Category Archives: Quotations


“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, The Demon-Haunted World

“The fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”
–Carl Sagan, Broca’s Brain

“If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”
–Journalism axiom

“It is always better to have no ideas than false ones; to believe nothing, than to believe what is wrong.”
–Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Rev. James Madison (cousin of President James Madison)*

“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”
–Unknown origin

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then why is there evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?
–Unknown origin (though often — and possibly falsely — attributed to Epicurus)

Google Books shows the exact quote in an issue of the The Glacialists’ Magazine from 1895

Paul Broca on Adam and Apes

From, “Paul Broca and the French School of Anthropology” by Dr. Robert Fletcher:

The crowning public honor of Broca’s life remains to be told. In 1879, the Senate nominated him as permanent Senator representing Science. He was proposed of course by the left. The right, or monarchical, side made fierce opposition. He was an unyielding Republican, the founder of the Anthropological Institute which, meant free-thinking and atheism. They searched his writings for doctrines to convict him and, with great joy, published this quotation, “I would rather be an ape brought to perfection than a degenerate Adam.” But this proved to have been a saying of Claparède’s and not of Broca’s. A sentence was taken from his Programme of Anthropology, “There is no faith, however respectable, no interest, however legitimate, which must not accommodate itself to the progress of human knowledge and bend before truth, if the truth be demonstrated. Even this scarcely orthodox doctrine, it seemed, was qualified by the preceding sentence which said that “science must keep aloof from anything not within its province.”

From “Discours sur l’homme et les animaux”:

C’est alors que, transportant l’homme, non pas dans une autre planète, mais dans un autre règne, Isid. Geoffroy-St- Hilaire s’est laborieusement efforcé d’élever un rempart infranchissable entre l’homme et les animaux. pouv ait consentir à être le cousin d’un singe, et beaucoup de savants ont partagé cette répugnance. Quant à moi, s’il pouvait me convenir de faire intervenir le sentiment dans une question scientifique, je serais loin d’être humilié d’une semblable généalogie. Je serais fier au contraire de penser que ma postérité pourrait me dépasser autant que je dépasse le singe, et je ne puis m’empêcher de rappeler à ce propos le mot de M. Claparède « qu’après tout, il vaut mieux être un singe perfectionné qu’un Adam dégénéré. » Mais, entre les deux catégories extrêmes de penseurs dont les uns rejettent absolument et les autres admettent plus ou moins cette parenté, il existe aujourd’hui une classe considérable de savants qui proclament leur ignorance sur ce point, et j’oserai même dire qu’en ce qui me concerne, la question me paraît insoluble.

Lecture delivered in the National Museum, Washington, D.C., April 15, 1882, appearing in The Saturday Lectures, Delivered in the Lecture-room of the U. S. National Museum
As it appears in Bulletins de la Société d’anthropologie de Paris, II° Série, tome 1, 1866. pp. 53-79.

“Peddling Without a License”

The fall of 1956 temporarily separated Lynn and Carl. Sagan began work at the University of Chicago’s astronomy school in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. This is the home of the Yerkes Observatory. Completed in 1897, the forty-inch Yerkes refractor was housed in a brick-and-terra-cotta domed building. It was by then a storied relic.

Williams Bay had a population of barely 1,000. For city-bred Sagan, it presented a culture shock. For the first time in his life, Sagan encountered anti-Semitism. He also ran into trouble with the law. He attempted to raise funds for the Democratic party, asking householders for a dollar each. As Sagan told it,

I spent all morning going door to door. And I got the most amazing responses: “The what party?” or “Shh! the master will hear!” or “Wait right here, young fellow, and I’ll get my shotgun.” Finally I was arrested by the sheriff, who had had innumerable complaints, on the grounds of peddling without a license. They figured I was peddling receipts at a dollar each. And I was remanded to the custody of the observatory director, who I don’t think understood anything about it, but just said to me, “Be a good boy.”

Carl Sagan, 1999, by William Poundstone, p.33

Nick Sagan on Carl Sagan

He had a knack for pinball, knowing just how hard to bump a machine without tilting it. We’d go to arcades together and he’d win bonus games like mad. Videogames were never his thing, though he could appreciate the better ones. I remember the day I showed him Computer Baseball, a strategy game for the Apple IIe. You could pit some of the greatest teams in MLB history against each other. We played Babe Ruth’s 1927 Yankees against Jackie Robinson’s 1955 Dodgers for about an hour, and then he turned to me and said, “Never show this to me again. I like it too much, and I don’t want to lose time.”


John B. Watson Misrepresented

The following is a quote as it appears in Steven Pinker’s 1994 book The Language Instinct and in his 2002 book The Blank Slate:

“I should like to go one step further now and say, ‘Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select—doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors.”

Here is the original quote, as it appears in Watson’s 1924 book Behaviorism:

“I should like to go one step further now and say, ‘Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select—doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors. I am going beyond my facts and I admit it, but so have the advocates of the contrary and they have been doing it for many thousands of years. Please note that when this experiment is made I am to be allowed to specify the way the children are to be brought up and the type of world they have to live in.”

On the Source of Racial/Community-based Antagonism

“As the patient searchers discern more and more about early man and his predecessors, they also may gain an ever-widening insight about modern man, his nature, his failings and his future. Most major anthropologists reject the notion popularized by Robert Ardrey (The Territorial Imperative) and others that man is inherently aggressive and that his murderous instincts derive from his apelike origins. Indeed, they have found no evidence in their digs that man was anything but a peaceable hunter-gatherer before the invention of agriculture some 10,000 years ago. It was farming, they believe, that created settlers with property to protect and fostered cultural differences that led to antagonisms between races and communities.

Richard Leakey…notes that racial differences, as they are commonly perceived, are a superficial and recent development, having arisen only about 15,000 years ago.”

Time Magazine article “Puzzling Out Man’s Ascent,” Monday, Nov. 07, 1977

Excerpts from The Sayings of Muhammad, Compiled by Abdullah Al-Mamun Al-Suhrawardy

“Shall I not inform you of a better act than fasting, alms, and prayers? Making peace between one another: enmity and malice tear up heavenly rewards by the roots.”

“He who trieth to remove the want of his brother, whether he be successful or not, God will forgive his sins.”

“Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave.”

“Say what is true, although it may be bitter and displeasing to people.”

“Do not exceed bounds in praising me, as the Christians do in praising Jesus, the son of Mary, by calling him God, and the Son of God; I am only the Lord’s servant; then call me the servant of God, and His messenger.”

“The ink of the scholar is more holy than the blood of the martyr.”

“…only outlaws will have guns.”

Mar. 31, 2010
“When police arrived, two children were found dead, Pubins said. One child was 5 and the other 15 months old….

The father, 39-year-old Andre Leteve, had a self-inflicted gunshot wound that police said was not life-threatening…. Police said he was distraught over a pending divorce from his estranged wife.”

Mar. 31, 2010
“An 18-year-old man died after being shot at a Phoenix apartment complex Wednesday afternoon.

… The men apparently met to engage in some sort of transaction.”

Mar. 28, 2010
“A Phoenix woman and her boyfriend were arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault, after the woman’s husband was found with a gunshot wound Saturday night, Phoenix police said.

‘Moreno and the victim are husband and wife, and Qhihuis is her boyfriend. Moreno and her husband are going through a problematic divorce/custody battle,’ Thompson said in the press release.”

Mar. 21, 2010
“He was clearing the weapon inside the home to pack it into luggage for a trip,” Crump said in an e-mail. “When the weapon discharged, the round struck his wife who was in the backyard at the time. The shooting appears to have been unintentional.”

Mar. 18, 2010
“Man shot to death in driveway of Phoenix home”

Mar. 6, 2010
“A 19-year-old Chandler man was shot dead Saturday after a gun he was looking at fired as it was being put away, police said.”
[source] Continue reading “…only outlaws will have guns.”