Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Robert A. Heinlein, fully Robert Anson Heinlein, pen name for Anson MacDonald

American Novelist, Hugo Award-winning Science Fiction Writer, called the "dean of science fiction writers"

"At the time I wrote Methuselah?s Children I was still politically quite naive and still had hopes that various libertarian notions could be put over by political processes? It [now] seems to me that every time we manage to establish one freedom, they take another one away. Maybe two. And that seems to me characteristic of a society as it gets older, and more crowded, and higher taxes, and more laws."

"Audacity, always audacity - soundest principal of strategy."

"Autobiography is usually honest but it is never truthful."

"Autocracy is based on the assumption that one man is wiser than a million men. Let's play that over again, too. Who decides?"

"Avoid making irrevocable decisions when tired or hungry."

"Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors... and miss."

"Beauty is not diminished by being shared."

"Because it?s not built for flying. The ancient who dreamed up that myth knew nothing about aerodynamics and still less about biology. He stuck wings on a horse, just stuck them on, thumb tacks and glue. But that doesn?t make a flying machine. Remember, son, that an animal is a machine, primarily a heat engine with a control system to operate levers and hydraulic systems, according to definite engineering laws. You savvy to aerodynamics?"

"Because the pursuit of science, despite its social benefits, is itself not a social virtue; its practitioners can be men so self-centered as to be lacking in social responsibility."

"Because the world has gone nutty and art always paints the spirit of its times."

"Beds do not matter; it is who is in a bed that counts."

"Before a revolution can take place, the population must lose faith in both the police and the courts."

"Behaving on a still higher moral level were the astronauts who went to the Moon, for their actions tend toward the survival of the entire race of mankind."

"Being a mother is an attitude, not a biological relation."

"Being generous is inborn; being altruistic is a learned perversity. No resemblance."

"Being intelligent is not a felony. But most societies evaluate it as at least a misdemeanor."

"Being right too soon is socially unacceptable."

"Being sorry won't get you into heaven. Get happy, son. Get that old spring into your step and stay on your toes."

"Belief gets in the way of learning."

"Ben, the ethics of sex is a thorny problem. Each of us is forced to grope for a solution he can live with ? in the face of a preposterous, unworkable, and evil code of so-called "morals." Most of us know the code is wrong; almost everybody breaks it. But we pay Danegeld by feeling guilty and giving lip service. Willy-nilly, the code rides us, dead and stinking, an albatross around the neck. You, too, Ben. You fancy yourself a free soul ? and break that evil code. But faced with a problem in sexual ethics new to you, you tested it against that same Judeo-Christian code... so automatically your stomach did flip-flops... and you think that proves you're right and they're wrong. Faugh! I'd as lief use trial by ordeal."

"Ben, why should anybody want that much power?"

"Between being ?right? and being kind, I know which way I vote."

"Beware of altruism. It is based on self-deception, the root of all evil."

"Beware of the ?Black Swan? fallacy. Deductive logic is tautological; there is no way to get a new truth out of it, and it manipulates false statements as readily as true ones. If you fail to remember this, it can trip you--with perfect logic. The designers of the earliest computers called this the ?Gigo Law,? i.e., ?Garbage in, garbage out.?Inductive logic is much more difficult --but can produce new truths."

"Big money isn't hard to come by. All it costs is a lifetime of single-minded devotion to acquiring it and making it grow into more money."

"Blessed is he who knows himself and commands himself, for the world is his and love and happiness and peace walk with him wherever he goes."

"Boats and ships are female because they are beautiful, lovable, expensive?and unpredictable."

"Both for practical reasons and for mathematically verifiable moral reasons, authority and responsibility must be equal - else a balancing takes place as surely as current flows between points of unequal potential. To permit irresponsible authority is to sow disaster; to hold a man responsible for anything he does not control is to behave with blind idiocy. The unlimited democracies were unstable because their citizens were not responsible for the fashion in which they exerted their sovereign authority... other than through the tragic logic of history... No attempt was made to determine whether a voter was socially responsible to the extent of his literally unlimited authority. If he voted the impossible, the disastrous possible happened instead - and responsibility was then forced on him willy-nilly and destroyed both him and his foundationless temple."

"Brainpower is the scarcest commodity and the only one of real value."

"Budget the luxuries first."

"But does Man have any "right" to spread through the universe? Man is what he is, a wild animal with the will to survive, and (so far) the ability, against all competition. Unless one accepts that, anything one says about morals, war, politics, you name it, is nonsense. Correct morals arise from knowing what man is, not what do-gooders and well-meaning old Aunt Nellies would like him to be. The Universe will let us know - later - whether or not Man has any "right" to expand through it."

"But goodness alone is never enough. A hard, cold wisdom is required for goodness to accomplish good. Goodness without wisdom always accomplishes evil."

"But I contend that the disgusting behavior of many of their alleged 'holy men' relieves us of any intellectual obligation to take the stuff seriously. No amount of sanctimonious rationalization can make such behavior anything but pathological."

"But I have no beliefs. Belief gets in the way of learning."

"But if you didn't have more urgent things to do after supper [in boot camp], you could write a letter, loaf, gossip, discuss the myriad mental shortcomings of sergeants and, dearest of all, talk about the female of the species (we became convinced that there was no such creatures, just mythology created by inflamed imaginations - one boy in our company claimed to have seen a girl, over at regimental headquarters; he was unanimously judged a liar and a braggart)."

"But one way or another competing and weeding takes place... or a race goes downhill."

"But that day I realized that I had long been taking them for granted. Girls are simply wonderful. Just to stand on a corner and watch them going past is delightful. They don't walk. At least, not what we do when we walk. I don't know how to describe it, but it?s much more complex and utterly delightful. They don?t move just their feet; everything moves and in different directions... and all of it graceful."

"But there is no reward at all for doing what other people expect of you, and to do so is not merely difficult, but impossible. It is easier to deal with a footpad than it is to deal with a leech who wants "just a few minutes of your time, please - this won't take long." Time is your total capital, and the minutes of your life are painfully few. If you allow yourself to fall into the vice of agreeing with to such requests, they quickly snowball to the point where these parasites will use up 100 percent of your time - and squawk for more!"

"But when I see a black widow, I step on it; I don?t plead with it to be a good little spider and please stop poisoning people."

"But when they began handing out doctorates for comparative folk dancing and advanced fly-fishing, I became too stink in? proud to use the title. I won?t touch watered whiskey and I take no pride in watered-down degrees."

"But while I was looking for a place to park - Los Angeles was safe from invasion; the invaders wouldn?t find a place to park."

"But, do you know, once you get used to it's rather cute. I mean, if a girl looks alright to start with, she still looks alright with her head smooth."

"Butterflies are not insects,' Captain John Sterling said soberly. 'They are self-propelled flowers."

"By cultivating the beautiful we scatter the seeds of heavenly flowers, as by doing good we cultivate those that belong to humanity."

"By the data to date, there is only one animal in the Galaxy dangerous to man, man himself. So he must supply his own indispensable competition. He has no enemy to help him."

"By the laws of statistics we could probably approximate just how unlikely it is that it would happen. But people forget?especially those who ought to know better, such as yourself?that while the laws of statistics tell you how unlikely a particular coincidence is, they state just as firmly that coincidences do happen."

"Cargrew gestured impatiently. "Lift goes by the square of a given dimension; dead load by the cube of the same dimension, other things being equal. I might be able to make you a Pegasus the size of a cat without distorting the proportions too much.""

"Cast me into a dungeon;, burn me at the state, crown me king of kings, I can 'pursue happiness' as long as my brain lives -- but neither gods nor saints, wise men nor subtle drugs, can insure that I will catch it."

"Cats have no sense of humor, they have terribly inflated egos, and they are very touchy."

"Cats, like butterflies, need no excuse."