June 02, 2023, 11:52:17 am


This site is now on a new server!

Great Thoughts

Started by Unbeliever, October 17, 2006, 03:11:11 pm

Previous topic - Next topic


October 17, 2006, 03:11:11 pm Last Edit: February 20, 2015, 05:35:23 pm by Unbeliever
Quote from: H.G. Wells, in The Discovery of the Future
We look back through countless millions of years and
see the great will to live struggling out of the intertidal
slime, struggling from shape to shape and from power
to power, crawling and then walking confidently upon
the land, struggling generation after generation to
master the air, creeping down into the darkness of
the deep; we see it turn upon itself in rage and
hunger and reshape itself anew, we watch it draw
nearer and more akin to us, expanding, elaborating
itself, pursuing its relentless inconceivable purpose,
until at last it reaches us and its being beats through
our brains and arteries...It is possible to believe that
all the past is but the beginning of a beginning,
and that all that is and has been is but the twilight of the dawn.
It is possible to believe that all that the mind of man has ever
accomplished is but the dream before the awakening...
Out of our...lineage, minds will spring, that will reach back to us
in our littleness to know us better than we know ourselves.
A day will come, one day in the unending succession of days,
when beings, beings who are now latent in our thoughts
and hidden in our loins, shall stand upon this Earth as
one stands upon a footstool, and shall laugh and reach
out their hands amidst the stars.

Quote from: David AlbertThere is a deep and perennial and profoundly human impulse to approach the world with a DEMAND, to approach the world with a PRECONDITION, that what has got to turn out to lie at THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE, that what has got to turn out to lie at THE FOUNDATION OF ALL BEING, is some powerful and reassuring and accessible image of OURSELVES. It is precisely the business of resisting that demand, it is precisely the business of approaching the world with open and authentic wonder, and with a sharp, cold eye, and singularly intent upon the truth, that's called science.

Quote from: DiogenesHe has the most who is most content with the least

Quote from: Vernon HowardYou have succeeded in life when all you really want is only what you really need.

Quote from: Clarence DarrowWe are born and we die; and between these two most important events in our lives more or less time elapses which we have to waste somehow or other. In the end it does not seem to matter much whether we have done so in making money, or practicing law, or reading or playing, or in any other way, as long as we felt we were deriving a maximum of happiness out of our doings.

Quote from: Bertrand RussellAll who are not lunatics are agreed about certain things. That it is better to be alive than dead, better to be adequately fed than starved, better to be free than a slave. Many people desire those things only for themselves and their friends; they are quite content that their enemies should suffer. These people can be refuted by science: mankind has become so much one family that we cannot insure our own prosperity except by insuring that of everyone else. If you wish to be happy yourself, you must resign yourself to seeing others also happy.

Quote from: Jorge Louis Borges, in [i]Pierre Menard[/i],Thinking, analyzing, inventing are not anomalous acts; they are the normal respiration of the intelligence.

Quote from: Thomas CarlyleI do not believe in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.

Quote from: Edward AbbeyCivilization is Giordano Bruno facing death by fire; culture is the Cardinal Bellarmino, after ten years of inquisition, sending Bruno to the stake in the Campo di Fiori;

Quote from: Carl SaganLife is but a momentary glimpse of the wonder of this astounding universe, and it is sad to see so many dreaming it away on spiritual fantasy.

Quote from: punkerslut, in [i]Freethought Manifesto,Censorship is the tool of the tyrannical mind, ameliorating dissent of opinion and destroying liberty of conscience.

Quote from: Steve AllenIdeas have consequences, and totally erroneous ideas are likely to have destructive consequences.

Quote from: Carl SaganIf we crave some cosmic purpose, then let us find ourselves a worthy goal.

Quote from: Carl SaganIt is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.

Quote from: Isaac AsimovHumanity has the stars in its future, and that future is too important to be lost under the burden of juvenile folly and ignorant superstition.

Quote from: [b]Barbara Smoker, former president of the [i]National Secular Society[/i][/b],The point is surely that the only kind of unremitting negativism is apathy, not attack. Everthing that is attacked has its obverse 'positive' side. If you are against war, you are for peace; if you are against priveledge, you are for equality; if you are against censorship, you are for freedom of speech; if you are against superstition, you are for reason; if you are against humbug, you are for honesty; and if you are against mystical obscurantism, you are for freethought.

Quote from: John AdamsThe United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature...[In] the formation of the American governments...it will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of heaven...These governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.

QuoteOf all deceivers who have plagued mankind, none are [sic] so deeply ruinous to human happiness as those impostors who pretend to lead by a light above nature. Science has never killed or persecuted a single person for doubting or denying its teachings, and most of these teachings have been true; but religion has murdered millions for doubting or denying her dogmas, and most of these dogmas have been false.

Headstone of sworn atheist George Spencer
d. 1908, Lyndonville, Vermont

Quote from: Jane AdamsThe child becomes largely what it is taught; hence we must watch what we teach it, and how we live before it.

Quote from: AristotleIt is the mark of an educated man to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

Quote from: George OrwellAny attack on intellectual liberty, and on the concept of objective truth, threatens in the long run every department of thought.

Quote from: Hannah ArendtThere are no dangerous thoughts; thinking itself is dangerous.

Quote from: George WillThe principle upon which all intellectual freedom depends is this: THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH OFFENDING SOMEONE IN THE PURSUIT OF TRUTH.

Quote from: John Stuart Mill, in [i]Essay on Liberty[/i] (Library of Liberal Arts edition, p.13),The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil, in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him must be calculated to produce evil to someone else. The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

Quote from: H.L. MenckenDo not attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity

QuoteDo not believe in anything (simply) because you have heard it.
Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.
Do not believe anything because it is spoken and rumoured by many.
Do not believe anything (simply) because it is found in your religious books.
Do no believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.
But after observation and analysis when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all then accept it and live up to it.
Kalakas Sutra (Anguttara Nikaya, vol. 1, 188-193, P.T.S. ed.)

QuoteIf it is not truthful and not helpful, don't say it.
If it is truthful and not helpful, don't say it.
If it is not truthful yet helpful, don't say it.
If it is truthful and helpful, wait for the right time.

Buddha (paraphrased)

Quote from: Alan Bloom, in [i]The Closing of the American Mind[/i], 1987,Freedom of the mind requires not only, or not even specially, the absence of legal constraints but the presence of alternative thoughts. The most successful tyranny is not the one that uses force to ensure uniformity but the one that removes the awareness of other possibilities.

Quote from: VoltaireOur wretched species is so made that those who walk on the well-trodden path always throw stones at those showing a new road.

Quote from: Andrew BernsteinEach one of us has the power - and must develop the will - to be the hero of his own life. We believe in goals, in purposes, in acheivement and in the joy of living.

Quote from: W. I. B. Beveridge, in [i]The Art of Scientific Investigation[/i], 1950,Hypothesis is a toll which can cause trouble if not used properly. We must be ready to abandon our hypothesis as soon as it is shown to be inconsistent with the facts.

Quote from: W. I. B Beveridge, [i]The Art of Scientific Investigation[/i], 1950,Cultivate an intellectual habit of subordinating one's opinions and wishes to objective evidence and a reverence for things as they really are.

Quote from: David K. Berninghausen, in [i]Arrogance of the Censor[/i], 1982,In order to get the truth, conflicting arguments and expressions must be allowed. There can be no freedom without choice, no sound choice without knowledge.

Quote from: Henry Ward BeecherThere is a tonic in the things that men do not love to hear. Free speech is to a great people what the winds are to oceans...and where free speech is stopped miasma is bred, and death comes fast.

Quote from: Frederick DouglassI prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrance.

Quote from: Alan Barth, in [i]The Loyalty of Free Men[/i], 1951,Thought that is silenced is always rebellious. Majorities, of course, are often mistaken. This is why the silencing of minorities is necessarily dangerous. Criticism and dissent are the indespensible antidotes to major delusions.

Quote from: Marie CurieNothing in this life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.

Quote from: Rich CookProgramming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs, and the Universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning.

Quote from: Henry Brooks AdamsYou can't use tact with a Congressman! A Congressman is a hog! You must take a stick and hit him on the snout!

Quote from: Steve AllenOurs is a government of checks and balances. The Mafia and crooked businessmen make out checks, and the politicians and other compromised officials improve their bank balances.

Quote from: Will RogersDiplomacy is the art of saying "nice doggie" until you can find a rock.

Quote from: Clarence DarrowI have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.

Quote from: Isaac AsimovThe saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.

Quote from: Jorge Louis BorgesTime is the substance from which I am made. Time is a river which carries me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger that devours me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire.

Quote from: C.D. Darlington, in 1948,We need a Ministry of Disturbance; a regulated source of annoyance; a destroyer of routine; an underminer of complacency.

Quote from: Ecclesiastes 5:10Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.
"Some say God is living there [in space]. I was looking around very attentively, but I did not see anyone there. I did not detect either angels or gods....I don't believe in God. I believe in man - his strength, his possibilities, his reason."
Gherman Titov, Soviet cosmonaut, in The Seattle Daily Ti


Any attempt at understanding humanity must include an explanation of the hold that supernatural belief continues to have on most of the human race.
-- Vic Stenger, Physics and Psychics (1990) ch. 3

Thought, without the data on which to structure that thought, leads nowhere.
-- Vic Stenger, Has Science Found God? (draft: 2001) ch. 1

When people start using science to argue for their specific beliefs and delusions, to try to claim that they're supported by science, then scientists at least have to speak up and say, "You're welcome to your delusions, but don't say that they're supported by science."
-- Vic Stenger, in Cliff Walker, "Interview with Particle Physicist Victor J Stenger," Positive Atheism (December 1998, January 1999, and February 1999)

A scenario is suggested by which the universe and its laws could have arisen naturally from "nothing." Current cosmology suggests that no laws of physics were violated in bringing the universe into existence. The laws of physics themselves are shown to correspond to what one would expect if the universe appeared from nothing. There is something rather than nothing because something is more stable.
-- Vic Stenger, preliminary summary for the forthcoming book, Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing? The Self-Contained Universe

Scientific evidence for God's existence is being claimed today by theists, many of whom carry respectable scientific or philosophical credentials. "He" who is neither a "she" nor an "it" supposedly answers prayers and otherwise dramatically affects the outcome of events. If these consequences are as significant as believers say, then the effects should be detectable in properly controlled experiments.
-- Victor J Stenger, Has Science Found God? (draft: 2001), ch. 3

Scientists have practical reasons for wishing that religion and science be kept separate. They can see nothing but trouble ... if they venture into the deeply divisive issue of religion -- especially when their results tend to support a highly unpopular, atheistic conclusion.
-- Victor J Stenger, Has Science Found God? (draft: 2001), ch. 3

People are entitled to their opinions, but when the opinion is in disagreement with the data -- with the facts -- when that opinion does not stand up under critical or rational scrutiny, I think we have a right to point that out. We shouldn't be stepping on anybody's toes when we do that. If they're going to be spouting off nonsense, then we should say that -- not as a matter of opinion, but as a matter of scientific fact. When someone says science says something, and science doesn't say something ("It doesn't say that! That's a misrepresentation of what science says."), then I think we can state that. And if it ruffles some feathers, so what? I just don't see the basis for arguing that creationism has equal standing with evolution.
-- Vic Stenger, in Cliff Walker, "Interview with Particle Physicist Victor J Stenger," Positive Atheism (December 1998, January 1999, and February 1999)

From this experience, I have learned what science asks of us when we claim the existence of an extraordinary new phenomenon. It requires much, including years of hard work, uncompromising honesty, and willingness to accept failure. I can quickly recognize fallacious logic or faulty experimental procedure when I read a paper that purports to observe something that goes beyond existing knowledge. I am dubious and suspicious whenever an important result has been obtained too easily or too quickly, and reported in the media before it has run the gamut of critical review by disinterested, knowledgeable parties.
-- Vic Stenger, Has Science Found God? (draft: 2001)

If it looks like God does not exist, quacks like God does not exist, then there is a good chance he does not....
     Proof is not required to believe. But some sign, some evidence is needed. None exists....
     Find some inkling of evidence. There is none.
-- Vic Stenger, on his list, AVOID_L, November 5, 2001

"Where did all the matter come from?"
E = mc^2 says matter and energy are the same entity. Since E = 0, the total matter of the universe is zero. Zero does not have to come from anything.
     Now, if by "matter" you just mean the equivalent of rest energy, then that came from gravitational energy during the expansion in the early universe.
-- Vic Stenger, having been asked for a simple explanation to the question, "Where did all the matter come from?" in a letter to Cliff Walker (September 13, 2001)

We are only devoted to science as the best means humans have developed, so far, for arriving at an approximation to the truth about objective reality -- whatever that truth may be. We are not closed minded against psi, religion, alternative medicine, or any paranormal claims nor prejudiced against any individual adherent. Show us the evidence and we will consider it, but only steadfastly insisting on the same rules that we would apply to evidence for a new particle or a new drug. In particular, we refuse to agree to adopting new criteria ... just for the benefit of researchers in a field of study that cannot seem to get significant results any other way.
-- Vic Stenger, Has Science Found God? (draft: 2001) chapter 10

I am not one of those who think that science has nothing to say about ultimate origins. I will try to show that it has a lot to say, although what it does say is not always directly subject to the empirical testing that characterizes conventional scientific statements. Nevertheless, we have theories of physics and cosmology that are already well-established by their success in meeting the challenge of severe empirical testing against existing data. We have every right to logically extrapolate those theories into the gaps where empirical data are currently not available, and may indeed never be. Those extrapolations can turn out to be misdirected, so they should not be treated as scientifically established facts. At the very least, however, they can serve to develop possible scenarios by which the gaps in current knowledge might plausibly be filled by natural explanations, thus refuting any assertions that a supernatural explanation is required by the data.
-- Vic Stenger, Has Science Found God? (draft: 2001) ch. 4

I do not think science has to make any apologies. It looks at the world and tells it like it is. And we all live longer, better lives because of this dispassionate view. Sure, it commands awe and provides inspiration. Still, I would rather be operated on by a surgeon who sees me as an assemblage of atoms than one who lovingly tries to manipulate what he or she imagines are my vital energy fields.
-- Victor J Stenger, Has Science Found God? (draft: 2001) ch. 6

While science continually uncovers new mysteries, it has removed much of what was once regarded as deeply mysterious. Although we certainly do not know the exact nature of every component of the universe, the basic principles of physics seem to apply out to the farthest horizon visible to us today.
-- Victor J Stenger, Has Science Found God? (draft: 2001) ch. 6

Altnerative explanations are always welcome in science, if they are better and explain more. Alternative explanations that explain
nothing are not welcome....
     Note how science changed those beliefs when new data became available. Relgions stick to the same ancient beliefs regardless of the data.
-- Vic Stenger, responding to someone on his list, AVOID_L, November 5, 2001

The battle over the validity of evolution has been publicly posed as a scientific one. However, you will find little sign of it in scientific journals, where such quarrels as exist are over details, not the basic concept.... Evolution has proved so useful as a paradigm for the origin and structure of life that it constitutes the foundation of the sciences of biology and medicine.
-- Vic Stenger, Has Science Found God? (draft: 2001)

In the United States, the new creationist movement has convinced many people and their political servants that scientists are being unfair in not supporting the teaching of alternatives to evolution in science classes. They say it is censorship to exclude intelligent design from those classes. The usual argument raised against teaching intelligent design is that it unconstitutionally promotes religion. Design promoters, however, insist that they have no particular designer in mind. No one believes them, but skilled lawyers arguing for the cause of impartiality on their behalf could probably prevail in court. In any case, a better argument exists: Intelligent design theory, as currently formulated by its leading proponents, should not be taught in science classes because it is provably wrong.
-- Vic Stenger, Has Science Found God? (draft: 2001), ch. 4

People have a hard time imagining how the universe can possibly have come about by anything other than a miracle, a violation of natural law. The intuition being expressed here is at least twofold: First, it is widely believed that something cannot come from nothing, where that "something" refers to the substance of the universe -- its matter and energy -- and "nothing" can be interpreted in this context as a state of zero energy and mass. Second, it is also widely believed that the way in which the substance of the universe seems to be structured in an orderly fashion, rather than simply being randomly distributed, could not have happened except by design.
-- Vic Stenger, Has Science Found God? (draft: 2001), ch. 6

To most theistic believers, human life can have no meaning in a universe without God. Quite sincerely, and with understandable yearning for a meaning to their existence, they reject the possibility of no God. In their minds, only a purposeful universe based on God is possible and science can do nothing else but support this "truth."
-- Vic Stenger, Has Science Found God? (draft: 2001)

The argument from design rests on the notion that everything, but God, must come from something. However, once you agree that it is logically possible for an entity to exist that was not itself created, namely God, then that entity can just as well be the universe itself. Indeed, this is a more economical possibility, not requiring the additional hypothesis of a supernatural power outside the universe....
... To [creationists], it is not a matter of logic anyway, but common sense. They see no way that the universe could have just happened, without intent. "How can something come from nothing?" they continue to ask, never wondering how God came from nothing.
-- Vic Stenger, Has Science Found God? (2001), ch. 3

The argument from design stands or falls on whether it can be demonstrated that some aspect of the universe such as its origin or biological life could not have come about naturally. The burden of proof is ... on the supernaturalist to demonstrate that something from outside nature must be introduced to explain the data.
-- Vic Stenger, Has Science Found God? (draft: 2001), ch. 4

In short, evolution is as close to being a scientific fact as is possible for any theory, given that science is open-ended and no one can predict with certainty what may change in the future. The prospect that evolution by natural selection, at least as a broad mechanism, will be overthrown in the future is about as likely as the prospect of finding out some day that the Earth is really flat. Unfortunately, those who regard these scientific facts as a threat to faith have chosen to distort and misrepresent them to the public.
-- Victor J Stenger, Has Science Found God? (draft: 2001), ch. 2

It was not that I thought I was smarter. I had simply explored science and found what seemed to me a far more powerful authority. And, I did not steal or murder because I thought they were wrong, not because I feared damnation.
-- Vic Stenger, Has Science Found God? (draft: 2001), Preface

Define self-awareness and tell me what it is about it that requires something more than a material explanation. I do not accept the burden of explaining all phenomena, real or imagined. If you think more than matter is required for this thing you call self-awareness, which you have not defined, then you have the burden of showing why.
-- Victor J Stenger, responding to the question, "What is your preferred parsimonious explanation for the fact of self-awareness? Most of the hypotheses offered to explain consciousness seem to me to fail the parsimony test. None seems satisfactory. How oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, sodium, chlorine, fluorine, magnesium, iron, manganese, silicon, iodine, and a few other trace elements ever interact to become self-aware seems to me the most important question in all of the debates about the nature of creation." on his list, AVOID_L, October 18, 2001

Any strategy that attempts to reinforce faith by undermining science is also doomed to failure. Showing that some scientific theory is wrong will not prove that the religious alternative is correct by default. When the sun was shown not to be the center of the universe, as Copernicus had proposed, the Earth was not moved back to that singular position in the cosmos. If Darwinian evolution is proved wrong, biologists will not develop a new theory based on the hypothesis that each species was created separately by God 6,000 years ago.
-- Vic Stenger, Has Science Found God? (draft: 2001), Preface

The belief in supernatural forces remains to this day a yoke on the neck of humanity, but at least Thales made it possible, for those of us who wish it, to be free of that yoke.
-- Vic Stenger, Physics and Psychics (1990) p. 83. Thales (625?-546? BCE) was a Greek philosopher who was the first to posit a godless universe that runs entirely on natural laws.

But, as we have seen, movement does not require a mover, and modern quantum mechanics has shown that not all effects require a cause. And even if they did, why would the Prime Mover need to be a supernatural anthropomorphic deity such as the Judaeo-Christian God? Why could it not just as well be the material universe itself?
-- Vic Stenger, discussing Aquinas's adaptation of Aristotle's ideas as "proof" of the existence of God, Physics and Psychics (1990) p. 88

Most people in Bayonne, like folks in similar towns across the country, had little education and could neither verbalize nor intellectualize their problems very well. They just suffered them. They listened eagerly when the priests promised them everlasting life in paradise, where they would be reunited with their departed love ones, but this was not enough when the suffering and guilt were unbearable.
     The parish priests did their best and I fault them little. They operated within a framework developed over centuries that would not have survived this long if it did not give people something they wanted, no matter how insufficient....
     My father ... remained a Catholic and always expressed belief in God. He did not argue with me about my views -- although he and other older relatives often told me to keep my mouth shut.... While they succeeded in keeping me from expressing my thoughts too openly, they had no effect on those thoughts. As long as I kept my mouth shut, they left me alone.
-- Vic Stenger, on life growing up in New Jersey, in Has Science Found God? (draft: 2001), ch. 1

And, yet again, because I can predict the line of criticism that this book will generate, I need to make it clear up-front that I am not claiming that the absence of evidence eliminates all possibilities for a god to exist in every conceivable form. And, I am not evaluating all the theological and philosophical arguments for or against God. I am simply evaluating the scientific arguments and claimed scientific evidence for a deity according to the same criteria that science applies to any extraordinary claim. I conclude that, so far, they fail to meet the test.
-- Vic Stenger, on life growing up in New Jersey, in Has Science Found God? (draft: 2001)

Fifteen years of skepticism has done more for me than 20 years of force-fed religion and 30 years of indifference in between.
-- Vic Stenger, on his list, AVOID_L, November 5, 2001
"Some say God is living there [in space]. I was looking around very attentively, but I did not see anyone there. I did not detect either angels or gods....I don't believe in God. I believe in man - his strength, his possibilities, his reason."
Gherman Titov, Soviet cosmonaut, in The Seattle Daily Ti