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Scientific Theory Quotes

Quotes tagged as "scientific-theory" Showing 1-30 of 34
Michael Crichton
“I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you're being had.

Let's be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

There is no such thing as consensus science. If it's consensus, it isn't science. If it's science, it isn't consensus. Period.”
Michael Crichton

Michael Crichton
“I would remind you to notice where the claim of consensus is invoked. Consensus is invoked only in situations where the science is not solid enough. Nobody says the consensus of scientists agrees that E=mc2. Nobody says the consensus is that the sun is 93 million miles away. It would never occur to anyone to speak that way.”
Michael Crichton

Carl Sagan
“Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless, whatever value the may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder.”
carl sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

Isaac Asimov
“The young specialist in English Lit, having quoted me, went on to lecture me severely on the fact that in every century people have thought they understood the Universe at last, and in every century they were proved to be wrong. It follows that the one thing we can say about our modern 'knowledge' is that it is wrong.

The young man then quoted with approval what Socrates had said on learning that the Delphic oracle had proclaimed him the wisest man in Greece. 'If I am the wisest man,' said Socrates, 'it is because I alone know that I know nothing.' The implication was that I was very foolish because I was under the impression I knew a great deal.

Alas, none of this was new to me. (There is very little that is new to me; I wish my correspondents would realize this.) This particular theme was addressed to me a quarter of a century ago by John Campbell, who specialized in irritating me. He also told me that all theories are proven wrong in time.

My answer to him was, 'John, when people thought the Earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the Earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the Earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the Earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.”
Isaac Asimov, The Relativity of Wrong

Ernest Rutherford
“I think a strong claim can be made that the process of scientific discovery may be regarded as a form of art. This is best seen in the theoretical aspects of Physical Science. The mathematical theorist builds up on certain assumptions and according to well understood logical rules, step by step, a stately edifice, while his imaginative power brings out clearly the hidden relations between its parts. A well constructed theory is in some respects undoubtedly an artistic production. A fine example is the famous Kinetic Theory of Maxwell. ... The theory of relativity by Einstein, quite apart from any question of its validity, cannot but be regarded as a magnificent work of art.”
Ernest Rutherford

Karl Popper
“The difficulties connected with my criterion of demarcation (D) are important, but must not be exaggerated. It is vague, since it is a methodological rule, and since the demarcation between science and nonscience is vague. But it is more than sharp enough to make a distinction between many physical theories on the one hand, and metaphysical theories, such as psychoanalysis, or Marxism (in its present form), on the other. This is, of course, one of my main theses; and nobody who has not understood it can be said to have understood my theory.

The situation with Marxism is, incidentally, very different from that with psychoanalysis. Marxism was once a scientific theory: it predicted that capitalism would lead to increasing misery and, through a more or less mild revolution, to socialism; it predicted that this would happen first in the technically highest developed countries; and it predicted that the technical evolution of the 'means of production' would lead to social, political, and ideological developments, rather than the other way round.

But the (so-called) socialist revolution came first in one of the technically backward countries. And instead of the means of production producing a new ideology, it was Lenin's and Stalin's ideology that Russia must push forward with its industrialization ('Socialism is dictatorship of the proletariat plus electrification') which promoted the new development of the means of production.

Thus one might say that Marxism was once a science, but one which was refuted by some of the facts which happened to clash with its predictions (I have here mentioned just a few of these facts).

However, Marxism is no longer a science; for it broke the methodological rule that we must accept falsification, and it immunized itself against the most blatant refutations of its predictions. Ever since then, it can be described only as nonscience—as a metaphysical dream, if you like, married to a cruel reality.

Psychoanalysis is a very different case. It is an interesting psychological metaphysics (and no doubt there is some truth in it, as there is so often in metaphysical ideas), but it never was a science. There may be lots of people who are Freudian or Adlerian cases: Freud himself was clearly a Freudian case, and Adler an Adlerian case. But what prevents their theories from being scientific in the sense here described is, very simply, that they do not exclude any physically possible human behaviour. Whatever anybody may do is, in principle, explicable in Freudian or Adlerian terms. (Adler's break with Freud was more Adlerian than Freudian, but Freud never looked on it as a refutation of his theory.)

The point is very clear. Neither Freud nor Adler excludes any particular person's acting in any particular way, whatever the outward circumstances. Whether a man sacrificed his life to rescue a drowning, child (a case of sublimation) or whether he murdered the child by drowning him (a case of repression) could not possibly be predicted or excluded by Freud's theory; the theory was compatible with everything that could happen—even without any special immunization treatment.

Thus while Marxism became non-scientific by its adoption of an immunizing strategy, psychoanalysis was immune to start with, and remained so. In contrast, most physical theories are pretty free of immunizing tactics and highly falsifiable to start with. As a rule, they exclude an infinity of conceivable possibilities.”
Karl Popper

William A. Dembski
“Regardless of one's point of view, it's quite easy to see that Darwinism is not in the same league as the hard sciences. For instance, Darwinists will often compare their theory favorably to Einsteinian physics, claiming that Darwinism is just as well established as general relativity. Yet how many physicists, while arguing for the truth of Einsteinian physics, will claim that general relativity is as well established as Darwin’s theory? Zero.”
William A. Dembski, Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing

Max Planck
“The Theory of Relativity confers an absolute meaning on a magnitude which in classical theory has only a relative significance: the velocity of light. The velocity of light is to the Theory of Relativity as the elementary quantum of action is to the Quantum Theory: it is its absolute core.”
Max Planck, Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers

Anne Fortier
“I will say to you what the scientists say about the small particles in the universe: I can't show you where they are, I can only show you where they were.”
Anne Fortier, The Lost Sisterhood

James P. Hogan
“The fact that some religious fanatics might support a theory doesn't invalidate it, anymore than the concurrence of UFO abduction cults invalidates the notion of extra-terrestrial life.”
James P. Hogan

Jean-Baptiste Dumas
“In chemistry, our theories are crutches; to show that they are valid, they must be used to walk... A theory established with the help of twenty facts must explain thirty, and lead to the discovery of ten more.”
Jean-Baptiste Dumas

Dexter Palmer
“First, the idea of the multiverse is essentially the fantasy of preserving perfect information. One of the hard things to deal with in life is the fact that you destroy potential information whenever you make a decision. You could even say that's essentially what regret is: a profound problem of incomplete information. If you select one thing on a diner's menu, you can't know what it would have been like to taste other things on it, right then, right there. When you marry one person, you give up the possibility of knowing what it would have been like to have married any number of others. But if the multiverse exists, you can at least imagine there's another version of you who's eating that other thing you thought about ordering, or who's married to that other man you only went on two dates with. Even if you'll never see all the information for yourself, at least you'll be able to tell yourself that it's there.

'The second reason the multiverse seems like such a neat idea is that it gives human beings just an incredible amount of agency, which they can exercise with the least effort. Why, Carson here created an entire alternate universe when he ordered hash browns on the side of his French toast instead of bacon—'

'Ah, I should have gotten bacon, how could I forget,' Carson said, and attempted to hail the waitress.

'But the history of science shows that any theory that covertly panders to the human ego like that, that puts humans at the center of things, is very likely to be found out wrong, given enough time. So, just for the sake of argument, let's assume that there's just this one universe, and we're stuck with it. What happens to our time traveler then?”
Dexter Palmer, Version Control

“The evolution of higher and of lower forms of life is as well and as soundly established as the eternal hills. It has long since ceased to be a theory; it is a law of Nature as universal in living things as is the law of gravitation in material things and in the motions of the heavenly spheres.”
Henry Fairfield Osborn

William Henry Preece
“The discovery of the telephone has made us acquainted with many strange phenomena. It has enabled us, amongst other things, to establish beyond a doubt the fact that electric currents actually traverse the earth's crust. The theory that the earth acts as a great reservoir for electricity may be placed in the physicist's waste-paper basket, with phlogiston, the materiality of light, and other old-time hypotheses.”
William Henry Preece

“Darwin's theory was received in Russia with profound sympathy. While in Western Europe it met firmly established old traditions which it had first to overcome, in Russia its appearance coincided with the awakening of our society after the Crimean War and here it immediately received the status of full citizenship and ever since has enjoyed widespread popularity.”
Vladimir Onufrievich Kovalevskiĭ

David Brewster
“A mere inference or theory must give way to a truth revealed; but a scientific truth must be maintained, however contradictory it may appear to the most cherished doctrines of religion.”
David Brewster

Abhijit Naskar
“Memorizing and regurgitating are not science. Real science is a constant investigation of the unknown.”
Abhijit Naskar

Stephen Hawking
“. . .a scientific theory is just a mathematical model we make to describe our observations: it exists only in our minds. So it is meaningless to ask: which is real, "real" or "imaginary" time? It is simply a matter of which is the more useful description.”
Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time

Stephen Hawking
“Thus the no boundary proposal is a good scientific theory in the sense of Karl Popper: it could have been falsified by observations but instead its predictions have been confirmed. In an expanding universe in which the density of matter varied slightly from place to place, gravity would have caused the denser regions to slow down their expansion and start contracting. This would lead to the formation
of galaxies, stars, and eventually even insignificant creatures like ourselves. Thus all the complicated structures that we see in the universe might be explained by the no boundary condition for the universe together with the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics.
The idea that space and time may form a closed surface without boundary also has profound implications for the role of God in the affairs of the universe. With the success of scientific theories in describing events, most people have
come to believe that God allows the universe to evolve according to a set of laws and does not intervene in the
universe to break these laws. However, the laws do not tell us what the universe should have looked like when it
started – it would still be up to God to wind up the clockwork and choose how to start it off. So long as the universe
had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no
boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place, then, for a creator?”
Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking
“Thus the no boundary proposal is a good scientific theory in the sense of Karl Popper: it could have been falsified by observations but instead its predictions have been confirmed. In an expanding universe in which the density of matter varied slightly from place to place, gravity would have caused the denser regions to slow down their expansion and start contracting. This would lead to the formation
of galaxies, stars, and eventually even insignificant creatures like ourselves. Thus all the complicated structures that we see in the universe might be explained by the no boundary condition for the universe together with the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics.
The idea that space and time may form a closed surface without boundary also has profound implications for the role of God in the affairs of the universe. With the success of scientific theories in describing events, most people have
come to believe that God allows the universe to evolve according to a set of laws and does not intervene in the universe to break these laws. However, the laws do not tell us what the universe should have looked like when it started – it would still be up to God to wind up the clockwork and choose how to start it off. So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place, then, for a creator?”
Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time

“The Earth Speaks, clearly, distinctly, and, in many of the realms of Nature, loudly, to William Jennings Bryan, but he fails to hear a single sound. The earth speaks from the remotest periods in its wonderful life history in the Archaeozoic Age, when it reveals only a few tissues of its primitive plants. Fifty million years ago it begins to speak as 'the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creatures that hath life.' In successive eons of time the various kinds of animals leave their remains in the rocks which compose the deeper layers of the earth, and when the rocks are laid bare by wind, frost, and storm we find wondrous lines of ascent invariably following the principles of creative evolution, whereby the simpler and more lowly forms always precede the higher and more specialized forms.

The earth speaks not of a succession of distinct creations but of a continuous ascent, in which, as the millions of years roll by, increasing perfection of structure and beauty of form are found; out of the water-breathing fish arises the air-breathing amphibian; out of the land-living amphibian arises the land-living, air-breathing reptile, these two kinds of creeping things resembling each other closely. The earth speaks loudly and clearly of the ascent of the bird from one kind of reptile and of the mammal from another kind of reptile.”
Henry Fairfield Osborn

Massimo Pigliucci
“Scientific theories are tested every time someone makes an observation or conducts an experiment, so it is misleading to think of science as an edifice, built on foundations. Rather, scientific knowledge is more like a web. The difference couldn’t be more crucial. A tall edifice can collapse – if the foundations upon which it was built turn out to be shaky. But a web can be torn in several parts without causing the collapse of the whole. The damaged threads can be patiently replaced and re-connected with the rest – and the whole web can become stronger, and more intricate.”
Massimo Pigliucci, Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk

Steven Magee
“I independently produce scientific advancements to share with everyone, and that is over seven billion people!”
Steven Magee

Dexter Palmer
“You could consider the idea of the multiverse, and think of it as something like a tree—that is, the universe we live in is one of an uncountable number of branches of possible universes, created by random chance and the decisions of sentient beings. So, for instance, when I rang you up in the morning, there was a possible future universe in which you answered the phone, and another in which you did not, and by answering the phone you put us in one universe and not the other. In that instance the time traveler doesn't just move from the future to the past and back to the future: he moves down one branch of the universe, toward the root that's back at the beginning of time, and back up another branch.”
Dexter Palmer, Version Control

Dexter Palmer
“What we are proposing,' Alicia said, 'is that the laws of physics are such that causality violation is subject to a form of version control, one that prevents a forking of history. That instead of causality violation creating an alternate universe, one version of history is outright overwritten by another. One past is replaced with another future. Which means that the memories of the past of the people in that future are replaced with memories of a different past.'

Carson interrupted. 'Including the memories of any—'

'Purely hypothetical—'

'—time travelers.'

'So take our time traveler from the traditional story,' Carson continued. 'He leaves his utopian future for the past. He kills the butterfly. The Magna Carta is never written. He returns to the dystopian future that his misstep created. But he doesn't see it as a dystopia: he sees it as home, the world he grew up in, the world he left to go back in time. Because he doesn't remember that first future, and has no other world to which he can compare this one. Maybe he even sees it as a utopia. Maybe everyone does. Maybe everyone in this dark place believes that they live in the best of all possible worlds.”
Dexter Palmer, Version Control

Dexter Palmer
“Then you would have acted to change history, but you would have replaced one history with another. You would not be able to know what past version of history you would have altered, because that history would never have happened. Nor would you be able to know what you had done in the past, or that you had done anything at all in the past, or that you had even been to the past. You would not be able to compare histories in your mind; if you entered the causality violation device knowing this, then you would realize that you would be trading one set of memories for another, and that there would never be any evidence, in your mind or in the world, that you had done this.”
Dexter Palmer, Version Control

Stephen Jay Gould
“As a chief ingredient in the mythology of science, the accumulation of objective facts supposedly controls the history of conceptual change–as logical and self-effacing scientists bow before the dictates of nature and willingly change their views to accommodate the growth of conceptual knowledge. The paradigm for such an idealistic notion remains Huxley’s famous remark about “a beautiful theory killed by a nasty, ugly little fact.” But single facts almost never slay worldviews, at least not right away (and properly so, for the majority of deeply anomalous observations turn out to be wrong)...

Anomalous facts get incorporated into existing theories, often with a bit of forced stretching to be sure, but usually with decent fit because most worldviews contain considerable flexibility. (How else could they last so long, or be so recalcitrant to overthrow?)”
Stephen Jay Gould, Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms: Essays on Natural History

“The appearance of fine-tuning in a scientific theory is like a cry of distress from nature, complaining that something needs to be better explained.”
Steven Weinberg, To Explain the World: The Discovery of Modern Science

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