Warren Weaver

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Warren Weaver (1894–1978) was an American scientist and mathematician. He is widely recognized as one of the pioneers of machine translation, and as an important figure in creating support for science in the United States.


  • One naturally wonders if the problem of translation could conceivably be treated as a problem in cryptography. When I look at an article in Russian, I say: 'This is really written in English, but it has been coded in some strange symbols. I will now proceed to decode.'
    • "Translation" (1955), in W.N. Locke and A.D. Booth (eds.), Machine Translation of Languages (MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.).
  • Is science really gaining in its assault on the totality of the unsolved? As science learns one answer, it is characteristically true that it also learns several new questions. It is as though science were working in a great forest of ignorance, making an ever larger circular clearing within which, not to insist on the pun, things are clear... But as that circle becomes larger and larger, the circumference of contact with ignorance also gets longer and longer. Science learns more and more. But there is an ultimate sense in which it does not gain; for the volume of the appreciated but not understood keeps getting larger. We keep, in science, getting a more and more sophisticated view of our essential ignorance.
    • From: "A Scientist Ponders Faith," Saturday Review, 3 (January 1959), as cited in: F.A. Hayek, ‎Ronald Hamowy. The Constitution of Liberty: The Definitive Edition. 2013, p. 77.

Science and Complexity, 1948[edit]

"Science and Complexity", American Scientist, 36: (1948)

  • Science has led to a multitude of results that affect men's lives. Some of these results are embodied in mere conveniences of a relatively trivial sort. Many of them, based on science and developed through technology, are essential to the machinery of modern life. Many other results, especially those associated with the biological and medical sciences, are of unquestioned benefit and comfort. Certain aspects of science have profoundly influenced men's ideas and even their ideals. Still other aspects of science are thoroughly awesome.
    • p. 536
  • The significant problems of living organisms are seldom those in which one can rigidly maintain constant all but two variables. Living things are more likely to present situations in which a half-dozen, or even several dozen quantities are all varying simultaneously, and in subtly interconnected ways. Often they present situations in which the essentially important quantities are either non-quantitative, or have at any rate eluded identification or measurement up to the moment. Thus biological and medical problems often involve the consideration of a most complexly organized whole.
    • p. 536
  • Is a virus a living organism? What is a gene, and how does the original genetic constitution of a living organism express itself in the developed characteristics of the adult? Do complex protein molecules "know how" to reduplicate their pattern, and is this an essential clue to the problem of reproduction of living creatures? All these are certainly complex problems, but they are not problems of disorganized complexity, to which statistical methods hold the key. They are all problems which involve dealing simultaneously with a sizable number of factors which are interrelated into an organic whole. They are all, in the language here proposed, problems of organized complexity.
    • p. 537

Science and Imagination: Selected Papers, 1967[edit]

Warren Weaver (1967). Science and Imagination: Selected Papers.

  • In a perfect world an idea could be born, nourished, developed and made known to everyone, criticized and perfected, and put to good use without the crude fact of financial support ever entering in to the process. Seldom, if ever, in the practical world in which we live does this occur.
    • p. 82
  • Science attempts to analyze how things and people and animals behave; it has no concern whether this behavior is good or bad, is purposeful or not. But religion is precisely the quest for such answers: whether an act is right or wrong, good or bad, and why.
    • p. 106
  • I think that God has revealed Himself to many at many times and in many places. Indeed, He continuously reveals Himself to man today : every new discovery of science is a further "revelation" of the order which God has built into His universe.
    • p. 110

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