Aphorisms

Of God & Science

Finite absolutes are dangerous. Only infinite ones might possibly do. (GDM)

Once you adopt an ideology, you have placed a screen between yourself and what you claim to be observing. (GDM)

First Lunatic: ‘God spoke to me!’
Second Lunatic: ‘I did no such thing!’
(Idries Shah, Learning How to Learn, p 152)

The condition of my hearing what you say, is that you hear what I say. All human communication rests upon this, and thus the one who first refuses to listen is the aggressor. (GDM)

‘Surely you don’t believe in horseshoes, Professor Pauli.’
‘Of course not. What a silly idea. But I’m told that horseshoes bring you luck even if you don’t believe in them.’

‘Logically, a scientific theory should never be believed. It is best regarded as a sophisticated statement of ignorance, a way of formulating possible ideas so that they can be tested, rather than an attempted statement of final truth.’ Donald Hebb 1972, p 4.

‘There’s a cynical saying in science. A professor’s eminence is measured by how long he’s held up progress in his field.’ (Liz Jensen, The Rapture, p 87.)

‘No position is so absurd that a philosopher cannot be found to argue for it.’ (Michael Lockwood)

‘It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it.’ (Upton Sinclair)

‘Not everything that counts can be counted; not everything that can be counted counts.’ (Einstein)

Let us beware of the word ‘scientific’ on the lips of a materialist philosopher. It is treacherous ground. It is designed (like a bog in the Scottish Highlands) to suck your boots off you. (GDM)

G.K.Chesterton: ‘If ordinary men may not discuss existence, why should they be asked to conduct it?’

‘Anyone who isn’t confused, really doesn’t understand the situation.’ (Ed Murrow)

New Scientist, Christmas 1997, (p 100) suggested that an important headline to be hoped for in 1998 was ‘Found! The gene that causes belief in genetic determinism.’

Samuel Johnson: ‘Prejudice, not being founded on reason, cannot be removed by argument.’

Goethe: ‘Everyone hears only what he understands.’

Schopenhauer: ‘The great majority of people are not capable of thinking but only of believing.’

Edward Sheldrick: ‘Most people desire eternal life, without knowing how to get through the rest of the weekend.’

William Blake: ‘What is now proved was once only imagined.’

Is there a God? John C. Lennox agrees there are no fairies at the bottom of gardens. But there’s always a gardener. (God’s Undertaker, 2007, p 39.)

Paul Valéry: ‘Ce qui a été cru partout, toujours, par tous, a toutes les chances d’être faux.’ (What has been believed for ever, everywhere, by everyone, has every likelihood of being wrong.)

Susan Greenfield, scientist, in the Independent on Sunday, 4 Aug 96: ‘If computers cannot feel, they cannot think.’

Hippocrates: ‘Life is short, art is long, opportunity is fugitive, experience is delusive, judgment is difficult.’ (ο βιος βραχυς η δε τεχνη μακρη ο δε καιρος οξυς η δε πειρα σφαλερη η δε κρισις χαλεπη)

The reason why X’s work has never been taken seriously is that X speaks plain English. This makes it impossible for academic chair-climbers to take his stuff away and turn it into mystification.

Fundamentalism derives from a misunderstanding as to the nature of language. Fundamentalists think that language represents reality clearly, completely and without ambiguity. So no fundamentalist understands the language he speaks. And therefore he cannot understand his own Sacred Book

Michel Serres: ‘Le clair qui n’avoue pas son ombre est une tromperie.’ (The light which won’t admit its shadow is a deception.)

C.P. Snow: The Two Cultures, C.U.P. 1993, ed. Collini: p 65:
‘The number two is a very dangerous number [...] Attempts to divide anything into two ought to be regarded with much suspicion.’

Novalis: ‘In reality we live inside an animal of which we are the parasites. The constitution of this animal determines ours and vice-versa.’

Of Poetry & People

What is poetry? Think of the needles used to measure an earthquake which happens in China on the other side of the Globe. That is what language is about. (GDM)

Patience (Definition by Ambrose Bierce): ‘A form of mild despair, misinterpreted as a virtue.’

Gordon MacGregor: ‘At what tipping point, we must ask ourselves, does everything become forbidden except that which is compulsory?’

‘There is no way in which two persons may meet in this world of men: we can but exchange, from afar, despairing friendly signals, in the sure knowledge they will be misinterpreted.’ (Cabell, Figures of Earth, p 121.)

David Kidd, quoted in Alex Kerr Lost Japan: “Humour is one of the four pillars of the Universe. I forget what the other three are.”

Note also: the Japanese distinction, quoted on p 99 of Alex Kerr, between tatamae and honne. The former means your officially expressed view. The latter means your actually held opinion. The former means what everybody says is true but which everybody knows to be untrue. The latter means what nobody says but which everybody knows to be true. Clearly, the Japanese have understood.

The word ‘elitist’ simply means someone who thinks some things are better than others. Now, everybody thinks this. The reason why people object to elitists is that they can tell you why.

If the only thing that makes you laugh is jokes, then you don’t have a sense of humour.

An idea that is not dangerous is not worthy of being called an idea at all.
(Oscar Wilde: The Critic as Artist)
When people agree with me I always feel that I must be wrong. (ibidem)

Sandy McCall Smith: ‘In Mma Ramotse, nothing happens. But this is a great relief, since in the real world far too much happens.’