Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.


"No one will deny that an interaction between mind and body takes place whenever we consciously perform a movement. We now make the additional affirmation that our will — the core of consciousness, wherein the self proclaims its being most emphatically — interacts with the body in a special way when it makes a decision and deliberately activates the body. In pre-quantum days, when philosophy was dominated by Laplacian determinism, in which a state classically defined without recourse to probabilities rigorously entailed all future states (of an isolated system), free will was a paradox and an illusion. That is to say, either it could not be explained, despite the immediate, empirically accurate evidence that affirmed it, or its affirmation was false. This situation has changed by virtue of the discovery of quantum mechanics. The new discipline provides. the possibility of a solution by removing the impediment of old-style determinism." - Henry Margenau

"When will the churches learn that intolerance, personal or ecclesiastical, is an evidence of weakness: The confident can afford to be calm and kindly; only the fearful must defame and exclude." - Harry Emerson Fosdick

"The moral principle inherent in evolution, that nothing can be gained in this world without an effort; the ethical principle inherent in evolution is that only the best has the right to survive; the spiritual principle in evolution is the evidence of beauty, of order, and of design in the daily myriad of miracles to which we owe our existence. " - Henry Fairfield Osborn

"I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I'll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be" - Isaac Asimov, born Isaak Yudovich Ozimov

"When one ponders on the tremendous journey of evolution over the past three billion years or so, the prodigious wealth of structures it has engendered, and the extraordinarily effective teleonomic performances of living beings from bacteria to man, one may well find oneself beginning to doubt again whether all this could conceiveably be the product of an enormous lottery presided over by natural selection, blindly picking the rare winners from among numbers drawn at random. [Nevertheless,] a detailed review of the accumulated modern evidence [shows] that this conception alone is compatible with the facts. " - Jacques Monod

"The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right. It is unalienable; because the opinions of men, depending only on the evidence contemplated by their own minds, cannot follow the dictates of other men... We maintain therefore that in matters of Religion, no man’s right is abridged by the institution of Civil Society, and that Religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance." - James Madison

"For where is the man that has incontestable evidence of the truth of all that he holds, or of the falsehood of all he condemns; or can say that he has examined to the bottom all his own, or other men's opinions? The necessity of believing without knowledge, nay often upon very slight grounds, in this fleeting state of action and blindness we are in, should make us more busy and careful to inform ourselves than constrain others" - John Locke

"For where is the man that has incontestable evidence of the truth of all that he holds, or of the falsehood of all he condemns; or can say that he has examined to the bottom all his own, or other men's opinions? The necessity of believing without knowledge, nay often upon very slight grounds, in this fleeting state of action and blindness we are in, should make us more busy and careful to inform ourselves than constrain others. " - John Locke

"Habit is the function of your subconscious mind. There is no greater evidence of the marvelous power of your subconscious than the force and sway habit holds in your life. You are a creature of habit." - Joseph Murphy

"For me, atheism’s roots are in a sober and modest assessment of where reason and evidence lead us. That means the real enemy is not religion as such, but any kind of system of belief that does not respect these limits on our thinking. For that reason, I want to engage with thoughtful, intelligent believers, and isolate extremists. But if we demonise all religion, such coalitions of the reasonable are not possible. Instead, we are likely to see moderate religious believers join ranks with fundamentalists, the enemies of their enemy, to resist what they see as an attempt to wipe out all forms of religious belief." - Julian Baggini

"If we are uncritical we shall always find what we want: we shall look for, and find, confirmations, and we shall look away from, and not see, whatever might be dangerous to our pet theories. In this way it is only too easy to obtain what appears to be overwhelming evidence in favor of a theory which, if approached critically, would have been refuted." - Karl Popper, fully Sir Karl Raimund Popper

"A revolution is not the overturning of a cart, a reshuffling in the cards of state. It is a process, a swelling, a new growth in the race. If it is real, not simply a trauma, it is another ring in the tree of history, layer upon layer of invisible tissue composing the evidence of a circle." - Kate Millet, Katherine Murray Millett

"Within the scientific skeleton of truth, religious meaning attempts to flourish, often by denying the scientific framework itself — rather like sawing off the branch where you cheerily perch. The disgust is mutual because modern science gleefully denies virtually all the basic tenets of religion in general. According to the typical view of modern science, religion is not much more than a holdover from the childhood of humanity, with about as much reality as, say, Santa Claus. Whether the religious claims are more literal (Moses parting the Red Sea) or more mystical (religion invovlves direct spiritual experience) modern science denies them all, simply because there is no credible empirical evidence for any of them." - Ken Wilber, fully Kenneth Earl Wilber II

"There is no surer way to misread any document than to read it literally. ... As nearly as we can, we must put ourselves in the place of those who uttered the words, and try to divine how they would have dealt with the unforeseen situation; and, although their words are by far the most decisive evidence of what they would have done, they are by no means final." - Learned Hand, fully Billings Learned Hand

"The age we are living in... there is little evidence of regeneration and a great deal of decay." - Lin Yutang

"The word "necessary" is miserably applied. It disordereth families, and overturneth government, by being so abused. Remember that children and fools want everything because they want judgment to distinguish; and therefore there is no stronger evidence of a crazy understanding than the making too large a catalogue of things necessary." - Charles Montagu Halifax, 1st Earl of Halifax, Lord Halifax

"The history of our race, and each individual's experience, are sown thick with evidence that a truth is not hard to kill and that a lie told well is immortal." - Mark Twain, pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens

"If you reject the theory of evolution, or think that there is such a thing as alternative (as opposed to evidence-based) medicine, or claim without evidence that aliens are visiting the planet, or think that the stars influence human destiny, and so on, you are anti-science and live in a dream world with no connection to reality. More damning, you are engaging in the ultimate act of arrogance: to declare something true or untrue not because you have reason or evidence, but only because it makes you feel better. May I suggest that you need a good dose of humility, and that one way to get it is to admit that the universe is not about you, and that some people out there really know more than you do, as unpleasant a thought as this may be?" - Massimo Pigliucci

"Among those points of self-education which take up the form of mental discipline, there is one of great importance, and, moreover, difficult to deal with, because it involves an internal conflict, and equally touches our vanity and our ease. It consists in the tendency to deceive ourselves regarding all we wish for, and the necessity of resistance to these desires. It is impossible for any one who has not been constrained, by the course of his occupation and thoughts, to a habit of continual self-correction, to be aware of the amount of error in relation to judgment arising from this tendency. The force of the temptation which urges us to seek for such evidence and appearances as are in favour of our desires, and to disregard those which oppose them, is wonderfully great. In this respect we are all, more or less, active promoters of error. In place of practising wholesome self-abnegation, we ever make the wish the father to the thought: we receive as friendly that which agrees with, we resist with dislike that which opposes us; whereas the very reverse is required by every dictate of common sense." - Michael Faraday

"I'm talking about paying attention to your inner voice, paying attention to the heart. Science has shown us that the heart is made of 65% of the neurons that are in the brain. So there's scientific evidence to show that there is a thinking heart. And this has also been proven with heart transplant patients who are then thinking thoughts they've never thought before and saying things they've never said before. They would go back to a relative of the heart donor who would say, "My husband used to say that." We think as much with the hearts as we do with the brains. Our culture has emphasized the intellectual part, the rational part. It's ironic that the leading edge of science is showing that there's more to it than that! It just proves to me what the great traditions have taught from time immemorial: There's an invisible world, an inner world, and we all have that inside of us. Most of us are very good at covering up the inner voice that's speaking to us all the time. What we have to do is find ways to connect with that inner voice, and listen to it." - Michael Toms

"Let the tutor not merely require a verbal account of what the boy has been taught but the meaning and the substance of it: let him judge how the child has profited from it not from the evidence of his memory but from that of his life. Let him take what the boy has just learned and make him show him dozens of different aspects of it and then apply it to just as many different subjects, in order to find out whether he has really grasped it and make it part of himself, judging the boy's progress by what Plato taught about education. Spewing up food exactly as you have swallowed it is evidence of a failure to digest and assimilate it; the stomach has not done its job if, during concoction, it fails to change the substance and the form of what it is given." - Michel de Montaigne, fully Lord Michel Eyquem de Montaigne

"The work of an intellectual is not to mould the political will of others; it is, through the analyses that he does in his own field, to re-examine evidence and assumptions, to shake up habitual ways of working and thinking, to dissipate conventional familiarities, to re-evaluate rules and institutions and to participate in the formation of a political will (where he has his role as citizen to play)." - Michel Foucault

"It does not seem to be true that work necessarily needs to be unpleasant. It may always have to be hard, or at least harder than doing nothing at all. But there is ample evidence that work can be enjoyable, and that indeed, it is often the most enjoyable part of life." - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, native form is Csíkszentmihályi Mihály

"There was a time when we the U.S. had completely unrestricted immigration, when anybody could come to these shores and the motto on the Statue of Liberty had some real meaning. This was a country of hope and of promise for immigrants and their children, and as many as a million immigrants a year came in 1906 and '07 and '08. By 1914, roughly a third of the population was foreign-born or the immediate descendants of foreign-born...The fact that year after year hundreds of thousands of people left the countries of Europe to come to this country was persuasive evidence that they were coming to improve their lot, not to worsen it. " - Milton Friedman, fully John Milton Friedman

"In both social and natural sciences, the body of positive knowledge grows by the failure of a tentative hypothesis to predict phenomena the hypothesis professes to explain; by the patching up of that hypothesis until someone suggests a new hypothesis that more elegantly or simply embodies the troublesome phenomena, and so on ad infinitum. In both, experiment is sometimes possible, sometimes not (witness meteorology). In both, no experiment is ever completely controlled, and experience often offers evidence that is the equivalent of controlled experiment. In both, there is no way to have a self-contained closed system or to avoid interaction between the observer and the observed. The Gödel theorem in mathematics, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle in physics, the self-fulfilling or self-defeating prophecy in the social sciences all exemplify these limitations. " - Milton Friedman, fully John Milton Friedman

"The stock of money, prices and output was decidedly more unstable after the establishment of the Reserve System than before. The most dramatic period of instability in output was, of course, the period between the two wars, which includes the severe (monetary) contractions of 1920-1, 1929-33, and 1937-8. No other 20 year period in American history contains as many as three such severe contractions. This evidence persuades me that at least a third of the price rise during and just after World War I is attributable to the establishment of the Federal Reserve System and that the severity of each of the major contractions—1920-1, 1929-33 and 1937-8 is directly attributable to acts of commission and omission by the Reserve authorities. Any system which gives so much power and so much discretion to a few men, so that mistakes—excusable or not—can have such far reaching effects, is a bad system. It is a bad system to believers in freedom just because it gives a few men such power without any effective check by the body politic—this is the key political argument against an independent central bank. To paraphrase Clemenceau, money is much too serious a matter to be left to the central bankers." - Milton Friedman, fully John Milton Friedman

"Liberalism is an attitude rather than a set of dogmas – an attitude that insists upon questioning all plausible and self-evident propositions, seeking not to reject them but to find out what evidence there is to support them rather than their possible alternatives. This open eye for possible alternatives which need to be scrutinized before we can determine which is the best grounded is profoundly disconcerting to all conservatives.... Conservatism clings to what has been established, fearing that, once we begin to question the beliefs we have inherited, all the values of life will be destroyed. Liberalism, on the other hand, regards life as an adventure in which we must take risks in new situations, in which there is no guarantee that the new will always be the good or the true, in which progress is a precarious achievement rather than inevitability." - Morris Raphael Cohen

"Perhaps the most obvious of our systemic problems is uncontrollable growth. I use the word “uncontrollable” advisedly, in preference to “uncontrolled.” The growth of which I speak is not humanity’s colonization of the planet over millennia of history. It is rather an inexorable material reality that is unique to our era: namely, that unlimited economic growth is assumed to be evidence of human progress. We have taken this notion so much for granted over the past few generations that it is as immutably fixed in our consciousness as the sanctity of property itself." - Murray Bookchin

"This pursuit of security in the past, this attempt to find a haven in a fixed dogma and an organizational hierarchy as substitutes for creative thought and praxis is bitter evidence of how little many revolutionaries are capable of ‘revolutionizing themselves and things,’ much less of revolutionizing society as a whole. The deep-rooted conservatism of the People’s Labor Party ‘revolutionaries’ is almost painfully evident; the authoritarian leader and hierarchy replace the patriarch and the school bureaucracy; the discipline of the Movement replaces the discipline of bourgeois society; the authoritarian code of political obedience replaces the state; the credo of ‘proletarian morality’ replaces the mores of puritanism and the work ethic. The old substance of exploitative society reappears in new forms, draped in a red flag, decorated by portraits of Mao (or Castro or Che) and adorned with the little ‘Red Book’ and other sacred litanies." - Murray Bookchin

"Faith is the commitment of one's consciousness to beliefs for which one has no sensory evidence or rational proof. When man rejects reason as his standard of judgement, only one alternative standard remains to him: his feelings. A mystic is a man who treats his feelings as tools of cognition. Faith is the equation of feelings with knowledge." - Nathaniel Branden

"Scientists use the term 'fact' to refer to a scientific explanation that has been tested and confirmed so many times that there is no longer a compelling reason to keep testing it or looking for additional examples. In that respect, the past and continuing occurrence of evolution is a scientific fact. Because the evidence supporting it is so strong, scientists no longer question whether biological evolution has occurred and is continuing to occur. Instead, they investigate the mechanisms of evolution, how rapidly evolution can take place, and related questions." - National Academy of Sciences NULL

"Scientists no longer question the basic facts of evolution. The concept has withstood extensive testing by tens of thousands of specialists in biology, medicine, anthropology, geology, chemistry, and other fields. Discoveries in different fields have reinforced one another, and evidence for evolution has continued to accumulate for 150 years." - National Academy of Sciences NULL

"Science is a particular way of knowing about the world. In science, explanations are limited to those based on observations and experiments that can be substantiated by other scientists. Explanations that cannot be based on empirical evidence are not a part of science. In the quest for understanding, science involves a great deal of careful observation that eventually produces an elaborate written description of the natural world. Scientists communicate their findings and conclusions to other scientists through publications, talks at conferences, hallway conversations, and many other means. Other scientists then test those ideas and build on preexisting work. In this way, the accuracy and sophistication of descriptions of the natural world tend to increase with time, as subsequent generations of scientists correct and extend the work done by their predecessors. Progress in science consists of the development of better explanations for the causes of natural phenomena. Scientists never can be sure that a given explanation is complete and final. Some of the hypotheses advanced by scientists turn out to be incorrect when tested by further observations or experiments. Yet many scientific explanations have been so thoroughly tested and confirmed that they are held with great confidence." - National Academy of Sciences NULL

"Creationists sometimes claim that scientists have a vested interest in the concept of biological evolution and are unwilling to consider other possibilities. But this claim, too, misrepresents science. Scientists continually test their ideas against observations and submit their work to their colleagues for critical peer review of ideas, evidence, and conclusions before a scientific paper is published in any respected scientific journal. Unexplained observations are eagerly pursued because they can be signs of important new science or problems with an existing hypothesis or theory. History is replete with scientists challenging accepted theory by offering new evidence and more comprehensive explanations to account for natural phenomena. Also, science has a competitive element as well as a cooperative one. If one scientist clings to particular ideas despite evidence to the contrary, another scientist will attempt to replicate relevant experiments and will not hesitate to publish conflicting evidence. If there were serious problems in evolutionary science, many scientists would be eager to win fame by being the first to provide a better testable alternative. That there are no viable alternatives to evolution in the scientific literature is not because of vested interests or censorship but because evolution has been and continues to be solidly supported by evidence." - National Academy of Sciences NULL

"But today there is no scientific doubt about the close evolutionary relationships between humans and all other primates. Using the same scientific methods and tools that have been employed to study the evolution of other species, researchers have compiled a large and increasing number of fossil discoveries and compelling new molecular evidence that clearly indicate that the same forces responsible for the evolution of all other life forms on Earth account for the biological evolution of human characteristics. " - National Academy of Sciences NULL

"Based on the strength of evidence from DNA comparisons, the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees lived approximately 6 to 7 million years ago in Africa. The evolutionary tree leading from this ancestral species to modern humans contains a number of side branches, representing populations and species that eventually went extinct. At various times in the past, the planet appears to have been populated by several human-like species." - National Academy of Sciences NULL

"A point of great importance would be first to know: what is the capacity of the earth? And what charge does it contain if electrified? Though we have no positive evidence of a charged body existing in space without other oppositely electrified bodies being near, there is a fair probability that the earth is such a body, for by whatever process it was separated from other bodies — and this is the accepted view of its origin — it must have retained a charge, as occurs in all processes of mechanical separation." - Nikola Tesla

"A state of human life vaguely defined by the term "Universal Peace," while a result of cumulative effort through centuries past, might come into existence quickly, not unlike a crystal suddenly forms in a solution which has been slowly prepared. But just as no effect can precede its cause, so this state can never be brought on by any pact between nations, however solemn. Experience is made before the law is formulated, both are related like cause and effect. So long as we are clearly conscious of the expectation, that peace is to result from such a parliamentary decision, so long have we a conclusive evidence that we are not fit for peace. Only then when we shall feel that such international meetings are mere formal procedures, unnecessary except in so far as they might serve to give definite expression to a common desire, will peace be assured. To judge from current events we must be, as yet, very distant from that blissful goal. It is true that we are proceeding towards it rapidly. There are abundant signs of this progress everywhere. The race enmities and prejudices are decidedly waning." - Nikola Tesla

"He had the highest regard for my attainments and gave me every evidence of his complete faith in my ability to ultimately achieve what I had set out to do. I am unwilling to accord to some small−minded and jealous individuals the satisfaction of having thwarted my efforts. These men are to me nothing more than microbes of a nasty disease. My project was retarded by laws of nature. The world was not prepared for it. It was too far ahead of time, but the same laws will prevail in the end and make it a triumphal success." - Nikola Tesla

"It would be calamitous, indeed, if at this time when the art is in its infancy and the vast majority, not excepting even experts, have no conception of its ultimate possibilities, a measure would be rushed through the legislature making it a government monopoly. …universal evidence unmistakably shows that the best results are always obtained in healthful commercial competition." - Nikola Tesla

"This is the first evidence suggesting that schizophrenia in humans might be caused by damage to neurons in the cortex or thalamus during fetal development... Our study adds weight to the theory that fetal brain damage predisposes an individual to become schizophrenic after the hormonal changes of puberty. Such brain damage in conjunction with life events occurring at or around puberty may interact to allow for expression of the disease's symptoms." - Patricia Goldman-Rakic, born Patricia Shoer

"There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all....It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature's numbers to make the Universe....The impression of design is overwhelming." - Paul Davies

"It is evident, on the basis of our considerations, that this appearance of success cannot in the least be regarded as a sign of truth and correspondence with nature. Quite the contrary, suspicion arises that the absence of major difficulties is a result of the decrease of empirical content brought about by the elimination of alternatives, and of facts that can be discovered with their help. In other words, the suspicion arises that this alleged success is due to the fact that the theory, when extended beyond its starting point, was turned into rigid ideology. Such Ideology is "successful" not because it agrees so well with the facts; it is successful because no facts have been specified that could constitute a test, and because some such facts have been removed. Its "success" is entirely man-made. It was decided to stick to some ideas, come what may, and the result was, quite naturally, the survival of these ideas. If now the initial decision is forgotten, or made only implicitly, for example, if it becomes common law in physics, then the survival itself will seem to constitute independent support., it will reinforce the decision, or turn it into an explicate one, and in this way close the circle. This is how empirical "evidence" may be created by a procedure which quotes as its justification the very same evidence it has produced." - Paul Feyerabend, fully Paul Karl Feyerabend

"[the masses] ...must turn their hopes toward a miracle. In the depths of their despair reason cannot be believed, truth must be false, and lies must be truth. "Higher bread prices," "lower bread prices," "unchanged bread prices" have all failed. The only hope lies in a kind of bread price which is none of these, which nobody has ever seen before, and which belies the evidence of one's reason." - Peter F. Drucker, fully Peter Ferdinand Drucker

"The fact that scientists do not consciously practice a formal methodology is very poor evidence that no such methodology exists. It could be said–has been said–that there is a distinctive methodology of science which scientists practice unwittingly, like the chap in Moliere who found that all his life, unknowingly, he had been speaking prose. " - Peter Medawar, fully Sir Peter Brian Medawar

"Just as compulsory primary education created a market catered for by cheap dailies and weeklies, so the spread of secondary and latterly of tertiary education has created a large population of people, often with well-developed literary and scholarly tastes who have been educated far beyond their capacity to undertake analytical thought ... [The Phenomenon of Man] is written in an all but totally unintelligible style, and this is construed as prima-facie evidence of profundity." - Peter Medawar, fully Sir Peter Brian Medawar

"With the eventual acceptance of Darwin's theory we reach a modern understanding of nature, one which has since then changed in detail rather than in fundamentals. Only those who prefer religious faith to beliefs based on reasoning and evidence can still maintain that the human species is the special darling of the entire universe, or that other animals were created to provide us with food, or that we have divine authority over them, and divine permission to kill them. " - Peter Singer

"People in general have no notion of the sort and amount of evidence often needed to prove the simplest matter of fact." - Peter Mere Latham

"History offers no evidence for the proposition that the assignment of women to military combat jobs is the way to win wars, improve combat readiness, or promote national security." - Phyllis Schlafly, fully Phyllis McAlpin Stewart Schlafly

"Is it my fault if belief in Divinity has become a suspected opinion; if the bare suspicion of a Supreme Being is already noted as evidence of a weak mind; and if, of all philosophical Utopias, this is the only one which the world no longer tolerates? Is it my fault if hypocrisy and imbecility everywhere hide behind this holy formula?" - Pierre-Joseph Proudhon