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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index A > Category: Assumption

Assumption Quotes (26 quotes)

All silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility.
On Liberty' (1859), in M. Warnock (ed.), Utilitarianism (1962), 143.
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How do we discover the individual laws of Physics, and what is their nature? It should be remarked, to begin with, that we have no right to assume that any physical law exists, or if they have existed up to now, that they will continue to exist in a similar manner in the future. It is perfectly conceivable that one fine day Nature should cause an unexpected event to occur which would baffle us all; and if this were to happen we would be powerless to make any objection, even if the result would be that, in spite of our endeavors, we should fail to introduce order into the resulting confusion. In such an event, the only course open to science would be to declare itself bankrupt. For this reason, science is compelled to begin by the general assumption that a general rule of law dominates throughout Nature.
Max Planck, Walter Henry Johnston, The Universe in the Light of Modern Physics (1931), 58.
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I undertake my scientific research with the confident assumption that the earth follows the laws of nature which God established at creation. ... My studies are performed with the confidence that God will not capriciously confound scientific results by "slipping in" a miracle.
Quoted in Lenny Flank, Deception by Design: The Intelligent Design Movement in America (2007), 81. Also seen as cited from Arthur Newell Strahler, Science and Earth History: the Evolution/Creation Controversy (1987), 40-41.
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In the Life of Darwin by his son, there is related an incident of how the great naturalist once studied long as to just what a certain spore was. Finally he said, “It is this, for if it is n't, then what is it?” And all during his life he was never able to forget that he had been guilty of this unscientific attitude, for science is founded on certitude, not assumption.
In Elbert Hubbard (ed. and publ.), The Philistine (May 1908), 26, No. 6, 172.
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In the modem interpretation of Mendelism, facts are being transformed into factors at a rapid rate. If one factor will not explain the facts, then two are involved; if two prove insufficient, three will sometimes work out. The superior jugglery sometimes necessary to account for the results may blind us, if taken too naively, to the common-place that the results are often so excellently 'explained' because the explanation was invented to explain them. We work backwards from the facts to the factors, and then, presto! explain the facts by the very factors that we invented to account for them. I am not unappreciative of the distinct advantages that this method has in handling the facts. I realize how valuable it has been to us to be able to marshal our results under a few simple assumptions, yet I cannot but fear that we are rapidly developing a sort of Mendelian ritual by which to explain the extraordinary facts of alternative inheritance. So long as we do not lose sight of the purely arbitrary and formal nature of our formulae, little harm will be done; and it is only fair to state that those who are doing the actual work of progress along Mendelian lines are aware of the hypothetical nature of the factor-assumption.
'What are 'Factors' in Mendelian Explanations?', American Breeders Association (1909), 5, 365.
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Indeed, not all attacks—especially the bitter and ridiculing kind leveled at Darwin—are offered in good faith, but for practical purposes it is good policy to assume that they are.
From Dream to Discovery: On Being a Scientist (1964), 157
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It was noted long ago that the front row of burlesque houses was occupied predominantly by bald-headed men. In fact, such a row became known as the bald-headed row. It might be assumed from this on statistical evidence that the continued close observation of chorus girls in tights caused loss of hair from the top of the head.
[Disputing a statistical study for the American Cancer Society showing smoking to be a cancer causative.]
In Bess Furman, '2 Cite Extraction of Cigarette Tar', New York Times (26 Jul 1957), 21. The article reported on testimony before the Legal and Monetary Affairs Subcommittee of the House Government Operations Committee.
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Mathematics is not arithmetic. Though mathematics may have arisen from the practices of counting and measuring it really deals with logical reasoning in which theorems—general and specific statements—can be deduced from the starting assumptions. It is, perhaps, the purest and most rigorous of intellectual activities, and is often thought of as queen of the sciences.
Essay,'Private Games', in Lewis Wolpert, Alison Richards (eds.), A Passion for Science (1988), 53.
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My practice as a scientist is atheistic. That is to say, when I set up an experiment I assume that no god, angel or devil is going to interfere with its course; and this assumption has been justified by such success as I have achieved in my professional career. I should therefore be intellectually dishonest if I were not also atheistic in the affairs of the world.
In Fact and Faith (1934), vi.
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My “"thinking”" time was devoted mainly to activities that were essentially clerical or mechanical: searching, calculating, plotting, transforming, determining the logical or dynamic consequences of a set of assumptions or hypotheses, preparing the way for a decision or an insight. Moreover ... the operations that fill most of the time allegedly devoted to technical thinking are operations that can be performed more effectively by machines than by men.
From article 'Man-Computer Symbiosis', in IRE Transactions on Human Factors in Electronics (Mar 1960), Vol. HFE-1, 4-11.
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No engineer can go upon a new work and not find something peculiar, that will demand his careful reflection, and the deliberate consideration of any advice that he may receive; and nothing so fully reveals his incapacity as a pretentious assumption of knowledge, claiming to understand everything.
In Railway Property: A Treatise on the Construction and Management of Railways (1866), 247.
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On entering a temple we assume all signs of reverence. How much more reverent then should we be before the heavenly bodies, the stars, the very nature of God!
From Quaestiones Naturales as translated in Charles Singer, From Magic to Science (1958), 57.
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Owing to his lack of knowledge, the ordinary man cannot attempt to resolve conflicting theories of conflicting advice into a single organized structure. He is likely to assume the information available to him is on the order of what we might think of as a few pieces of an enormous jigsaw puzzle. If a given piece fails to fit, it is not because it is fraudulent; more likely the contradictions and inconsistencies within his information are due to his lack of understanding and to the fact that he possesses only a few pieces of the puzzle. Differing statements about the nature of things, differing medical philosophies, different diagnoses and treatments—all of these are to be collected eagerly and be made a part of the individual's collection of puzzle pieces. Ultimately, after many lifetimes, the pieces will fit together and the individual will attain clear and certain knowledge.
'Strategies of Resort to Curers in South India', contributed in Charles M. Leslie (ed.), Asian Medical Systems: A Comparative Study (1976), 185.
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Science was false by being unpoetical. It assumed to explain a reptile or a mollusk, and isolated it—which is hunting for life in graveyards. Reptile or mollusk or man or angel only exists in system, in relation.
In 'Letters and Social Aims: Poetry and Imagination', Prose works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1880), Vol. 3, 199.
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So I want to admit the assumption which the astronomer—and indeed any scientist—makes about the Universe he investigates. It is this: that the same physical causes give rise to the same physical results anywhere in the Universe, and at any time, past, present, and future. The fuller examination of this basic assumption, and much else besides, belongs to philosophy. The scientist, for his part, makes the assumption I have mentioned as an act of faith; and he feels confirmed in that faith by his increasing ability to build up a consistent and satisfying picture of the universe and its behavior.
From Science and the Nation (1957), 49. Also quoted in Ronald Keast, Dancing in the Dark: The Waltz in Wonder of Quantum Metaphysics (2009), 106.
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The assumption of an absolute determinism is the essential foundation of every scientific enquiry.
Physikalische Abhandlungen und Vorträge (1958), Vol 3, 89. Translated in J. L. Heilbron, The Dilemmas of an Upright Man (1986) 66.
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The assumptions of population thinking are diametrically opposed to those of the typologist. The populationist stresses the uniqueness of everything in the organic world. What is true for the human species,–that no two individuals are alike, is equally true for all other species of animals and plants ... All organisms and organic phenomena are composed of unique features and can be described collectively only in statistical terms. Individuals, or any kind of organic entities, form populations of which we can determine the arithmetic mean and the statistics of variation. Averages are merely statistical abstractions, only the individuals of which the populations are composed have reality. The ultimate conclusions of the population thinker and of the typologist are precisely the opposite. For the typologist, the type (eidos) is real and the variation. an illusion, while for the populationist the type (average) is an abstraction and only the variation is real. No two ways of looking at nature could be more different.
Darwin and the Evolutionary Theory in Biology (1959), 2.
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The framing of hypotheses is, for the enquirer after truth, not the end, but the beginning of his work. Each of his systems is invented, not that he may admire it and follow it into all its consistent consequences, but that he may make it the occasion of a course of active experiment and observation. And if the results of this process contradict his fundamental assumptions, however ingenious, however symmetrical, however elegant his system may be, he rejects it without hesitation. He allows no natural yearning for the offspring of his own mind to draw him aside from the higher duty of loyalty to his sovereign, Truth, to her he not only gives his affections and his wishes, but strenuous labour and scrupulous minuteness of attention.
Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences (1847), Vol. 2, 57.
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The history of mathematics, as of any science, is to some extent the story of the continual replacement of one set of misconceptions by another. This is of course no cause for despair, for the newly instated assumptions very often possess the merit of being closer approximations to truth than those that they replace.
In 'Consistency and Completeness—A Résumé', The American Mathematical Monthly (May 1956), 63, No.5, 295.
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The next time you make an assumption, see what happens when you do the opposite.
As originally composed on Twitter. Posted on the copyblogger web page 'What's the Ultimate Creativity Killer', 21 May 2008.
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The universality of parasitism as an offshoot of the predatory habit negatives the position taken by man that it is a pathological phenomenon or a deviation from the normal processes of nature. The pathological manifestations are only incidents in a developing parasitism. As human beings intent on maintaining man's domination over nature we may regard parasitism as pathological insofar as it becomes a drain upon human resources. In our efforts to protect ourselves we may make every kind of sacrifice to limit, reduce, and even eliminate parasitism as a factor in human life. Science attempts to define the terms on which this policy of elimination may or may not succeed. We must first of all thoroughly understand the problem, put ourselves in possession of all the facts in order to estimate the cost. Too often it has been assumed that parasitism was abnormal and that it needed only a slight force to reestablish what was believed to be a normal equilibrium without parasitism. On the contrary, biology teaches us that parasitism is a normal phenomenon and if we accept this view we shall be more ready to pay the price of freedom as a permanent and ever recurring levy of nature for immunity from a condition to which all life is subject. The greatest victory of man over nature in the physical realm would undoubtedly be his own delivery from the heavy encumbrance of parasitism with which all life is burdened.
Parasitism and Disease (1934), 4.
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The validity of all the Inductive Methods depends on the assumption that every event, or the beginning of every phenomenon, must have some cause; some antecedent, upon the existence of which it is invariably and unconditionally consequent.
A System of Logic: Ratiocinative and Inductive (1843), Vol. 2, 107.
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[Richard P.] Feynman's cryptic remark, “no one is that much smarter ...,” to me, implies something Feynman kept emphasizing: that the key to his achievements was not anything “magical” but the right attitude, the focus on nature's reality, the focus on asking the right questions, the willingness to try (and to discard) unconventional answers, the sensitive ear for phoniness, self-deception, bombast, and conventional but unproven assumptions.
In book review of James Gleick's Genius, 'Complexities of Feynman', Science, 259 (22 Jan 1993), 22
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[Science] is not perfect. It can be misused. It is only a tool. But it is by far the best tool we have, self-correcting, ongoing, applicable to everything. It has two rules. First: there are no sacred truths; all assumptions must be critically examined; arguments from authority are worthless. Second: whatever is inconsistent with the facts must be discarded or revised. ... The obvious is sometimes false; the unexpected is sometimes true.
Cosmos (1985), 277.
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[The] erroneous assumption is to the effect that the aim of public education is to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence, and so make them fit to discharge the duties of citizenship in an enlightened and independent manner. Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardised citizenry, to put down dissent and originality.
The American Mercury (24 Apr 1924).
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[The] structural theory is of extreme simplicity. It assumes that the molecule is held together by links between one atom and the next: that every kind of atom can form a definite small number of such links: that these can be single, double or triple: that the groups may take up any position possible by rotation round the line of a single but not round that of a double link: finally that with all the elements of the first short period [of the periodic table], and with many others as well, the angles between the valencies are approximately those formed by joining the centre of a regular tetrahedron to its angular points. No assumption whatever is made as to the mechanism of the linkage. Through the whole development of organic chemistry this theory has always proved capable of providing a different structure for every different compound that can be isolated. Among the hundreds of thousands of known substances, there are never more isomeric forms than the theory permits.
Presidential Address to the Chemical Society (16 Apr 1936), Journal of the Chemical Society (1936), 533.
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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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Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Euclid
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Bible
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton

New Book


The Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets,
by Simon Singh

Cleverly embedded in many Simpsons plots are subtle references to mathematics, because the show's brilliant comedy writers with advanced degrees in math or science. Singh offers an entirely new insight into the most successful show in television history.