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Who said: “Genius is two percent inspiration, ninety-eight percent perspiration.”
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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index T > Category: Tendency

Tendency Quotes (99 quotes)

... [I]nfectious disease is merely a disagreeable instance of a widely prevalent tendency of all living creatures to save themselves the bother of building, by their own efforts, the things they require. Whenever they find it possible to take advantage of the constructive labors of others, this is the path of least resistance. The plant does the work with its roots and its green leaves. The cow eats the plant. Man eats both of them; and bacteria (or investment bankers) eat the man. ...
Rats, Lice and History (1935).
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A modern branch of mathematics, having achieved the art of dealing with the infinitely small, can now yield solutions in other more complex problems of motion, which used to appear insoluble. This modern branch of mathematics, unknown to the ancients, when dealing with problems of motion, admits the conception of the infinitely small, and so conforms to the chief condition of motion (absolute continuity) and thereby corrects the inevitable error which the human mind cannot avoid when dealing with separate elements of motion instead of examining continuous motion. In seeking the laws of historical movement just the same thing happens. The movement of humanity, arising as it does from innumerable human wills, is continuous. To understand the laws of this continuous movement is the aim of history. … Only by taking an infinitesimally small unit for observation (the differential of history, that is, the individual tendencies of man) and attaining to the art of integrating them (that is, finding the sum of these infinitesimals) can we hope to arrive at the laws of history.
War and Peace (1869), Book 11, Chap. 1.
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A premature attempt to explain something that thrills you will destroy your perceptivity rather than increase it, because your tendency will be to explain away rather than seek out.
Victor K. McElhenty, Insisting on the Impossible, 245.
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A surplus of ideas is as dangerous as a drought. The tendency to jump from idea to idea spreads your energy horizontally rather than vertically. As a result you'll struggle to make progress.
In 'The Action Method', Making Ideas Happen (2012).
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Asian Homo erectus died without issue and does not enter our immediate ancestry (for we evolved from African populations); Neanderthal people were collateral cousins, perhaps already living in Europe while we emerged in Africa... In other words, we are an improbable and fragile entity, fortunately successful after precarious beginnings as a small population in Africa, not the predictable end result of a global tendency. We are a thing, an item of history, not an embodiment of general principles.
Wonderful Life (1989), 319.
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At last gleams of light have come, and I am almost convinced (quite contrary to opinion I started with) that species are not (it is like confessing a murder) immutable. Heaven forfend me from Lamarck nonsense of a “tendency to progression”, “adaptations from the slow willing of animals”, &c! But the conclusions I am led to are not widely different from his; though the means of change are wholly so. I think I have found out (here’s presumption!) the simple way by which species become exquisitely adapted to various ends.
Letter to Sir Joseph Hooker (11 Jan 1844). In Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), Charles Darwin: His Life Told in an Autobiographical Chapter, and in a Selected Series of His Published Letters (1892), 173-174.
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Cells are required to stick precisely to the point. Any ambiguity, any tendency to wander from the matter at hand, will introduce grave hazards for the cells, and even more for the host in which they live. … There is a theory that the process of aging may be due to the cumulative effect of imprecision, a gradual degrading of information. It is not a system that allows for deviating.
In 'Information', The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974), 110-111.
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Descartes is the completest type which history presents of the purely mathematical type of mind—that in which the tendencies produced by mathematical cultivation reign unbalanced and supreme.
In An Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy (1878), 626.
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Differences between individuals are the raw materials for evolutionary change and for the evolution of adaptations, yet of course most physiologists treat these differences as noise that is to be filtered out. From the standpoint of physiological ecology, the traditional emphasis of physiologists on central tendencies rather than on variance has some unhappy consequences. Variation is not just noise; it is also the stuff of evolution and a central attribute of living systems. The physiological differences between individuals in the same species or population, and also the patterns of variation in different groups, must not be ignored.
From 'Interspecific comparison as a tool for ecological physiologists', collected in M.E. Feder, A.F. Bennett, W.W. Burggren, and R.B. Huey, (eds.), New Directions in Ecological Physiology (1987), 32-33,
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Doubtless the reasoning faculty, the mind, is the leading and characteristic attribute of the human race. By the exercise of this, man arrives at the properties of the natural bodies. This is science, properly and emphatically so called. It is the science of pure mathematics; and in the high branches of this science lies the truly sublime of human acquisition. If any attainment deserves that epithet, it is the knowledge, which, from the mensuration of the minutest dust of the balance, proceeds on the rising scale of material bodies, everywhere weighing, everywhere measuring, everywhere detecting and explaining the laws of force and motion, penetrating into the secret principles which hold the universe of God together, and balancing worlds against worlds, and system against system. When we seek to accompany those who pursue studies at once so high, so vast, and so exact; when we arrive at the discoveries of Newton, which pour in day on the works of God, as if a second fiat had gone forth from his own mouth; when, further, we attempt to follow those who set out where Newton paused, making his goal their starting-place, and, proceeding with demonstration upon demonstration, and discovery upon discovery, bring new worlds and new systems of worlds within the limits of the known universe, failing to learn all only because all is infinite; however we may say of man, in admiration of his physical structure, that “in form and moving he is express and admirable,” it is here, and here without irreverence, we may exclaim, “In apprehension how like a god!” The study of the pure mathematics will of course not be extensively pursued in an institution, which, like this [Boston Mechanics’ Institute], has a direct practical tendency and aim. But it is still to be remembered, that pure mathematics lie at the foundation of mechanical philosophy, and that it is ignorance only which can speak or think of that sublime science as useless research or barren speculation.
In Works (1872), Vol. 1, 180.
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Education, like everything else, goes in fads, and has the normal human tendency to put up with something bad for just so long, and then rush to the other extreme.
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 43.
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Empirical sciences prosecuted purely for their own sake, and without philosophic tendency are like a face without eyes.
The World as Will and Idea translated by Richard Burdon Haldane Haldane, John Kemp (3rd. Ed.,1888), Vol. 2, 318-319.
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Entropy is the universe’s tendency to go completely bullshit.
Anonymous
attributed to Onsager
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Environmentalists may get off on climate porn, but most people just turn away. 'If it was really so bad, they'd do something,' says one colleague, without specifying who 'they' are. The human tendency to convince yourself that everything is OK, because no one else is worried, is deeply ingrained.
'Wake up and smell the smoke of disaster', The Times (8 Nov 2007).
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Fiction tends to become “fact” simply by serial passage via the printed page.
Anonymous
Saying.
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First, as concerns the success of teaching mathematics. No instruction in the high schools is as difficult as that of mathematics, since the large majority of students are at first decidedly disinclined to be harnessed into the rigid framework of logical conclusions. The interest of young people is won much more easily, if sense-objects are made the starting point and the transition to abstract formulation is brought about gradually. For this reason it is psychologically quite correct to follow this course.
Not less to be recommended is this course if we inquire into the essential purpose of mathematical instruction. Formerly it was too exclusively held that this purpose is to sharpen the understanding. Surely another important end is to implant in the student the conviction that correct thinking based on true premises secures mastery over the outer world. To accomplish this the outer world must receive its share of attention from the very beginning.
Doubtless this is true but there is a danger which needs pointing out. It is as in the case of language teaching where the modern tendency is to secure in addition to grammar also an understanding of the authors. The danger lies in grammar being completely set aside leaving the subject without its indispensable solid basis. Just so in Teaching of Mathematics it is possible to accumulate interesting applications to such an extent as to stunt the essential logical development. This should in no wise be permitted, for thus the kernel of the whole matter is lost. Therefore: We do want throughout a quickening of mathematical instruction by the introduction of applications, but we do not want that the pendulum, which in former decades may have inclined too much toward the abstract side, should now swing to the other extreme; we would rather pursue the proper middle course.
In Ueber den Mathematischen Unterricht an den hoheren Schulen; Jahresbericht der Deutschen Mathematiker Vereinigung, Bd. 11, 131.
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For chemistry is no science form’d à priori; ’tis no production of the human mind, framed by reasoning and deduction: it took its rise from a number of experiments casually made, without any expectation of what follow’d; and was only reduced into an art or system, by collecting and comparing the effects of such unpremeditated experiments, and observing the uniform tendency thereof. So far, then, as a number of experimenters agree to establish any undoubted truth; so far they may be consider'd as constituting the theory of chemistry.
From 'The Author's Preface', in A New Method of Chemistry (1727), vi.
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For science, God is simplythe stream of tendency in which all things seek to fulfil the law of their being.
In Literature and Dogma: An Essay Towards a Better Apprehension of the Bible (1873), 41.
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From our best qualities come our worst. From our urge to pull together comes our tendency to pull apart. From our devotion to higher good comes our propensity to the foulest atrocities. From out commitment to ideals come our excuse to hate. Since the beginning of history, we have been blinded by evil’s ability to don a selfless disguise. We have failed to see that our finest qualities often lead us to the actions we most abhor—murder, torture, genocide, and war.
In 'Who is Lucifer?', The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History (1997), 3.
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GRAVITATION, n. The tendency of all bodies to approach one another with a strength proportioned to the quantity of matter they contain—the quantity of matter they contain being ascertained by the strength of their tendency to approach one another. This is a lovely and edifying illustration of how science, having made A the proof of B, makes B the proof of A.
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  123.
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Historical theories are, after all, intellectual apple carts. They are quite likely to be upset. Nor should it be forgotten that they tend to attract, when they gain ascendancy, a fair number of apple-polishers
'Books of the Times'. New York Times (9 Dec 1965), 45.
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Human nature is not a machine to be built after a model, and set to do exactly the work prescribed for it, but a tree, which requires to grow and develop itself on all sides, according to the tendency of the inward forces which make it a living thing.
From On Liberty (1859), 107.
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I am persuaded that there is not in the nature of science anything unfavourable to religious feelings, and if I were not so persuaded I should be much puzzled to account for our being invested, as we so amply are, with the facilities that lead us to the discovery of scientific truth. It would be strange if our Creator should be found to be urging us on in a career which tended to be a forgetfulness of him.
Letter to H. J. Rose (19 Nov 1826). Quoted in I. Todhunter (ed.), William Whewell: An Account of His Writings with Selections From His Literary and Scientific Correspondence (1876), Vol. 2, 76.
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I have never had reason, up to now, to give up the concept which I have always stressed, that nerve cells, instead of working individually, act together, so that we must think that several groups of elements exercise a cumulative effect on the peripheral organs through whole bundles of fibres. It is understood that this concept implies another regarding the opposite action of sensory functions. However opposed it may seem to the popular tendency to individualize the elements, I cannot abandon the idea of a unitary action of the nervous system, without bothering if, by that, I approach old conceptions.
'The Neuron Doctrine-Theory and Facts', Nobel Lecture 11 Dec 1906. In Nobel Lectures: Physiology or Medicine 1901-1921 (1967), 216.
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I have often been amused by our vulgar tendency to take complex issues, with solutions at neither extreme of a continuum of possibilities, and break them into dichotomies, assigning one group to one pole and the other to an opposite end, with no acknowledgment of subtleties and intermediate positions–and nearly always with moral opprobrium attached to opponents.
…...
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I have therefore tried to show the tendency displayed throughout history, by the most profound investigators, to pass from the world of the senses to a world where vision becomes spiritual, where principles are elaborated, and from which the explorer emerges with conceptions and conclusions, to be approved or rejected according as they coincide with sensible things.
Heat, A Mode of Motion (1880, 1915), 6th ed., viii.
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I myself consider that gravity is merely a certain natural inclination with which parts are imbued by the architect of all things for gathering themselves together into a unity and completeness by assembling into the form of a globe. It is easy to believe that the Sun, Moon and other luminaries among the wandering stars have this tendency also, so that by its agency they retain the rounded shape in which they reveal themselves, but nevertheless go round their orbits in various ways. If then the Earth also performs other motions, as for example the one about the centre, they must necessarily be like those which are similarly apparent in many external bodies in which we find an annual orbit.
'Book One. Chapter IX. Whether several motions can be attributed to the Earth, and on the centre of the universe', in Copernicus: On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres (1543), trans. A. M. Duncan (1976), 46.
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If the experiment works, you must be using the wrong experiment. An experiment has a tendency to fail
Anonymous
In Dr. N Sreedharan, Quotations of Wit and Wisdom (2007), 24.
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If [science] tends to thicken the crust of ice on which, as it were, we are skating, it is all right. If it tries to find, or professes to have found, the solid ground at the bottom of the water it is all wrong. Our business is with the thickening of this crust by extending our knowledge downward from above, as ice gets thicker while the frost lasts; we should not try to freeze upwards from the bottom.
Samuel Bulter, Henry Festing Jones (ed.), The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1917), 329.
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In Euclid each proposition stands by itself; its connection with others is never indicated; the leading ideas contained in its proof are not stated; general principles do not exist. In modern methods, on the other hand, the greatest importance is attached to the leading thoughts which pervade the whole; and general principles, which bring whole groups of theorems under one aspect, are given rather than separate propositions. The whole tendency is toward generalization. A straight line is considered as given in its entirety, extending both ways to infinity, while Euclid is very careful never to admit anything but finite quantities. The treatment of the infinite is in fact another fundamental difference between the two methods. Euclid avoids it, in modern mathematics it is systematically introduced, for only thus is generality obtained.
In 'Geometry', Encyclopedia Britannica (9th edition).
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In mathematics ... we find two tendencies present. On the one hand, the tendency towards abstraction seeks to crystallise the logical relations inherent in the maze of materials ... being studied, and to correlate the material in a systematic and orderly
Geometry and the imagination (New York, 1952).
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Is it not evident, that if the child is at any epoch of his long period of helplessness inured into any habit or fixed form of activity belonging to a lower stage of development, the tendency will be to arrest growth at that standpoint and make it difficult or next to impossible to continue the growth of the child?
In 'The Old Psychology vs. the New', Journal of Pedagogy (1894), 8, 76.
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It appears, nevertheless, that all such simple solutions of the problem of vertebrate ancestry are without warrant. They arise from a very common tendency of the mind, against which the naturalist has to guard himself,—a tendency which finds expression in the very widespread notion that the existing anthropoid apes, and more especially the gorilla, must be looked upon as the ancestors of mankind, if once the doctrine of the descent of man from ape-like forefathers is admitted. A little reflexion suffices to show that any given living form, such as the gorilla, cannot possibly be the ancestral form from which man was derived, since ex-hypothesi that ancestral form underwent modification and development, and in so doing, ceased to exist.
'Vertebrata', entry in Encyclopaedia Britannica, 9th edition (1899), Vol. 24, 180.
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It is a wrong business when the younger cultivators of science put out of sight and deprecate what their predecessors have done; but obviously that is the tendency of Huxley and his friends … It is very true that Huxley was bitter against the Bishop of Oxford, but I was not present at the debate. Perhaps the Bishop was not prudent to venture into a field where no eloquence can supersede the need for precise knowledge. The young naturalists declared themselves in favour of Darwin’s views which tendency I saw already at Leeds two years ago. I am sorry for it, for I reckon Darwin’s book to be an utterly unphilosophical one.
Letter to James D, Forbes (24 Jul 1860). Trinity College Cambridge, Whewell Manuscripts.
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It is an error to imagine that evolution signifies a constant tendency to increased perfection. That process undoubtedly involves a constant remodeling of the organism in adaptation to new conditions; but it depends on the nature of those conditions whether the direction of the modifications effected shall be upward or downward.
'The Struggle for Existence in Human Society' (1888). In Collected Essays (1894), Vol. 9, 199.
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It is perhaps a law of nature that when a species (or group) fits itself to a place not previously occupied, and in which it is subject to no opposition from beings of its own class, or where it attains so great a perfection as to be able easily to overcome all opposition, the character eventually loses its original plasticity, or tendency to vary, since improvement in such a case would be superfluous, and becomes, so to speak, crystallized in that form which continues thereafter unaltered. … [Such as] the humming-bird.
In The Naturalist in La Plata (1895), 40.
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It must happen that in some cases the author is not understood, or is very imperfectly understood; and the question is what is to be done. After giving a reasonable amount of attention to the passage, let the student pass on, reserving the obscurity for future efforts. … The natural tendency of solitary students, I believe, is not to hurry away prematurely from a hard passage, but to hang far too long over it; the just pride that does not like to acknowledge defeat, and the strong will that cannot endure to be thwarted, both urge to a continuance of effort even when success seems hopeless. It is only by experience we gain the conviction that when the mind is thoroughly fatigued it has neither the power to continue with advantage its course in .an assigned direction, nor elasticity to strike out a new path; but that, on the other hand, after being withdrawn for a time from the pursuit, it may return and gain the desired end.
In 'Private Study of Mathematics', Conflict of Studies and other Essays (1873), 68.
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It was his [Leibnitz’s] love of method and order, and the conviction that such order and harmony existed in the real world, and that our success in understanding it depended upon the degree and order which we could attain in our own thoughts, that originally was probably nothing more than a habit which by degrees grew into a formal rule. This habit was acquired by early occupation with legal and mathematical questions. We have seen how the theory of combinations and arrangements of elements had a special interest for him. We also saw how mathematical calculations served him as a type and model of clear and orderly reasoning, and how he tried to introduce method and system into logical discussions, by reducing to a small number of terms the multitude of compound notions he had to deal with. This tendency increased in strength, and even in those early years he elaborated the idea of a general arithmetic, with a universal language of symbols, or a characteristic which would be applicable to all reasoning processes, and reduce philosophical investigations to that simplicity and certainty which the use of algebraic symbols had introduced into mathematics.
A mental attitude such as this is always highly favorable for mathematical as well as for philosophical investigations. Wherever progress depends upon precision and clearness of thought, and wherever such can be gained by reducing a variety of investigations to a general method, by bringing a multitude of notions under a common term or symbol, it proves inestimable. It necessarily imports the special qualities of number—viz., their continuity, infinity and infinite divisibility—like mathematical quantities—and destroys the notion that irreconcilable contrasts exist in nature, or gaps which cannot be bridged over. Thus, in his letter to Arnaud, Leibnitz expresses it as his opinion that geometry, or the philosophy of space, forms a step to the philosophy of motion—i.e., of corporeal things—and the philosophy of motion a step to the philosophy of mind.
In Leibnitz (1884), 44-45. [The first sentence is reworded to better introduce the quotation. —Webmaster]
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Kirchhoff’s whole tendency, and its true counterpart, the form of his presentation, was different [from Maxwell’s “dramatic bulk”]. … He is characterized by the extreme precision of his hypotheses, minute execution, a quiet rather than epic development with utmost rigor, never concealing a difficulty, always dispelling the faintest obscurity. … he resembled Beethoven, the thinker in tones. — He who doubts that mathematical compositions can be beautiful, let him read his memoir on Absorption and Emission … or the chapter of his mechanics devoted to Hydrodynamics.
In Ceremonial Speech (15 Nov 1887) celebrating the 301st anniversary of the Karl-Franzens-University Graz. Published as Gustav Robert Kirchhoff: Festrede zur Feier des 301. Gründungstages der Karl-Franzens-Universität zu Graz (1888), 30, as translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 187. From the original German, “Kirchhoff … seine ganze Richtung war eine andere, und ebenso auch deren treues Abbild, die Form seiner Darstellung. … Ihn charakterisirt die schärfste Präcisirung der Hypothesen, feine Durchfeilung, ruhige mehr epische Fortentwicklung mit eiserner Consequenz ohne Verschweigung irgend einer Schwierigkeit, unter Aufhellung des leisesten Schattens. … er glich dem Denker in Tönen: Beethoven. – Wer in Zweifel zieht, dass mathematische Werke künstlerisch schön sein können, der lese seine Abhandlung über Absorption und Emission oder den der Hydrodynamik gewidmeten Abschnitt seiner Mechanik.” The memoir reference is Gesammelte Abhandlungen (1882), 571-598.
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Man could not stay there forever. He was bound to spread to new regions, partly because of his innate migratory tendency and partly because of Nature's stern urgency.
The Red Man's Continent: A Chronicle of Aboriginal America (1919), 12.
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Man is a classifying animal: in one sense it may be said that the whole process of speaking is nothing but distributing phenomena, of which no two are alike in every respect, into different classes on the strength of perceived similarities and dissimilarities. In the name-giving process we witness the same ineradicable and very useful tendency to see likenesses and to express similarity in the phenomena through similarity in name.
Language: Its Nature, Development and Origin (1922), 388-9.
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Mathematics had never had more than a secondary interest for him [her husband, George Boole]; and even logic he cared for chiefly as a means of clearing the ground of doctrines imagined to be proved, by showing that the evidence on which they were supposed to give rest had no tendency to prove them. But he had been endeavoring to give a more active and positive help than this to the cause of what he deemed pure religion.
In Eleanor Meredith Cobham, Mary Everest Boole: Collected Works (1931), 40.
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Men who have excessive faith in their theories … make poor observations, because they choose among the results of their experiments only what suits their object, neglecting whatever is unrelated to it and carefully setting aside everything which might tend toward the idea they wish to combat
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 38.
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Modern civilization depends on science … James Smithson was well aware that knowledge should not be viewed as existing in isolated parts, but as a whole, each portion of which throws light on all the other, and that the tendency of all is to improve the human mind, and give it new sources of power and enjoyment … narrow minds think nothing of importance but their own favorite pursuit, but liberal views exclude no branch of science or literature, for they all contribute to sweeten, to adorn, and to embellish life … science is the pursuit above all which impresses us with the capacity of man for intellectual and moral progress and awakens the human intellect to aspiration for a higher condition of humanity.
[Joseph Henry was the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, named after its benefactor, James Smithson.]
The first clause is inscribed on the National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C. In Library of Congress, Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989), 313. From 'On the Smithsonian Institution', (Aug 1853), Proceedings of the Third Session of the American Association for the Advancement of Education (1854), 101.
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Not only is the state of nature hostile to the state of art of the garden; but the principle of the horticultural process, by which the latter is created and maintained, is antithetic to that of the cosmic process. The characteristic feature of the latter is the intense and unceasing competition of the struggle for existence. The characteristic of the former is the elimination of that struggle, by the removal of the conditions which give rise to it. The tendency of the cosmic process is to bring about the adjustment of the forms of plant life to the current conditions; the tendency of the horticultural process is the adjustment of the conditions to the needs of the forms of plant life which the gardener desires to raise.
'Evolution and Ethics-Prolegomena' (1894). In Collected Essays (1894), Vol. 9, 13.
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Once life evolves, it tends to cover its tracks.
Quoted in Peter Douglas Ward and Donald Brownlee, Rare Earth (2000), 55.
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One can often recognize herd animals by their tendency to carry bibles.
From 'The Signal', a short story in Illusionless Man: Fantasies and Meditations (1971).
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One dictionary that I consulted remarks that “natural history” now commonly means the study of animals and plants “in a popular and superficial way,” meaning popular and superficial to be equally damning adjectives. This is related to the current tendency in the biological sciences to label every subdivision of science with a name derived from the Greek. “Ecology” is erudite and profound; while “natural history” is popular and superficial. Though, as far as I can see, both labels apply to just about the same package of goods.
In The Nature of Natural History (1961, 2014), 7.
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One of the most insidious and nefarious properties of scientific models is their tendency to take over, and sometimes supplant, reality.
Quoted in J. J. Zuckerman, 'The Coming Renaissance of Descriptive Chemistry', Journal of Chemical Education, 1986, 63, 830.
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Part of the strength of science is that it has tended to attract individuals who love knowledge and the creation of it.
Just as important to the integrity of science have been the unwritten rules of the game. These provide recognition and approbation for work which is imaginative and accurate, and apathy or criticism for the trivial or inaccurate. … Thus, it is the communication process which is at the core of the vitality and integrity of science.
Editorial, 'The Roots of Scientific Integrity', Science (1963), 3561. In Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (May 1965), 29.
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Persons possessing great intellect and a capacity for excelling in the creative arts and also in the sciences are generally likely to have heavier brains than the ordinary individual. Arguing from this we might expect to find a corresponding lightness in the brain of the criminal, but this is not always the case ... Many criminals show not a single anomaly in their physical or mental make-up, while many persons with marked evidences of morphological aberration have never exhibited the criminal tendency.
Every attempt to prove crime to be due to a constitution peculiar only to criminals has failed signally. It is because most criminals are drawn from the ranks of the low, the degraded, the outcast, that investigators were ever deceived into attempting to set up a 'type' of criminal. The social conditions which foster the great majority of crimes are more needful of study and improvement.
From study of known normal brains we have learned that there is a certain range of variation. No two brains are exactly alike, and the greatest source of error in the assertions of Benedict and Lombroso has been the finding of this or that variation in a criminal’s brains, and maintaining such to be characteristic of the 'criminal constitution,' unmindful of the fact that like variations of structure may and do exist in the brains of normal, moral persons.
Address to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Philadelphia (28 Dec 1904), as quoted in 'Americans of Future Will Have Best Brains', New York Times (29 Dec 1904), 6.
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Professors have a tendency to think that independent, creative thinking cannot be done by non-science students, and that only advanced science majors have learned enough of the material to think critically about it. I believe this attitude is false. … [Ask] students to use their native intelligence to actually confront subtle scientific issues.
In Understanding the Universe: An Inquiry Approach to Astronomy and the Nature of Scientific Research (2013), ix.
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Run the tape again, and let the tiny twig of Homo sapiens expire in Africa. Other hominids may have stood on the threshold of what we know as human possibilities, but many sensible scenarios would never generate our level of mentality. Run the tape again, and this time Neanderthal perishes in Europe and Homo erectus in Asia (as they did in our world). The sole surviving human stock, Homo erectus in Africa, stumbles along for a while, even prospers, but does not speciate and therefore remains stable. A mutated virus then wipes Homo erectus out, or a change in climate reconverts Africa into inhospitable forest. One little twig on the mammalian branch, a lineage with interesting possibilities that were never realized, joins the vast majority of species in extinction. So what? Most possibilities are never realized, and who will ever know the difference? Arguments of this form lead me to the conclusion that biology's most profound insight into human nature, status, and potential lies in the simple phrase, the embodiment of contingency: Homo sapiens is an entity, not a tendency.
Wonderful Life (1989), 320.
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Science gives us the grounds of premises from which religious truths are to be inferred; but it does not set about inferring them, much less does it reach the inference; that is not its province. It brings before us phenomena, and it leaves us, if we will, to call them works of design, wisdom, or benevolence; and further still, if we will, to proceed to confess an Intelligent Creator. We have to take its facts, and to give them a meaning, and to draw our own conclusions from them. First comes Knowledge, then a view, then reasoning, then belief. This is why Science has so little of a religious tendency; deductions have no power of persuasion. The heart is commonly reached, not through the reason, but through the imagination, by means of direct impressions, by the testimony of facts and events, by history, by description. Persons influence us, voices melt us, looks subdue us, deeds inflame us. Many a man will live and die upon a dogma; no man will be a martyr for a conclusion.
Letter collected in Tamworth Reading Room: Letters on an Address Delivered by Sir Robert Peel, Bart., M.P. on the Establishment of a Reading Room at Tamworth (1841), 32. Excerpted in John Henry Newman, An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent (1870), 89 & 94 footnote.
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Science is feasible when the variables are few and can be enumerated; when their combinations are distinct and clear. We are tending toward the condition of science and aspiring to do it. The artist works out his own formulas; the interest of science lies in the art of making science.
In Moralités (1932). Reprinted in J. Matthews (ed.), Collected Works (1970). As cited in Robert Andrews (ed.), The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations (1993), 810.
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Science is not about building a body of known “facts”. It is a method for asking awkward questions and subjecting them to a reality-check, thus avoiding the human tendency to believe whatever makes us feel good.
In Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld (2014), 90.
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Science itself is badly in need of integration and unification. The tendency is more and more the other way ... Only the graduate student, poor beast of burden that he is, can be expected to know a little of each. As the number of physicists increases, each specialty becomes more self-sustaining and self-contained. Such Balkanization carries physics, and indeed, every science further away, from natural philosophy, which, intellectually, is the meaning and goal of science.
Science, The Center of Culture (1970), 92. Quoted by Victor F. Weisskopf, 'One Hundred Years of the Physical Review', in H. Henry Stroke, Physical Review: The First Hundred Years: a Selection of Seminal Papers and Commentaries, Vol. 1, 15.
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So far from having a materialistic tendency, the supposed introduction into the earth at successive geological periods of life,—sensation,—instinct,—the intelligence of the higher mammalia bordering on reason,—and lastly the improvable reason of Man himself, presents us with a picture of the ever-increasing dominion of mind over matter.
The Antiquity of Man (1863), 506.
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Subatomic particles do not exist but rather show “tendencies to exist”, and atomic events do not occur with certainty at definite times and in definite ways, but rather show “tendencies to occur”.
In The Tao of Physics (1975), 133.
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Such is the tendency of the human mind to speculation, that on the least idea of an analogy between a few phenomena, it leaps forward, as it were, to a cause or law, to the temporary neglect of all the rest; so that, in fact, almost all our principal inductions must be regarded as a series of ascents and descents, and of conclusions from a few cases, verified by trial on many.
In A Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy (1830), 164-165.
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The Anglo-Dane appears to possess an aptitude for mathematics which is not shared by the native of any other English district as a whole, and it is in the exact sciences that the Anglo-Dane triumphs.
In A Study of British Genius (1904), 69. As quoted and cited in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-Book (1914), 131. Moritz adds an editorial footnote: “The mathematical tendencies of Cambridge are due to the fact that Cambridge drains the ability of nearly the whole Anglo-Danish district.”
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The conception of correspondence plays a great part in modern mathematics. It is the fundamental notion in the science of order as distinguished from the science of magnitude. If the older mathematics were mostly dominated by the needs of mensuration, modern mathematics are dominated by the conception of order and arrangement. It may be that this tendency of thought or direction of reasoning goes hand in hand with the modern discovery in physics, that the changes in nature depend not only or not so much on the quantity of mass and energy as on their distribution or arrangement.
In History of European Thought in the Nineteenth Century (1903), Vol. 2, 736.
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The due cultivation of practical manual arts in a nation, has a greater tendency to polish, and humanize mankind, than mere speculative science, however refined and sublime it may be.
From 'Artist and Mechanic', The artist & Tradesman’s Guide: embracing some leading facts & principles of science, and a variety of matter adapted to the wants of the artist, mechanic, manufacturer, and mercantile community (1827), 143.
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The embryological record is almost always abbreviated in accordance with the tendency of nature (to be explained on the principle of survival of the fittest) to attain her needs by the easiest means.
A Treatise on Comparative Embryology (1880), Vol. I, 3-4.
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The fact that the regions of nature actually covered by known laws are few and fragmentary is concealed by the natural tendency to crowd our experience into those particular regions and to leave the others to themselves. We seek out those parts that are known and familiar and avoid those that are unknown and unfamiliar. This is simply what is called 'Applied Science.'
Scientific Method: An Inquiry into the Character and Validy of Natural Law (1923), 201.
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The following general conclusions are drawn from the propositions stated above, and known facts with reference to the mechanics of animal and vegetable bodies:—
There is at present in the material world a universal tendency to the dissipation of mechanical energy.
Any restoration of mechanical energy, without more than an equivalent of dissipation, is impossible in inanimate material processes, and is probably never effected by means of organized matter, either endowed with vegetable life, or subjected to the will of an animated creature.
Within a finite period of time past the earth must have been, and within a finite period of time to come the earth must again be, unfit for the habitation of man as at present constituted, unless operations have been, or are to be performed, which are impossible under the laws to which the known operations going on at present in the material world are subject.
In 'On a Universal Tendency in Nature to the Dissipation of Mechanical Energy', Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 1852, 3, 141-142. In Mathematical and Physical Papers (1882-1911), Vol. 1, 513-514.
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The growing complexity of civilized life demands with each age broader and more exact knowledge as to the material surroundings and greater precision in our recognition of the invisible forces or tendencies about us.
From Presidential Address (5 Dec 1896) to the Biological Society of Washington, 'The Malarial Parasite and Other Pathogenic Protozoa', Popular Science Monthly (Mar 1897), 642.
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The growth of a large business is merely a survival of the fittest. … The American Beauty rose can be produced in the splendor and fragrance which bring cheer to its beholder only by sacrificing the early buds which grow up around it. This is not an evil tendency in business. It is merely the working-out of a law of nature and a law of God.
From address to the Brown University YMCA, as quoted in 'Young Rockefeller: Defending Trusts, Uses American Beauty Similitude,' Cincinnati Enquirer (9 Feb 1902), 4, citing the New York Journal.
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The human mind has a natural tendency to explore what has passed in distant ages in scenes with which it is familiar: hence the taste for National and Local Antiquities. Geology gratifies a larger taste of this kind; it inquires into what may appropriately be termed the Antiquities of the Globe itself, and collects and deciphers what may be considered as the monuments and medals of its remoter eras.
Vindiciae Geologicae (1820), 6.
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The instinctive tendency of the scientific man is toward the existential substrate that appears when use and purpose—cosmic significance, artistic value, social utility, personal preference—have been removed. He responds positively to the bare “what” of things; he responds negatively to any further demand for interest or appreciation.
In Systemic Psychology: Prolegomena (1929), 32-33.
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The majority of evolutive movements are degenerative. Progressive cases are exceptional. Characters appear suddenly that have no meaning in the atavistic series. Evolution in no way shows a general tendency toward progress… . The only thing that could be accomplished by slow changes would be the accumulation of neutral characteristics without value for survival. Only important and sudden mutations can furnish the material which can be utilized by selection.
As quoted in Isaac Asimov's Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 91. Please contact Webmaster if you know the primary source.
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The most dangerous tendency of the modern world is the way in which bogus theories are given the force of dogma.
The Lord of History (1958), 103.
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The powers which tend to preserve, and those which tend to change the condition of the earth's surface, are never in equilibrio; the latter are, in all cases, the most powerful, and, in respect of the former, are like living in comparison of dead forces. Hence the law of decay is one which suffers no exception: The elements of all bodies were once loose and unconnected, and to the same state nature has appointed that they should all return... TIME performs the office of integrating the infinitesimal parts of which this progression is made up; it collects them into one sum, and produces from them an amount greater than any that can be assigned.
Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of the Earth (1802), 116-7.
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The processes concerned in simple descent are those of Family Variability and Reversion. It is well to define these words clearly. By family variability is meant the departure of the children of the same or similarly descended families from the ideal mean type of all of them. Reversion is the tendency of that ideal mean type to depart from the parent type, 'reverting' towards what may be roughly and perhaps fairly described as the average ancestral type. If family variability had been the only process in simple descent, the dispersion of the race would indefinitely increase with the number of the generations, but reversion checks this increase, and brings it to a standstill.
Typical Laws of Heredity (1877), 513.
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The tendency of modern physics is to resolve the whole material universe into waves, and nothing but waves. These waves are of two kinds: bottled-up waves, which we call matter, and unbottled waves, which we call radiation or light. If annihilation of matter occurs, the process is merely that of unbottling imprisoned wave-energy and setting it free to travel through space. These concepts reduce the whole universe to a world of light, potential or existent, so that the whole story of its creation can be told with perfect accuracy and completeness in the six words: 'God said, Let there be light'.
In The Mysterious Universe (1930, 1932), 97-98
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The tendency of the sciences has long been an increasing proclivity of separation and dismemberment … The mathematician turns away from the chemist; the chemist from the naturalist; the mathematician, left to himself divides himself into a pure mathematician and a mixed mathematician, who soon part company … And thus science, even mere physical science, loses all traces of unity. A curious illustration of this result may be observed in the want of any name by which we can designate the students of the knowledge of the material world collectively. We are informed that this difficulty was felt very oppressively by the members of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, at their meetings at York, Oxford and Cambridge, in the last three summers. There was no general term by which these gentlemen could describe themselves with reference to their pursuits … some ingenious gentleman [William Whewell] proposed that, by analogy with artist, they might form Scientist, and added that there could be no scruple … when we have words such as sciolist, economist, and atheist—but this was not generally palatable.
In Review of Mrs Somerville, 'On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences', The Quarterly Review (1834), 51, 58-61.
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There is a tendency to consider anything in human behavior that is unusual, not well known, or not well understood, as neurotic, psychopathic, immature, perverse, or the expression of some other sort of psychologic disturbance.
Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953), 195.
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There is an insistent tendency among serious social scientists to think of any institution which features rhymed and singing commercials, intense and lachrymose voices urging highly improbable enjoyment, caricatures of the human esophagus in normal and impaired operation, and which hints implausibly at opportunities for antiseptic seduction as inherently trivial. This is a great mistake. The industrial system is profoundly dependent on commercial television and could not exist in its present form without it.
In The New Industrial State (1967), 208.
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There's a tendency these days to use science as a religion, and to see geneticists as the high priests of that religion. But, the irony is that, as geneticists know more, they get less and less confident.
Quoted by Sean O'Hagan, in 'End of sperm report', The Observer (14 Sep 2002).
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This irrelevance of molecular arrangements for macroscopic results has given rise to the tendency to confine physics and chemistry to the study of homogeneous systems as well as homogeneous classes. In statistical mechanics a great deal of labor is in fact spent on showing that homogeneous systems and homogeneous classes are closely related and to a considerable extent interchangeable concepts of theoretical analysis (Gibbs theory). Naturally, this is not an accident. The methods of physics and chemistry are ideally suited for dealing with homogeneous classes with their interchangeable components. But experience shows that the objects of biology are radically inhomogeneous both as systems (structurally) and as classes (generically). Therefore, the method of biology and, consequently, its results will differ widely from the method and results of physical science.
Atom and Organism: A New Approach to Theoretical Biology (1966), 34.
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Those who love fairy-tales do not like it when people speak of the innate tendencies in mankind toward aggression, destruction, and, in addition, cruelty.
In Sigmund Freud and Joan Riviere (trans.), Civilization and Its Discontents (1930, 1994), 47.
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Unconscious, perhaps, of the remote tendency of his own labours, he [Joseph Black] undermined that doctrine of material heat, which he seemed to support. For, by his advocacy of latent heat, he taught that its movements constantly battle, not only some of our senses, but all of them; and that, while our feelings make us believe that heat is lost, our intellect makes us believe that it is not lost. Here, we have apparent destructability, and real indestructibility. To assert that a body received heat without its temperature rising, was to make the understanding correct the touch, and defy its dictates. It was a bold and beautiful paradox, which required courage as well as insight to broach, and the reception of which marks an epoch in the human mind, because it was an immense step towards idealizing matter into force.
History of Civilization in England (1861), Vol. 2, 494.
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We all have a tendency to think that the world must conform to our prejudices. The opposite view involves some effort of thought, and most people would die sooner than think–in fact they do so.
In The ABC of Relativity (1925), 166. A paraphrase from this quote is often seen as, “Most people would rather die than think; many do.”
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We regard as 'scientific' a method based on deep analysis of facts, theories, and views, presupposing unprejudiced, unfearing open discussion and conclusions. The complexity and diversity of all the phenomena of modern life, the great possibilities and dangers linked with the scientific-technical revolution and with a number of social tendencies demand precisely such an approach, as has been acknowledged in a number of official statements.
Progress, Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom (1968), 25.
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We see, then, that the disappearance of the conscious personality, the predominance of the unconscious personality, the turning by means of suggestion and contagion of feelings and ideas in an identical direction, the tendency to immediately transform the suggested ideas into acts; these, we see, are the principal characteristics of the individual forming part of a crowd. He is no longer himself, but has become an automaton who has ceased to be guided by his will.
From Psychologie des Foules (1895), 20. English text in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1897), Book 1, Chap. 1, 12. Original French text: “Donc, évanouissement de la personnalité consciente, prédominance de la personnalité inconsciente, orientation par voie de suggestion et de contagion des sentiments et des idées dans un même sens, tendance a transformer immédiatement en actes les idée suggérées, tels sont les principaux caractères de l’individu en foule. II n’est plus lui-même, il est devenu un automate que sa volonté ne guide plus.”
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WEATHER, n. The climate of an hour. A permanent topic of conversation among persons whom it does not interest, but who have inherited the tendency to chatter about it from naked arboreal ancestors whom it keenly concerned. The setting up of official weather bureaus and their maintenance in mendacity prove that even governments are accessible to suasion by the rude forefathers of the jungle.
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  362-363.
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What is terrorism? Terrorism in some sense is a reaction against the creation of a type one [planet-wide advanced] civilization. Now most terrorists cannot articulate this. … What they’re reacting to is not modernism. What they’re reacting to is the fact that we’re headed toward a multicultural tolerant scientific society and that is what they don’t want. They don’t want science. They want a theocracy. They don’t want multiculturalism. They want monoculturalism. So instinctively they don’t like the march toward a type one civilization. Now which tendency will win? I don’t know, but I hope that we emerge as a type one civilization.
From transcript of online video interview (29 Sep 2010) with Paul Hoffman, 'What is the likelihood that mankind will destroy itself?', on bigthink.com website.
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What struck me most in England was the perception that only those works which have a practical tendency awake attention and command respect, while the purely scientific, which possess far greater merit are almost unknown. And yet the latter are the proper source from which the others flow. Practice alone can never lead to the discovery of a truth or a principle. In Germany it is quite the contrary. Here in the eyes of scientific men no value, or at least but a trifling one, is placed upon the practical results. The enrichment of science is alone considered worthy attention.
Letter to Michael Faraday (19 Dec 1844). In Bence Jones (ed.), The life and letters of Faraday (1870), Vol. 2, 188-189.
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When the formulae of inorganic chemical compounds are considered, even a superficial observer is struck with the general symmetry of their construction; the compounds of nitrogen, phosphorus, antimony and arsenic especially exhibit the tendency of the elements to form compounds containing 3 or 5 equivs. of other elements, and it is in these proportions that their affinities are best satisfied; thus in the ternal group we have NO3, NH3, NI3, NS3, PO3, PH3, PCl3, SbO3, SbH3, SbCl3, AsO3, AsH3, AsCl3 &c; and in the five-atom group NO4, NH4O, NH4I, PO5, PH4I, &c. Without offering any hypothesis regarding the cause of this symmetrical grouping of atoms, it is sufficiently evident, from the examples just given, that such a tendency or law prevails, and that, no matter what the character of the uniting atoms may be, the combining power of the attracting element, if I may be allowed the term, is always satisfied by the same number of these atoms.
'On a New Series of Organic Bodies Containing Metals', Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 1852, 14:2, 440.
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Whenever there is a great deal of energy in one region and very little in a neighboring region, energy tends to travel from the one region to the other, until equality is established. This whole process may be described as a tendency towards democracy.
In 'Science and Religion', collected in Al Seckel (ed.), >Bertrand Russell on God and Religion (1986), 175.
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Why do they [Americans] quarrel, why do they hate Negroes, Indians, even Germans, why do they not have science and poetry commensurate with themselves, why are there so many frauds and so much nonsense? I cannot soon give a solution to these questions ... It was clear that in the United States there was a development not of the best, but of the middle and worst sides of European civilization; the notorious general voting, the tendency to politics... all the same as in Europe. A new dawn is not to be seen on this side of the ocean.
The Oil Industry in the North American State of Pennsylvania and in the Caucasus (1877). Translated by H. M. Leicester, from the original in Russian, in 'Mendeleev's Visit to America', Journal of Chemical Education (1957), 34, 333.
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[Ignorance] of the principle of conservation of energy … does not prevent inventors without background from continually putting forward perpetual motion machines… Also, such persons undoubtedly have their exact counterparts in the fields of art, finance, education, and all other departments of human activity… persons who are unwilling to take the time and to make the effort required to find what the known facts are before they become the champions of unsupported opinions—people who take sides first and look up facts afterward when the tendency to distort the facts to conform to the opinions has become well-nigh irresistible.
From Evolution in Science and Religion (1927), 58-59. An excerpt from the book including this quote appears in 'New Truth and Old', Christian Education (Apr 1927), 10, No. 7, 394-395.
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[The Elements] are mutually bound together, the lighter being restrained by the heavier, so that they cannot fly off; while, on the contrary, from the lighter tending upwards, the heavier are so suspended, that they cannot fall down. Thus, by an equal tendency in an opposite direction, each of them remains in its appropriate place, bound together by the never-ceasing revolution of the world.
In The Natural History of Pliny (1855), Vol. 1, 19.
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[The famous attack of Sir William Hamilton on the tendency of mathematical studies] affords the most express evidence of those fatal lacunae in the circle of his knowledge, which unfitted him for taking a comprehensive or even an accurate view of the processes of the human mind in the establishment of truth. If there is any pre-requisite which all must see to be indispensable in one who attempts to give laws to the human intellect, it is a thorough acquaintance with the modes by which human intellect has proceeded, in the case where, by universal acknowledgment, grounded on subsequent direct verification, it has succeeded in ascertaining the greatest number of important and recondite truths. This requisite Sir W. Hamilton had not, in any tolerable degree, fulfilled. Even of pure mathematics he apparently knew little but the rudiments. Of mathematics as applied to investigating the laws of physical nature; of the mode in which the properties of number, extension, and figure, are made instrumental to the ascertainment of truths other than arithmetical or geometrical—it is too much to say that he had even a superficial knowledge: there is not a line in his works which shows him to have had any knowledge at all.
In Examination of Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy (1878), 607.
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[The Whig interpretation of history] ... is the tendency in many historians to write on the side of Protestants and Whigs, to praise revolutions provided they have been successful, to emphasise certain principles of progress in the past and to produce a story which is the ratification if not the glorification of the present.
The Whig Interpretation of History (1931), v.
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[William Gull] sought to teach his students not to think they could cure disease. “The best of all remedies,” he would say, “is a warm bed.” “ I can tell you something of how you get ill, but I cannot tell you how you get well.” “ Healing is accomplished ‘By an operation more divine Than tongue or pen can give expression to.’” “Remedies act best when there is a tendency to get well.”
Stated in Sir William Withey Gull and Theodore Dyke Acland (ed.), A Collection of the Published Writings of William Withey Gull (1896), xxvi.
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[Young] was afterwards accustomed to say, that at no period of his life was he particularly fond of repeating experiments, or even of very frequently attempting to originate new ones; considering that, however necessary to the advancement of science, they demanded a great sacrifice of time, and that when the fact was once established, that time was better employed in considering the purposes to which it might be applied, or the principles which it might tend to elucidate.
Hudson Gurney, Memoir of the Life of Thomas Young, M.D. F.R.S. (1831), 12-3.
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“Heaven helps those who help themselves” is a well-tried maxim, embodying in a small compass the results of vast human experience. The spirit of self-help is the root of all genuine growth in the individual; and, exhibited in the lives of many, it constitutes the true source of national vigour and strength. Help from without is often enfeebling in its effects, but help from within invariably invigorates. Whatever is done for men or classes, to a certain extent takes away the stimulus and necessity of doing for themselves; and where men are subjected to over-guidance and over-government, the inevitable tendency is to render them comparatively helpless.
In Self-help: With Illustrations of Character and Conduct (1859, 1861), 15.
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“If there are two theories, one simpler man the other, the simpler one is to be preferred.” At first sight this does not seem quite so bad, but a little thought shows that our tendency to prefer the simpler possibility is psychological rather than scientific. It is less trouble to think that way. Experience invariably shows that the more correct a theory becomes, the more complex does it seem. … So this … interpretation of [Ockham’s Razor] is … worthless.
With co-author Nalin Chandra Wickramasinghe, Evolution from Space (1981), 135.
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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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- 60 -
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- 50 -
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- 40 -
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- 30 -
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- 20 -
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- 10 -
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