Talk:Isaac Asimov

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This is the talk page for discussing improvements to the Isaac Asimov page.

General sources/The Last Question[edit]

Why is so much text from the story included here? Seems like fluff--and is also a heck of a spoiler. 00:30, 1 March 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Defending beliefs to the death[edit]

"There is no belief, however foolish, that will not gather its faithful adherents who will defend it to the death." The stars in their courses - página 36, Isaac Asimov - White Lion, 1974, ISBN 085617145X, 9780856171451 - 199 páginas

Where is this from? It's a great quote, and I want to put it up, but I can't find a source for it and I'm not 100% sure it's legit. --Wikipedia:User:Leigh HoneywellChyna & Milawn

I have found no sources for it either, but find no one other than Asimov to whom it is attributed, and even if there were, without definite contradictory evidence it could go in the attributed section. I will add it to this now. ~ Kalki 22:18, 12 Oct 2004 (UTC)

There is no belief, however foolish, that will not gather its faithful adherents who will defend it to the death. - The Stars in Their Courses (1974), p. 36

Duplicate quotes[edit]

There sure are a lot of duplicate quotes here.

how about this one:

Moyers: What happens to the idea of the dignity of the human species if population growth continues at its present rate?

Asimov: It will be completely destroyed. I will use what I call my bathroom metaphor. Two people live in an apartment and there are two bathrooms, then both have the freedom of the bathroom. You can go to the bathroom anytime you want, and stay as long as you want, for whatever you need. Everyone believes in the freedom of the bathroom. It should be right there in the Constitution. But if you have 20 people in the apartment and two bathrooms, no matter how much every person believes in the freedom of the bathroom, there is no such thing. You have to set up times for each person, you have to bang at the door, "Aren't you through yet?" and so on.

The same way democracy cannot survive overpopulation. Human dignity cannot survive it. Convenience and decency cannot survive it. As you put more and more people into the world, the value of life not only declines, it disappears. It doesn't matter if someone dies. The more people there are the less one individual matters.

Issac Asimov, quoted in A World of Ideas by Bill Moyers (May 26, 1989), p. 276 —Preceding unsigned comment added by on 05:52, 21 March 2005 (UTC).Reply[reply]

  • Note that the above citation is incorrect. I've added 2 correct sources (a transcript[1], page 6, and audio[2], 20:12) to the quotation in the article and moved it to the Sourced section. -- 14:49, 13 November 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The Last Refuge[edit]

I'm quite sure that instead of "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent" it should be "Violence is the last resort of the incompetent".

The texts disagree. (BTW, please sign your talk page comments.) 121a0012 05:36, 23 October 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Foolish Beliefs[edit]

I disagree with the combination of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and that particular quote. Pastafarianism isn't a real religion, it's simply an argument to a point, mainly, "What's the difference between belief in God and belief in the FSM?" (there's the same amount of evidence for both: none). A more suitable combination would be some Scientology related image, as Asimov and L. Ron Hubbard were contemporaries, and he remarked more than once that Hubbard had gone astray with Dianetics. It's also more obvious that Scientology has devout believers who take it seriously.-- 00:04, 30 July 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I mean, come on, Pastafarianism is a satire that wasn't meant to be believed, and few people do. A FSM bumper sticker doesn't mean that the owner of the car believes in a floating linguini entity. Scientology, on the other hand, is almost as ridiculous, and is serious.

I think you're taking its use a little too seriously. It is a bit of humourous hyperbole, using the satire, not an actual targeting of the satire itself. It is in a similar vein to the use of Asimov on the throne with the comment "Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do" which is not meant as an actual indictment of Asimov. ~ Kalki 05:05, 11 July 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I dunno, to me it looks like the picture is meant as an example of the quote accompanying it.-- 00:04, 30 July 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I request to have the Flying Spaghetti Monster taken down in reference to this quote. How about a picture of a black cat or something, the quote can be about more than just religion. --Yoda99bc (talk) 17:55, 24 February 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I agree that using the FSM as an example for this quote is inappropriate. I came to the discussion page to mention that only to discover that it had first been reported six years earlier. I deleted that picture and its caption. Raran75 (talk) 13:13, 30 July 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Pi Quote[edit]

"How I want a drink, alcoholic of course, after the heavy lectures involving quantum mechanics! " Not by Asimov, made famous by Martin Gardener who attributes it to Sir James Jeans Pete 13:56, 10 July 2008 (UTC)

posthumous quotes?[edit]

I'm confused... some of the quotes listed are assigned dates after Asimov's death. I understand that something can be quoted years after it is said, but why is the secondary date preferred over the date of the original? (...and how reliable are these attributions?) Thanks, 15:47, 18 November 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Last Words[edit]

"I don't believe in a Heaven or a Hell." -Isaac Asimov


These require citations to adequate sources before being placed into the main article.
  • The true delight is in the finding out rather than in the knowing.
  • There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere.
  • To introduce something altogether new would mean to begin all over, to become ignorant again, and to run the old, old risk of failing to learn.
  • True literacy is becoming an arcane art and the United States is steadily dumbing down.
    • the above 4 were all directly above a correctly sourced quote, with a citation, but do not seem to be from that particular source — even if they were, such is not a proper citation and causes confusions.

Note: some of the references are in the portuguese wikiquote. I've put the references here in this Talk Page. Mdob (talk) 11:27, 25 October 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Beliefs and Religion[edit]

  • I prefer rationalism to atheism. The question of God and other objects-of-faith are outside reason and play no part in rationalism, thus you don't have to waste your time in either attacking or defending.
  • If I am right, then (religious fundamentalists) will not go to Heaven, because there is no Heaven. If they are right, then they will not go to Heaven, because they are hypocrites.
  • It seems to me that God is a convenient invention of the human mind.
  • Creationists don't want equal time, ... they want all the time there is.
  • Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.

Found it in "Notes for a Memoir: On Isaac Asimov, Life, and Writing" at google books

quoted in "Holy Moses: Holy Writ Revisited" - Página 177, Joseph E. Guretzki - D. W. Friesen Sons, Limited, 2004, ISBN 1553830083, 9781553830085 - 402 páginas

  • One would suppose that the battle for religious liberty was won in the United States two hundred years ago. However, in the time since, and right now, powerful voices are always raised in favor of bigotry and thought control.
  • If I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the pattern of their words. I think he would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to a TV preacher whose every word is God, God, God, and whose every deed is foul, foul, foul.


  • In life, unlike chess, the game continues after checkmate.

- Fantastic voyage II: destination brain: Volume 2 - página 275, Isaac Asimov - Grafton, 1988, ISBN 0586200258, 9780586200254 - 480 páginas

  • Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It's the transition that's troublesome.

-quoted in "Digital video transition analysis and detection" - Página 33, Wei Jyh Heng, King N. Ngan - World Scientific, 2002, ISBN 9812381856, 9789812381859 - 190 páginas

  • Although the time of death is approaching me, I am not afraid of dying and going to Hell or (what would be considerably worse) going to the popularized version of Heaven. I expect death to be nothingness and, for removing me from all possible fears of death, I am thankful to atheism.
  • There is nothing frightening about an eternal dreamless sleep. Surely it is better than eternal torment in Hell and eternal boredom in Heaven.
  • Life is a journey, but don't worry, you'll find a parking spot at the end.

- quoted in "Notes for a memoir: on Isaac Asimov, life, and writing" - página 35, Janet Asimov - Prometheus Books, 2006, ISBN 1591024056, 9781591024057 - 207 páginas

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!', but 'That's funny ...
  • “The day you stop learning is the day you begin decaying.” Isaac Asimov [3]

Knowledge and science[edit]

  • A subtle thought that is in error may yet give rise to fruitful inquiry that can establish truths of great value.
  • I believe that only scientists can understand the universe. It is not so much that I have confidence in scientists being right, but that I have so much in nonscientists being wrong.

Quasar, quasar, burning bright - página 235, Isaac Asimov - Doubleday, 1978, ISBN 0385134649, 9780385134644 - 240 páginas

There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere.
  • If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them.

Asimov's guide to science - página 15, Isaac Asimov - Basic Books, 1972 - 945 páginas

  • Inspect every piece of pseudoscience and you will find a security blanket, a thumb to suck, a skirt to hold. What does the scientist have to offer in exchange? Uncertainty! Insecurity!

Past, present, and future - página 65, Isaac Asimov - Prometheus Books, 1987, ISBN 0879753935, 9780879753931 - 374 páginas

  • Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.
  • Suppose that we are wise enough to learn and know — and yet not wise enough to control our learning and knowledge, so that we use it to destroy ourselves? Even if that is so, knowledge remains better than ignorance.
  • The facts, gentlemen, and nothing but the facts, for careful eyes are narrowly watching.
  • The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!', but 'That's funny ...'
quoted in Proceedings of the ... session: Volume 36 - página 22, South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission - SOPAC Technical Secetariat, 1994
The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.
    • Garson "The Quote Investigator" O'Toole researched possible sources for this quote and reported on them here. --Hughh (talk) 17:35, 20 February 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.

This is from Isaac Asimov and Jason A. Shulman's "Isaac Asimov's Book of Science and Nature Quotations" (New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1988), p. 281. --Themis-Athena (talk) 10:02, 16 November 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • The true delight is in the finding out rather than in the knowing.
  • There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere.
  • To introduce something altogether new would mean to begin all over, to become ignorant again, and to run the old, old risk of failing to learn.
  • True literacy is becoming an arcane art and the United States is steadily dumbing down.
  • When I read about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that American society has found one more way to destroy itself.
  • Where any answer is possible, all answers are meaningless.

The road to infinity - página 170, Isaac Asimov - Doubleday, 1979, ISBN 038514962X, 9780385149624 - 217 páginas

  • The Law of conservation of energy tells us we can't get something for nothing, but we refuse to believe it. — Book of Science and Nature Quotations, 1988.
  • We are forever teetering on the brink of the unknowable, and trying to understand what cannot be understood. It is what makes us men.
  • This is a quote in an introduction to a short story in an anthology which I can no longer find:

"Are there things in the Universe that we cannot know in the usual way of observing and measuring, but that we can know in some other way -- intuition, revelation, mad insight?

"If so, how can you know that what you know in these non-knowing ways is really so. Anything you know without knowing, others can know only through your flat statement without any proof other than 'I know!'

"All this leads to such madness that I, for one, am content with the knowable. That is enough to know." ~ Isaac Asimov 17:07, 2 January 2017 (UTC) Terry Bond, 1/2/17Reply[reply]

"Science can amuse and fascinate us all, but it is engineering that changes the world" Claimed here [4]


  • From my close observation of writers ... they fall into two groups: 1) those who bleed copiously and visibly at any bad review, and 2) those who bleed copiously and secretly at any bad review.
  • I write for the same reason I breathe — because if I didn't, I would die.
  • Until I became a published writer, I remained completely ignorant of books on how to write and courses on the subject ... they would have spoiled my natural style; made me observe caution; would have hedged me with rules.
I am not a speed reader. I am a speed understander.
  • Well, I can type all day without getting tired.
    • Response to a question as to which he preferred, women or writing.
  • Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.
  • I type and think at 90 words a minute.
  • In an article titled "The Unforgivable Sin", Isaac Asimov stated, "...don’t use a long word when a short word will do as well; don’t use a foreign word when an English word will do as well; don’t use a little-known word when a common word will do as well."

I am new to Wikiquote, so I'm not sure how to address this but I can source that quote. The title of the essay ("The Unforgivable Sin") is correct, it appears in the February 15th, 1982 edition of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. It's listed here: I have a copy of the magazine & verified the quote.

  • A poor idea well written is more likely to be accepted than a good idea poorly written.
  • Any book worth banning is a book worth reading.


  • Early in my school career, I turned out to be an incorrigible disciplinary problem. I could understand what the teacher was saying as fast as she could say it, I found time hanging heavy, so I would occasionally talk to my neighbor. That was my great crime, I talked.
  • I am not a speed reader. I am a speed understander.
  • If I could trace my origins to Judas Maccabaeus or King David, that would not add one inch to my stature. It may well be that many East European Jews are descended from Khazars, I may be one of them. Who knows? And who cares?
  • In 1936, I first wrote science fiction. It was a long-winded attempt at writing an endless novel ... which died. I remember one sentence: 'Whole forests stood sere and brown in midsummer.' That was the first Asimovian science-fiction sentence.
  • Nothing interferes with my concentration. You could put on an orgy in my office and I wouldn't look up. Well, maybe once.


  • All sorts of computer errors are now turning up. You'd be surprised to know the number of doctors who claim they are treating pregnant men.
    • quoted in "Wit" - Página 236, Des MacHale - Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2003, ISBN 0740733303, 9780740733307 - 320 páginas
  • I do not fear computers. I fear lack of them.
    • quoted in "Computers for business, a book of readings" - página 305, Hugh J. Watson, Archie B. Carroll - Business Publications ; Georgetown, Ont. : Irwin-Dorsey, 1980, ISBN 0256022895, 9780256022896 - 342 páginas
  • Part of the inhumanity of the computer is that, once it is competently programmed and working smoothly, it is completely honest.


  • And above all things, never think that you're not good enough yourself. A man should never think that. My belief is that in life people will take you at your own reckoning.
  • How I want a drink, alcoholic of course, after the heavy lectures involving quantum mechanics! (This is a mnemonic phrase: the number of letters in each word of the phrase is a decimal digit of pi)
  • It takes more than capital to swing business. You've got to have the A. I. D. degree to get by — Advertising, Initiative, and Dynamics.
  • John Dalton's records, carefully preserved for a century, were destroyed during the World War II bombing of Manchester. It is not only the living who are killed in war.
  • United Nations, New York, December 25. The peace and joy of the Christmas season was marred by a proclamation of a general strike of all the military forces of the world. Panic reigns in the hearts of all the patriots of every persuasion. Meanwhile, fears of universal disaster sank to an all-time low over the world.
  • Night was a wonderful time in Brooklyn in the 1930s. Air conditioning was unknown except in movie houses, and so was television. There was nothing to keep one in the house. Furthermore, few people owned automobiles, so there was nothing to carry one away. That left the streets and the stoops. The very fullness served as an inhibition to crime.
  • No one can possibly have lived through the Great Depression without being scarred by it. No amount of experience since the depression can convince someone who has lived through it that the world is safe economically.
  • To insult someone we call him 'bestial'. For deliberate cruelty and nature, 'human' might be the greater insult.
  • Start part three!
    • After having seen The Empire Strikes Back
  • Intelligence is an extremely subtle concept. It's a kind of understanding that flourishes if it's combined with a good memory, but exists anyway even in the absence of good memory. It's the ability to draw consequences from causes, to make correct inferences, to foresee what might be the result, to work out logical problems, to be reasonable, rational, to have the ability to understand the solution from perhaps insufficient information. You know when a person is intelligent, but you can be easily fooled if you are not yourself intelligent.

Help with source verification[edit]

I'm fairly sure that the quote "If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them" came from (or was at least found in) Asimov's Guide to Science (1972), an updated edition of w:The Intelligent Man's Guide to Science. I am unable to verify that it is in there however since while Google Books says it is there on page 15 or so, it won't let me see enough of the page to verify. Also I found a source from NASA that says the quote is from Asimov, I'm not sure if that counts as enough of a source if someone isn't able to verify that it is from Asimov's Guide to Science. That source can be found here. Bastian964 (talk) 02:12, 14 September 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Mark Ryan Berg[edit]

Complexity is not a measure of the system being observed but a measure of the observers ability to comprehend the system. By Mark Ryan Berg


The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!', but 'That's funny ...' 

This is attributed to "Proceedings of the ... session: Volume 36 - página 22, South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission - SOPAC Technical Secetariat, 1994." This is dubious, for several reasons.

  • Volume 36 of the proceedings of the SOPAC ( is from 2007, not 1994.
  • This quote comes up twice in that volume, on pages 22 and 85. However, both are statements made by somebody other than Asimov, attributing the quote without reference to Asimov.
  • Even if it occurred in 1994, Asimov died in April 1992.

Unsigned comment by, 10 May 2016.

See Richard75 (talk) 15:32, 4 September 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The Last Question[edit]

I know that this is one of Asimov's best stories, and one of his favourites. But that doesn't seem like a good enough reason to quote so much of it here. Remember that this material is copyright, and it's hard to see how copying so much of it can be fair use, or why it belongs in a list of quotes. And as another user has pointed out before, it's a massive spoiler for anyone who hasn't read it yet. It should be removed. Richard75 (talk) 17:33, 9 September 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I know it's his favourite story, and one of his most famous and popular stories, but that's not the point. Richard75 (talk) 13:57, 9 February 2018 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Again, it's a good story but we can't publish it here. This isn't a quote, it's a huge copyright violation and it's not allowed. Richard75 (talk) 21:43, 23 June 2018 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I have again RESTORED quotes which are quite PROPER and APPROPRIATE inclusions. Your apparent obsession with repeatedly deleting these 3 particular quotes from one of Asimov’s favorite stories, spuriously as "just copyright infringement and we can't have it", and couple others from a couple of his early works as "insignificant" is somewhat fanatical if not simply asinine vandalism and trolling. ~ Kalki·· 00:52, 24 June 2018 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Don't be rude, and don't assume bad faith; your attitude is completely the opposite of how Wiki editors are expected to behave. You have also completely failed to address the point I raised, which is that the lengthy quote from The Last Question can't be justified and infringes copyright. It is too long to qualify as a fair quote, and it compromises the commercial value of the story to the copyright holder. If you disagree, then I suggest you do so by reference to Wikiquote's copyright policy or guidance (e.g. this), rather than just resorting to abuse. Richard75 (talk) 19:54, 25 June 2018 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Richard75 (talk) - Two points ---
1. As you can read at Spoiler, since Wikipedia is meant as an encyclopedia site and not a fan site, "Wikipedia articles may include spoilers and no spoiler warnings." I see no reason why the same would not apply here at Wikiquote.
2. "Fair use" can be stretchy and takes several things into account, the length of the quoted material being one. The amount of material used depends on the length of the original work. In a short, one paragraph piece, lifting three sentences can be very impactful while three sentences from a 2,200 word essay is a drop in the bucket. More fair use information for you: Fair Use/Fair Dealing Handbook =
Thank you for your time, Wordreader (talk) 00:41, 20 June 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Quotes from his stories[edit]

Should we have a separate section for quotes taken from his stories (which might not necessarily reflect his opinions), instead of including them with things he said himself? Richard75 (talk) 19:40, 26 March 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Proposal to delete a quote[edit]

In the section for Robot Dreams there is the following quote by one of Asimov's fictional characters, Susan Calvin:

"There are limits beyond which your folly will not carry you. I am glad of that. In fact, I am relieved."

Personally I don't think this really adds anything to this article and should be deleted, but I know that one editor disagrees, so I'd like to see if there is a general consensus on the matter. Richard75 (talk) 17:15, 26 August 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

There already is a consensus of sorts. The person who originally posted it thought it was interesting. So did I, because I liked the way Asimov put it. As I typed in the explanation the first time I reverted your deletion, I found it interesting enough to look up the story (I'd stopped reading Asimov years ago, before this story, so I hadn't read it). In addition, you missed the fact that someone (perhaps the original poster) went to the extra trouble of using it as a caption for an illustration.
There are quite a few quotes on the page that I think are not noteworthy but have let stand. That may be a reflection of my changing tastes. But there's one in particular which I think contributes absolutely nothing and is worthy of being deleted: "If anyone can be considered the greatest writer who ever lived, it is Shakespeare." This is clearly not a unique opinion: millions say the same thing. And the way it's phrased is not noteworthy. Zgystardst (talk) 17:22, 28 August 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Fair enough. Richard75 (talk) 15:24, 4 September 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Common quote attributed to Asimov, but don't see a source.[edit]

"When stupidity is considered patriotism, it is unsafe to be intelligent".

I keep seeing this phrase crop up in internet comment sections, quote aggerate sites, and even in articles, all attributed to Isaac Asimov. I have looked around, but cannot find a stated source for it. It is very apropos to today's politics, but if there is no source, that's moot. Does anyone know if this phrase is an actual quote?

thank you. Wordreader (talk) 08:43, 19 June 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Agreed! Most likely fake. Tomruen (talk) 00:48, 16 September 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]