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Meditation 771
Quotations XLVII

"I always have a quotation for everything - it saves original thinking." Dorothy L. Sayers

On the other hand, an apt quotation can stimulate the mind towards original thought. A quotation better serves as the starting point for a discussion, not as a means for closing it. We will continue to publish a selection occasionally, mostly but not entirely relevant to agnosticism, rationalism, and free thought. This is the forty-seventh in an apparently unending series. Quotations are indexed by author and by opening words to assist anyone trying to locate a specific one. Quotations are also available as a set of downloadable pdf files (menu to the left.) Suggestions for previously unused quotations are always welcome.

  1. There is a remote tribe that worships the number zero. Is nothing sacred? Les Dawson
  2. Belief is not a voluntary thing. A man believes or disbelieves in spite of himself. They tell us that to believe is the safe way; but I say, the safe way is to be honest. Nothing can be safer than that. No man in the hour of death ever regretted having been honest.
    Robert G. Ingersoll
  3. It was geology, Darwin, and the doctrine of evolution, that first upset the faith of British men of science. If man was evolved by insensible gradations from lower forms of life, a number of things became very difficult to understand. At what moment in evolution did our ancestors acquire free will? At what stage in the long journey from the ameba did they begin to have immortal souls? When did they first become capable of the kinds of wickedness that would justify a benevolent Creator in sending them into eternal torment? Most people felt that such punishment would be hard on monkeys, in spite of their propensity for throwing coconuts at the heads of Europeans. But how about Pithecanthropus Erectus? Was it really he who ate the apple? Or was it Homo Pekiniensis?
    Bertrand Russell
  4. Sanity is a madness put to good uses. George Santayana
  5. Criticism is prejudice made plausible. Henry Louis Mencken
  6. 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
  7. Several thousand years ago, a small tribe of ignorant near-savages wrote various collections of myths, wild tales, lies, and gibberish. Over the centuries, these stories were embroidered, garbled, mutilated, and torn into small pieces that were then repeatedly shuffled. Finally, this material was badly translated into several languages successively. The resultant text, creationists feel, is the best guide to this complex and technical subject. Tom Weller
  8. We shall continue to have a worsening ecologic crisis until we reject the Christian axiom that nature has no reason for existence save to serve man. Lynn White, Jr.
  9. He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that. John Stewart Mill
  10. The religion that is afraid of science dishonors God and commits suicide.
    Ralph W Emerson
  11. Whether God exists or does not exist, He has come to rank as one of the most sublime and useless truths. Denis Diderot
  12. I do not understand where the beauty and harmony of nature are supposed to be found. Throughout the animal kingdom, animals ruthlessly prey upon each other. Most of them are either cruelly killed by other animals or slowly die of hunger. For my part, I am unable to see any very great beauty or harmony in the tapeworm. Let it not be said that this creature is sent as a punishment for our sins, for it is more prevalent among animals than among humans. I suppose what is meant by this beauty and harmony are such things as the beauty of the starry heavens. But one should remember that the stars every now and again explode and reduce everything in their neighborhood to a vague mist. Bertrand Russell
  13. All religions are equally sublime to the ignorant, useful to the politician, and ridiculous to the philosopher. Lucretius
  14. On two occasions, I have been asked [by members of Parliament], 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able to rightly apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.
    Charles Babbage
  15. Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition Adam Smith
  16. Man can always believe the impossible, but man can never believe the improbable.
    Oscar Wilde
  17. Good ideas do not need lots of lies told about them in order to gain public acceptance. Daniel Davies
  18. Argumentation cannot suffice for the discovery of new work, since the subtlety of Nature is greater many times than the subtlety of argument. Francis Bacon
  19. If the man doesn't believe as we do, we say he is a crank, and that settles it. I mean, it does nowadays, because now we can't burn him. Mark Twain
  20. The ideal tyranny is that which is ignorantly self-administered by its victims. The most perfect slaves are, therefore, those which blissfully and unawaredly enslave themselves.
    Dresden James