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Science, done right, works hard to respect absolutely no authority at all other than experience and empirical data. It never succeeds entirely, but it comes closer and has a better track record than any other method we apes have found for learning about the world around us. Adam Becker, What is Real?
To explain all Nature is too difficult a task for any one man or even for any one Age. ’Tis much better to do a little with certainty and leave the rest for others that come after you than to explain all things by conjecture without making sure of any thing. Isaac Newton
Every body continues in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a right line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it. Isaac Newton, Principia Mathematica, Laws of Motion I
The alternation of motion is ever proportional to the motive force impressed; and is made in the direction of the right line in which that force is impressed. ibid. Laws of Motion II
To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction; or, the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal, and directed to contrary parts. ibid. Laws of Motion III
In the summer of 1693 Isaac Newton was having a catastrophic nervous breakdown. He had always suffered intense bouts of depression and mania. Tristram Hunt, Great Britons: Isaac Newton, BBC 2002
When he was still a young boy his mother left him ... Isaac had to stay behind at Woolsthorpe. He was effectively abandoned. ibid.
His favourite book was The Mysteries of Nature & Art. ibid.
A lonely schoolboy was laying the foundations of modern science. ibid.
He then drew up a list entitled Some Problems in Philosophy. Under forty-five different headings he identified what he saw as the great unanswered questions of science. ibid.
The image of the lone scientists in his garden unlocking the mysteries of the universe resonates through history ... Rather than developing a full theory of Gravity he put it to one side and rather focused his mind on a completely different branch of science: Optics. ibid.
Knowledge to him was something sacred and solitary ... He made the world’s first reflecting telescope. ibid.
His sense of betrayal and injustice was overwhelming. ibid.
Instead became obsessed with the Bible. It seems an extraordinary change of tack. ibid.
Unknown to others he had been consumed by alchemy ... The Lucasian Professor had become the sorcerer’s apprentice ... He wrote over a million words on alchemy. ibid.
He decided to write a definitive guide to the workings of the universe ... At a stroke Newton had changed everything: the cosmos had become knowable, mathematical; it was a staggering achievement. ibid.
Philosophae Naturalis Principia Mathematica ... One such first edition was recently sold at auction for £2,000,000. ibid.
He was concerned with motion ... Newton was able to devise the three laws of motion. ibid.
He [Newton] left us ideas, ideas that allow us to control the forces of Nature and change our world. Ideas that will always be with us wherever we go. ibid.
How is it that any major religion has looked at science and concluded, ‘This is better than we thought’? The universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. ‘No, no, no!’ they say, ‘My God is a little god and I want him to stay that way.’ A religion old or new that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths. Carl Sagan
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Carl Sagan, attributions & variations
The suppression of uncomfortable ideas may be common in religion or politics. But it is not the path to knowledge. And there’s no place for it in the endeavour of science. Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan, Cosmos: Heaven and Hell, PBS 1980
Science is a self-correcting process. To be accepted, new ideas must survive the most rigorous standards of evidence and scrutiny. ibid.
If you wish to make an apple-pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe. Carl Sagan, Cosmos
A way of sceptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility. If we are not able to ask sceptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be sceptical of those in authority, then we’re up for grabs for the next charlatan, political or religious, who comes ambling along. Carl Sagan, interview Charlie Rose 27th May 1996
Who is more humble? The scientist who looks at the universe with an open mind and accepts whatever it has to teach us, or somebody who says everything in this book must be considered the literal truth and never mind the fallibility of all the human beings involved? ibid.
It seems to me what is called for is an exquisite balance between two conflicting needs: the most skeptical scrutiny of all hypotheses that are served up to us and at the same time a great openness to new ideas. Carl Sagan, Skeptical Inquirer 12:1
Science is much more than a body of knowledge. It is a way of thinking. This is central to its success. Science invites us to let the facts in, even when they don’t conform to our preconceptions. It counsels us to carry alternative hypotheses in our heads and see which ones best match the facts. It urges on us a fine balance between no-holds-barred openness to new ideas, however heretical, and the most rigorous skeptical scrutiny of everything – new ideas and established wisdom. We need wide appreciation of this kind of thinking. It works. It’s an essential tool for a democracy in an age of change. Our task is not just to train more scientists but also to deepen public understanding of science. Carl Sagan, ‘Why We Need to Understand Science’ Skeptical Inquirer 14:3
If you take a look at science in its everyday function, of course you find that scientists run the gamut of human emotions and personalities and character and so on. But there’s one thing that is really striking to the outsider, and that is the gauntlet of criticism that is considered acceptable or even desirable. The poor graduate student at his or her Phd oral exam is subjected to a withering crossfire of questions that sometimes seem hostile or contemptuous; this from the professors who have the candidate’s future in their grasp. The students naturally are nervous; who wouldn’t be? True, they’ve prepared for it for years. But they understand that at that critical moment they really have to be able to answer questions. So in preparing to defend their theses, they must anticipate questions; they have to think, ‘Where in my thesis is there a weakness that someone else might find? – because I sure better find it before they do, because if they find it and I’m not prepared, I’m in deep trouble.’ Carl Sagan, 'Wonder and Skepticism' Skeptical Inquirer 19:1 1995
In science it often happens that scientists say, ‘You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,’ and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. Carl Sagan, address CSICOP conference 1987, cited J Poling ‘Do Science and the Bible Conflict?’
We live in a society absolutely dependent on science and technology and yet have cleverly arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. That’s a clear prescription for disaster. Carl Sagan, with Anne Kalosh, ‘Bringing Science Down to Earth’, 1994
Not explaining science seems to me perverse. When you are in love, you want to tell the world. Carl Sagan
Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. Carl Sagan
Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
The chief deficiency I see in the skeptical movement is its polarization: Us versus Them – the sense that we have a monopoly on the truth; that those other people who believe in all these stupid doctrines are morons; that if you’re sensible, you’ll listen to us; and if not, to hell with you. This is nonconstructive. It does not get our message across. It condemns us to permanent minority status. ibid.