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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index A > Isaac Asimov Quotes

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Isaac Asimov
(2 Jan 1920 - 6 Apr 1992)

Russian-American writer and biochemist who was a prolific author and editor of science fiction and non-fiction.

Science Quotes by Isaac Asimov (74 quotes)

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(1) A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
(2) A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the first law.
(3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
— Isaac Asimov
'The Three Laws of Robotics', in I, Robot (1950), Frontispiece.
Science quotes on:  |  Robot (4)

Clarke's First Law - Corollary: When, however, the lay public rallies round an idea that is denounced by distinguished but elderly scientists and supports that idea with great fervor and emotion—the distinguished but elderly scientists are then, after all, probably right.
— Isaac Asimov
'Asimov's Corollary', Fantasy & Science Fiction (Feb 1977). In collection Quasar, Quasar, Burning Bright (1978), 231.
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A neat and orderly laboratory is unlikely. It is, after all, so much a place of false starts and multiple attempts.
— Isaac Asimov
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A number of years ago, when I was a freshly-appointed instructor, I met, for the first time, a certain eminent historian of science. At the time I could only regard him with tolerant condescension.
I was sorry of the man who, it seemed to me, was forced to hover about the edges of science. He was compelled to shiver endlessly in the outskirts, getting only feeble warmth from the distant sun of science- in-progress; while I, just beginning my research, was bathed in the heady liquid heat up at the very center of the glow.
In a lifetime of being wrong at many a point, I was never more wrong. It was I, not he, who was wandering in the periphery. It was he, not I, who lived in the blaze.
I had fallen victim to the fallacy of the “growing edge;” the belief that only the very frontier of scientific advance counted; that everything that had been left behind by that advance was faded and dead.
But is that true? Because a tree in spring buds and comes greenly into leaf, are those leaves therefore the tree? If the newborn twigs and their leaves were all that existed, they would form a vague halo of green suspended in mid-air, but surely that is not the tree. The leaves, by themselves, are no more than trivial fluttering decoration. It is the trunk and limbs that give the tree its grandeur and the leaves themselves their meaning.
There is not a discovery in science, however revolutionary, however sparkling with insight, that does not arise out of what went before. “If I have seen further than other men,” said Isaac Newton, “it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.”
— Isaac Asimov
Adding A Dimension: Seventeen Essays on the History of Science (1964), Introduction.
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A scientist is as weak and human as any man, but the pursuit of science may ennoble him even against his will.
— Isaac Asimov
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A subtle thought that is in error may yet give rise to fruitful inquiry that can establish truths of great value.
— Isaac Asimov
In Steven D. Price, 1001 Smartest Things Ever Said (2005), 163.
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Although the time of death is approaching me, I am not afraid of dying and going to Hell or (what would be considerably worse) going to the popularized version of Heaven. I expect death to be nothingness and, for removing me from all possible fears of death, I am thankful to atheism.
— Isaac Asimov
In John Altson, Patti Rae Miliotis, What Happened to Grandpa? (2009).
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An atom-blaster is a good weapon, but it can point both ways.
— Isaac Asimov
In The FoundationTrilogy (1951), Vol. 2, 207.
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During the century after Newton, it was still possible for a man of unusual attainments to master all fields of scientific knowledge. But by 1800, this had become entirely impracticable.
— Isaac Asimov
The Intelligent Man's Guide to Science (1960), 19.
Science quotes on:  |  Knowledge (749)  |  Sir Isaac Newton (206)

Early in my school career, I turned out to be an incorrigible disciplinary problem. I could understand what the teacher was saying as fast as she could say it, I found time hanging heavy, so I would occasionally talk to my neighbor. That was my great crime, I talked in school.
— Isaac Asimov
In In Memory Yet Green: the Autobiography of Isaac Asimov, 1920-1954 (1979), 73.
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Experimentation is the least arrogant method of gaining knowledge. The experimenter humbly asks a question of nature.
— Isaac Asimov
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From my close observation of writers ... they fall in to two groups: 1) those who bleed copiously and visibly at any bad review, and 2) those who bleed copiously and secretly at any bad review.
— Isaac Asimov
In Gold: The Final Science Fiction Collection? (2003).
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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.
— Isaac Asimov
'Prometheus.' The Roving Mind (1983), Chap 25.
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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.
— Isaac Asimov
'Isaac Asimov on Science and the Bible'. In Sidney Hook, et. al. On the Barricades: Religion and Free Inquiry in Conflict (1989), 329.
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I am not a speed reader. I am a speed understander.
— Isaac Asimov
In Cris Tovani, Do I Really Have to Teach Reading? (2004), 51
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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
In David S. Bradford, In the Beginning: Building the Temple of Zion? (2008).
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I believe that only scientists can understand the universe. It is not so much that I have confidence in scientists being right, but that I have so much in nonscientists being wrong.
— Isaac Asimov
Webmaster has not yet been able to confirm this attribution. If you know an original print citation, please contact Webmaster.
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I do not fear computers. I fear the lack of them.
— Isaac Asimov
As quoted, without further citation, in 'The Age of Miracle Chips', Time (20 Feb 1978), 45. The article introduces a special section on 'The Computer Society.' Please contact Webmaster if you know an earlier, primary source.
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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.
— Isaac Asimov
In Rosemarie Jarski, Words from the Wise (2007), 18.
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I prefer rationalism to atheism. The question of God and other objects-of-faith are outside reason and play no part in rationalism, thus you don't have to waste your time in either attacking or defending.
— Isaac Asimov
In Isaac Asimov and Janet Asimov (ed.), It's Been a Good Life (2002), 21. Attribution uncertain. If you know an original print citation, please contact Webmaster.
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I write for the same reason I breathe—because if I didn't, I would die.
— Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov, Stanley Asimov (ed.), Yours, Isaac Asimov: a Lifetime of Letters (1995), 8.
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I'm gradually managing to cram my mind more and more full of things. I've got this beautiful mind and it's going to die, and it'll all be gone. And then I say, not in my case. Every idea I've ever had I've written down, and it's all there on paper. And I won't be gone; it'll be there.
— Isaac Asimov
'Isaac Asimov Speaks' with Bill Moyers in The Humanist (Jan/Feb 1989), 49. Reprinted in Carl Howard Freedman (ed.), Conversations with Isaac Asimov (2005), 139.
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If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.
— Isaac Asimov
Life (1984).
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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.
— Isaac Asimov
In The Roving Mind (1983), 26.
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In life, unlike chess, the game continues after checkmate.
— Isaac Asimov
In Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain (1987), 192.
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Increasingly, our leaders must deal with dangers that threaten the entire world, where an understanding of those dangers and the possible solutions depends on a good grasp of science. The ozone layer, the greenhouse effect, acid rain, questions of diet and heredity. All require scientific literacy. Can Americans choose the proper leaders and support the proper programs if they themselves are scientifically illiterate? The whole premise of democracy is that it is safe to leave important questions to the court of public opinion—but is it safe to leave them to the court of public ignorance?
— Isaac Asimov
In Los Angeles Times (31 Mar 1989).
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Inspect every piece of pseudoscience and you will find a security blanket, a thumb to suck, a skirt to hold. What does the scientist have to offer in exchange? Uncertainty! Insecurity!
— Isaac Asimov
Past, Present, and Future (1987), 65.
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Intelligence is a valuable thing, but it is not usually the key to survival. Sheer fecundity ... usually counts. The intelligent gorilla doesn't do as well as the less intelligent but more-fecund rat, which doesn't do as well as the still-less-intelligent but still-more-fecund cockroach, which doesn't do as well as the minimally-intelligent but maximally-fecund bacterium.
— Isaac Asimov
'Fifty Million Big Brothers'. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (Nov 1978), 55, No. 5, 93.
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Intelligence is an extremely subtle concept. It’s a kind of understanding that flourishes if it's combined with a good memory, but exists anyway even in the absence of good memory. It’s the ability to draw consequences from causes, to make correct inferences, to foresee what might be the result, to work out logical problems, to be reasonable, rational, to have the ability to understand the solution from perhaps insufficient information. You know when a person is intelligent, but you can be easily fooled if you are not yourself intelligent.
— Isaac Asimov
In Irv Broughton (ed.), The Writer's Mind: Interviews with American Authors (1990), Vol. 2, 57.
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It is not equal time the creationists want. ... Don't kid yourself. They want all the time there is.
— Isaac Asimov
In The Roving Mind (1983), 18.
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It pays to be obvious, especially if you have a reputation for subtlety.
— Isaac Asimov
In Foundation (1951), 88.
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John Dalton's records, carefully preserved for a century, were destroyed during the World War II bombing of Manchester. It is not only the living who are killed in war.
— Isaac Asimov
In Anu Garg, Another Word a Day (2005), 210. If you know a primary print source, please contact Webmaster.
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Knowledge is indivisible. When people grow wise in one direction, they are sure to make it easier for themselves to grow wise in other directions as well. On the other hand, when they split up knowledge, concentrate on their own field, and scorn and ignore other fields, they grow less wise–even in their own field.
— Isaac Asimov
In The Roving Mind (1983), 116.
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Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It's the transition that's troublesome.
— Isaac Asimov
Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain (1987), 71.
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Now any dogma, based primarily on faith and emotionalism, is a dangerous weapon to use on others, since it is almost impossible to guarantee that the weapon will never be turned on the user.
— Isaac Asimov
In The Foundation Trilogy (1951), 155.
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Outside intelligences, exploring the solar system with true impartiality, would be quite likely to enter the sun in their records thus: Star X, spectral class G0, 4 planets plus debris.
— Isaac Asimov
Essay 16, 'By Jove!'. In View From a Height (1963), 227.
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Part of the inhumanity of the computer is that, once it is competently programmed and working smoothly, it is completely honest.
— Isaac Asimov
In Change! (1983). Quoted in Reader's Digest (1987), 131, Nos. 783-787, 1.
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People are entirely too disbelieving of coincidence. They are far too ready to dismiss it and to build arcane structures of extremely rickety substance in order to avoid it. I, on the other hand, see coincidence everywhere as an inevitable consequence of the laws of probability, according to which having no unusual coincidence is far more unusual than any coincidence could possibly be.
— Isaac Asimov
In The Planet That Wasn't (1976), 3.
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Pierre Curie, a brilliant scientist, happened to marry a still more brilliant one—Marie, the famous Madame Curie—and is the only great scientist in history who is consistently identified as the husband of someone else.
— Isaac Asimov
View from a Height (1963), 119.
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Radiation, unlike smoking, drinking, and overeating, gives no pleasure, so the possible victims object.
— Isaac Asimov
As given in The Journal of NIH Research (1990), 2, 30
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Science can amuse and fascinate us all, but it is engineering that changes the world.
— Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov's Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 78.
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Science can be introduced to children well or poorly. If poorly, children can be turned away from science; they can develop a lifelong antipathy; they will be in a far worse condition than if they had never been introduced to science at all.
— Isaac Asimov
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Science fiction writers foresee the inevitable, and although problems and catastrophes may be inevitable, solutions are not.
— Isaac Asimov
'How Easy to See the Future'. In Asimov on Science Fiction (1981), 86.
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Science is a mechanism, a way of trying to improve your knowledge of nature. It's a system for testing your thoughts against the universe, and seeing whether they match.
— Isaac Asimov
'Isaac Asimov Speaks' with Bill Moyers in The Humanist (Jan/Feb 1989), 49. Reprinted in Carl Howard Freedman (ed.), Conversations with Isaac Asimov (2005), 143.
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Science is complex and chilling. The mathematical language of science is understood by very few. The vistas it presents are scary—an enormous universe ruled by chance and impersonal rules, empty and uncaring, ungraspable and vertiginous. How comfortable to turn instead to a small world, only a few thousand years old, and under God's personal; and immediate care; a world in which you are His peculiar concern.
— Isaac Asimov
The 'Threat' of Creationism. In Ashley Montagu (ed.), Science and Creationism (1984), 192.
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Science is dangerous. There is no question but that poison gas, genetic engineering, and nuclear weapons and power stations are terrifying. It may be that civilization is falling apart and the world we know is coming to an end. In that case, why no turn to religion and look forward to the Day of Judgment, ... [being] lifted into eternal bliss ... [and] watching the scoffers and disbelievers writhe forever in torment.
— Isaac Asimov
The 'Threat' of Creationism. In Ashley Montagu (ed.), Science and Creationism (1984), 192.
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Science is uncertain. Theories are subject to revision; observations are open to a variety of interpretations, and scientists quarrel amongst themselves. This is disillusioning for those untrained in the scientific method, who thus turn to the rigid certainty of the Bible instead. There is something comfortable about a view that allows for no deviation and that spares you the painful necessity of having to think.
— Isaac Asimov
The 'Threat' of Creationism. In Ashley Montagu (ed.), Science and Creationism (1984), 192.
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Scientific apparatus offers a window to knowledge, but as they grow more elaborate, scientists spend ever more time washing the windows.
— Isaac Asimov
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Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.
— Isaac Asimov
In Science Past, Science Future (1975), 208.
Science quotes on:  |  Belief (161)  |  Education (190)  |  Self (12)

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.
— Isaac Asimov
Widely seen on the Web, but always without citation, so regard attribution as uncertain. Webmaster has not yet found reliable verification. Contact Webmaster if you know a primary print source.
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Surely no child, and few adults, have ever watched a bird in flight without envy.
— Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov and Jason A. Shulman, Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 3.
Science quotes on:  |  Adult (4)  |  Aeronautics (8)  |  Bird (60)  |  Child (96)  |  Envy (7)  |  Flight (29)  |  Watching (7)

The dangers that face the world can, every one of them, be traced back to science. The salvations that may save the world will, every one of them, be traced back to science.
— Isaac Asimov
In Today and Tomorrow (1974), 304.
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The facts, gentlemen, and nothing but the facts, for careful eyes are narrowly watching.
— Isaac Asimov
In Fact and Fancy (1962), 11.
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The law of conservation of energy tells us we can't get something for nothing, but we refuse to believe it.
— Isaac Asimov
In Isaac Asimov's Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 75.
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The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny....'
— Isaac Asimov
In Ashton Applewhite, William R. Evans and Andrew Frothingham, And I Quote (2003), 467

The most hopelessly stupid man is he who is not aware that he is wise.
— Isaac Asimov
In The Foundation Trilogy (1951), Vol. 2, 96.
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The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.
— Isaac Asimov
IIsaac Asimov's Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 281.
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The significant chemicals of living tissue are rickety and unstable, which is exactly what is needed for life.
— Isaac Asimov
As shown, without citation, in Randy Moore, Writing to Learn Science (1997), 226.
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The true delight is in the finding out rather than in the knowing.
— Isaac Asimov
In David Michael Harland, The Big Bang: a ViewFrom the 21st Century (2003), ix. Please contact Webmaster if you know a primary print source.
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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.
The young man then quoted with approval what Socrates had said on learning that the Delphic oracle had proclaimed him the wisest man in Greece. “If I am the wisest man,” said Socrates, “it is because I alone know that I know nothing.” The implication was that I was very foolish because I was under the impression I knew a great deal.
Alas, none of this was new to me. (There is very little that is new to me; I wish my correspondents would realize this.) This particular theme was addressed to me a quarter of a century ago by John Campbell, who specialized in irritating me. He also told me that all theories are proven wrong in time.
My answer to him was, “John, 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.”
— Isaac Asimov
The Relativity of Wrong (1989), 214.
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There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere.
— Isaac Asimov
In Erin Gruwell and Frank McCourt, The Gigantic Book of Teachers' Wisdom (2007), 578.

There is no belief, however foolish, that will not gather its faithful adherents who will defend it to the death.
— Isaac Asimov
In The Stars in Their Courses? (1971), 36.
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Thinking is the activity I love best, and writing to me is simply thinking through my fingers. I can write up to 18 hours a day. Typing 90 words a minute, I've done better than 50 pages a day. Nothing interferes with my concentration. You could put an orgy in my office and I wouldn't look up—well, maybe once.
— Isaac Asimov
In Joseph Barbato, Writing for a Good Cause (2000), 151. Attribution uncertain. If you know an original print citation, please contact Webmaster.
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To introduce something altogether new would mean to begin all over, to become ignorant again, and to run the old, old risk of failing to learn.
— Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov, Patricia S. Warrick, Martin Harry Greenberg, Machines That Think: The Best Science Fiction Stories About Robots and Computers? (1984), 2.
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To surrender to ignorance and call it God has always been premature, and it remains premature today.
— Isaac Asimov
In The Roving Mind (1983), 6.
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To test a perfect theory with imperfect instruments did not impress the Greek philosophers as a valid way to gain knowledge.
— Isaac Asimov
The New Intelligent Man's Guide to Science (1965), Vol. 1, 12.
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True literacy is becoming an arcane art and the nation [United States] is steadily dumbing down.
— Isaac Asimov
In I. Asimov: a Memoir (1994), 46.
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Unfortunately, in many cases, people who write science fiction violate the laws of nature, not because they want to make a point, but because they don't know what the laws of nature are.
— Isaac Asimov
In Carl Howard Freedman (ed.), Conversations with Isaac Asimov (2005), back cover.
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Until I became a published writer, I remained completely ignorant of books on how to write and courses on the subject ... they would have spoiled my natural style; made me observe caution; would have hedged me with rules.
— Isaac Asimov
In Isaac Asimov and Janet Asimov (ed.), It's Been a Good Life (2002), 38.
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Isaac Asimov quote: When I read about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut
Background: Trinity College Library, Dublin by Irish Welcome Tours CC BY 2.0 (source)
When I read 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.
— Isaac Asimov
In I. Asimov: a Memoir (1994), 28.
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Where any answer is possible, all answers are meaningless.
[Referring to speculations (on 'Not as We Know It' alien lifeforms) made in the total absence of evidence.]
— Isaac Asimov
'Fifty Million Big Brothers'. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (Nov 1978), 55, No. 5, 86.
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While knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them.
— Isaac Asimov
In Asimov's New Guide to Science (1984), 15.
Science quotes on:  |  Ignorance (118)  |  Knowledge (749)  |  Problem (200)  |  Solution (119)

[Creationists] make it sound as though a 'theory' is something you dreamt up after being drunk all night.
— Isaac Asimov
Remark to the National Center Against Censorship (NCAC)(1980). In Norman A. Johnson, Darwinian Detectives (), 27.
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[Learning is] the actual process of broadening yourself, of knowing there's 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, and that will come to all of us, there'll be a certain pleasure in thinking that you had utilized your life well, that you had learned as much as you could, gathered in as much as possible of the universe, and enjoyed it. I mean, there's only this 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 do that much. What a tragedy to just pass through and get nothing out of it.
— Isaac Asimov
'Isaac Asimov Speaks' with Bill Moyers in The Humanist (Jan/Feb 1989), 49. Reprinted in Carl Howard Freedman (ed.), Conversations with Isaac Asimov (2005), 139.
Science quotes on:  |  Facet (5)  |  Learning (143)  |  Understanding (257)  |  Universe (316)

Isaac Asimov quote: When I read about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut
Background: Trinity College Library, Dublin by Irish Welcome Tours CC BY 2.0 (source)

See also:

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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