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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index S > Anthony Standen Quotes

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Anthony Standen
(1906 - 22 Jun 1993)

British chemist and author best known for as the author of Science Is a Sacred Cow (1950), an irreverent look at science and scientists. When published, it drew praise Albert Einstein. Earlier, he wrote Insect Invaders.

Science Quotes by Anthony Standen (35 quotes)

A biologist, if he wishes to know how many toes a cat has, does not "frame the hypothesis that the number of feline digital extremities is 4, or 5, or 6," he simply looks at a cat and counts. A social scientist prefers the more long-winded expression every time, because it gives an entirely spurious impression of scientificness to what he is doing.
— Anthony Standen
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 151.
Science quotes on:  |  Biologist (31)  |  Cat (31)  |  Count (34)  |  Expression (82)  |  Hypothesis (227)  |  Impression (51)  |  Research (517)  |  Social Science (18)  |  Spurious (2)  |  Toe (5)

Analogy is a wonderful, useful and most important form of thinking, and biology is saturated with it. Nothing is worse than a horrible mass of undigested facts, and facts are indigestible unless there is some rhyme or reason to them. The physicist, with his facts, seeks reason; the biologist seeks something very much like rhyme, and rhyme is a kind of analogy.... This analogizing, this fine sweeping ability to see likenesses in the midst of differences is the great glory of biology, but biologists don't know it.... They have always been so fascinated and overawed by the superior prestige of exact physical science that they feel they have to imitate it.... In its central content, biology is not accurate thinking, but accurate observation and imaginative thinking, with great sweeping generalizations.
— Anthony Standen
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 98-100.
Science quotes on:  |  Accuracy (52)  |  Analogy (46)  |  Awe (24)  |  Biologist (31)  |  Biology (150)  |  Content (39)  |  Difference (208)  |  Exact (38)  |  Fact (609)  |  Fascination (26)  |  Generalization (26)  |  Glory (44)  |  Horrible (7)  |  Imagination (209)  |  Imitation (17)  |  Importance (183)  |  Likeness (7)  |  Observation (418)  |  Physical Science (54)  |  Physicist (130)  |  Prestige (9)  |  Reason (330)  |  Saturation (5)  |  Thinking (222)  |  Undigested (2)  |  Usefulness (70)  |  Wonder (134)

As advertising always convinces the sponsor even more than the public, the scientists have become sold, and remain sold, on the idea that they have the key to the Absolute, and that nothing will do for Mr. Average Citizen but to stuff himself full of electrons.
— Anthony Standen
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 26.
Science quotes on:  |  Absolute (65)  |  Advertising (6)  |  Conviction (57)  |  Electron (66)  |  Idea (440)  |  Key (38)  |  Public (82)  |  Scientist (447)  |  Sponsor (2)  |  Stuff (15)

But although in theory physicists realize that their conclusions are ... not certainly true, this ... does not really sink into their consciousness. Nearly all the time ... they ... act as if Science were indisputably True, and what's more, as if only science were true.... Any information obtained otherwise than by the scientific method, although it may be true, the scientists will call “unscientific,” using this word as a smear word, by bringing in the connotation from its original [Greek] meaning, to imply that the information is false, or at any rate slightly phony.
— Anthony Standen
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 176-77.
Science quotes on:  |  Conclusion (120)  |  False (79)  |  Phony (3)  |  Physicist (130)  |  Scientific Method (155)  |  Smear (2)  |  Theory (582)  |  Truth (750)  |  Unscientific (7)

But regular biology, as an "ology," has to be "scientific," and this means in practice that it has to be made dull.... Everything has to be expressed in utterly impersonal terms.
— Anthony Standen
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 108-10.
Science quotes on:  |  Biology (150)  |  Dull (26)  |  Impersonal (4)  |  Scientific (169)

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.
— Anthony Standen
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 43.
Science quotes on:  |  Bad (78)  |  Education (280)  |  Extreme (36)  |  Fad (3)  |  Human (445)  |  Rush (12)  |  Tendency (40)  |  Tolerance (5)

Evolution ... is really two theories, the vague theory and the precise theory. The vague theory has been abundantly proved.... The precise theory has never been proved at all. However, like relativity, it is accepted on faith.... On getting down to actual details, difficulties begin.
— Anthony Standen
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 101 & 103.
Science quotes on:  |  Abundance (15)  |  Accept (37)  |  Detail (65)  |  Difficulty (113)  |  Evolution (482)  |  Precision (38)  |  Proof (192)  |  Relativity (50)  |  Theory (582)  |  Vagueness (8)

If this “critical openminded attitude” … is wanted, the question at once arises, Is it science that should be studied in order to achieve it? Why not study law? A judge has to do everything that a scientist is exhorted to do in the way of withholding judgment until all the facts are in, and then judging impartially on the merits of the case as well as he can. … Why not a course in Sherlock Holmes? The detectives, or at least the detective-story writers, join with the scientists in excoriating “dogmatic prejudice, lying, falsification of facts, and data, and willful fallacious reasoning.”
— Anthony Standen
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 191.
Science quotes on:  |  Case (64)  |  Course (57)  |  Criticism (52)  |  Data (100)  |  Detective (4)  |  Dogmatism (9)  |  Fact (609)  |  Falsification (7)  |  Impartiality (3)  |  Judge (43)  |  Judgment (72)  |  Law (418)  |  Lie (80)  |  Merit (25)  |  Prejudice (58)  |  Reasoning (79)  |  Study (331)  |  Willful (3)  |  Writer (35)

If you want to understand human beings, there are plenty of people to go to besides psychologists.... Most of these people are incapable of communicating their knowledge, but those who can communicate it are novelists. They are good novelists precisely because they are good psychologists.
— Anthony Standen
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 128.
Science quotes on:  |  Communication (58)  |  Novelist (4)  |  Psychologist (11)  |  Understanding (317)

Insight is not the same as scientific deduction, but even at that it may be more reliable than statistics.
— Anthony Standen
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 123.
Science quotes on:  |  Deduction (49)  |  Insight (57)  |  Reliability (14)  |  Statistics (125)

It is perfectly possible to be objective about an angry man, but it is inadvisable, for it will only make him angrier.
— Anthony Standen
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 120.
Science quotes on:  |  Anger (14)  |  Objective (49)

It is true that physics gives a wonderful training in precise, logical thinking-about physics. It really does depend upon accurate reproducible experiments, and upon framing hypotheses with the greatest possible freedom from dogmatic prejudice. And if these were the really important things in life, physics would be an essential study for everybody.
— Anthony Standen
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 90-91.
Science quotes on:  |  Dependence (32)  |  Dogmatism (9)  |  Essential (87)  |  Experiment (543)  |  Freedom (76)  |  Hypothesis (227)  |  Importance (183)  |  Life (917)  |  Logic (187)  |  Physics (301)  |  Precision (38)  |  Prejudice (58)  |  Reproducibility (2)  |  Study (331)  |  Thinking (222)  |  Training (39)

Lord Kelvin was so satisfied with this triumph of science that he declared himself to be as certain of the existence of the ether as a man can be about anything.... “When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it....” Thus did Lord Kelvin lay down the law. And though quite wrong, this time he has the support of official modern Science. It is NOT true that when you can measure what you are speaking about, you know something about it. The fact that you can measure something doesn't even prove that that something exists.... Take the ether, for example: didn't they measure the ratio of its elasticity to its density?
— Anthony Standen
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 69-70; 85.
Science quotes on:  |  Certainty (97)  |  Density (11)  |  Elasticity (2)  |  Ether (24)  |  Existence (254)  |  Baron William Thomson Kelvin (50)  |  Knowledge (1128)  |  Law (418)  |  Measurement (148)  |  Number (179)  |  Proof (192)  |  Triumph (33)  |  Truth (750)

Mr. Hillaire Belloc has pointed out that science has changed greatly, and for the worse, since it became popular. Some hundred years ago, or more, only very unusual, highly original spirits were attracted to science at all; scientific work was therefore carried out by men of exceptional intelligence. Now, scientists are turned out by mass production in our universities.
— Anthony Standen
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 23-24.
Science quotes on:  |  Change (291)  |  Exceptional (6)  |  Intelligence (138)  |  Mass Production (2)  |  Original (36)  |  Point (72)  |  Popularity (2)  |  Spirit (113)  |  University (51)  |  Worse (17)

Our advanced and fashionable thinkers are, naturally, out on a wide swing of the pendulum, away from the previous swing of the pendulum.... They seem to have an un-argue-out-able position, as is the manner of sophists, but this is no guarantee that they are right.
— Anthony Standen
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 177-78.
Science quotes on:  |  Advance (123)  |  Fashion (24)  |  Guarantee (16)  |  Pendulum (13)  |  Swing (8)  |  Thinking (222)

Physical scientists probably deserve the reputation they enjoy for incorruptibility and unswerving devotion to pure truth. The reason for this is that it is not worth while to bribe them.
— Anthony Standen
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 168-69.
Science quotes on:  |  Deserve (14)  |  Devotion (24)  |  Physical Science (54)  |  Reason (330)  |  Reputation (17)  |  Truth (750)  |  Worth (74)

Physics is NOT a body of indisputable and immutable Truth; it is a body of well-supported probable opinion only .... Physics can never prove things the way things are proved in mathematics, by eliminating ALL of the alternative possibilities. It is not possible to say what the alternative possibilities are.... Write down a number of 20 figures; if you multiply this by a number of, say, 30 figures, you would arrive at some enormous number (of either 49 or 50 figures). If you were to multiply the 30-figure number by the 20-figure number you would arrive at the same enormous 49- or 50-figure number, and you know this to be true without having to do the multiplying. This is the step you can never take in physics.
— Anthony Standen
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 68, 88, 179.
Science quotes on:  |  Alternative (22)  |  Arithmetic (68)  |  Elimination (17)  |  Figure (32)  |  Immutable (9)  |  Indisputable (6)  |  Mathematics (587)  |  Multiplication (14)  |  Number (179)  |  Opinion (146)  |  Physics (301)  |  Possibility (96)  |  Proof (192)  |  Support (63)  |  Truth (750)

Psychologists pay lip service to the scientific method, and use it whenever it is convenient; but when it isn't they make wild leaps of their uncontrolled fancy....
— Anthony Standen
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 127.
Science quotes on:  |  Control (93)  |  Convenience (25)  |  Fancy (16)  |  Leap (23)  |  Psychologist (11)  |  Scientific Method (155)

Psychologists, like other scientists, pride themselves on being extremely modern, and therefore much better than any group of people that ever were before....
— Anthony Standen
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 118.
Science quotes on:  |  Modern (104)  |  Psychologist (11)

Science ... must be absorbed in order to inculcate that wonderful humility before the facts of nature that comes from close attention to a textbook, and that unwillingness to learn from Authority that comes from making almost verbatim lecture notes and handing them back to the professor.
— Anthony Standen
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 141.
Science quotes on:  |  Authority (50)  |  Humility (20)  |  Learning (174)  |  Lecture (54)  |  Note (22)  |  Professor (39)  |  Science (1699)  |  Textbook (19)  |  Unwillingness (3)  |  Verbatim (2)

Scientists are convinced that they, as scientists, possess a number of very admirable human qualities, such as accuracy, observation, reasoning power, intellectual curiosity, tolerance, and even humility.
— Anthony Standen
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 15-16.
Science quotes on:  |  Accuracy (52)  |  Curiosity (89)  |  Human (445)  |  Humility (20)  |  Intellect (157)  |  Observation (418)  |  Quality (65)  |  Reasoning (79)  |  Scientist (447)  |  Tolerance (5)

Since biologists deal constantly in analogies, they are easily misled by them.
— Anthony Standen
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 112.
Science quotes on:  |  Analogy (46)  |  Biologist (31)  |  Mislead (3)

Such instances of the almost infinite unpredictability of man are known to social scientists, but they are no more affected by them than the asylum inmate is by being told that he is not Napoleon.
— Anthony Standen
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 156.
Science quotes on:  |  Asylum (5)  |  Boneparte_Napoleon (2)  |  Inmate (3)  |  Instance (18)  |  Knowledge (1128)  |  Social Science (18)  |  Unpredictability (5)

Survival of the fittest led to “nature red in tooth and claw” and this is not sufficiently wishy-washy for modern scientists.
— Anthony Standen
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 107.
Science quotes on:  |  Claw (7)  |  Nature (1029)  |  Survival Of The Fittest (34)  |  Tooth (23)

The dreadful cocksureness that is characteristic of scientists in bulk is not only quite foreign to the spirit of true science, it is not even justified by a superficial view.
— Anthony Standen
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 31.
Science quotes on:  |  Bulk (5)  |  Characteristic (66)  |  Dreadful (5)  |  Foreign (20)  |  Justification (33)  |  Scientist (447)  |  Spirit (113)  |  Superficial (7)

The first thing to realize about physics ... is its extraordinary indirectness.... For physics is not about the real world, it is about “abstractions” from the real world, and this is what makes it so scientific.... Theoretical physics runs merrily along with these unreal abstractions, but its conclusions are checked, at every possible point, by experiments.
— Anthony Standen
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 60-62.
Science quotes on:  |  Abstraction (29)  |  Check (16)  |  Experiment (543)  |  Physics (301)  |  Real World (8)  |  Reality (140)  |  Realization (33)  |  Theoretical Physics (15)

The memory, a child once said, is "the thing we forget with."
— Anthony Standen
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 181.
Science quotes on:  |  Forgetfulness (5)  |  Memory (81)

The really important questions in human life are hardly touched upon by psychologists. Do liars come to believe their own lies? Is pleasure the same as happiness? Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved, or not to be able to love?
— Anthony Standen
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 137.
Science quotes on:  |  Happiness (82)  |  Human Life (25)  |  Lie (80)  |  Love (164)  |  Pleasure (98)  |  Psychologist (11)  |  Question (315)

The theory that gravitational attraction is inversely proportional to the square of the distance leads by remorseless logic to the conclusion that the path of a planet should be an ellipse .... It is this logical thinking that is the real meat of the physical sciences. The social scientist keeps the skin and throws away the meat.... His theorems no more follow from his postulates than the hunches of a horse player follow logically from the latest racing news. The result is guesswork clad in long flowing robes of gobbledygook.
— Anthony Standen
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 149-50.
Science quotes on:  |  Conclusion (120)  |  Gambler (4)  |  Gravitation (27)  |  Guesswork (4)  |  Horse (40)  |  Hunch (4)  |  Logic (187)  |  Meat (11)  |  Physical Science (54)  |  Postulate (23)  |  Skin (17)  |  Social Science (18)  |  Theorem (46)  |  Theory (582)

The velocity of light occupies an extraordinary place in modern physics. It is lèse-majesté to make any criticism of the velocity of light. It is a sacred cow within a sacred cow, and it is just about the Absolutest Absolute in the history of human thought.
— Anthony Standen
Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 73.
Science quotes on:  |  Absolute (65)  |  Extraordinary (32)  |  History (302)  |  Human (445)  |  Modern Physics (12)  |  Sacred Cow (2)  |  Thought (374)

There are science teachers who actually claim that they teach “a healthy skepticism.” They do not. They teach a profound gullibility, and their dupes, trained not to think for themselves, will swallow any egregious rot, provided it is dressed up with long words and an affectation of objectivity to make it sound scientific.
— Anthony Standen
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 189.
Science quotes on:  |  Affectation (3)  |  Dupe (2)  |  Gullibility (2)  |  Objectivity (9)  |  Rot (5)  |  Skepticism (18)  |  Swallow (14)  |  Teacher (90)  |  Thinking (222)  |  Word (221)

There's many a true word spoken in jest; scientists are abominably solemn; therefore scientists miss many a true word.
— Anthony Standen
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 140.
Science quotes on:  |  Abominable (4)  |  Jest (3)  |  Solemnity (4)  |  Speech (40)  |  Truth (750)  |  Word (221)

We are having wool pulled over our eyes if we let ourselves be convinced that scientists, taken as a group, are anything special in the way of brains. They are very ordinary professional men, and all they know is their own trade, just like all other professional men. There are some geniuses among them, just as there are mental giants in any other field of endeavor.
— Anthony Standen
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 23-24.
Science quotes on:  |  Brain (181)  |  Conviction (57)  |  Deception (3)  |  Endeavour (24)  |  Genius (186)  |  Ordinary (44)  |  Profession (54)  |  Scientist (447)  |  Special (51)  |  Trade (24)

[Certain students] suppose that because science has penetrated the structure of the atom it can solve all the problems of the universe. ... They are known in every ... college as the most insufferable, cocksure know-it-alls. If you want to talk to them about poetry, they are likely to reply that the "emotive response" to poetry is only a conditioned reflex .... If they go on to be professional scientists, their sharp corners are rubbed down, but they undergo no fundamental change. They most decidedly are not set apart from the others by their intellectual integrity and faith, and their patient humility in front of the facts of nature.... They are uneducated, in the fullest sense of the word, and they certainly are no advertisement for the claims of science teachers.
— Anthony Standen
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 18-19.
Science quotes on:  |  Advertisement (11)  |  Atom (251)  |  Change (291)  |  Claim (52)  |  College (27)  |  Emotion (62)  |  Faith (131)  |  Fundamental (122)  |  Humility (20)  |  Integrity (11)  |  Intellect (157)  |  Nature (1029)  |  Patience (31)  |  Pentration (2)  |  Poetry (96)  |  Problem (362)  |  Profession (54)  |  Response (24)  |  Rub (2)  |  Sense Of The Word (2)  |  Solution (168)  |  Structure (191)  |  Student (131)  |  Supposition (33)  |  Uneducated (4)

[Scientists] define these [terms] in tight phrases which convey a meaning only to those who already understand it.
— Anthony Standen
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 31.
Science quotes on:  |  Already (16)  |  Definition (152)  |  Meaning (87)  |  Phrase (21)  |  Term (87)  |  Understanding (317)


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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- 40 -
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- 30 -
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- 20 -
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