Anthony’s Collection of Quotations

Updated 8/25/2006

Just as the earth itself forms the indispensable ground for the only kind of life we know, providing the sole sustenance of our minds and bodies, so does empirical truth constitute the foundation of higher truths. (If there is such a thing as higher truth.) It seems to me that Keats was wrong when he asked, rhetorically, “Do not all charms fly … at the mere touch of cold philosophy?” The word “philosophy” standing, in his day, for what we now call “physical science.” But Keats was wrong, I say, because there is more charm in one “mere” fact, confirmed by test and observation, linked to other facts through coherent theory into a rational system, than in a whole brainful of fancy and fantasy. I see more poetry in a chunk of quartzite than in a make-believe wood nymph, more beauty in the revelations of a verifiable intellectual construction than in whole misty empires of obsolete mythology…Any good poet, in our age at least, must begin with the scientific view of the world; and any scientist worth listening to must be something of a poet, must possess the ability to communicate to the rest of us his sense of love and wonder at what his work discovers. – Edward Abbey

The question before the human race is, whether the God of nature shall govern the world by his own laws, or whether priests and kings shall rule it by fictitious miracles? – John Adams

I do not detract from God. Everything that is, is from him, and because of him. But [nature] is not confused and without system, and so far as human knowledge has progressed it should be given a hearing. Only when it fails utterly should there be recourse to God. – Adelard of Bath

Those who invalidate reason ought seriously to consider whether they argue against reason with or without reason; if with reason, then they establish the principle that they are laboring to dethrone: but if they argue without reason (which, in order to be consistent with themselves they must do), they are out of reach of rational conviction, nor do they deserve a rational argument. – Ethan Allen

I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires. – Susan B. Anthony

I believe that scientific knowledge has fractal properties; that no matter how much we learn; whatever is left, however small it may seem, is just as infinitely complex as the whole was to start with. That, I think, is the secret of the Universe. – Isaac Asimov

There are many aspects of the universe that still can’t be explained satisfactorily by science; but ignorance implies only ignorance that may some day be conquered. To surrender to ignorance and call it God has always been premature up to this time, and it remains premature today. – Isaac Asimov

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ (I found it!) but ‘That’s funny…’ – Isaac Asimov

Man’s greatest asset is the unsettled mind. – Isaac Asimov

Humanity has the stars in its future, and that future is too important to be lost under the burden of juvenile folly and ignorant superstition. – Isaac Asimov

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. It is better to know – even if the knowledge endures only for the moment that comes before destruction – than to gain eternal life at the price of a dull and swinish lack of comprehension of a universe that swirls unseen before us in all its wonder. That was the choice of Achilles, and it is mine, too. – Isaac Asimov

There is an art to science, and science in art; the two are not enemies, but different aspects of the whole. – Isaac Asimov

To rebel against a powerful political, economic, religious, or social establishment is very dangerous and very few people do it, except, perhaps, as part of a mob. To rebel against the “scientific” establishment, however, is the easiest thing in the world, and anyone can do it and feel enormously brave, without risking as much as a hangnail. Thus, the vast majority, who believe in astrology and think that the planets have nothing better to do than form a code that will tell them whether tomorrow is a good day to close a business deal or not, become all the more excited and enthusiastic about the bilge when a group of astronomers denounces it. – Isaac Asimov

There is no field of experience which cannot, in principle, be brought under some form of scientific law, and no type of speculative knowledge about the world which it is, in principle, beyond the power of science to give. – A. J. Ayer

Antiquitas saeculi juventus mundi. (The antiquity of time is the youth of the world.) – Francis Bacon

The human understanding, from its peculiar nature, easily supposes a greater degree of order and regularity in things than it really finds. – Francis Bacon

The human understanding is no dry light, but receives infusion from the will and affections; which proceed sciences which may be called “sciences as one would.” For what a man had rather were true he more readily believes. Therefore he rejects difficult things from impatience of research; sober things, because they narrow hope; the deeper things of nature, from superstition; the light of experience, from arrogance and pride; things not commonly believed, out of deference to the opinion of the vulgar. Numberless in short are the ways, and sometimes imperceptible, in which the affections color and infect the understanding. – Francis Bacon

For the mind of man is far from the nature of a clear and equal glass, wherein the beams of things should reflect according to their true incidence; nay, it is rather like an enchanted glass, full of superstition and imposture, if it be not delivered and reduced. – Francis Bacon

Argumentation cannot suffice for the discovery of a new work, since the subtlety of Nature is greater many times than the subtlety of argument. – Francis Bacon

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; 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 digested. 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. – Francis Bacon

Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is. – Francis Bacon

For whatever deserves to exist deserves also to be known, for knowledge is the image of existence; and things mean and splendid exist alike. – Francis Bacon

If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world. – Francis Bacon

If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties. – Francis Bacon

He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils; for time is the greatest innovator. – Francis Bacon

Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed. – Francis Bacon

Seek ye first the good things of the mind, and the rest will either be supplied or its loss will not be felt. – Francis Bacon

What is truth? said jesting Pilate; and would not stay for an answer. – Francis Bacon

Let the mind be enlarged, according to its capacity, to the grandeur of the mysteries, and not the mysteries contracted to the narrowness of the mind. – Francis Bacon

To conclude, therefore, let no man out of a weak conceit of sobriety, or an ill-applied moderation, think or maintain, that a man can search too far or be too well studied in the book of God’s word, or in the book of God’s works; divinity or philosophy; but rather let men endeavour an endless progress or proficience in both. – Francis Bacon

There is no great concurrence between learning and wisdom. – Francis Bacon

Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention. – Francis Bacon

Atheism leaves a man to sense, to philosophy, to natural piety, to laws, to reputation; all of which may be guides to an outward moral virtue, even if religion vanished; but religious superstition dismounts all these and erects an absolute monarchy in the minds of men. – Francis Bacon

True science suppresses nothing, but goes on searching, and is undisturbed in looking straight at things that it does not yet understand. – Claude Bernard

Religion, n: A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the Nature of the Unknowable. – Ambrose Bierce

I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library. – Jorge Luis Borges

The world presents enough problems if you believe it to be a world of law and order; do not add to them by believing it to be a world of miracles. – Louis D. Brandeis

If there is a bedrock principle of the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable. – William J. Brennan

The scientist would maintain that knowledge in of itself is wholly good, and that there should be and are methods of dealing with misuses of knowledge by the ruffian or the bully other than by suppressing the knowledge. – Percy W. Bridgman

I would rather be a transformed ape than a degenerate son of Adam. – Pierre Paul Broca

           There are two parts to the human dilemma. One is the belief that the end justifies the means. That push-button philosophy, that deliberate deafness to suffering has become the monster in the war machine. The other is the betrayal of the human spirit: the assertion of dogma that closes the mind and turns a nation, a civilization, into a regiment of ghosts – obedient ghosts, or tortured ghosts.
           It is said that science will dehumanize people and turn them into numbers. That is false, tragically false. Look for yourself. This is the concentration camp and crematorium at Auschwitz. This is where people were turned into numbers. Into this pond were flushed the ashes of some four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by arrogance. It was done by dogma. It was done by ignorance. When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality, this is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods.
           Science is a very human form of knowledge. We are always at the brink of the known, we always feel forward for what is to be hoped. Every judgment in science stands on the edge of error, and is personal. Science is a tribute to what we can know although we are fallible. In the end the words were said by Oliver Cromwell: “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.”
           I owe it to my friend Leo Szilard, I owe it as a human being to the many members of my family who died at Auschwitz, to stand here by the pond as a survivor and a witness. We have to cure ourselves of the itch for absolute knowledge and power. We have to close the distance between the push-button order and the human act. We have to touch people.

– Jacob Bronowski

Knowledge is an unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty. – Jacob Bronowski

Each step opens a new step; each answer poses a new question. To the man in search of a faith, complete, compact, and safe from further questioning, science is an endless avenue of regress. And this is true of every form of reasoning which takes nothing for granted outside human experience: all reasoning is an endless regress. – Jacob Bronowski

Man masters nature not by force but by understanding. This is why science has succeeded where magic failed: because it has looked for no spell to cast over nature. – Jacob Bronowski

The society of scientists must be a democracy. It can keep alive and grow only by a constant tension between dissent and respect, between independence from the views of others and tolerance for them. – Jacob Bronowski

Dissent is the native activity of the scientist, and it has got him into a good deal of trouble in the last years. But if that is cut off, what is left will not be a scientist. And I doubt whether it will be a man. – Jacob Bronowski

Science is not a mechanism but a human progress, and not a set of findings but the search for them. Those who think that science is ethically neutral confuse the findings of science, which are, with the activity of science, which is not. To the layman, who is dominated by the fallacy of the comic strips, that science would all be best done by machines, the distinction is puzzling. But human search and research is a learning by steps of which none is final, and the mistakes of one generation are rungs in the ladder, no less than their correction by the next. This is why the values of science turn out to be recognizably the human values: because scientists must be men, must be fallible, and yet as men must be willing and as a society must be organized to correct their errors. William Blake said that ‘to be an Error & to be Cast out is a part of God’s design’. It is certainly part of the design of science. – Jacob Bronowski

To listen to everyone; to silence no one; to honor and promote those who are right – these have given science its power in our world, and its humanity. Don’t be deceived by those who say that science is narrow; a narrow, bigoted power is as brittle as Himmler’s. Have you been told that science is dogmatic? There is not a field of science which has not been made over from top to bottom in the last fifty years. Science has filled our world because it has been tolerant and flexible and endlessly open to new ideas. In the best sense of that difficult word, science is a democratic method. That has been its strength: that and its confidence that nothing can be more important than what is true. – Jacob Bronowski

Science has nothing to be ashamed of even in the ruins of Nagasaki. The shame is theirs who appeal to other values than the human imaginative values which science has evolved. – Jacob Bronowski

The hand is the cutting edge of the mind. – Jacob Bronowski

The most wonderful discovery made by scientists is science itself. – Jacob Bronowski

Knowledge which another man supplies is always a constraint; every addition to your own knowledge is a liberation. – Jacob Bronowski

We are all afraid for our confidence, for the future, for the world. That is the nature of the human imagination. Yet every man, every civilization, has gone forward because of its engagement with what it has set itself to do. – Jacob Bronowski

Man is unique not because he does science, and his is unique not because he does art, but because science and art equally are expressions of his marvelous plasticity of mind. – Jacob Bronowski

It has been one of the most destructive modern prejudices that art and science are different and somehow incompatible interests. We have fallen into the habit of opposing the artistic to the scientific temper; we even identify them with a creative and a critical approach. In a society like ours which practices the division of labour there are of course specialized functions, as matters of convenience. As a convenience, and only as a convenience, the scientific function is different from the artistic. In the same way, the function of thought differs from, and complements, the function of feeling. But the human race is not divided into thinkers and feelers, and would not long survive the division. – Jacob Bronowski

If rationalism is to be a positive system today, this must be at the heart of what it has to say. It must insist that there is one thing above all else which makes man human, and that is his gift for free inquiry. It is not science, it is not rationalism which makes the world inhuman and colorless. On the contrary, what is inhuman is the surrender to authority. What robs nature of her beauty is the refusal to look at it ourselves; and you do not put the beauty back, as a personal experience, by looking at it through the mist of religious tears. Rationalism is the exploration of the world as human adventure, and it is not less human because it is an intellectual adventure – it is more human. Why do those who belittle science always behave as if the mind were the least human of our gifts? The inquiring mind is the godhead of man.

That mind, in looking at man and society, does not treat them as dead. Science does not treat any part of the universe as dead; it treats it as something which changes and evolves and, more important, our understanding of which is a constant creative change. So we as rationalists do not need to talk about man and society as if they were two stuffed museum pieces. On the contrary, what we want to understand is not only man as he is but as he can be, and the societies which the changing man can make. It is the potential of man that we must explore; it is the fulfillment of man that we must seek. By contrast, it is precisely the doctrines of the Dark Ages which treat man as fixed and dead, a sinful exhibit who can seek virtue only in self-denial. These ascetic virtues are equally the marks of the dead societies of the Middle Ages which we still perpetuate – societies constantly on the brink of famine, in which the greatest virtue of man was to achieve the heroics of an insect in a colony, and sacrifice himself for the hive. We are somewhat past those famine days, and we should be past those famine virtues… – Jacob Bronowski

There has been, exceptionally, an artist here and there, and a scientist too, who has been a mystic by temperament: Michelangelo was one, and probably Faraday. But in general, what happens to an artist when he finds God is what happened to Botticelli when he joined Savonarola, or to that prodigy among thinkers, Pascal, when he repented of his youth. They cease to worship God in his creation, and struggle only for his presence. – Jacob Bronowski

The values by which we are to survive are not rules for just and unjust conduct, but are those deeper illuminations in whose light justice and injustice, good and evil, means and ends are seen in fearful sharpness of outline. – Jacob Bronowski

Justice, honor, the respect of man for man: What have these human values to do with scientific philosophy? Now we see that this question is a foolish survival of those nineteenth-century quarrels which somehow seemed to equate ethics with the Book of Genesis. If critics in the past had ever looked at the way in which a truth-seeking society develops, they would not have asked the question. A dogmatic society can work otherwise; but a society like ours since the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution grows by confronting the work of one man with that of another, and grafting each on each. It cannot survive without independence and originality, dissent and freedom, tolerance, justice, honor, and respect between man and man. These are the human values in which I believe; and I believe them all to be logically implied, by the steps which I have here argued, in the single and steadfast human object, to explore the truth. – Jacob Bronowski

The conditions which I have shown to be necessary to the practice of science are clearly not a set of neutral rules. On the contrary, they make up a stern morality whose undertones call to mind the Old Testament: the morality of truth, justice, and integrity.

To be sure, this scientific morality is not the whole of morality. It lacks what, by contrast, I may call the New Testament values: love, kindness, family loyalty, human charity. These are the values which inform the personal relations of people and which in our civilization preoccupy most writers and artists.

Human beings need justice and they also need affection. These are two different sets of values, and neither set of values is complete without the other. We have associated the more kindly values with religion and art, and have behaved as if somehow they belonged to a different life from the sterner values of science. But this is an unbearable division, and our society will perish if it persists in it. – Jacob Bronowski

Feelings are all right, if one does not get drunk on them. – Luther Burbank

Those who would legislate against the teaching of evolution should also legislate against gravity, electricity, and the unreasonable velocity of light, and also should introduce a clause to prevent the use of the telescope, the microscope, and the spectroscope or any other instrument of precision which may in the future be invented, constructed or used for the discovery of truth. – Luther Burbank

Nature’s laws affirm instead of prohibit. If you violate her laws, you are your own prosecuting attorney, judge, jury, and hangman. – Luther Burbank

Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves. – George Gordon (Lord Byron)

The optimist proclaims we live in the best of all possible worlds, and the pessimist fears this is true. – James Branch Cabell

Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend. – Albert Camus

In the depth of winter I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. – Albert Camus

If there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life. – Albert Camus

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is a symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of the birds, the ebb and flow of the tides, the folded bud ready for the spring. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter. The lasting pleasures of contact with the natural world…are available to anyone who will place himself under the influence of earth, sea and sky and their amazing life. – Rachel Carson

War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good. We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other’s children. – Jimmy Carter

As an adolescent I aspired to lasting fame, I craved factual certainty, and I thirsted for a meaningful vision of human life – so I became a scientist. This is like becoming an archbishop so you can meet girls. – Matt Cartmill

To seek truth and to utter what one believes to be true can never be a crime. No one must be forced to accept a conviction. Conviction is free. – Sebastian Castellio

We can live together peacefully only when we control our intolerance. Even though there will always be differences of opinion from time to time, we can at any rate come to general understandings, can love one another, and can enter the bonds of peace. – Sebastian Castellio

Who burns a man does not defend a doctrine, but only burns a man. – Sebastian Castellio

Even if, for a season, truth is suppressed, no one can permanently coerce truth. – Sebastian Castellio

This shuddering before the beautiful, this incredible fact that a discovery motivated by a search after the beautiful in mathematics should find its exact replica in Nature, persuades me to say that beauty is that to which a human mind responds at its deepest and most profound. – Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar

A balance that does not tremble cannot weigh. A man who does not tremble cannot live. – Erwin Chargaff

It is the sense of mystery that, in my opinion, drives the true scientist; the same blind force, blindly seeing, deafly hearing, unconsciously remembering, that drives the larva into the butterfly. If [the scientist] has not experienced, at least a few times in his life, this cold shudder down his spine, this confrontation with an immense invisible face whose breath moves him to tears, he is not a scientist. – Erwin Chargaff

There are no magic answers, no miraculous methods to overcome the problems we face, just the familiar ones: honest search for understanding, education, organization, action that raises the cost of state violence for its perpetrators or that lays the basis for institutional change – and the kind of commitment that will persist despite the temptations of disillusionment, despite many failures and only limited successes, inspired by the hope of a brighter future. – Noam Chomsky

We are creatures of matter. And we should learn to live with that fact. – Paul M. Churchland

The purpose of education is to free the student from the tyranny of the present. – Cicero

I would defend the liberty of consenting adult creationists to practice whatever intellectual perversions they like in the privacy of their own homes; but it is also necessary to protect the young and innocent. – Arthur C. Clarke

One of the greatest tragedies of mankind is that morality has been hijacked by religion. – Arthur C. Clarke

Science can destroy a religion by ignoring it as well as by disproving its tenets. No one ever demonstrated, so far as I am aware, the nonexistence of Zeus or Thor, but they have few followers now. – Arthur C. Clarke

Inquiry into the evidence of a doctrine is not to be made once for all, and then taken as finally settled. It is never lawful to stifle a doubt; for either it can be honestly answered by means of the inquiry already made, or else it proves that the inquiry was not complete.

“But,” says one, “I am a busy man; I have no time for the long course of study which would be necessary to make me in any degree a competent judge of certain questions, or even able to understand the nature of the arguments.” Then he should have no time to believe. – W. K. Clifford

It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. – W. K. Clifford

If the history of science shows us anything, it is that we get nowhere by labeling our ignorance “God.” – Jerry Coyne

Humanity also needs dreamers, for whom the disinterested development of an enterprise is so captivating that it becomes impossible for them to devote their care to their own material profit. Without doubt, these dreamers do not deserve wealth, because they do not desire it. Even so, a well-organized society should assure to such workers the efficient means of accomplishing their task, in a life freed from material care and freely consecrated to research. – Marie Curie

You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end, each of us must work for our own improvement and, at the same time, share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful. – Marie Curie

All my life through, the new sights of Nature made me rejoice like a child. – Marie Curie

The fear of God is not the beginning of wisdom. The fear of God is the death of wisdom. Skepticism and doubt lead to study and investigation, and investigation is the beginning of wisdom. – Clarence Darrow

The modern world is the child of doubt and inquiry, as the ancient world was the child of fear and faith. – Clarence Darrow

The best that we can do is to be kindly and helpful toward our friends and fellow passengers who are clinging to the same speck of dirt while we are drifting side by side to our common doom. – Clarence Darrow

We are confessedly ignorant; nor do we know how ignorant we are. – Charles Darwin

It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved. – Charles Darwin

Man may be excused for feeling some pride at having risen, though not through his own exertions, to the very summit of the organic scale; and the fact of his having thus risen, instead of having been aboriginally placed there, may give him hope for a still higher destiny in the distant future. But we are not here concerned with hopes or fears, only with the truth as far as our reason permits us to discover it; and I have given the evidence to the best of my ability. We must, however, acknowledge, as it seems to me, that man with all his noble qualities, with sympathy which feels for the most debased, with benevolence which extends not only to other men but to the humblest living creature, with his god-like intellect which has penetrated into the movements and constitution of the solar system – with all these exalted powers – Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin. – Charles Darwin

I have steadily endeavored to keep my mind free, so as to give up any hypothesis, however much beloved, as soon as facts are shown to be opposed to it. – Charles Darwin

It has often and confidently been asserted, that man’s origin can never be known; but ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge; it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science. – Charles Darwin

I am inclined to look at everything as resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good or bad, left to the working out of what we may call chance. Not that this notion at all satisfies me. I feel most deeply that the whole subject is too profound for the human intellect. A dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton. Let each man hope and believe what he can. – Charles Darwin

Beautiful as is the morality of the New Testament, it can hardly be denied that its perfection depends in part on the interpretation which we now put on metaphors and allegories. – Charles Darwin

It appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against christianity and theism produce hardly any effect on the public; and freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men’s minds which follows from the advance of science. – Charles Darwin

Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never since doubted even for a single second that my conclusion was correct. I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished.

And this is a damnable doctrine. – Charles Darwin

At the present day the most usual argument for the existence of an intelligent God is drawn from the deep inward conviction and feelings which are experienced by most persons. But it cannot be doubted that Hindoos, Mahomadans and others might argue in the same manner and with equal force in favour of the existence of one God, or of many Gods, or as with the Buddists of no God. There are also many barbarian tribes who cannot be said with any truth to believe in what we call God: they believe indeed in spirits or ghosts, and it can be explained, as Tyler and Herbert Spencer have shown, how such a belief would be likely to arise.

Formerly I was led by feelings such as those just referred to, (although I do not think that the religious sentiment was ever strongly developed in me), to the firm conviction of the existence of God, and of the immortality of the soul. In my Journal I wrote that whilst standing in the midst of the grandeur of a Brazilian forest, ‘it is not possible to give an adequate idea of the higher feelings of wonder, admiration, and devotion which fill and elevate the mind.’ I well remember my conviction that there is more in man than the mere breath of his body. But now the grandest scenes would not cause any such convictions and feelings to rise in my mind. It may be truly said that I am like a man who has become colour-blind, and the universal belief by men of the existence of redness makes my present loss of perception of not the least value as evidence. This argument would be a valid one if all men of all races had the same inward conviction of the existence of one God; but we know that this is very far from being the case. Therefore I cannot see that such inward convictions and feelings are of any weight as evidence of what really exists. The state of mind which grand scenes formerly excited in me, and which was intimately connected with a belief in God, did not essentially differ from that which is often called the sense of sublimity; and however difficult it may be to explain the genesis of this sense, it can hardly be advanced as an argument for the existence of God, any more than the powerful though vague and similar feelings excited by music. – Charles Darwin

Another source of conviction in the existence of God, connected with the reason and not with the feelings, impresses me as having much more weight. This follows from the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist.

This conclusion was strong in my mind about the time, as far as I can remember, when I wrote the Origin of Species; and it is since that time that it has very gradually with many fluctuations become weaker. 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? May not these be the result of the connection between cause and effect which strikes us as a necessary one, but probably depends merely on inherited experience? Nor must we overlook the probability of the constant inculcation in a belief in God on the minds of children producing so strong and perhaps an inherited effect on their brains not yet fully developed, that it would be as difficult for them to throw off their belief in God, as for a monkey to throw off its instinctive fear and hatred of a snake.

I cannot pretend to throw the least light on such abstruse problems. The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic.

A man who has no assured and ever present belief in the existence of a personal God or of a future existence with retribution and reward, can have for his rule of life, as far as I can see, only to follow those impulses and instincts which are the strongest or which seem to him the best ones. A dog acts in this manner, but he does so blindly. A man, on the other hand, looks forwards and backwards, and compares his various feelings, desires and recollections. He then finds, in accordance with the verdict of all the wisest men that the highest satisfaction is derived from following certain impulses, namely the social instincts. If he acts for the good of others, he will receive the approbation of his fellow men and gain the love of those with whom he lives; and this latter gain undoubtedly is the highest pleasure on this earth. By degrees it will become intolerable to him to obey his sensuous passions rather than his higher impulses, which when rendered habitual may be almost called instincts. His reason may occasionally tell him to act in opposition to the opinion of others, whose approbation he will then not receive; but he will still have the solid satisfaction of knowing that he has followed his innermost guide or conscience. – As for myself I believe that I have acted rightly in steadily following and devoting my life to science. I feel no remorse from having committed any great sin, but have often and often regretted that I have not done more direct good to my fellow creatures… – Charles Darwin

To invoke God as a blanket explanation of the unexplained is to make God the friend of ignorance. If God is to be found, it must surely be through what we discover about the world, not what we fail to discover. – Paul Davies

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

I think it’s important to realize that when two opposite points of view are expressed with equal intensity, the truth does not necessarily lie exactly halfway between them. It is possible for one side to be simply wrong. – Richard Dawkins

Science shares with religion the claim that it answers deep questions about origins, the nature of life, and the cosmos. But there the resemblance ends. Scientific beliefs are supported by evidence, and they get results. Myths and faiths are not and do not. – Richard Dawkins

You see, if you say something positive like the whole of life – all living things – is descended from a single common ancestor which lived about 4,000 million years ago and that we are all cousins, well that is an exceedingly important and true thing to say and that is what I want to say. Somebody who is religious sees that as threatening and so I am represented as attacking religion, and I am forced into responding to their reaction. But you do not have to see my main purpose as attacking religion. Certainly I see the scientific view of the world as incompatible with religion, but that is not what is interesting about it. It is also incompatible with magic, but that also is not worth stressing. What is interesting about the scientific world view is that it is true, inspiring, remarkable and that it unites a whole lot of phenomena under a single heading. And that is what is so exciting for me. – Richard Dawkins

I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world. – Richard Dawkins

Faith is powerful enough to immunize people against all appeals to pity, to forgiveness, to decent human feelings. It even immunizes them against fear, if they honestly believe that a martyr’s death will send them straight to heaven. What a weapon! Religious faith deserves a chapter to itself in the annals of war technology, on an even footing with the longbow, the warhorse, the tank, and the hydrogen bomb. – Richard Dawkins

If you have a faith, it is statistically overwhelmingly likely that it is the same faith as your parents and grandparents had. No doubt soaring cathedrals, stirring music, moving stories and parables, help a bit. But by far the most important variable determining your religion is the accident of birth. The convictions that you so passionately believe would have been a completely different, and largely contradictory, set of convictions, if only you had happened to be born in a different place. Epidemiology, not evidence. – Richard Dawkins

Scientific and technological progress themselves are value-neutral. They are just very good at doing what they do. If you want to do selfish, greedy, intolerant and violent things, scientific technology will provide you with by far the most efficient way of doing so. But if you want to do good, to solve the world’s problems, to progress in the best value-laden sense, once again, there is no better means to those ends than the scientific way. – Richard Dawkins

People certainly blame science for nuclear weapons and similar horrors. It’s been said before but needs to be said again: if you want to do evil, science provides the most powerful weapons to do evil; but equally, if you want to do good, science puts into your hands the most powerful tools to do so. The trick is to want the right things, then science will provide you with the most effective methods of achieving them. – Richard Dawkins

If we want to postulate a deity capable of engineering all the organized complexity in the world, either instantaneously or by guiding evolution, that deity must already have been vastly complex in the first place. The creationist, whether a naive Bible-thumper or an educated bishop, simply postulates an already existing being of prodigious intelligence and complexity. If we are going to allow ourselves the luxury of postulating organized complexity without offering an explanation, we might as well make a job of it and simply postulate the existence of life as we know it! – Richard Dawkins

An atheist before Darwin could have said, following Hume: “I have no explanation for complex biological design. All I know is that God isn’t a good explanation, so we must wait and hope that somebody comes up with a better one.” I can’t help feeling that such a position, though logically sound, would have left one feeling pretty unsatisfied, and that although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. – Richard Dawkins

The analogy between telescope and eye, between watch and living organism, is false. All appearances to the contrary, the only watchmaker in nature is the blind forces of physics, albeit deployed in a very special way. A true watchmaker has foresight: he designs his cogs and springs, and plans their interconnections, with a future purpose in his mind’s eye. Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind’s eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all. If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker. – Richard Dawkins

It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that). – Richard Dawkins

We admit that we are like apes, but we seldom realise that we are apes. Our common ancestor with the chimpanzees and gorillas is much more recent than their common ancestor with the Asian apes – the gibbons and orangutans. There is no natural category that includes chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans but excludes humans. – Richard Dawkins

Stand tall, Bipedal Ape. The shark may outswim you, the cheetah outrun you, the swift outfly you, the capuchin outclimb you, the elephant outpower you, the redwood outlast you. But you have the biggest gifts of all: the gift of understanding the ruthlessly cruel process that gave us all existence; the gift of revulsion against its implications; the gift of foresight – something utterly foreign to the blundering short-term ways of natural selection – and the gift of internalizing the very cosmos. – Richard Dawkins

The world and the universe is an extremely beautiful place, and the more we understand about it the more beautiful does it appear. It is an immensely exciting experience to be born in the world, born in the universe, and look around you and realize that before you die you have the opportunity of understanding an immense amount about that world and about that universe and about life and about why we’re here. We have the opportunity of understanding far, far more than any of our predecessors ever. That is such an exciting possibility, it would be such a shame to blow it and end your life not having understood what there is to understand. – Richard Dawkins

The real world, properly understood in the scientific way, is deeply beautiful and unfailingly interesting. It’s worth putting in some honest effort to understand it properly, undistracted by false wonder and prostituted pseudoscience. – Richard Dawkins

Isn’t it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it? This is how I answer when I am asked – as I am surprisingly often – why I bother to get up in the mornings. To put it the other way around, isn’t it sad to go to your grave without ever wondering why you were born? – Richard Dawkins

It is possible to enjoy the Mozart concerto without being able to play the clarinet. In fact, you can learn to be an expert connoisseur of music without being able to play a note on any instrument. Of course, music would come to a halt if nobody ever learned to play it. But if everybody grew up thinking that music was synonymous with playing it, think how relatively impoverished many lives would be. Couldn’t we learn to think of science in the same way? – Richard Dawkins

“Why I Am a Secular Humanist”

It is said that, while science can answer many of our questions, it cannot answer all of them. True. But false is the hidden implication that if science can’t answer a question it follows that some other discipline can.

Certainly science cannot prove what is right or wrong, but nor can theology. Secular, rationalistic, moral philosophy comes closest by exposing our inconsistencies and double standards.

But science can answer deep questions popularly regarded as outside its remit, as well as those that are universally ceded to it. “Why is there anything rather than nothing?” is often cited as beyond the reach of science, but physics may one day answer it and if physics doesn’t, nothing will.

“What is the purpose of life?” already has a straightforward Darwinian answer and is quite different from “What would be a worthwhile purpose for me to adopt in my own life?” Indeed, my own philosophy of life begins with an explicit rejection of Darwinism as a normative principle for living, even while I extol it as the explanatory principle for life.

This brings me to the aspect of humanism that resonates most harmoniously for me. We are on our own in the universe. Humanity can expect no help from outside, so our help, such as it is, must come from our own resources. As individuals we should make the most of the short time we have, for it is a privilege to be here. We should seize the opportunity presented by our good fortune and fill our brief minds, before we die, with understanding of why, and where, we exist.

I’d worry about the humanist label if it implied something uniquely special about being human. Evolution is a gradual process. Humanness is not an all-or-none quality that you either have or don’t have. It is a complicated mixture of qualities that evolved gradually, which means that some people have higher doses than others, and some nonhumans have non-negligible doses as well. Absolutist moral judgments founded on the “rights” of all humans, as opposed to nonhumans, therefore seem to me less justifiable than more pragmatic judgments based, for example, on quantitative assessment of the ability to suffer.

The atheist label also worries me because it shouldn’t be necessary. Those who don’t believe in fairies have no need of a label: the onus of proof is on those who do. I would with positive conviction call myself a scientific rationalist, with a humane concern that is directed toward a target that is both wider and narrower than humanity. Wider because it includes other species and potentially other planets. Narrower because it admits that not all humans are equal. – Richard Dawkins

As soon as men decide that all means are permitted to fight an evil, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the evil they set out to destroy. – Christopher Dawson

I have no country to fight for: my country is the earth, and I am a citizen of the world. – Eugene Debs

Everything existing in the universe is the fruit of chance and necessity. – Democritus

If you want to reason about faith, and offer a reasoned (and reason-responsive) defense of faith as an extra category of belief worthy of special consideration, I’m eager to play. I certainly grant the existence of the phenomenon of faith; what I want to see is a reasoned ground for taking faith seriously as a way of getting to the truth , and not, say, just as a way people comfort themselves and each other (a worthy function that I do take seriously). But you must not expect me to go along with your defence of faith as a path to truth if at any point you appeal to the very dispensation you are supposedly trying to justify. Before you appeal to faith when reason has you backed into a corner, think about whether you really want to abandon reason when reason is on your side. – Daniel C. Dennett

If you want to teach your children that they are the tools of God, you had better not teach them that they are God’s rifles, or we will have to stand firmly opposed to you: your doctrine has no glory, no special rights, no intrinsic and inalienable merit. If you insist on teaching your children falsehoods – that the Earth is flat, that Man is not a product of evolution by natural selection – then you must expect, at the very least, that those of us who have freedom of speech will feel free to describe your teachings as the spreading of falsehoods, and will attempt to demonstrate this to your children at our earliest opportunity. Our future well-being – the well-being of all of us on the planet – depends on the education of our descendants. – Daniel C. Dennett

I think that there are no forces on this planet more dangerous to us all than the fanaticisms of fundamentalism, of all the species: Protestantism, Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, as well as countless smaller infections. Is there a conflict between science and religion here? There most certainly is. – Daniel C. Dennett

I have not sought to replace the voluminous work on ethics with some Darwinian alternative, but rather to place that work on the foundation it deserves: a realistic, naturalistic, potentially unified vision of our place in nature. Recognizing our uniqueness as reflective, communicating animals does not require any human “exceptionalism” that must shake a defiant fist at Darwin and shun the insights to be harvested from that beautifully articulated and empirically anchored system of thought. We can understand how our freedom is greater than that of other creatures, and see how this heightened capacity carries moral implications: noblesse oblige. We are in the best position to decide what to do next, because we have the broadest knowledge and hence the best perspective on the future. What that future holds in store for our planet is up to all of us, reasoning together. – Daniel C. Dennett

The kindly God who lovingly fashioned each and every one of us and sprinkled the sky with shining stars for our delight – that God is, like Santa Claus, a myth of childhood, not anything a sane, undeluded adult could literally believe in. That God must either be turned into a symbol for something less concrete or abandoned altogether. – Daniel C. Dennett

If you are one of those who think that free will is only really free will if it springs from an immaterial soul that hovers happily in your brain, shooting arrows of decision into your motor cortex, then given what you mean by free will, my view is that there is no free will at all. If, on the other hand, you think free will might be morally important without being supernatural, then my view is that free will is indeed real, but just not quite what you probably thought it was. – Daniel C. Dennett

The real threats to freedom are not metaphysical but political and social. As we learn more about the conditions of human decision-making, we will have to devise, and agree upon, systems of government and law that are not hostage to false myths about human nature, that are robust in the face of further scientific discovery and technological advances. – Daniel C. Dennett

Institutions and practices based on obvious falsehoods are too brittle to trust. Few people will be willing to wager their futures on a fragile myth that they themselves can see cracks in. – Daniel C. Dennett

The freedom of thought and action that is necessary for discovering truth is a precursor…to the more expansive ideal of political or civil freedom… – Daniel C. Dennett

Through a microscope, the cutting edge of a beautifully sharpened ax looks like the Rocky Mountains, all jagged and irregular, but it is the dull heft of the steel behind the edge that gives the ax its power. Similarly, the cutting edge of science seen up close looks ragged and chaotic, a bunch of big egos engaging in shouting matches, their judgment distorted by jealousy, ambition, and greed, but behind them, agreed upon by all the disputants, is the massive routine weight of accumulated results, the facts that give science its power. – Daniel C. Dennett

So science, and the technology it spawns, has been explosively practical, an amplifier of human powers in almost every imaginable dimension, making us stronger, faster, able to see farther in both space and time, healthier, more secure, more knowledgeable about just about everything, including our own origins – but that doesn’t mean it can answer all questions or serve all needs. – Daniel C. Dennett

Science is not supposed to have all the moral answers and shouldn’t be advertised as providing them. We may appeal to science to clarify or confirm factual presuppositions of our moral discussions, but it doesn’t provide or establish the values that our ethical judgments and arguments are based on. – Daniel C. Dennett

I have absolutely no doubt that the secular and scientific vision is right and deserves to be endorsed by everybody, and as we have seen over the last few thousand years, superstitious and religious doctrines will just have to give way. – Daniel C. Dennett

…let your self go. If you can approach the world’s complexities, both its glories and its horrors, with an attitude of humble curiosity, acknowledging that however deeply you have seen, you have only just scratched the surface, you will find worlds within worlds, beauties you could not heretofore imagine, and you own mundane preoccupations will shrink to proper size, not all that important in the greater scheme of things. Keeping that awestruck vision of the world ready to hand while dealing with the demands of daily living is no easy exercise, but it is definitely worth the effort, for if you can stay centered, and engaged, you will find the hard choices easier, and the right words will come to you when you need them, and you will indeed be a better person. That, I propose, is the secret to spirituality, and it has nothing at all to do with believing in an immortal soul, or in anything supernatural. – Daniel C. Dennett

Is something sacred? Yes, I say with Nietzsche. I could not pray to it, but I can stand in affirmation of its magnificence. This world is sacred. – Daniel C. Dennett

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away. – Philip K. Dick

It is very important not to mistake hemlock for parsley, but to believe or not believe in God is not important at all. – Denis Diderot

There are three principal means of acquiring knowledge…observation of nature, reflection, and experimentation. Observation collects facts; reflection combines them; experimentation verifies the result of that combination. – Denis Diderot

In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in poetry, it’s the exact opposite. – P. A. M. Dirac

If there be a skeptical star I was born under it, yet I have lived all my days in complete astonishment. – W. Macneile Dixon

Let me try to make crystal clear what is established beyond reasonable doubt, and what needs further study, about evolution. Evolution as a process that has always gone on in the history of the earth can be doubted only by those who are ignorant of the evidence or are resistant to evidence, owing to emotional blocks or to plain bigotry. By contrast, the mechanisms that bring evolution about certainly need study and clarification. There are no alternatives to evolution as history that can withstand critical examination. Yet we are constantly learning new and important facts about evolutionary mechanisms. – Theodosius Dobzhansky

As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight. And it is in such twilight that we all must be aware of change in the air – however slight – lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness. – William O. Douglas

There are reverent minds who ceaselessly scan the fields of Nature and the books of Science in search of gaps – gaps which they will fill up with God. As if God lived in gaps? What view of Nature or of Truth is theirs whose interest in Science is not in what it can explain but in what it cannot, whose quest is ignorance not knowledge, whose daily dread is that the cloud may lift, and who, as darkness melts from this field or from that, begin to tremble for the place of His abode? What needs altering in such finely jealous souls is at once their view of Nature and of God. Nature is God’s writing, and can only tell the truth; God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.

If by the accumulation of irresistible evidence we are driven – may not one say permitted – to accept Evolution as God’s method in creation, it is a mistaken policy to glory in what it cannot account for. The reason why men grudge to Evolution each of its fresh claims to show how things have been made is the groundless fear that if we discover how they are made we minimize their divinity.

When things are known, that is to say, we conceive them as natural, on Man’s level; when they are unknown, we call them divine – as if our ignorance of a thing were the stamp of its divinity. If God is only to be left to the gaps in our knowledge, where shall we be when these gaps are filled up? And if they are never to be filled up, is God only to be found in the dis-orders of the world? Those who yield to temptation to reserve a point here and there for special divine interposition are apt to forget that this virtually excludes God from the rest of the process. If God appears periodically, he disappears periodically. If he comes upon the scene at special crises he is absent from the scene in the intervals. Whether is all-God or occasional-God the nobler theory? Positively, the idea of an immanent God, which is the God of Evolution, is infinitely grander than the occasional wonder-worker who is the God of the old theology.

Negatively, the older view is not only the less worthy, but it is discredited by science. And as to facts, the daily miracle of a flower, the courses of the stars, the upholding and sustaining day by day of this great palpitating world, need a living Will as much as the creation of atoms at the first. We know growth is the method by which things are made in Nature, and we know no other method. We do not know that there are not other methods; but if there are we do not know them. Those cases which we do not know to be growths, we do not know to be anything else, and we may at least suspect them to be growths. Nor are they any the less miraculous because they appear to us as growths. A miracle is not something quick. The doings of these things may seem to us no miracle, nevertheless it is a miracle that they have been done. – Henry Drummond

Perhaps Genesis should be read as an ironic story. Here’s a god who does not give us the knowledge of good and evil. He knows we don’t know right from wrong. Yet he tells us not to do something anyway. How can someone who doesn’t know right from wrong be expected to do the right thing? By disobeying god, we escape from his totalitarian prison where you cannot ask any questions, where you must never question authority. We become our human selves. – Ann Druyan

Our nation was founded on a heroic act of disobedience to a king who was presumed to rule by divine right. We created social and legal mechanisms to institutionalize the questioning of authority and the participation of every person in the decision-making process. It’s the most original thing about us, our greatest contribution to global civilization. – Ann Druyan

Why do we separate the scientific, which is just a way of searching for truth, from what we hold sacred, which are those truths that inspire love and awe? Science is nothing more than a never-ending search for truth. What could be more profoundly sacred than that? I’m sure most of what we all hold dearest and cherish most, believing at this very moment, will be revealed at some future time to be merely a product of our age and our history and our understanding of reality. So here’s this process, this way, this mechanism for finding bits of reality. No single bit is sacred. But the search is. – Ann Druyan

We have not resolved the trauma of losing our infantile sense of centrality in the universe. – Ann Druyan

The churches agreed to stop torturing and murdering scientists. The scientists pretended that knowledge of the universe has no spiritual implications. – Ann Druyan

It’s a catastrophic tragedy that science ceded the spiritual uplift of its central revelations: the vastness of the universe, the immensity of time, the relatedness of all life and it’s preciousness on this tiny world. – Ann Druyan

Science is a way of looking at absolutely everything. – Ann Druyan

What I find disappointing about most religious beliefs is that they are a kind of statement of contempt for nature and reality. It’s absurdly hubristic. It holds the myths of a few thousand years above nature’s many billion-yeared journey. It says reality is inferior and less satisfying than the stories we make up. – Ann Druyan

To me, faith is antithetical to the values of science. Not hope, which is very different from faith. I have a lot of hope. Faith is saying that you can know the outcome of things based on what you hope is true. And science is saying in the absence of evidence, we must withhold judgment…So, I don’t have any faith, but I have a lot of hope, and I have a lot of dreams of what we could do with our intelligence if we had the will and the leadership and the understanding of how we could take all of our intelligence and our resources and create a world for our kids that is hopeful. – Ann Druyan

The advances of biology have revolutionized the view we have of ourselves and our significance in the world. Many myths have had to be abandoned. But mystery remains, more profound and more beautiful than ever before, a reality almost inaccessible to our feeble human means. – Christian de Duve

The world of science and the world of literature have much in common. Each is an international club, helping to tie mankind together across barriers of nationality, race, and language. – Freeman Dyson

Physicists use ‘God’ as a metaphor more often than other scientists – especially in popular writing, but in the technical literature as well. Of course, this is just a metaphor for order at the heart of confusion. A rational or aesthetic pattern underlying reality is far from a theistic God. – Taner Edis

Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence. – Albert Einstein

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. – Albert Einstein

He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him a spinal cord would fully suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, senseless brutality, deplorable love-of-country stance, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action. It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder. – Albert Einstein

Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding. – Albert Einstein

The scientist finds his reward in what Henri Poincare calls the joy of comprehension, and not in the possibilities of application to which any discovery may lead. – Albert Einstein

A human being is part of a whole, called by us the “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. – Albert Einstein

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who knows it not and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. It was the experience of mystery – even if mixed with fear – that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms – it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man. I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious in ourselves. An individual who should survive his physical death is also beyond my comprehension, nor do I wish it otherwise; such notions are for the fears or absurd egoism of feeble souls. Enough for me the mystery of the eternity of life, and the inkling of the marvelous structure of reality, together with the single-hearted endeavour to comprehend a portion, be it never so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature. – Albert Einstein

It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it. – Albert Einstein

I have never imputed to Nature a purpose or a goal, or anything that could be understood as anthropomorphic. What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility. This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism. – Albert Einstein

The religious feeling engendered by experiencing the logical comprehensibility of profound interrelations is of a somewhat different sort from the feeling that one usually calls religious. It is more a feeling of awe at the scheme that is manifested in the material universe. It does not lead us to take the step of fashioning a god-like being in our own image – a personage who makes demands of us and who takes an interest in us as individuals. There is in this neither a will nor a goal, nor a must, but only sheer being. For this reason, people of our type see in morality a purely human matter, albeit the most important in the human sphere. – Albert Einstein

For science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and outside of its domain value judgments of all kinds remain necessary. Religion, on the other hand, deals only with evaluations of human thought and action: it cannot justifiably speak of facts and relationships between facts. – Albert Einstein

Now, even though the realms of religion and science in themselves are clearly marked off from each other, nevertheless there exist between the two strong reciprocal relationships and dependencies. Though religion may be that which determines the goal, it has, nevertheless, learned from science, in the broadest sense, what means will contribute to the attainment of the goals it has set up. But science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. – Albert Einstein

While it is true that scientific results are entirely independent from religious or moral considerations, those individuals to whom we owe the great creative achievements of science were all of them imbued with the truly religious conviction that this universe of ours is something perfect and susceptible to the rational striving for knowledge. If this conviction had not been a strongly emotional one and if those searching for knowledge had not been inspired by Spinoza’s Amor Dei Intellectualis, they would hardly have been capable of that untiring devotion which alone enables man to attain his greatest achievements. – Albert Einstein

The more a man is imbued with the ordered regularity of all events the firmer becomes his conviction that there is no room left by the side of this ordered regularity for causes of a different nature. For him neither the rule of human nor the rule of divine will exists as an independent cause of natural events. To be sure, the doctrine of a personal God interfering with natural events could never be refuted, in the real sense, by science, for this doctrine can always take refuge in those domains in which scientific knowledge has not yet been able to set foot.

But I am persuaded that such behavior on the part of the representatives of religion would not only be unworthy but also fatal. For a doctrine which is able to maintain itself not in clear light but only in the dark, will of necessity lose its effect on mankind, with incalculable harm to human progress. In their struggle for the ethical good, teachers of religion must have the stature to give up the doctrine of a personal God, that is, give up that source of fear and hope which in the past placed such vast power in the hands of priests. In their labors they will have to avail themselves of those forces which are capable of cultivating the Good, the True, and the Beautiful in humanity itself. This is, to be sure, a more difficult but an incomparably more worthy task…After religious teachers accomplish the refining process indicated they will surely recognize with joy that true religion has been ennobled and made more profound by scientific knowledge. – Albert Einstein

I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals Himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings. – Albert Einstein

From the viewpoint of a Jesuit priest I am, of course, and have always been an atheist. – Albert Einstein

Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect as well as the star. Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper. – Albert Einstein

Out yonder there was this huge world, which exists independently of us human beings and which stands before us like a great, eternal riddle, at least partially accessible to our inspection and thinking. The contemplation of this world beckoned like a liberation…The road to this paradise was not as comforting and alluring as the road to the religious paradise; but it has proved itself as trustworthy, and I have never regretted having chosen it. – Albert Einstein

The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge. – Albert Einstein

The man who is thoroughly convinced of the universal operation of the law of causation cannot for a moment entertain the idea of a being who interferes in the course of events – provided, of course, that he takes the hypothesis of causality really seriously. He has no use for the religion of fear and equally little for social or moral religion. A God who rewards and punishes is inconceivable to him for the simple reason that a man’s actions are determined by necessity, external and internal, so that in God’s eyes he cannot be responsible, any more than an inanimate object is responsible for the motions it undergoes. Science has therefore 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 hopes of reward after death. – Albert Einstein

The foundation of morality should not be made dependent on myth nor tied to any authority lest doubt about the myth or about the legitimacy of the authority imperil the foundation of sound judgment and action. – Albert Einstein

One thing I have learned in a long life: that all our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike – and yet it is the most precious thing we have. – Albert Einstein

I am a deeply religious nonbeliever…This is a somewhat new kind of religion. – Albert Einstein

“My Credo”

Our situation on this earth seems strange. Every one of us appears here, involuntarily and uninvited, for a short stay, without knowing the why and the wherefore. In our daily lives we feel only that man is here for the sake of others, for those whom we love and for many other beings whose fate is connected with our own. I am often troubled by the thought that my life is based to such a large extent on the work of my fellow human beings, and I am aware of my great indebtedness to them.

I do not believe in free will. Schopenhauer’s words: “Man can do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wills,” accompany me in all situations throughout my life and reconcile me with the actions of others, even if they are rather painful to me. This awareness of the lack of free will keeps me from taking myself and my fellow men too seriously as acting and deciding individuals, and from losing my temper.

I have never coveted affluence and luxury and even despise them a good deal. My passion for social justice has often brought me into conflict with people, as has my aversion to any obligation and dependence I did not regard as absolutely necessary. I have a high regard for the individual and an insuperable distaste for violence and fanaticism. All these motives have made me a passionate pacifist and antimilitarist. I am against any chauvinism, even in the guise of mere patriotism.

Privileges based on position and property have always seemed to me unjust and pernicious, as does any exaggerated personality cult. I am an adherent of the ideal of democracy, although I know well the weaknesses of the democratic form of government. Social equality and economic protection of the individual have always seemed to me the important communal aims of the state.

Although I am a typical loner in daily life, my consciousness of belonging to the invisible community of those who strive for truth, beauty, and justice keeps me from feeling isolated.

The most beautiful and deepest experience a man can have is the sense of the mysterious. It is the underlying principle of religion as well as of all serious endeavor in art and science. He who never had this experience seems to me, if not dead, then at least blind. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly: this is religiousness. In this sense I am religious. To me it suffices to wonder at these secrets and to attempt humbly to grasp with my mind a mere image of the lofty structure of all there is. – Albert Einstein

I do not think, if someone finally twists the key successfully in the tiniest and most humble house of life, that many of these questions will be answered, or that the dark forces which create lights in the deep sea and living batteries in the waters of the tropical swamps, or the dread cycles of parasites, or the most noble workings of the human brain, will be much if at all revealed. Rather, I would say that if “dead” matter has reared up this curious landscape of fiddling crickets, song sparrows, and wondering men, it must be plain even to the most devoted materialist that the matter of which he speaks contains amazing, if not dreadful powers, and may not impossibly be, as Hardy has suggested, “but one mask of many worn by the Great Face behind.” – Loren Eiseley

There is a persistent adage in science that one must not multiply hypotheses unduly and without reason. I grant its usefulness. Nevertheless it can sometimes lead to the assumption that science finds nature simple and that someday all will be known. Vain delusion, incredible folly, I thought, brooding there at sundown over the sleeping surgeons known as Sphex. We, our species, will be gone before we know. – Loren Eiseley

In the end, science as we know it has two basic types of practitioners. One is the educated man who still has a controlled sense of wonder before the universal mystery, whether it hides in a snail’s eye or within the light that impinges on that delicate organ. The second kind of observer is the extreme reductionist who is so busy stripping things apart that the tremendous mystery has been reduced to a trifle, to intangibles not worth troubling one’s head about. – Loren Eiseley

One can only assert that in science, as in religion, when one has destroyed human wonder and compassion, one has killed man, even if the man in question continues to go about his laboratory tasks. – Loren Eiseley

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron. – Dwight D. Eisenhower

The religion that is afraid of science dishonors God and commits suicide. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thus that which is the most awful of evils, death, is nothing to us, since when we exist there is no death, and when there is death we do not exist. – Epicurus

All this [a relation between gravity and electricity] is a dream. Still, examine it by a few experiments. Nothing is too wonderful to be true, if it be consistent with the laws of nature, and in such things as these, experiment is the best test of such consistency. – Michael Faraday

Study science with earnestness – search into nature – elicit the truth – reason on it, and reject all which will not stand the closest investigation. Keep your imagination within bounds, taking heed lest it run away with your judgment. Above all, let me warn you young ones of the danger of being led away by the superstitions which at this day of boasted progress are a disgrace to the age, and which afford astonishing proofs of the vast floods of ignorance overwhelming and desolating the highest places. – Michael Faraday

For to find our place, we must know the place, cellar to ceiling, from the taproots to the stars, the whole shebang. – Timothy Ferris

No thinking man or woman ought really to want to know everything, for when knowledge and its analysis is complete, thinking stops. – Timothy Ferris

We humans once imagined that we were at the center of it all. Science has let the wind out of that vain claim. Cosmic maps show that we live closer to the edge than to the center of our galaxy, and genetic maps show us occupying the tip of one branch of the shrub of life. We’re not at the center of the Universe; we’re not at the top of the tree. – Timothy Ferris

Our ignorance, of course, has always been with us, and always will be. What is new is our awareness of it, our awakening to its fathomless dimensions, and it is this, more than anything else, that marks the coming of age of our species. – Timothy Ferris

But one can learn to live with ambiguity – that much is requisite to the seeking spirit – and with the silence of the stars…For God’s hand may be a human hand, if you reach out in loving kindness, and God’s voice your voice, if you but speak the truth. – Timothy Ferris

When a man is truly convinced of something, he does not fear to say it in public, in fact, he must say it in public. An idea that fears the light is a feeble idea that cannot bear scrutiny. – Ludwig Feuerbach

…Let us then leave the dead in peace and concern ourselves with the living. If we no longer believe in a better life but decide to achieve one, not each man by himself but with our united powers, we will create a better life, we will at least do away with the most glaring, outrageous, heartbreaking injustices and evils from which man has hitherto suffered. But in order to make such a decision and carry it through, we must replace the love of God by the love of man as the only true religion, the belief in God by the belief in man and his powers – by the belief that the fate of mankind depends not on a being outside it and above it, but on mankind itself, that man’s only Devil is man, the barbarous, superstitious, self-seeking, evil man, but that man’s only God is also man himself.

           With these words, gentlemen, I conclude my lectures. My only wish is that I have not failed in the task I set myself and formulated in the opening lectures: 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 this world, Christians who, by their own profession and admission, are “half animal, half angel,” into men, into whole men.

– Ludwig Feuerbach

Is science of any value? I think a power to do something is of value. Whether the result is a good thing or a bad thing depends on how it is used, but the power is a value. Once in Hawaii I was asked to see a Buddhist temple. In the temple a man said, “I am going to tell you something that you will never forget.” And then he said, “To every man is given the key to the gates of heaven. The same key opens the gates of hell.” – Richard P. Feynman

Another of the qualities of science is that it teaches the value of rational thought, as well as the importance of freedom of thought; the positive results that come from doubting that the lessons are all true. – Richard P. Feynman

Science is a way to teach how something gets to be known; what is not known; to what extent things ARE known (for nothing is known absolutely); how to handle doubt and uncertainty; what the rules of evidence are; how to think about things so that judgments can be made; how to distinguish truth from fraud and from show. – Richard P. Feynman

This freedom to doubt is an important matter in the sciences and, I believe, in other fields. It was born of a struggle. It was a struggle to be permitted to doubt, to be unsure. And I do not want us to forget the importance of the struggle and, by default, to let the thing fall away. I feel a responsibility as a scientist who knows the great value of a satisfactory philosophy of ignorance, and the progress made possible by such a philosophy, progress which is the fruit of freedom of thought. I feel a responsibility to proclaim the value of this freedom and to teach that doubt is not to be feared, but that it is to be welcomed as the possibility of a new potential for human beings. If you know you are not sure, you have a chance to improve the situation. I want to demand this freedom for future generations. – Richard P. Feynman

You see, one thing is, I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of uncertainty about different things, but I am not absolutely sure of anything and there are many things I don’t know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we’re here…I don’t have to know an answer. I don’t feel frightened not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without any purpose, which is the way it really is as far as I can tell. It doesn’t frighten me. – Richard P. Feynman

It is a great adventure to contemplate the universe, beyond man, to contemplate what it would be like without man, as it was in a great part of its long history and as it is in a great majority of places. When this objective view is finally attained, and the mystery and majesty of matter are fully appreciated, to then turn the objective eye back on man viewed as matter, to view life as part of this universal mystery of greatest depth, is to sense an experience which is very rare, and very exciting. It usually ends up in laughter and a delight in the futility of trying to understand what this atom in the universe is, this thing – atoms with curiosity – that looks at itself and wonders why it wonders. Well, these scientific views end in awe and mystery, lost at the edge of the uncertainty, but they appear to be so deep and so impressive that the theory that it is all arranged as a stage for God to watch man’s struggle for good and evil seems inadequate. – Richard P. Feynman

A poet once said, “The whole universe is in a glass of wine.” We will probably never know in what sense he meant that, for poets do not write to be understood. But it is true that if we look at a glass of wine closely enough we see the entire universe. There are the things of physics: the twisting liquid which evaporates depending on the wind and weather, the reflections in the glass, and our imagination adds the atoms. The glass is a distillation of the earth’s rocks, and in its composition we see the secrets of the universe’s age, and the evolution of stars. What strange array of chemicals are in the wine? How did they come to be? There are the ferments, the enzymes, the substrates, and the products. There in wine is found the great generalization: all life is fermentation. Nobody can discover the chemistry of wine without discovering, as did Louis Pasteur, the cause of much disease. How vivid is the claret, pressing its existence into the consciousness that watches it! If our small minds, for some convenience, divide this glass of wine, this universe, into parts – physics, biology, geology, astronomy, psychology, and so on – remember that nature does not know it! So let us put it all back together, not forgetting ultimately what it is for. Let it give us one more final pleasure: drink it and forget it all! – Richard P. Feynman

Poets say science takes away from the beauty of the stars – mere globs of gas atoms. Nothing is “mere.” I too can see the stars on a desert night, and feel them. But do I see less or more? The vastness of the heavens stretches my imagination – stuck on this carousel my little eye can catch one-million-year-old light. A vast pattern – of which I am a part – perhaps my stuff was belched from some forgotten star, as one is belching there. Or see them with the greater eye of Palomar, rushing all apart from some common starting point when they were perhaps all together. What is the pattern, or the meaning, or the why? It does not do harm to the mystery to know a little about it. For far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the past imagined! Why do the poets of the present not speak of it? What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were like a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent? – Richard P. Feynman

We have a way of discussing the world, when we talk of it at various hierarchies, or levels. Now I do not mean to be very precise, dividing the world into definite levels, but I will indicate, by describing a set of ideas, what I mean by hierarchies of ideas.

For example, at one end we have the fundamental laws of physics. Then we invent other terms for concepts which are approximate, which have, we believe, their ultimate explanation in terms of the fundamental laws. For instance, “heat.” Heat is supposed to be jiggling, and the word for a hot thing is just the word for a mass of atoms which are jiggling. But for a while, if we are talking about heat, we sometimes forget about the atoms jiggling – just as when we talk about the glacier we do not always think of the hexagonal ice and the snowflakes which originally fell. Another example of the same thing is a salt crystal. Looked at fundamentally it is a lot of protons, neutrons, and electrons; but we have this concept of “salt crystal,” which carries a whole pattern already of fundamental interactions. An idea like pressure is the same.

Now if we go higher up from this, in another level we have properties of substances – like “refractive index,” how light is bent when it goes through something; or “surface tension,” the fact that water tends to pull itself together, both of which are described by numbers. I remind you that we have to go through several laws down to find out that it is the pull of the atoms, and so on. But we still say “surface tension,” and do not always worry, when discussing surface tension, about the inner workings.

On, up in the hierarchy. With the water we have waves, and we have a thing like a storm, the word “storm” which represents an enormous mass of phenomena, or a “sun spot,” or “star,” which is an accumulation of things. And it is not worthwhile always to think of it way back. In fact we cannot, because the higher up we go the more steps we have in between, each one of which is a little weak. We have not thought them all through yet.

As we go up in this hierarchy of complexity, we get to things like muscle twitch, or nerve impulse, which is an enormously complicated thing in the physical world, involving an organization of matter in a very elaborate complexity. Then come things like “frog.”

And then we go on, and we come to words and concepts like “man,” and “history,” or “political expediency,” and so forth, a series of concepts which we use to understand things at an ever higher level.

And going on, we come to things like evil, and beauty, and hope…

Which end is nearer to God, if I may use a religious metaphor, beauty and hope, or the fundamental laws? I think that the right way, of course, is to say that what we have to look at is the whole structural interconnection of the thing; and that all the sciences, and not just the sciences but all the efforts of intellectual kinds, are an endeavour to see the connections of the hierarchies, to connect beauty to history, to connect history to man’s psychology, man’s psychology to the working of the brain, the brain to the neural impulse, the neural impulse to the chemistry, and so forth, up and down, both ways. And today we cannot, and it is no use making believe that we can, draw carefully a line all the way from one end of this thing to the other, because we have only just begun to see that there is this relative hierarchy.

And I do not think either end is nearer to God. To stand at either end, and to walk off that end of the pier only, hoping that out in that direction is the complete understanding, is a mistake. And to stand with evil and beauty and hope, or to stand with the fundamental laws, hoping that way to get a deep understanding of the whole world, with that aspect alone, is a mistake. It is not sensible for the ones who specialize at the other end, to have such disregard for each other. (They don’t actually, but people say they do.) The great mass of workers in between, connecting one step to another, are improving all the time our understanding of the world, both from working at the ends and working in the middle, and in that way we are gradually understanding this tremendous world of interconnecting hierarchies. – Richard P. Feynman

Reading makes a full man, meditation a profound man, discourse a clear man. – Benjamin Franklin

You [father] frequently state, and in your letter you imply, that I have developed a completely one-sided outlook, and look at everything and think of everything in terms of science. Obviously my method of thought and reasoning is influenced by a scientific training – if that were not so my scientific training will have been a waste and a failure. But you look at science (or at least talk of it) as some sort of demoralising invention of man, something apart from real life, and which must be cautiously guarded and kept separate from everyday existence. But science and everyday life cannot and should not be separated. Science for me, gives a partial explanation of life. In so far as it goes, it is based on fact, experience and experiment. Your theories are those which you and many other people find easiest and pleasantest to believe, but so far as I can see, they have no foundation other than they lead to a pleasanter view of life (and an exaggerated idea of our own importance)…

I agree that faith is essential to success in life (success of any sort) but I do not accept your definition of faith, i.e. belief in life after death. In my view, all that is necessary for faith is the belief that by doing our best we shall come nearer to success and that success in our aims (the improvement of the lot of mankind, present and future) is worth attaining. Anyone able to believe in all that religion implies obviously must have such faith, but I maintain that faith in this world is perfectly possible without faith in another world…

It has just occurred to me that you may raise the question of a creator. A creator of what?…I see no reason to believe that a creator of protoplasm or primeval matter, if such there be, has any reason to be interested in our insignificant race in a tiny corner of the universe, and still less in us, as still more insignificant individuals. Again, I see no reason why the belief that we are insignificant or fortuitous should lessen our faith – as I have defined it. – Rosalind Franklin

It would be very nice if there were a God who created the world and was a benevolent providence, and if there were a moral order in the universe and an after-life; but it is a very striking fact that all this is exactly as we are bound to wish it to be. – Sigmund Freud

Philosophy is written in this grand book – I mean the universe – which stands continually open to our gaze, but it cannot be understood unless one first learns to comprehend the language and interprets the characters in which it is written. It is written in the language of mathematics, and its characters are triangles, circles, and other geometrical figures, without which it is humanly impossible to understand a single word of it; without these, one is wandering about in a dark labyrinth. – Galileo Galilei

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

I do not feel obliged to believe that same God who endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect had intended for us to forgo their use. – Galileo Galilei

Man and his deed are two distinct things. Whereas a good deed should call forth approbation, and a wicked deed disapprobation, the doer of the deed, whether good or wicked always deserves respect or pity as the case may be. – Mohandas Gandhi

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy? – Mohandas Gandhi

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. – Mohandas Gandhi

Imagine that we are living on an intricately patterned carpet. It may or may not extend to infinity in all directions. Some parts of the pattern appear to be random, like an abstract expressionist painting; other parts are rigidly geometrical. A portion of the carpet may seem totally irregular, but when the same portion is viewed in a larger context, it becomes part of a subtle symmetry.

The task of describing this pattern is made difficult by the fact that the carpet is protected by a thick plastic sheet with a translucence that varies from place to place. In certain places we can see through the sheet and perceive the pattern; in others the sheet is opaque. The plastic sheet also varies in hardness. Here and there we can scrape it down so that the pattern is more clearly visible. In other places the sheet resists all efforts to make it less opaque. Light passing through the sheet is often refracted in bizarre ways, so that as more of the sheet is removed the pattern is radically transformed. Everywhere there is a mysterious mixing of order and disorder. Faint lattices with beautiful symmetries appear to cover the entire rug, but how far they extend is anyone’s guess. No one knows how thick the plastic sheet is. At no place has anyone scraped deep enough to reach the carpet’s surface, if there is one. – Martin Gardner

The divorce between church and state ought to be absolute…It ought to be so absolute that no church property anywhere, in any state, or in any nation, should be exempt from taxation, for if you exempt the church property of any church organization, to that extent you impose tax upon the whole community. – James A. Garfield

To me, what is truly fascinating is that both science and religion express our reverence for nature. Their complementarity is manifest in the essentially religious motivation of many of the scientific heroes of every era. The awe that moved them, and that moves me into being a scientist today, is in essence the same awe that moved the mythmakers of times past. As we, in the silent confines of our offices, address the most fundamental questions about the Universe scientifically, we can hear, under the monotonous humming of our computers, the chants of our ancestors echoing through time, inviting us to sing along. – Marcelo Gleiser

The more I learned about relativity, quantum mechanics, and how they are applied to the study of cosmology, the more I wanted to learn. And as usual, the more you learn, the more you realize how little you know, how limited we are when facing the infinite creative power of nature. Science is a process, it has often been said. I would add that science is an endless process, that we will never reach an end, simply because there is no end. Whenever I hear pronouncements claiming “the end of science,” asserting that all great discoveries that should have been made have already been made, I shudder with disbelief. Can people be so blind to history and to our vast ignorance? Just think of Laplace’s “supermind,” or the state of confidence of many late-nineteenth-century physicists, and how completely wrong and taken aback they were in their illusions. I wonder how much of this confidence of having reached an end is an expression of unrealized dreams and fantasies.

Nature will never cease to surprise and to amaze us. Our theories of today, of which we are justifiably proud, will be child’s play for future generations of scientists. Our models of today will be poor approximations to future models. And yet, the work of future scientists will not be possible without ours, just as ours would not have been possible without Kepler’s or Galileo’s or Newton’s. Science is never completely “right,” scientific theories are never the final truth. They evolve and change, get corrected and more efficient, but are never finished. Strange new phenomena will always defy our imagination, those we weren’t expecting or couldn’t have predicted. We will scramble to understand the new, just as we have ever done. And through this endless pursuit, we will continue to make sense of ourselves and of the world around us, just as we have ever done.

To a smaller or larger extent, we all take part in this adventure; we all share in the rapture of discovery, if not by being directly involved in research, then at least by understanding the ideas of those who expand our human boundaries through their creativity. In this sense, you, me, Heraclitus, Copernicus, and Einstein are all partners in the rhythmic dance of the Universe. It is the persistence of the mysterious that moves us on. – Marcelo Gleiser

He who has science and art has religion. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Science and art belong to the whole world, and the barriers of nationality vanish before them. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The happy do not believe in miracles. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

In all things it is better to hope than to despair. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

…I have found a way to defeat the nihilism that lurks in the infinite and the infinitesimal. I have come to understand that I can deflect the apparent pointlessness of it all be realizing that I don’t have to seek a point. In any of it. Instead, I can see it as the locus of Mystery: the Mystery of why there is anything at all, rather than nothing; the Mystery of where the laws of physics came from; the Mystery of why the universe seems so strange.

Mystery. Inherently pointless, inherently shrouded in it own absence of category. The clouds passing across the face of the deity in the stained-glass images of Heaven.

The word God is often used to name this mystery. A concept known as Deism proposes that God created the universe, orchestrating the Big Bang so as to author its laws, and then stepped back and allowed things to pursue their own course. For me, Deism doesn’t work because I find in the end that I can only think of a creator in human terms, and the concept of a human-like creator of muons and neutrinos has no meaning for me. But more profoundly, Deism spoils my Covenant with Mystery. To assign attributes to Mystery is to disenchant it, to take away its luminance.

I think of the ancients ascribing thunder and lightning to godly feuds, and I smile. The need for explanation pulsates in us all. Early humans, bursting with questions about Nature but with limited understanding of its dynamics, explained things in terms of supernatural persons and person-animals who delivered the droughts and floods and plagues, took the dead, and punished or forgave the wicked. Explanations taking the form of unseen persons were our only option when persons were the only thing we felt we understood. Now, with our understanding of Nature arguably better than our understanding of persons, Nature can take its place as a strange but wondrous given.

The realization that I needn’t have answers to the Big Questions, needn’t seek answers to the Big Questions, has served as an epiphany. I lie on my back under the stars and the unseen galaxies and I let their enormity wash over me. I assimilate the vastness of the distances, the impermanence, the fact of it all. I go all the way out and then I go all the way down, to the fact of photons without mass and gauge bosons that become massless at high temperatures. I take in the abstractions about forces and symmetries and they caress me, like Gregorian chants, the meaning of the words not mattering because the words are so haunting.

Mystery generates wonder, and wonder generates awe. The gasp can terrify or the gasp can emancipate. As I allow myself to experience cosmic and quantum Mystery, I join the saints and visionaries in their experience of what they called the Divine, and then I wander back 26 centuries to embrace Lao Tzu and the first chapter of the Tao Te Ching: The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name. The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth. The named is the mother of ten thousand things. Ever desireless, one can see the mystery. Ever desiring, one sees the manifestations. These two spring from the same source but differ in name; this appears as darkness. Darkness within darkness. The gate to all mystery. – Ursula Goodenough

Evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world’s data. Theories are structures of ideas which explain and interpret facts. Facts do not go away while scientists debate rival theories for explaining them. Einstein’s theory of gravitation replaced Newton’s, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air pending the outcome. And human beings evolved from apelike ancestors whether they did so by Darwin’s proposed mechanism or by some other, yet to be discovered. – Stephen Jay Gould

A man does not attain the status of Galileo merely because he is persecuted; he must also be right. – Stephen Jay Gould

Science is an integral part of culture. It’s not this foreign thing, done by an arcane priesthood. It’s one of the glories of the human intellectual tradition. – Stephen Jay Gould

Charles Ives helped many folks by selling insurance, and Isaac Newton must have figured out a thing or two by analyzing the prophetic texts of Daniel, Ezekiel, and Revelation – but, all in all, a little more music or mathematics might have conferred a greater benefit upon humanity. – Stephen Jay Gould

No more harmful nonsense exists than this common supposition that deepest insight into great questions about the meaning of life or the structure of reality emerges most readily when a free, undisciplined, and uncluttered (read, rather, ignorant and uneducated) mind soars above mere earthly knowledge and concern. – Stephen Jay Gould

Aesthetic and moral truths, as human concepts, must be shaped in human terms, not “discovered” in nature. We must formulate these answers for ourselves and then approach nature as a partner who can answer other kinds of questions for us – questions about the factual nature of the universe, not about the meaning of human life. – Stephen Jay Gould

The improvement of knowledge cannot guarantee a corresponding growth of moral understanding and compassion. – Stephen Jay Gould

Fundamentalism is rigorously and systematically used to indoctrinate and subjugate young minds. It is a contraceptive designed to prevent intellectual fertilization. – Stephen Jay Gould

Nothing is more dangerous than a dogmatic worldview – nothing more constraining, more blinding to innovation, more destructive of openness to novelty. – Stephen Jay Gould

When people learn no tools of judgment and merely follow their hopes, the seeds of political manipulation are sown. – Stephen Jay Gould

Evolution is as well documented as any phenomenon in science, as firmly supported as the earth’s revolution around the sun rather than vice versa. In this sense, we can call evolution a “fact.” (Science does not deal in certainty, so “fact” can only mean a proposition affirmed to such a high degree that it would be perverse to withhold one’s provisional assent.) – Stephen Jay Gould

Evolution liberates the human spirit. Factual nature cannot, in principle, answer the deep questions about ethics and meaning that all people of substance and valor must resolve for themselves. When we stop demanding more than nature can logically provide (thereby freeing ourselves for genuine dialogue with the outside world, rather than clothing nature with false projections of our needs), we liberate ourselves to look within. Science can then forge true partnerships with philosophy, religion, and the arts and humanities, for each must supply a patch in that ultimate coat of many colors, the garment called wisdom. – Stephen Jay Gould

For sheer excitement, evolution, as an empirical reality, beats any myth of human origins by light-years. A genealogical nexus stretching back nearly 4 billion years and now ranging from bacteria in rocks several miles under Earth’s surface to the tip of the highest redwood tree, to human footprints on the moon. Can any tale of Zeus or Wotan top this? When truth value and visceral thrill thus combine, then indeed, as Darwin stated in closing his great book, “there is grandeur in this view of life.” Let us praise this evolutionary nexus – a far more stately mansion for the human soul than any pretty or parochial comfort ever conjured by our swollen neurology to obscure the source of our physical being, or to deny the natural substrate for our separate and complementary spiritual quest. – Stephen Jay Gould

Only two possible escapes can save us from the organized mayhem of our dark potentialities – the side that has given us crusades, witch hunts, enslavements, and holocausts. Moral decency provides one necessary ingredient, but not nearly enough. The second foundation must come from the rational side of our mentality. For, unless we rigorously use human reason both to discover and acknowledge nature’s factuality, and to follow the logical implications for efficacious human action that such knowledge entails, we will lose out to the frightening forces of irrationality, romanticism, uncompromising “true” belief, and the apparent resulting inevitability of mob action. Reason is not only a large part of our essence; reason is also our potential salvation from the vicious and precipitous mass action that rule by emotionalism always seems to entail. Skepticism is the agent of reason against organized irrationalism – and is therefore one of the keys to human social and civic decency. – Stephen Jay Gould

The difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind. – Stephen Jay Gould

Look in the mirror, and don’t be tempted to equate transient domination with either intrinsic superiority or prospects for extended survival. – Stephen Jay Gould

Objectivity cannot be equated with mental blankness; rather, objectivity resides in recognizing your preferences and then subjecting them to especially harsh scrutiny – and also in a willingness to revise or abandon your theories when the tests fail (as they usually do). – Stephen Jay Gould

Our understanding of nature must always reflect a subtle interaction between messages from genuine phenomena truly “out there” in the real world and the necessary filtering of such data through all the foibles and ordering devices internal to the human mind in its evolved modes of action. – Stephen Jay Gould

Always suspect fashion (especially when the moment’s custom matches your personal predilection); always cherish fact (while remembering that an apparent jewel of pure and objective information may only record the biased vision of transient fashion). – Stephen Jay Gould

I can imagine no nobler rule of morality than this single phrase, which every human being should engrave into heart and mind: primum non nocere – above all, do no harm. – Stephen Jay Gould

Good and kind people outnumber all others by thousands to one. The tragedy of human history lies in the enormous potential for destruction in rare acts of evil, not in the high frequency of evil people. Complex systems can only be built step by step, whereas destruction requires but an instant. Thus, in what I like to call the Great Asymmetry, every spectacular incident of evil will be balanced by 10,000 acts of kindness, too often unnoted and invisible as the “ordinary” efforts of a vast majority. – Stephen Jay Gould

The etymology of religion may refer to “tying together,” but the actual experience, given the propensities of Homo sapiens, the earth’s most various and curmudgeonly species, tends more often to separation and anathematization. – Stephen Jay Gould

I most emphatically do not argue that ethical people must validate their standards by overt appeals to religion – for we give several names to the moral discourse of this necessary magisterium, and we all know that atheists can live in the most firmly principled manner, while hypocrites can wrap themselves in any flag, including (most prominently) the banners of God and country. – Stephen Jay Gould

While every person must formulate a moral theory under the magisterium of ethics and meaning, and while religion anchors this magisterium in most cultural traditions, the chosen pathway need not invoke religion at all, but may ground moral discourse in other disciplines, philosophy for example. – Stephen Jay Gould

There are no shortcuts to moral insight. Nature is not intrinsically anything that can offer comfort or solace in human terms – if only because our species is such an insignificant latecomer in a world not constructed for us. So much the better. The answers to moral dilemmas are not lying out there, waiting to be discovered. They reside, like the kingdom of God, within us – the most difficult and inaccessible spot for any discovery or consensus. – Stephen Jay Gould

The only universal attribute of scientific statements resides in their potential fallibility. If a claim cannot be disproven, it does not belong to the enterprise of science. – Stephen Jay Gould

Theory and fact are equally strong and utterly interdependent; one has no meaning without the other. – Stephen Jay Gould

Honorable errors do not count as failures in science, but as seeds for progress in the quintessential activity of correction. – Stephen Jay Gould

The most important scientific revolutions all include, as their only common feature, the dethronement of human arrogance from one pedestal after another of previous convictions about our centrality in the cosmos. – Stephen Jay Gould

Skepticism’s bad rap arises from the impression that, however necessary the activity, it can only be regarded as a negative removal of false claims. Not so…Proper debunking is done in the interest of an alternate model of explanation, not as a nihilistic exercise. The alternate model is rationality itself, tied to moral decency – the most powerful joint instrument for good that our planet has ever known. – Stephen Jay Gould

It seems the height of antiquated hubris to claim that the universe carried on as it did for billions of years in order to form a comfortable abode for us. Chance and historical contingency give the world of life most of its glory and fascination. – Stephen Jay Gould

Humans are not the end result of predictable evolutionary progress, but rather a fortuitous cosmic afterthought, a tiny little twig on the enormously arborescent bush of life, which if replanted from seed, would almost surely not grow this twig again. – Stephen Jay Gould

I sit here happy to be alive and sure that some reason must exist for ‘why me?’ Or the earth might have been totally covered with water, and an octopus might now be telling its children why the eight-legged God of all things had made such a perfect world for cephalopods. Sure we fit. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t. But the world wasn’t made for us and it will endure without us. – Stephen Jay Gould

The true beauty of nature is her amplitude; she exists neither for nor because of us, and possesses a staying power that all our nuclear arsenals cannot threaten (much as we can easily destroy our puny selves). – Stephen Jay Gould

Human consciousness arose but a minute before midnight on the geological clock. Yet we mayflies try to bend an ancient world to our purposes, ignorant perhaps of the messages buried in its long history. Let us hope that we are still in the early morning of our April day. – Stephen Jay Gould

We are here because one odd group of fishes had a peculiar fin anatomy that could transform into legs for terrestrial creatures; because the earth never froze entirely during an ice age; because a small and tenuous species, arising in Africa a quarter of a million years ago, has managed, so far, to survive by hook and by crook. We may yearn for a higher answer – but none exists. – Stephen Jay Gould

We are the offspring of history, and must establish our own paths in this most diverse and interesting of conceivable universes – one indifferent to our suffering, and therefore offering us maximal freedom to thrive, or to fail, in our own chosen way. – Stephen Jay Gould

A person who wants clean, definitive, global answers to the problems of life must search elsewhere, not in nature. In fact, I rather doubt that an honest search will reveal such answers anywhere…I will rejoice in the multifariousness of nature and leave the chimera of certainty to politicians and preachers. – Stephen Jay Gould

Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church, and the private schools, supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the state and church forever separated. – Ulysses S. Grant

Religious belief is supposed to be, not tentative or hedged, but a profound, and profoundly personal, commitment. To disbelieve, or to believe wrongly, is sinful, and faith, i.e., commitment in the absence of compelling evidence, often conceived as a virtue…By contrast, although in their professional capacity scientists accept many propositions as true – some of them very confidently and firmly, and not a few pretty dogmatically – faith, in the religious sense, is alien to the scientific enterprise…As I see it, religion and science really are profoundly at odds on all the dimensions I have distinguished; and science really is, on all those dimensions, far and away the more admirable enterprise. – Susan Haack

The modern man who “has science and art” – and therefore religion – needs no special church, no narrow, enclosed portion of space…his church is commensurate with the whole of glorious nature. – Ernst Haeckel

Monism teaches us that we are perishable children of the earth, who for one or two or at the most three generations have the good fortune to enjoy the treasures of our planet, to drink of the inexhaustible fountain of its beauty, and to trace out the marvelous play of its forces. – Ernst Haeckel

On the one side spiritual freedom and truth, reason and culture, evolution and progress stand under the bright banner of science; on the other side, under the black flag of hierarchy, stand spiritual slavery and falsehood, irrationality and barbarism, superstition and retrogression. – Ernst Haeckal

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. – J. B. S. Haldane

Scientific education and religious education are incompatible. The clergy have ceased to interfere with education at the advanced state, with which I am directly concerned, but they have still got control of that of children. This means that the children have to learn about Adam and Noah instead of about Evolution; about David who killed Goliath, instead of Koch who killed cholera; about Christ’s ascent into heaven instead of Montgolfier’s and Wright’s. Worse than that, they are taught that it is a virtue to accept statements without adequate evidence, which leaves them a prey to quacks of every kind in later life, and makes it very difficult for them to accept the methods of thought which are successful in science. – J. B. S. Haldane

My practice as a scientist is atheistic. That is to say, when I set up an experiment I assume that no god, angel, or devil is going to interfere with its course; and this assumption has been justified by such success as I have achieved in my professional career. I should therefore be intellectually dishonest if I were not also atheistic in the affairs of the world. And I should be a coward if I did not state my theoretical views in public. – J. B. S. Haldane

Our only hope of understanding the universe is to look at it from as many different points of view as is possible. This is one of the reasons why the data of the mystical consciousness can usefully supplement those of the mind in its normal state. Now, my own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose. I have read and heard many attempts at a systematic account of it, from materialism and theosophy to the Christian system or that of Kant, and I have always felt that they were much too simple. I suspect that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of, or can be dreamed of, in any philosophy. That is the reason why I have no philosophy myself and must be my excuse for dreaming. – J. B. S. Haldane

I believe that the scientist is trying to express absolute truth and the artist absolute beauty, so that I find in science and art, and in an attempt to lead a good life, all the religion I want. – J. B. S. Haldane

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. – Evelyn Beatrice Hall (paraphrasing Voltaire)

God does not die on that day when we cease to believe in a personal deity, but we die when our lives cease to be illuminated by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reasoning. – Dag Hammarskjold

A scientific theory is just a mathematical model we make to describe our observations. It exists only in our minds. So it does not have any meaning to ask: Which is real, “real” or “imaginary” time? It is simply a matter of which is a more useful description. – Stephen W. Hawking

If the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would be neither created nor destroyed. It would simply be. What place, then, for a creator? – Stephen W. Hawking

If one liked, one could ascribe this randomness [quantum uncertainty] to the intervention of God. But it would be a very strange kind of intervention. There is no evidence that it is directed toward any purpose. Indeed, if it were, it wouldn’t be random. – Stephen W. Hawking

My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all. – Stephen W. Hawking

To survive as a human being is possible only through love. And when Thanatos is ascendant, the instinct must be to reach out to those we love, to see in them all the divinity, pity and pathos of the human. And to recognize love in the lives of others – even those with whom we are in conflict – love that is like our own. It does not mean we will avoid war or death. It does not mean that we as distinct individuals will survive. But love, in its mystery, has its own power. It alone gives us meaning that endures. It alone allows us to embrace and cherish life. Love has the power both to resist in our nature what we know we must resist, and to affirm what we know we must affirm. And love, as the poets remind us, is eternal. – Chris Hedges

Let us not make aimless conjectures about the most important things. – Heraclitus

If you do not expect the unexpected, you will not find it, for it is trackless and unexplored. – Heraclitus

This cosmos, the same for all, was not made by gods or men, but always was and is and ever shall be ever-living fire, igniting in measures and extinguishing in measures. – Heraclitus

No-one can step twice into the same river, nor touch mortal substance twice in the same condition. – Heraclitus

It is easier to love humanity as a whole than to love one’s neighbor. – Eric Hoffer

In a word, whoever will deign to consult common sense upon religious opinions, and will bestow on this inquiry the attention that is commonly given to any objects we presume interesting will easily perceive that those opinions have no foundation; that religion is a mere castle in the air. Theology is but the ignorance of natural causes reduced to a system; a long tissue of fallacies and contradictions. – Baron d’Holbach

Man always deceives himself when he abandons experience to follow imaginary systems. He is the work of Nature. He exists in Nature. He is submitted to her laws. He cannot deliver himself from them. He cannot step beyond them even in thought. – Baron d’Holbach

We should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe. – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Rough work, iconoclasm, but the only way to get at truth. – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence. – David Hume

No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavours to establish. – David Hume

There is not to be found, in all history, any miracle attested by a sufficient number of men, of such unquestioned good sense, education and learning, as to secure us against all delusion in themselves – David Hume

The many instances of forged miracles, and prophecies, and supernatural events, which, in all ages, have either been detected by contrary evidence, or which detect themselves by their absurdity, prove sufficiently the strong propensity of mankind to the extraordinary and marvellous, and ought reasonably to begat a suspicion against all relations of this kind. – David Hume

The Christian religion not only was at first attended with miracles, but even at this day cannot be believed by any reasonable person without one. – David Hume

The weakness of the body and that of the mind in infancy are exactly proportioned; their vigour in manhood, their sympathetic disorder in sickness, their common gradual decay in old age. The step further seems unavoidable; their common dissolution in death. – David Hume

Generally speaking, the errors in religion are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous. – David Hume

Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. – Aldous Huxley

Operationally, God is beginning to resemble not a ruler but the last fading smile of a cosmic Cheshire cat. – Julian Huxley

God, in any but a purely philosophical, and one is almost tempted to say Pickwickian sense, turns out to be a product of the human mind. As an independent or unitary being active in the affairs of the universe, he does not exist. – Julian Huxley

The sense of spiritual relief which comes from rejecting the idea of God as a supernatural being is enormous. – Julian Huxley

The primary purpose of a liberal education is to make one’s mind a pleasant place in which to spend one’s time. – T. H. Huxley

Try to learn something about everything, and everything about something. – T. H. Huxley

The known is finite, the unknown infinite; intellectually we stand on an islet in the midst of an illimitable ocean of inexplicability. Our business in every generation is to reclaim a little more land. – T. H. Huxley

Science is nothing but trained and organized common sense, differing from the later only as a veteran may differ from a raw recruit: and its methods differ from those of common sense only as far as the guardsman’s cut and thrust differ from the manner in which a savage wields his club. – T. H. Huxley

Every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority. – T. H. Huxley

Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abyss nature leads, or you shall learn nothing. – T. H. Huxley

Irrationally held truths may be more harmful than reasoned errors. – T. H. Huxley

The improver of natural knowledge absolutely refuses to acknowledge authority, as such. For him, skepticism is the highest of duties, blind faith the one unpardonable sin. – T. H. Huxley

When I reached intellectual maturity and began to ask myself whether I was an atheist, a theist, or a pantheist; a materialist or an idealist; a Christian or a freethinker – I found that the more I learned and reflected, the less ready was the answer; until, at last, I came to the conclusion that I had neither art nor part with any of these denominations, except the last. The one thing in which most of these good people were agreed was the one thing in which I differed from them. They were quite sure they had attained a certain gnosis – had, more or less successfully, solved the problem of existence; while I was quite sure I had not, and had a pretty strong conviction that the problem was insoluble. And, with Hume and Kant on my side, I could not think myself presumptuous in holding fast by that opinion. Like Dante –

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita [In the midway of this our mortal life]

Mi ritrovai per una selva oscura, [I found me in a gloomy wood astray.] but, unlike Dante, I can not add –

Che la diritta via era smarrita. [Gone from the path direct.]

On the contrary, I had, and have, the firmest conviction that I never left the verace via – the straight road; and that this road led nowhere else but into the dark depths of a wild and tangled forest. And though I have found leopards and lions in the path; though I have made abundant acquaintance with the hungry wolf, that with “privy paw devours apace and nothing said,” as another great poet says of the ravening beast; and though no friendly specter has even yet offered his guidance, I was, and am, minded to go straight on, until I either come out on the other side of the wood, or find there is no other side to it – at least, none attainable by me. – T. H. Huxley

Agnosticism, in fact, is not a creed, but a method, the essence of which lies in the rigorous application of a single principle. That principle is of great antiquity; it is as old as Socrates; as old as the writer who said, “Try all things, hold fast by that which is good”; it is the foundation of the Reformation, which simply illustrated the axiom that every man should be able to give a reason for the faith that is in him, it is the great principle of Descartes; it is the fundamental axiom of modern science. Positively the principle may be expressed: In matters of the intellect, follow your reason as far as it will take you, without regard to any other consideration. And negatively: In matters of the intellect, do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable. That I take to be the agnostic faith, which if a man keep whole and undefiled, he shall not be ashamed to look the universe in the face, whatever the future may have in store for him. – T. H. Huxley

I have never had the least sympathy with the a priori reasons against orthodoxy, and I have by nature and disposition the greatest possible antipathy to all the atheistic and infidel school. Nevertheless I know that I am, in spite of myself, exactly what the Christian would call, and, so far as I can see, is justified in calling, atheist and infidel. – T. H. Huxley

The world is my country, science my religion. – Christiaan Huygens

Money may be the husk of many things but not the kernel. It brings you food, but not appetite; medicine, but not health; acquaintance, but not friends; servants, but not loyalty; days of joy, but not peace or happiness. – Henrik Ibsen

In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments; there are consequences. – Robert G. Ingersoll

The hands that help are better far than the lips that pray. – Robert G. Ingersoll

To love justice, to long for the right, to love mercy, to pity the suffering, to assist the weak, to forget wrongs and remember benefits – to love the truth, to be sincere, to utter honest words, to love liberty, to wage relentless war against slavery in all its forms, to love wife and child and friend, to make a happy home, to love the beautiful in art, in nature, to cultivate the mind, to be familiar with the mighty thoughts that genius has expressed, the noble deeds of all the world, to cultivate courage and cheerfulness, to make others happy, to fill life with the splendor of generous acts, the warmth of loving words, to discard error, to destroy prejudice, to receive new truths with gladness, to cultivate hope, to see the calm beyond the storm, the dawn beyond the night, to do the best that can be done and then to be resigned – this is the religion of reason, the creed of science. This satisfies the brain and heart. – Robert G. Ingersoll

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.

And then my heart was filled with gratitude, with thankfulness, and went out in love to all the heroes, the thinkers who gave their lives for the liberty of hand and brain – for the freedom of labor and thought – to those who fell on the fierce fields of war, to those who died in dungeons bound with chains – to those who proudly mounted scaffold’s stairs – to those whose bones were crushed, whose flesh was scarred and torn – to those by fire consumed – to all the wise, the good, the brave of every land, whose thoughts and deeds have given freedom to the sons of men. And then I vowed to grasp the torch that they had held, and hold it high, that light might conquer darkness still.

Let us be true to ourselves – true to the facts we know, and let us, above all things, preserve the veracity of our souls.

If there be gods we cannot help them, but we can assist our fellow-men. We cannot love the inconceivable, but we can love wife and child and friend.

We can be as honest as we are ignorant. If we are, when asked what is beyond the horizon of the known, we must say that we do not know. We can tell the truth, and we can enjoy the blessed freedom that the brave have won. We can destroy the monsters of superstition, the hissing snakes of ignorance and fear. We can drive from our minds the frightful things that tear and wound with beak and fang. We can civilize our fellow-men. We can fill our lives with generous deeds, with loving words, with art and song, and all the ecstasies of love. We can flood our years with sunshine – with the divine climate of kindness, and we can drain to the last drop the golden cup of joy. – Robert G. Ingersoll

Religion can never reform mankind, because religion is slavery. It is far better to be free, to leave the forts and barricades of fear, to stand erect and face the future with a smile. It is far better to give yourself sometimes to negligence, to drift with wave and tide, with the blind force of the world, to think and dream, to forget the chains and limitations of the breathing life, to forget purpose and object, to lounge in the picture-gallery of the brain, to feel once more the clasps and kisses of the past, to bring life’s morning back, to see again the forms and faces of the dead, to paint fair pictures for the coming years, to forget all Gods, their promises and threats, to feel within your veins life’s joyous stream and hear the martial music, the rhythmic beating of your fearless heart. And then to rouse yourself to do all useful things, to reach with thought and deed the ideal in your brain, to give your fancies wing, that they, like chemist bees, may find art’s nectar in the weeds of common things, to look with trained and steady eyes for facts, to find the subtle threads that join the distant with the now, to increase knowledge, to take burdens from the weak, to develop the brain, to defend the right, to make a palace for the soul. This is real religion. This is real worship. – Robert G. Ingersoll

If abuses are destroyed, man must destroy them. If slaves are freed, man must free them. If new truths are discovered, man must discover them. If the naked are clothed; if the hungry are fed; if justice is done; if labor is rewarded; if superstition is driven from the mind; if the defenseless are protected and if the right finally triumphs, all must be the work of man. The grand victories of the future must be won by man, and by man alone. – Robert G. Ingersoll

I will not attack your doctrines nor your creeds if they accord liberty to me. If they hold thought to be dangerous – if they aver that doubt is a crime, then I attack them one and all, because they enslave the minds of men. – Robert G. Ingersoll

For thousands of years men have been writing the real Bible, and it is being written from day to day, and it will never be finished while man has life. All the facts that we know, all the truly recorded events, all the discoveries and inventions, all the wonderful machines whose wheels and levers seem to think, all the poems, crystals from the brain, flowers from the heart, all the songs of love and joy, of smiles and tears, the great dramas of Imagination’s world, the wondrous paintings, miracles of form and color, of light and shade, the marvelous marbles that seem to live and breathe, the secrets told by rock and star, by dust and flower, by rain and snow, by frost and flame, by winding stream and desert sand, by mountain range and billowed sea.

All the wisdom that lengthens and ennobles life, all that avoids or cures disease, or conquers pain – all just and perfect laws and rules that guide and shape our lives, all thoughts that feed the flames of love, the music that transfigures, enraptures and enthralls the victories of heart and brain, the miracles that hands have wrought, the deft and cunning hands of those who worked for wife and child, the histories of noble deeds, of brave and useful men, of faithful loving wives, of quenchless mother-love, of conflicts for the right, of sufferings for the truth, of all the best that all the men and women of the world have said, and thought and done through all the years.

These treasures of the heart and brain – these are the Sacred Scriptures of the human race. – Robert G. Ingersoll

Love is the only bow on Life’s dark cloud. It is the morning and the evening star. It shines upon the babe, and sheds its radiance on the quiet tomb. It is the mother of art, inspirer of poet, patriot and philosopher. It is the air and light of every heart – builder of every home, kindler of every fire on every hearth. It was the first to dream of immortality. It fills the world with melody – for music is the voice of love. Love is the magician, the enchanter, that changes worthless things to Joy, and makes royal kings and queens of common clay. It is the perfume of that wondrous flower, the heart, and without that sacred passion, that divine swoon, we are less than beasts; but with it, earth is heaven, and we are gods. – Robert G. Ingersoll

The doctrine that future happiness depends upon belief is monstrous. It is the infamy of infamies. The notion that faith in Christ is to be rewarded by an eternity of bliss, while a dependence upon reason, observation and experience merits everlasting pain, is too absurd for refutation, and can be relieved only by that unhappy mixture of insanity and ignorance, called “faith.” – Robert G. Ingersoll

It is contended by many that ours is a Christian government, founded upon the Bible, and that all who look upon that book as false or foolish are destroying the foundation of our country. The truth is, our government is not founded upon the rights of gods, but upon the rights of men. Our Constitution was framed, not to declare and uphold the deity of Christ, but the sacredness of humanity. Ours is the first government made by the people for the people. It is the only nation with which the gods have nothing to do. And yet there are some judges dishonest and cowardly enough to solemnly decide that this is a Christian country, and that our free institutions are based upon the infamous laws of Jehovah. – Robert G. Ingersoll

Give me the storm and tempest of thought and action, rather than the dead calm of ignorance and faith! Banish me from Eden when you will; but first let me eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge! – Robert G. Ingersoll

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us. – Robert Jackson

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

Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual. – Thomas Jefferson

In every government on earth is some trace of human weakness, some germ of corruption and degeneracy, which cunning will discover and wickedness insensibly open, cultivate and improve. Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves therefore are its only safe depositories. And to render even them safe, their minds must be improved. – Thomas Jefferson

I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. – Thomas Jefferson

We are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it. – Thomas Jefferson

Difference of opinion leads to enquiry, and enquiry to truth. – Thomas Jefferson

It is always better to have no ideas than false ones; to believe nothing, than to believe what is wrong. – Thomas Jefferson

Man once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against the most monstrous absurdities, and like a ship without a rudder is the sport of every wind. With such persons, gullibility, which they call faith, takes the helm from the hand of reason, and the mind becomes a wreck. – Thomas Jefferson

Religion – Your [a nephew’s] reason is now mature enough to examine this object. In the first place, divest yourself of all bias in favor of novelty & singularity of opinion. Indulge them in any other subject rather than that of religion. It is too important, and the consequences of error may be too serious. On the other hand, shake off all the fears & servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear…

Do not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of its consequences. If it ends in a belief that there is no God, you will find incitements to virtue in the comfort and pleasantness you feel in its exercise, and the love of others which it will procure you. If you find reason to believe there is a God, a consciousness that you are acting under his eye, & that he approves you, will be a vast additional incitement; if that there be a future state, the hope of a happy existence in that increases the appetite to deserve it; if that Jesus was also a God, you will be comforted by a belief of his aid and love. In fine, I repeat, you must lay aside all prejudice on both sides, and neither believe nor reject anything, because any other persons, or description of persons, have rejected or believed it. Your own reason is the only oracle given you by heaven, and you are answerable, not for the rightness, but uprightness of the decision… – Thomas Jefferson

If we did a good act merely from the love of God and a belief that it is pleasing to Him, whence arises the morality of the Atheist? It is idle to say, as some do, that no such being exists. We have the same evidence of the fact as of most of those we act on, to-wit: their own affirmations, and their reasonings in support of them. I have observed, indeed, generally, that while in protestant countries the defections from the Platonic Christianity of the priests is to Deism, in catholic countries they are to Atheism. Diderot, D’Alembert, D’Holbach, Condorcet, are known to have been among the most virtuous of men. Their virtue, then, must have had some other foundation than the love of God. – Thomas Jefferson

Reading, reflection and time have convinced me that the interests of society require the observation of those moral precepts only in which all religions agree (for all forbid us to steal, murder, plunder, or bear false witness), and that we should not intermeddle with the particular dogmas in which all religions differ, and which are totally unconnected with morality. In all of them we see good men, and as many in one as another. – Thomas Jefferson

It is not to be understood that I am with him [Jesus] in all his doctrines. I am a Materialist; he takes the side of Spiritualism; he preaches the efficacy of repentance toward forgiveness of sin; I require a counterpoise of good works to redeem it. Among the sayings and discourses imputed to him by his biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence; and others, again, of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same being. I separate, therefore, the gold from the dross; restore him to the former, and leave the latter to the stupidity of some, the roguery of others of his disciples. Of this band of dupes and imposters, Paul was the great Coryphaeus, and the first corruptor of the doctrines of Jesus. – Thomas Jefferson

It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others; or their case may, by change of circumstances, become his own. – Thomas Jefferson

The returning good sense of our country threatens abortion to their [the clergy’s] hopes [of an established church], and they believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of god, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. – Thomas Jefferson

Believing with you [the Danbury Baptist Association] that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties. – Thomas Jefferson

I never told my own religion, nor scrutinized that of another. I never attempted to make a convert, nor wished to change another’s creed. I have ever judged of the religion of others by their lives…For it is in our lives, and not from our words, that our religion must be read. – Thomas Jefferson

I never will, by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance, or admit a right of enquiry into the religious opinions of others. On the contrary, we are bound, you, I, and every one, to make common cause even with error itself, to maintain the common right of freedom of conscience. – Thomas Jefferson

The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. – Thomas Jefferson

Reason and free enquiry are the only effectual agents against error. Give a loose to them, they will support the true religion, by bringing every false one to their tribunal, to the test of their investigation. They are the natural enemies of error, and of error only. Had not the Roman government permitted free enquiry, Christianity could never have been introduced. Had not free enquiry been indulged, at the era of the reformation, the corruptions of Christianity could not have been purged away. – Thomas Jefferson

It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself. Subject opinion to coercion: whom will you make your inquisitors? Fallible men; men governed by bad passions, by private as well as public reasons. And why subject it to coercion? To produce uniformity. But is uniformity of opinion desirable? No more than of face and stature. Introduce the bed of Procrustes then, and as there is danger that the large men may beat the small, make us all of a size, by lopping the former and stretching the latter. Difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of a Censor morum over each other. Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth. – Thomas Jefferson

We have seen the highest circle of spiraling powers. We have named this circle God. We might have given it any other name we wished: Abyss, Mystery, Absolute Darkness, Absolute Light, Matter, Spirit, Ultimate Hope, Ultimate Despair, Silence. But we have named it God because only this name, for primordial reasons, can stir our hearts profoundly. And this deeply felt emotion is indispensable if we are to touch, body with body, the dread essence beyond logic…I do not care what face other ages and other people have given to the enormous, faceless essence. They have crammed it with human virtues, with rewards and punishments, with certainties. They have given a face to their hopes and fears, they have submitted their anarchy to a rhythm, they have found a higher justification by which to live and labor. They have fulfilled their duty. But today we have gone beyond these needs; we have shattered this particular mask of the Abyss; our God no longer fits under the old features. Our hearts have overbrimmed with new agonies, with new luster and silence. The mystery has grown savage, and God has grown greater. The dark powers ascend, for they have also grown greater, and the entire human island quakes. Let us stoop down to our hearts and confront the Abyss valiantly. Let us try to mold once more, with our flesh and blood, the new, contemporary face of God. – Nikos Kazantzakis

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute – where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote – where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference – and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him. – John F. Kennedy

There are times, such as when the state school board in Kansas in 1999 removed evolution from its science curriculum, when I am reminded of Lavoisier, and shudder at the damage that can be done by ignorance combined with power. Even the magnificent modern edifice called science, built up over half a millennium of small increments toward the truth, is not safe from the vicissitudes of the political world. If, as Carl Sagan claimed, science is a “candle in the dark,” banishing demons that haunted the benighted eras of mankind, it burns tenuously at best. One generation of ignorance, steeped in myth and mysticism, all that may be needed to snuff it out. – Lawrence M. Krauss

I am a devout atheist – nothing else makes any sense to me and I must admit to being bewildered by those, who in the face of what appears so obvious, still believe in a mystical creator. – Harold Kroto

If the liberties of the American people are ever destroyed, they will fall by the hands of the clergy. – Marquis de Lafayette

To think that science and poetry are two disciplines that are properly divorced from each other is to lose sight of what each is about and what their common goal is. In their highest forms, both are avenues of inquiry into the human condition and its relationship to the Universe. Knowing what that Universe is and how it is structured is fundamental to each. – David H. Levy

The establishment clause separates government and religion so that we can maintain civility between believers and unbelievers as well as among the several hundred denominations, sects, and cults that thrive in our nation, all sharing the commitment to liberty and equality that cements us together. – Leonard W. Levy

Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them? – Abraham Lincoln

My earlier views at the unsoundness of the Christian scheme of salvation and the human origin of the scriptures, have become clearer and stronger with advancing years and I see no reason for thinking I shall ever change them. – Abraham Lincoln

It is of great use in the pursuit of knowledge not to be too confident, nor too distrustful of our own judgment, nor to believe we can comprehend all things or nothing. He that distrusts his own judgment in every thing, and thinks his understanding not to be relied on in the search of truth, cuts off his own legs that he may be carried up and down by others, and makes himself a ridiculous dependant upon the knowledge of others, which can possibly be of no use to him…On the other side, he that thinks his understanding capable of all things, mounts upon wings of his own fancy, though indeed Nature never meant him any, and so venturing into the vast expanse of incomprehensible verities, only makes good the fable of Icarus, and loses himself in the abyss. We are here in the state of mediocrity; finite creatures, furnished with powers and faculties very well fitted to some purposes, but very disproportionate to the vast and unlimited extent of things… – John Locke

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 festschrift, around 1980) where someone quoted Shakespeare’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 powers in charge keep us in a perpetual state of fear, keep us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by furnishing the exorbitant sums demanded. Yet, in retrospect, these disasters seem never to have happened, seem never to have been quite real. – Douglas MacArthur

The danger of silent accumulations and encroachments by ecclesiastical bodies have not sufficiently engaged attention in the United States. – James Madison

The establishment of the chaplainship to Congress is a palpable violation of equal rights, as well as of constitutional principles. – James Madison

During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution. – James Madison

Science would be ruined if (like sports) it were to put competition above everything else, and if it were to clarify the rules of competition by withdrawing entirely into narrowly defined specialties. The rare scholars who are nomads-by-choice are essential to the intellectual welfare of the settled disciplines. – Benoit Mandelbrot

If the First Amendment means anything, it means that a state has no business telling a man, sitting alone in his house, what books he may read or what films he may watch. – Thurgood Marshall

It is a universal condition of the enjoyable that the mind must believe in the existence of a law, and yet have a mystery to move about in. – James Clerk Maxwell

The history of science knows scores of instances where an investigator was in the possession of all the important facts for a new theory but simply failed to ask the right questions. – Ernst Mayr

The human mind treats a new idea the way the body treats a strange protein. It rejects it. – P. B. Medawar

All scientists know of colleagues whose minds are so well equipped with the means of refutation that no new idea has the temerity to seek admittance. Their contribution to science is accordingly very small. – P. B. Medawar

Only human beings guide their behaviour by a knowledge of what happened before they were born and a pre-conception of what may happen after they are dead; thus only humans find their way by a light that illuminates more than the patch of ground they stand on. – P. B. & J. S. Medawar

I believe that it is better to tell the truth than to lie. I believe that it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe that it is better to know than be ignorant. – H. L. Mencken

For every problem, there is one solution which is simple, neat and wrong. – H. L. Mencken

The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naive and usually idiotic. He is, more likely, one who loves his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair. – H. L. Mencken

Men become civilized not in proportion to their willingness to believe but in proportion to their readiness to doubt. – H. L. Mencken

Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy. – H. L. Mencken

The objection to Puritans is not that they try to make us think as they do, but that they try to make us do as they think. – H. L. Mencken

There is, in fact, nothing about religious opinions that entitles them to any more respect than other opinions get. On the contrary, they tend to be noticeably silly. – H. L. Mencken

I believe that religion, generally speaking, has been a curse to mankind – that its modest and greatly overestimated services on the ethical side have been more than overcome by the damage it has done to clear and honest thinking. – H. L. Mencken

Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration – courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and above all, love of the truth. – H. L. Mencken

There is no possibility whatsoever of reconciling science and theology, at least in Christendom. Either Jesus arose from the dead or He didn’t. If he did, then Christianity becomes plausible; if He did not, then it is sheer nonsense. I defy any genuine scientists to say that he believes in the Resurrection, or indeed in any other cardinal dogma of the Christian system. – H. L. Mencken

It is now quite lawful for a Catholic woman to avoid pregnancy by a resort to mathematics, though she is still forbidden to resort to physics or chemistry. – H. L. Mencken

It is not enough for a wise man to study nature and truth; he should dare state truth for the benefit of the few who are willing and able to think. As for the rest, who are voluntarily slaves of prejudice, they can no more attain truth, than frogs can fly. – Julien Offray de La Mettrie

What is not generally appreciated is that serious scientists experience a sense of awe. They are usually drawn to ask questions about a particular thing in the natural world. It may be flowers or stars, or it may be something that other people do not care for at all – toads, beetles, tapeworms. Whatever it might be, the study of this thing moves them to reverence. And make no mistake, this sense of reverence is real. Scientists can sense the vastness of even the smallest things. They know that these things have unending connections with the rest of life. For that reason, their experience of wonder does not vanish when the questions have been answered. To the real scientist, a question that has been answered becomes not less wonderful, but more so. Increased understanding increases scientific awe. And most great scientists have named awe of this kind as their deepest reason for pursuing science at all. – Mary Midgley

I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it. – John Stuart Mill

The world would be astonished if it knew how great a proportion of its brightest ornaments, of those most distinguished even in popular estimation for wisdom and virtue, are complete skeptics in religion. – John Stuart Mill

The time appears to me to have come when it is the duty of all to make their dissent from religion known. – John Stuart Mill

If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind – John Stuart Mill

The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error. – John Stuart Mill

Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties. – John Milton

It is indeed wrong to think that the poetry of Nature’s moods in all their infinite variety is lost on one who observes them scientifically, for the habit of observation refines our sense of beauty and adds a brighter hue to the richly colored background against which each separate fact is outlined. – M. Minnaert

We would like to think ourselves necessary, inevitable, ordained from all eternity. All religions, nearly all philosophies, and even a part of science testify to the unwearying, heroic effort of mankind desperately denying its own contingency. – Jacques Monod

The ancient covenant is in pieces; man knows at last that he is alone in the universe’s unfeeling immensity, out of which he emerged only by chance. His destiny is nowhere spelled out, nor is his duty. The kingdom above or the darkness below; it is for him to choose. – Jacques Monod

I do not speak the minds of others except to speak my own mind better. – Michel de Montaigne

I care not so much what I am to others as what I am to myself. – Michel de Montaigne

I will follow the right side even to the fire, but excluding the fire if I can. – Michel de Montaigne

Man is certainly stark mad; he cannot make a flea, yet he makes gods by the dozens. – Michel de Montaigne

Miracles arise from our ignorance of nature, not from nature itself. – Michel de Montaigne

The applications of science are inevitable and unavoidable for all countries and peoples today. But something more than its application is necessary. It is the scientific approach, the adventurous and yet critical temper of science, the search for the truth and new knowledge, the refusal to accept anything without testing and trial, the capacity to change previous conclusions in the face of new evidence, the reliance on observed fact and not on preconceived theory, the hard discipline of the mind all this is necessary, not merely for the application of science but for life itself and the solution of its many problems. – Jawaharlal Nehru

I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy, playing on the seashore, and diverting myself, in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me. – Isaac Newton

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. – Isaac Newton

Be careful when you wrestle with monsters, lest you thereby become one. For, if you stare long into the abyss, the abyss also stares into you. – Friedrich Nietzsche

You must have chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star. – Friedrich Nietzsche

Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate. (Plurality should not be posited without neccesity.) – William of Ockham

Our knowledge is molded and limited by our means and ways of perceiving things; it is locked up in the prison of our minds, and it must not pretend to be the objective or ultimate truth about anything. – William of Ockham

There must be no barriers to freedom of inquiry. There is no place for dogma in science. The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors. Our political life is also predicated on openness. We know that the only way to avoid error is to detect it and that the only way to detect it is to be free to inquire. And we know that as long as men are free to ask what they must, free to say what they think, free to think what they will, freedom can never be lost, and science can never regress. – J. Robert Oppenheimer

In some crude sense, which no vulgarity, no humour, no overstatement can quite extinguish, the physicists have known sin and this is a knowledge which they cannot lose. – J. Robert Oppenheimer

Science cannot resolve moral conflicts, but it can help to more accurately frame the debates about those conflicts. – Heinz R. Pagels

Science is expanding, and with it our vision of the universe. Although this new and constantly changing view may not always give us comfort, it does have the virtue of truth according to our most effective resources for acquiring knowledge. No philosophy, moral outlook, or religion can be inconsistent with the findings of science and hope to endure among educated people. – Heinz R. Pagels

The capacity to tolerate complexity and welcome contradiction, not the need for simplicity and certainty, is the attribute of an explorer. Centuries ago, when some people suspended their search for absolute truth and began instead to ask how things worked, modern science was born. Curiously, it was by abandoning the search for absolute truth that science began to make progress, opening the material universe to human exploration. – Heinz R. Pagels

I am awed by the universe, puzzled by it and sometimes angry at a natural order that brings such pain and suffering. Yet any emotion or feeling I have toward the cosmos seems to be reciprocated by neither benevolence nor hostility but just by silence. The universe appears to be a perfectly neutral screen onto which I can project any passion or attitude, and it supports them all. – Heinz R. Pagels

Most natural scientists hold a view that maintains that the entire vast universe, from its beginning in time to its ultimate end, from its smallest quantum particles to the largest galaxies, is subject to rules – the natural laws – comprehensible by a human mind. Everything in the universe orders itself in accord with such rules and nothing else. Life on earth is viewed as a complex chemical reaction that promoted evolution, speciation, and the eventual emergence of humanity, replete with our institutions of law, religion, and culture. I believe that this reductionalist-materialist view of nature is basically correct.

Other people, with equal intellectual commitment, maintain the view that the very idea of nature is but an idea held in our minds and that all of our thinking about material reality is necessarily transcendent to that reality. Further, according to this view, the cultural matrix of art, law, religion, philosophy, and science form an invisible universe of meanings, and the true ground of being is to be found in this order of mind. I also believe that this transcendental view, which affirms the epistemic priority of mind over nature, is correct. – Heinz R. Pagels

Reason dreams of an empire of knowledge, a mansion of the mind. Yet sometimes we end up living in a hovel by its side. Reason has shown us our capacity for power, both to create and to destroy. Yet how we use that power rests on our deeper capacities which lie beyond the reach of reason, beyond our traditions and culture, stretching far back into the depths of the evolutionary process that created our species, a process that ultimately asserts the power of life over death. And, ironically, even death, as part of the process of life, asserts that power. That is how we have come into being and now find ourselves committed to the unrelenting struggle of ordinary human existence.

We surely stand at the threshold of a great adventure of the human spirit – a new synthesis of knowledge, a potential integration of art and science, a deeper grasp of human psychology, a deepening of the symbolic representations of our existence and feelings as given in religion and culture, the formation of an international order based on cooperation and nonviolent competition. It seems not too much to hope for these things.

The future, as always, belongs to the dreamers. – Heinz R. Pagels

Science is not the enemy of humanity but one of the deepest expressions of the human desire to realize that vision of infinite knowledge. Science shows us that the visible world is neither matter nor spirit; the visible world is the invisible organization of energy. I do not know what the future sentences of the cosmic code will be. But it seems certain that the recent human contact with the invisible world of quanta and the vastness of the cosmos will shape the destiny of our species or whatever we may become.

I used to climb mountains in snow and ice, hanging onto the sides of great rocks. I was describing one of my adventures to an older friend once, and when I had finished he asked me, “Why do you want to kill yourself?” I protested. I told him that the rewards I wanted were of sight, of pleasure, of the thrill of pitting my body and my skills against nature. My friend replied, “When you are as old as I am you will see that you are trying to kill yourself.”

I often dream about falling. Such dreams are commonplace to the ambitious or those who climb mountains. I dreamed I was clutching at the face of a rock but it did not hold. Gravel gave way. I grasped for a shrub, but it pulled loose, and in cold terror I fell into the abyss. Suddenly I realized that my fall was relative; there was no bottom and no end. A feeling of pleasure overcame me. I realized that what I embody, the principle of life, cannot be destroyed. It is written into the cosmic code, the order of the universe. As I continued to fall in the dark void, embraced by the vault of the heavens, I sang to the beauty of the stars and made my peace with the darkness. – Heinz R. Pagels

I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life.

I believe in the equality of man; and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow-creatures happy.

But, lest it should be supposed that I believe in many other things in addition to these, I shall, in the progress of this work, declare the things I do not believe, and my reasons for not believing them.

I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.

All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.

I do not mean by this declaration to condemn those who believe otherwise; they have the same right to their belief as I have to mine. But it is necessary to the happiness of man, that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe. – Thomas Paine

The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion. – Thomas Paine

Changing the way we do science to incorporate a miracle here and there has profound ramifications. For one thing, it makes experiments untrustworthy. Who is to say when God steps in, rendering a result unrepeatable? If routine experiments are subject to supernatural whim, then I’m out of here because the enterprise is pointless. Apologists like to point out that modern science is rooted in religion. True enough, but most of the life-enhancing progress of the last 200 years – antibiotics and vaccines, improved agricultural productivity and nutrition, and genetic medicine – came about because scientists stopped invoking miracles in favor of methodical experimentation and trust in natural law. They didn’t forsake God so much as they left him out of the scientific equation. – Barry A. Palevitz

When I consider the short duration of my life, swallowed up in the eternity before and after, the little space which I fill and even can see, engulfed in the infinite immensity of spaces of which I am ignorant and which know me not, I am frightened and am astonished at being here rather than there; for there is no reason why here rather than there, why now rather than then. Who has put me here? By whose order and direction have this place and time been allotted to me?…

The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me. – Blaise Pascal

Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him. A vapour, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But, if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this.

All our dignity consists, then, in thought. By it we must elevate ourselves, and not by space and time which we cannot fill. Let us endeavour, then, to think well; this is the principle of morality.

A thinking reed. – It is not from space that I must seek my dignity, but from the government of my thought. I shall have no more if I possess worlds. By space the universe encompasses and swallows me up like an atom; by thought I comprehend the world. – Blaise Pascal

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction. – Blaise Pascal

In the fields of observation chance favors only the prepared mind. – Louis Pasteur

Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity, and is the torch which illuminates the world. Science is the highest personification of the nation because that nation will remain the first which carries the furthest the works of thought and intelligence. – Louis Pasteur

There does not exist a category of science to which one can give the name applied science. There are sciences and the applications of science, bound together as the fruit of the tree which bears it. – Louis Pasteur

I beseech you to take interest in these sacred domains so expressively called laboratories. Ask that there be more and that they be adorned for these are the temples of the future, wealth and well-being. It is here that humanity will grow, strengthen and improve. Here, humanity will learn to read progress and individual harmony in the works of nature, while humanity’s own works are all too often those of barbarism, fanaticism and destruction. – Louis Pasteur

It is sometimes said that science has nothing to do with morality. This is wrong. Science is the search for truth, the effort to understand the world; it involves the rejection of bias, of dogma, of revelation, but not the rejection of morality. – Linus Pauling

The community which does not protect its humblest and most hated member in the free utterance of his opinions, no matter how false or hateful, is only a gang of slaves. If there is anything in the universe that can’t stand discussion, let it crack. – Wendell Phillips

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

Science is built up with facts, as a house is with stones. But a collection of facts is no more a science than a heap of stones is a house. – Jules Henri Poincare

To doubt everything, or, to believe everything, are two equally convenient solutions; both dispense with the necessity of reflection. – Jules Henri Poincare

The scientist does not study nature because it is useful; he studies it because he delights in it, and he delights in it because it is beautiful. If nature were not beautiful, it would not be worth knowing, and if nature were not worth knowing, life would not be worth living. – Jules Henri Poincare

In science the beautiful is the good because it has proved to be the fertile. Dirac’s lifetime search for beautiful equations is an object lesson that this is so, as is Einstein’s discovery of general relativity through a similar eight-year quest. Such uncovenanted fruitfulness impels the conviction that scientific theory is on to something, that these beautiful equations do indeed describe a true aspect of reality. Their existence corresponds to another value-laden aspect of the scientific life, the experience of wonder at the deeply satisfying structures of the physical world revealed to our inquiry. Here is the reward for all our weariness and frustration that are inescapable components of any serious scientific investigation, as in any other kind of worthwhile activity. In our human nature, not only has the universe become aware of itself, it rejoices in that awareness. – John Polkinghorne

A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday. – Alexander Pope

The more we learn about the world, and the deeper our learning, the more conscious, specific, and articulate will be our knowledge of what we do not know, our knowledge of our ignorance. For this, indeed, is the main source of our ignorance – the fact that our knowledge can be only finite, while our ignorance must necessarily be infinite. – Karl R. Popper

…by a liberal I do not mean a sympathizer with any one political party but simply a man who values individual freedom and who is alive to the dangers inherent in all forms of power and authority. – Karl R. Popper

The greater is the circle of light, the greater is the boundary of the darkness by which it is confined. But, notwithstanding this, the more light we get, the more thankful we ought to be, for by this means we have the greater range for satisfactory contemplation. In time, the bounds of light will be still further extended; and from the infinity of the divine nature, and the divine works, we may promise ourselves an endless progress in our investigation of them: a prospect truly sublime and glorious. – Joseph Priestley

Of course, it is still possible to believe in both modern evolutionary biology and a purposive force, even the Judeo-Christian God. One can suppose that God started the whole universe or works through the laws of nature (or both). There is no contradiction between this or similar views of God and natural selection. But this view of God is also worthless. Called Deism in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and considered equivalent to atheism then, it is no different now. A God or purposive force that merely starts the universe or works thought the laws of nature has nothing to do with human morals, answers no prayers, gives no life everlasting, in fact does nothing whatsoever that is detectable. In other words, religion is compatible with modern evolutionary biology (and indeed all of modern science) if the religion is effectively indistinguishable from atheism. – William Provine

We are ephemeral, contingent parts of a silent universe that is vastly larger than ourselves. – Chet Raymo

I have no problem with 13-billion-year creationism. What caused the Big Bang? Some folks say, “God did it.” I say, “I don’t know.” The two statements have exactly the same information content. – Chet Raymo

I live in no hope of heaven or fear of hell, but like most of my fellow Americans of all religious persuasions, I try to live a decent life. Folks like Tom DeLay just can’t get it through their heads that a person can choose to live ethically because civilized life requires doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. – Chet Raymo

We are frequently reminded by astrologers that such great scientists as Kepler and Newton believed in astrology. True enough. But astrologers should also recall that Kepler’s mother was very nearly burned as a witch, and that Newton’s university was closed because of the plague…It is no coincidence that witchcraft and plague disappeared from the western world at the same time that astrology was finally discarded from science. – Chet Raymo

Science is the conviction that the world is ruled by something more than chance and the whims of gods. Science is confidence that the human mind can make some sense of nature’s complexity, and, almost paradoxically, science is humility in the face of nature’s complexity. Science is respect for the evidence of the senses – seeing things as they are, and not as we wish them to be. And science is the courage and self-confidence to accept nature’s indifference to our personal predicaments. – Chet Raymo

Knowledge is an island. The larger we make that island, the longer becomes the shore where knowledge is lapped by mystery. It is the most common of all misconceptions about science that it is somehow inimical to mystery, that it grows at the expense of mystery and intrudes with its brash certitudes upon the space of God. Aristarchus and Galileo felt the harsh consequences of that misconception. But in a world described by science, mystery abides, in the space between the stars and in the interstices of snow. The extension of knowledge is the extension of mystery. It is as Bernard says: “As a bee bears both honey and wax, so He has in himself both that which ignites the light of knowledge and that which infuses the taste of grace.” – Chet Raymo

There is a tendency for us to flee from the wild silence and wild dark, to pack up our gods and hunker down behind city walls, to turn the gods into idols, to kowtow before them and approach their precincts only in the official robes of office. And when we are in the temples, then who will hear the voice crying in the wilderness? Who will hear the reed shaken by the wind? Who will watch the galaxy rise above the eastern hedge and see a river infinitely deep and crystal clear, a river flowing from the spring that is creation to the ocean that is time. – Chet Raymo

It is the nature of God to reside in mystery – ineluctable, inexhaustible mystery. And we do not need to understand the cabala of mathematical physics to apprehend the mysterium tremendum. We need only look out the window.

Let your soul go free for a moment into that scene outside your window…and there encounter gape-jawed and silent, the God of birds and birth defects, trees and cancer, quarks and galaxies, earthquakes and supernovas – awesome, edifying, dreadful and good, more beautiful and more terrible than is strictly necessary. Let it strike you dumb with worship and fear, beyond words, beyond logic. What is it? It is everything that is. – Chet Raymo

No theory conceived by the human mind will ever be final. The universe is vast, marvelous, and deep beyond our knowing; its horizons will always recede before our advance. All dreams of finality are (probably) futile. – Chet Raymo

Science cannot be a repository for ultimate faith: It is a fulcrum upon which we can hope to balance the treasure of our knowledge against the claims of ignorance. It is a knife edge honed on recurring disappointment, a place of tremulous rest. It is not comfortable. It is all we have. – Chet Raymo

“Core Curriculum” 1. The universe is big. Human space is not cosmic space. 2. The universe is old. Human time is not cosmic time. 3. The universe evolves – galaxies, stars, planets, life, consciousness. 4. The universe perceived by the senses is all we can know. The more we learn about the universe – including ourselves – the more we understand the depths of our ignorance. 5. The more we learn, the more we appreciate the universe as the revelation of a Mystery worthy of our wonder, awe, reverence, praise. – Chet Raymo

The simplest schoolboy is now familiar with truths for which Archimedes would have sacrificed his life. – Ernest Renan

To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. – Theodore Roosevelt

The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd; indeed in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible. – Bertrand Russell

Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth, more than ruin, more even than death…Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man. – Bertrand Russell

I wish to propose for the reader’s favourable consideration a doctrine which may, I fear, appear wildly paradoxical and subversive. The doctrine in question is this: that it is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true. I must of course admit that if such an opinion became common it would completely transform our social life and our political system; since both are at present faultless, this must weigh against it. – Bertrand Russell

William James used to preach the “will to believe.” For my part, I should wish to preach the “will to doubt.” What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out, which is the exact opposite. – Bertrand Russell

I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong. – Bertrand Russell

When one admits that nothing is certain one must, I think, also admit that some things are much more nearly certain than others…Certainly there are degrees of certainty, and one should be very careful to emphasize that fact, because otherwise one is landed in an utter skepticism, and complete skepticism would, of course, be totally barren and completely useless. – Bertrand Russell

I think that in philosophical strictness at the level where one doubts the existence of material objects and holds that the world may have existed for only five minutes, I ought to call myself an agnostic; but, for all practical purposes, I am an atheist. I do not think the existence of the Christian God any more probable than the existence of the Gods of Olympus or Valhalla. To take another illustration: nobody can prove that there is not between Earth and Mars a china teapot revolving in an elliptic orbit, but nobody thinks this sufficiently likely to be taken into account in practice. I think the Christian God just as unlikely. – Bertrand Russell

Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time. – Bertrand Russell

The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way. Persecution is used in theology, not in arithmetic. – Bertrand Russell

If you think that your belief is based upon reason, you will support it by argument, rather then by persecution, and will abandon it if the argument goes against you. But if your belief is based on faith, you will realize that argument is useless and will therefore result to force either in the form of persecution or by stunting and distorting the minds of the young in what is called “education.” This last is peculiarly dastardly since it takes advantage of the defenselessness of immature minds. Unfortunately it is practiced in a greater or less degree in the schools of every civilized country. – Bertrand Russell

In any case, the argument against the persecution of opinion does not depend upon what the excuse for persecution may be. The argument is that we none of us know all truth, that the discovery of new truth is promoted by free discussion and rendered very difficult by suppression, and that, in the long run, human welfare is increased by the discovery of truth and hindered by action based on error. New truth is often inconvenient to some vested interest…But it is in the interest of the community at large that new truth should be freely promulgated. And since, at first, it cannot be known whether a new doctrine is true, freedom for new truth involves equal freedom for error. – Bertrand Russell

I do not believe that a decay of dogmatic belief can do anything but good. I admit at once that new systems of dogma, such as those of the Nazis and the Communists, are even worse than the old systems, but they could never have acquired a hold over men’s minds if orthodox dogmatic habits had not been instilled in youth. Stalin’s language is full of reminiscences of the theological seminary in which he received his training. What the world needs is not dogma, but an attitude of scientific inquiry, combined with a belief that the torture of millions is not desirable, whether inflicted by Stalin or by a Deity imagined in the likeness of the believer. – Bertrand Russell

Dogma demands authority, rather than intelligent thought, as the source of opinion; it requires persecution of heretics and hostility to unbelievers; it asks of its disciples that they should inhibit natural kindness in favor of systematic hatred. – Bertrand Russell

A habit of basing convictions upon evidence, and of giving to them only that degree of certainty which the evidence warrants, would, if it became general, cure most of the ills from which the world suffers. – Bertrand Russell

The fundamental cause of trouble in the world today is that the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt. – Bertrand Russell

Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones. – Bertrand Russell

The splendour of human life, I feel sure, is greater to those who are not dazzled by the divine radiance. – Bertrand Russell

The universe may have a purpose, but nothing we know suggests that, if so, this purpose has any similarity to ours. – Bertrand Russell

…That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins – all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.

How, in such an alien and inhuman world, can so powerless a creature as Man preserve his aspirations untarnished? A strange mystery it is that Nature, omnipotent but blind, in the revolutions of her secular hurryings through the abysses of space, has brought forth at last a child, subject still to her power, but gifted with sight, with knowledge of good and evil, with the capacity of judging all the works of his unthinking Mother. In spite of Death, the mark and seal of the parental control, Man is yet free, during his brief years, to examine, to criticise, to know, and in imagination to create. To him alone, in the world with which he is acquainted, this freedom belongs; and in this lies his superiority to the resistless forces that control his outward life. – Bertrand Russell

Brief and powerless is Man’s life; on him and all his race the slow, sure doom falls pitiless and dark. Blind to good and evil, reckless of destruction, omnipotent matter rolls on its relentless way; for Man, condemned to-day to lose his dearest, to-morrow himself to pass through the gate of darkness, it remains only to cherish, ere yet the blow falls, the lofty thoughts that ennoble his little day; disdaining the coward terrors of the slave of Fate, to worship at the shrine that his own hands have built; undismayed by the empire of chance, to preserve a mind free from the wanton tyranny that rules his outward life; proudly defiant of the irresistible forces that tolerate, for a moment, his knowledge and his condemnation, to sustain alone, a weary but unyielding Atlas, the world that his own ideals have fashioned despite the trampling march of unconscious power. – Bertrand Russell

There is something feeble and a little contemptible about a man who cannot face the perils of life without the help of comfortable myths. Almost inevitably some part of him is aware that they are myths and that he believes them only because they are comforting. But he dare not face this thought! Moreover, since he is aware, however dimly, that his opinions are not real, he becomes furious when they are disputed. – Bertrand Russell

I believe that when I die I shall rot, and nothing of my ego will survive. I am not young and I love life. But I should scorn to shiver with terror at the thought of annihilation. Happiness is nonetheless true happiness because it must come to an end, nor do thought and love lose their value because they are not everlasting. Many a man has borne himself proudly on the scaffold; surely the same pride should teach us to think truly about man’s place in the world. Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver after the cosy indoor warmth of traditional humanizing myths, in the end the fresh air brings vigor, and the great spaces have a spender of their own. – Bertrand Russell

I say this with all the emphasis of which I am capable – that there can never be any good excuse for refusing to face the evidence in favour of something unwelcome. It is not by delusion, however exalted, that mankind can prosper, but only by unswerving courage in the pursuit of truth. – Bertrand Russell

It is possible that mankind is on the threshold of a golden age; but, if so, it will be necessary first to slay the dragon that guards the door, and this dragon is religion. – Bertrand Russell

My own view on religion is that of Lucretius. I regard it as a disease born of fear and as a source of untold misery to the human race. I cannot, however, deny that it has made some contributions to civilization. It helped in early days to fix the calendar, and it caused Egyptian priests to chronicle eclipses with such care that in time they became able to predict them. These two services I am prepared to acknowledge, but I do not know of any others. – Bertrand Russell

The question of the truth of a religion is one thing, but the question of its usefulness is another. I am as firmly convinced that religions do harm as I am that they are untrue. – Bertrand Russell

What I wish to maintain is that all faiths do harm. We may define “faith” as the firm belief in something for which there is no evidence. Where there is evidence, no one speaks of “faith.” We do not speak of faith that two and two are four or that the earth is round. We only speak of faith when we wish to substitute emotion for evidence. The substitution of emotion for evidence is apt to lead to strife, since different groups, substitute different emotions. – Bertrand Russell

To save the world requires faith and courage: faith in reason, and courage to proclaim what reason shows to be true. – Bertrand Russell

The conquering of fear is the beginning of wisdom. – Bertrand Russell

There seems scarcely any limit to what could be done in the way of producing a good world, if only men would use science wisely. – Bertrand Russell

There is…in our day, a powerful antidote to nonsense, which hardly existed in earlier times – I mean science. Science cannot be ignored or rejected, because it is bound up with modern technique; it is essential alike to prosperity in peace and to victory in war. That is, perhaps from an intellectual point of view, the most hopeful feature of our age, and the one which makes it most likely that we shall escape complete submersion in some new or old superstition. – Bertrand Russell

Science tells us what we can know but what we can know is little and if we forget how much we cannot know we become insensitive of many things of very great importance. Theology, on the other hand induces a dogmatic belief that we have knowledge where in fact we have ignorance and by doing so generates a kind of impertinent insolence towards the universe. Uncertainty in the presence of vivid hopes and fears is painful, but must be endured if we wish to live without the support of comforting fairy tales. – Bertrand Russell

Philosophy is to be studied, not for the sake of any definite answers to its questions, since no definite answers can, as a rule, be known to be true, but rather for the sake of the questions themselves; because these questions enlarge our conception of what is possible, enrich our intellectual imagination and diminish the dogmatic assurance which closes through the greatness of the universe which philosophy contemplates, the mind also is rendered great, and becomes capable of that union with the universe which constitutes its highest good. – Bertrand Russell

We want to stand upon our own feet and look fair and square at the world – its good facts, its bad facts, its beauties, and its ugliness; see the world as it is and be not afraid of it. Conquer the world by intelligence and not merely by being slavishly subdued by the terror that comes from it. – Bertrand Russell

Truth is a shining goddess, always veiled, always distant, never wholly approachable, but worthy of all the devotion of which the human spirit is capable. – Bertrand Russell

The root of the matter, if we want a stable world, is a very simple and old-fashioned thing, a thing so simple that I am almost ashamed to mention it for fear of the derisive smile with which wise cynics will greet my words. The thing I mean is love, Christian love, or compassion. If you feel this, you have a motive for existence, a reason for courage, an imperative necessity for intellectual honesty. If you feel this, you have all that anybody should need in the way of religion. – Bertrand Russell

While it is true that science cannot decide questions of value, that is because they cannot be intellectually decided at all, and lie outside the realm of truth and falsehood. Whatever knowledge is attainable, must be attained by scientific methods; and what science cannot discover, mankind cannot know. – Bertrand Russell

There have been at different times and among different people many varying conceptions of the good life. To some extent the differences were amenable to argument; this was when men differed as to the means to achieve a given end. Some think that prison is a good way of preventing crime; others hold that education would be better. A difference of this sort can be decided by sufficient evidence. But some differences cannot be tested in this way. Tolstoy condemned all war; others have held the life of a soldier doing battle for the right to be very noble. Here there was probably involved a real difference as to ends. Those who praise the soldier usually consider the punishment of sinners a good thing in itself; Tolstoy did not think so. On such a matter, no argument is possible. I cannot, therefore, prove that my view of the good life is right; I can only state my view, and hope that as many as possible will agree. My view is this: The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge. – Bertrand Russell

“A Liberal Decalogue” 1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything. 2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light. 3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed. 4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory. 5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found. 6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you. 7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric. 8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent that in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter. 9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it. 10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness. – Bertrand Russell

“What I Have Lived For”

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a great ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.

I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy – ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness – that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what – at last – I have found.

With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.

Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.

This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me. – Bertrand Russell

We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and by the depth of our answers. – Carl Sagan

“Superstition [is] cowardice in the face of the Divine,” wrote Theophrastus, who lived during the founding of the Library of Alexandria. We inhabit a universe where atoms are made in the centers of stars; where each second a thousand suns are born; where life is sparked by sunlight and lightning in the airs and waters of youthful planets; where the raw material for biological evolution is sometimes made by the explosion of a star halfway across the Milky Way; where a thing as beautiful as a galaxy is formed a hundred billion times – a Cosmos of quasars and quarks, snowflakes and fireflies, where there may be black holes and other universes and extraterrestrial civilizations whose radio messages are at this moment reaching the Earth. How pallid by comparison are the pretensions of superstition and pseudoscience; how important it is for use to pursue and understand science, that characteristically human endeavor.

Every aspect of Nature reveals a deep mystery and touches our sense of wonder and awe. Theophrastus was right. Those afraid of the universe as it really is, those who pretend to nonexistent knowledge and envision a Cosmos centered on human beings will prefer the fleeting comforts of superstition. They avoid rather than confront the world. But those with the courage to explore the weave and structure of the Cosmos, even where it differs profoundly from their wishes and prejudices, will penetrate its deepest mysteries. – Carl Sagan

We wish to find the truth, no matter where it lies. But to find the truth we need imagination and skepticism both. – Carl Sagan

I believe that the extraordinary should be pursued. But extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. – Carl Sagan

There are worlds on which life has never arisen. There are worlds that have been charred and ruined by cosmic catastrophes. We are fortunate: we are alive; we are powerful; the welfare of our civilization and our species is in our hands. If we do not speak for Earth, who will? If we are not committed to our own survival, who will be? – Carl Sagan

The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us – there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries. – Carl Sagan

We are the local embodiment of a Cosmos grown to self-awareness. We have begun to contemplate our origins: starstuff pondering the stars; organised assemblages of ten billion billion billion atoms considering the evolution of atoms; tracing the long journey by which, here at least, consciousness arose. Our loyalties are to the species and the planet. We speak for Earth. Our obligation to survive is owed not just to ourselves but also to that Cosmos, ancient and vast, from which we spring. – Carl Sagan

The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean. From it we have learned most of what we know. Recently, we have waded a little out to sea, enough to dampen our toes or, at most, wet our ankles. The water seems inviting. The ocean calls. Some part of our being knows this is from where we came. We long to return. These aspirations are not, I think, irreverent, although they may trouble whatever gods may be. – Carl Sagan

Avoidable human misery is more often caused not so much by stupidity as by ignorance, particularly our own ignorance about ourselves. – Carl Sagan

We must stop pretending we’re something we are not. Somewhere between romantic, uncritical anthropomorphizing of the animals and an anxious, obdurate refusal to recognize our kinship with them – the latter made tellingly clear in the still-widespread notion of “special” creation – there is a broad middle ground on which we humans can take our stand. – Carl Sagan

We are the product of 4.5 billion years of fortuitous, slow biological evolution. There is no reason to think that the evolutionary process has stopped. Man is a transitional animal. He is not the climax of creation. – Carl Sagan

A book is made from a tree. It is an assemblage of flat, flexible parts (still called “leaves”) imprinted with dark pigmented squiggles. One glance at it and you hear the voice of another person – perhaps someone dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, the author is speaking, clearly and silently, inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people, citizens of distant epochs, who never knew one another. Books break the shackles of time, proof that humans can work magic. – Carl Sagan

Science has beauty, power, and majesty that can provide spiritual as well as practical fulfillment. But superstition and pseudoscience keep getting in the way, providing easy answers, casually pressing our awe buttons, and cheapening the experience. – Carl Sagan

I maintain there is much more wonder in science than in pseudoscience. And in addition, to whatever measure this term has any meaning, science has the additional virtue, and it is not an inconsiderable one, of being true. – Carl Sagan

Life is but a momentary glimpse of the wonder of this astonishing universe, and it is sad to see so many dreaming it away on spiritual fantasy. – Carl Sagan

We have held the peculiar notion that a person or society that is a little different from us, whoever we are, is somehow strange or bizarre, to be distrusted or loathed. Think of the negative connotations of words like alien or outlandish. And yet the monuments and cultures of each of our civilizations merely represent different ways of being human. An extraterrestrial visitor, looking at the differences among human beings and their societies, would find those differences trivial compared to the similarities. The Cosmos may be densely populated with intelligent beings. But the Darwinian lesson is clear: There will be no humans elsewhere. Only here. Only on this small planet. We are a rare as well as an endangered species. Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another. – Carl Sagan

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. – Carl Sagan

Demon means knowledge in Greek, especially about the material world. Science means knowledge in Latin. A jurisdictional dispute is exposed, even if we look no further. – Carl Sagan

When Kepler found his long-cherished belief did not agree with the most precise observation, he accepted the uncomfortable fact. He preferred the hard truth to his dearest illusions. That is the heart of science. – Carl Sagan

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, and the most ruthlessly skeptical scrutiny of all ideas, old and new. – Carl Sagan

Whenever our ethnic or national prejudices are aroused, in times of scarcity, during challenges to national self-esteem or nerve, when we agonize about our diminished cosmic place and purpose, or when fanaticism is bubbling up around us – then, habits of thought familiar from ages past reach for the controls. The candle flame gutters. Its little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers. The demons begin to stir. – Carl Sagan

History is full of people who out of fear, or ignorance, or lust for power have destroyed knowledge of immeasurable value which truly belongs to us all. We must not let it happen again. – Carl Sagan

Modern science has been a voyage into the unknown, with a lesson in humility waiting at every stop. Many passengers would rather have stayed home. – Carl Sagan

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring. – Carl Sagan

I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But as much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking. – Carl Sagan

The world is so exquisite, with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there’s little good evidence. Far better, it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look Death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides. – Carl Sagan

In many cultures it is customary to answer that God created the universe out of nothing. But this is mere temporizing. If we wish courageously to pursue the question, we must, of course ask next where God comes from? And if we decide this to be unanswerable, why not save a step and conclude that the universe has always existed? – Carl Sagan

The idea that God is an oversized white male with a flowing beard who sits in the sky and tallies the fall of every sparrow is ludicrous. But if by “God” one means the set of physical laws that govern the universe, then clearly there is such a God. This God is emotionally unsatisfying…it does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity. – Carl Sagan

My deeply held belief is that if a god of anything like the traditional sort exists, our curiosity and intelligence are provided by such a god. We would be unappreciative of those gifts (as well as unable to take such a course of action) if we suppressed our passion to explore the universe and ourselves. On the other hand, if such a traditional god does not exist, our curiosity and our intelligence are the essential tools for managing our survival. In either case, the enterprise of knowledge is consistent with both science and religion, and is essential for the welfare of the human species. – Carl Sagan

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. – Carl Sagan

Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. – Carl Sagan

For myself, I like a universe that includes much that is unknown and, at the same time, much that is knowable. A universe in which everything is known would be static and dull, as boring as the heaven of some weak-minded theologians. A universe that is unknowable is no fit place for a thinking being. The ideal universe for us is one very much like the universe we inhabit. And I would guess that this is not really much of a coincidence. – Carl Sagan

Each of us is a tiny being, permitted to ride on the outermost skin of one of the smaller planets for a few dozen trips around the local star…The longest-lived organisms on Earth endure for about a millionth of the age of our planet. A bacterium lives for one hundred-trillionth of that time. So of course the individual organisms see nothing of the overall pattern – continents, climate, evolution. They barely set foot on the world stage and are promptly snuffed out – yesterday a drop of semen, as the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote, tomorrow a handful of ashes. If the Earth were as old as a person, a typical organism would be born, live, and die in a sliver of a second. We are fleeting, transitional creatures, snowflakes fallen on the hearth fire. That we understand even a little of our origins is one of the great triumphs of human insight and courage. – Carl Sagan

“Reflections on a Mote of Dust”

We succeeded in taking that picture [of Earth from deep space], and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.

The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.

Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It’s been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known. – Carl Sagan

When all else fails, you can always tell the truth. – Abdus Salam

The fact of having been born is a bad augury for immortality. – George Santayana

My atheism, like that of Spinoza, is true piety towards the universe and denies only gods fashioned by men in their own image to be servants of their human interests. – George Santayana

Each religion, so dear to those whose life it sanctifies, and fulfilling so necessary a function in the society that has adopted it, necessarily contradicts every other religion, and probably contradicts itself. – George Santayana

Skepticism is the chastity of the intellect, and it is shameful to surrender it too soon or to the first comer: there is nobility in preserving it coolly and proudly through long youth, until at last, in the ripeness of instinct and discretion, it can be safely exchanged for fidelity and happiness. – George Santayana

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

An open mind is a prerequisite to an open heart. – Robert M. Sapolsky

There is no absurdity so obvious that it cannot be firmly planted in the human head if you only begin to impose it before the age of five, by constantly repeating it with an air of great solemnity. – Arthur Schopenhauer

Faith and knowledge are related as the two scales of balance; when the one goes up, the other goes down…The power of religious dogma, when inculcated early, is such as to stifle conscience, compassion, and finally every feeling of humanity…For, as you know, religions are like glow worms; they shine only when it’s dark. A certain amount of ignorance is the condition of all religions, the element in which alone they can exist. – Arthur Schopenhauer

Man has lost the capacity to foresee and to forestall. He will end by destroying the earth. – Albert Schweitzer

The deeper we look into nature, the more we recognize that it is full of life, and the more profoundly we know that all life is a secret and that we are united with all life that is in nature. Man can no longer live his life for himself alone. We realize that all life is valuable and that we are united to all this life. From this knowledge comes our spiritual relationship with the universe. – Albert Schweitzer

There is nothing more negative than the result of the critical study of the life of Jesus. The Jesus of Nazareth who came forward publicly as the Messiah, who preached the ethic of the kingdom of God, who founded the kingdom of God upon earth, and died to give his work its final consecration, never had any existence. His image has not been destroyed from without, it has fallen to pieces, cleft and disintegrated by the concrete historical problems which come to the surface one after another…He is a figure designed by rationalism, endowed with life by liberalism, and clothed by modern theology in a historical garb. – Albert Schweitzer

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

God is an hypothesis, and, as such, stands in need of proof: the onus probandi rests on the theist. – Percy B. Shelley

The plurality of worlds, the indefinite immensity of the universe, is a most awful subject of contemplation. He who rightly feels its mystery and grandeur is in no danger of seduction from the falsehoods of religious systems, or of deifying the principle of the universe. – Percy B. Shelley

War is at best barbarism. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is hell. – William Tecumseh Sherman

Skepticism has a long historical tradition dating back to ancient Greece when Socrates observed: “All I know is that I know nothing.” But this position is sterile and unproductive and held by virtually no one. If you are skeptical about everything, you would have to be skeptical of your own skepticism. Like the decaying sub-atomic particle, pure skepticism uncoils and spins off the viewing screen of our intellectual cloud chamber. – Michael Shermer

I stand before my maker and judge not in some distant and future ethereal world, but in the reality of this world, a world inhabited not by spiritual and supernatural ephemera, but by real people whose lives are directly affected by my actions, and whose actions directly affect my life. – Michael Shermer

It [evil] is not a thing. Evil is a descriptive term for a range of environmental events and human behaviors that we describe and interpret as bad, wrong, awful, undesirable, or whatever appropriately descriptive adjective or synonym for evil is chosen. To call something “evil” does not lead us to a deeper understanding of the cause of evil behavior. – Michael Shermer

Absolute morality leads logically to absolute intolerance. – Michael Shermer

Religious freedoms must always be protected, but the price for this security is the separation of religion from government. Historically, where church and state were wed, individual liberty suffered, including and especially religious liberty. – Michael Shermer

Not only are humans story-telling animals, we are also pattern-seeking animals, and there is a tendency to find patterns even where none exist. To most of us the patterns of the universe indicate design. For countless millennia, we have taken these patterns and constructed stories about how our cosmos was designed specifically for us. For the past few centuries, however, science has presented with a viable alternative in which we are but one among tens of millions of species, housed on but one planet among many orbiting in an ordinary solar system, itself one among possible billions of solar systems in an ordinary galaxy, located in a cluster of galaxies not so different from billions of other galaxy clusters, themselves whirling away from one another in an expanding cosmic bubble that very possibly is only one among a near-infinite number of bubble universes. Is it really possible that this entire cosmological multiverse exists for one tiny subgroup of a single species on one planet in a lone galaxy in tat solitary bubble universe? – Michael Shermer

“Finding Meaning in a Contingent Universe”

I am often asked by believers why I abandoned Christianity and how I found meaning in the apparently meaningless universe presented by science. The implication is that the scientific worldview is an existentially depressing one. Without God, I am bluntly told, what’s the point? If this is all there is, there is no use. To the contrary. For me, quite the opposite is true. The conjuncture of losing my religion, finding science, and discovering glorious contingency was remarkably empowering and liberating. It gave me a sense of joy and freedom. Freedom to think for myself. Freedom to take responsibility for my own actions. Freedom to construct my own meanings and my own destinies. With the knowledge that this may be all there is, and that I can trigger my own cascading changes, I was free to live life to its fullest.

This is not to say that those who are religious cannot share in these freedoms. But for me, a world without monsters, ghosts, demons, and gods unfetters the mind to soar to new heights, to think unthinkable thoughts, to imagine the unimaginable, to contemplate infinity and eternity knowing that no one is looking back. The universe takes on a whole new meaning when you know that your place in it was not foreordained, that it was not designed for us – indeed, that it was not designed at all. If we are nothing more than star stuff and biomass, how special life becomes. If the tape were played again and again without the appearance of our species, how extraordinary becomes our existence, and, correspondingly, how cherished. To share in the sublimity of knowledge generated by other human minds, and perhaps even to make a tiny contribution toward that body of knowledge that will be passed down through the ages – part of the cumulative wisdom of a single species on a tiny planet orbiting an ordinary star on the remote edge of a not-so-unusual galaxy, itself a member of a cluster of galaxies billions of light years from nowhere, is sublime beyond words.

Since we are such a visual primate, perhaps images can help capture the feeling. The Hubble Telescope Deep Field photograph on the following page reveals as never before the rich densities of galaxies in our neck of the universe, is as grand a statement about the sacred as any medieval cathedral. How vast is the cosmos. How contingent is our place. Yet out of this apparent insignificance emerges a glorious contingency – the recognition that we do not have to be, but here we are. In fact, compare this slice of the cosmos to two of the most hallowed and sacrosanct structures on Earth – both medieval in age but on opposite sides of the planet, literally and figuratively – Machu Picchu and Chartres Cathedral. Machu Picchu captures the numina through an interlocking relationship between nature and humanity that generated in me an almost mystical connection across space and time with the ancients who had once lived and loved atop this 8,000 foot-precipice. This is the “lost city” in so many ways. When I stood inside Chartres Cathedral with my soulmate, lit candles, and we promised each other our eternal love, it was a more sacred moment than any I have experienced. Sceptics and scientists cannot experience the numinous? Nonsense. You do not need a spiritual power to experience the spiritual. You do not need to be mystical to appreciate the mystery. Standing beneath a canopy of galaxies, atop a pillar of reworked stone, or inside a transept of holy light, my unencumbered soul was free to love without constraint, free to use my senses to enjoy all the pleasures and endure all the pains that come with such freedom. I was enfranchised for life, emancipated from the bonds of restricting tradition, and unyoked from the rules written for another time in another place for another people. I was now free to try to live up to that exalted moniker – Homo sapiens – wise man. – Michael Shermer

It is as if the Milky Way entered upon some cosmic dance. Swiftly the brain becomes an enchanted loom, where millions of flashing shuttles weave a dissolving pattern, always a meaningful pattern though never an abiding one; a shifting harmony of subpatterns. – Charles Scott Sherrington

“Whatever the Sun may be,” said D. H. Lawrence, “it is certainly not a ball of flaming gas.” Helios, the sun god, has more sex appeal than a cloud of gas, however hot. Lawrence spoke for my friend Jill, and for many others who see science systematically chipping away at the mysterious, but generally benign, unknown and arrogantly replacing it with the dull, prosaic, down-to-earth known. The mechanical universe, the “ice-cold clock,” is not something you want to curl up with on a winter’s night. Genesis 9:13 reads: “I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.” The scientist’s rainbow is the result of the different refractive indices of the various frequencies of light that make up solar radiation. But man evidently prefers mystery to math, and the intrusion of science into the movements of the planets and the stars, into the living cell and into that final sanctuary of the spirit, the mind, has undoubtedly cast a chill over that warm, blurred garden, the theocentric universe. The scientist, ruthlessly buying up desirable property, appears to many people to be building an automated factory in the middle of the garden. For this reason, science has, for some, become an unwanted neighbor. – Brian L. Silver

Man stands alone in the universe, a unique product of a long, unconscious, impersonal material process with unique understanding and potentialities. These he owes to no one but himself, and it is to himself that he is responsible. He is not the creature of uncontrollable and undeterminable forces, but his own master. He can and must decide and manage his own destiny. – George G. Simpson

Most of the dogmatic religions have exhibited a perverse talent for taking the wrong side on the most important concepts in the material universe, from the structure of the solar system to the origin of man. – George G. Simpson

Scientific theories tell us what is possible; myths tell us what is desirable. Both are needed to guide proper action. – John Maynard Smith

The references to God in the founders of my science made no sense; they seemed so quaint, so unnecessary. Can there be any doubt that science is a better road to truth about nature than any received dogma?…How many times, reading late at night, have I wished it were possible to confront Newton and the others with the contradiction between their irrational identification with God and the rationality they created. – Lee Smolin

The test of courage comes when we are in the minority; the test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority. – Ralph W. Sockman

If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the dividing line between good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being, and who is willing to destroy his own heart? – Alexandr Solzhenitsyn

Those who cavalierly reject the Theory of Evolution as not being adequately supported by facts, seem to forget that their own theory is supported by no facts at all. Like the majority of men who are born to a given belief, they demand the most rigorous proof of any adverse belief, but assume that their own needs none. – Herbert Spencer

There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance – that principle is contempt prior to investigation. – Herbert Spencer

I call him free who is led solely by reason. – Benedictus de Spinoza

The most tyrannical of governments are those which make crimes of opinions, for everyone has an inalienable right to his thoughts. – Benedictus de Spinoza

Omnia praeclara tam difficilia, quam rara sunt. (All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.) – Benedictus de Spinoza

Sedulo curavi, humanas actiones non ridere, non lugere, neque detestari, sed intelligere. (I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them.) – Benedictus de Spinoza

We have usurped many of the powers we once ascribed to God. Fearful and unprepared, we have assumed lordship over the life or death of the whole world – of all living things. The danger and the glory and the choice rest finally in man. The test of his perfectibility is at hand. Having taken Godlike power, we must seek in ourselves for the responsibility and the wisdom we once prayed some deity might have. Man himself has become our greatest hazard and our only hope. So that today, St. John the apostle may well be paraphrased: In the end is the Word, and the Word is Man – and the Word is with Men. – John Steinbeck

I believe in an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out. – Arthur Hays Sulzberger

“Ten Commandments” 1. Recognize the relationships between things and the laws which govern men’s actions, so that you know what you are doing. 2. Direct your deeds to a worthy goal, but do not ask if they will achieve the goal; let them be models and examples rather than means to an end. 3. Speak to all others as you do to yourself, without regard to the effect you make, so that you do not expel them from your world and in your isolation lose sight of the meaning of life and the perfection of the creation. 4. Do not destroy what you cannot create. 5. Touch no dish unless you are hungry. 6. Do not desire what you cannot have. 7. Do not lie without need. 8. Honor children. Listen to their words with reverence and speak to them with endless love. 9. Do your work for six years; but in the seventh, go into solitude or among strangers, so that the memory of your friends does not prevent you from being what you have become. 10. Lead your life with a gentle hand and be ready to depart whenever you are called. – Leo Szilard

The greatest of all the accomplishments of 20th-century science has been the discovery of human ignorance. – Lewis Thomas

Do not imagine that mathematics is hard and crabbed, and repulsive to common sense. It is merely the etherealisation of common sense. – William Thomson (Lord Kelvin)

Science is bound, by the everlasting vow of honour, to face fearlessly every problem which can be fairly presented to it. If a probable solution, consistent with the ordinary course of nature, can be found, we must not invoke an abnormal act of Creative Power. – William Thomson (Lord Kelvin)

Here and there in the midst of American society you meet with men full of a fanatical and almost wild spiritualism, which hardly exists in Europe. From time to time strange sects arise which endeavor to strike out extraordinary paths to eternal happiness. Religious insanity is very common in the United States. – Alexis de Tocqueville

Freethinkers are those who are willing to use their minds without prejudice and without fearing to understand things that clash with their own customs, privileges, or beliefs. This state of mind is not common, but it is essential for right thinking; where it is absent, discussion is apt to become worse than useless. – Leo Tolstoy

The skeptic does not mean him who doubts, but him who investigates or researches, as opposed to him who asserts and thinks that he has found. – Miguel de Unamuno

Life is not a miracle. It is a natural phenomenon, and can be expected to appear wherever there is a planet whose conditions duplicate those of the earth. – Harold Urey

The folly of mistaking a paradox for a discovery, a metaphor for a proof, a torrent of verbiage for a spring of capital truths, and oneself for an oracle, is inborn in us. – Paul Valery

There is an astonishing imagination, even in the science of mathematics…We repeat, there was far more imagination in the head of Archimedes than in that of Homer. – Francois Marie Arouet (Voltaire)

One owes respect to the living. To the dead, one owes only the truth. – Francois Marie Arouet (Voltaire)

Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd. – Francois Marie Arouet (Voltaire)

Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too. – Francois Marie Arouet (Voltaire)

What is tolerance? – it is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other’s folly – that is the first law of nature. – Francois Marie Arouet (Voltaire)

Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith. I consider the capacity for it terrifying. – Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

The more we realize the vast possibilities of human welfare which science has given us, the more we must recognize our total failure to make any adequate use of them…we see the governments of the most advanced nations arming their people to the teeth, and expending much of their wealth and all the resources of their science, in preparation for the destruction of life, of property, and of happiness. – Alfred Russel Wallace

There is nothing which can better deserve our patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness. – George Washington

One of the greatest gifts science has brought to the world is continuing elimination of the supernatural, and it was a lesson that my father passed on to me, that knowledge liberates mankind from superstition. We can live our lives without the constant fear that we have offended this or that deity who must be placated by incantation or sacrifice, or that we are at the mercy of devils or the Fates. With increasing knowledge, the intellectual darkness that surrounds us is illuminated and we learn more of the beauty and wonder of the natural world. – James D. Watson

The United States is not a Christian nation. It is a great nation with Christians, among others, in it. But our greatness is based on the fact that there is no official religion. – Lowell Weicker

The reductionist worldview is chilling and impersonal. It has to be accepted as it is, not because we like it, but because that is the way the world works. – Steven Weinberg

The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless. – Steven Weinberg

The effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things that lifts human life a little above the level of farce, and gives it some of the grace of tragedy. – Steven Weinberg

We may need to rely again on the influence of science to preserve a sane world. It is not the certainty of scientific knowledge that fits it for this role, but its uncertainty. Seeing scientists change their minds again and again about matters that can be studied directly in laboratory experiments, how can one take seriously the claims of religious tradition or sacred writings to certain knowledge about matters beyond human experience? – Steven Weinberg

With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. – Steven Weinberg

I am all in favor of a dialogue between science and religion, but not a constructive dialogue. One of the great achievements of science has been, if not to make it impossible for intelligent people to be religious, then at least to make it possible for them not to be religious. We should not retreat from this accomplishment. – Steven Weinberg

The fact that Newton and Michael Faraday and other scientists of the past were deeply religious shows that religious skepticism is not a prejudice that governed science from the beginning, but a lesson that has been learned through centuries of experience in the study of nature. – Steven Weinberg

We ought to try and preserve the meaning of words, and “God” historically has not meant “the laws of nature.” – Steven Weinberg

One often hears that there is no conflict between science and religion…Stephen Gould remarks that science and religion do not come into conflict, because ‘science treats factual reality, while religion treats human morality.’ On most things I tend to agree with Gould, but here I think he goes too far; the meaning of religion is defined by what religious people actually believe, and the great majority of the world’s religious people would be surprised to learn that religion has nothing to do with factual reality. – Steven Weinberg

Science can never explain any moral principle. There seems to be an unbridgeable gulf between “is” questions and “ought” questions. We can perhaps explain why people think they should do things, or why the human race has evolved to feel that certain things should be done and other things should not, but it remains open to us to transcend these biologically based moral rules. – Steven Weinberg

Science cannot develop unless it is pursued for the sake of pure knowledge and insight. It will not survive unless it is used intensely and wisely for the betterment of humanity and not as an instrument of domination. Human existence depends upon compassion and curiosity. Curiosity without compassion is inhuman; compassion without curiosity is ineffectual. – Victor F. Weisskopf

But with regard to the material world, we can at least go so far as this – we can perceive that events are brought about not by insulated interpositions of Divine power, exerted in each particular case, but by the establishment of general laws. – William Whewell

Not ignorance, but ignorance of ignorance, is the death of knowledge. – Alfred North Whitehead

A danger sign of the lapse from true skepticism into dogmatism is an inability to respect those who disagree. In philosophical discussion, the merest hint of dogmatic certainty as to finality of statement is an exhibition of folly. – Alfred North Whitehead

The love of complexity without reductionism makes art; the love of complexity with reductionism makes science. – Edward O. Wilson

Blind faith, no matter how passionately expressed, will not suffice. Science for its part will test relentlessly every assumption about the human condition. – Edward O. Wilson

The cost of scientific advance is the humbling recognition that reality was not constructed to be easily grasped by the human mind. This is the cardinal tenet of scientific understanding. Our species and its ways of thinking are a product of evolution, not the purpose of evolution. – Edward O. Wilson

If history and science have taught us anything, it is that passion and desire are not the same as truth. The human mind evolved to believe in the gods. It did not evolve to believe in biology. Acceptance of the supernatural conveyed a great advantage throughout prehistory, when the brain was evolving. Thus it is in sharp contrast to biology, which was developed as a product of the modern age and is not underwritten by genetic algorithms. The uncomfortable truth is that the two beliefs are not factually compatible. As a result those who hunger for both intellectual and religious truth will never acquire both in full measure. – Edward O. Wilson

The essence of humanity’s spiritual dilemma is that we evolved genetically to accept one truth and discovered another. Is there a way to erase the dilemma, to resolve the contradictions between the transcendentalist and the empiricist world views? No, unfortunately, there is not. Furthermore, a choice between them is unlikely to remain arbitrary forever. The assumptions underlying the two world views are being tested with increasing severity by cumulative verifiable knowledge about how the universe works. – Edward O. Wilson

Man’s destiny is to know, if only because societies with knowledge culturally dominate societies that lack it. Luddites and anti-intellectuals do not master the differential equations of thermodynamics or the biochemical cures of illness. They stay in thatched huts and die young. – Edward O. Wilson

Humanity did not descend as angelic beings into this world. Nor are we aliens who colonized Earth. We evolved here, one among many species, across millions of years, and exist as one organic miracle linked to others. The natural environment we treat with such unnecessary ignorance and recklessness was our cradle and nursery, our school, and remains our one and only home. – E. O. Wilson

Our sense of wonder grows exponentially: the greater the knowledge, the deeper the mystery. – E. O. Wilson

“Why I Am a Secular Humanist” I was raised a Southern Baptist in a religious environment that favored a literal interpretation of the Bible. But it happened that I also became fascinated by natural history at an early age, and, as a biology concentrator at the University of Alabama, discovered evolution. All that I had learned of the living world to that point fell into place in a wholly new and intellectually compelling way. It was apparent to me that life is connected not by supernatural design but by kinship, with species having multiplied out of other species to create, over hundreds of millions of years, the great panoply of biodiversity around us today. If a Divine Creator put it all here several thousand years ago, he also salted Earth from pole to pole with falsified massive, interlocking evidence to make scientists believe life evolved autonomously. I realized that something was terribly wrong in this dissonance. The God depicted in Holy Scripture is variously benevolent, didactic, loving, angry, and vengeful, but never tricky.

As time passed, I learned that scientific materialism explains vastly more of the tangible world, physical and biological, in precise and useful detail, than the Iron-Age theology and mysticism bequeathed us by the modern great religions ever dreamed. It offers an epic view of the origin and meaning of humanity far greater, and I believe more noble, than conceived by all the prophets of old combined. Its discoveries suggest that, like it or not, we are alone. We must measure and judge ourselves, and we will decide our own destiny.

Why then, am I a humanist? Let me give the answer in terms of Blaise Pascal’s Wager. The seventeenth-century French philosopher said, in effect, live well but accept religious faith. “If I lost,” he wrote. “I would have lost little: If I won I would have gained eternal life.” Given what we now know of the real world, I would turn the Wager around as follows: if fear and hope and reason dictate that you must accept the faith, do so, but treat this world as if there is none other. – Edward O. Wilson

There is more than one kind of wisdom, and all are essential in the world; it is not bad that they should alternate. – Marguerite Yourcenar