Holiday Quotations

Happy Holidays everyone! Rational Numbers is taking a break this week, so we present a collection of quotations on the subject of Science and Rationality. Rational Numbers will resume in January.

“Ideas intertwine, and their entanglement can impede the revision of one false idea unless and until we are prepared to entertain the possibility of having to abandon many other beliefs as well. Given a network of mutually supporting fallacies, any narrow effort at reform is doomed, because correcting any one fallacy in isolation leads to apparently absurd contradictions with the other false notions…We cannot escape the apparent absurdities until we correct the other fallacies as well.”

-Gary Drescher[1]

“A notable feature of climate science is that most of its issues, unlike most questions in physics, involve evidence and arguments that are scattered among many specialties. People in one specialty are rarely familiar with the details of evidence from another, and the public grasps still less.”

-Spencer Weart[2]

“A hallucination is a fact, not an error; what is erroneous is a judgment based upon it.”

  -Bertrand Russell[3]

“When people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.”

-Isaac Asimov[4]

“Common sense is science exactly in so far as it fulfills the ideal of common sense; that is, sees facts as they are, or, at any rate, without the distortion of prejudice, and reasons from them in accordance with the dictates of sound judgment. And science is simply common sense at its best; that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic.”

-Thomas Henry Huxley[5]

“To modern educated people, it seems obvious that matters of fact are to be ascer­tained by observation, not by consulting ancient authorities. But this is an entirely modern conception, which hardly existed before the seventeenth century. Aristotle maintained that women have fewer teeth than men; although he was twice married, it never occurred to him to verify this statement by examining his wives’ mouths.”

-Bertrand Russell[6]

“It is not by prayer and humility that you cause things to go as you wish, but by acquiring a knowledge of natural laws.”

-Bertrand Russell[7]

“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

-Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn[8]

“One disadvantage of having a little intelligence is that one can invent myths out of his own imagination, and come to believe them. Wild animals, lacking imagination, almost never do disastrously stupid things out of false perceptions of the world about them. But humans create artificial disasters for themselves when their ideology makes them unable to perceive where their own self-interest lies.”

-E. T. Jaynes[9]

“No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavors to establish.”

-David Hume[10]