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Quotes 2008

"You cannot divide minds into sexes. Each human being presents an individual problem."
Patricia Wentworth, The Brading Collection


"The secret to living in the rush of the world with a minimum of pain is to get as many people as possible to string along with your delusions; the trick to living alone up here, away from all agitating entanglements, allurements, and expectations, apart especially from one's own intensity, is to organize the silence, to think of its mountaintop plenitude as capital, silence as wealth exponentially increasing. The encircling silence as your chosen source of advantage and your only intimate."
Philip Roth, The Human Stain


"Teaching ... particularly in the 1990s, teaching what is far and away the dumbest generation in American history, is the same as walking up Broadway in Manhattan talking to yourself, except instead of eighteen people who hear you in the street talking to yourself, they're all in the room. They know, like, nothing."
Philip Roth, The Human Stain


"Everyone knows" is the invocation of the cliché and the beginning of the banalization of experience, and it's the solemnity and the sense of authority that people have in voicing the cliché that's so insufferable. What we know is that, in an unclichéd way, nobody knows anything. You can't know anything. The things you know you don't know. Intention? Motive? Consequence? Meaning? All that we don't know is astonishing. Even more astonishing is what passes for knowing.
Philip Roth, The Human Stain


"...it used to be the person who fell short. Now it's the discipline. Reading the classics is too difficult, therefore it's the classics that are to blame. Today the student asserts his incapacity as a privilege. I can't learn it, so there is something wrong with it. And there is something especially wrong with the bad teacher who wants to teach it. There are no more criteria.... only opinions."
Philip Roth, The Human Stain


"Bad ideas do not survive when they are exposed to the air."
Scott Adams, The Religion War


"That's the problem with clarity ... It often sounds insulting."
Scott Adams, The Religion War


"The dictionary definition of faith involves believing in something without evidence. You and I have never met, but I'll bet every penny to my name that you believe in God because of evidence, not without it. For example, I'll bet you see the Bible as evidence that God exists. You've probably perceived some link between your prayers and your successes, and that seems to be more evidence of God. Maybe you think that because the world seems so well designed, that's evidence of an intelligent creator. If you're influenced by evidence, it's not faith."
"If it's not faith, what is it?"
"It's a really, really, really, bad way to do science."
Scott Adams, The Religion War


"If God is so smart, why do you fart?"
Scott Adams, The Religion War


"Never take advice from someone wearing a tie."
Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Future Has Always Been Crazier Than We Thought


"Most damning of phrases: He meant well."
Laurie R. King, Touchstone


"But people didn't notice, generally speaking. They just created an image, and only if something happened to shatter the image completely did they see what lay behind it."
Laurie R. King, Touchstone


...she was a "smart, capable manager," which was obviously a put-down, or possibly a synonym for "woman." Male[s] ... were described as "fearless," "innovative," "great guys," or "total shits." Even "total shit" had more of a ring of respect to it than "capable manager."
Joseph Weisberg, An Ordinary Spy


"History is a collection of a few facts and a substanial assortment of rumors, lies, exaggerations, and self-defense. As time passes, it becomes increasing difficult to separate the various categories."
Anna Greenstein, The Urge to Empire
Jack McDevitt, Polaris


"I never really recovered from the shock of discovering that women do what we do; they save their best pairs for the nights when they are going to sleep with somebody. When you live with a woman, these faded, shrunken tatty scraps suddenly appear on radiators all over the house; your lascivious schoolboy dreams of adulthood as a time when you are surrounded by exotic lingerie for ever and ever amen...those dreams crumble to dust."
Nick Hornby, High Fidelity


"I used to think ... that all relationships need the kind of violent shove that a crush brings, just to get you started and to push you over the humps. And then, when the energy from the shove has gone and you come to something approaching a halt, you have a look around and see what you've got. It could be something completely different, it could be something roughly the same, but gentler and calmer, or it could be nothing at all."
Nick Hornby, High Fidelity


"...self-consciousness is a man's worst enemy."
Nick Hornby, High Fidelity


"This is the second Simply Red song on this tape. One's unforgivable. Two's a war crime."
Nick Hornby, High Fidelity


"I made a very important discovery... Happiness consists in getting enough sleep. Just that, nothing more."
Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers


"Universal deities ... never seem to smile. Not in any culture. What's the point of having omnipotence if you don't enjoy it?"
Jack McDevitt, The Engines of God


"All of the important things ... will turn out to be universally shared. It's why there will be no true aliens."
Jack McDevitt, The Engines of God


"Book critics or theatre critics can be derisively negative and gain delighted praise for the trenchant with of their review. But in criticisms of religion even clarity ceases to be a virtue and sounds like aggressive hostility. A politician may attack an opponent scathingly across the floor of the House and earn plaudits for his robust pugnacity. But let a soberly reasoning critic of religion employ what would in other contexts sound merely direct or forthright, and it will be described as a 'rant'."
Richard Dawkings, The God Delusion


"Some people have views of God that are so broad and flexible that it is inevitable that they will find God wherever they look for him. One hears it said that 'God is the ultimate' or 'God is out better nature' or 'God is the universe.' Of course, like any other word, the word 'God' can be given any meaning we like. If you want to say 'God is energy,' then you can find God in a lump of coal."
Steven Weinberg, Dreams of a Final Theory
Richard Dawkings, The God Delusion


"We have names for people who have many beliefs for which there is no rational justification. When their beliefs are extremely common we call them 'religious'; otherwise, they are likely to be called 'mad', 'psychotic' or 'delusional' ... Clearly there is sanity in numbers. And yet, it is merely an accident of history that it is considered normal in our society to believe that he Creator of the universe can hear your thoughts, while it is demonstrative of mental illness to believe that he is communicating with you by having the rain tap in Morse code on your bedroom window. And so, while religious people are not generally mad, their core beliefs absolutely are."
Sam Harris, The End Of Faith
Richard Dawkings, The God Delusion


"If the history of science shows us anything, it is that we get nowhere by labeling our ignorance "God"."
Jerry Coyne
Richard Dawkings, The God Delusion


"Why is God an explanation for anything? It's not -- it's a failure to explain, a shrug of the shoulders, an 'I dunno' dressed up in a spirituality and ritual. If someone credits something to God, generally what it means is that they haven't a clue, so they're attributing it to an unreachable, unknown sky-fairy. Ask for an explanation of a where that bloke came from, and odds are you'll get a vague, psuedo-philisophical reply about having always existed, or being outside of nature Which, of course, explains nothing."
A Blogger, Guardian
Richard Dawkings, The God Delusion


"Truth, in matters of religion, is simply the opinion that has survived."
Oscar Wilde
Richard Dawkings, The God Delusion


"While political party affiliation in the United States is not a perfect indicator of religiosity, it is no secret that the 'red [Republican] state' are primarily red due to the overwhelming political influence of conservative Christians. If there were a strong correlation between Christian conservatism and societal health, we might expect to see some sign of it in red-state America. We don't. Of the twenty-five cities with the lowest rates of violent crime, 62 percent are in 'blue' [Democratic] states, and 38 percent are in 'red' [Republican] states. Of the twenty-five most dangerous cities, 76 percent are in red states, and 24 percent are in blue states. In fact, there of the five most dangerous cities in the U.S. are in the pious state of Texas. The twelve states with the highest rates of burglary are red. Twenty-four of the twenty-nine states with the highest rates of theft are red. Of the twenty-two states with the highest rates of murder, seventeen are red."
Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation
Richard Dawkings, The God Delusion


"To be fair, much of the Bible is not systematically evil but just plain weird, as you would expect of a chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed documents, composed, revised, translated, distorted and 'improved' by hundreds of anonymous authors, editors and copyists, unknown to us and mostly unknown to each other, spanning nine centuries. This may explain some of the sheer strangeness of the Bible. But unfortunately it is the same weird volume that religious zealots hold up as the inerrant source of our morals and rules for living."
Richard Dawkings, The God Delusion


"Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you'd have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, it takes religion."
Steven Weinberg
Richard Dawkings, The God Delusion


"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction."
Blaise Pascal
Richard Dawkings, The God Delusion


"The Bible is a blueprint of in-group morality, complete with instructions for genocide, enslavement of out-groups, and world domination. But the Bible is not evil by virtue of its objectives or even its glorification of murder, cruelty, and rape. May ancient works do that -- The Iliad, the Icelandic Sagas, the tales of ancient Mayans, for example. But no one is selling the Iliad as a foundation for morality. Therein lies the problem. The Bible is sold, and bought, as a guide to how people should live their lives. And it is, by far, the world's all-time best seller."
John Hartung
Richard Dawkings, The God Delusion


"The danger of religious faith is that it allows otherwise normal human beings to reap the fruits of madness and consider them holy. Because each new generation of children is taught that religious propositions need not be justified in the way that all others must, civilization is still besieged by the armies of the preposterous. We are, even now, killing ourselves over ancient literature. Who would have thought something so tragically absurd could be possible?"
Richard Dawkings, The God Delusion


"It is, therefore, not an exaggeration to say that if the city of New York were suddenly replaced by a ball of fire, some significant percentage of the American population would see a silver-lining in the subsequent mushroom cloud, as it would suggest to them that the best thing that is ever going to happen was about to happen: the return of Christ. It should be blindingly obvious that beliefs of this sort will do little to help us create a durable future for ourselves -- socially, economically, environmentally, or geopolitically. Imagine the consequences if any significant component of the U.S. government actually believed that the world was about to end and that its ending would be glorious. The fact that nearly half of the American population apparently believes that, purely on the basis of religious dogma, should be considered a moral and intellectual emergency."
Sam Harris
Richard Dawkings, The God Delusion


"Everyone is being blamed, from the obvious villainous duo of George W. Bush and Tony Blair, to the inaction of Muslim 'communities'. But it has never been clearer that there is only one place to lay the blame and it has ever been thus. Te cause of all this misery, mayhem, violence, terror and ignorance is of course religion itself, and it it seems ludicrous to have to state such an obvious reality, the fact is that the government and the media are doing a pretty good job of pretending that it isn't so."
Muriel Gray
Richard Dawkings, The God Delusion


"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."
Voltaire
Richard Dawkings, The God Delusion


"Tides are like politics. They come and go with a great deal of fuss and noise, but inevitably they leave the beach just as they found it. On those few occasions when major change does occur, it is rarely good news."
Jack McDevitt, Deepsix


"There is little that is actually impossible if one is in a position to apply energy and intelligence. It is our willingness to conclude this or that cannot be done that usually defeats us. Consider for example how long the outhouse was with us."
Jack McDevitt, Deepsix


"...doesn't it strike you that anyone truly interested in the creator, if in fact there is a creator, would want to take time to look at his handiwork? .. Or her handiwork? Matter of fact, doesn't it seem likely that the creator might be a bit miffed at anybody who spends a lifetime walking around paying serious attention to church architecture and misses the stars?"

"People who wear their religion on their sleeves talk a lot about going to Sunday school, reading the Bible, and doing good works. And I suppose there's no harm in that. But if I'd gone to the trouble to pull all this together ... and people never paid any attention to it, never bothered to try to find out how the world worked, then I think I'd get annoyed."
Jack McDevitt, Deepsix


"We are all affected with a Lone Ranger syndrome, a belief in the masked stranger who arrives well armed at dawn and settles problems in a straightforward simplistic manner. The character, whose origin stretches back to the twentieth century, owes his longevity to the fact that he connects with our most primal impulses, and represents the way we truly would be, if only we could. That we cannot results not only from a lack of courage and ability, but also because the world is simply not built that way. When the night is dark and the storm closes in, one had best be prepared to help himself. Because as surely as the stars wheel overhead there will be no one else, masked or otherwise."
Jack McDevitt, Deepsix


"Life is a walk in the fog. Most people don't know that. They're fooled by the sunlight into thinking they can see what's ahead. But it's the reason they are forever getting lost or falling into ditches or committing matrimony."
Jack McDevitt, Deepsix


"It's customary to argue that intelligence grants an evolutionary advantage. But where is the evidence? We are surrounded by believers in psychic healing, astrology, dreams, and drugs. Are we to accept the premise that these hordes of unfortunates descended from intelligent forebears?"

"I'm prepared to concede that stupidity does not help survival. One must after all understand not to poke a tiger with a stick. But intelligence leads to curiosity, and curiosity has never been a quality that helps one pour his or her genes into the pool. The truth must lie somewhere between. Whatever the reason, it is clearly mediocrity, at best, that lives and breeds."
Jack McDevitt, Deepsix


"Most of us sleepwalk through our lives. We take all its glories, its wine, food, love, and friendship, its sunsets and its stars, its poetry and fireplaces and laughter, for granted. We forget that experience is not, or should not be, a casual encounter, but rather an embrace. Consequently, for too many of us, when we come to the end, we wonder where the years have gone. And we suspect we have not lived."
Jack McDevitt, Deepsix


"...there are two kinds of people in this world: those who believe there are only two kinds of people in this world and everyone else."
Chip Kidd, The Learners


"If you intend to die, you can do anything."
Chip Kidd, The Learners


"Antisappointment. Anticipation colliding head-on with the certainty of its own doom."
Chip Kidd, The Learners


"Loneliness isn't about being by yourself. That's fine, right and good, desirable in many ways. Loneliness is about finding a landing-place, or not, and knowing that, whatever you do, you can go back there. The opposite of loneliness isn't company, it's return. A place of return."
Jeanette Winterson, The Stone Gods


"The key to happiness ... is tolerance of those who do not do as you do."
Jeanette Winterson, The Stone Gods


"People tend to believe that good fortune consists of equal parts talent, hard work, and sheer luck. It's hard to deny the roles of the latter two. As to talent, I would only say it consists primarily in finding the right moment to step in."
Jack McDevitt, Chindi


"There is nothing that overwhelms the senses quite like an unwelcome silence."
Jack McDevitt, Chindi


"Idiots are not responsible for what they do. The real guilt falls on rational people who sit on their hands while morons run wild. You can opt out if you want to. Play it safe. But if you do, don't complain when the roof comes down."
Jack McDevitt, Odyssey


"The secret to a successful career in virtually any field is good public relations. Forget results. Forget the facts. Perception is all that matters."
Jack McDevitt, Odyssey


"Talking with most people usually involves a search for truth. Talking with congressmen is strictly special effects."
Jack McDevitt, Odyssey


"The term congressional hearing is an oxymoron. No congressional hearing is ever called to gather information. Rather, it is an exercise designed strictly for posturing, by people who have already made up their minds, looking for ammunition to support their positions."
Jack McDevitt, Odyssey


"Certain types of decisions can be safely ignored. Some issues will go away with the passage of time, others will be so slow developing that the decision-makers will depart before the results of their neglect becomes manifest. Which brings us to the environment."
Jack McDevitt, Odyssey


"Intelligence is like pornography. I can't define it, but I know if when I see it."
Jack McDevitt, Odyssey


"There's not much to be said for sightseeing. You go somewhere that has a waterfall. You have a beer, watch the water go over the edge, and move on. Tours are all the same. In the end, the only thing that matters is the beer."
Jack McDevitt, Odyssey


We can create the appearance of knowledge, the illusion of knowing how to grapple with a problem. Far too many educational systems have exactly that. The result s generations of mouthpieces who can our forth approved responses to programmed stimuli that contribute nothing to rational discussion. Dogma is for those who wish only to be comfortable. Catechisms are for cowards; commandments, for control freaks who have so little respect for their species that they are driven to appeal to a higher power to keep everyone in line.

If indeed we have a Maker, I suspect He is proudest of us when we ask the hard questions. And listen for the answers.
Jack McDevitt, Odyssey


"Solitude is only a good idea if you have the right people along to share it."
Jack McDevitt, Odyssey


"Courage is perhaps our most admirable trait. The man, or woman, who possesses it is able to plunge ahead, despite dangers, despite warnings, despite hazards of all kinds, to attack the task at hand. Often, it is indistinguishable from stupidity."
Jack McDevitt, Odyssey


"Truth, beaten down, may well rise again. But there's a reason it gets beaten down. Usually, we don't like it very much."
Jack McDevitt, Odyssey


"Lies hold civilization together. If people ever seriously begin telling each other what they really think, there'd be no peace. Good-bye to tact. Good-bye to being polite. Good-bye to showing tolerance for other people's buffooneries. The fact that we claim to admire Truth is probably the biggest lie of all. But that's part of the charade, part of what makes us human, and we do not even think about it. In effect, we lie to ourselves. Lies are only despicable when they betray a trust."
Jack McDevitt, Odyssey


"Decisions are always made with insufficient information. If you really knew what was going on, the decision would make itself."
Jack McDevitt, Odyssey


"It is not faith per se that creates the problem; it is conviction, the notion that one cannot be wrong, that opposing views are necessarily invalid and may be intolerable."
Jack McDevitt, Odyssey


"So long as men and women are free, no one is safe. People will be in danger because others can't operate vehicles responsibly or shoot straight. Because physicians are sometimes incompetent and lawyers dishonest. But most of all they will be in danger from ideas. It is the price we willingly pay to be free. Nor would we have it any other way."
Jack McDevitt, Odyssey


"There us no justice. There are occasional acts of vengeance, or regret, but there's no real justice. In the natural scheme of things, it is not possible."
Jack McDevitt, Odyssey


"It is useless for sheep to pass resolutions in favor of vegetarianism while wolves remain of a different opinion."
William Ralph Inge, D. D.
Robert A. Heinlein, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls


"The hardest part about gaining any new idea is sweeping out the false idea occupying that niche. As long as that niche is occupied, evidence and proof and logical demonstration get nowhere. But once the niche is emptied of the wrong idea that has been filling it -- once you can honestly say, 'I don't know,' then it becomes possible to get at the truth."
Robert A. Heinlein, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls


"Rascality has limits; stupidity has not."
Napoleon Bonaparte
Robert A. Heinlein, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls


"The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds, and the pessimist fears that this is true."
James Branch Cabell
Robert A. Heinlein, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls


"...that would make you creative creatives creating creative creative."
Joshua Ferris, Then We Came To The End


"The trouble with friends was that you couldn't get rid of them. There was no way to take back a friendship in the wake of betrayal or disappointment. The friendship, and everything that went with it, stayed. It just became unreliable, like an abandoned house; you still knew where all the rooms were, and which stairs creaked underfoot, but you had to check every floorboard for rot before trusting your weight on it."
Chris Moriarty, Spin State


"Most of us are in therapy. Occasionally one of us will quit for a while, laughably convinced we are better, before realizing there's no such thing as better. Haven't we learned that by now? Nothing will ever get better, nothing will ever be fixed. Fixing is not even the point. What is the point?"
Ed Park, Personal Days


"Truth is like nudity: It is on occasion in dispensable, but it is dangerous and should not be displayed openly. It is truth that gives life its grandeur, but the polite fictions that make it bearable."
Jack McDevitt, Infinity Beach


"[Brandywine's Corollary:] Don't assume that a species is intelligent because it produces intelligent individuals."
Jack McDevitt, Infinity Beach


"Recycling is the masturbation of energy policy. It might make you feel better, but it won't put a dent in global energy needs."
Scott Adams, Name That Windmill, The Scott Adams Blog, July 21, 2008


"The human capacity for grief. It just isn't capable of providing an adequate emotional response once the dead exceed a few dozen in number. And it doesn't just level off -- it just gives up, resets itself to zero."
Alastair Reynolds, Revelation Space


"The measure of a civilization is in the courage, not of its soldiers, but of its bystanders."
Jack McDevitt, A Talent For War


"Boundaries have no existence save on charts or in small minds. Nature does not draw lines."
Jack McDevitt, A Talent For War


"Man has always considered himself the peak of creation, the part of the universe that thinks, the purpose for it all. It's no doubt a gratifying view. But the universe may have a different opinion."
Jack McDevitt, Seeker


"You've no idea how wonderful toilet paper is until it's taken away from you by an unfeeling universe. I think it's the defining characteristic of human civilization, the ability to manufacture something decent to wipe your ass on."
Peter F. Hamilton, Judas Unchained


"If you're are paying attention to your wardrobe ... your mind isn't sufficiently occupied."
Jack McDevitt, Cauldron


"... the truth is that when your people don't tell you what you need to know, it's a failure of leadership."
Jack McDevitt, Cauldron


"Technological civilizations don't last long. You're all right until you get the printing press. Then a race starts between technology and common sense. And maybe technology always wins."
Jack McDevitt, Cauldron


Take the Internet. Here's the most powerful tool in the history race and we use it to write narcissistic online journals and to "have our say" like a swarm of squabbling starlings. Entertainment values? We're laying hide-and-seek in the library of Alexandria.
Michael Dibdin, End Games


"It's like arguing with a woman. You may win small victories, at a high cost, but afterwards everything goes on very much as it did before."
Michael Dibdin, End Games