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Rational Quotes (90 quotes)

A hundred years ago, Auguste Compte, … a great philosopher, said that humans will never be able to visit the stars, that we will never know what stars are made out of, that that's the one thing that science will never ever understand, because they're so far away. And then, just a few years later, scientists took starlight, ran it through a prism, looked at the rainbow coming from the starlight, and said: “Hydrogen!” Just a few years after this very rational, very reasonable, very scientific prediction was made, that we'll never know what stars are made of.
Quoted in Nina L. Diamond, Voices of Truth (2000), 332.
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A moment's consideration of this case shows what a really great advance in the theory and practise of breeding has been obtained through the discovery of Mendel's law. What a puzzle this case would have presented to the biologist ten years ago! Agouti crossed with chocolate gives in the second filial generation (not in the first) four varieties, viz., agouti, chocolate, black and cinnamon. We could only have shaken our heads and looked wise (or skeptical).
Then we had no explanation to offer for such occurrences other than the 'instability of color characters under domestication,' the 'effects of inbreeding,' 'maternal impressions.' Serious consideration would have been given to the proximity of cages containing both black and cinnamon-agouti mice.
Now we have a simple, rational explanation, which anyone can put to the test. We are able to predict the production of new varieties, and to produce them.
We must not, of course, in our exuberance, conclude that the powers of the hybridizer know no limits. The result under consideration consists, after all, only in the making of new combinations of unit characters, but it is much to know that these units exist and that all conceivable combinations of them are ordinarily capable of production. This valuable knowledge we owe to the discoverer and to the rediscoverers of Mendel's law.
'New Colour Variety of the Guinea Pig', Science, 1908, 28, 250-252.
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A person who is religiously enlightened appears to me to be one who has, to the best of his ability, liberated himself from the fetters of his selfish desires and is preoccupied with thoughts, feelings, and aspirations to which he clings because of their superpersonal value. It seems to me that what is important is the force of this superpersonal content and the depth of the conviction concerning its overpowering meaningfulness, regardless of whether any attempt is made to unite this content with a divine Being, for otherwise it would not be possible to count Buddha and Spinoza as religious personalities. Accordingly, a religious person is devout in the sense that he has no doubt of the significance and loftiness of those superpersonal objects and goals which neither require nor are capable of rational foundation. They exist with the same necessity and matter-of-factness as he himself. In this sense religion is the age-old endeavor of mankind to become clearly and completely conscious of these values and goals and constantly to strengthen and extend their effect. If one conceives of religion and science according to these definitions then a conflict between them appears impossible. For science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and outside of its domain value judgments of all kinds remain necessary.
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A principle of induction would be a statement with the help of which we could put inductive inferences into a logically acceptable form. In the eyes of the upholders of inductive logic, a principle of induction is of supreme importance for scientific method: “... this principle”, says Reichenbach, “determines the truth of scientific theories. To eliminate it from science would mean nothing less than to deprive science of the power to decide the truth or falsity of its theories. Without it, clearly, science would no longer have the right to distinguish its theories from the fanciful and arbitrary creations of the poet’s mind.” Now this principle of induction cannot be a purely logical truth like a tautology or an analytic statement. Indeed, if there were such a thing as a purely logical principle of induction, there would be no problem of induction; for in this case, all inductive inferences would have to be regarded as purely logical or tautological transformations, just like inferences in inductive logic. Thus the principle of induction must be a synthetic statement; that is, a statement whose negation is not self-contradictory but logically possible. So the question arises why such a principle should be accepted at all, and how we can justify its acceptance on rational grounds.
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After all, we scientific workers … like women, are the victims of fashion: at one time we wear dissociated ions, at another electrons; and we are always loth to don rational clothing; some fixed belief we must have manufactured for us: we are high or low church, of this or that degree of nonconformity, according to the school in which we are brought up—but the agnostic is always rare of us and of late years the critic has been taboo.
'The Thirst of Salted Water or the Ions Overboard', Science Progress (1909), 3, 643.
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Albert Einstein called the intuitive or metaphoric mind a sacred gift. He added that the rational mind is a faithful servant. It it paradoxical that in the context of modern life we have begun to worship the servant and defile the divine.
In The Metaphoric Mind: A Celebration of Creative Consciousness (1976), 26. Note that these words are the author’s own free interpretation Einstein’s views. He is not directly quoting Einstein’s words. No verbatim version appears in Einstein writings. A variant of Samples’ words has become misattributed as an Einstein quote: “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant; we have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
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All important unit operations have much in common, and if the underlying principles upon which the rational design and operation of basic types of engineering equipment depend are understood, their successful adaptation to manufacturing processes becomes a matter of good management rather than of good fortune.
In William H. Walker, Warren K. Lewis and William H. MacAdams, The Principles of Chemical Engineering (1923), Preface to 1st. edition, v.
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And so the great truth, now a paradox, may become a commonplace, that man is greater than his surroundings, and that the production of a breed of men and women, even in our great cities, less prone to disease, and pain, more noble in aspect, more rational in habits, more exultant in the pure joy of living, is not only scientifically possible, but that even the partial fulfillment of this dream, if dream it be, is the most worthy object towards which the lover of his kind can devote the best energies of his life.
In 'The Breed of Man', The Nineteenth Century, (Oct 1900), 669, as collected in Martin Polley (ed.), The History of Sport in Britain, 1880-1914: Sport, Education, and Improvement (2004), Vol. 2, 181.
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At the beginning of its existence as a science, biology was forced to take cognizance of the seemingly boundless variety of living things, for no exact study of life phenomena was possible until the apparent chaos of the distinct kinds of organisms had been reduced to a rational system. Systematics and morphology, two predominantly descriptive and observational disciplines, took precedence among biological sciences during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. More recently physiology has come to the foreground, accompanied by the introduction of quantitative methods and by a shift from the observationalism of the past to a predominance of experimentation.
In Genetics and the Origin of Species (1937, 1982), 6.
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But to proceed; as in order and place, so also in matter of her Creation, Woman far excells Man. things receive their value from the matter they are made of, and the excellent skill of their maker: Pots of common clay must not contend with China-dishes, nor pewter utensils vye dignity with those of silver…. Woman was not composed of any inanimate or vile dirt, but of a more refined and purified substance, enlivened and actuated by a Rational Soul, whose operations speak it a beam, or bright ray of Divinity.
In Female Pre-eminence: Or, The Dignity and Excellency of that Sex above the Male, translation (1670).
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Communism is at once a complete system of proletarian ideology and a new social system. It is different from any other ideological and social system, and is the most complete, progressive, revolutionary, and rational system in human history.
In Mao Tse-Tung: On New Democracy: Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art (1967), 32.
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Darwin’s book is very important and serves me as a basis in natural science for the class struggle in history. One has to put up with the crude English method of development, of course. Despite all deficiencies not only is the death-blow dealt here for the first time to “teleology” in the natural sciences, but their rational meaning is empirically explained.
Karl Marx
Marx to Lasalle, 16 Jan 1861. In Marx-Engels Selected Correspondence, 1846-95, trans. Donna Torr (1934), 125.
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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 in Europe a change has sensibly taken place in the mind of man. Science has liberated the ideas of those who read and reflect, and the American example has kindled feelings of right in the people. An insurrection has consequently begun of science talents and courage against rank and birth, which have fallen into contempt. It has failed in its first effort, because the mobs of the cities, the instrument used for its accomplishment, debased by ignorance, poverty and vice, could not be restrained to rational action. But the world will soon recover from the panic of this first catastrophe.
Letter to John Adams (Monticello, 1813). In Thomas Jefferson and John P. Foley (ed.), The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia (1900), 49. From Paul Leicester Ford (ed.), The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (1892-99). Vol 4, 439.
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Even though the realms of religion and science in themselves are clearly marked off from each other, nevertheless there exist between the two strong reciprocal relationships and dependencies. Though religion may be that which determines the goal, it has, nevertheless, learned from science, in the broadest sense, what means will contribute to the attainment of the goals it has set up. But science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.
From paper 'Science, Philosophy and Religion', prepared for initial meeting of the Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion in Their Relation to the Democratic Way of Life, at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York City (9-11 Sep 1940). Collected in Albert Einstein: In His Own Words (2000), 212.
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Every science begins by accumulating observations, and presently generalizes these empirically; but only when it reaches the stage at which its empirical generalizations are included in a rational generalization does it become developed science.
In The Data of Ethics (1879), 61.
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From whence it is obvious to conclude that, since our Faculties are not fitted to penetrate into the internal Fabrick and real Essences of Bodies; but yet plainly discover to us the Being of a GOD, and the Knowledge of our selves, enough to lead us into a full and clear discovery of our Duty, and great Concernment, it will become us, as rational Creatures, to imploy those Faculties we have about what they are most adapted to, and follow the direction of Nature, where it seems to point us out the way.
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Edited by Peter Nidditch (1975), Book 4, Chapter 12, Section 11, 646.
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Gifford Pinchot is the man to whom the nation owes most for what has been accomplished as regards the preservation of the natural resources of our country. He led, and indeed during its most vital period embodied, the fight for the preservation through use of our forests … He was the foremost leader in the great struggle to coordinate all our social and governmental forces in the effort to secure the adoption of a rational and far-seeing policy for securing the conservation of all our national resources. … I believe it is but just to say that among the many, many public officials who under my administration rendered literally invaluable service to the people of the United States, he, on the whole, stood first.
'The Natural Resources of the Nation' Autobiography (1913), ch. 11. Quoted in Douglas M. Johnston, The International Law of Fisheries (1987), 44
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How often people speak of art and science as though they were two entirely different things, with no interconnection. An artist is emotional, they think, and uses only his intuition; he sees all at once and has no need of reason. A scientist is cold, they think, and uses only his reason; he argues carefully step by step, and needs no imagination. That is all wrong. The true artist is quite rational as well as imaginative and knows what he is doing; if he does not, his art suffers. The true scientist is quite imaginative as well as rational, and sometimes leaps to solutions where reason can follow only slowly; if he does not, his science suffers.
'Prometheus.' The Roving Mind (1983), Chap 25.
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Humans are not by nature the fact-driven, rational beings we like to think we are. We get the facts wrong more often than we think we do. And we do so in predictable ways: we engage in wishful thinking. We embrace information that supports our beliefs and reject evidence that challenges them. Our minds tend to take shortcuts, which require some effort to avoid … [and] more often than most of us would imagine, the human mind operates in ways that defy logic.
As co-author with Kathleen Hall Jamieson, in unSpun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation (2007), 69.
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I can understand your aversion to the use of the term ‘religion’ to describe an emotional and psychological attitude which shows itself most clearly in Spinoza ... I have not found a better expression than ‘religious’ for the trust in the rational nature of reality that is, at least to a certain extent, accessible to human reason.
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I consider the differences between man and animals in propensities, feelings, and intellectual faculties, to be the result of the same cause as that which we assign for the variations in other functions, viz. difference of organization; and that the superiority of man in rational endowments is not greater than the more exquisite, complicated, and perfectly developed structure of his brain, and particularly of his ample cerebral hemispheres, to which the rest of the animal kingdom offers no parallel, nor even any near approximation, is sufficient to account for.
Lectures on Physiology, Zoology, and the Natural History of Man (1819), 237.
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I decided that life rationally considered seemed pointless and futile, but it is still interesting in a variety of ways, including the study of science. So why not carry on, following the path of scientific hedonism? Besides, I did not have the courage for the more rational procedure of suicide.
Life of a Scientist (1989), 24.
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I didn’t arrive at my understanding of the fundamental laws of the universe through my rational mind.
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I have found no better expression than ‘religious’ for confidence in the rational nature of reality, insofar as it is accessible to human reason. Whenever this feeling is absent, science degenerates into uninspired empiricism.
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I specifically paused to show that, if there were such machines with the organs and shape of a monkey or of some other non-rational animal, we would have no way of discovering that they are not the same as these animals. But if there were machines that resembled our bodies and if they imitated our actions as much as is morally possible, we would always have two very certain means for recognizing that, none the less, they are not genuinely human. The first is that they would never be able to use speech, or other signs composed by themselves, as we do to express our thoughts to others. For one could easily conceive of a machine that is made in such a way that it utters words, and even that it would utter some words in response to physical actions that cause a change in its organs—for example, if someone touched it in a particular place, it would ask what one wishes to say to it, or if it were touched somewhere else, it would cry out that it was being hurt, and so on. But it could not arrange words in different ways to reply to the meaning of everything that is said in its presence, as even the most unintelligent human beings can do. The second means is that, even if they did many things as well as or, possibly, better than anyone of us, they would infallibly fail in others. Thus one would discover that they did not act on the basis of knowledge, but merely as a result of the disposition of their organs. For whereas reason is a universal instrument that can be used in all kinds of situations, these organs need a specific disposition for every particular action.
Discourse on Method in Discourse on Method and Related Writings (1637), trans. Desmond M. Clarke, Penguin edition (1999), Part 5, 40.
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I was there when Abbe Georges Lemaître first proposed this [Big Bang] theory. ... There is no rational reason to doubt that the universe has existed indefinitely, for an infinite time. .... It is only myth that attempts to say how the universe came to be, either four thousand or twenty billion years ago.
[Expressing his belief that the Big Bang is a myth devised to explain creation. He said he heard Lemaître (who was, at the time both a member of the Catholic hierarchy and an accomplished scientist) say in private that this theory was a way to reconcile science with St. Thomas Aquinas' theological dictum of creatio ex nihilo—creation out of nothing.]
Quoted in Anthony L. Peratt, 'Dean of the Plasma Dissidents', Washington Times, supplement: The World and I (May 1988),196.
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If faith cannot be reconciled with rational thinking, it has to be eliminated as an anachronistic remnant of earlier stages of culture and replaced by science dealing with facts and theories which are intelligible and can be validated.
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If the finding of Coines, Medals, Urnes, and other Monuments of famous Persons, or Towns, or Utensils, be admitted for unquestionable Proofs, that such Persons or things have, in former Times, had a being, certainly those Petrifactions may be allowed to be of equal Validity and Evidence, that there have been formerly such Vegetables or Animals. These are truly Authentick Antiquity not to be counterfeited, the Stamps, and Impressions, and Characters of Nature that are beyond the Reach and Power of Humane Wit and Invention, and are true universal Characters legible to all rational Men.
Lectures and Discourses of Earthquakes (1668). In The Posthumous Works of Robert Hooke, containing his Cutlerian Lectures and other Discourses read at the Meetings of the Illustrious Royal Society (1705), 449.
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If you look into their [chimpanzees] eyes, you know you’re looking into a thinking mind. They teach us that we are not the only beings with personalities, minds capable of rational thought, altruism and a sense of humor. That leads to new respect for other animals, respect for the environment and respect for all life.
From interview by Tamar Lewin, 'Wildlife to Tireless Crusader, See Jane Run', New York Times (20 Nov 2000), F35.
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If you were going to risk all that, not just risk the hardship and the pain but risk your life. Put everything on line for a dream, for something that’s worth nothing, that can’t be proved to anybody. You just have the transient moment on a summit and when you come back down to the valley it goes. It is actually a completely illogical thing to do. It is not justifiable by any rational terms. That’s probably why you do it.
The Beckoning Silence
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In such sad circumstances I but see myself exalted by my own enemies, for in order to defeat some small works of mine they try to make the whole rational medicine and anatomy fall, as if I were myself these noble disciplines.
'Letter to Marescotti about the dispute with Sbaraglia and others, 1689(?)', in H. B. Adelmann (ed.), The Correspondence of Marcello Malpighi (1975), Vol. 4, 1561.
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Indeed, if one understands by algebra the application of arithmetic operations to composite magnitudes of all kinds, whether they be rational or irrational number or space magnitudes, then the learned Brahmins of Hindostan are the true inventors of algebra.
In Geschichte der Mathematik im Altertum und im Mittelalter (1874), 195. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 284. From the original German, “Ja, wenn man unter Algebra die Anwendung arithmetischer Operationen auf zusammengesetzte Grössen aller Art, mögen sie rationale oder irrationale Zahl- oder Raumgrössen sein, versteht, so sind die gelehrten Brahmanen Hindustans die wahren Erfinder der Algebra.”
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Intelligence is an extremely subtle concept. It’s a kind of understanding that flourishes if it’s combined with a good memory, but exists anyway even in the absence of good memory. It’s the ability to draw consequences from causes, to make correct inferences, to foresee what might be the result, to work out logical problems, to be reasonable, rational, to have the ability to understand the solution from perhaps insufficient information. You know when a person is intelligent, but you can be easily fooled if you are not yourself intelligent.
In Irv Broughton (ed.), The Writer's Mind: Interviews with American Authors (1990), Vol. 2, 57.
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It is characteristic of our age to endeavour to replace virtues by technology. That is to say, wherever possible we strive to use methods of physical or social engineering to achieve goals which our ancestors thought attainable only by the training of character. Thus, we try so far as possible to make contraception take the place of chastity, and anaesthetics to take the place of fortitude; we replace resignation by insurance policies and munificence by the Welfare State. It would be idle romanticism to deny that such techniques and institutions are often less painful and more efficient methods of achieving the goods and preventing the evils which unaided virtue once sought to achieve and avoid. But it would be an equal and opposite folly to hope that the take-over of virtue by technology may one day be complete, so that the necessity for the laborious acquisition of the capacity for rational choice by individuals can be replaced by the painless application of the fruits of scientific discovery over the whole field of human intercourse and enterprise.
'Mental Health in Plato's Republic', in The Anatomy of the Soul: Historical Essays in the Philosophy of Mind (1973), 26.
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It is the business of science to offer rational explanations for all the events in the real world, and any scientist who calls on God to explain something is falling down on his job. This applies as much to the start of the expansion as to any other event. If the explanation is not forthcoming at once, the scientist must suspend judgment: but if he is worth his salt he will always maintain that a rational explanation will eventually be found. This is the one piece of dogmatism that a scientist can allow himself—and without it science would be in danger of giving way to superstition every time that a problem defied solution for a few years.
The Mystery of the Expanding Universe (1964), 122.
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It is time that science, having destroyed the religious basis for morality, accepted the obligation to provide a new and rational basis for human behavior—a code of ethics concerned with man’s needs on earth, not his rewards in heaven.
In 'Toward a New Morality,' IEEE Spectrum, 1972.
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Logicians have but ill defined
As rational the human mind;
Reason, they say, belongs to man,
But let them prove it if they can.
In 'The Logicians Refuted', The Poems and Plays of Oliver Goldsmith (1818), 58.
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Man alone amongst the animals speaks and has gestures and expression which we call rational, because he alone has reason in him. And if anyone should say in contradiction that certain birds talk, as seems to be the case with some, especially the magpie and the parrot, and that certain beasts have expression or gestures, as the ape and some others seem to have, I answer that it is not true that they speak, nor that they have gestures, because they have no reason, from which these things need proceed; nor do they purpose to signify anything by them, but they merely reproduce what they see and hear.
In 'The Third Treatise', The Convivio of Dante Alighieri (1903), Chap. 7, 175. This footnoted: Compare De Vulgari Eloquentia, Book 1, Chap 2: 43-65.
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Man is a rational animal—so at least I have been told. … Aristotle, so far as I know, was the first man to proclaim explicitly that man is a rational animal. His reason for this view was … that some people can do sums. … It is in virtue of the intellect that man is a rational animal. The intellect is shown in various ways, but most emphatically by mastery of arithmetic. The Greek system of numerals was very bad, so that the multiplication table was quite difficult, and complicated calculations could only be made by very clever people.
From An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish (1937, 1943), 5. Collected in The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell (2009), 45.
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Man, the cutting edge of terrestrial life, has no rational alternative but to expand the environmental and resource base beyond earth.
On the 'extraterrestrial imperative,' recalled on his death 11 Dec 84
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Objections … inspired Kronecker and others to attack Weierstrass’ “sequential” definition of irrationals. Nevertheless, right or wrong, Weierstrass and his school made the theory work. The most useful results they obtained have not yet been questioned, at least on the ground of their great utility in mathematical analysis and its implications, by any competent judge in his right mind. This does not mean that objections cannot be well taken: it merely calls attention to the fact that in mathematics, as in everything else, this earth is not yet to be confused with the Kingdom of Heaven, that perfection is a chimaera, and that, in the words of Crelle, we can only hope for closer and closer approximations to mathematical truth—whatever that may be, if anything—precisely as in the Weierstrassian theory of convergent sequences of rationals defining irrationals.
In Men of Mathematics (1937), 431-432.
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Our most trustworthy safeguard in making general statements on this question is imagination. If we can imagine the breaking of a law of physics then… it is in some degree an empirical law. With a purely rational law we could not conceive an alternative… This ultimate criterion serves as an anchor to keep us from drifting unduly in a perilous sea of thought.
From concluding paragraph of 'Transition to General Relativity', The Special Theory of Relativity (1940, 2014), Chap 8, 91.
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Our natural way of thinking about these coarser emotions is that the mental perception of some fact excites the mental affection called the emotion, and that this latter state of mind gives rise to the bodily expression. My theory, on the contrary, is that the bodily changes follow directly the perception of the exciting fact, and that our feeling of the same changes as they occur IS the emotion. Common-sense says, we lose our fortune, are sorry and weep; we meet a bear, are frightened and run; we are insulted by a rival, are angry and strike. The hypothesis here to be defended says that this order of sequence is incorrect, that the one mental state is not immediately induced by the other, that the bodily manifestations must first be interposed between, and that the more rational statement is that we feel sorry because we cry, angry because we strike, afraid because we tremble, and not that we cry, strike, or tremble, because we are sorry, angry, or fearful, as the case may be. Without the bodily states following on the perception, the latter would be purely cognitive in form, pale, colorless, destitute of emotional warmth. We might then see the bear, and judge it best to run, receive the insult and deem it right to strike, but we should not actually feel afraid or angry.
The Principles or Psychology (1890), Vol. 2, 449-50.
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Rational thinking which is free from assumptions ends therefore in mysticism.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 41
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Religion, in contrast to science, deploys the repugnant view that the world is too big for our understanding. Science, in contrast to religion, opens up the great questions of being to rational discussion, to discussion with the prospect of resolution and elucidation.
Essay collected in John Cornwell (ed.), 'The Limitless Power of Science', Nature's Imagination: The Frontiers of Scientific Vision (1995), 125.
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Religions are tough. Either they make no contentions which are subject to disproof or they quickly redesign doctrine after disproof. … near the core of the religious experience is something remarkably resistant to rational inquiry.
From 'A Sunday Sermon', in Broca's Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science (1975, 2011), 332-333.
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Science does not present itself to man until mind conquers matter in striving to subject the result of experimental investigation to rational combinations.
In Alexander Humboldt and E.C. Otté (trans.), 'Introduction', Cosmos: Sketch of a Physical Description of the Universe (1852), Vol. 1, 76. The translator’s preface is dated 1844.
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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 is able to make cooperate catholics and mechanics, students and Nobel prize winners, because a common faith distributes the functions of workmanship despite all differences of rational formulation.
In 'The Scientific Grammar of Michael Faraday’s Diaries', Part I, 'The Classic of Science', A Classic and a Founder (1937), collected in Rosenstock-Huessy Papers (1981), Vol. 1, 8.
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Science only begins for man from the moment when his mind lays hold of matter—when he tries to subject the mass accumulated by experience to rational combinations.
In 'Introduction', Cosmos: Sketch of a Physical Description of the Universe (1849), Vol. 1, 64. Translation “under the superintendence of” Edward Sabine.
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So many of the properties of matter, especially when in the gaseous form, can be deduced from the hypothesis that their minute parts are in rapid motion, the velocity increasing with the temperature, that the precise nature of this motion becomes a subject of rational curiosity. Daniel Bernoulli, Herapath, Joule, Kronig, Clausius, &c., have shewn that the relations between pressure, temperature and density in a perfect gas can be explained by supposing the particles move with uniform velocity in straight lines, striking against the sides of the containing vessel and thus producing pressure. (1860)
In W.D. Niven (ed.) 'Illustrations of the Dynamical Theory of Gases,' The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell, Vol 1, 377. Quoted in John David Anderson, Jr., Hypersonic and High Temperature Gas Dynamics (2000), 468.
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Some problems are just too complicated for rational logical solutions. They admit of insights, not answers.
In 'Profiles: A Scientist’s Advice II' by D. Lang, The New Yorker (26 Jan 1963).
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The air of caricature never fails to show itself in the products of reason applied relentlessly and without correction. The observation of clinical facts would seem to be a pursuit of the physician as harmless as it is indispensable. [But] it seemed irresistibly rational to certain minds that diseases should be as fully classifiable as are beetles and butterflies. This doctrine … bore perhaps its richest fruit in the hands of Boissier de Sauvauges. In his Nosologia Methodica published in 1768 … this Linnaeus of the bedside grouped diseases into ten classes, 295 genera, and 2400 species.
In 'General Ideas in Medicine', The Lloyd Roberts lecture at House of the Royal Society of Medicine (30 Sep 1935), British Medical Journal (5 Oct 1935), 2, 609. In The Collected Papers of Wilfred Trotter, FRS (1941), 151.
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The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order and harmony which has been imposed on it by God and which He revealed to us in the language of mathematics.
Epigraph, without citation, in Morris Kline, Mathematical Thought from Ancient to Modern Times (1972), 231. Need primary source. Can you help?
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The common perception of science as a rational activity, in which one confronts the evidence of fact with an open mind, could not be more false. Facts assume significance only within a pre-existing intellectual structure, which may be based as much on intuition and prejudice as on reason.
In The Guardian, September 28, 1989.
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The creative scientist studies nature with the rapt gaze of the lover, and is guided as often by aesthetics as by rational considerations in guessing how nature works.
…...
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The fundamental hypothesis of genetic epistemology is that there is a parallelism between the progress made in the logical and rational organization of knowledge and the corresponding formative psychological processes. With that hypothesis, the most fruitful, most obvious field of study would be the reconstituting of human history—the history of human thinking in prehistoric man. Unfortunately, we are not very well informed in the psychology of primitive man, but there are children all around us, and it is in studying children that we have the best chance of studying the development of logical knowledge, physical knowledge, and so forth.
'Genetic Epistemology', Columbia Forum (1969), 12, 4.
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The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.
…...
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The history of science shows so many examples of the 'irrational' notions and theories of to-day becoming the 'rational' notions and theories of to-morrow, that it seems largely a matter of being accustomed to them whether they are considered rational or not, natural or not.
Natural Law and Divine Miracle: The Principle of Uniformity in Geology, Biology and Theology (1963),167.
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The instinct for collecting, which began as in other animals as an adaptive property, could always in man spread beyond reason; it could become a hoarding mania. But in its normal form it provides a means of livelihood at the hunting and collecting stage of human evolution. It is then attached to a variety of rational aptitudes, above all in observing, classifying, and naming plants, animals and minerals, skills diversely displayed by primitive peoples. These skills with an instinctive beginning were the foundation of most of the civilised arts and sciences. Attached to other skills in advanced societies they promote the formation of museums and libraries; detached, they lead to acquisition and classification by eccentric individuals, often without any purpose or value at all.
As quoted in Richard Fifield, 'Cytologist Supreme', New Scientist (16 Apr 1981), 90, No. 1249, 179; citing C.D. Darlington, The Little Universe of Man (1978).
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The major producer of the social chaos, the indeterminacy of thought and values that rational knowledge is supposed to eliminate, is none other than science itself.
In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974).
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The moment one has offered an original explanation for a phenomenon which seems satisfactory, that moment affection for his intellectual child springs into existence, and as the explanation grows into a definite theory his parental affections cluster about his offspring and it grows more and more dear to him. ... There springs up also unwittingly a pressing of the theory to make it fit the facts and a pressing of the facts to make them fit the theory... To avoid this grave danger, the method of multiple working hypotheses is urged. It differs from the simple working hypothesis in that it distributes the effort and divides the affections... In developing the multiple hypotheses, the effort is to bring up into view every rational exploration of the phenomenon in hand and to develop every tenable hypothesis relative to its nature, cause or origin, and to give to all of these as impartially as possible a working form and a due place in the investigation. The investigator thus becomes the parent of a family of hypotheses; and by his parental relations to all is morally forbidden to fasten his affections unduly upon anyone. ... Each hypothesis suggests its own criteria, its own method of proof, its own method of developing the truth, and if a group of hypotheses encompass the subject on all sides, the total outcome of means and of methods is full and rich.
'Studies for Students. The Method of Multiple Working Hypotheses', Journal of Geology (1897), 5, 840-6.
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The natural scientists of the previous age knew less than we do and believed they were very close to the goal: we have taken very great steps in its direction and now discover we are still very far away from it. With the most rational philosophers an increase in their knowledge is always attended by an increased conviction of their ignorance.
Aphorisms, trans. R. J. Hollingdale (1990), 89.
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The number of rational hypotheses that can explain any given phenomenon is infinite.
In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An inquiry into Values (1974), 107.
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The oceans are the planet’s last great living wilderness, man’s only remaining frontier on Earth, and perhaps his last chance to prove himself as a rational species.
The Forests of the Sea
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The progress of Science is generally regarded as a kind of clean, rational advance along a straight ascending line; in fact it has followed a zig-zag course, at times almost more bewildering than the evolution of political thought. The history of cosmic theories, in particular, may without exaggeration be called a history of collective obsessions and controlled schizophrenias; and the manner in which some of the most important individual discoveries were arrived at reminds one more of a sleepwalker’s performance than an electronic brain’s.
From 'Preface', in The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man’s Changing Vision of the Universe (1959), 15.
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The sixth pre-Christian century—the miraculous century of Buddha, Confucius and Lâo-Tse, of the Ionian philosophers and Pythagoras—was a turning point for the human species. A March breeze seemed to blow across the planet from China to Samos, stirring man into awareness, like the breath of Adam's nostrils. In the Ionian school of philosophy, rational thought was emerging from the mythological dream-world. …which, within the next two thousand years, would transform the species more radically than the previous two hundred thousand had done.
In The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man’s Changing Vision of the Universe (1959), 21-22.
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The true method of discovery is like the flight of an aeroplane. It starts from the ground of particular observation; it makes a flight in the thin air of imaginative generalization; and it again lands for renewed observation rendered acute by rational interpretation.
Gifford lectures delivered in the University of Edinburgh during the session 1927-28. Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology (1929, 1979), 5.
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The visible universe is subject to quantification, and is so by necessity. … Between you and me only reason will be the judge … since you proceed according to the rational method, so shall I. … I will also give reason and take it. … This generation has an innate vice. It can’t accept anything that has been discovered by a contemporary!
As quoted in James Burke, The Day the Universe Changed (1985), 41. Burke also quotes the first sentence in The Axemaker's Gift (1995), 112, but after the first ellipsis, is substituted “If you wish to hear more from me, give and take reason, because I am not the kind of man to satisfy his hunger on the picture of a steak!”
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There is no area in our minds reserved for superstition, such as the Greeks had in their mythology; and superstition, under cover of an abstract vocabulary, has revenged itself by invading the entire realm of thought. Our science is like a store filled with the most subtle intellectual devices for solving the most complex problems, and yet we are almost incapable of applying the elementary principles of rational thought. In every sphere, we seem to have lost the very elements of intelligence: the ideas of limit, measure, degree, proportion, relation, comparison, contingency, interdependence, interrelation of means and ends. To keep to the social level, our political universe is peopled exclusively by myths and monsters; all it contains is absolutes and abstract entities. This is illustrated by all the words of our political and social vocabulary: nation, security, capitalism, communism, fascism, order, authority, property, democracy. We never use them in phrases such as: There is democracy to the extent that… or: There is capitalism in so far as… The use of expressions like “to the extent that” is beyond our intellectual capacity. Each of these words seems to represent for us an absolute reality, unaffected by conditions, or an absolute objective, independent of methods of action, or an absolute evil; and at the same time we make all these words mean, successively or simultaneously, anything whatsoever. Our lives are lived, in actual fact, among changing, varying realities, subject to the casual play of external necessities, and modifying themselves according to specific conditions within specific limits; and yet we act and strive and sacrifice ourselves and others by reference to fixed and isolated abstractions which cannot possibly be related either to one another or to any concrete facts. In this so-called age of technicians, the only battles we know how to fight are battles against windmills.
From 'The Power of Words', collected in Siân Miles (ed.), Simone Weil: An Anthology (2000), 222-223.
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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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This theme of mutually invisible life at widely differing scales bears an important implication for the ‘culture wars’ that supposedly now envelop our universities and our intellectual discourse in general ... One side of this false dichotomy features the postmodern relativists who argue that all culturally bound modes of perception must be equally valid, and that no factual truth therefore exists. The other side includes the benighted, old-fashioned realists who insist that flies truly have two wings, and that Shakespeare really did mean what he thought he was saying. The principle of scaling provides a resolution for the false parts of this silly dichotomy. Facts are facts and cannot be denied by any rational being. (Often, facts are also not at all easy to determine or specify–but this question raises different issues for another time.) Facts, however, may also be highly scale dependent–and the perceptions of one world may have no validity or expression in the domain of another. The one-page map of Maine cannot recognize the separate boulders of Acadia, but both provide equally valid representations of a factual coastline.
The World as I See It (1999)
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Those who have handled sciences have been either men of experiment or men of dogmas. The men of experiment are like the ant; they only collect and use; the reasoners resemble spiders, who make cobwebs out of their own substance. But the bee takes a middle course; it gathers its material from the flowers of the garden and of the field, but transforms and digests it by a power of its own. Not unlike this is the true business of philosophy; for it neither relies solely or chiefly on the powers of the mind, nor does it take the matter which it gathers from natural history and mechanical experiments and lay it up in the memory whole, as it finds it; but lays it up in the understanding altered and digested. Therefore from a closer and purer league between these two faculties, the experimental and the rational (such as has never yet been made), much may be hoped.
From Novum Organum (1620), Book 1, Aphorism 95. Translated as The New Organon: Aphorisms Concerning the Interpretation of Nature and the Kingdom of Man), collected in James Spedding, Robert Ellis and Douglas Heath (eds.), The Works of Francis Bacon (1857), Vol. 4, 92-3.
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To unfold the secret laws and relations of those high faculties of thought by which all beyond the merely perceptive knowledge of the world and of ourselves is attained or matured, is a object which does not stand in need of commendation to a rational mind.
An Investigation of the Laws of Thought (1854), 3.
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True religion is rational: if it excludes reason, it is self-condemned. And reason without religion fails of its object; since, if philosophy can find no place for religion, it can not explain man.
'An Essay On The Christian Doctrine of God', Lux Mundi: A Series of Studies in the Religion of the Incarnation (1890), 82.
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Upon the whole, Chymistry is as yet but an opening science, closely connected with the usefull and ornamental arts, and worthy the attention of the liberal mind. And it must always become more and more so: for though it is only of late, that it has been looked upon in that light, the great progress already made in Chymical knowledge, gives us a pleasant prospect of rich additions to it. The Science is now studied on solid and rational grounds. While our knowledge is imperfect, it is apt to run into error: but Experiment is the thread that will lead us out of the labyrinth.
In Alexander Law, Notes of Black's Lectures, vol. 3, 88. Cited in Charles Coulston Gillispie, Dictionary of Scientific Biography: Volumes 1-2 (1981), 181.
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We avoid the gravest difficulties when, giving up the attempt to frame hypotheses concerning the constitution of matter, we pursue statistical inquiries as a branch of rational mechanics.
Elementary Principles in Statistical Mechanics (1902), ix.
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We forever have to walk the tightrope between what is seen to be the need and what is thought to be the demand … that’s all part of setting priorities and having a rational debate.
Anonymous
National Health Service Chief Executive Officer quoted in Timothy Milewa and Michael Calnan, 'Primary Care and Public Involvement, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (2000), 93, 3-5.
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We have no rational therapeutics.
In Medical Century (1906), 14:11, 336.
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We hold these truths to be self-evident.
Franklin's edit to the assertion of religion in Thomas Jefferson's original wording, “We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable” in a draft of the Declaration of Independence changes it instead into an assertion of rationality. The scientific mind of Franklin drew on the scientific determinism of Isaac Newton and the analytic empiricism of David Hume and Gottfried Leibniz. In what became known as “Hume's Fork” the latters' theory distinguished between synthetic truths that describe matters of fact, and analytic truths that are self-evident by virtue of reason and definition.
As explained by Walter Isaacson in Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (2004), 312.
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What renders a problem definite, and what leaves it indefinite, may best be understood from mathematics. The very important idea of solving a problem within limits of error is an element of rational culture, coming from the same source. The art of totalizing fluctuations by curves is capable of being carried, in conception, far beyond the mathematical domain, where it is first learnt. The distinction between laws and co-efficients applies in every department of causation. The theory of Probable Evidence is the mathematical contribution to Logic, and is of paramount importance.
In Education as a Science (1879), 151-152.
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While it is true that scientific results are entirely independent from religious and moral considerations, those individuals to whom we owe the great creative achievements of science were all of them imbued with the truly religious conviction that this universe of ours is something perfect and susceptible to the rational striving for knowledge. If this conviction had not been a strongly emotional one and if those searching for knowledge had not been inspired by Spinoza's Amor Dei Intellectualis, they would hardly have been capable of that untiring devotion which alone enables man to attain his greatest achievements.
In response to a greeting sent by the Liberal Ministers’ Club of New York City, published in 'Religion and Science: Irreconcilable?' The Christian Register (Jun 1948). Collected in Ideas and Options (1954), 52.
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Would it sound too presumptuous to speak of perception as a quintessence of sensation, language (that is, communicable thought) of perception, mathematics of language? We should then have four terms differentiating from inorganic matter and from each other the Vegetable, Animal, Rational, and Super-sensual modes of existence.
From Presidential Address (1869) to the British Association, Exeter, Section A, collected in Collected Mathematical Papers of James Joseph Sylvester (1908), Vol. 2, 652, footnote.
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[I]t is truth alone—scientific, established, proved, and rational truth—which is capable of satisfying nowadays the awakened minds of all classes. We may still say perhaps, 'faith governs the world,'—but the faith of the present is no longer in revelation or in the priest—it is in reason and in science.
Entry for 15 Nov 1876 in Amiel’s Journal: The Journal Intime of Henri-Frédéric Amiel, trans. Humphry Ward (1893), 234.
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[Jethro Tull] was the first Englishman—perhaps the first writer, ancient and modern—who has attempted, with any tolerable degree of success, to reduce the art of agriculture to certain and uniform principles; and it must be acknowledged that he has done more towards establishing a rational and practical method of husbandry than all the writers who have gone before him.
Anonymous
In Letter (18 Oct 1764), signed only “D.Y.” from Hungerford, in Sylvanus Urban (ed.), 'Observations on the late Improvements in Agriculture', The Gentleman’s Magazine (Nov 1764), 525.
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[There was] in some of the intellectual leaders a great aspiration to demonstrate that the universe ran like a piece of clock-work, but this was was itself initially a religious aspiration. It was felt that there would be something defective in Creation itself—something not quite worthy of God—unless the whole system of the universe could be shown to be interlocking, so that it carried the pattern of reasonableness and orderliness. Kepler, inaugurating the scientist’s quest for a mechanistic universe in the seventeenth century, is significant here—his mysticism, his music of the spheres, his rational deity demand a system which has the beauty of a piece of mathematics.
In The Origins of Modern Science (1950), 105.
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[To a man expecting a scientific proof of the impossibility of flying saucers] I might have said to him: “Listen, I mean that from my knowledge of the world that I see around me, I think that it is much more likely that the reports of flying saucers are the results of the known irrational characteristics of terrestrial intelligence than of the unknown rational efforts of extra-terrestrial intelligence.” It is just more likely, that is all. It is a good guess. And we always try to guess the most likely explanation, keeping in the back of the mind the fact that if it does not work we must discuss the other possibilities.
In The Character of Physical Law (1965, 2001), 166.
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[Tom Bombadil is] an exemplar, a particular embodying of pure (real) natural science: the spirit that desires knowledge of other things, their history and nature, because they are ‘other’ and wholly independent of the enquiring mind, a spirit coeval with the rational mind, and entirely unconcerned with ‘doing’ anything with the knowledge: Zoology and Botany not Cattle-breeding or Agriculture. Even the Elves hardly show this: they are primarily artists.
From Letter draft to Peter Hastings (manager of a Catholic bookshop in Oxford, who wrote about his enthusiasm for Lord of the Rings) (Sep 1954). In Humphrey Carpenter (ed.) assisted by Christopher Tolkien, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (1995, 2014), 192, Letter No. 153.
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’Tis a short sight to limit our faith in laws to those of gravity, of chemistry, of botany, and so forth. Those laws do not stop where our eyes lose them, but push the same geometry and chemistry up into the invisible plane of social and rational life, so that, look where we will, in a boy's game, or in the strifes of races, a perfect reaction, a perpetual judgment keeps watch and ward.
From 'Worship', The Conduct of Life (1860) collected in The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1866), Vol.2, 401.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 90 -
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- 80 -
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Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton



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