C. Martin, Astronomy on Trial: A Devastating and Complete Repudiation of the Big Bang Fiasco (1999), Appendix I, 217.
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The appearance of Professor Benjamin Peirce, whose long gray hair, straggling grizzled beard and unusually bright eyes sparkling under a soft felt hat, as he walked briskly but rather ungracefully across the college yard, fitted very well with the opinion current among us that we were looking upon a real live genius, who had a touch of the prophet in his make-up.
Writing as a Professor Emeritus at Harvard University, a former student of Peirce, in 'Benjamin Peirce: II. Reminiscences', The American Mathematical Monthly (Jan 1925), 32, No. 1, 5.
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The chemists who uphold dualism are far from being agreed among themselves; nevertheless, all of them in maintaining their opinion, rely upon the phenomena of chemical reactions. For a long time the uncertainty of this method has been pointed out: it has been shown repeatedly, that the atoms put into movement during a reaction take at that time a new arrangement, and that it is impossible to deduce the old arrangement from the new one. It is as if, in the middle of a game of chess, after the disarrangement of all the pieces, one of the players should wish, from the inspection of the new place occupied by each piece, to determine that which it originally occupied.
Chemical Method (1855), 18.
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The complacent manner in which geologists have produced their theories has been extremely amusing; for often with knowledge (and that frequently inaccurate) not extending beyond a given province, they have described the formation of a world with all the detail and air of eye-witnesses. That much good ensues, and that the science is greatly advanced, by the collision of various theories, cannot be doubted. Each party is anxious to support opinions by facts. Thus, new countries are explored, and old districts re-examined; facts come to light that do not suit either party; new theories spring up; and, in the end, a greater insight into the real structure of the earth's surface is obtained.
Sections and Views Illustrative of Geological Phenomena (1830), iii.
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The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor–not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules.
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The fear of meeting the opposition of envy, or the illiberality of ignorance is, no doubt, the frequent cause of preventing many ingenious men from ushering opinions into the world which deviate from common practice. Hence for want of energy, the young idea is shackled with timidity and a useful thought is buried in the impenetrable gloom of eternal oblivion.
A Treatise on the Improvement of Canal Navigation (1796), preface, ix.
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The first principle for the student to recognise, and one to which in after life he will often have to recur, is that his work lies not in the fluctuating balance of men’s opinion, but with the unchangeable facts of nature.
From Address (Oct 1874) delivered at Guy’s Hospital, 'On The Study of Medicine', printed in British Medical journal (1874), 2, 425. Collected in Sir William Withey Gull and Theodore Dyke Acland (ed.), A Collection of the Published Writings of William Withey Gull (1896), 4.
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The Historic Method may be described as the comparison of the forms of an idea, or a usage, or a belief, at any given time, with the earlier forms from which they were evolved, or the later forms into which they were developed and the establishment from such a comparison, of an ascending and descending order among the facts. It consists in the explanation of existing parts in the frame of society by connecting them with corresponding parts in some earlier frame; in the identification of present forms in the past, and past forms in the present. Its main process is the detection of corresponding customs, opinions, laws, beliefs, among different communities, and a grouping of them into general classes with reference to some one common feature. It is a certain way of seeking answers to various questions of origin, resting on the same general doctrine of evolution, applied to moral and social forms, as that which is being applied with so much ingenuity to the series of organic matter.
On Compromise (1874), 22-3.
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The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects, in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusions may remain inviolate.
From Aphorism 46, Novum Organum, Book I (1620). Collected in James Spedding (ed.), The Works of Francis Bacon (1858), Vol. 4, 56.
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The importance of C.F. Gauss for the development of modern physical theory and especially for the mathematical fundament of the theory of relativity is overwhelming indeed; also his achievement of the system of absolute measurement in the field of electromagnetism. In my opinion it is impossible to achieve a coherent objective picture of the world on the basis of concepts which are taken more or less from inner psychological experience.
Quoted in G. Waldo Dunnington, Carl Friedrich Gauss: Titan of Science (2004), 350.
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The important thing in any science is to do the things that can be done. Scientists naturally have a right and a duty to have opinions. But their science gives them no special insight into public affairs. There is a time for scientists and movie stars and people who have flown the Atlantic to restrain their opinions lest they be taken more seriously than they should be.
As quoted in Robert Coughlan, 'Dr. Edward Teller’s Magnificent Obsession', Life (6 Sep 1954), 69.
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The influence of Association over our Opinions and Affections, and its Use in explaining those Things in an accurate and precise Way, which are commonly referred to the Power of Habit and Custom, is a general and indeterminate one.
Observations on Man, His Frame, His Duty, and His Expectations (1749), part 1, 5-6.
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The kinetic concept of motion in classical theory will have to undergo profound modifications. (That is why I also avoided the term “orbit” in my paper throughout.) … We must not bind the atoms in the chains of our prejudices—to which, in my opinion, also belongs the assumption that electron orbits exist in the sense of ordinary mechanics—but we must, on the contrary, adapt our concepts to experience.
Letter to Niels Bohr (12 Dec 1924), in K. von Meyenn (ed.), Wolfgang Pauli - Wissenschaftliche Korrespondenz (1979), Vol. 1, 188. Quoted and cited in Daniel Greenberger, Klaus Hentschel and Friedel Weinert, Compendium of Quantum Physics: Concepts, Experiments, History and Philosophy (2009), 615.
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The knowledge of Natural-History, being Observation of Matters of Fact, is more certain than most others, and in my slender Opinion, less subject to Mistakes than Reasonings, Hypotheses, and Deductions are; ... These are things we are sure of, so far as our Senses are not fallible; and which, in probability, have been ever since the Creation, and will remain to the End of the World, in the same Condition we now find them.
A Voyage to the Islands Madera, Barbados, Nieves, S. Christophers and Jamaica: With the Natural History of the Herbs and Trees, Four-footed Beasts, Fishes, Birds, Insects, Reptiles, &c. of the Last of those Islands (1707), Vol. 1, 1.
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The mathematician pays not the least regard either to testimony or conjecture, but deduces everything by demonstrative reasoning, from his definitions and axioms. Indeed, whatever is built upon conjecture, is improperly called science; for conjecture may beget opinion, but cannot produce knowledge.
In Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man, Essay 1, chap. 3.
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The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express his opinions courageously and honestly.
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The more efficient causes of progress seem to consist of a good education during youth whilst the brain is impressible, and of a high standard of excellence, inculcated by the ablest and best men, embodied in the laws, customs and traditions of the nation, and enforced by public opinion. It should, however, be borne in mind, that the enforcement of public opinion depends on our appreciation of the approbation and disapprobation of others; and this appreciation is founded on our sympathy, which it can hardly be doubted was originally developed through natural selection as one of the most important elements of the social instincts.
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The more I think about the physical portion of Schrödinger’s theory, the more repulsive I find it…. What Schrödinger writes about the visualizability of his theory “is probably not quite right”; in other words it’s crap.
Letter to Wolfgang Pauli (8 Jun 1926). 17. In a subsequent letter to Pauli, he referred to Dirac’s theory as “learned crap.”
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The most ominous conflict of our time is the difference of opinion, of outlook, between men of letters, historians, philosophers, the so-called humanists, on the one side and scientists on the other. The gap cannot but increase because of the intolerance of both and the fact that science is growing by leaps and bounds.
The History of Science and the New Humanism (1931), 69.Omnious;Conflict;Difference;Opinion;Outlook;Men OfLetters;Historian;Philosopher;Humanist;So-Called;Scientist;Gap;Intolerance;Fact;Growth;Leap;Bound
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The opinion appears to be gaining ground that this very general conception of functionality, born on mathematical ground, is destined to supersede the narrower notion of causation, traditional in connection with the natural sciences. As an abstract formulation of the idea of determination in its most general sense, the notion of functionality includes and transcends the more special notion of causation as a one-sided determination of future phenomena by means of present conditions; it can be used to express the fact of the subsumption under a general law of past, present, and future alike, in a sequence of phenomena. From this point of view the remark of Huxley that Mathematics “knows nothing of causation” could only be taken to express the whole truth, if by the term “causation” is understood “efficient causation.” The latter notion has, however, in recent times been to an increasing extent regarded as just as irrelevant in the natural sciences as it is in Mathematics; the idea of thorough-going determinancy, in accordance with formal law, being thought to be alone significant in either domain.
In Presidential Address British Association for the Advancement of Science, Sheffield, Section A, Nature (1 Sep 1910), 84, 290.
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The opinion I formed from attentive observation of the facts and phenomena, is as follows. When ice, for example, or any other solid substance, is changing into a fluid by heat, I am of opinion that it receives a much greater quantity of heat than that what is perceptible in it immediately after by the thermometer. A great quantity of heat enters into it, on this occasion, without making it apparently warmer, when tried by that instrument. This heat, however, must be thrown into it, in order to give it the form of a fluid; and I affirm, that this great addition of heat is the principal, and most immediate cause of the fluidity induced. And, on the other hand, when we deprive such a body of its fluidity again, by a diminution of its heat, a very great quantity of heat comes out of it, while it is assuming a solid form, the loss of which heat is not to be perceived by the common manner of using the thermometer. The apparent heat of the body, as measured by that instrument, is not diminished, or not in proportion to the loss of heat which the body actually gives out on this occasion; and it appears from a number of facts, that the state of solidity cannot be induced without the abstraction of this great quantity of heat. And this confirms the opinion, that this quantity of heat, absorbed, and, as it were, concealed in the composition of fluids, is the most necessary and immediate cause of their fluidity.
Lectures on the Elements of Chemistry, delivered in the University of Edinburgh (1803), Vol. I, 116-7.
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The opinion of Bacon on this subject [geometry] was diametrically opposed to that of the ancient philosophers. He valued geometry chiefly, if not solely, on account of those uses, which to Plato appeared so base. And it is remarkable that the longer Bacon lived the stronger this feeling became. When in 1605 he wrote the two books on the Advancement of Learning, he dwelt on the advantages which mankind derived from mixed mathematics; but he at the same time admitted that the beneficial effect produced by mathematical study on the intellect, though a collateral advantage, was “no less worthy than that which was principal and intended.” But it is evident that his views underwent a change. When near twenty years later, he published the De Augmentis, which is the Treatise on the Advancement of Learning, greatly expanded and carefully corrected, he made important alterations in the part which related to mathematics. He condemned with severity the pretensions of the mathematicians, “delidas et faslum mathematicorum.” Assuming the well-being of the human race to be the end of knowledge, he pronounced that mathematical science could claim no higher rank than that of an appendage or an auxiliary to other sciences. Mathematical science, he says, is the handmaid of natural philosophy; she ought to demean herself as such; and he declares that he cannot conceive by what ill chance it has happened that she presumes to claim precedence over her mistress.
In 'Lord Bacon', Edinburgh Review (Jul 1837). Collected in Critical and Miscellaneous Essays: Contributed to the Edinburgh Review (1857), Vol. 1, 395.
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The opinions that are held with passion are always those for which no good ground exists; indeed the passion is the measure of the holders lack of
…...
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The original question, “Can machines think?,” I believe too meaningless to deserve discussion. Nevertheless I believe that at the end of the century the use of words and general educated opinion will have altered so much that one will be able to speak of machines thinking without expecting to be contradicted.
(1950) As quoted in The World of Mathematics (1956), 2083.
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The other book you may have heard of and perhaps read, but it is not one perusal which will enable any man to appreciate it. I have read it through five or six times, each time with increasing admiration. It will live as long as the ‘Principia’ of Newton. It shows that nature is, as I before remarked to you, a study that yields to none in grandeur and immensity. The cycles of astronomy or even the periods of geology will alone enable us to appreciate the vast depths of time we have to contemplate in the endeavour to understand the slow growth of life upon the earth. The most intricate effects of the law of gravitation, the mutual disturbances of all the bodies of the solar system, are simplicity itself compared with the intricate relations and complicated struggle which have determined what forms of life shall exist and in what proportions. Mr. Darwin has given the world a new science, and his name should, in my opinion, stand above that of every philosopher of ancient or modem times. The force of admiration can no further go!!!
Letter to George Silk (1 Sep 1860), in My Life (1905), Vol. I, 372-373.
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The philosophy that I have worked under most of my life is that the serious study of natural history is an activity which has far-reaching effects in every aspect of a person's life. It ultimately makes people protective of the environment in a very committed way. It is my opinion that the study of natural history should be the primary avenue for creating environmentalists.
As quoted in William V. Mealy, Peter Friederici and Roger Tory Peterson Institute, Value in American Wildlife Art: Proceedings of the 1992 Forum (1992), 3.
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The politician … is sometimes tempted to encroach on the normal territory of the scientific estate. Sometimes he interferes directly with the scientist’s pursuit of basic science; but he is more likely to interfere when the scientist proposes to publish findings that upset the established political or economic order, or when he joins with the engineering or medical profession in proposing to translate the findings of science into new policies. … Who decides when the apparent consensus of scientific opinion on the relation of cigarettes to lung cancer is great enough to justify governmental regulatory action, and of what kind? In such issues the problem is less often whether politics will presume to dictate to science than it is how much politics is to be influenced by the new findings of science.
In The Scientific Estate (1965), 201.
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The popularisation of scientific doctrines is producing as great an alteration in the mental state of society as the material applications of science are effecting in its outward life. Such indeed is the respect paid to science, that the most absurd opinions may become current, provided they are expressed in language, the sound of which recals [sic] some well-known scientific phrase.
'Introductory Lecture on Experimental Physics' (1871). In W. D. Niven (ed.), The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1890), Vol. 2, 242.
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The pressure of public opinion is like the pressure of the atmosphere; you can’t see it-but, all the same, it is sixteen pounds to the square inch.
As quoted in Brander Matthews, 'Unfamiliar Quotation', New York Times Book Review and Magazine (2 Apr 1922), 2. Matthews states “I am not certain that I can repeat it [as given above] in his exact words, but it is to this effect. … That sentence was minted by Lowell beyond all question. … I can recall where I got it. Nearly forty years ago … he was visited by Julian Hawthorne [who] wrote a long report” which included “good things” from his conversation with Lowell. The above quote was one of Lowell’s utterances.
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The psychiatric interviewer is supposed to be doing three things: considering what the patient could mean by what he says; considering how he himself can best phrase what he wishes to communicate to the patient; and, at the same time, observing the general pattern of the events being communicated. In addition to that, to make notes which will be of more than evocative value, or come anywhere near being a verbatim record of what is said, in my opinion is beyond the capacity of most human beings.
From The Psychiatric Interview (1954, 1970), 48.
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The public buys its opinions as it buys its meat, or takes in its milk, on the principle that it is cheaper to do this than to keep a cow. So it is, but the milk is more likely to be watered.
Samuel Butler, Henry Festing Jones (ed.), The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1917), 261.
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The recipe for perpetual ignorance is: be satisfied with your opinions and content with your knowledge.
Philistine: A Periodical of Protest (Sep 1902), 15, No. 4, 92.
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The result of all these experiments has given place to a new division of the parts of the human body, which I shall follow in this short essay, by distinguishing those which are susceptible of Irritability and Sensibility, from those which are not. But the theory, why some parts of the human body are endowed with these properties, while others are not, I shall not at all meddle with. For I am persuaded that the source of both lies concealed beyond the reach of the knife and microscope, beyond which I do not chuse to hazard many conjectures, as I have no desire of teaching what I am ignorant of myself. For the vanity of attempting to guide others in paths where we find ourselves in the dark, shews, in my humble opinion, the last degree of arrogance and ignorance.
'A Treatise on the Sensible and Irritable Parts of Animals' (Read 1752). Trans. 1755 and reprinted in Bulletin of the Institute of the History of Medicine, 1936, 4(2), 657-8.
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The scientific method … is nothing but the exclusion of subjective opinions as far as possible, by the devising of experiments where observation can give objective answers, yes or no, to questions whether events are causally connected.
In Science and the Humanities: The Rickman Godlee Lecture Delivered At University College London 25 October 1956 (1956), 12.
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The theory of medicine, therefore, presents what is useful in thought, but does not indicate how it is to be applied in practice—the mode of operation of these principles. The theory, when mastered, gives us a certain kind of knowledge. Thus we say, for example, there are three forms of fevers and nine constitutions. The practice of medicine is not the work which the physician carries out, but is that branch of medical knowledge which, when acquired, enables one to form an opinion upon which to base the proper plan of treatment.
Avicenna
'The Definition of Medicine', in The Canon of Medicine, adapted by L. Bakhtiar (1999), 10.
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The ultimate repository of herd influence is language—a device which not only condenses the opinions of those with whom we share a common vocabulary, but sums up the perceptual approach of swarms who have passed on.
In 'Reality is a Shared Hallucination', Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century (2000), 77.
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The vulgar opinion, then, which, on health reasons, condemns vegetable food and so much praises animal food, being so ill-founded, I have always thought it well to oppose myself to it, moved both by experience and by that refined knowledge of natural things which some study and conversation with great men have given me. And perceiving now that such my constancy has been honoured by some learned and wise physicians with their authoritative adhesion (della autorevole sequela), I have thought it my duty publicly to diffuse the reasons of the Pythagorean diet, regarded as useful in medicine, and, at the same time, as full of innocence, of temperance, and of health. And it is none the less accompanied with a certain delicate pleasure, and also with a refined and splendid luxury (non è privo nemmeno d’una certa delicate voluttà e d’un lusso gentile e splendido ancora), if care and skill be applied in selection and proper supply of the best vegetable food, to which the fertility and the natural character of our beautiful country seem to invite us. For my part I have been so much the more induced to take up this subject, because I have persuaded myself that I might be of service to intending diet-reformers, there not being, to my knowledge, any book of which this is the sole subject, and which undertakes exactly to explain the origin and the reasons of it.
From Dell Vitto Pitagorico (1743), (The Pythagorean Diet: for the Use of the Medical Faculty), as translated quotes in Howard Williams, The Ethics of Diet: A Catena of Authorities Deprecatory of the Practice of Flesh-Eating (1883), 158.
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The whole premise of democracy is that it is safe to leave important questions to the court of public opinion—but is it safe to leave them to the court of public ignorance?
In 'Combatting U.S. Scientific Illiteracy', Los Angeles Times (31 Mar 1989).
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The world hath been much abused by the opinion of making gold; the work itself I judge to be possible; but the means, hitherto propounded, to effect it are, in the practice, full of error and imposture; and in the theory, full of unfound imaginations.
From 'Experiment Solitary Touching the Making of Gold', Sylva Sylvarum: Or, a Natural History (1627), published posthumously by William Rawley. As collected and translated in The Works of Francis Bacon (1765), Vol. 1, 204. As quoted in Samuel Austin Allibone, Prose Quotations From Socrates to Macaulay (1876), 28.
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Their specific effect on the glucosides might thus be explained by assuming that the intimate contact between the molecules necessary for the release of the chemical reaction is possible only with similar geometrical configurations. To give an illustration I will say that enzyme and glucoside must fit together like lock and key in order to be able to exercise a chemical action on each other. This concept has undoubtedly gained in probability and value for stereochemical research, after the phenomenon itself was transferred from the biological to the purely chemical field. It is an extension of the theory of asymmetry without being a direct consequence of it: for the conviction that the geometrical structure of the molecule even for optical isomers exercises such a great influence on the chemical affinities, in my opinion could only be gained by new actual observations.
'Einfluss der Configuration auf die wirkung der Enzyme', Berichte der deutschen Chemischen Gesellschaft, 1894, 27, 2985-93. Trans. B. Holmstedt and G. Liljestrand (eds.) Readings in Pharmacology (1963), 251.
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There are in fact two things, science and opinion; the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance.
The Canon Law sect. 4, in Hippocrates, trans. W. H. S. Jones (1923), Vol. 2, 265. The second part is also seen translated as “Science is the father of knowledge, but opinion breeds ignorance,” as in Hippocratic Writings (1978), 69.
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There are many arts and sciences of which a miner should not be ignorant. First there is Philosophy, that he may discern the origin, cause, and nature of subterranean things; for then he will be able to dig out the veins easily and advantageously, and to obtain more abundant results from his mining. Secondly there is Medicine, that he may be able to look after his diggers and other workman ... Thirdly follows astronomy, that he may know the divisions of the heavens and from them judge the directions of the veins. Fourthly, there is the science of Surveying that he may be able to estimate how deep a shaft should be sunk … Fifthly, his knowledge of Arithmetical Science should be such that he may calculate the cost to be incurred in the machinery and the working of the mine. Sixthly, his learning must comprise Architecture, that he himself may construct the various machines and timber work required underground … Next, he must have knowledge of Drawing, that he can draw plans of his machinery. Lastly, there is the Law, especially that dealing with metals, that he may claim his own rights, that he may undertake the duty of giving others his opinion on legal matters, that he may not take another man’s property and so make trouble for himself, and that he may fulfil his obligations to others according to the law.
In De Re Metallica (1556), trans. H.C. and L.H. Hoover (1950), 3-4.
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There are moments when very little truth would be enough to shape opinion. One might be hated at extremely low cost.
Pensées d'un Biologiste (1939). Translated in The Substance of Man (1962), 151.
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There are no better terms available to describe the difference between the approach of the natural and the social sciences than to call the former ‘objective’ and the latter ‘subjective.’ ... While for the natural scientist the contrast between objective facts and subjective opinions is a simple one, the distinction cannot as readily be applied to the object of the social sciences. The reason for this is that the object, the ‘facts’ of the social sciences are also opinions—not opinions of the student of the social phenomena, of course, but opinions of those whose actions produce the object of the social scientist.
…...
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There can be but one opinion as to the beauty and utility of this analysis of Laplace; but the manner in which it has been hitherto presented has seemed repulsive to the ablest mathematicians, and difficult to ordinary mathematical students.[Co-author with Peter Guthrie Tait.]
In William Thomson Baron Kelvin, Peter Guthrie Tait, Treatise on Natural Philosophy (1879), Vol. 1, Preface, vii.
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There is no art so difficult as the art of observation: it requires a skillful, sober spirit and a well-trained experience, which can only be acquired by practice; for he is not an observer who only sees the thing before him with his eyes, but he who sees of what parts the thing consists, and in what connexion the parts stand to the whole. One person overlooks half from inattention; another relates more than he sees while he confounds it with that which he figures to himself; another sees the parts of the whole, but he throws things together that ought to be separated. ... When the observer has ascertained the foundation of a phenomenon, and he is able to associate its conditions, he then proves while he endeavours to produce the phenomena at his will, the correctness of his observations by experiment. To make a series of experiments is often to decompose an opinion into its individual parts, and to prove it by a sensible phenomenon. The naturalist makes experiments in order to exhibit a phenomenon in all its different parts. When he is able to show of a series of phenomena, that they are all operations of the same cause, he arrives at a simple expression of their significance, which, in this case, is called a Law of Nature. We speak of a simple property as a Law of Nature when it serves for the explanation of one or more natural phenomena.
'The Study of the Natural Sciences: An Introductory Lecture to the Course of Experimental Chemistry in the University of Munich, for the Winter Session of 1852-53,' as translated and republished in The Medical Times and Gazette (22 Jan 1853), N.S. Vol. 6, 82.
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There is no democracy in physics. We can’t say that some second-rate guy has as much right to opinion as Fermi.
Quoted in Daniel S. Greenberg, The Politics of American Science (1968), 43.
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There prevails among men of letters, an opinion, that all appearance of science is particularly hateful to Women; and that therefore whoever desires to be well received in female assemblies, 'must qualify himself by a total rejection of all that is serious, rational, or important; must consider argument or criticism as perpetually interdicted; and devote all his attention to trifles, and all his eloquence to compliment.
The Rambler, Number 173, 12 Nov 1751. In W. J. Bate and Albrecht B. Strauss (eds.), The Rambler (1969), Vol. 3, 152-3.
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There was once an Editor of the Chemical Society, given to dogmatic expressions of opinion, who once duly said firmly that 'isomer' was wrong usage and 'isomeride' was correct, because the ending 'er' always meant a 'do-er'. 'As in water?' snapped Sidgwick.
Obituary of Nevil Vincent Sidgwick by L. E Sutton, Proceedings of the Chemical Society (1958), 318.
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There’s pretty good evidence that we generally don’t truly want good information—but rather information that confirms our prejudices. We may believe intellectually in the clash of opinions, but in practice we like to embed ourselves in the reassuring womb of an echo chamber.
In New York Times (18 Mar 2009).
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This characteristic of modern experiments–that they consist principally of measurements,–is so prominent, that the opinion seems to have got abroad, that in a few years all the great physical constants will have been approximately estimated, and that the only occupation which will then be left to men of science will be to carry these measurements to another place of decimals … But we have no right to think thus of the unsearchable riches of creation, or of the untried fertility of those fresh minds into which these riches will continue to be poured.
Maxwell strongly disagreed with the prominent opinion, and was attacking it. Thus, he was saying he did not believe in such a future of merely making “measurements to another place of decimals.” In 'Introductory Lecture on Experimental Physics', (Oct 1871). In W.D. Niven (ed.), The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1890), Vol. 2, 244. Note that his reference to making measurements to another place of decimals is often seen extracted as a short quote without the context showing - obscuring the fact that he actually despised that opinion.
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