Temptation Quotes (14 quotes)
All Men are liable to Error, and most Men are in many Points, by Passion or Interest, under Temptation to it.
In … biological research one must resist the temptation to be deflected by details, to follow the fashion of putting the [dissection] pieces too early under the electron microscope. The magnitude of a scientific revelation is not always paralleled by the degree of magnification employed. It is easier to select the points on which attention should be concentrated once the plan is understood.
It is a temptation for philosophers that they should weave a fairy tale of the adjustment of factors; and then as an appendix introduce the notion of frustration, as a secondary aspect. I suggest to you that this is the criticism to be made on the monistic idealisms of the nineteenth century, and even of the great Spinoza. It is quite incredible that the Absolute, as conceived in monistic philosophy, should evolve confusion about its own details.
It’s tempting to go to the throat of the volcano to get the data, because if you do you’re a hero … It’s a battle between your mind and your emotions. If your emotions win out, you can get yourself in a lot of trouble.
My profession often gets bad press for a variety of sins, both actual and imagined: arrogance, venality, insensitivity to moral issues about the use of knowledge, pandering to sources of funding with insufficient worry about attendant degradation of values. As an advocate for science, I plead ‘mildly guilty now and then’ to all these charges. Scientists are human beings subject to all the foibles and temptations of ordinary life. Some of us are moral rocks; others are reeds. I like to think (though I have no proof) that we are better, on average, than members of many other callings on a variety of issues central to the practice of good science: willingness to alter received opinion in the face of uncomfortable data, dedication to discovering and publicizing our best and most honest account of nature’s factuality, judgment of colleagues on the might of their ideas rather than the power of their positions.
Natural historians tend to avoid tendentious preaching in this philosophical mode (although I often fall victim to such temptations in these essays). Our favored style of doubting is empirical: if I wish to question your proposed generality, I will search for a counterexample in flesh and blood. Such counterexamples exist in abundance, for the form a staple in a standard genre of writing in natural history–the “wonderment of oddity” or “strange ways of the beaver” tradition.
No one who has experienced the intense involvement of computer modeling would deny that the temptation exists to use any data input that will enable one to continue playing what is perhaps the ultimate game of solitaire.
No society has ever yet been able to handle the temptations of technology, to mastery, to waste, to exuberance, to exploration and exploitation. We have to create something new, something that has never existed in the world before. We have to learn to cherish this Earth and cherish it as something that is fragile, that’s only one, that’s all we have, and we have to set up a system that is sufficiently complex to continue to monitor the whole. We have to use our scientific knowledge to correct the dangers that have come from science and technology.
Probably among all the pursuits of the University, mathematics pre-eminently demand self-denial, patience, and perseverance from youth, precisely at that period when they have liberty to act for themselves, and when on account of obvious temptations, habits of restraint and application are peculiarly valuable.
Scientists like myself merely use their gifts to show up that which already exists, and we look small compared to the artists who create works of beauty out of themselves. If a good fairy came and offered me back my youth, asking me which gifts I would rather have, those to make visible a thing which exists but which no man has ever seen before, or the genius needed to create, in a style of architecture never imagined before, the great Town Hall in which we are dining tonight, I might be tempted to choose the latter.
The historian of science may be tempted to claim that when paradigms change, the world itself changes with them. Led by a new paradigm, scientists adopt new instruments and look in new places. even more important, during revolutions, scientists see new and different things when looking with familiar instruments in places they have looked before. It is rather as if the professional community had been suddenly transported to another planet where familiar objects are seen in a different light and are joined by unfamiliar ones as well.
To be at once a Scholar and a Wanderer is to indulge the least congruous desires, in the same hour to gratify the last refinement of intellectual curiosity and to obey a call from the first rude state of nature. For the “wandering fever” is in a sense a temptation of original sin, still heard across the ages, and the scholar finds a subtle joy in returning to the wilderness rather in spite than because of being a scholar.
When I am violently beset with temptations, or cannot rid myself of evil thoughts, [I resolve] to do some Arithmetic, or Geometry, or some other study, which necessarily engages all my thoughts, and unavoidably keeps them from wandering.
Working on the final formulation of technological patents was a veritable blessing for me. It enforced many-sided thinking and also provided important stimuli to physical thought. Academia places a young person under a kind of compulsion to produce impressive quantities of scientific publications–a temptation to superficiality.