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Who said: “I have no satisfaction in formulas unless I feel their arithmetical magnitude.”
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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index S > Category: Social

Social Quotes (93 quotes)

'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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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 man’s value to the community depends primarily on how far his feelings, thoughts, and actions are directed towards promoting the good of his fellows. We call him good or bad according to how he stands in this matter. It looks at first sight as if our estimate of a man depended entirely on his social qualities.
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A slave world is not worth preserving. Better be lifeless like the cold moon, or primitively vegetal like desolate Mars, than be a planet populated by social robots.
From speech (Oct 1947), 'Peace or Pieces: or Who Amends the Golden Rule'. As reprinted in Henry Goddard Leach (ed.), The American-Scandinavian Review (1950), 37-38, 34. As quoted in 'Dr. Harlow Shapley Dies at 86; Dean of American Astronomers', New York Times (21 Oct 1972), 69.
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As man advances in civilisation, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races.
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As never before, the work of the engineer is basic to the kind of society to which our best efforts are committed. Whether it be city planning, improved health care in modern facilities, safer and more efficient transportation, new techniques of communication, or better ways to control pollution and dispose of wastes, the role of the engineer—his initiative, creative ability, and hard work—is at the root of social progress.
Remarks for National Engineers Week (1971). As quoted in Consulting Engineer (1971), 36, 18.
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Besides love and sympathy, animals exhibit other qualities connected with the social instincts which in us would be called moral.
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Both social and biosocial factors are necessary to interpret crosscultural studies, with the general proviso that one’s research interest determines which elements, in what combinations, are significant for the provision of understanding.
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Can any thoughtful person admit for a moment that, in a society so constituted that these overwhelming contrasts of luxury and privation are looked upon as necessities, and are treated by the Legislature as matters with which it has practically nothing do, there is the smallest probability that we can deal successfully with such tremendous social problems as those which involve the marriage tie and the family relation as a means of promoting the physical and moral advancement of the race? What a mockery to still further whiten the sepulchre of society, in which is hidden ‘all manner of corruption,’ with schemes for the moral and physical advancement of the race!
In 'Human Selection', Fortnightly Review (1890),48, 330.
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Chemists show us that strange property, catalysis, which enables a substance while unaffected itself to incite to union elements around it. So a host, or hostess, who may know but little of those concerned, may, as a social switchboard, bring together the halves of pairs of scissors, men who become life-long friends, men and women who marry and are happy husbands and wives.
From chapter 'Jottings from a Note-book', in Canadian Stories (1918), 179.
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Each new scientific development is due to the pressure of some social need. Of course … insatiable curiosity … is still nothing but a response either to an old problem of nature, or to one arising from new social circumstances.
In 'The Teaching of the History of Science', The Scientific Monthly (Sep 1918), 194.
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Each worldview was a cultural product, but evolution is true and separate creation is not ... Worldviews are social constructions, and they channel the search for facts. But facts are found and knowledge progresses, however fitfully. Fact and theory are intertwined, and all great scientists understand the interaction.
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Facts may belong to the past history of mankind, to the social statistics of our great cities, to the atmosphere of the most distant stars, to the digestive organs of a worm, or to the life of a scarcely visible bacillus. It is not the facts themselves which form science, but the method in which they are dealt with.
From The Grammar of Science (1892), 15.
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For Linnaeus, Homo sapiens was both special and not special ... Special and not special have come to mean nonbiological and biological, or nurture and nature. These later polarizations are nonsensical. Humans are animals and everything we do lies within our biological potential ... the statement that humans are animals does not imply that our specific patterns of behavior and social arrangements are in any way directly determined by our genes. Potentiality and determination are different concepts.
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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 the level of pragmatic, everyday knowledge to modern natural science, the knowledge of nature derives from man’s primary coming to grips with nature; at the same time it reacts back upon the system of social labour and stimulates its development.
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Geology got into the hands of the theoreticians who were conditioned by the social and political history of their day more than by observations in the field. … We have allowed ourselves to be brainwashed into avoiding any interpretation of the past that involves extreme and what might be termed “catastrophic” processes. However, it seems to me that the stratigraphical record is full of examples of processes that are far from “normal” in the usual sense of the word. In particular we must conclude that sedimentation in the past has often been very rapid indeed and very spasmodic. This may be called the “Phenomenon of the Catastrophic Nature of the Stratigraphic Record.”
In The Nature of the Stratigraphical Record (3rd ed., 1993), 70.
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God having designed man for a sociable creature, furnished him with language, which was to be the great instrument and tie of society.
In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1849), Book 3, Chap 1, Sec. 1, 288.
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Gradually, … the aspect of science as knowledge is being thrust into the background by the aspect of science as the power of manipulating nature. It is because science gives us the power of manipulating nature that it has more social importance than art. Science as the pursuit of truth is the equal, but not the superior, of art. Science as a technique, though it may have little intrinsic value, has a practical importance to which art cannot aspire.
In The Scientific Outlook (1931, 2009), xxiv.
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Here is the element or power of conduct, of intellect and knowledge, of beauty, and of social life and manners, and all needful to build up a complete human life. … We have instincts responding to them all, and requiring them all, and we are perfectly civilized only when all these instincts of our nature—all these elements in our civilization have been adequately recognized and satisfied.
Collected in Tryon Edwards (ed.), A Dictionary of Thoughts: Being a Cyclopedia of Laconic Quotations from the Best Authors Both Ancient and Modern (1891), 75.
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Homo sapiens is a compulsive communicator. Look at the number of people you see walking around talking on mobile phones. We seem to have an infinite capacity for communicating and being communicated with. I’m not sure how admirable it is, but it certainly demonstrates that we are social organisms.
From interview with Michael Bond, 'It’s a Wonderful Life', New Scientist (14 Dec 2002), 176, No. 2373, 48.
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I am an adherent of the ideal of democracy, although I well know the weaknesses of the democratic form of government. Social equality and economic protection of the individual appeared to me always as the important communal aims of the state.
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I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals.
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I am not ... asserting that humans are either genial or aggressive by inborn biological necessity. Obviously, both kindness and violence lie with in the bounds of our nature because we perpetrate both, in spades. I only advance a structural claim that social stability rules nearly all the time and must be based on an overwhelmingly predominant (but tragically ignored) frequency of genial acts, and that geniality is therefore our usual and preferred response nearly all the time ... The center of human nature is rooted in ten thousand ordinary acts of kindness that define our days.
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I can say, if I like, that social insects behave like the working parts of an immense central nervous system: the termite colony is an enormous brain on millions of legs; the individual termite is a mobile neurone.
In Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony(1984), 224. Note: Spelling “neurone&rdwuo; [sic].
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I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.
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Iconography becomes even more revealing when processes or concepts, rather than objects, must be depicted–for the constraint of a definite ‘thing’ cedes directly to the imagination. How can we draw ‘evolution’ or ‘social organization,’ not to mention the more mundane ‘digestion’ or ‘self-interest,’ without portraying more of a mental structure than a physical reality? If we wish to trace the history of ideas, iconography becomes a candid camera trained upon the scholar’s mind.
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If I choose to impose individual blame for all past social ills, there will be no one left to like in some of the most fascinating periods of our history. For example ... if I place every Victorian anti-Semite beyond the pale of my attention, my compass of available music and literature will be pitifully small. Though I hold no shred of sympathy for active persecution, I cannot excoriate individuals who acquiesced passively in a standard societal judgment. Rail instead against the judgment, and try to understand what motivates men of decent will.
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If man were by nature a solitary animal, the passions of the soul by which he was conformed to things so as to have knowledge of them would be sufficient for him; but since he is by nature a political and social animal it was necessary that his conceptions be made known to others. This he does through vocal sound. Therefore there had to be significant vocal sounds in order that men might live together. Whence those who speak different languages find it difficult to live together in social unity.
As quoted in Jeffrey J. Maciejewski, Thomas Aquinas on Persuasion: Action, Ends, and Natural Rhetoric (2013), 36.
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If one purges the Judaism of the Prophets and Christianity as Jesus Christ taught it of all subsequent additions, especially those of the priests, one is left with a teaching which is capable of curing all the social ills of humanity.
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If there is technological advance without social advance, there is, almost automatically, an increase in human misery, in impoverishment.
The Other America (1962).
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Imagine Aristotle revivified and visiting Manhattan. Nothing in our social, political, economic, artistic, sexual or religious life would mystify him, but he would be staggered by our technology. Its products—skyscrapers, cars, airplanes, television, pocket calculators—would have been impossible without calculus.
In book review, 'Adventures Of a Mathematician: The Man Who Invented the H-Bomb', New York Times (9 May 1976), 201.
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In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will; these relations of production correspond to a definite stage of development of their material forces of production. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society - the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life determines the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces in society come in conflict with the existing relations of production, or - what is but a legal expression for the same thing - with the property relations within which they have been at work before. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into fetters. Then begins an epoch of social revolution. With the change of the economic foundation the entire immense superstructure is more or less rapidly transformed. In considering such transformations a distinction should always be made between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, aesthetic or philosophic - in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out. Just as our opinion of an individual is not based on what he thinks of himself, so we can not judge of such a period of transformation by its own consciousness; on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained rather from the contradictions of material life, from the existing conflict between the social productive forces and the relations of production. No social order ever disappears before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have been developed; and new, higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society itself. Therefore, mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve; since, looking at the matter more closely, we will always find that the task itself arises only when the material conditions necessary for its solution already exist or are at least in the process of formation. In broad outlines we can designate the Asiatic, the ancient, the feudal, and the modern bourgeois modes of production as so many progressive epochs in the economic formation of society. The bourgeois relations of production are the last antagonistic form of the social process of production - antagonistic not in the sense of individual antagonism, but of one arising from the social conditions of life of the individuals; at the same time the productive forces developing in the womb of bourgeois society create the material conditions for the solution of that antagonism. This social formation constitutes, therefore, the closing chapter of the prehistoric stage of human society.
Karl Marx
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Is it absurd to imagine that our social behavior, from amoeba to man, is also planned and dictated, from stored Information, by the cells? And that the time has come for men to be entrusted with the task, through heroic efforts, of bringing life to other worlds?
From Nobel Prize Lecture (Dec 1974), 'The Coming Age of the Cell'. Collected in Jan Lindsten (ed.) Nobel Lectures, Physiology or Medicine 1971-1980 (1992).
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It be urged that the wild and uncultivated tree, hitherto yielding sour and bitter fruit only, can never be made to yield better; yet we know that the grafting art implants a new tree on the savage stock, producing what is most estimable in kind and degree. Education, in like manner, engrafts a new man on the native stock, and improves what in his nature was vicious and perverse into qualities of virtue and social worth.
From paper 'Report of the Commissioners Appointed to Fix the Site of the University of Virginia', included in Annual Report of the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia for the Fiscal Year Ending May 31, 1879 (1879), 10. Collected in Commonwealth of Virginia, Annual Reports of Officers, Boards, and Institutions of the Commonwealth of Virginia, for the Year Ending September 30, 1879 (1879).
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It is the utmost folly to denounce capital. To do so is to undermine civilization, for capital is the first requisite of every social gain, educational, ecclesiastical, political, or other.
In William Graham Sumner and ‎Albert Galloway Keller, The Challenge of Facts: And Other Essays (1914), 27.
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It is this ideal of progress through cumulative effort rather than through genius—progress by organised effort, progress which does not wait for some brilliant stroke, some lucky discovery, or the advent of some superman, has been the chief gift of science to social philosophy.
Address to 48th annual summer convention of the American Institute of Electriccal Engineers, Cleveland (21 Jun 1932), abridged in 'The Rôle of the Engineer', The Electrical Journal (1932), 109, 223.
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It's important to always bear in mind that life occurs in historical time. Everyone in every culture lives in some sort of historical time, though it might not be perceived in the same way an outside observer sees it. It's an interesting question, “When is now?” “Now” can be drawn from some point like this hour, this day, this month, this lifetime, or this generation. “Now” can also have occurred centuries ago; things like unfair treaties, the Trail of Tears, and the Black Hawk War, for instance, remain part of the “Now” from which many Native Americans view their place in time today. Human beings respond today to people and events that actually occurred hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Ethnohistorians have played a major role in showing how now is a social concept of time, and that time is part of all social life. I can only hope that their work will further the understanding that the study of social life is a study of change over time.
From Robert S. Grumet, 'An Interview with Anthony F. C. Wallace', Ethnohistory (Winter 1998), 45, No. 1, 127.
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Junior high school seemed like a fine idea when we invented it but it turned out to be an invention of the devil. We’re catching our boys in a net in which they’re socially unprepared. We put them in junior high school with girls who are two years ahead of them. There isn’t a thing they should have to do with girls at this age except growl at them.
As quoted in Frances Glennon, 'Student and Teacher of Human Ways', Life (14 Sep 1959), 147.
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Just as a tree constitutes a mass arranged in a definite manner, in which, in every single part, in the leaves as in the root, in the trunk as in the blossom, cells are discovered to be the ultimate elements, so is it also with the forms of animal life. Every animal presents itself as a sum of vital unities, every one of which manifests all the characteristics of life. The characteristics and unity of life cannot be limited to anyone particular spot in a highly developed organism (for example, to the brain of man), but are to be found only in the definite, constantly recurring structure, which every individual element displays. Hence it follows that the structural composition of a body of considerable size, a so-called individual, always represents a kind of social arrangement of parts, an arrangement of a social kind, in which a number of individual existences are mutually dependent, but in such a way, that every element has its own special action, and, even though it derive its stimulus to activity from other parts, yet alone effects the actual performance of its duties.
In Lecture I, 'Cells and the Cellular Theory' (1858), Rudolf Virchow and Frank Chance (trans.) ,Cellular Pathology (1860), 13-14.
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Malthus argued a century and a half ago that man, by using up all his available resources, would forever press on the limits of subsistence, thus condemning humanity to an indefinite future of misery and poverty. We can now begin to hope and, I believe, know that Malthus was expressing not a law of nature, but merely the limitation then of scientific and social wisdom. The truth or falsity of his prediction will depend now, with the tools we have, on our own actions, now and in the years to come.
From Address to the Centennial Convocation of the National Academy of Sciences (22 Oct 1963), 'A Century of Scientific Conquest'. Online at The American Presidency Project.
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Man is a social animal formed to please in society.
In Day's Collacon: An Encyclopaedia of Prose Quotations (1884), 875.
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Marxists are more right than wrong when they argue that the problems scientists take up,. the way they go about solving them, and even the solutions they arc inclined to accept, arc conditioned by the intellectual, social, and economic environments in which they live and work.
In Mankind Evolving: The Evolution of the Human Species, 128. As cited in Ted Woods & Alan Grant, Reason in Revolt - Dialectical Philosophy and Modern Science (2003), Vol. 2, 183.
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Mere political reform will not cure the manifold evils which now afflict society. There requires a social reform, a domestic reform, an individual reform.
As quoted in Frank Daniels III (The Tennessean), 'Author Samuel Smiles thought reform started with ourselves', The Des Moines Register (22 Dec 2013). Also quoted in Timothy Travers, Samuel Smiles and the Victorian Work Ethic (1987),. 162.
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Modern anthropology has taught us, through comparative investigation of so-called primitive cultures, that the social behavior of human beings may differ greatly, depending upon prevailing cultural patterns and the types of organisation which predominate in society. It is on this that those who are striving to improve the lot of man may ground their hopes: human beings are not condemned, because of their biological constitution, to annihilate each other or to be at the mercy of a cruel, self-inflicted fate.
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Most impediments to scientific understanding are conceptual locks, not factual lacks. Most difficult to dislodge are those biases that escape our scrutiny because they seem so obviously, even ineluctably, just. We know ourselves best and tend to view other creatures as mirrors of our own constitution and social arrangements. (Aristotle, and nearly two millennia of successors, designated the large bee that leads the swarm as a king.)
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My many years of work and research as a biological and social anthropologist have made it abundantly clear to me that from an evolutionary and biological standpoint, the female is more advanced and constitutionally more richly endowed than the male.
In The Natural Superiority of Women (1952, 1999), 91.
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My passion for social justice has often brought me into conflict with people, as did my aversion to any obligation and dependence I do not regard as absolutely necessary. I always have a high regard for the individual and have an insuperable distaste for violence and clubmanship.
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My passionate sense of social justice and social responsibility has always contrasted oddly with my pronounced lack of need for direct contact with other human beings and human communities.
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My visceral perception of brotherhood harmonizes with our best modern biological knowledge ... Many people think (or fear) that equality of human races represents a hope of liberal sentimentality probably squashed by the hard realities of history. They are wrong. This essay can be summarized in a single phrase, a motto if you will: Human equality is a contingent fact of history. Equality is not true by definition; it is neither an ethical principle (though equal treatment may be) nor a statement about norms of social action. It just worked out that way. A hundred different and plausible scenarios for human history would have yielded other results (and moral dilemmas of enormous magnitude). They didn’t happen.
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Nature is objective, and nature is knowable, but we can only view her through a glass darkly–and many clouds upon our vision are of our own making: social and cultural biases, psychological preferences, and mental limitations (in universal modes of thought, not just individualized stupidity).
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Never depend upon institutions or government to solve any problem. All social movements are founded by, guided by, motivated and seen through by the passion of individuals.
As quoted, without citation, in David Suzuki and ‎Holly Dressel , From Naked Ape to Superspecies: Humanity and the Global Eco-Crisis (1999, 2009), 347.
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Now, it may be stretching an analogy to compare epidemics of cholera—caused by a known agent—with that epidemic of violent crime which is destroying our cities. It is unlikely that our social problems can be traced to a single, clearly defined cause in the sense that a bacterial disease is ‘caused’ by a microbe. But, I daresay, social science is about as advanced in the late twentieth century as bacteriological science was in the mid nineteenth century. Our forerunners knew something about cholera; they sensed that its spread was associated with misdirected sewage, filth, and the influx of alien poor into crowded, urban tenements. And we know something about street crime; nowhere has it been reported that a member of the New York Stock Exchange has robbed ... at the point of a gun. Indeed, I am naively confident that an enlightened social scientist of the next century will be able to point out that we had available to us at least some of the clues to the cause of urban crime.
'Cholera at the Harvey,' Woods Hole Cantata: Essays on Science and Society (1985).
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Only when he has published his ideas and findings has the scientist made his contribution, and only when he has thus made it part of the public domain of scholarship can he truly lay claim to it as his own. For his claim resides only in the recognition accorded by peers in the social system of science through reference to his work.
In The Sociology of Science: An Episodic Memoir (1977), 47. As quoted and cited in David A. Kronick, The Literature of the Life Sciences: Reading, Writing, Research (1985), 89. This has been summarized as a paradox “the more freely the scientist gives his intellectual property away, the more securely it becomes his property” by Mengxiong Liu, in 'The Complexity of Citation Practice: A Review of Citation Studies', The Journal of Documentation (1993), 49, No. 4, 372.
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Our problem is that the climate crisis hatched in our laps at a moment in history when political and social conditions were uniquely hostile to a problem of this nature and magnitude—that moment being the tail end of the go-go ’80s, the blastoff point for the crusade to spread deregulated capitalism around the world. Climate change is a collective problem demanding collective action the likes of which humanity has never actually accomplished. Yet it entered mainstream consciousness in the midst of an ideological war being waged on the very idea of the collective sphere.
In 'The Change Within: The Obstacles We Face Are Not Just External', The Nation (12 May 2014).
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Rachel Carson was the best thing America is capable of producing: a modest person, concerned, courageous, and profoundly right—all at the same time. Troubled by knowledge of an emerging threat to the web of life, she took pains to become informed, summoned her courage, breached her confines, and conveyed a diligently constructed message with eloquence enough to catalyze a new social movement. Her life addressed the promise and premise of being truly human.
In his Foreward to Rachel Carson, The Sea Around Us (1950, 2003), xvi.
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Religion and science ... constitute deep-rooted and ancient efforts to find richer experience and deeper meaning than are found in the ordinary biological and social satisfactions. As pointed out by Whitehead, religion and science have similar origins and are evolving toward similar goals. Both started from crude observations and fanciful concepts, meaningful only within a narrow range of conditions for the people who formulated them of their limited tribal experience. But progressively, continuously, and almost simultaneously, religious and scientific concepts are ridding themselves of their coarse and local components, reaching higher and higher levels of abstraction and purity. Both the myths of religion and the laws of science, it is now becoming apparent, are not so much descriptions of facts as symbolic expressions of cosmic truths.
'On Being Human,' A God Within, Scribner (1972).
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Rulers and generals muster their troops. Magnates muster the sums of money which give them power. The fascist dictators muster the irrational human reactions which make it possible for them to attain and maintain their power over the masses. The scientists muster knowledge and means of research. But, thus far, no organization fighting for freedom has ever mustered the biological arsenal where the weapons are to be found for the establishment and the maintenance of human freedom. All precision of our social existence notwithstanding, there is as yet no definition of the word freedom which would be in keeping with natural science. No word is more misused and misunderstood. To define freedom is the same as to define sexual health. But nobody will openly admit this. The advocacy of personal and social freedom is connected with anxiety and guilt feelings. As if to be free were a sin or at least not quite as it should be. Sex-economy makes this guilt feeling comprehensible: freedom without sexual self-determination is in itself a contradiction. But to be sexual means—according to the prevailing human structure—to be sinful or guilty. There are very few people who experience sexual love without guilt feeling. “Free love” has acquired a degrading meaning: it lost the meaning given it by the old fighters for freedom. In films and in books, to be genital and to be criminal are presented as the same thing.
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Science is intimately integrated with the whole social structure and cultural tradition. They mutually support one other—only in certain types of society can science flourish, and conversely without a continuous and healthy development and application of science such a society cannot function properly.
The Social System (1951, 1977), Chap. 8, 111. As a functionalist, Parsons argued that social practices had to be studied in terms of their function in maintaining society.
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The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature.
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The desire for guidance, love, and support prompts men to form the social or moral conception of God. This is the God of Providence, who protects, disposes, rewards, and punishes; the God who, according to the limits of the believer’s outlook, loves and cherishes the life of the tribe or of the human race, or even or life itself; the comforter in sorrow and unsatisfied longing; he who preserves the souls of the dead. This is the social or moral conception of God.
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The explosive component in the contemporary scene is not the clamor of the masses but the self-righteous claims of a multitude of graduates from schools and universities. This army of scribes is clamoring for a society in which planning, regulation, and supervision are paramount and the prerogative of the educated. They hanker for the scribe’s golden age, for a return to something like the scribe-dominated societies of ancient Egypt, China, and Europe of the Middle Ages. There is little doubt that the present trend in the new and renovated countries toward social regimentation stems partly from the need to create adequate employment for a large number of scribes. And since the tempo of the production of the literate is continually increasing, the prospect is of ever-swelling bureaucracies.
In 'Scribe, Writer, and Rebel', The Ordeal of Change (1963), 109.
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The fact is that up to now the free society has not been good for the intellectual. It has neither accorded him a superior status to sustain his confidence nor made it easy for him to acquire an unquestioned sense of social usefulness. For he derives his sense of usefulness mainly from directing, instructing, and planning-from minding other people’s business-and is bound to feel superfluous and neglected where people believe themselves competent to manage individual and communal affairs, and are impatient of supervision and regulation. A free society is as much a threat to the intellectual’s sense of worth as an automated economy is to the workingman’s sense of worth. Any social order that can function with a minimum of leadership will be anathema to the intellectual.
In 'Concerning Individual Freedom', The Ordeal of Change (1963), 141.
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The great testimony of history shows how often in fact the development of science has emerged in response to technological and even economic needs, and how in the economy of social effort, science, even of the most abstract and recondite kind, pays for itself again and again in providing the basis for radically new technological developments. In fact, most people—when they think of science as a good thing, when they think of it as worthy of encouragement, when they are willing to see their governments spend substance upon it, when they greatly do honor to men who in science have attained some eminence-have in mind that the conditions of their life have been altered just by such technology, of which they may be reluctant to be deprived.
The Open Mind (1955), 89-90.
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The individual on his own is stable only so long as he is possessed of self-esteem. The maintenance of self-esteem is a continuous task which taxes all of the individual’s powers and inner resources. We have to prove our worth and justify our existence anew each day. When, for whatever reason, self-esteem is unattainable, the autonomous individual becomes a highly explosive entity. He turns away from an unpromising self and plunges into the pursuit of pride—the explosive substitute for self-esteem. All social disturbances and upheavals have their roots in crises of individual self-esteem, and the great endeavor in which the masses most readily unite is basically a search for pride.
In The Passionate State of Mind (1955), 18
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The investigator may be made to dwell in a garret, he may be forced to live on crusts and wear dilapidated clothes, he may be deprived of social recognition, but if he has time, he can steadfastly devote himself to research. Take away his free time and he is utterly destroyed as a contributor to knowledge.
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The man who is thoroughly convinced of the universal operation of the law of causation cannot for a moment entertain the idea of a being who interferes in the course of events–provided, of course, that he takes the hypothesis of causality really seriously. He has no use for the religion of fear and equally little for social or moral religion. A God who rewards and punishes is inconceivable to him for the simple reason that a man’s actions are determined by necessity, external and internal, so that in God’s eyes he cannot be responsible, any more than an inanimate object is responsible for the motions it undergoes. Science has therefore been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social tie s and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hopes of reward after death.
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The 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 most intensely social animals can only adapt to group behavior. Bees and ants have no option when isolated, except to die. There is really no such creature as a single individual; he has no more life of his own than a cast off cell marooned from the surface of your skin.
In The Lives of a Cell (1974), 63.
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The mythology of science asserts that with many different scientists all asking their own questions and evaluating the answers independently, whatever personal bias creeps into their individual answers is cancelled out when the large picture is put together. This might conceivably be so if scientists were women and men from all sorts of different cultural and social backgrounds who came to science with very different ideologies and interests. But since, in fact, they have been predominantly university-trained white males from privileged social backgrounds, the bias has been narrow and the product often reveals more about the investigator than about the subject being researched.
'Have Only Men Evolved?' Women Look at Biology Looking At Women, eds. Ruth Hubbard, Mary Sue Henifin, and Barbara Fried (1979).
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The negative cautions of science are never popular. If the experimentalist would not commit himself, the social philosopher, the preacher, and the pedagogue tried the harder to give a short-cut answer.
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The only thing you will ever be able to say in the so-called ‘social’ sciences is: some do, some don’t..
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The scientific method of examining facts is not peculiar to one class of phenomena and to one class of workers; it is applicable to social as well as to physical problems, and we must carefully guard ourselves against supposing that the scientific frame of mind is a peculiarity of the professional scientist.
From The Grammar of Science (1892), 8.
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The tragedy of deforestation in Amazonia as well as elsewhere in the tropics is that its costs, in... economic, social, cultural, and aesthetic terms, far outweigh its benefits. In many cases, destruction of the region’s rainforests is motivated by short-term gains rather than the long-term productive capacity of the land. And, as a result, deforestation usually leaves behind landscapes that are economically as well as ecologically impoverished.
From Anthony Bennett Anderson (ed.), Alternatives to Deforestation: Steps Toward Sustainable Use of the Amazon Rain Forest (1990), xi. As cited in Lykke E. Andersen (ed.), The Dynamics of Deforestation and Economic Growth in the Brazilian Amazon (2002), 2.
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The two poles of social and political philosophy seem necessarily to be organization or anarchy; man’s intellect or the forces of nature.
In Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres (1913), 344.
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The unavoidable conclusion is that the unprecedented meekness of the majority is responsible for the increase in violence. Social stability is the product of an equilibrium between a vigorous majority and violent minorities. Disorder does not come from an increased inner pressure or from the interaction of explosive ingredients. There is no reason to believe that the nature of the violent minorities is now greatly different from what it was in the past. What has changed is the will and ability of the majority to react.
In 'Thoughts on the Present', First Things, Last Things (1971), 110.
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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 are pessimists who hold that such a state of affairs is necessarily inherent in human nature; it is those who propound such views that are the enemies of true religion, for they imply thereby that religious teachings are utopian ideals and unsuited to afford guidance in human affairs. The study of the social patterns in certain so-called primitive cultures, however, seems to have made it sufficiently evident that such a defeatist view is wholly unwarranted.
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There are, as we have seen, a number of different modes of technological innovation. Before the seventeenth century inventions (empirical or scientific) were diffused by imitation and adaption while improvement was established by the survival of the fittest. Now, technology has become a complex but consciously directed group of social activities involving a wide range of skills, exemplified by scientific research, managerial expertise, and practical and inventive abilities. The powers of technology appear to be unlimited. If some of the dangers may be great, the potential rewards are greater still. This is not simply a matter of material benefits for, as we have seen, major changes in thought have, in the past, occurred as consequences of technological advances.
Concluding paragraph of "Technology," in Dictionary of the History of Ideas (1973), Vol. 4, 364.
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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. [p.222]
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There is not much that even the most socially responsible scientists can do as individuals, or even as a group, about the social consequences of their activities.
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Through the reading of popular scientific books I soon reached the conviction that much in the stories of the Bible could not be true. The consequence was a positively fanatic orgy of freethinking coupled with the impression that youth is intentionally being deceived by the state through lies; it was a crushing impression. Mistrust of every kind of author ity grew out of this experience, a skeptical attitude toward the convictions that were alive in any specific social environment–an attitude that has never again left me, even though, later on, it has been tempered by a better insight into the causal connections.
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Thus will the fondest dream of Phallic science be realized: a pristine new planet populated entirely by little boy clones of great scientific entrepreneurs free to smash atoms, accelerate particles, or, if they are so moved, build pyramids—without any social relevance or human responsibility at all.
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Very little comes easily to our poor, benighted species (the first creature, after all, to experiment with the novel evolutionary inventions of self-conscious philosophy and art). Even the most ‘obvious,’ ‘accurate,’ and ‘natural’ style of thinking or drawing must be regulated by history and won by struggle. Solutions must therefore arise within a social context and record the complex interactions of mind and environment that define the possibility of human improvement.
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We are faced today with a social decision resulting from our progress in molecular genetics at least equal to, and probably greater than, that required of us twenty years ago with the maturity of nuclear power.
In 'Abstract' The Impurity of Science (19 Apr 1962), the printed version of the Robbins Lecture (27 Feb 1962) given at Pomona College, Claremont, California, as published by Ernest O. Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, University of California.
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We do not inhabit a perfected world where natural selection ruthlessly scrutinizes all organic structures and then molds them for optimal utility. Organisms inherit a body form and a style of embryonic development; these impose constraint s upon future change and adaptation. In many cases, evolutionary pathways reflect inherited patterns more than current environmental demands. These inheritances constrain, but they also provide opportunity. A potentially minor genetic change ... entails a host of complex, nonadaptive consequences ... What ‘play’ would evolution have if each structure were built for a restricted purpose and could be used for nothing else? How could humans learn to write if our brain had not evolved for hunting, social cohesion, or whatever, and could not transcend the adaptive boundaries of its original purpose?
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We must protect each other against the attacks of those self-appointed watchdogs of patriotism now abroad in the land who irresponsibly pin red labels on anyone whom they wish to destroy. ... [Academic professionals are the only person competant to differentiate between honest independents and the Communists.] This is our responsibility. It is not a pleasant task. But if it is left to outsiders, the distinction is not likely to be made and those independent critics of social institutions among us who are one of the glories of a true university could be silenced.
As quoted by William L. Laurence in 'Professors Urged to Guard Freedom', New York Times (19 Sep 1952), 17.
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What has been learned in physics stays learned. People talk about scientific revolutions. The social and political connotations of revolution evoke a picture of a body of doctrine being rejected, to be replaced by another equally vulnerable to refutation. It is not like that at all. The history of physics has seen profound changes indeed in the way that physicists have thought about fundamental questions. But each change was a widening of vision, an accession of insight and understanding. The introduction, one might say the recognition, by man (led by Einstein) of relativity in the first decade of this century and the formulation of quantum mechanics in the third decade are such landmarks. The only intellectual casualty attending the discovery of quantum mechanics was the unmourned demise of the patchwork quantum theory with which certain experimental facts had been stubbornly refusing to agree. As a scientist, or as any thinking person with curiosity about the basic workings of nature, the reaction to quantum mechanics would have to be: “Ah! So that’s the way it really is!” There is no good analogy to the advent of quantum mechanics, but if a political-social analogy is to be made, it is not a revolution but the discovery of the New World.
From Physics Survey Committee, U.S. National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council, 'The Nature of Physics', in report Physics in Perspective (1973), 61-62. As cited in I. Bernard Cohen, Revolution in Science (1985), 554-555.
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What we do see through geological time is the emergence of more complex worlds. ... [W]hen within the animal we see the emergence of larger and more complex brains, sophisticated vocalizations, echolocation, electrical perception, advanced social systems including eusociality, viviparity, warm-bloodedness, and agriculture—all of which are convergent—then to me that sounds like progress.
Life's Solution, 307. In Vinoth Ramachandra, Subverting Global Myths: Theology and the Public Issues Shaping our World (2008), 184.
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When we survey our lives and endeavours we soon observe that almost the whole of our actions and desires are bound up with the existence of other human beings. We see that our whole nature resembles that of the social animals. We eat food that others have grown, wear clothes that others have made, live in houses that others have built. The greater part of our knowledge and beliefs has been communicated to us by other people through the medium of a language which others have created. Without language our mental capacities would be poor indeed, comparable to those of the higher animals; we have, therefore, to admit that we owe our principal advantage over the beasts to the fact of living in human society. The individual, if left alone from birth would remain primitive and beast-like in his thoughts and feelings to a degree that we can hardly conceive. The individual is what he is and has the significance that he has not so much in virtue of his individuality, but rather as a member of a great human society, which directs his material and spiritual existence from the cradle to the grave.
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While the method of the natural sciences is... analytic, the method of the social sciences is better described as compositive or synthetic. It is the so-called wholes, the groups of elements which are structurally connected, which we learn to single out from the totality of observed phenomena... Insofar as we analyze individual thought in the social sciences the purpose is not to explain that thought, but merely to distinguish the possible types of elements with which we shall have to reckon in the construction of different patterns of social relationships. It is a mistake... to believe that their aim is to explain conscious action ... The problems which they try to answer arise only insofar as the conscious action of many men produce undesigned results... If social phenomena showed no order except insofar as they were consciously designed, there would indeed be no room for theoretical sciences of society and there would be, as is often argued, only problems of psychology. It is only insofar as some sort of order arises as a result of individual action but without being designed by any individual that a problem is raised which demands a theoretical explanation... people dominated by the scientistic prejudice are often inclined to deny the existence of any such order... it can be shown briefly and without any technical apparatus how the independent actions of individuals will produce an order which is no part of their intentions... The way in which footpaths are formed in a wild broken country is such an instance. At first everyone will seek for himself what seems to him the best path. But the fact that such a path has been used once is likely to make it easier to traverse and therefore more likely to be used again; and thus gradually more and more clearly defined tracks arise and come to be used to the exclusion of other possible ways. Human movements through the region come to conform to a definite pattern which, although the result of deliberate decision of many people, has yet not be consciously designed by anyone.
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World views are social constructions and they channel the search for facts. But facts are found and knowledge progresses, however fitfully.
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[The blame for the future 'plight of civilization] must rest on scientific men, equally with others, for being incapable of accepting the responsibility for the profound social upheavals which their own work primarily has brought about in human relationships.
Quoted in Thaddeus Trenn, 'The Central Role of Energy in Soddy's Holistic and Critical Approach to Nuclear Science, Economics, and Social Responsibility', British Journal for the History of Science (1979), 42, 261.
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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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- 60 -
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- 40 -
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