Over the years I have collected a number of quotations that reflect both on the scientific process and the experience of working in a scientific laboratory. These have been supplemented with a few other memorable quotes from a number of different realms. I share these with the hope that they will lead you to reflect on their meaning:


“If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything” Darrell Huff (from his 1954 book How to Lie with Statistics)

“Nothing strengthens the judgement and quickens the conscience like individual responsibility.”
Elizabeth Cady Stanton

”It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
Aristotle

"A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
Antoine de Saint Exupery

“A clever person solves a problem; a wise person avoids it.”
Albert Einstein

Science literacy is the artery through which the solutions of tomorrow's problems flow.” Neil deGrasse Tyson

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.” George Bernard Shaw

“The trouble with most folks ain't so much their ignorance as knowing so many things that ain’t so.” Josh Billings (aka Henry Wheeler Shaw)

“The intensity of the conviction that a hypothesis is true has no bearing on whether it is true or not.”
P.B. Medawar

“Treasure your exceptions." William Bateson

“The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.”
George Orwell

"Speak properly, and in as few words as you can, but always plainly; for the end of speech is not ostentation, but to be understood."
William Penn

“A man of true science uses but few hard words, and those only when none other will answer his purposes; whereas the smatterer in science thinks that by mouthing hard words he proves that he understands hard things.”
Herman Melville

“If there is no struggle there is no progress.”
Frederick Douglass

“Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought.”
Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

“Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects.”
Will Rogers

“Creativity is so delicate a flower that praise tends to make it bloom, while discouragement often nips it in the bud.”
Alex F. Osborn

“Do not take life too seriously; you will never get out of it alive.”
Elbert Hubbard

"Reflect on your present blessings, of which every man has many; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”
Charles Dickens

“The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a creative mind to spot wrong questions.”
Antony Jay

“A pat on the back is only a few vertebrae removed from a kick in the pants, but is miles ahead in results.”
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones that respond to change.”
Charles Darwin

“The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”
Frederick Douglass

"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear -- not absence of fear." Mark Twain

“Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.” Jack Kerouac

“The price one pays for pursuing any profession, or calling, is an immediate knowledge of its ugly side.” James Baldwin

“A good many of the special words of business seem designed more to express the user’s dreams than to express a precise meaning.”
E.B. White

“I guess I should warn you, if I turn out to be particularly clear, you’ve probably misunderstood what I’ve said.”
Alan Greenspan

“Science that leads over the horizon depends on gathering the best minds and enabling them to do what the best minds naturally seek to do: pursue the most thrilling questions of the time.” James D. Watson

“An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a very narrow field.”
Niels Bohr

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." Thomas Edison

“If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.” Frank A. Clark

“Luck enters into every contingency. You are a fool if you forget it -- and a greater fool if you count upon it.” Phyllis Bottome

“A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.” Douglas Adams

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” Daniel Patrick Moynihan

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“It is necessary for us to learn from others' mistakes. You will not live long enough to make them all yourself.” Admiral Hyman Rickover

“Science is basically an inoculation against charlatans.” Neil deGrasse Tyson

"We in medicine need to look into our soul and we need to learn the truth. If your income is dependent on you not understanding something, it is very easy not to understand something.”
Otis Brawley This quote is an expansion of Upton Sinclair's quote: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

“Money makes a lot of people rationalize behavior that they normally would not participate in.”
Sherron Watkins

“The third-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the majority. The second-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the minority. The first-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking.”
A.A. Milne

“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
Robert F. Kennedy

"I have learned that the best way to lift one's self up is to help someone else."
Booker T. Washington

"Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” John F. Kennedy

"Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts."
Arnold Bennett

“Most people say that it is the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong: It is character.”
Albert Einstein

“Having just the vision's no solution; everything depends on execution.” Stephen Sondheim

"The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense."
Thomas Edison

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

“As history has shown, pure science research ultimately ends up applying to something. We just don't know it at the time.”
Neil deGrasse Tyson

“The scientific man does not aim at an immediate result. He does not expect that his advanced ideas will be readily taken up. His work is like that of the planter -- for the future. His duty is to lay the foundation for those who are to come, and point the way.”
Nicola Tesla

“We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology."
Carl Sagan

“Creativity in science, as in art, cannot be organised. It arises spontaneously from individual talent. Well-run laboratories can foster it, but hierarchical organisations, inflexible bureaucratic rules, and mountains of futile paperwork can kill it. Discoveries cannot be planned, they pop up, like Puck, in unexpected corners.”
Max Perutz

“When men yield up the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon.”
Thomas Paine

“Little minds are tamed by misfortune, but great minds rise above it.”
Washington Irving

““When the intertwining between technological power and economic power becomes closer, interests may condition lifestyles and social orientations in the direction of profits of certain industrial and commercial groups to the detriment of peoples and the poorest nations.”
Pope Francis

On the subject of science denial campaigns:
“First, cast doubt on the science. Second, question the personal motives and integrity of the scientists. Third, magnify genuine disagreements among scientists, and cite non-experts with minority opinions as authorities. Fourth, exaggerate the potential harm caused by the issue. Fifth, frame the issue as a threat to personal freedom. And sixth, claim that acceptance would repudiate a key philosophy, religious belief, or practice of a group.”
Sean Carroll



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