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- This article is about the subject "scientist", not about reflections of individual scientists
- Quotes are arranged alphabetically by author
- Scientists tend to resist interdisciplinary inquiries into their own territory. In many instances, such parochialism is founded on the fear that intrusion from other disciplines would compete unfairly for limited financial resources and thus diminish their own opportunity for research.
- Many people, including many important and well-respected scientists, just don’t want there to be anything beyond nature. They don’t want a supernatural being to affect nature.
- Michael Behe, molecular biologist, says in Darwin’s Black Box.
- As it is claimed to be unphilosophical to inquire into first causes, scientists now occupy themselves with considering their physical effects. The field of scientific investigation is therefore bounded by physical nature. When once its limits are reached, enquiry must stop, and their work be recommenced. With all due respect to our learned men, they are like the squirrel upon its revolving wheel, for they are doomed to turn their "matter" over and over again. Science is a mighty potency, and it is not for us pigmies to question her. But the "scientists" are not themselves science embodied any more than the men of our planet are the planet itself. We have neither the right to demand, nor power to compel our "modern-day philosopher" to accept without challenge a geographical description of the dark side of the moon. But, if in some lunar cataclysm one of her inhabitants should be hurled thence into the attraction of our atmosphere, and land, safe and sound, at Dr. Carpenter's door, he would be indictable as recreant to professional duty if he should fail to set the physical problem at rest.
For a man of science to refuse an opportunity to investigate any new phenomenon, whether it comes to him in the shape of a man from the moon, or a ghost from the Eddy homestead, is alike reprehensible. (5)
- Scientists who believe they have adopted the Aristotelian method only because they creep when they do not run from demonstrated particulars to universals, glorify this method of inductive philosophy, and reject that of Plato, which they treat as unsubstantial. Professor Draper laments that such speculative mystics as Ammonius Saccas and Plotinus should have taken the place "of the severe geometers of the old museum." (Conflict between Religion and Science, ch. i.) He forgets that geometry, of all sciences the only one which proceeds from universals to particulars, was precisely the method employed by Plato in his philosophy. As long as exact science confines its observations to physical conditions and proceeds Aristotle-like, it certainly cannot fail. But notwithstanding that the world of matter is boundless for us, it still is finite; and thus materialism will turn forever in this vitiated circle, unable to soar higher than the circumference will permit. The cosmological theory of numerals which Pythagoras learned from the Egyptian hierophants, is alone able to reconcile the two units, matter and spirit, and cause each to demonstrate the other mathematically. (7)
If the Pythagorean metempsychosis should be thoroughly explained and compared with the modern theory of evolution, it would be found to supply every "missing link" in the chain of the latter. But who of our scientists would consent to lose his precious time over the vagaries of the ancients.(9) The ancients knew more concerning certain sciences than our modern savants have yet discovered. Reluctant as many are to confess as much, it has been acknowledged by more than one scientist. (25) (Dr. A. Todd Thomson below)
- H.P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled, Part One, Science, Ch. 1 (1877)
- Truly says Cudworth that the greatest ignorance of which our modern wiseacres accuse the ancients is their belief in the soul’s immortality. Like the old skeptic of Greece, our scientists—to use an expression of the same Dr. Cudworth—are afraid that if they admit spirits and apparitions they must admit a God too; and there is nothing too absurd, he adds, for them to suppose, in order to keep out the existence of God. The great body of ancient materialists, skeptical as they now seem to us, thought otherwise, and Epicurus, who rejected the soul's immortality, believed still in a God, and Demokritus fully conceded the reality of apparitions. The preexistence and God-like powers of the human spirit were believed in by most all the sages of ancient days. (251)
- Scientists today … have to be able to interpret their findings just as skillfully as they conduct their research. If not, a lot of priceless new knowledge will have to wait for a better man.
- Wernher von Braun in his Introduction for Dagobert David Runes (ed.), A Treasury of World Science (1962), viii.
- As long as scientists are free to pursue the truth wherever it may lead, there will be a flow of new scientific knowledge to those who can apply it to practical problems.
- Vannevar Bush (1945) as quoted by George H. W. Bush in remarks while presenting National Medals of Science and Technology (13 November 1990).
- There is a noticeable general difference between the sciences and mathematics on the one hand, and the humanities and social sciences on the other. It's a first approximation, but one that is real. In the former, the factors of integrity tend to dominate more over the factors of ideology. It's not that scientists are more honest people. It's just that nature is a harsh taskmaster. You can lie or distort the story of the French Revolution as long as you like, and nothing will happen. Propose a false theory in chemistry, and it'll be refuted tomorrow.
- I have watched the #metoo campaign as avidly as anyone. I have gone to bed each night wondering who will be outed as a sexual harasser in the morning, whether it will be another one of my political heroes or someone we all recognize from mainstream media or Hollywood. We’ve seen many of these perpetrators lose jobs, be forced to resign, and face economic difficulty because of their abhorrent behaviors.
But I have not gone to bed a single night in all these months wondering what scientist would be sacked in the morning because of his transgressions—let alone be publicly outed—because scientist-harassers rarely lose their jobs.
- Are people who engage in sexual misconduct actually making scientific advances that would not be made without them? I’d say it’s more likely that swifter, greater advances would have occurred if there were fewer perpetrators limiting opportunities for their victims. When part of your brain has to be occupied with workplace stress—from unwanted sexual advances to witnessing abuse between colleagues—you have less to give to your science.
If we punish these perpetrators, especially by taking away their funding, won’t their trainees suffer? I wonder how many grad students would be better off, relieved of the pressures of working for a predator. As federal funding agencies grapple with this problem, they have begun to figure out solutions, such as assigning a new principal investigator if the original one can’t continue. It doesn’t kill the project or leave students and staff out of their jobs. Removing the perpetrator from a project also saves the pedigree of the trainees; few want their published work tainted with the name of a known sexual harasser.
The last concern is the trickiest: Why don’t we do anything when we know about the perpetrators in our midst? So far, consequences for scientist-harassers are few and far between. In academia it’s common to get sanctions like “no more female grad students” or “no more undergraduate teaching” or “please work at home for now.” These are mild punishments at best, but departments are unsure what other options they have—and universities don’t make it easy to fire professors. The institutions know that perpetrators generally have more resources than victims and are more likely to sue if they are fired. It is a good financial decision, then, to do nothing about a perpetrator, even if they are guilty.
So this is where we find ourselves today: In many professions sexual misconduct is now cause for dismissal. In the sciences, not so much. What’s more, many science workplaces use legal definitions of sexual harassment to set the standard for workplace conduct. If that is the bar that has to be met for a disgusting behavior to be considered actionable by a university, research institute, or field station, it is a high one. An enormous range of disrespectful and even frightening behavior can slip under that bar, even though it damages the careers of victims and bystanders, holding back scientific advancement.
- Kathryn B. H. Clancy, "Have the Sciences Had a #MeToo Moment? Not So Much.", National Geographic, (05/2018).
- Clarke's First Law: When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
- Arthur C. Clarke "Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination" in Profiles of the Future (1962)
- Scientists and doctors to me, are at the leading edge of what all human beings do all of the time; which is to change, everything. We’ve never been satisfied with what we’re given. We don’t accept the earth as a given. We change our body chemistry, our physiology, our biology, our biochemistry. We clear the forest, we build our own environment, we climate control it . . . And, the interface between that impulse and the human body often is doctors, biologists, and biochemists.
- What is a scientist after all? It is a curious person looking through a keyhole, the keyhole of nature, trying to know what's going on.
- Jacques-Yves Cousteau (1971) Christian Science Monitor. 21 July 1971; cited in: Alan F. Pater, Jason R. Pater (1972) What They Said in 1971: The Standard Source Book for the World's. p. 536
- [S]cientists are required to back up their claims not with private feelings but with publicly checkable evidence. Their experiments must have rigorous controls to eliminate spurious effects. And statistical analysis eliminates the suspicion (or at least measures the likelihood) that the apparent effect might have happened by chance alone...
- Richard Dawkins (1996) "Human gullibility beyond belief,— the “paranormal” in the media". The Sunday Times. 1996-08-25.
- Scientists are just as vulnerable to wishful thinking, just as likely to be tempted by base motives, just as venal and gullible and forgetful as the rest of humankind. Scientists don't consider themselves to be saints; they don't even pretend to be priests (who according to tradition are supposed to do a better job than the rest of us at fighting off human temptation and frailty). Scientists take themselves to be just as weak and fallible as anybody else, but recognizing those very sources of error in themselves and in the groups to which they belong, they have devised elaborate systems to tie their own hands, forcibly preventing their frailties and prejudices from infecting their results.
- Daniel Dennett (1998) Postmodernism and truth
- So many people today — and even professional scientists — seem to me like someone who has seen thousands of trees but has never seen a forest.
- Albert Einstein (1944) Letter to Robert A. Thorton, Physics Professor at University of Puerto Rico (7 December 1944)
- The scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causation. The future, to him, is every whit as necessary and determined as the past. There is nothing divine about morality, it is a purely human affair...
- Albert Einstein (1949) The World As I See It
- The genuine scientist is not moved by praise or blame, nor does he preach. He unveils the universe and people come eagerly, without being pushed, to behold a new revelation: the order, the harmony, the magnificence of creation! And as man becomes conscious of the stupendous laws that govern the universe in perfect harmony, he begins to realize how small he is. He sees the pettiness of human existence, with its ambitions and intrigues, its 'I am better than thou' creed. This is the beginning of cosmic religion within him; fellowship and human service become his moral code. And without such moral foundations, we are hopelessly doomed.
- Albert Einstein (1983) Einstein and the Poet. p. 66
- Everyone here would die for the sake of truth. Everyone here lies constantly for the tiniest chance of personal gain. This is what it means to be a scientist.
- We scientists are clever — too clever — are you not satisfied? Is four square miles in one bomb not enough? Men are still thinking. Just tell us how big you want it.
- Most scientists, however, have more respect for narrative. Nobel Prize winners Steven Weinberg, Frank Wilczek, and George Smoot, notable theoreticians Stephen Hawking, Lee Smolin, Leonard Susskind, Lisa Randall, Steven S. Gubser, Brian Greene, and many others have written accessible books that utilize the capacities of natural language and narrative to represent the contemporary scientific picture of space and time. They are following the example of Charles Darwin, whose Origin of Species (1859) was written in the educated layman's idiom of his day, and even Albert Einstein, parts of whose Relativity (1920) may be understood without mathematical training.
- Elana Gomel (18 February 2014). Narrative Space and Time: Representing Impossible Topologies in Literature. Routledge. p. 4. ISBN 978-1-134-51963-7.
- 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.
- Stephen Jay Gould (1995), Dinosaur in a Haystack. p. 270
- I do not like to see all the fine boys turning to the study of law, instead of to the study of science or technology. … Japan wants no more lawyers now; and I think the professions of literature and of teaching give small promise. What Japan needs are scientific men; and she will need more and more of them every year.
- By a recent estimate, nearly half the bills before the U.S. Congress have a substantial science-technology component and some two-thirds of the District of Columbia Circuit Court’s case load now involves review of action by federal administrative agencies; and more and more of such cases relate to matters on the frontiers of technology.
If the layman cannot participate in decision making, he will have to turn himself over, essentially blind, to a hermetic elite. … [The fundamental question becomes] are we still capable of self-government and therefore freedom?
Margaret Mead wrote in a 1959 issue of Daedalus about scientists elevated to the status of priests. Now there is a name for this elevation, when you are in the hands of—one hopes—a benevolent elite, when you have no control over your political decisions. From the point of view of John Locke, the name for this is slavery.
- Gerald Holton, quoted in 'Where is Science Taking Us? Gerald Holton Maps the Possible Routes', The Chronicle of Higher Education (18 May 1981). In Francis A. Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto (1982), 80.
- Scientists are supposed to live in ivory towers. Their darkrooms and their vibration-proof benches are supposed to isolate their activities from the disturbances of common life. What they tell us is supposed to be for the ages, not for the next election. But the reality may be otherwise.
- Simon LeVay (1996) Queer Science: The Use and Abuse of Research into Homosexuality. Cambridge: MIT Press. p. 9
- Science for its part speaks against the special importance of any object of science, including human beings. … Science as opposed to religion recognizes nothing sacred either outside man or within him. But collectively, science is the assertion of man over non-man, surely an unembarrassed claim to importance and rule. Yet as individuals, scientists are anonymous factors in the scientific enterprise, each one substitutable for another. For all science cares, scientists could as well be numbered as named.
- Harvey Mansfield (2007) How to Understand Politics: What the Humanities Can Say to Science
- Our problem is : What are the underlying desires or wishes, that lead some scientists to insist upon mechanistic conceptions, and others equally eminent, to espouse some form of scientific vitalism ? For in psychology, as in other sciences, a materialistic or vitalistic bias may be found at the root of nearly all factional schools, or contentious groups. Sometimes, of course, the underlying desire relates solely to the advancement of the personal fortunes of the workers concerned ; and such purely egoistic motives probably play a considerable part in the evolution of every scientific doctrine. In addition to this, however, originators and promulgators of conceptual systems of thought, nearly always possess hidden desires to push science in this direction or that, " for science's own sake ". The goal selected is the one that accords most closely with the basic emotional set of the scientific agitator. And the emotional sets of scientists may be classified, broadly, into two elementary groups, materialistic and vitalistic.
- A scientist is no more a collector and classifier of facts than a historian is a man who complies and classifies a chronology of the dates of great battles and major discoveries.
- Peter Medawar & Jean Medawar (1985) Aristotle to Zoos: A Philosophical Dictionary of Biology
- The creative scientist lives in a 'wildness of logic,' where reason is the handmaiden and not the master.
- There must be no barriers for freedom of inquiry. There is no place for dogma in science. The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors.
- Robert Oppenheimer (1949) in: "J. Robert Oppenheimer" by Lincoln Barnett in: LIFE, Okt 10, 1949. p. 136
- Some 500,000 scientists all over the world are devoting their knowledge to the search for weaponry more sophisticated and more deadly.
- Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, stated reinforcing his warning to the United Nations. Cited in the article: Apocalypse—What Is It?, The Watchtower magazine, 2/15, 1986.
- A scientist is happy, not in resting on his attainments but in the steady acquisition of fresh knowledge.
- Max Planck (1936) The philosophy of physics. p. 32
- A scientist worthy of the name, above all a mathematician, experiences in his work the same impression as an artist; his pleasure is as great and of the same nature.
- The scientist does not study nature because it is useful to do so. He studies it because he takes pleasure in it, and he takes pleasure in it because it is beautiful. If nature were not beautiful it would not be worth knowing, and life would not be worth living. I am not speaking, of course, of the beauty which strikes the senses, of the beauty of qualities and appearances. I am far from despising this, but it has nothing to do with science. What I mean is that more intimate beauty which comes from the harmonious order of its parts, and which a pure intelligence can grasp.
- Henri Poincaré (1908) Science and Method. Part I. Ch. 1 : The Selection of Facts, p. 22
- A fundamental value in the scientific outlook is concern with the best available map of reality. The scientist will always seek a description of events which enables him to predict most by assuming least. He thus already prefers a particular form of behavior. If moralities are systems of preferences, here is at least one point at which science cannot be said to be completely without preferences. Science prefers good maps.
- In contrast to composers, there are few scientists whose last works are their greatest.
- Martin Rees as quoted by Jessica Bland in Martin Rees looks back to understand why 'scientific citizens' will be important in the future. In Verba, The Royal Society (16 January 2012).
- In schools, for example, there are courses in the criticism of literature, art criticism, and so forth. The arts are supposed to be 'not real.' It is quite safe, therefore, to criticize them in that regard -- to see how a story or a painting is constructed, or more importantly, to critically analyze the structure of ideas, themes, or beliefs that appear, say, in the poem or work of fiction. When children are taught science, there is no criticism allowed. They are told, 'This is how things are.' Science's reasons are given as the only true statements about reality, with which no student is expected to quarrel. Any strong intellectual explorations or counter versions of reality have appeared in science fiction, for example. Here scientists, many being science-fiction buffs, can channel their own intellectual questioning into a safe form. 'This is, after all, merely imaginative and not to be taken seriously.'
- Jane Roberts in The God of Jane: A Psychic Manifesto, p. 145-146
- 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.
- Carl Sagan (1987) Keynote address at CSICOP conference, as quoted in Do Science and the Bible Conflict? (2003) by Judson Poling, p. 30
- It is sometimes said that scientists are unromantic, that their passion to figure out robs the world of beauty and mystery. But is it not stirring to understand how the world actually works — that white light is made of colors, that color is the way we perceive the wavelengths of light, that transparent air reflects light, that in so doing it discriminates among the waves, and that the sky is blue for the same reason that the sunset is red? It does no harm to the romance of the sunset to know a little bit about it.
- I've been aware for some time of the shortcomings inherent in the sane, dispassionate thinking that we scientists advocate. People don’t pay any attention.
- ... Professor Watson ... has an eye for the significant detail which will bring a scene alive. No sense of false modesty prevents him from saying what he thinks of other scientists. He points out — let us face it, not without truth — that most scientists are stupid, and that most of them are working on trivial problems.
- John Maynard Smith: Did Darwin Get It Right?: Essays on Games, Sex and Evolution. Springer Science & Business Media. 6 December 2012. ISBN 978-1-4684-7862-4; 1st edition 1989 (quote from p. 4)
- As a result of scientific man's creativity there arises an ordered, illumined, determined world, imprinted with the stamp of creative intellect, of pure reason and clear cognition. From the midst of the order and lawfulness we hear a new song, the song of the creature to the Creator, the song of the cosmos to its Maker.
- Today's scientists have substituted mathematics for experiments, and they wander off through equation after equation, and eventually build a structure which has no relation to reality.
- Nikola Tesla (1934) cited in: Cheney, Uth & Glenn (1999) Tesla: master of lightning. p. 137
- The scientists never make any money. They are always deluded into thinking that they live in a just universe that will reward them for their work and for their inventions. And this is probably the fundamental delusion that scientists tend to suffer from in our society.
- Peter Thiel (March 22, 2017)"Competition is for Losers with Peter Thiel (How to Start a Startup 2014: 5)". Y Combinator, YouTube. (quote at 29:30 of 50:27 in video)
- The degree of scientific knowledge existing in an early period of society was much greater than the moderns are willing to admit but, it was confined to the temples, carefully veiled from the eyes of the people and opposed only to the priesthood.
- Dr. A. Todd Thomson, the editor of Occult Sciences, by Salverte quoted by H.P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled, Part One, Science, Ch. 1 (1877)
- It seems that scientists are often attracted to beautiful theories in the way that insects are attracted to flowers — not by logical deduction, but by something like a sense of smell.
- Steven Weinberg Physics Today (November 2005) page 35
- Scientists, animated by the purpose of proving they are purposeless, constitute an interesting subject for study.
- Alfred North Whitehead. The Function of Reason (1929), Beacon Books, 1958, p. 16
- No matter how honest scientists think they are, they are still influenced by various unconscious assumptions that prevent them from attaining true objectivity. Expressed in a sentence, Fort's principle goes something like this: People with a psychological need to believe in marvels are no more prejudiced and gullible than people with a psychological need not to believe in marvels.
- Colin Wilson in Mysteries, p. 125 (1978)
- … it is shameful that there are so few women in science... In China there are many, many women in physics. There is a misconception in America that women scientists are all dowdy spinsters. This is the fault of men. In Chinese society, a woman is valued for what she is, and men encourage her to accomplishments yet she remains eternally feminine.
- Chien-Shiung Wu As quoted in "Queen of Physics", Newsweek (20 May 1963) no. 61, 20.