Monkey quotes

By Grant Jacobs 13/10/2011 11

I’m a fan of short, whitty, clever or erudite aphorisms. (Well, as long as they’re not too clichéd!)

Ben Goldacre called out on twitter for quotes to put on their speaking tour poster:

@bengoldacre Twitter compo: which quotation about science will go on our @SLSingh @profbriancox @robinince tour poster? Tweet #monkeyquote free tickets

Below is a selection of those offered – for the full list, use the #monkeyquote hastag on twitter. Don’t forget to select ‘All’ to see all the tweets, rather than just the top ones. (And what list would be complete without a Terry Pratchett quotes?)

@StaticKing “I’d rather be a rising ape than a fallen angel” – Terry Pratchett

@Darwins_cat “Science is a wonderful thing if one does not have to earn one’s living at it” – Albert Einstein

@Fijian_Scion “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts” – Feynman

@terryday34 Carl Sagan: “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known”

@TomCurrieEvo My fav Darwin quote is “He who understands baboon would do more towards metaphysics than Locke”

@bumfudgebingo “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” Albert Einstein

@feathered_ape “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge” Charles Darwin, Descent of Man

@NatKayThat “Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion…

@NatKayThat ’Knowledge is an unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty.’ J Bronowski

@JamieBGall something as great as science will not stop for something as small as man

@JamieBGall Anything by Kelvin. There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now, All that remains is more and more precise measurement

@Sci_ents “Research is the process of going up alleys to see if they are blind” by Marston Bates

@SLSingh Simon @Dr_Aust_PhD: “Science is about not fooling yourself.. & you are the easiest person to fool’ RP Feynman

@Nickpheas The Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose

My own favourite science quote wouldn’t be appropriate for this, but it’s*

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not Eureka! (I found it!) but rather, ’hmm…. that’s funny….’ – Isaac Asimov [Feel free to correct me if the attribution is wrong!]

Share your own favourites in the comments.


* Often given in a shorter form:  The most exciting phrase to hear in science is not Eureka!, but, ’that’s funny….’

Other articles on Code for life:

Teaching kids critical thinking

How did you learn to critique the scientific literature?

Carrots for my neighbour

Reviewing Deadly Choices

Should we teach examples of scientists falling for unscientific practices?

11 Responses to “Monkey quotes”

  • :)
    My misquoting Richard Feynman
    Science is like sex. It may produce fruit, but that’s not why we do it.

  • I’ve more in a file I keep for that day that I kid myself into writing a book or whatever (or so I tell myself…) but I wouldn’t want to swamp readers.

    Added to the #monekquote stream just a few hours ago is:

    @BeaBea66 “Curse the scientists, and all science into the bargain.” Capt Cook (2nd voyage)

    Did Captain Cook really say that? Oooo! I wonder what set that off? Anyone know?

  • Oh, what the heck, a few more from #monkeyquote:

    @martin_rooney (Martin Rooney)
    “The most common misunderstanding about science is that scientists seek & find truth. They don’t – they make & test models”

    [That one feels like it needs a blog post.]

    @Issidorides (Diana Issidorides)
    “Science is merely an extremely powerful method of winnowing what’s true from what feels good.” – Carl Sagan

    @PaulNCov (Paul N)
    “Of course science doesn’t know everything. If science knew everything, it would stop.” Dara O’Briain.

  • Ken offered another in his article just up on history of science and philosophy of science, and how they depend (or not) on eachother. There’s several aphorisms in his article; I was drawn to the last:

    “Science is what scientists have done, not what a philosopher tells us the scientist meant to do, were really doing, or should have done.”

    James Cushing

    [Edited to add link I accidentally left out.]

  • My favorite at the moment (It’s my desktop wallpaper):
    “Physicists: Just be cause you’re not smart enough to know what the fuck they’re talking about doesn’t mean God exists.” – Dr Brian Cox

  • Others from Dara O’Briain

    “Just because science doesn’t know everything doesn’t mean you can fill in the gaps with whatever fairy tale appeals the most to you”

    “Herbal medicine has been around for thousands of years – Indeed it has, and then we tested it all and the stuff that worked became medicine… and the rest of it is just a nice bowl of soup and some pot pourri”

    “And I’m sorry if you are into homeopathy… its just WATER! You’re healing yourself, why not give yourself the credit”

  • More aphorisms, all these not on #monkeyquote but via excellent science/health journalist Trine Tsouderos (@ChicagoScience):

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

    Carl Sagan: Human beings have a demonstrated talent for self-deception when their emotions are stirred.

    Carl Sagan: If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.

    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.

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