Don Cass

Some Favorite Quotations

While I’ve just begun this page, I hope it will turn into a collection of some of my favorite thoughts of others….


  • What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out. (Bertrand Russel)
  • The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance. It is the illusion of knowledge. (Daniel Boorstin)
  • You are so convinced that you believe only what you believe that you believe, that you remain utterly blind to what you really believe without believing you believe it. (Orson Scott Card)
  • We should strive for “The ability to face constructively the tension of opposing ideas and, instead of choosing one at the expense of the other, generate a creative resolution of the tension in the form of a new idea that contains elements of the opposing ideas but is superior to each.” (Roger Martin)
  • My most important function at COA may be to undermine the tendency to radicalism – that is, the confidence that one is correct and does not have to listen to the arguments of others. Bill Drury
  • “Good jokes are built around an incongruity that your brain needs to unravel which activates its pleasure center – the “ha-ha” moment isn’t far from the “aha” moment.” Robert Mankoff


  • If all experiments turned out as we intended, we might as well not be doing experiments (Lewis Thomas)
  • Science is imagination constrained by data (?)
  • There are never any unsuccessful experiments. (Claude Bernard)
  • The difference between the amoeba and Einstein is that, although both use trial and error, the amoeba dislikes erring, while Einstein is intrigued by it (Karl Popper)
  • We used to think that if we knew one, we knew two, because one and one are two. We are finding that we must learn a great deal more about “and.” (J Arthur Eddington)
  • The essence of science is to discover identity in difference (F.S. Merwin)
  • A good chemical article is a work of art: a man-made abstraction of chemical activity which creates an emotional or aesthetic response in its readers. (Roald Hoffman)
  • Chemistry is not that different from romance – we approach both with a piecewise reliable set of images (Roald Hoffman)
  • When I say that Professor Lindzey’s left shoe is an “introvert,” everyone looks at his left shoe as if it were something the shoe was responsible for… Don’t look at the shoe! Look at me; I’m the one who is responsible for the statement. (George Kelly)


  • The capacity to blunder slightly is the real marvel of DNA, Without it, we would still be anaerobic bacteria. (Lewis Thomas)
  • Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is an absurd one. (Voltaire)
  • Not to be absolutely certain is, I think, one of the essential things of rationality. (Bertrand Russel)
  • Strive for simplicity., but learn to mistrust simplifications. (A. N. Whitehead)
  • At the core of the religion of humanism is a supreme faith in human reason – in its ability to confront and solve the many problems that humans face…. We invent words to mask our ignorance and in doing so pretend that we understand certain “isolated” events which, in fact, are part of a vastly larger system which we do not comprehend…. Earth is not like a spaceship – its life support systems are vast, complex and poorly understood…. We have reached the point at which the deficiencies in our rational control of ourselves and our environment can no longer be ignored- the point at which the real world intrudes upon our world of fantasy and one by one thrusts our delusions aside. (David Ehrenfeld)
  • “Political correctness (is) an oxymoron insofar as political issues have the intrinsic quality of being a topic of controversial discussion.… Political correctness fits into the tradition of anti-liberal collectivistic political thinking which assumes that the most fundamental aim of politics is to conform to unchangeable highest principles which can only be cognized as objective, invariant entities, not created by arbitrary decision and manipulated at free human will.… Political correctness is fundamentally anti-liberal in asserting that “deeds follow words.” The common notion that the same utterances can have different meanings for different speakers and recipients is not accepted. Instead, it is asserted that certain expressions are intrinsically offensive (e. g. racist or sexist), and that they are a tightly coupled with bad thoughts and intentions by which they have been caused. Consequently, the elimination of such utterances is not only a necessary, but a sufficient condition for eradicating evil…. Political correctness reinforces a highly traditional model of social relations where each individual is just seen as an exponent of a single collective group to which he or she fully belongs without possibility of escape: e. g. based on gender, race, religion or ethnic background…. Political correctness is unhealthy in that individuals also become internally fragmented because they are forced to maintain different system-related personal roles and identities – and to coordinate them without being able to integrate them in an overarching whole.” (Hans Geser)
  • “When we presume to lie for the benefit of others, we have decided that we are the best judges of how much they should understand about their own lives— about how they appear, their reputations or their prospects in the world… Unless someone is suicidal or otherwise on the brink, deciding how much he can know about himself seems the quintessence of arrogance. What attitude could be more disrespectful of those we care about?… Every lie is a direct assault upon the autonomy of those we lie to.” (Sam Harris)
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