Science, as both a body of knowledge and a practice, is about understanding the world in which we live through curious investigation and through testing of our theories by observation in ways that others can also observe. Here are some quotations about science in general, from a variety of people, including scientists and poets.
I encourage active skepticism, when people are being skeptical because they’re trying to identify the best course of action. They’re trying to identify the next step for themselves or other people. I discourage passive skepticism, which is the armchair variety where people sit back and criticize without ever subjecting their theories or themselves to real field testing.
I am spellbound by the plays of Shakespeare. And I am spellbound by the second law of thermodynamics. The great ideas in science, like the Cro-Magnon paintings and the plays of Shakespeare, are part of our cultural heritage.
The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious – the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.
There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle. The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt is awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.
If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?
Science has been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.
The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.
All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man’s life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom.
The cosmic religious experience is the strongest and noblest driving force behind scientific research.
Philosophy, law and ethics, to be effective in a dynamic world must be dynamic; they must be made vital enough to keep pace with the progress of life and science.
Science has carried us to the gateway to the universe. And yet our conception of our surroundings remains the disproportionate view of the still-small child. We are spiritually and culturally paralyzed, unable to face the vastness, to embrace our lack of centrality and find our actual place in the fabric of nature. We batter this planet as if we had someplace else to go. That we even do science is a hopeful glimmer of mental health. However, it’s not enough merely to accept these insights intellectually while we cling to a spiritual ideology that is not only rootless in nature but also, in many ways, contemptuous of what is natural.
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.
The scientist believes in proof without certainty, the bigot in certainty without proof.
All who are not lunatics are agreed about certain things. That it is better to be alive than dead, better to be adequately fed than starved, better to be free than a slave. Many people desire those things only for themselves and their friends; they are quite content that their enemies should suffer. These people can only be refuted by science: Humankind has become so much one family that we cannot ensure our own prosperity except by ensuring that of everyone else. If you wish to be happy yourself, you must resign yourself to seeing others also happy.
Science is at no moment quite right, but it is seldom quite wrong, and has, as a rule, a better chance of being right than the theories of the unscientific. It is, therefore, rational to accept it hypothetically.
Science … is part and parcel of our knowledge and obscures our insight only when it holds that the understanding given by it is the only kind there is.
In some respects, science has far surpassed religion in delivering awe. How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, “This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed”? Instead they say, ‘No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.’ A religion old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science, might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths. Sooner or later such a religion will emerge.
[When I was a child] I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and I was a street kid. … [T]here was one aspect of that environment that, for some reason, struck me as different, and that was the stars. … I could tell they were lights in the sky, but that wasn’t an explanation. I mean, what were they? Little electric bulbs on long black wires, so you couldn’t see what they were held up by? What were they? … My mother said to me, “Look, we’ve just got you a library card … get out a book and find the answer.” … It was in there. It was stunning. The answer was that the Sun was a star, except very far away. … The dazzling idea of a universe vast beyond imagining swept over me. … I sensed awe.
Our species needs, and deserves, a citizenry with minds wide awake and a basic understanding of how the world works.
One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. The bamboozle has captured us. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.
It seems to me what is called for is an exquisite balance between two conflicting needs: the most skeptical scrutiny of all hypotheses that are served up to us and at the same time a great openness to new ideas. If you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you. On the other hand, if you are open to the point of gullibility and have not an ounce of skeptical sense in you, then you cannot distinguish useful ideas from the worthless ones.
Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.
The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.
Who is more humble? The scientist who looks at the universe with an open mind and accepts whatever the universe has to teach us, or somebody who says everything in this book must be considered the literal truth and never mind the fallibility of all the human beings involved?
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.
Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light‐years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual. So are our emotions in the presence of great art or music or literature, or acts of exemplary selfless courage such as those of Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.
How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, “This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant?” Instead they say, “No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.” A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths.
The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.
Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.
We have designed our civilization based on science and technology and at the same time arranged things so that almost no one understands anything at all about science and technology. This is a clear prescription for disaster.
At the heart of science is an essential balance between two seemingly contradictory attitudes — an openness to new ideas, no matter how bizarre or counterintuitive they may be, and the most ruthless skeptical scrutiny of all ideas, old and new. This is how deep truths are winnowed from deep nonsense.
If we can’t think for ourselves, if we’re unwilling to question authority, then we’re just putty in the hands of those in power. But if the citizens are educated and form their own opinions, then those in power work for us. In every country, we should be teaching our children the scientific method and the reasons for a Bill of Rights. With it comes a certain decency, humility and community spirit. In the demon-haunted world that we inhabit by virtue of being human, this may be all that stands between us and the enveloping darkness.
Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. more
But in introducing me simultaneously to skepticism and to wonder, they taught me the two uneasily cohabiting modes of thought that are central to the scientific method.
It is the tension between creativity and skepticism that has produced the stunning and unexpected findings of science.
But then arises the doubt, can the mind of man, which has, as I fully believe been developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animal, be trusted when it draws such grand conclusions?
I am not very skeptical… a good deal of skepticism in a scientific man is advisable to avoid much loss of time, but I have met not a few men, who… have often thus been deterred from experiments or observations which would have proven serviceable.
Nothing is less predictable than the development of an active scientific field.
Our belief is not a belief. Our principles are not a faith. We do not rely solely upon science and reason, because these are necessary rather than sufficient factors, but we distrust anything that contradicts science or outrages reason. We may differ on many things, but what we respect is free inquiry, openmindedness, and the pursuit of ideas for their own sake.
Beyond all sciences, philosophies, theologies, and histories, a child’s relentless inquiry is truly all it takes to remind us that we don’t know as much as we think we know.
Modern technology has lost its magic. No longer do people stand in awe, thrilled by the onward rush of science, the promise of a new day. Instead, the new is suspect. It arouses our hostility as much as it used to excite our fancy. With each breakthrough there are recurrent fears and suspicion. How will the advance further pollute our lives; modern technology is not merely what it first appears to be. Behind the white coats, the disarming jargon, the elaborate instrumentation, and at the core of what has often seemed an automatic process, one finds what Dorothy found in Oz: modern technology is human after all.
Education has failed in a very serious way to convey the most important lesson science can teach: skepticism.
What has not been examined impartially has not been well examined. Skepticism is therefore the first step towards truth.
There is science, logic, reason; there is thought verified by experience. And then there is California.
There are two possible outcomes: If the result confirms the hypothesis, then you’ve made a measurement. If the result is contrary to the hypothesis, then you’ve made a discovery.
A scientific mindset accepts the truth as a credo.
The men of experiment are like the ant, they only collect and use; the reasoners resemble spiders, who make cobwebs out of their own substance. But the bee takes the middle course: it gathers its material from the flowers of the garden and field, but transforms and digests it by a power of its own. Not unlike this is the true business of philosophy (science); for it neither relies solely or chiefly on the powers of the mind, nor does it take the matter which it gathers from natural history and mechanical experiments and lay up in the memory whole, as it finds it, but lays it up in the understanding altered and disgested. Therefore, from a closer and purer league between these two faculties, the experimental and the rational (such as has never been made), much may be hoped.
As long as we do science, some things will always remain unexplained.
In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.
The generalist, is like the fox, who knows many things. Just as anthropologists learn to live in many cultures, without rifles, so do certain scientists manage to adapt comfortably to the paradigms of several disciplines. How do they do it? When questioned, these generalists always express an inner faith in the unity of science. They, too, carry a single paradigm, but it is one taken from a much higher vantage point, one from which the paradigms of the different disciplines are seen to be very much alike, though often obscured by special language.