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David Deutsch quotes (showing 1-30 of 65)

“The whole [scientific] process resembles biological evolution. A problem is like an ecological niche, and a theory is like a gene or a species which is being tested for viability in that niche.”
David Deutsch, The Fabric of Reality: The Science of Parallel Universes--and Its Implications
“Like every other destruction of optimism, whether in a whole civilisation or in a single individual, these must have been unspeakable catastrophes for those who had dared to expect progress. But we should feel more than sympathy for those people. We should take it personally. For if any of those earlier experiments in optimism had succeeded, our species would be exploring the stars by now, and you and I would be immortal.”
David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World
“Some people become depressed at the scale of the universe, because it makes them feel insignificant. Other people are relieved to feel insignificant, which is even worse. But, in any case, those are mistakes. Feeling insignificant because the universe is large has exactly the same logic as feeling inadequate for not being a cow. Or a herd of cows. The universe is not there to overwhelm us; it is our home, and our resource. The bigger the better.”
David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World
“As the physicist Stephen Hawking put it, humans are ‘just a chemical scum on the surface of a typical planet that’s in orbit round a typical star on the outskirts of a typical galaxy’. The proviso ‘in the cosmic scheme of things’ is necessary because the chemical scum evidently does have a special significance according to values that it applies to itself, such as moral values. But the Principle says that all such values are themselves anthropocentric: they explain only the behaviour of the scum, which is itself insignificant.”
David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World
“We do not experience time flowing, or passing. What we experience are differences between our present perceptions and our present memories of past perceptions. We interpret those differences, correctly, as evidence that the universe changes with time. We also interpret them, incorrectly, as evidence that our consciousness, or the present, or something, moves through time.”
David Deutsch, The Fabric of Reality: The Science of Parallel Universes--and Its Implications
“an unproblematic state is a state without creative thought. Its other name is death.”
David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World
“All fiction that does not violate the laws of physics is fact.”
David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World
“Base metals can be transmuted into gold by stars, and by intelligent beings who understand the processes that power stars, but by nothing else in the universe.”
David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World
“The theory of computation has traditionally been studied almost entirely in the abstract, as a topic in pure mathematics. This is to miss the point of it. Computers are physical objects, and computations are physical processes. What computers can or cannot compute is determined by the laws of physics alone, and not by pure mathematics.”
David Deutsch, The Fabric of Reality: The Science of Parallel Universes--and Its Implications
“Feeling insignificant because the universe is large has exactly the same logic as feeling inadequate for not being a cow.”
David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World
“The ability to create and use explanatory knowledge gives people a power to transform nature which is ultimately not limited by parochial factors, as all other adaptations are, but only by universal laws. This is the cosmic significance of explanatory knowledge – and hence of people, whom I shall henceforward define as entities that can create explanatory knowledge.”
David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World
“Amending the ‘data’, or rejecting some as erroneous, is a frequent concomitant of scientific discovery, and the crucial ‘data’ cannot even be obtained until theory tells us what to look for and how and why.”
David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World
“Like an explosive awaiting a spark, unimaginably numerous environments in the universe are waiting out there, for aeons on end, doing nothing at all or blindly generating evidence and storing it up or pouring it out into space. Almost any of them would, if the right knowledge ever reached it, instantly and irrevocably burst into a radically different type of physical activity: intense knowledge-creation, displaying all the various kinds of complexity, universality and reach that are inherent in the laws of nature, and transforming that environment from what is typical today into what could become typical in the future. If we want to, we could be that spark.”
David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World
“SOCRATES: No, I am not sure of anything. I never have been. But the god explained to me why that must be so, starting with the fallibility of the human mind and the unreliability of sensory experience.”
David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World
“objective knowledge is indeed possible: it comes from within! It begins as conjecture, and is then corrected by repeated cycles of criticism, including comparison with the evidence on our ‘wall’.”
David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World
“Good political institutions are those that make it as easy as possible to detect whether a ruler or policy is a mistake, and to remove rulers or policies without violence when they are.”
David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World
“It follows that humans, people and knowledge are not only objectively significant: they are by far the most significant phenomena in nature – the only ones whose behaviour cannot be understood without understanding everything of fundamental importance.”
David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World
“history is the history of ideas, not of the mechanical effects of biogeography. Strategies to prevent foreseeable disasters are bound to fail eventually, and cannot even address the unforeseeable. To prepare for those, we need rapid progress in science and technology and as much wealth as possible.”
David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World
“Again we were too parochial, and were led to the false conclusion that knowledge-bearing entities can be physically identical to non-knowledge-bearing ones; and this in turn cast doubt on the fundamental status of knowledge. But now we have come almost full circle. We can see that the ancient idea that living matter has special physical properties was almost true: it is not living matter but knowledge-bearing matter that is physically special. Within one universe it looks irregular; across universes it has a regular structure, like a crystal in the multiverse.”
David Deutsch, The Fabric of Reality: The Science of Parallel Universes--and Its Implications
“It is a mistake to conceive of choice and decision-making as a process of selecting from existing
options according to a fixed formula. That omits the most important element of decision-making,
namely the creation of new options.”
David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World
“Those two overarching concerns are these: we Athenians are concerned above all with improvement; the Spartans seek only – stasis. Two opposite objectives. If”
David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World
“Although, through the vagaries of international politics, Athens became independent and democratic again soon afterwards, and continued for several generations to produce art, literature and philosophy, it was never again host to rapid, open-ended progress. It became unexceptional. Why? I guess that its optimism was gone.”
David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World
“The very existence of Athens, however peaceful, is a deadly threat to Sparta’s stasis. And therefore, in the long run, the condition for the continued stasis of Sparta (which means its continued existence, as they see it) is the destruction of progress in Athens (which from our perspective would constitute the destruction of Athens).”
David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World
“To interpret dots in the sky as white-hot, million-kilometre spheres, one must first have thought of the idea of such spheres. And then one must explain why they look small and cold and seem to move in lockstep around us and do not fall down. Such ideas do not create themselves, nor can they be mechanically derived from anything: they have to be guessed – after which they can be criticized and tested.”
David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World
“Whenever we observe anything – a scientific instrument or a galaxy or a human being – what we are actually seeing is a single-universe perspective on a larger object that extends some way into other universes. In”
David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World
“We never know any data before interpreting it through theories. All observations are, as Popper put it, theory-laden,* and hence fallible, as all our theories are. Consider”
David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World
“There is only one way of thinking that is capable of making progress, or of surviving in the long run, and that is the way of seeking good explanations through creativity and criticism. What”
David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World
“so in this book when I refer to ‘the’ Enlightenment I mean the ‘British’ one.”
David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World
“Science is what we have learned about how to keep from fooling ourselves.’ By”
David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World
“SOCRATES: You have? Oh – you said that you honour Athenians for our openness to persuasion. And for our defiance of bullies. But”
David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World

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