Theories

I am thinking of the Danish sculptor of great fame, Thorvaldsen, who chose to be buried in the midst of his work-not in a cathedral or a cemetery, but in a museum among the monuments of his own making- in the midst of his statuary; and there what he made and what he did with his life surrounds him. He did not theorize upon sculpturing, only, but with his hands and with his creative gift he fashioned those things and he lies there in the midst of his works, as we all shall do someday-and it will not be the theories or the discussions or the speculations or the set of principles or the set of commandments that shall save us. We shall be no better than we are. We are no better than the tithing we pay, no better than the teaching we do, no better than the service we give, no better than the commandments we keep, no better than the lives we live, and we shall have a bright remembrance of these things and we shall, in a sense, lie down in the midst of what we have done when that time comes.

I know that there may be several men who have charged the American Federation of Labor . . . to be against what they are pleased to call industrial unionism or the one big union, and I would venture to say that when they . . . consider this proposition outside of our union [Cigar Makers International Union] then they are industrialists; but when there is a proposal to open our doors and go into the highways and byways and organize these men and women against whom literally we are closing our doors, it is opposed.

All other men are specialists, but his specialty is omniscience.

I never guess. It is a shocking habit destructive to the logical faculty.

It is a fool's plan to teach a man to be a cur in peace, and think that he will be a lion in war.

All life on earth - everything from bacteria to mushrooms to hippos - shares an astonishing range of detailed biochemical similarities, including the structure of heredity in DNA and RNA, and the universal use of ATP as an energy-storing compound. Two possible scenarios, with markedly different implications for the nature of life, might explain these regularities: either all earthly life shares these features because no other chemistry can work, or these similarities only record the common descent of all organisms on earth from a single origin that happened to feature this chemistry as one possibility among many.

Biological evolution is a system of constant divergence without subsequent joining of branches. Lineages, once distinct, are separate forever. In human history, transmission across lineages is, perhaps, the major source of cultural change. Europeans learned about corn and potatoes from Native Americans and gave them smallpox in return.

Facts do not 'speak for themselves', they are read in the light of theory

Great thinkers build their edifices with subtle consistency. We do our intellectual forebears an enormous disservice when we dismember their visions and scan their systems in order to extract a few disembodied gems—thoughts or claims still accepted as true. These disarticulated pieces then become the entire legacy of our ancestors, and we lose the beauty and coherence of older systems that might enlighten us by their unfamiliarity—and their consequent challenge—in our fallible (and complacent) modern world.

Obsolescence is a fate devoutly to be wished, lest science stagnate and die.

Results rarely specify their causes unambiguously. If we have no direct evidence of fossils or human chronicles, if we are forced to infer a process only from its modern results, then we are usually stymied or reduced to speculation about probabilities. For many roads lead to almost any Rome.

The anatomical transition from reptiles to mammals is particularly well documented in the key anatomical change of jaw articulation to hearing bones. Only one bone, called the dentary, builds the mammalian jaw, while reptiles retain several small bones in the rear portion of the jaw. We can trace, through a lovely sequence of intermediates, the reduction of these small reptilian bones, and their eventual disappearance or exclusion from the jaw, including the remarkable passage of the reptilian articulation bones into the mammalian middle ear (where they became our malleus and incus, or hammer and anvil). We have even found the transitional form that creationists often proclaim inconceivable in theory — for how can jawbones become ear bones if intermediaries must live with an unhinged jaw before the new joint forms? The transitional species maintains a double jaw joint, with both the old articulation of reptiles (quadrate to articular bones) and the new connection of mammals (squamosal to dentary) already in place! Thus, one joint could be lost, with passage of its bones into the ear, while the other articulation continued to guarantee a properly hinged jaw. Still, our creationist incubi, who would never let facts spoil a favorite argument, refuse to yield, and continue to assert the absence of all transitional forms by ignoring those that have been found, and continuing to taunt us with admittedly frequent examples of absence.

The more important the subject and the closer it cuts to the bone of our hopes and needs, the more we are likely to err in establishing a framework for analysis.

The telephone is the greatest single enemy of scholarship; for what our intellectual forebears used to inscribe in ink now goes once over a wire into permanent oblivion.

Theory and fact are equally strong and utterly interdependent; one has no meaning without the other. We need theory to organize and interpret facts, even to know what we can or might observe. And we need facts to validate theories and give them substance.

There are no shortcuts to moral insight. Nature is not intrinsically anything that can offer comfort or solace in human terms -- if only because our species is such an insignificant latecomer in a world not constructed for us. So much the better. The answers to moral dilemmas are not lying out there, waiting to be discovered. They reside, like the kingdom of God, within us -- the most difficult and inaccessible spot for any discovery or consensus.

We do live in a conceptual trough that encourages such yearning for unknown and romanticized greener pastures of other times. The future doesn't seem promising, if only because we can extrapolate some disquieting present trends into further deterioration: pollution, nationalism, environmental destruction, and aluminum bats. Therefore, we tend to take refuge in a rose-colored past […]. I do not doubt the salutary, even the essential, properties of this curiously adaptive human trait, but we must also record the down side. Legends of past golden ages become impediments when we try to negotiate our current dilemma.

Well, evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts do not go away while scientists debate rival theories for explaining them. Einstein's theory of gravitation replaced Newton's, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air pending the outcome. And human beings evolved from apelike ancestors whether they did so by Darwin's proposed mechanism or by some other, yet to be discovered. [...] Evolutionists make no claim for perpetual truth, though creationists often do (and then attack us for a style of argument that they themselves favor). In science, fact can only mean confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent. I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.

Western field-work conjures up images of struggle on horseback… toughing it out on one canteen a day as you labor up and down mountains. The value of a site is supposedly correlated with the difficulty of getting there. This, of course, is romantic drivel. Ease of access is no measure of importance. The famous La Brea tar pits are right in downtown Los Angeles. To reach the Clarkia lake beds, you turn off the main road at Buzzard's Roost Trophy Company and drive the remaining fifty yards right up to the site.

In the Universe it may be that Primitive life is very common and intelligent life is fairly rare. Some would say it has yet to occur on Earth.