North Texas Skeptics
This is a growing collection of affirmations concerning science and skepticism from various scientists, philosophers, and other like-minded men and women throughout history. If you're a skeptic, you're in good company - these statements are a testimony to the staying power of rational thought. Enjoy!
As scarce as truth is, the supply has always been in excess of the demand.
Henry Wheeler Shaw (Josh Billings)
When did ignorance become a point of view?
Dilbert (Scott Adams)
In regione caecorum rex est lucus.
In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
Making up your mind does not mean freeing yourself to believe what you want - but examining so closely that you know the result.
To understand the things that are at our door is the best preparation for understanding those things that lie beyond.
Education is a crutch with which the foolish attack the wise to prove that they are not idiots.
The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has limits.
A witty saying proves nothing.
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Arthur C. Clarke
De omnibus dubitandum.
All is to be doubted.
The beginning of wisdom is found in doubting; by doubting we come to the question, and by seeking we may come upon the truth.
The solemn scepticism of science has replaced the sneering doubts of witty philosophers. The more positive knowledge we gain, the more we incline to question all that has been received without absolute proof.
Oliver Wendell Holmes
I respect faith, but doubt is what gets you an education.
All superstition is much the same whether it be that of astrology, dreams, omen, retributive judgment, or the like, in all of which the deluded believers observe events which are fulfilled, but neglect and pass over their failure, though it be much more common.
Francis Bacon, Novum Organum
We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.
Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
False facts are highly injurious to the progress of science, for they often endure long; but false views, if supported by some evidence, do little harm, for everyone takes a salutory pleasure in proving their falseness; and when this is done, one path toward errors is closed and the road to truth is often at the same time opened.
Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man
There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere.
Learning without thinking is useless. Thinking without learning is dangerous.
Kong Fuzi (Confucius)
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
The trouble with people is not that they don't know but that they know so much that ain't so.
Henry Wheeler Shaw (Josh Billings)
For those that believe no explanation is necessary.
For those who do not, none will suffice.
The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.
Bertrand Russell, A Word a Day
Nothing has more retarded the advancement of learning than the disposition of vulgar minds to ridicule and vilify what they cannot comprehend.
Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.
The skeptic, being a lover of his kind, desires to cure by speech, as best he can, the self-conceit and rashness of the dogmatists.
Sextus Empiricus, Outlines of Pyrrhonism
Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit.
Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem.
Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily.
William of Ockham, Quodlibeta
Science when well digested is nothing more but good sense and reason.
Stanislas I of Poland
The Critique of Pure Reason is a continual sermon against the use of the category of thought beyond the limits of actual experience.
Hermann von Helmholtz
Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition.
Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations
[Barry] Stroud reflects on the possibility that the challenge of skepticism may prove impossible to meet, which, for him, is equivalent to saying that philosophy itself is impossible. Here's another alternative: philosophy is possible, and, thought through, skepticism is the form it takes.
Robert J. Fogelin
Most institutions demand unqualified faith; but the institution of science makes skepticism a virtue.
Robert K. Merton, Social Theory
No statement should be believed because it is made by an authority.
Every man I meet is my master in some point, and in that I learn of him.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain)
Eine neue wissenschaftliche Wahrheit pflegt sich nicht in der Weise durchzusetzen, dass ihre Gegner überzeugt werden und sich als belehrt erklären, sondern vielmehr dadurch, dass die Gegner allmählich aussterben und dass die heranwachsende Generation von vornherein mit der Wahrheit vertraut gemacht ist.
A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die out, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.
The cure for a fallacious argument is a better argument, not the suppression of ideas.
Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan
Science commits suicide when it adopts a creed.
Thomas Henry Huxley
There is no adequate defense, except stupidity, against the impact of a new idea.
Percy Williams Bridgeman
The eloquence of a scientist is clarity; scientific truth is always more luminous when its beauty is unadorned than when it is tricked out in the embellishments with which our imagination would seek to clothe it.
I would have every man write what he knows and no more.
Michel de Montaigne
Authority has every reason to fear the skeptic, for authority can rarely survive in the face of doubt.
In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.
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.
Thomas Henry Huxley
Ubi dubium ibi libertas.
Where there is doubt, there is freedom.
Anonymous (Latin Proverb)
The public will believe anything, so long as it is not founded on truth.
Coincidence is the science of the true believer.
Every mind was made for growth, for knowledge; and its nature is sinned against when it is drowned in ignorance.
William W. Channing
Heresy is what the minority believe; it is the name given by the powerful to the doctrines of the weak.
Robert G. Ingersoll
It is proof of a base and low mind for one to wish to think with the masses or majority, merely because the majority is the majority. Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people.
Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.
Jirikurun men o men ji la, a te ke bama ye.
No matter how long a log stays in the water, it doesn't become a crocodile.
Anonymous (Bambara Proverb)
Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.
Philip K. Dick
True ideas are those that we can assimilate, validate, corroborate, and verify. False ideas are those that we cannot. That is the practical difference it makes to us to have true ideas; that therefore is the meaning of truth, for it is all that truth is known as.
All we know of the truth is that the absolute truth, such as it is, is beyond our reach.
Nicholas of Cusa, De Docta Ignorantia
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.
Truth is something we can attempt to doubt, and then perhaps, after much exertion, discover that part of the doubt is unjustified.
What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.
Science must begin with myth and with the criticism of myth.
People may believe correct things for the damndest and weirdest of wrong reasons.
Stephen Jay Gould
Most people would die sooner than think; in fact, they do so.
To follow foolish precedents, and wink with both our eyes, is easier than to think.
The price paid for intellectual pacification is the sacrifice of the entire moral courage of the human mind.
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty
He, who will not reason, is a bigot; he, who cannot, is a fool; and he, who dares not, is a slave.
The greater the ignorance the greater the dogmatism.
Sir William Osler
To be rational is to look the universe in the face and not flinch.
Science deals [with nature], the only reality of which we have any certain knowledge...Those fundamentalist[s]...who speak contemptuously of science...reveal an astonishing insensitivity to the very world they tell us God created. Granting, then, our prior assumption of a Creator, anyone who criticizes real science is in a direct sense criticizing God.
What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out, which is the exact opposite.
We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.
John F. Kennedy
The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious...the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.
In spite of all these disquieting triumphs in the field of natural science, it's astonishing how little man has learned about himself, and how much there is to learn. How little we know about this brain which made social evolution possible, and of the mind. How little we know of the nature and spirit of man and God. We stand now before this inner frontier of ignorance. If we could pass it, we might well discover the meaning of life and understand man's destiny.
Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too.
For your amusement and/or bemusement, we also present a few statements in opposition to critical thought and rational inquiry...
My responsibility is to follow the Scriptures which call upon us to occupy the land until Jesus returns. We don't have to protect the environment, the Second Coming is at hand.
James Watt, Secretary of the Interior for Ronald Reagan
Quoted in the Washington Post, May 24, 1981
If you can't be a fundamentalist, then you should give up Christianity for the sake of honesty.
Former Professor of Theology, Goettingen University
I believe this Earth is a stationary plane; that it rests upon water; and that there is no such thing as the Earth moving, no such thing as the Earth's axis or the Earth's orbit. It is a lot of silly rot, born in the egotistical brains of infidels.
Wilbur Glenn Voliva, "Flat Earth" theologian
Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith...we need believing people.
Excerpted from a speech made on April 26, 1933