Mike Huben: Favorite Quotations

Last updated 09/25/11.

Quotations are not a substitute for rational argument. That said, there can be a place for quotations in discussion, as a summation for a rational argument, for example as a preface which indicates what will be explored, or perhaps as a signature quote.

What I think ought to be avoided is use of quotations AS the argument. That sort of bumper-sticker argument deserves a big raspberry, if not a scathing retort. It is a substitute for thinking, and worse is usually made as an argument from authority.

Here's a list of quotations I've found handy as signature quotes (an internet fashion) in many discussions. They are in no particular order. Also see my favorite quotes for libertarians.

And isn't it pretty silly to suggest that one's credibility should be measured by one's willingness to abandon one's own position?
Keith W Ammann

If you call a tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have? Four: a tail is not a leg no matter what you call it.

If Jesus comes out of his tomb on Easter and sees his shadow, do we have six more weeks of Lent?

I have yet to see any problem, however complicated, which, when you looked at it the right way, did not become still more complicated.
Poul Anderson

Nothing is more humbling than to look with a strong magnifying glass at an insect so tiny that the naked eye sees only the barest speck and to discover that nevertheless it is sculpted and articulated and striped with the same care and imagination as a zebra. Apparently it does not occur to nature whether or not a creature is within our range of vision, and the suspicion arises that even the zebra was not designed for our benefit.
Rudolf Arnheim

In fact, when you get right down to it, almost every explanation Man came up with for *anything* until about 1926 was stupid.
Dave Barry

Enough of acting the infant who has been told so often how he was found under a cabbage that in the end he remembers the exact spot in the garden and the kind of life he led there before joining the family circle.
Samuel Beckett

While it cannot be proved retrospectively that any experience of possession, conversion, revelation, or divine ecstasy was merely an epileptic discharge, we must ask how one differentiates "real transcendence" from neuropathies that produce the same extreme realness, profundity, ineffability, and sense of cosmic unity. When accounts of sudden religious conversions in TLEs [temporal-lobe epileptics] are laid alongside the epiphanous revelations of the religious tradition, the parallels are striking. The same is true of the recent spate of alleged UFO abductees. Parsimony alone argues against invoking spirits, demons, or extraterrestrials when natural causes will suffice.
Barry L. Beyerstein, Neuropathology and the Legacy of Spiritual Possession, The Skeptical Inquirer, Vol. XII, No. 3, pg. 255

Sunshine is the best disinfectant
Justice Lewis Brandeis

An Atheist is a man who has no invisible means of support.
John Buchan (1875-1940)

.... in the USA we don't trust the government to judge which religion is worthy of the name and which is not. The price we pay is that sometimes the shelter we've erected for religion also provides sanctuary for scam-artists and criminals. So be it. IMHO, the constitutional fellowship of saints and hustlers says more about religion than perhaps should be said in polite company. If nothing else, it provides the nation with a constant source of amusement.

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. (Clarke's First Law.)
Arthur C. Clarke

When, however, the lay public rallies round an idea that is denounced by distinguished but elderly scientists and supports that idea with great fervor and emotion--the distinguished but elderly scientists are then, after all, probably right.
Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) In answer to Clarke's First Law.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. (Clarke's Third Law.)
Arthur C. Clarke

Psychotherapy- A long, drawn out process consisting of subtle probings of the human mind, whereby women are blamed for all of Freud's shortcomings.
Marc Cooper

Anyone who in discussion relies upon authority uses, not his understanding, but his memory.
Leonardo Da Vinci, Notebooks, c. 1500

The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.
Richard Dawkins, God's Utility Function, Scientific American, November 1995, p. 85.

Highly technical philosophical arguments of the sort many philosophers favor are absent here. That is because I have a prior problem to deal with. I have learned that arguments, no matter how watertight, often fall on deaf ears. I am myself the author of arguments that I consider rigorous and unanswerable but that are often not such much rebutted or even dismissed as simply ignored. I am not complaining about injustice-- we all must ignore arguments, and no doubt we all ignore arguments that history will tell us we should have taken seriously. Rather, I want to play a more direct role in changing what is ignorable by whom. I want to get thinkers in other disciplines to take evolutionary thinking seriously, to show them how they have been underestimating it, and to show them why they have been listening to the wrong sirens. For this, I have to use more artful methods. I have to tell a story. You don't want to be swayed by a story? Well, I *know* you won't be swayed by a formal argument; you won't even *listen* to a formal argument for my conclusion, so I start where I have to start.
Daniel Dennett, Darwin's Dangerous Idea, p. 12.

I would that the last king were strangled with the guts of the last priest.
Jean Meslier

Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.
Denis Diderot, Dithyrambe sur la fete de rois

Unfortunately, simplicity is a complicated mess of a concept.
Taner Edis

He is YOUR God, They are YOUR rules, YOU Burn in Hell
Ephemera Buttons and Magnets

I feel that most ministers who claim they've heard God's voice are eating too much pizza before they go to bed at night, and it's really an intestinal disorder, not a revelation.
Jerry Fallwell

People always HAVE eaten people; people always WILL eat people. You can't change human nature!
Flanders and Swann, The Reluctant Cannibal, At The Drop Of A Hat

How noble the law, in its majestic equality, that both rich and poor are equally prohibited from peeing in the streets, sleeping under bridges, and stealing bread!
Anatole France

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

Strephon: "Have you the heart to apply the prosaic rules of evidence to a case brimming with such poetical emotion?"
Chancellor: "Distinctly."
Gilbert and Sullivan, Iolanthe

Ah. The kid thinks he wants to be a netslinger (wink to the other veterans listening in). Well, kid, there's more to gunslinging on the net than a quick reply and a nonchalant attitude. Sure, you might terrorize the general population with that stuff, but when you're dealing with a pro, you need a lot more than that. You've got to know when to hold'em, know when to fold'em, know when to walk away, know when to run. You've got to take your time, hold your breath, and _squeeeeeeze_ the send key, don't jerk it.
David Gudeman, The Four Laws of Netslinging

Religion is still parasitic in the interstices of our knowledge which have not yet been filled. Like bed-bugs in the cracks of walls and furniture, miracles lurk in the lacunae of science. The scientist plasters up these cracks in our knowledge; the more militant Rationalist swats the bugs in the open. Both have their proper sphere and they should realize that they are allies.
John Haldane, Science and Life: Essays of a Rationalist

Jehovah's Witnesses coupled with an 'OH NO' are universal to all languages and cultures.
Hard Response

God not only plays dice. He sometimes throws the dice where they cannot be seen.
Stephen Hawking

Humanity's first sin was faith; the first virtue was doubt.
Mike Huben

Writing with conviction is no substitute for writing with a rational argument.
Mike Huben

A tongue in cheek prevents foot in mouth.
Mike Huben

The primary tool of science is skepticism, whose light shrivels unquestioning faith.
Mike Huben

Mom: As long as it's not me in the box, I can handle it.
Me: That's as sophisticated as Dad's "Wash it out, it's good as new."
Mom: Our family has a long tradition of philosophical subtlety.
Mike Huben and his mother Joanne Huybensz

When I became convinced that the Universe is natural -- that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood, the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom. The walls of my prison crumbled and fell, the dungeon was flooded with light and all the bolts, and bars, and manacles became dust. I was no longer a servant, a serf or a slave. There was for me no master in all the wide world -- not even in infinite space. I was free -- free to think, to express my thoughts -- free to live to my own ideal -- free to live for myself and those I loved -- free to use all my faculties, all my senses -- free to spread imagination's wings -- free to investigate, to guess and dream and hope -- free to judge and determine for myself -- free to reject all ignorant and cruel creeds, all the "inspired" books that savages have produced, and all the barbarous legends of the past -- free from popes and priests -- free from all the "called" and "set apart" -- free from sanctified mistakes and holy lies -- free from the fear of eternal pain -- free from the winged monsters of the night -- free from devils, ghosts and gods. For the first time I was free. There were no prohibited places in all the realms of thought -- no air, no space, where fancy could not spread her painted wings -- no chains for my limbs -- no lashes for my back -- no fires for my flesh -- no master's frown or threat -- no following another's steps -- no need to bow, or cringe, or crawl, or utter lying words. I was free. I stood erect and fearlessly, joyously, faced all worlds.
Robert Ingersoll, Why I Am an Agnostic

The destroyer of weeds, thistles and thorns is a benefactor whether he soweth grain or not.
Robert Ingersoll

To kill an error is as good a service as, and sometimes even better than, the establishing of a new truth or fact.
Charles Darwin

If ignorance is bliss, this guy's life must be one long extended orgasm.
Steve Kangas

Setting delivery schedules is easy enough using the I Ching, astrology, psychic hotlines, or any of the well-known scatomantic and necromantic methodologies. Meeting your prophetic deadlines, though, is another bowl of entrails.
Stan Kelly-Bootle

Faith is often the boast of the man who is too lazy to investigate.
F. M. Knowles

Why reach for the musket when the custard pie will do?
Lebovitz Button Catalog

Any slogan simple enough to fit on a button is too simple to do any good.
Lebovitz Button Catalog

... believing in a God whom we cannot but regard as evil, and then, in mere terrified flattery calling Him 'good' and worshipping him is a still greater danger... The ultimate question is whether the doctrine of the goodness of God or that of the inerrancy of scripture is to prevail when they conflict. I think the doctrine of the goodness of God is the more certain of the two. Indeed, only that doctrine renders this worship of Him obligatory or even permissible.
C. S. Lewis, letter to John Beversluis

W. V. O. Quine has been one of the most ruthless of recent appliers of this principle [Ockham's razor.] I recall an exchange in print (a fest-schrift, around 1980) where someone quoted Shakespere's "There are more things on heaven and earth, than are dreamed of in your philosophy" at Quine. Quine responded something like, "Possibly, but my concern is that there not be more things in my philosophy than are in heaven and earth."
David Lyndes

The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
H.L. Menken

The genius of you Americans is that you never make clear-cut stupid moves, only complicated stupid moves which make us wonder at the possibility that there may be something to them [which] we are missing.
Gamel Nasser

UseNet Rules (from Net.Legends FAQ)
No firm info at the present time is available on just what the other UseNet Rules #n are. However, at a guess, they include:
Rule #nonumber: There are no hard-and-fast Rules on UseNet, only Guidelines, which are more or less strictly enforced (and differ) from group to group; this is why it's generally wise to read any group for a bit before ever posting to it.
Rule #0: *There* *is* *no* *C*b*l*. There *is*, however, a net-wide conspiracy designed solely to lead Dave Hayes (q.v.) to believe that there is a C*b*l.
Corollary: *There* *are* *no* *pods*.
Rule #9: It's *always* September, *somewhere* on the Net.
Dave Fischer's Extension: 1993 was The Year September Never Ended [so far, there doesn't seem to be much evidence he's wrong...]
Rule #17: Go not to UseNet for counsel, for they will say both `No' and `Yes' and `Try another newsgroup'.
Rule #2 (John Gilmore): "The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it."
Rule #108 (from the soc.motss FAQ): "What will happen to me if I read soc.motss?" "In general, nothing. (You may be informed or infuriated, of course; but that's a standard Usenet hazard.)"
Rule #666: Old alt groups never die. They don't fade away nicely, either.
Rule #7-B: There is no topic so thoroughly covered that noone will ever bring it up again.
Rule #90120: Applying your standards to someone else's post *will* result in a flamewar.
Rule #1: Spellling and grammer counts. So do grace, wit, and a sense of humor (the latter two are different), as well as a willingness to meet odd people, but these are lesser considerations.
Rule #x^2: FAQs are asked frequently. Get used to them.
Rule #29: no rational discourse can happen in a thread cross-posted to more than two newsgroups.
rule #6 (Eddie Saxe): don't post to misc.test unless you understand the consequences.
Rule #547 (Arne Adolfsen): When people know they're wrong they resort to ad hominems.
Rule #37 (Faisal Nameer Jawdat): Read the thread from the beginning, or else.
Rule #5 (Reimer's Reason): Nobody ever ignores what they should ignore on Usenet.
Rule $19.99 (Brad `Squid' Shapcott): The Internet *isn't* *free*. It just has an economy that makes no sense to capitalism.
Rule #3 ("Why 3?" "Because we felt like it"): For every opinion there is at least one equally loud and opposing opinion; sometimes stated as:
Rule #27 (Gary Lewandowski): "In cyberspace, *everyone* can hear you scream."
And for completeness' sake:
Rule #4: (Godwin's Rule) Any off-topic mention of Hitler or Nazis will cause the thread it is mentioned in to an irrelevant and off-topic end very soon; every thread on UseNet has a constantly-increasing probability to contain such a mention.
Quirk's Exception: Intentional invocation of this so-called "Nazi Clause" is ineffectual.
Case's Corollary: If the subject is Heinlein or homosexuality, the probability of a Hitler/Nazi comparison being made becomes equal to one.

... it is all over with priests and gods when man becomes scientific. Moral: science is the forbidden as such -- it alone is forbidden. Science is the first sin, seed of all sin, the original sin. This alone is morality. 'Thou shalt not know' -- the rest follows.
Nietzsche, Antichrist

...it dawned on me that a universe without deities was simpler and more internally consistent. The beauty and simplicity with which atheism, materialism (on the mind/body question), moral relativism, and other philosophical ideas all just fell into place has eliminated any doubt that I could be mistaken. I didn't realize until then how much cognitive dissonance the little logical inconsistencies in my previous beliefs had created. It is really wonderful for that to be gone. Atheism has given me more inner peace than religion ever could have.
David Nye

Revelation is necessarily limited to the first communication-- after that it is only an account of something which that person says was a revelation made to him; and though he may find himself obliged to believe it, it can not be incumbent on me to believe it in the same manner; for it was not a revelation made to ME, and I have only his word for it that it was made to him.
Thomas Paine, The Age Of Reason

Geology shows that fossils are of different ages. Paleontology shows a fossil sequence, the list of species represented changes through time. Taxonomy shows biological relationships among species. Evolution is the explanation that threads it all together. Creationism is the practice of squeeezing one's eyes shut and wailing "does not!".

One Galileo in two thousand years is enough.
[Pope] Pius XII

The creationists have this creator who is evil, who is small-minded, who is malevolent, and who is not very bright and can't even get his science right. Creationists have made their creator in their own image, in my view.
Ian Plimer, The Skeptic, Vol. 13, No 2.

An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by gradually winning over and converting its opponents... What does happen is that its opponents gradually die out, and that the growing generation is familiarized with the ideas from the beginning.
Max Planck

It is a basic maxim for serious thought that anything that can be said, can, with perseverance, be said clearly.
W. V. Quine

People who are smart get into MENSA. People who are really smart look around and leave.
James Randi

One cannot play chess if one becomes aware of the pieces as living souls and of the fact that the Whites and the Blacks have more in common with each other than with the players. Suddenly one loses all interest in who will be champion.
Anatol Rapoport, Strategy and Conscience, 1964.

In the days when Sussman was a novice, Minsky once came to him as he sat hacking at the PDP-6. 'What are you doing?', asked Minsky. 'I am training a randomly wired neural net to play Tic-Tac-Toe' Sussman replied. 'Why is the net wired randomly?' asked Minsky. 'I do not want it to have any preconceptions of how to play', Sussman said. Minsky then shut his eyes. 'Why do you close your eyes?', Sussman asked his teacher. 'So that the room will be empty.' At that moment, Sussman was enlightened.
Eric Raymond, The New Hacker's Dictionary

... when people begin to philosophize they seem to think it necessary to make themselves artificially stupid.
Bertrand Russell, Theory of Knowledge

The opinions that are held with passion are always those for which no good ground exists; indeed the passion is the measure of the holder's lack of rational conviction.
Bertrand Russell, Skeptical Essays

To save the world requires faith and courage: faith in reason, and courage to proclaim what reason shows to be true.
Bertrand Russell, The Prospects of Industrial Civilization

There is something feeble and a little contemptible about a man who cannot face the perils of life without the help of comfortable myths.
Bertrand Russell, Human Society in Ethics and Politics

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
George Santayana

Those who misremember the past are pleased to repeat it as `proof'.
Mike Huben

I'll abandon technology when you pry the mouse from my cold blue fingers!
Cosma Shalizi

The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality.
George Bernard Shaw

The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.
George Bernard Shaw

Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten.
B. F. Skinner

Religion: just say `no'.
Tim Smith

If addiction is judged by how long a dumb animal will sit pressing a lever to get a "fix" of something, to its own detriment, then I would conclude that netnews is far more addictive than cocaine.
Rob Stampfli

Lakatos, Kuhn, and Feyerabend are all philosophers, like Popper himself, in the broad main stream of *empiricism*: they all agree that we cannot learn anything about the actual universe except by experience. Who was it that taught them, then, that we cannot learn anything about the actual universe *even* by experience -- that is, that induction is worthless? Popper, of course. You have only to put those two propositions together, to reach the conclusion that we cannot learn anything about the actual universe at all. Yet when Lakatos, Kuhn and Feyerabend arrive (whether gleefully or otherwise) at the same conclusion, Popper is outraged. This is understandable enough in one way, and even does his heart some credit; but where does it leave his head? No: Popper had it (as they say) coming to him, if ever a man did.
David Stove, The Plato Cult, 1991

From an Enlightenment or Positivist point of view, which is Hume's point of view, and mine, there is simply no avoiding the conclusion that the human race is mad. There are scarcely any human beings who do not have some lunatic beliefs or other to which they attach great importance. People are mostly sane enough, of course, in the affairs of common life: the getting of food, shelter, and so on. But the moment they attempt any depth or generality of thought, they go mad almost infallibly. The vast majority adopt the local religious madness, as naturally as they adopt the local dress. But the more powerful minds will, equally infallibly, fall into the worship of some intelligent and dangerous lunatic, such as Plato, or Augustine, or Comte, or Hegel, or Marx.
David Stove, The Plato Cult, 1991

But no! Let us, for pity's sake, as well as for horror's sake, draw a veil... But let us never forget, either, as all conventional history of philosophy conspires to make us forget, what the 'great thinkers' really are: proper objects, indeed, of pity, but even more, of horror.
David Stove, The Plato Cult, 1991

But the stupidity which is common to all such "explanations" is, of course, simply that of proceeding as though the merits of a theory--such things as truth, or probability, or explanatory power--could not possibly be among the reasons for its currency.
David Stove, Against The Idols Of The Age, 1999

As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion...
Article XI of the English text of the Treaty of Tripoli, approved by the U.S. Senate on June 7, 1797 and ratified by President John Adams on June 10, 1797. (This article is lacking in the Arabic original. Note that congress and President Adams approved this English text.)

Do you want real TRUTH in capital letters? Then search yourself for why you believe the things you do. Don't be afraid to analyze why your religion gives you the high it does. Answer yourself this question: Is TRUTH important enough for me to give up my religion if that is required? Until you answer yes to this you are not being honest with yourself.
Dave Trissel

True greatness consists in the use of a powerful understanding to enlighten oneself and others.

In my life, I have prayed but one prayer: "Oh Lord, make my enemies ridiculous." And God granted it.

I can stand brute force, but brute reason is quite unbearable. There is something unfair about its use. It is hitting below the intellect.
Oscar Wilde

Its failings notwithstanding, there is much to be said in favor of journalism in that by giving us the opinion of the uneducated, it keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.
Oscar Wilde

Marxism is the opium of the intellectuals.
Edmund Wilson, Letters on Literature and Politics (1977)

A cult is a religion with no political power.
Tom Wolfe

If there were an afterlife, Isaac Asimov would have written a book about it by now.
Brent Yaciw

The morality of an act is a function of the state of the system at the time it is performed.
Garrett Hardin

It takes five years for a willing person's mind to change. Have patience with yourself and others when treading in an area protected by a taboo.
Garrett Hardin

Human beings inherit a propensity to acquire behavior and social structures, a propensity that is shared by enough people to be called human nature. The defining traits include division of labor between the sexes, bonding between closest kin, incest avoidance, other forms of ethical behavior, suspicion of strangers, tribalism, dominance orders within groups, male dominance overall, and territorial aggression over limiting resources. Although people have free will, and the choice to turn in many directions, the channels of their psychological development are nevertheless - however much we might wish otherwise - cut more deeply by the genes in certain directions than others.
Edward O. Wilson

It's often the case that when a critic uses an embarrassingly accurate term to describe what a wrong-doer is doing, the wrong-doer protests: "Why don't you use my white-washed, conscience-soothing euphemism?" Such euphemisms, they claim, help promote "civilized debate."
Steve Kangas

From such a face and form as mine the noblest sentiments sound like the black utterances of a depraved imagination. It is human nature -- I am resigned.
Dick Deadeye, in Gilbert and Sullivan's "HMS Pinafore"

What is rational choice anyway? I suggest that rational choice is the casting about among alternative mental scenarios to hit upon the ones which, in a given context, satisfy the strongest epigenetic rules.
E. O. Wilson, in "Consilience"

But never -- I do not think that is too strong a word -- have social scientists been able to embed their narratives in the physical realities of human biology and psychology, even though there is not some astral plane from which culture has arisen.
E. O. Wilson, in "Consilience"

Most people believe they know how they themselves think, how others think too, and how institutions evolve. But they are wrong. Their understanding is based on folk psychology., the grasp of human nature by common sense -- defined (by Einstein) as everything learned to the age of eighteen -- shot through with misconceptions, and only slightly advanced over ideas employed by the Greek philosophers. Advanced social theorists, including those who spin out sophisticated mathematical models, are equally happy with folk psychology. As a rule, they ignore the findings of scientific psychology and biology.
E. O. Wilson, in "Consilience"

Figures don't lie, but liars figure!
Mark Twain

If there's a chain of argument, every link in the chain must work (including the premise) -- not just most of them.
Carl Sagan

Atheisim may be defined as the view that "God exists" is a false statement. But there is also a broader sense in which an atheist is someone who rejects belief in God, not necessarily because such belief is judged to be false. It may be rejected because it is incoherent or meaningless, because it is too vague to be of any explanatory value, or because, as LaPlace put it in his famous exchange with Napoleon, there is no need for this "hypothesis". Atheism in this broader sense remains distinct from agnosticism, which advocates suspense of judgement. It is surely possible to justify atheism in this broader sense without having to "examine every object in boundless space and eternal time."
Paul Edwards, "God and the Philosophers"

The clinical experiences of individual practitioners -- whether conventional or "alternative" -- prove very little and are no substitute for science.
Lewis Vaughn, Free Inquiry v. 18.4

My only wish is... to transform friends of God into friends of man, believers into thinkers, devotees of prayer into devotees of work, candidates for the hereafter into students of the world, Christians who, by their own admission, are "half animal, half angel" into persons, into whole persons.
Ludwig Feuerbach, "Lectures on the Essence of Religion"

Yet, so successful were the drafters of the Constitution in defining government in secular terms that one of the most powerful criticisms of the Constitution when ratified and for succeeding decades was that it was indifferent to Christianity and God. It was denounced by many as a godless document, which is precisely what it is.
Isaac Kramnick and R. Laurence Moore, The Godless Constitution

Computer viruses provide an example. I remember 10 years ago, researchers at conferences would talk about the potential for danger of things like macros. We developed mechanisms and algorithms that could prevent macro viruses from posing a huge threat. And yet, the companies that built the software and that needed to be in on these discussions were never represented at the conferences. When any of us would ask why, we were told that viruses were not their problem. In fact, that is still their claim. The people involved didn't see it as a problem that they needed to address -- it is someone else's problem. As a result, at the current rate of growth, by about 2004 we will have over 100,000 known computer viruses. (And as food for thought, consider that about 99,000 of them will likely be for software originating from Redmond, WA.)
Gene Spafford, speech at 2000 National Computer Systems Security Award

Every time that he'd utter that silly bromide, the sage told me, I'd just say to him, Rene -- you call that thinking?
Bob Somerby, "Socrates Reads"

Horticulture is, and always has been, a pitiless business. Never mind the large scale killing of insects, mollusks, and mammals of various species, especially that scuttling glutton, the porcupine; never mind all that. In the horticultural arena, more plants themselves are pusposely destroyed than cultivated; in addition, snobbery, schadenfreude, and rivalry thrive; and nature -- well, let's simply say that, most of the time, she's just not on the same page as the gardener.
Katherine A Powers, Boston Sunday Globe. May 5, 2002

It's easy to criticize science for being "closed-minded". Are you open-minded enough to consider whether your ideas might be wrong?
Steven Dutch

To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.
Teddy Roosevelt (7 May 1918)

I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land.
The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Facts are meaningless; you can use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true! Facts, schmacks.
Homer Simpson

Another thing I must point out is that you cannot prove a vague theory wrong. ... Also, if the process of computing the consequences is indefinite, then with a little skill any experimental results can be made to look like the expected consequences.
Richard Feynman, 1964

A PhD is not an innoculation against foolishness.
James Randi

Just as a random example, I've seen several make comments here based on Popper's famous falsification criteria for science. Which is a nice theory about how people might approach learning in a perfect world, but science doesn't work that way. Really. Most good scientific theories are wrong and known to be so as they are proposed. Science is about useful approximations (eg boundary layers in fluid mechanics), not ideal reality. Furthermore the theory of falsification is even falsified by parts of science that try to answer "ultimate questions". Einstein's theory of GR does not have any room for QM. Conversely QM when it was founded was known not to explain phenomena that were known about from GR. What Popper missed is that good theories are so hard to come by that you can't get rid of them just because they are known to be wrong. Instead you keep the useful ones and try to get an idea of how well they work.
Ben Tilly, comment in David Brin's blog entry "Scholarship vs. Science".

As always, what conservatives really want is not fair and unbiased -- what they want is a quota system where you have conservative views represented whether or not they're actually making sense in terms of the academic research.
Paul Krugman, 11/10/05

These folks claim to support a literal reading of the Christian Bible. Which is a bit odd, because the figure they worship is recorded in that book as repeatedly speaking in parables, whose whole point is that they shouldn't be interpreted literally.
Charles Dodgson, Through The Looking Glass blog 12/20/05

... you can easily perceive in the wealthy a deep distaste for the democratic institutions of their country. The people are a power they both fear and despise.

I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.
Bertrand Russell

No God and no religion can survive ridicule. No political church, no nobility, no royalty or other fraud, can face ridicule in a fair field, and live.
Mark Twain

... I'm sorry, but if we're going to be consistent, that means we have to criticize bad ideas held by nice people.
P. Z Meyers, Pharyngula

Strangely enough, though, this opponent of godless naturalism and materialism didn't trust in prayer and faith when physiological catastrophe struck: instead, he took advantage of the best and latest medical care. Funny, that: do you think he had a deathbed conversion? There are no theistic heart attack patients: they're all clutching for the defibrillator, the pills, the expert medical assistance before they'll rely on that ineffectual immaterial ghost in the sky.
PZ Meyers, Paryngula 1/28/07

As for those other causes, truth is always going to be anti-religion, and science is a process that aspires to uncover the truth, so I'm entirely self-consistent. It's those who think they can reconcile a mythology of lies with honest attempts to learn the nature of reality who have muddled objectives.
PZ Meyers, Paryngula 7/14/07

Christianity: The belief that some cosmic Jewish Zombie can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him that you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.
PZ Meyers, Paryngula 8/2/07

Mistakes are always in the past. The current policy is always working. When the mistakes are being made, those who point out the mistakes are tarred as near-treasonous. Then, after another year or two of pointless, futile bloodshed, it's conceded that mistakes were made in the past. But now we're right on track. And the liberals, once again, just don't get it.
Matthew Yglesias, Looting Then And Now

Alas, to wear the mantle of Galileo it is not enough that you be persecuted by an unkind establishment, you must also be right.
Robert Park

The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.
Albert Einstein, letter on January 3, 1954 to the philosopher Eric Gutkind.

For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything 'chosen' about them.
Albert Einstein, letter on January 3, 1954 to the philosopher Eric Gutkind.

Science moved away from philosophy, and what is now called philosophy tends to be studies of all the theories of the world that didn't work. That's not universally true, but it's a first approximation.
Jerry Pournelle

Sydney Shoemaker notes that my "avoidance of the standard philosophical terminology for discussing such matters" often creates problems for me; philosophers have a hard time figuring out what I am saying and what I am denying. My refusal to play ball with my colleagues is deliberate, of course, since I view the standard philosophical terminology as worse than useless--a major obstacle to progress since it consists of so many errors trapped in the seductively lucid amber of tradition: "obvious truths" that are simply false, broken-backed distinctions, and other cognitive illusions.
Daniel Dennett, The Message is: There is no Medium

I do believe in right and wrong. It's just not handed down from a magical sky-lawyer.
PZ Myers, "Answers in Genesis mentions the name of the devil!"

If there were only one religion in England, there would be danger of tyranny; if there were two, they would cut each other's throats; but there are thirty, and they live happily together in peace.

Financial advisor Mike Donahue whines in the WSJ: "I have more than most only because I've worked harder than most and because I am a saver." I find it literally shocking that people say things like this. And I always go back to the case of the Salvadoran guys who moved all my furniture into my current apartment. I certainly make more money than those guys. But whether or not I work longer hours than they do (which is definitely possible, I work pretty long hours), you'd have to be clinically insane to think that writing my blog entails working harder than they do. In the real world, the reason I earn more than Salvadoran movers is the same as the reason I work less hard -- I have more valuable skills, and people with valuable skills can demand both more money and cushier working conditions. But it's not as if those guys were too lazy to become American political pundits, they were born in El Salvador in the middle of a civil war and never had a chance to obtain the relevant skills.
Matthew Yglesias, 4/15/2010

One of the more striking features of the contemporary conservative movement is the extent to which it has been moving toward epistemic closure. Reality is defined by a multimedia array of interconnected and cross promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines, and of course, Fox News. Whatever conflicts with that reality can be dismissed out of hand because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted. (How do you know they're liberal? Well, they disagree with the conservative media!)
Julian Sanchez, 3/26/2010

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!
Upton Sinclair

Somewhere, right now, a turbine is spinning in superheated steam above a great flame, gnawing ceaselessly day and night as a vast swarm of servants scurry about the globe to feed its insatiable appetite so that you may read these words from afar or speak to distant loved ones. Nations pour out gold and blood onto desert sands and throw away lives down deepest caves, burn down whole forests and flood river valleys that once were home to millions, all in the name of feeding those flames. Adepts labor cleverly to reduce inefficiencies as much as possible through ever more intricate patterns scrawled in copper and silicon, inventions from the University doubling your gas mileage and letting your cell phone hold its charge a little bit longer. And the most foresighted of those adepts dream of harnessing the greatest fire of all, ever circling overhead, by stealing right from the sky its power, or harnessing it through its stepchild, the ever-restless softly blowing Wind.

Counter image omitted.

Copyright 2007 by Mike Huben ( mhuben@world.std.com ).
This document may be freely distributed for non-commercial purposes if it is reproduced in its textual entirety, with this notice intact.