Quotes on Truths and Beliefs

Maria Mitchell picture

"Do not look at stars as bright spots only - try to take in the vastness of the universe." Maria Mitchell swept the sky with her telescope and discovered the comet of 1847 (comet Mitchell 1847VI). Honored and recognized internationally for her discovery, she became one of the most famous American scientists of her day. Vassar College appointed Mitchell the first woman Professor of Astronomy. Mitchell mentored a generation of scientists, and is fondly remembered for her ability to motivate. "We especially need imagination in science," Maria Mitchell said. "Question everything."

"Inventions rarely come from people within an industry, but, instead come from people on the outside who aren't under the same limiting beliefs and habitual thinking that forms within any organization or industry." Dr. James Asher

The last thing is simplicity. After having gone through all the difficulties, having played an endless number of notes, it is simplicity that matters, with all its charm. It is the final seal on Art. Anyone who strives for this to begin with will be disappointed. You cannot begin at the end. F. Chopin.

"I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." Tolstoy

"A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it." Max Planck

Science advances funeral by funeral. Unknown

"It's like religion. Heresy in science is thought of as a bad thing, whereas it should be just the opposite." T. Gold

"All truth passes through three stages: First it is ridiculed, Second it is violently opposed, Third it is accepted as being self-evident." Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher, (1788-1860)

"All great truths begin as blasphemies." George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright and critic (1856-1950)

"The mind never fully accepts any convictions that it does not owe to its own efforts." Frederic Bastiat

"We are anxious when there is a dissonance between our "knowledge" and the perceivable facts. Since our "knowledge" is not to be doubted or questioned, it is the facts that have to be altered." Nathaniel Branden

"The view that the sun stands motionless at the center of the universe is foolish, philosophically false, utterly heretical, because contrary to Holy Scripture. The view that the earth is not the center of the universe and even has a daily rotation is philosophically false, and at least an erroneous belief. " Holy Office, Roman Catholic Church, edict of March 5, 1616

"Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened." Winston Churchill

"People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character." Ralph Waldo Emerson

"The instinctive need to be the member of a closely knit group fighting for common ideals may grow so strong that it becomes inessential what these ideals are." Konrad Lorenz

"The most costly of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind." H.L. Mencken

"For men become civilized, not in proportion to their willingness to believe, but in proportion to their readiness to doubt." H.L. Mencken

"Scientific criticism has no nobler task than to shatter false beliefs." Ludwig von Mises

"Nothing is so firmly believed as what we least know." Michel Eyquem de Montaigne

"What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out, which is the exact opposite." Bertrand Russell

"Most men's conscience, habits, and opinions are borrowed from convention and gather continually comforting assurances from the same social consensus that originally suggested them." George Santayana

"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible." George Santayana

"Nothing as mundane as mere evidence can be allowed to threaten a vision so deeply satisfying." Thomas Sowell

"Everyone acquainted with the subject will recognize it as a conspicuous failure." Henry Morton, President of the Stevens Institute of Technology, on Edison's incandescent lamp (c.1880)

"Whenever masses of people, especially educated people, know something - and when what they know is something they greatly fear because they believe it affects virtually everything they do or want to do - then most likely we stand in the presence of a vast falsehood." Thomas Szasz

"It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders among those who may do well under the new." Machiavelli, The Prince

"There ain't no rules around here! We're trying to accomplish something!" Thomas Alva Edison

"In contrast to the popular conception supported by newspapers and mothers of scientists, a goodly number of scientists are not only narrow-minded and dull, but also just stupid." J. D. Watson (The Double Helix)

"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's First Law

"In questions of science the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual." Galileo Galilei

"What, sir? You would make a ship sail against the wind and currents by lighting a bonfire under her decks? I pray you excuse me. I have no time to listen to such nonsense." Napoleon Bonaparte to Robert Fulton, upon hearing of the latter's plans for a steam-powered engine.

"That is the biggest fool thing we have ever done ... The bomb will never go off, and I speak as an expert in explosives." U.S. Admiral William D. Leahy to President Truman, on atomic weaponry (1945)

"The discovery of truth is prevented more effectively not by the false appearance of things present and which mislead into error, not directly by weakness of the reasoning powers, but by preconceived opinion, by prejudice." Schopenhauer

"When I examined myself and my methods of thought, I came to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge." A. Einstein

"The farther the experiment is from theory, the closer it is to the Nobel Prize." Joliet-Curie

When leading authorities are all in agreement, they are almost always wrong. An Old Axiom

Almost everything that almost everyone believes is wrong. Andrew J. Galambos

"Great thinkers have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds" Albert Einstein

"The truth of today was the heresy of yesterday. Therefore, dare." Immanuel Velikovsky.

"The more important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered, and these are now so firmly established that the possibility of their ever being supplanted in consequence of new discoveries is exceedingly remote." Albert. A. Michelson, speech at the dedication of Ryerson Physics Lab, U. of Chicago, 1894

"Louis Pasteur's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction." Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872

"X-rays are a hoax." Lord Kelvin, engineer and physicist (c. 1900)

"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are that good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats." Howard Aiken

"He who never walks save where he sees men's tracks makes no discoveries." J.G. Holland

A committee, organized to study Columbus' plan to sail west to discover a shorter route to the Indies, reporting to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain in 1486 that the trip was impossible because 1. A voyage to Asia would require three years; 2. The Western Ocean is infinite and perhaps unnavigable; 3. If he reached the Antipodes [the land on the other side of the globe from Europe] he could not get back; 4. There are no Antipodes because the greater part of the globe is covered with water, and because Saint Augustine says so; 5. Of five zones, only three are habitable; 6. So many centuries after the Creation it was unlikely that anyone could find hitherto unknown lands of any value.

"People give ear to an upstart astrologer who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens of the firmament, the sun and the moon. This fool wishes to reverse the entire scheme of astronomy; but sacred Scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, not the earth." Martin Luther, about 1540, in Table Talk.

"The ability to quote is a serviceable substitute for wit." W. Somerset Maugham

"New opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they are not already common." John Locke

"There are some people that if they don't know, you can't tell 'em." Louis Armstrong

"If we watch ourselves honestly we shall often find that we have begun to argue against a new idea even before it has been completely stated." Wilfred Trotter

"Genius in truth means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an unhabitual way" William James

"The voyage of discovery lies not in seeking new horizons, but in seeing with new eyes." Marcel Proust

"A man receives only what he is ready to receive... The phenomenon or fact that cannot in any wise be linked with the rest of what he has observed, he does not observe." H. D. Thoreau

"It is a puzzling thing. The truth knocks on the door and you say, 'Go away, I'm looking for the truth.' and so it goes away. Puzzling." R. Pirsig

"The universe is wider than our views of it." Henry David Thoreau

"Everyone takes the limits of his own vision for the limits of the world." Arthur Schopenhauer

"Advances are made by answering questions. Discoveries are made by questioning answers." Bernhard Haisch, astrophysicist

"The most erroneous stories are those we think we know best - and therefore never scrutinize or question." Stephen Jay Gould

"In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts." Ralph Waldo Emerson

"There is no better soporific and sedative than skepticism." Nietzche

"...By far the most usual way of handling phenomena so novel that they would make for a serious rearrangement of our preconceptions is to ignore them altogether, or to abuse those who bear witness for them." William James

"The soft-minded man always fears change. He feels security in the status quo, and he has an almost morbid fear of the new. For him, the greatest pain is the pain of a new idea." Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

"No Pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit" Helen Keller

"A danger sign of the lapse from true skepticism in to dogmatism is an inability to respect those who disagree" Dr. Leonard George

"If I want to stop a research program I can always do it by getting a few experts to sit in on the subject, because they know right away that it was a fool thing to try in the first place." Charles Kettering, GM

"New ideas are always criticized - not because an idea lacks merit, but because it might turn out to be workable, which would threaten the reputations of many people whose opinions conflict with it. Some people may even lose their jobs." physicist, requested anonymity

"I have steadily endeavored to keep my mind free so as to give up any hypothesis, however much beloved (and I cannot resist forming one on every subject), as soon as the facts are shown to be opposed to it." Charles Darwin

"Sit down before facts like a child, and be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses Nature leads, or you shall learn nothing." T.H. Huxley

"Biologists can be just as sensitive to heresy as theologians." H.G. Wells

"When the human race has once acquired a superstition, nothing short of death is ever likely to remove it." Mark Twain

"You can recognize a pioneer by the arrows in his back." Beverly Rubik

"For every expert, there is an equal and opposite expert." Anonymous

"A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a joke, or worried to death by a frown on the right person's brow." Charles Brower

"A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices." William James

"If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you; but if you really make them think they'll hate you." Don Marquis

What I don't understand I despise, what I despise I reject. The Referee's Creed

"Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible." Frank Zappa

"A witty saying proves nothing." Voltaire