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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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Tell Quotes (110 quotes)

Dogbert: Scientists have discovered the gene that makes some people love golf.
Dilbert: How can they tell it’s the golf gene?
Dogbert: It’s plaid and it lies.
Dilbert comic strip (28 Oct 1989).
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Quand on demande à nos philosophes à quoi sert ce nombre prodigieux d’étoiles fixes, dont une partie suffirait pour faire ce qu’elles font toutes, ils vous répondent froidement qu’elles servent à leur réjouir la vue.
When our philosophers are asked what is the use of these countless myriads of fixed stars, of which a small part would be sufficient to do what they all do, they coolly tell us that they are made to give delight to their eyes.
In 'Premier Soir', Entretiens Sur La Pluralité Des Mondes (1686, 1863), 29. French and translation in Craufurd Tait Ramage, Beautiful Thoughts from French and Italian Authors (1866), 117.
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A Chinese tale tells of some men sent to harm a young girl who, upon seeing her beauty, become her protectors rather than her violators. That’s how I felt seeing the Earth for the first time. "I could not help but love and cherish her.
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A few days afterwards, I went to him [the same actuary referred to in another quote] and very gravely told him that I had discovered the law of human mortality in the Carlisle Table, of which he thought very highly. I told him that the law was involved in this circumstance. Take the table of the expectation of life, choose any age, take its expectation and make the nearest integer a new age, do the same with that, and so on; begin at what age you like, you are sure to end at the place where the age past is equal, or most nearly equal, to the expectation to come. “You don’t mean that this always happens?”—“Try it.” He did try, again and again; and found it as I said. “This is, indeed, a curious thing; this is a discovery!” I might have sent him about trumpeting the law of life: but I contented myself with informing him that the same thing would happen with any table whatsoever in which the first column goes up and the second goes down.
In Budget of Paradoxes (1872), 172.
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A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.
First sentences in When Prophecy Fails (1956), 3.
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A very sincere and serious freshman student came to my office with a question that had clearly been troubling him deeply. He said to me, ‘I am a devout Christian and have never had any reason to doubt evolution, an idea that seems both exciting and well documented. But my roommate, a proselytizing evangelical, has been insisting with enormous vigor that I cannot be both a real Christian and an evolutionist. So tell me, can a person believe both in God and in evolution?’ Again, I gulped hard, did my intellectual duty, a nd reassured him that evolution was both true and entirely compatible with Christian belief –a position that I hold sincerely, but still an odd situation for a Jewish agnostic.
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A week or so after I learned that I was to receive the Miller Award, our president, Marty Morton, phoned and asked me if I would utter a few words of scientific wisdom as a part of the ceremony. Unfortunately for me, and perhaps for you, I agreed to do so. In retrospect I fear that my response was a serious error, because I do not feel wise. I do not know whether to attribute my response to foolhardiness, to conceit, to an inordinate susceptibility to flattery, to stupidity, or to some combination of these unfortunate attributes all of which I have been told are recognizable in my personality. Personally, I tend to favor stupidity, because that is a condition over which I have little control.
Bartholomew, April 1993, unpublished remarks when receiving the Miller Award from the Cooper Ornithological Society.
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A world that did not lift a finger when Hitler was wiping out six million Jewish men, women, and children is now saying that the Jewish state of Israel will not survive if it does not come to terms with the Arabs. My feeling is that no one in this universe has the right and the competence to tell Israel what it has to do in order to survive. On the contrary, it is Israel that can tell us what to do. It can tell us that we shall not survive if we do not cultivate and celebrate courage, if we coddle traitors and deserters, bargain with terrorists, court enemies, and scorn friends.
In Before the Sabbath (1979), 6.
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All that biology tells us about the nature of God is that he has “An inordinate fondness for beetles.”
As stated in George Evelyn Hutchison, 'Homage to Santa Rosalia, or Why Are There So Many Kinds of Animals?', The American Naturalist (1959), 93, 145-159.
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Always listen to experts.They’ll tell you what can’t be done, and why. Then do it.
In 'From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long', Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 256.
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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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Archimedes … had stated that given the force, any given weight might be moved, and even boasted, we are told, relying on the strength of demonstration, that if there were another earth, by going into it he could remove this. Hiero being struck with amazement at this, and entreating him to make good this problem by actual experiment, and show some great weight moved by a small engine, he fixed accordingly upon a ship of burden out of the king’s arsenal, which could not be drawn out of the dock without great labor and many men; and, loading her with many passengers and a full freight, sitting himself the while far off with no great endeavor, but only holding the head of the pulley in his hand and drawing the cords by degrees, he drew the ship in a straight line, as smoothly and evenly, as if she had been in the sea. The king, astonished at this, and convinced of the power of the art, prevailed upon Archimedes to make him engines accommodated to all the purposes, offensive and defensive, of a siege. … the apparatus was, in most opportune time, ready at hand for the Syracusans, and with it also the engineer himself.
Plutarch
In John Dryden (trans.), Life of Marcellus.
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Arithmetic tells you how many you lose or win if you know how many you had before you lost or won.
From 'Arithmetic', Harvest Poems, 1910-1960 (1960), 115.
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As a doctor, as a man of science, I can tell you there is no such thing as curses Everything just happens as a question of probability. The statistical likelihood of a specific event.
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As he [Clifford] spoke he appeared not to be working out a question, but simply telling what he saw. Without any diagram or symbolic aid he described the geometrical conditions on which the solution depended, and they seemed to stand out visibly in space. There were no longer consequences to be deduced, but real and evident facts which only required to be seen. … So whole and complete was his vision that for the time the only strange thing was that anybody should fail to see it in the same way. When one endeavored to call it up again, and not till then, it became clear that the magic of genius had been at work, and that the common sight had been raised to that higher perception by the power that makes and transforms ideas, the conquering and masterful quality of the human mind which Goethe called in one word das Dämonische.
In Leslie Stephen and Frederick Pollock (eds.), Lectures and Essays by William Kingdon Clifford(1879), Vol. 1, Introduction, 4-5.
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As language-using organisms, we participate in the evolution of the Universe most fruitfully through interpretation. We understand the world by drawing pictures, telling stories, conversing. These are our special contributions to existence. It is our immense good fortune and grave responsibility to sing the songs of the Cosmos.
Epigraph, without citation, in Michael Dowd, Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World (2008), 103.
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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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Before Kuhn, most scientists followed the place-a-stone-in-the-bright-temple-of-knowledge tradition, and would have told you that they hoped, above all, to lay many of the bricks, perhaps even the keystone, of truth’s temple. Now most scientists of vision hope to foment revolution. We are, therefore, awash in revolutions, most self-proclaimed.
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But, you might say, “none of this shakes my belief that 2 and 2 are 4.” You are quite right, except in marginal cases—and it is only in marginal cases that you are doubtful whether a certain animal is a dog or a certain length is less than a meter. Two must be two of something, and the proposition “2 and 2 are 4” is useless unless it can be applied. Two dogs and two dogs are certainly four dogs, but cases arise in which you are doubtful whether two of them are dogs. “Well, at any rate there are four animals,” you may say. But there are microorganisms concerning which it is doubtful whether they are animals or plants. “Well, then living organisms,” you say. But there are things of which it is doubtful whether they are living organisms or not. You will be driven into saying: “Two entities and two entities are four entities.” When you have told me what you mean by “entity,” we will resume the argument.
In Basic Writings, 1903-1959 (1961), 108.
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Common sense is that which tells us the world is flat.
As quoted in Samuel Ichiyé Hayakawa, Language in Thought and Action (1939, 1949), 31. Hayakawa clearly specified the quote was “recently defined by Stuart Chase”. Some later sources incorrectly attribute to Hayakawa alone. Others even attribute to Einstein.
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Educators may bring upon themselves unnecessary travail by taking a tactless and unjustifiable position about the relation between scientific and religious narratives. … The point is that profound but contradictory ideas may exist side by side, if they are constructed from different materials and methods and have different purposes. Each tells us something important about where we stand in the universe, and it is foolish to insist that they must despise each other.
In The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School (1995), 107.
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Euler could repeat the Aeneid from the beginning to the end, and he could even tell the first and last lines in every page of the edition which he used. In one of his works there is a learned memoir on a question in mechanics, of which, as he himself informs us, a verse of Aeneid gave him the first idea. [“The anchor drops, the rushing keel is staid.”]
In Letters of Euler (1872), Vol. 1, 24.
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Euler was a believer in God, downright and straightforward. The following story is told by Thiebault, in his Souvenirs de vingt ans de séjour à Berlin, … Thiebault says that he has no personal knowledge of the truth of the story, but that it was believed throughout the whole of the north of Europe. Diderot paid a visit to the Russian Court at the invitation of the Empress. He conversed very freely, and gave the younger members of the Court circle a good deal of lively atheism. The Empress was much amused, but some of her counsellors suggested that it might be desirable to check these expositions of doctrine. The Empress did not like to put a direct muzzle on her guest’s tongue, so the following plot was contrived. Diderot was informed that a learned mathematician was in possession of an algebraical demonstration of the existence of God, and would give it him before all the Court, if he desired to hear it. Diderot gladly consented: though the name of the mathematician is not given, it was Euler. He advanced toward Diderot, and said gravely, and in a tone of perfect conviction:
Monsieur, (a + bn) / n = x, donc Dieu existe; repondez!

Diderot, to whom algebra was Hebrew, was embarrassed and disconcerted; while peals of laughter rose on all sides. He asked permission to return to France at once, which was granted.
In Budget of Paradoxes (1878), 251. [The declaration in French expresses, “therefore God exists; please answer!” This Euler-Diderot anecdote, as embellished by De Morgan, is generally regarded as entirely fictional. Diderot before he became an encyclopedist was an accomplished mathematician and fully capable of recognizing—and responding to—the absurdity of an algebraic expression in proving the existence of God. See B.H. Brown, 'The Euler-Diderot Anecdote', The American Mathematical Monthly (May 1942), 49, No. 5, 392-303. —Webmaster.]
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Evolution is the conviction that organisms developed their current forms by an extended history of continual transformation, and that ties of genealogy bind all living things into one nexus. Panselectionism is a denial of history, for perfection covers the tracks of time. A perfect wing may have evolved to its current state, but it may have been created just as we find it. We simply cannot tell if perfection be our only evidence. As Darwin himself understood so well, the primary proofs of evolution are oddities and imperfections that must record pathways of historical descent–the panda’s thumb and the flamingo’s smile of my book titles (chosen to illustrate this paramount principle of history).
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First they told us the world was flat. Then they told us it was round. Now they are telling us it isn’t even there.
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For the first time in my life I saw the horizon as a curved line. It was accentuated by a thin seam of dark blue light - our atmosphere. Obviously this was not the ocean of air I had been told it was so many times in my life. I was terrified by its fragile appearance.
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From this fountain (the free will of God) it is those laws, which we call the laws of nature, have flowed, in which there appear many traces of the most wise contrivance, but not the least shadow of necessity. These therefore we must not seek from uncertain conjectures, but learn them from observations and experimental. He who is presumptuous enough to think that he can find the true principles of physics and the laws of natural things by the force alone of his own mind, and the internal light of his reason, must either suppose the world exists by necessity, and by the same necessity follows the law proposed; or if the order of Nature was established by the will of God, the [man] himself, a miserable reptile, can tell what was fittest to be done.
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God in His wisdom made the fly
And then forgot to tell us why.
'The Fly' (1942), Good Intentions (1943), 220.
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Governments, universities and industry must put their faith in science and tell their people to study what they want to study.
From speech at the University of Saskatchewan, as quoted in Sean Trembath, 'Chemist Henry Taube Was Saskatchewan's First Nobel Laureate', Saskatoon StarPhoenix (5 Jan 2017).
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Holding then to science with one hand—the left hand—we give the right hand to religion, and cry: ‘Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things, more wondrous than the shining worlds can tell.’ Obedient to the promise, religion does awaken faculties within us, does teach our eyes to the beholding of more wonderful things. Those great worlds blazing like suns die like feeble stars in the glory of the morning, in the presence of this new light. The soul knows that an infinite sea of love is all about it, throbbing through it, everlasting arms of affection lift it, and it bathes itself in the clear consciousness of a Father’s love.
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How do we tell truths that might hurt?
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How much do I love that noble man / More than I could tell with words / I fear though he’ll remain alone / With a holy halo of his own.
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How to tell students what to look for without telling them what to see is the dilemma of teaching.
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Hubris is the greatest danger that accompanies formal data analysis, including formalized statistical analysis. The feeling of “Give me (or more likely even, give my assistant) the data, and I will tell you what the real answer is!” is one we must all fight against again and again, and yet again.
In 'Sunset Salvo', The American Statistician (Feb 1986), 40, No. 1, 75.
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I am born into an environment–I know not whence I came nor whither I go nor who I am. This is my situation as yours, every single one of you. The fact that everyone always was in this same situation, and always will be, tells me nothing. Our burning question as to the whence and whither–all we can ourselves observe about it is the present environment. That is why we are eager to find out about it as much as we can. That is science, learning, knowledge; it is the true source of every spiritual endeavour of man. We try to find out as much as we can about the spatial and temporal surroundings of the place in which we find ourselves put by birth.
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I am very astonished that the scientific picture of the real world around me is deficient. It gives a lot of factual information, puts all our experience in a magnificently consistent order, but it is ghastly silent about all and sundry that is really near to our heart, that really matters to us. It cannot tell us a word about red and blue, bitter and sweet, physical pain and physical delight; it knows nothing of beautiful and ugly, good or bad, God and eternity. Science sometimes pretends to answer questions in these domains, but the answers are very often so silly that we are not inclined to take them seriously.
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I can't tell you if genius is hereditary, because heaven has granted me no offspring.
In Patricia Harris and David Lyon, 1001 Greatest Things Ever Said About Massachusetts (2007), 381
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I found that I could find the energy…that I could find the determination to keep on going. I learned that your mind can amaze your body, it you just keep telling yourself, I can do it…I can do it…I can do it!
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I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.
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I shall tell you a great secret, my friend. Do not wait for the last judgment. It takes place every day.
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I think we all have a little voice inside us that will guide us. It may be God, I don’t know. But I think that if we shut out all the noise and clutter from our lives and listen to that voice, it will tell us the right thing to do.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 142
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I used to think the human brain was the most fascinating part of the body. But then I realised, Well …look what’s telling me that?
In The Reader’s Digest (1998), 152, 166. (The ellipsis itself is part of the quote, indicating a pause.)
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I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
First verse of poem, 'A Poison Tree', collected in The Poems of William Blake (1874)
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I will be sufficiently rewarded if when telling it to others you will not claim the discovery as your own, but will say it was mine.
Thales
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If a man devotes himself to the promotion of science, he is firstly opposed, and then he is informed that his ground is already occupied. At first men will allow no value to what we tell them, and then they behave as if they knew it all themselves.
In The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe (1906), 199.
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In one word he told me the secret of success in mathematics: plagiarize only be sure always to call it please research.
In lyrics of his song 'Lobachevski' recorded on his first album Songs by Tom Lehrer (1953). First performed as part a musical revue, The Physical Revue (1951–1952).
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In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in poetry, it’s the exact opposite.
As quoted, without citation, in Robert Jungk and James Cleugh (trans.), Brighter Than a Thousand Suns: A Personal History of the Atomic Scientists (1958), 22. The writing of poetry by Robert Oppenheimer was being remarked upon by Dirac, as he was talking with him.
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It is admitted by all that a finished or even a competent reasoner is not the work of nature alone; the experience of every day makes it evident that education develops faculties which would otherwise never have manifested their existence. It is, therefore, as necessary to learn to reason before we can expect to be able to reason, as it is to learn to swim or fence, in order to attain either of those arts. Now, something must be reasoned upon, it matters not much what it is, provided it can be reasoned upon with certainty. The properties of mind or matter, or the study of languages, mathematics, or natural history, may be chosen for this purpose. Now of all these, it is desirable to choose the one which admits of the reasoning being verified, that is, in which we can find out by other means, such as measurement and ocular demonstration of all sorts, whether the results are true or not. When the guiding property of the loadstone was first ascertained, and it was necessary to learn how to use this new discovery, and to find out how far it might be relied on, it would have been thought advisable to make many passages between ports that were well known before attempting a voyage of discovery. So it is with our reasoning faculties: it is desirable that their powers should be exerted upon objects of such a nature, that we can tell by other means whether the results which we obtain are true or false, and this before it is safe to trust entirely to reason. Now the mathematics are peculiarly well adapted for this purpose, on the following grounds:
1. Every term is distinctly explained, and has but one meaning, and it is rarely that two words are employed to mean the same thing.
2. The first principles are self-evident, and, though derived from observation, do not require more of it than has been made by children in general.
3. The demonstration is strictly logical, taking nothing for granted except self-evident first principles, resting nothing upon probability, and entirely independent of authority and opinion.
4. When the conclusion is obtained by reasoning, its truth or falsehood can be ascertained, in geometry by actual measurement, in algebra by common arithmetical calculation. This gives confidence, and is absolutely necessary, if, as was said before, reason is not to be the instructor, but the pupil.
5. There are no words whose meanings are so much alike that the ideas which they stand for may be confounded. Between the meaning of terms there is no distinction, except a total distinction, and all adjectives and adverbs expressing difference of degrees are avoided.
In On the Study and Difficulties of Mathematics (1898), chap. 1.
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It is easy to overlook this thought that life just is. As humans we are inclined to feel that life must have a point. We have plans and aspirations and desires. We want to take constant advantage of the intoxicating existence we’ve been endowed with. But what’s life to a lichen? Yet its impulse to exist, to be, is every bit as strong as ours-arguably even stronger. If I were told that I had to spend decades being a furry growth on a rock in the woods, I believe I would lose the will to go on. Lichens don’t. Like virtually all living things, they will suffer any hardship; endure any insult, for a moment’s additions existence. Life, in short just wants to be.
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It is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie if you were in his place.
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It is hard to tell what causes the pervasive timidity. One thinks of video-induced stupor, intake of tranquilizers, fear of not living to enjoy the many new possessions and toys, the example of our betters in cities and on campuses who high-mindedly surrender to threats of violence and make cowardice fashionable.
In 'Thoughts on the Present', First Things, Last Things (1971), 111.
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It’s pretty hard to tell what does bring happiness. Poverty and wealth have both failed.
Unverified. Need primary source. Can you help?
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It’s the lies that undo us. It’s the lies we think we need to survive. When was the last time you told the truth?
Character in TV series, Homeland.
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Logic teaches us that on such and such a road we are sure of not meeting an obstacle; it does not tell us which is the road that leads to the desired end. For this, it is necessary to see the end from afar, and the faculty which teaches us to see is intuition. Without it, the geometrician would be like a writer well up in grammar but destitute of ideas.
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Most pilots learn, when they pin on their wings and go out and get in a fighter, especially, that one thing you don’t do, you don’t believe anything anybody tells you about an airplane.
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My mother, my dad and I left Cuba when I was two [January, 1959]. Castro had taken control by then, and life for many ordinary people had become very difficult. My dad had worked [as a personal bodyguard for the wife of Cuban president Batista], so he was a marked man. We moved to Miami, which is about as close to Cuba as you can get without being there. It’s a Cuba-centric society. I think a lot of Cubans moved to the US thinking everything would be perfect. Personally, I have to say that those early years were not particularly happy. A lot of people didn’t want us around, and I can remember seeing signs that said: “No children. No pets. No Cubans.” Things were not made easier by the fact that Dad had begun working for the US government. At the time he couldn’t really tell us what he was doing, because it was some sort of top-secret operation. He just said he wanted to fight against what was happening back at home. [Estefan’s father was one of the many Cuban exiles taking part in the ill-fated, anti-Castro Bay of Pigs invasion to overthrow dictator Fidel Castro.] One night, Dad disappered. I think he was so worried about telling my mother he was going that he just left her a note. There were rumours something was happening back home, but we didn’t really know where Dad had gone. It was a scary time for many Cubans. A lot of men were involved—lots of families were left without sons and fathers. By the time we found out what my dad had been doing, the attempted coup had taken place, on April 17, 1961. Intitially he’d been training in Central America, but after the coup attempt he was captured and spent the next wo years as a political prisoner in Cuba. That was probably the worst time for my mother and me. Not knowing what was going to happen to Dad. I was only a kid, but I had worked out where my dad was. My mother was trying to keep it a secret, so she used to tell me Dad was on a farm. Of course, I thought that she didn’t know what had really happened to him, so I used to keep up the pretence that Dad really was working on a farm. We used to do this whole pretending thing every day, trying to protect each other. Those two years had a terrible effect on my mother. She was very nervous, just going from church to church. Always carrying her rosary beads, praying her little heart out. She had her religion, and I had my music. Music was in our family. My mother was a singer, and on my father’s side there was a violinist and a pianist. My grandmother was a poet.
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Nature! … She tosses her creatures out of nothingness, and tells them not whence they came, nor whither they go. It is their business to run, she knows the road.
As quoted by T.H. Huxley, in Norman Lockyer (ed.), 'Nature: Aphorisms by Goethe', Nature (1870), 1, 9.
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Never ask me what I have said or what I have written; but if you will ask what my present opinions are, I will tell you.
As quoted by Drewry Ottley, 'The Life of John Hunter', in James Frederick Palmer (ed.), The Works of John Hunter (1835), Vol. 1, 48.
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Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.
War as I Knew It (1947, 1995) 357.
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Never tell the truth to people who are not worthy of it.
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Not explaining science seems to me perverse. When you’re in love, you want to tell the world.
In 'With Science on Our Side', Washington Post (9 Jan 1994).
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Oh, don't tell me of facts, I never believe facts; you know, [George] Canning said nothing was so fallacious as facts, except figures.
Lady Saba Holland, A Memoir of The Reverend Sydney Smith (1854), 253.
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One of his followers said to him, “O Perfect One, why do you do this thing? For though we find joy in it, we know not the celestial reason nor the correspondency of it.” And Sabbah answered: “I will tell you first what I do; I will tell you the reasons afterward.”
In 'The Perfect One'. The Century Magazine (Dec 1918), 95, No. 2, 320. Collected in Ironical Tales (1927), 17.
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One stops being a child when one realizes that telling one’s trouble does not make it better.
Diary entry for 31 Oct 1937, The Burning Brand: Diaries 1935-1950 (1961), 66.
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Painting the desert, sun-setting the tone
Starving backstage, morning-stars are jaded
The moonshine murmur still shivers alone
Curved slice of sliver, shear breath shadows stone
Suspending twilight shiny and shaded
Painting the desert, sun-setting the tone
Carving solace into silver in June
On horizons’ glow from forgotten gold
The moonshine’s’ shilling delivers alone
Gleaming duels of knights, pierce deathly silence
Steel tines of starlight, clashing swords they hold
Painting the desert, sun-setting the tone
Dimples aware, sparkle sand on the dune
Winking at comets, after tails are told
The moon-sand whispers, sift rivers alone
Sharpness they hone, filing skills onto stone
Starlight dazzles, its own space created
Painting the desert, sun-setting the tone
From owls’ talon, moonlight shimmers alone
Earth Man
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Parkinson's Law is a purely scientific discovery, inapplicable except in theory to the politics of the day. It is not the business of the botanist to eradicate the weeds. Enough for him if he can tell us just how fast they grow.
Parkinson's Law or the Pursuit of Progress (1958), 15.
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People will work every bit as hard to fool themselves as they will to fool others—which makes it very difficult to tell just where the line between foolishness and fraud is located.
Voodoo Science. In Marc J. Madou, Fundamentals of Microfabrication: the Science of Miniaturization (2nd ed., 2002), 77.
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Physics tells us much less about the physical world than we thought it did.
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Science cannot tell us a word about why music delights us, of why and how an old song can move us to tears.
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Science tries to answer the question: ‘How?’ How do cells act in the body? How do you design an airplane that will fly faster than sound? How is a molecule of insulin constructed? Religion, by contrast, tries to answer the question: ‘Why?’ Why was man created? Why ought I to tell the truth? Why must there be sorrow or pain or death? Science attempts to analyze how things and people and animals behave; it has no concern whether this behavior is good or bad, is purposeful or not. But religion is precisely the quest for such answers: whether an act is right or wrong, good or bad, and why.
Science and Imagination, ch. 4, Basic Books (1967).
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Scientific theories tell us what is possible; myths tell us what is desirable. Both are needed to guide proper action.
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Scientists are supposed to live in ivory towers. Their darkrooms and their vibration-proof benches are supposed to isolate their activities from the disturbances of common life. What they tell us is supposed to be for the ages, not for the next election. But the reality may be otherwise.
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Spacetime tells matter how to move; matter tells spacetime how to curve.
With co-author Kenneth William Ford Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam: A Life in Physics (1998, 2010), 235. Adapted from his earlier book, co-authored with Charles W. Misner and Kip S. Thorne, Gravitation (1970, 1973), 5, in which one of the ideas in Einstein’s geometric theory of gravity was summarized as, “Space acts on matter, telling it how to move. In turn, matter reacts back on space, telling it how to curve”.
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Teaching is not telling. If it were telling, we’d all be so smart we couldn't stand ourselves.
Anonymous
Sometimes seen in recent publications attributed to Mark Twain, for example, in Thomas R. Rosebrough and ‎Ralph G. Leverett Transformational Teaching in the Information Age (2011), 71. Also seen as “If teaching were just telling then we’d all be so smart we couldn’t stand up.” Webmaster has tried, but has not yet been able to find a primary source in Twain’s writings, and so believes “Anonymous” is the most likely source. Can you help?
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Tell Selden to take his patent and go to hell with it.
(1903). Ford fought the monopoly caused by George Baldwin Selden’s internal combustion engine patent (which was based on George Brayton’s engine). Ford won in 1911, after eight years in court. In American Science and Invention: A Pictorial History (1954), 325.
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That one must do some work seriously and must be independent and not merely amuse oneself in life—this our mother [Marie Curie] has told us always, but never that science was the only career worth following.
As quoted by Mary Margaret McBride in A Long Way From Missouri (1959), 123.
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The animals of the Burgess Shale are holy objects–in the unconventional sense that this word conveys in some cultures. We do not place them on pedestals and worship from afar. We climb mountains and dynamite hillsides to find them. We quarry them, split them, carve them, draw them, and dissect them, struggling to wrest their secrets. We vilify and curse them for their damnable intransigence. They are grubby little creatures of a sea floor 530 million years old, but we greet them with awe because they are the Old Ones, and they are trying to tell us something.
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The authors of literary works may not have intended all the subtleties, complexities, undertones, and overtones that are attributed to them by critics and by students writing doctoral theses.” That’s what God says about geologists, I told him...
Basin and Range
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The child asks, “What is the moon, and why does it shine?” “What is this water and where does it run?” “What is this wind?” “What makes the waves of the sea?” “Where does this animal live, and what is the use of this plant?” And if not snubbed and stunted by being told not to ask foolish questions, there is no limit to the intellectual craving of a young child; nor any bounds to the slow, but solid, accretion of knowledge and development of the thinking faculty in this way. To all such questions, answers which are necessarily incomplete, though true as far as they go, may be given by any teacher whose ideas represent real knowledge and not mere book learning; and a panoramic view of Nature, accompanied by a strong infusion of the scientific habit of mind, may thus be placed within the reach of every child of nine or ten.
In 'Scientific Education', Lay Sermons, Addresses, and Reviews (1870), 71. https://books.google.com/books?id=13cJAAAAIAAJ Thomas Henry Huxley - 1870
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The doctor may also learn more about the illness from the way the patient tells the story than from the story itself.
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The greatest challenge facing mankind is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda. We must daily decide whether the threats we face are real, whether the solutions we are offered will do any good, whether the problems we’re told exist are in fact real problems, or non-problems.
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The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.
In Thoughts of a Christian Optimist: The Words of William Arthur Ward (1968), 16
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The observer is never entirely replaced by instruments; for if he were, he could obviously obtain no knowledge whatsoever ... They must be read! The observer’s senses have to step in eventuality. The most careful record, when not inspected, tells us nothing.
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The ultimate function of prophecy is not to tell the future, but to make it. Your successful past will block your visions of the future.
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The universe is governed by science. But science tells us that we can’t solve the equations, directly in the abstract. We need to use the effective theory of Darwinian natural selection of those societies most likely to survive. We assign them higher value.
[Answer to question: What is the value in knowing “Why are we here?”]
'Stephen Hawking: "There is no heaven; it’s a fairy story"', interview in newspaper The Guardian (15 May 2011).
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The universe is simmering down, like a giant stew left to cook for four billion years. Sooner or later we won’t be able to tell the carrots from the onions.
In The Complete Murphy’s Law: A Definitive Collection(1991), 2.
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There are some people that if they don’t know, you can’t tell ’em.
As quoted, without citation, Institute in Personnel Administration (1966), 29, 4. Although found in various books, Webmaster has not yet found a primary source. Can you help?
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There are young people who constantly come to tell me: you, too, are making Op Art. I haven't the slightest idea what that is, Op Art. I've been doing this work for thirty years now.
As quoted, without citation, on the mcescher.com website.
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There was no point in telling your bosses everything; they were busy men, they didn’t want explanations. There was no point in burdening them. What they wanted was little stories that they felt they could understand, and then they’d go away and stop worrying.
In Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld (2014), 17.
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To have a railroad, there must have been first the discoverers, who found out the properties of wood and iron, fire and water, and their latent power to carry men over the earth; next the organizers, who put these elements together, surveyed the route, planned the structure, set men to grade the hill, to fill the valley, and pave the road with iron bars; and then the administrators, who after all that is done, procure the engines, engineers, conductors, ticket-distributors, and the rest of the “hands;” they buy the coal and see it is not wasted, fix the rates of fare, calculate the savings, and distribute the dividends. The discoverers and organizers often fare hard in the world, lean men, ill-clad and suspected, often laughed at, while the administrator is thought the greater man, because he rides over their graves and pays the dividends, where the organizer only called for the assessments, and the discoverer told what men called a dream. What happens in a railroad happens also in a Church, or a State.
Address at the Melodeon, Boston (5 Mar 1848), 'A Discourse occasioned by the Death of John Quincy Adams'. Collected in Discourses of Politics: The Collected Works of Theodore Parker: Part 4 (1863), 139. Note: Ralph Waldo Emerson earlier used the phrase “pave the road with iron bars,” in Nature (1836), 17.
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We all know, from what we experience with and within ourselves, that our conscious acts spring from our desires and our fears. Intuition tells us that that is true also of our fellows and of the higher animals. We all try to escape pain and death, while we seek what is pleasant. We are all ruled in what we do by impulses; and these impulses are so organized that our actions in general serve for our self preservation and that of the race. Hunger, love, pain, fear are some of those inner forces which rule the individual’s instinct for self preservation. At the same time, as social beings, we are moved in the relations with our fellow beings by such feelings as sympathy, pride, hate, need for power, pity, and so on. All these primary impulses, not easily described in words, are the springs of man’s actions. All such action would cease if those powerful elemental forces were to cease stirring within us. Though our conduct seems so very different from that of the higher animals, the primary instincts are much alike in them and in us. The most evident difference springs from the important part which is played in man by a relatively strong power of imagination and by the capacity to think, aided as it is by language and other symbolical devices. Thought is the organizing factor in man, intersected between the causal primary instincts and the resulting actions. In that way imagination and intelligence enter into our existence in the part of servants of the primary instincts. But their intervention makes our acts to serve ever less merely the immediate claims of our instincts.
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We are told that “Mathematics is that study which knows nothing of observation, nothing of experiment, nothing of induction, nothing of causation.” I think no statement could have been made more opposite to the facts of the case; that mathematical analysis is constantly invoking the aid of new principles, new ideas, and new methods, not capable of being defined by any form of words, but springing direct from the inherent powers and activities of the human mind, and from continually renewed introspection of that inner world of thought of which the phenomena are as varied and require as close attention to discern as those of the outer physical world (to which the inner one in each individual man may, I think, be conceived to stand somewhat in the same relation of correspondence as a shadow to the object from which it is projected, or as the hollow palm of one hand to the closed fist which it grasps of the other), that it is unceasingly calling forth the faculties of observation and comparison, that one of its principal weapons is induction, that it has frequent recourse to experimental trial and verification, and that it affords a boundless scope for the exercise of the highest efforts of the imagination and invention.
In Presidential Address to British Association, Exeter British Association Report (1869), pp. 1-9, in Collected Mathematical Papers, Vol. 2, 654.
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We entered into shadow. Contact with Moscow was gone. Japan floated by beneath us and I could clearly see its cities ablaze with lights. We left Japan behind to face the dark emptiness of the Pacific Ocean. No moon. Only stars, bright and far away. I gripped the handle like a man hanging onto a streetcar. Very slowly, agonizingly, half an hour passed, and with that, dawn on Earth. First, a slim greenish-blue line on the farthest horizon turning within a couple of minutes into a rainbow that hugged the Earth and in turn exploded into a golden sun. You’re out of your mind, I told myself, hanging onto a ship in space, and to your life, and getting ready to admire a sunrise.
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We make a lot of mistakes in the environmental space. … We don’t do a good-enough job of asking, “What are the fundamentals of telling a good story?” And that is not statistics, it’s usually not science, or at least complex science. It’s people stories. … It’s got to have adventure, it’s got to be funny, it’s got to pull my heart strings, it’s got to have conflict, setting, character. It’s a story. And if it doesn’t have those things, it can be the best-meaning story in the world, and nobody’s going to buy it.
From interview with Dan Conover, 'A Conversation with Philippe Cousteau Jr.', Charleston City Paper (27 Jul 2012).
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We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey.
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We scientists are clever—too clever—are you not satisfied? Is four square miles in one bomb not enough? Men are still thinking. Just tell us how big you want it!
As quoted in James Gleick, Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman (1992), 204.
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What Art was to the ancient world, Science is to the modern: the distinctive faculty. In the minds of men the useful has succeeded to the beautiful. … There are great truths to tell, if we had either the courage to announce them or the temper to receive them.
In Coningsby: or the New Generation (1844), Vol. 2, Book 4, Chap. 1, 2.
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What I am going to tell you about is what we teach our physics students in the third or fourth year of graduate school… It is my task to convince you not to turn away because you don’t understand it. You see my physics students don’t understand it… That is because I don’t understand it. Nobody does.
From Lecture, the first in the first series of Alix G. Mauntner Lectures, trascribed and editted by Ralph Leighton, 'Introduction', QED, The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (1985, 1988), 9.
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What I tell you three times is true.
The Hunting of the Snark: An Agony, in Eight Fits (1876), 3.
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When I was young, I said to God, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the universe.’ But God answered, ‘That knowledge is for me alone’. So I said, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the peanut.’ Then God said, ‘Well, George,
John Mitchinson and John Lloyd, If Ignorance Is Bliss, Why Aren't There More Happy People?: Smart Quotes for Dumb Times (2009), 217.
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Why do they prefer to tell stories about the possible medicinal bene-fits of the Houston toad rather than to offer moral reasons for sup-porting the Endangered Species Act? That law is plainly ideological; it is hardly to be excused on economic grounds.
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You can always tell the pioneers because they are face down in the mud with arrows in their backs.
Anonymous
Seen in various paraphrases, such as $ldquo;in the dirt”.
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You never can tell what you have said or done till you have seen it reflected in other people’s minds.
In interview with Janet Mable, 'Education by Presence', The Christian Science Monitor (24 Dec 1925), reprinted in Interviews with Robert Frost (1966), 71.
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[Alice asks the Cheshire Cat] Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to walk from here?
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where———” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you walk,” said the Cat.
In Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1866), 36.
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[In childhood, to overcome fear, the] need took me back again and again to a sycamore tree rising from the earth at the edge of a ravine. It was a big, old tree that had grown out over the ravine, so that when you climbed it, you looked straight down fifty feet or more. Every time I climbed that tree, I forced myself to climb to the last possible safe limb and then look down. Every time I did it, I told myself I’d never do it again. But I kept going back because it scared me and I had to know I could overcome that.
In John Glenn and Nick Taylor, John Glenn: A Memoir (2000), 16.
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[Like people] if you torture statistics long enough, they'll tell you anything you want to hear.
Anonymous
In Erica Beecher-Monas, Evaluating Scientific Evidence (2007), 63.
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[On why are numbers beautiful?] It’s like asking why is Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony beautiful. If you don’t see why, someone can’t tell you. I know numbers are beautiful. If they aren’t beautiful, nothing is.
As quoted in Paul Hoffman, The Man who Loves Only Numbers (1998), 44.
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[Rochelle Esposito] said that she didn’t normally interfere, but wanted to tell me that it was really risky to switch organisms before getting tenure.
Recollection in her own words, as quoted in Anna Azvolinsky, 'Fearless About Folding', The Scientist (Jan 2016).
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[The enigmatical motto of Marischal College, Aberdeen: They say; what say they; let them say.] It expresses the three stages of an undergraduate’s career. “They say”—in his first year he accepts everything he is told as if it were inspired. “What say they”—in his second year he is skeptical and asks that question. “Let them say” expresses the attitude of contempt characteristic of his third year.
As quoted, without citation, in Alexander Macfarlane, 'Henry John Stephen Smith', Lectures on Ten British Mathematicians of the Nineteenth Century (1916), 100-101.
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~~[Misattributed]~~ A proof tells us where to concentrate our doubts.
Anonymous
Misattributed to Morris Kline. He did not originate this aphorism. He only quoted it as an example of sarcastic remarks by anonymous skeptical mathematicians. In Lecture (11 Apr 1958) to the 36th Annual Meeting of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Cleveland, Ohio. Published in Morris Kline, 'The Ancients Versus the Moderns, a New Battle of the Books', The Mathematics Teacher (Oct 1958), 51, No. 6, 423. Webmaster strongly believes this quote was not originated by Morris Kline, who only popularized it when it was printed in his later books. He merely quoted it as an aphorism already in circulation. In this work, it is one of a sentence listing three aphorisms, each separated with its own quotation marks, divided by semicolons. One of these Kline himself in fact attributes to “Anonymous” in a later work. Another error seen is the concatenation of two of these quotes. Thus “The virtue of a logical proof is not that it compels belief but that it suggests doubts. The proof tells us where to concentrate our doubts,” should be written as two separate aphorisms, as they were by Kline in the work cited here. The third aphorism, “Logic is the art of going wrong with confidence,” traces back to at least the 1920s. See quote beginning “Metaphysics may be…” on the Joseph Wood Krutch Quotes page of this website.
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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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- 70 -
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- 50 -
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- 40 -
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- 30 -
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