Sayings that I like

Lucius Accius

Oderint dum metuant.

(Let them hate so long as they fear.)


Correlation does not imply causation.


The plural of anecdote is not data.


A mosquito was heard to complain

A mosquito was heard to complain

That a chemist had poisoned his brain

The cause of his sorrow

Was paradichloro


Archilochus (c. 680 – c. 645 BCE)

Πόλλ᾽ οἶδ᾽ ἀλώπηξ, ἀλλ’ ἐχῖνος ἕν μέγα.

(The fox knows many things; the hedgehog one big thing.)


Dignity does not consist in possessing honours, but in deserving them.

The cause of the pleasure felt by those who insult is the idea that, in ill-treating others, they are more fully showing superiority.

W H Auden

Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return

(from September 1st, 1939)

John Barrow

Where there’s smoke, there’s smoke.

Jeremy Bentham

Natural rights is simple nonsense: natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsense — nonsense upon stilts.

Bible (Authorised (King James) Version)

Pilate saith unto him, What is truth?

What I have written, I have written

(Quod scripsi, scripsi) (Pilate)

Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.

William Bruce Cameron

Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.

Lewis Carroll (The Hunting of the Snark)

I have said it thrice: What I tell you three times is true.


Let those who can, teach.

To have another language is to possess a second soul.

Anton Chekhov

Only entropy is easy.

You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible.

GK Chesterton

“No machine can lie”, said Father Brown, “nor can it tell the truth”.

Journalism largely consists in saying “Lord Jones Dead” to people who never knew Lord Jones was alive.

Winston Churchill

When you have to kill a man, it costs nothing to be polite.

Charles Darwin

Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.

Richard Dawkins

Unfortunately, however much we may deplore something, it does not stop being true.

We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators [i.e. genes].

Simone de Beauvoir

On ne naît pas femme : on le devient.

Philip K Dick

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

Theodosius Dobzhansky

Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Everything seems stupid when it fails. (Crime and Punishment)


…the more I love mankind as a whole, the less I love man in particular. (Brothers Karamazov)

Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes: You see but you do not observe. (A Scandal in Bohemia)

Holmes: “…the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.” Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.” Holmes: “That was the curious incident.” (The Adventure of Silver Blaze)

Holmes: [On being informed by Watson of the Copernican theory] “Now that I do know it, I shall do my best to forget it.” (A Study in Scarlet)

Albert Einstein

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Everything should be kept as simple as possible, but no simpler.

Richard Feynman

It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong. We never are definitely right: we can only be sure we are wrong.

I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics…Nobody knows how it can be like that.

The statements of science are not of what is true and what is not true, but statements of what is known with different degrees of certainty.

Anatole France

La majestueuse égalité des lois, qui interdit au riche comme au pauvre de coucher sous les ponts, de mendier dans les rues et de voler du pain.

(In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.)

J K Galbraith

We can safely abandon the doctrine of the eighties, namely that the rich were not working because they had too little money, the poor because they had too much.

The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.

Private enterprise did not get us atomic energy.

Galileo Galilei

By denying scientific principles, one may maintain any paradox.

Stephen Jay Gould

I am…less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.

J B S Haldane

I suppose the process of acceptance [of a new theory] will pass through the usual four stages:
(i) this is worthless nonsense;
(ii) this is an interesting, but perverse, point of view;
(iii) this is true, but quite unimportant;
(iv) I always said so.

No, but I would to save two brothers or eight cousins. [When asked if he would give his life to save a drowning brother]

There is no great invention, from fire to flying, which has not been hailed as an insult to some god.

God has an inordinate fondness for beetles. [His conclusion about the nature of the Creator in response to a theologian’s question]


As to diseases, make a habit of two things – to help or, at least, do no harm. […primum non nocere…]

Treat often, cure sometimes, comfort always.

There are in fact two things, science and opinion: the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance.

…from nothing else but the brain come joys, delights, laughter and sports, and sorrows, griefs, despondency, and lamentations.

Christopher Hitchens

What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof.

Dr Samuel Johnson

Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.

You raise your voice when you should reinforce your argument.

Prejudice, not being founded on reason, cannot be removed by argument.

Men know that women are an overmatch for them … If they did not think so, they never could be afraid of women knowing as much as themselves.

John Maynard Keynes

There is nothing a government hates more than to be well-informed; for it makes the process of arriving at decisions much more complicated and difficult.

Education: the inculcation of the incomprehensible into the ignorant by the incompetent.

When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do?

(or When the facts change, I change my mind.)

Nikita S Khrushchëv

Who said that?…Well, now you understand why we didn’t do anything. [Said during his 1956 speech denouncing the crimes of Stalin to the 20th Russian Communist Party Congress when challenged from the floor as to why they had let Stalin do these things. There was no answer to the question.]

Rudyard Kipling

If any question why we died,
Tell them, because our fathers lied. [Common Form]

I could not dig: I dared not rob:
Therefore I lied to please the mob. [from Epitaph for a Statesman]

[both from Epitaphs of the War (1914-18)]

Pierre-Simon Laplace

I had no need of that hypothesis. [When asked by Napoleon why there was no mention of God in a treatise on planetary orbits]

(Je n’avais pas besoin de cette hypothèse-là.)

What we know is not much. What we do not know is immense.

(Ce que nous connaissons est peu de chose, ce que nous ignorons est immense.)

Rosa Luxemburg

Freedom is always the freedom of dissenters.

Mao Zedong

It’s always darkest before it becomes totally black.

Abraham Maslow

If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.

Herman Melville 

“I would prefer not to.” (Bartleby the scrivener)

Jacques Monod

Anything found to be true of E. coli must also be true of elephants.

Claus Moser

Education costs money, but then so does ignorance.


Never interrupt your enemy when he’s making a mistake

William of Ockham

Non sunt multiplicanda entia sine necessitate.

(Entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity.)

George Orwell

When I see an actual flesh-and-blood worker in conflict with his natural enemy, the policeman, I do not have to ask myself which side I am on. (Homage to Catalonia)

Thomas Paine

The world is my country and to do good my religion.

Paracelsus (Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim)

The dose makes the poison.

Original German: Alle Ding sind Gift und nichts ohn’ Gift; allein die Dosis macht, das ein Ding kein Gift ist. (All things are poison and nothing (is) without poison; only the dose makes that a thing be not poison.)

Louis Pasteur

La science n’a pas de patrie.

(Science has no homeland.)

Pliny the Elder

People have less faith in a remedy if they understand it.

Bertrand Russell

No matter how eloquently a dog may bark, he cannot tell you that his parents were poor, but honest.

Carl Sagan

If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

I don’t want to believe. I want to know.

The fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses.

Jean-Paul Sartre

L’enfer, c’est les autres.

Friedrich Schiller

Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens.

(With stupidity the gods themselves fight in vain.)

Duns Scotus

Pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate.

(Plurality is not to be posited without necessity.)

Upton Sinclair

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.


When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser.

Ezra Solomon

The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable


Ubi solitudinem faciunt pacem appellant

(They make a desert and call it ‘peace’.)

Talleyrand (misattributed)

It was worse than a crime – it was a mistake [or blunder].

(C’est pire qu’un crime, c’est une faute.)

Harry S Truman

[The atomic bomb] is a terrible weapon, and it should not be used on innocent men, women and children who have nothing whatever to do with … military aggression.

Mark Twain

One gets … wholesale returns of conjecture out of … a trifling investment of fact.

Kurt Vonnegut

I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.

So it goes.

Science is magic that works.

Oscar Wilde

A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it.

It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him.

Ludwig Wittgenstein

Wovon man nicht sprechen kan, darüber muss man schweigen.

(Whereof we cannot speak, thereof we must remain silent.)

If a lion could talk, we could not understand him.

I don’t know why we are here, but I’m pretty sure that it is not in order to enjoy ourselves.


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