The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.
Once, when a religionist denounced me in unmeasured terms, I sent him a card saying, I am sure you believe that I will go to hell when I die, and that once there I will suffer all the pains and tortures the sadistic ingenuity of your deity can devise and that this torture will continue forever. Isn't that enough for you? Do you have to call me bad names in addition?
Jokes of the proper kind, properly told, can do more to enlighten questions of politics, philosophy, and literature than any number of dull arguments.
Suppose that we are wise enough to learn and know—and yet not wise enough to control our learning and knowledge, so that we use it to destroy ourselves? Even if that is so, knowledge remains better than ignorance. It is better to know—even if the knowledge endures only for the moment that comes before destruction—than to gain eternal life at the price of a dull and swinish lack of comprehension of a universe that swirls unseen before us in all its wonder. That was the choice of Achilles, and it is mine, too.
Old men tend to forget what thought was like in their youth; they forget the quickness of the mental jump, the daring of the youthful intuition, the agility of the fresh insight. They become accustomed to the more plodding varieties of reason, and because this is more than made up by the accumulation of experience, old men think themselves wiser than the young.
Having reached 451 books as of now doesn't help the situation. If I were to be dying now, I would be murmuring, Too bad! Only four hundred fifty-one. (Those would be my next-to-last words. The last ones will be: I love you, Janet.) [They were. -Janet.]
Imagine the people who believe such things and who are not ashamed to ignore, totally, all the patient findings of thinking minds through all the centuries since the Bible was written. And it is these ignorant people, the most uneducated, the most unimaginative, the most unthinking among us, who would make themselves the guides and leaders of us all; who would force their feeble and childish beliefs on us; who would invade our schools and libraries and homes. I personally resent it bitterly.
You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you're working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success - but only if you persist.
I am an atheist, out and out. It took me a long time to say it. I've been an atheist for years and years, but somehow I felt it was intellectually unrespectable to say one was an atheist, because it assumed knowledge that one didn't have. Somehow, it was better to say one was a humanist or an agnostic. I finally decided that I'm a creature of emotion as well as of reason. Emotionally, I am an atheist. I don't have the evidence to prove that God doesn't exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn't that I don't want to waste my time.
To surrender to ignorance and call it God has always been premature, and it remains premature today.
I have never, in all my life, not for one moment, been tempted toward religion of any kind. The fact is that I feel no spiritual void. I have my philosophy of life, which does not include any aspect of the supernatural and which I find totally satisfying. I am, in short, a rationalist and believe only that which reason tells me is so.
I don't believe in an afterlife, so I don't have to spend my whole life fearing hell, or fearing heaven even more. For whatever the tortures of hell, I think the boredom of heaven would be even worse.
Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won't come in.
...We now know the basic rules governing the universe, together with the gravitational interrelationships of its gross components, as shown in the theory of relativity worked out between 1905 and 1916. We also know the basic rules governing the subatomic particles and their interrelationships, since these are very neatly described by the quantum theory worked out between 1900 and 1930. What's more, we have found that the galaxies and clusters of galaxies are the basic units of the physical universe, as discovered between 1920 and 1930....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...My answer to him was, 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.The basic trouble, you see, is that people think that 'right' and 'wrong' are absolute; that everything that isn't perfectly and completely right is totally and equally wrong.However, I don't think that's so. It seems to me that right and wrong are fuzzy concepts, and I will devote this essay to an explanation of why I think so.When my friend the English literature expert tells me that in every century scientists think they have worked out the universe and are always wrong, what I want to know is how wrong are they? Are they always wrong to the same degree?
What would you consider a good job? Answered as follows:A good job is one in which I don't have to work, and get paid a lot of money.When I heard that I cheered and yelled and felt that he should be given an A+, for he had perfectly articulated the American dream of those who despise knowledge. What a politician that kid would have made.
One might suppose that reality must be held to at all costs. However, though that may be the moral thing to do, it is not necessarily the most useful thing to do. The Greeks themselves chose the ideal over the real in their geometry and demonstrated very well that far more could be achieved by consideration of abstract line and form than by a study of the real lines and forms of the world; the greater understanding achieved through abstraction could be applied most usefully to the very reality that was ignored in the process of gaining knowledge.
Q. You do not consider your statement a disloyal one?A. No, sir. Scientific truth is beyond loyalty and disloyalty.Q. Can you prove that this mathematics is valid?A. Only to another mathematician.Q. Your claim then is that your truth is of so esoteric a nature that it is beyond the understanding of a plain man. It seems to me that truth should be clearer than that, less mysterious, more open to the mind.A. It presents no difficulties to some minds. The physics of energy transfer, which we know as thermodynamics, has been clear and true through all the history of man since the mythical ages, yet there may be people present who would find it impossible to design a power engine. People of high intelligence, too.
I received the fundamentals of my education in school, but that was not enough. My real education, the superstructure, the details, the true architecture, I got out of the public library. For an impoverished child whose family could not afford to buy books, the library was the open door to wonder and achievement, and I can never be sufficiently grateful that I had the wit to charge through that door and make the most of it. Now, when I read constantly about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that the door is closing and that American society has found one more way to destroy itself.
In a properly automated and educated world, then, machines may prove to be the true humanizing influence. It may be that machines will do the work that makes life possible and that human beings will do all the other things that make life pleasant and worthwhile
People think of education as something that they can finish. And what’s more, when they finish, it’s a rite of passage. You’re finished with school. You’re no more a child, and therefore anything that reminds you of school - reading books, having ideas, asking questions - that’s kid’s stuff. Now you’re an adult, you don’t do that sort of thing any more.You have everybody looking forward to no longer learning, and you make them ashamed afterward of going back to learning. If you have a system of education using computers, then anyone, any age, can learn by himself, can continue to be interested. If you enjoy learning, there’s no reason why you should stop at a given age. People don’t stop things they enjoy doing just because they reach a certain age.What’s exciting is the actual process of broadening yourself, of knowing there’s now a little extra facet of the universe you know about and can think about and can understand. It seems to me that when it’s time to die, there would be a certain pleasure in thinking that you had utilized your life well, learned as much as you could, gathered in as much as possible of the universe, and enjoyed it. There’s only this one universe and only this one lifetime to try to grasp it. And while it is inconceivable that anyone can grasp more than a tiny portion of it, at least you can do that much. What a tragedy just to pass through and get nothing out of it.
Have you ever come across something you couldn't explain?Explain in what way? I could explain a ghost by saying, 'yes, that's a ghost.' I take it, that's not what you mean.
Have you ever come across something you couldn't explain?Explain in what way? I could explain a ghost by saying, 'yes, that's a ghost.' I take it that's not what you mean.
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.
How often people speak of art and science as though they were two entirely different things, with no interconnection. An artist is emotional, they think, and uses only his intuition; he sees all at once and has no need of reason. A scientist is cold, they think, and uses only his reason; he argues carefully step by step, and needs no imagination. That is all wrong. The true artist is quite rational as well as imaginative and knows what he is doing; if he does not, his art suffers. The true scientist is quite imaginative as well as rational, and sometimes leaps to solutions where reason can follow only slowly; if he does not, his science suffers.
I, on the other hand, am a finished product. I absorb electrical energy directly and utilize it with an almost one hundred percent efficiency. I am composed of strong metal, am continuously conscious, and can stand extremes of environment easily. These are facts which, with the self-evident proposition that no being can create another being superior to itself, smashes your silly hypothesis to nothing.
It is possible to be too stable. No Outer World has colonized a new planet in two and a half centuries.. are lives too long to risk and too comfortable to upset.“I don’t know about that, Dr. Fastolfe. You’ve come to Earth. You risk disease.”“Yes, I do. There are some of us, Mr. Baley, who feel that the future of the human race is even worth the possible loss of an extended lifetime. Too few of us, I am sorry to say.”“In trying to introduce robots here on Earth, we’re doing our best to upset the balance of your City economy.”“You mean you’re creating a growing group of displaced and declassified men on purpose?”“Not out of cruelty or callousness, believe me. A group of displaced men, as you call them, are what we need to serve as a nucleus for colonization. Your ancient America was discovered by ships fitted out with men from the prisons. Don’t you see that the City’s womb has failed the displaced man. He has nothing to lose and worlds to gain by leaving Earth.
Agitation from the other side of the desk.“No—now you must take this phlegmatically. You had hoped you would qualify. You had feared you would not. Actually, both hope and fear are weaknesses. You knew you would qualify and you hesitate to admit the fact because such knowledge might stamp you as cocksure and therefore unfit. Nonsense! The most hopelessly stupid man is he who is not aware that he is wise. It is part of your qualification that you knew you would qualify.”Relaxation on the other side of the desk.“Exactly. Now you feel better and your guard is down. You are fitter to concentrate and fitter to understand. Remember, to be truly effective, it is not necessary to hold the mind under a tight, controlling barrier which to the intelligent probe is as informative as a naked mentality. Rather, one should cultivate an innocence, an awareness of self, and an unselfconsciousness of self which leaves one nothing to hide. My mind is open to you. Let this be so for both of us.
Despite all that education and experience can do, I retain a certain level of unsophistication that I cannot eradicate and that my friends find amusing. In fact, I think I sometimes detect conspiratorial plottings among my friends to protect me against my own lack of sophistication. I don't mind. I suspect that I am never quite as unsophisticated as they think I am, but I don't mind.