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Who said: “Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.”
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Teeth Quotes (43 quotes)

... semantics ... is a sober and modest discipline which has no pretensions of being a universal patent-medicine for all the ills and diseases of mankind, whether imaginary or real. You will not find in semantics any remedy for decayed teeth or illusions of grandeur or class conflict. Nor is semantics a device for establishing that everyone except the speaker and his friends is speaking nonsense
In 'The Semantic Conception of Truth and the Foundations of Semantics', collected in Leonard Linsky (ed.), Semantics and the Philosophy of Language: A Collection of Readings (1952), 17.
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1839—The fermentation satire
THE MYSTERY OF ALCOHOLIC FERMENTATION RESOLVED
(Preliminary Report by Letter) Schwindler
I am about to develop a new theory of wine fermentation … Depending on the weight, these seeds carry fermentation to completion somewhat less than as in the beginning, which is understandable … I shall develop a new theory of wine fermentation [showing] what simple means Nature employs in creating the most amazing phenomena. I owe it to the use of an excellent microscope designed by Pistorius.
When brewer’s yeast is mixed with water the microscope reveals that the yeast dissolves into endless small balls, which are scarcely 1/800th of a line in diameter … If these small balls are placed in sugar water, it can be seen that they consist of the eggs of animals. As they expand, they burst, and from them develop small creatures that multiply with unbelievable rapidity in a most unheard of way. The form of these animals differs from all of the 600 types described up until now. They possess the shape of a Beinsdorff still (without the cooling apparatus). The head of the tube is a sort of proboscis, the inside of which is filled with fine bristles 1/2000th of a line long. Teeth and eyes are not discernible; however, a stomach, intestinal canal, anus (a rose red dot), and organs for secretion of urine are plainly discernible. From the moment they are released from the egg one can see these animals swallow the sugar from the solution and pass it to the stomach. It is digested immediately, a process recognized easily by the resultant evacuation of excrements. In a word, these infusors eat sugar, evacuate ethyl alcohol from the intestinal canal, and carbon dioxide from the urinary organs. The bladder, in the filled state, has the form of a champagne bottle; when empty, it is a small button … As soon as the animals find no more sugar present, they eat each other up, which occurs through a peculiar manipulation; everything is digested down to the eggs which pass unchanged through the intestinal canal. Finally, one again fermentable yeast, namely the seed of the animals, which remain over.
In 'Das entriithselle Geheimiss der geisligen Giihrung', Annalen der Pharmacie und Chemie (1839), 29, 100-104; adapted from English translalion by Ralph E. Oesper, The Human Side of Scientists (1975), 203-205.
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A most vile face! and yet she spends me forty pound a year in Mercury and Hogs Bones. All her teeth were made in the Black-Fryars, both her Eyebrows i’ the Strand, and her Hair in Silver-street. Every part of Town owns a Piece of her.
A reference to artificial teeth by character Otter, speaking of his wife, in Epicoene: or, The Silent Woman (1609), Act IV, Sc. 2, 64. Also, True-wit makes a specific reference to “false Teeth” in Act I, Sc. 1, 10.
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All fossil anthropoids found hitherto have been known only from mandibular or maxillary fragments, so far as crania are concerned, and so the general appearance of the types they represented had been unknown; consequently, a condition of affairs where virtually the whole face and lower jaw, replete with teeth, together with the major portion of the brain pattern, have been preserved, constitutes a specimen of unusual value in fossil anthropoid discovery. Here, as in Homo rhodesiensis, Southern Africa has provided documents of higher primate evolution that are amongst the most complete extant. Apart from this evidential completeness, the specimen is of importance because it exhibits an extinct race of apes intermediate between living anthropoids and man ... Whether our present fossil is to be correlated with the discoveries made in India is not yet apparent; that question can only be solved by a careful comparison of the permanent molar teeth from both localities. It is obvious, meanwhile, that it represents a fossil group distinctly advanced beyond living anthropoids in those two dominantly human characters of facial and dental recession on one hand, and improved quality of the brain on the other. Unlike Pithecanthropus, it does not represent an ape-like man, a caricature of precocious hominid failure, but a creature well advanced beyond modern anthropoids in just those characters, facial and cerebral, which are to be anticipated in an extinct link between man and his simian ancestor. At the same time, it is equally evident that a creature with anthropoid brain capacity and lacking the distinctive, localised temporal expansions which appear to be concomitant with and necessary to articulate man, is no true man. It is therefore logically regarded as a man-like ape. I propose tentatively, then, that a new family of Homo-simidæ be created for the reception of the group of individuals which it represents, and that the first known species of the group be designated Australopithecus africanus, in commemoration, first, of the extreme southern and unexpected horizon of its discovery, and secondly, of the continent in which so many new and important discoveries connected with the early history of man have recently been made, thus vindicating the Darwinian claim that Africa would prove to be the cradle of mankind.
'Australopithicus africanus: The Man-Ape of South Africa', Nature, 1925, 115, 195.
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An old paleontological in joke proclaims that mammalian evolution is a tale told by teeth mating to produce slightly altered descendant teeth.
…...
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Aristotle maintained that women have fewer teeth than men; although he was twice married, it never occurred to him to verify this statement by examining his wives' mouths.
In The Impact of Science on Society (1951), 7.
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Aristotle, in spite of his reputation, is full of absurdities. He says that children should be conceived in the Winter, when the wind is in the North, and that if people marry too young the children will be female. He tells us that the blood of females is blacker then that of males; that the pig is the only animal liable to measles; that an elephant suffering from insomnia should have its shoulders rubbed with salt, olive-oil, and warm water; that women have fewer teeth than men, and so on. Nevertheless, he is considered by the great majority of philosophers a paragon of wisdom.
From An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish (1937, 1943), 19. Collected in The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell (2009), 63.
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At the voice of comparative anatomy, every bone, and fragment of a bone, resumed its place. I cannot find words to express the pleasure I have in seeing, as I discovered one character, how all the consequences, which I predicted from it, were successively confirmed; the feet were found in accordance with the characters announced by the teeth; the teeth in harmony with those indicated beforehand by the feet; the bones of the legs and thighs, and every connecting portion of the extremities, were found set together precisely as I had arranged them, before my conjectures were verified by the discovery of the parts entire: in short, each species was, as it were, reconstructed from a single one of its component elements.
Geology and Mineralogy (1836), Vol. I, 83-4.
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Each of us has read somewhere that in New Guinea pidgin the word for 'piano' is (I use English spelling) 'this fellow you hit teeth belonging to him he squeal all same pig'. I am inclined to doubt whether this expression is authentic; it looks just like the kind of thing a visitor to the Islands would facetiously invent. But I accept 'cut grass belong head belong me' for 'haircut' as genuine... Such phrases seem very funny to us, and make us feel very superior to the ignorant foreigners who use long winded expressions for simple matters. And then it is our turn to name quite a simple thing, a small uncomplicated molecule consisting of nothing more than a measly 11 carbons, seven hydrogens, one nitrogen and six oxygens. We sharpen our pencils, consult our rule books and at last come up with 3-[(1, 3- dihydro-1, 3-dioxo-2H-isoindol-2-yl) oxy]-3-oxopropanoic acid. A name like that could drive any self-respecting Papuan to piano-playing.
The Chemist's English (1990), 3rd Edition, 57.
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For, however much we may clench our teeth in anger, we cannot but confess, in opposition to Galen’s teaching but in conformity with the might of Aristotle’s opinion, that the size of the orifice of the hollow vein at the right chamber of the heart is greater than that of the body of the hollow vein, no matter where you measure the latter. Then the following chapter will show the falsity of Galen’s view that the hollow vein is largest at the point where it joins the hump of the liver.
From De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem (1543), Book III, 275, as translated by William Frank Richardson and John Burd Carman, in 'The Arguments Advanced by Galen in Opposition to Aristotl’s Views about the Origin of the Hollow Vein Do Not Have Oracular Authority', On The Fabric of the Human Body: Book III: The Veins And Arteries; Book IV: The Nerves (1998), 45.
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Hence when a person is in great pain, the cause of which he cannot remove, he sets his teeth firmly together, or bites some substance between them with great vehemence, as another mode of violent exertion to produce a temporary relief. Thus we have the proverb where no help can be has in pain, 'to grin and abide;' and the tortures of hell are said to be attended with 'gnashing of teeth.'Describing a suggestion of the origin of the grin in the present form of a proverb, 'to grin and bear it.'
Zoonomia, Or, The Laws of Organic Life, in three parts (1803), Vol. 1, 330.
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Hot things, sharp things, sweet things, cold things
All rot the teeth, and make them look like old things.
In Poor Richard's Almanack (1734).
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I have said that the investigation for which the teeth of the shark had furnished an opportunity, was very near an end... But thereafter, while I was examining more carefully these details of both places and bodies [sedimentary deposits and shells], these day by day presented points of doubt to me as they followed one another in indissoluble connection, so that I saw myself again and again brought back to the starting-place, as it were, when I thought I was nearest the goal. I might compare those doubts to the heads of the Lernean Hydra, since when one of them had been got rid of, numberless others were born; at any rate, I saw that I was wandering about in a sort of labyrinth, where the nearer one approaches the exit, the wider circuits does one tread.
The Prodromus of Nicolaus Steno's Dissertation Concerning a Solid Body enclosed by Process of Nature within a Solid (1669), trans. J. G. Winter (1916), 206.
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I have to forge every sentence in the teeth of irreducible and stubborn facts.
Letter to his brother Henry James, while William was writing his Principles of Psychology. As quoted in 'The Origins of Modern Science', Science and the Modern World (1926, 2011), 3.
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I stood there with only the weapons and the powers that Nature had endowed me with – hands, feet, and teeth.
In The Time Machine (1898), 129.
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I well know what a spendidly great difference there is [between] a man and a bestia when I look at them from a point of view of morality. Man is the animal which the Creator has seen fit to honor with such a magnificent mind and has condescended to adopt as his favorite and for which he has prepared a nobler life; indeed, sent out for its salvation his only son; but all this belongs to another forum; it behooves me like a cobbler to stick to my last, in my own workshop, and as a naturalist to consider man and his body, for I know scarcely one feature by which man can be distinguished from apes, if it be not that all the apes have a gap between their fangs and their other teeth, which will be shown by the results of further investigation.
T. Fredbärj (ed.), Menniskans Cousiner (Valda Avhandlingar av Carl von Linné nr, 21) (1955), 4. Trans. Gunnar Broberg, 'Linnaeus's Classification of Man', in Tore Frängsmyr (ed.), Linnaeus: The Man and his Work (1983), 167.
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If the matter is one that can be settled by observation, make the observation yourself. Aristotle could have avoided the mistake of thinking that women have fewer teeth than men, by the simple device of asking Mrs. Aristotle to keep her mouth open while he counted.
In An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish (1943), 22.
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Is not Cuvier the great poet of our era? Byron has given admirable expression to certain moral conflicts, but our immortal naturalist has reconstructed past worlds from a few bleached bones; has rebuilt cities, like Cadmus, with monsters’ teeth; has animated forests with all the secrets of zoology gleaned from a piece of coal; has discovered a giant population from the footprints of a mammoth.
From 'La Peau de Chagrin' (1831). As translated by Ellen Marriage in The Wild Ass’s Skin (1906), 21-22.
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Is not Cuvier the greatest poet of our age? Of course Lord Byron has set down in fine words certain of our souls’ longings; but our immortal naturalist has reconstructed whole worlds out of bleached bones. Like Cadmus, he has rebuilt great cities from teeth, repopulated thousands of forests with all the mysteries of zoology from a few pieces of coal, discovered races of giants in the foot of a mammoth.
From 'La Peau de Chagrin' (1831). As translated as by Helen Constantine The Wild Ass’s Skin (2012), 19.
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Isaac Newton was born at Woolsthorpe, near Grantham, in Lincolnshire, on Christmas Day, 1642: a weakly and diminutive infant, of whom it is related that, at his birth, he might have found room in a quart mug. He died on March the 20th, 1727, after more than eighty-four years of more than average bodily health and vigour; it is a proper pendant to the story of the quart mug to state that he never lost more than one of his second teeth.
In Essays on the life and work of Newton (), 4.
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Like teeth husbands are hard to get and while we have them they give us a great deal of pain and trouble. But once we lose them they leave a wide gap.
Attributed (per W. H. Brock).
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Loss of teeth and marriage spoil a woman’s beauty.
Anonymous
African proverb
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Men are not going to embrace eugenics. They are going to embrace the first likely, trim-figured girl with limpid eyes and flashing teeth who comes along, in spite of the fact that her germ plasm is probably reeking with hypertension, cancer, haemophilia, colour blindness, hay fever, epilepsy, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
…...
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My final word, before I'm done,
Is “Cancer can be rather fun”—
Provided one confronts the tumour
with a sufficient sense of humour.
I know that cancer often kills,
But so do cars and sleeping pills;
And it can hurt till one sweats,
So can bad teeth and unpaid debts.
A spot of laughter, I am sure,
Often accelerates one's cure;
So let us patients do our bit
To help the surgeons make us fit.
'Cancer's a Funny Thing'. Quoted in Richard Dawkins, The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing (2008), 175-6.
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Of all the constituents of the human body, bone is the hardest, the driest, the earthiest, and the coldest; and, excepting only the teeth, it is devoid of sensation. God, the great Creator of all things, formed its substance to this specification with good reason, intending it to be like a foundation for the whole body; for in the fabric of the human body bones perform the same function as do walls and beams in houses, poles in tents, and keels and ribs in boats.
Bones Differentiated by Function
Some bones, by reason of their strength, form as it were props for the body; these include the tibia, the femur, the spinal vertebrae, and most of the bony framework. Others are like bastions, defense walls, and ramparts, affording natural protection to other parts; examples are the skull, the spines and transverse processes of the vertebrae, the breast bone, the ribs. Others stand in front of the joints between certain bones, to ensure that the joint does not move too loosely or bend to too acute an angle. This is the function of the tiny bones, likened by the professors of anatomy to the size of a sesame seed, which are attached to the second internode of the thumb, the first internode of the other four fingers and the first internodes of the five toes. The teeth, on the other hand, serve specifically to cut, crush, pound and grind our food, and similarly the two ossicles in the organ of hearing perform a specifically auditory function.
From De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem: (1543), Book I, 1, as translated by William Frank Richardson, in 'Nature of Bone; Function of Bones', On The Fabric of the Human Body: Book I: The Bones and Cartilages (1998), 1.
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Religion now has degenerated and it has turned into a wolf; it has opened its mouth to show his ugly teeth; its spreading fear instead of love; and science has hidden in a corner like a lamb, trembling with fear!
From the play Galileo Galilei (2001) .
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Removing the teeth will cure something, including the foolish belief that removing the teeth will cure everything.
Anonymous
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Science is now the craft of the manipulation, substitution and deflection of the forces of nature. What I see coming is a gigantic slaughterhouse, an Auschwitz, in which valuable enzymes, hormones, and so on will be extracted instead of gold teeth.
In Columbia Forum (Summer 1969). As quoted and cited in Rob Kaplan, Science Says (2000), 58.
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The beaver is an animal which has feet like those of a goose for swimming and front teeth like a dog, since it frequently walks on land. It is called the castor from “castration,” but not because it castrates itself as Isodore says, but because it is especially sought for castration purposes. As has been ascertained frequently in our regions, it is false that when it is bothered by a hunter, it castrates itself with its teeth and hurls its musk [castoreum] away and that if one has been castrated on another occasion by a hunter, it raises itself up and shows that it lacks its musk.
De Animalibus (On Animals) [1258/62], Book XXII, tract 2, chapter 1 (22), trans. K. F. Kitchell Jr. and I. M. Resnick (1999), Vol. 2, 1467.
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The Chinese … use fossil teeth as one of their principal medicines. Some Chinese families have for centuries been in the business of “mining” fossils to supply the drug trade.
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The frequent allegation that the selective processes in the human species are no longer 'natural' is due to persistence of the obsolete nineteenth-century concept of 'natural' selection. The error of this view is made clear when we ask its proponents such questions as, why should the 'surviving fittest' be able to withstand cold and inclement weather without the benefit of fire and clothing? Is it not ludicrous to expect selection to make us good at defending ourselves against wild beasts when wild beasts are getting to be so rare that it is a privilege to see one outside of a zoo? Is it necessary to eliminate everyone who has poor teeth when our dentists stand ready to provide us with artificial ones? Is it a great virtue to be able to endure pain when anaesthetics are available?
[Co-author with American statistician Gordon Allen]
Theodosius Dobzhansky and Gordon Allen, 'Does Natural Selection Continue to Operate in Modern Mankind?', American Anthropologist, 1956, 58, 595.
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The frillshark has many anatomical features similar to those of the ancient sharks that lived 25 to 30 million years ago. It has too many gills and too few dorsal fins for a modern shark, and its teeth, like those of fossil sharks, are three-pronged and briarlike. Some ichthyologists regard it as a relic derived from very ancient shark ancestors that have died out in the upper waters but, through this single species, are still carrying on their struggle for earthly survival, in the quiet of the deep sea.
In The Sea Around Us (1951), 54.
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The man who proportions the several parts of a mill, uses the same scientific principles [mechanics], as if he had the power of constructing an universe; but as he cannot give to matter that invisible agency, by which all the component parts of the immense machine of the universe have influence upon each other, and set in motional unison together without any apparent contact, and to which man has given the name of attraction, gravitation, and repulsion, he supplies the place of that agency by the humble imitation of teeth and cogs. All the parts of man’s microcosm must visibly touch.
In The Age of Reason: Being an Investigation of True and Fabulous Theology (27 Jan O.S. 1794), 42-43.
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The Microbe is so very small,
You cannot make him out at all.
But many sanguine people hope
To see him down a microscope.
His jointed tongue that lies beneath
A hundred curious rows of teeth;
His seven tufted tails with lots
Of lovely pink and purple spots
On each of which a pattern stands,
Composed of forty separate bands;
His eyebrows of a tender green;
All these have never yet been seen
But Scientists, who ought to know,
Assure us they must be so ...
Oh! let us never, never doubt
What nobody is sure about!
In More Beasts for Worse Children (1897), 47-8.
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The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.
In Cosmos (1980), 233.
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The puritanical potentialities of science have never been forecast. If it evolves a body of organized rites, and is established as a religion, hierarchically organized, things more than anything else will be done in the name of 'decency.' The coarse fumes of tobacco and liquors, the consequent tainting of the breath and staining of white fingers and teeth, which is so offensive to many women, will be the first things attended to.
Wyndham Lewis: an Anthology of his Prose (1969), 170.
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The science, the art, the jurisprudence, the chief political and social theories, of the modern world have grown out of Greece and Rome—not by favour of, but in the teeth of, the fundamental teachings of early Christianity, to which science, art, and any serious occupation with the things of this world were alike despicable.
'Agnosticism and Christianity'. Collected Essays (1900), 315.
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Timorous readers, however, need entertain no feverish fear, on, visiting the Isle of Sheppey, of encountering either wild elephants, crocodiles, sharks, serpents, or man-eating birds of huge dimensions, bearing strange names, and armed with sets of teeth for masticating and digestive purposes, as the author can assure them that they all died out a million or so of years ago, before he undertook to look up their records and write the history of this wonderful little island. Visitors may, however, honestly deplore the absence of the feathery palm trees bearing the luscious date and the lacteous cocoa-nut; but by prosecuting a diligent search they may, at least, be consoled by procuring some of these, rare fossil remains, reminiscent of an incalculable period of time when our particular portion of this hemisphere performed its diurnal revolutions in the immediate zone of the tropics.
Quoted in Augustus A. Daly, History of the Isle of Sheppey (1975), 250.
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We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively outnumbers the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.
Unweaving the Rainbow (1998), 1.
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Writers, like teeth, are divided into, incisors and grinders.
'The First Edinburgh Reviewers', National Review (1855). Describing writer Sydney Smith: Sydney Smith was a molar. Republished in Littell’s Living Age (24 Nov 1855), 47, No. 600, 461. Bagehot continues about Sydney Smith: “He did not run a long sharp argument into the interior of a question; he did not, in the common phrase, go deeply into it; but he kept it steadily under the contact of a strong, capable, heavy, jaw-like understanding,— pressing its surface, effacing its intricacies, grinding it down.”
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[Am I vegetarian?] No. If you understand about the natural world, we’re a part of the system and you can’t feed lions grass. But because we have the intelligence to choose… But we haven’t got the gut to allow us to be totally vegetarian for a start. You can tell by the shape of our guts and the shape of our teeth that we evolved to be omnivores. We aren’t carnivores like lions but neither are we elephants.
Interview by Simon Gage in 'David Attenborough: I’m not an animal lover', Metro (29 Jan 2013, London).
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[An artist] will sooner and with more certainty, establish the character of skeletons, than the most learned anatomist, whose eye has not been accustomed to seize on every peculiarity.
Asserting his (incorrect) belief that the fossil teeth of the mastodon revealed it was a carnivorous animal.]
In An Historical Disquisition on the Mammoth, or, Great American Incognitum, an Extinct, Immense, Carnivorous Animal, whose Fossil Remains Have Been Found in North America (1903), 38-39, which was published for his London exhibit of a mastodon skeleton. As cited in Michele L. Aldrich article on Peale, in Charles Coulston Gillespie, Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1978), Vol. 15-16, 472.
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“Bitzer,” said Thomas Gradgrind. “Your definition of a horse.”
“Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth; namely, twenty-four grinders, four eye-teeth, and twelve incisive. Sheds coat in the Spring; in marshy countries, sheds hoofs, too. Hoofs hard, but requiring to be shod with iron. Age known by marks in mouth.” Thus (and much more) Bitzer.
“Now girl number twenty,” said Mr. Gradgrind. “You know what a horse is.”
Spoken by fictional character Thomas Gringrind in his schoolroom with pupil Bitzer, Hard Times, published in Household Words (1 Apr 1854), Vol. 36, 3.
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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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