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Things to Think About
"Theories of the known, which are described by different physical
ideas may be equivalent in all their predictions and are hence
scientifically indistinguishable. However, they are not psychologically
identical when trying to move from that base into the unknown.
For different views suggest different kinds of modifications which
might be made and hence are not equivalent in the hypotheses one
generates from them in ones attempt to understand what is not yet
understood. I, therefore, think that a good theoretical physicist
today might find it useful to have a wide range of physical viewpoints
and mathematical expressions of the same theoryŠ available to him."
"Perhaps one day people will interpret the question, 'can you
explain it?' as asking 'can you grow it?'"
"What is number, that man may know it, and what is man, that he may
know a number?"
"How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some
hope of making progress."
"There is no such thing as philosophy-free science; there is only
science whose philosophical baggage is taken on board without examination."
"The man who cannot occasionally imagine events and conditions of
existence that are contrary to the causal principle as he knows it will
never enrich his science by the addition of a new idea."
"You can recognize a pioneer by the arrows in his back."
"One of the methodological foundations of science lies in the
avoidance of the most fundamental questions. It is characteristic of
physics, as practiced nowadays, not to really ask what matter is, for
biology not to really ask what life is, and for psychology not to really ask
what soul is."
"The exact sciences start from the assumption that in the end, it
will always be possible to understand nature, even in every new field of
experience, but that we may make no a priori assumption as to the meaning of
"Tell me how you are searching and I will tell you what you are
"It has always been clear that we were not so deeply interested in
the theory of any particular biological phenomenon for its own sake, but
mainly in so far as it helps to a greater comprehension of the general
character of the processes that go on in living as contrasted with
"Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking
what nobody has thought."
"Information is information, neither energy nor matter. No
materialism that fails to take account of this can survive the present day."
Artificial Life is the study of man-made systems that exhibit
behaviors characteristic of natural living systems. It complements the
traditional biological sciences concerned with the analysis of living
organisms by attempting to synthesize life-like behaviors within computers
and other artificial media. By extending the empirical foundation upon which
biology is based _beyond_ the carbon-chain life that has evolved on Earth,
Artificial Life can contribute to theoretical biology by locating
life-as-we-know-it within the larger picture of life-as-it-could-be.
"Should one wish to learn the methods of a conjurer, he might
vainly watch the latter's customary repertoire, and, so long as everything
went smoothly, might never obtain a clue to the mysterious performance,
baffled by the precision of the manipulations and the complexity of the
apparatus; if, however, a single error were made in any part or if a single
deviation from the customary method should force the manipulator along an
unaccustomed path, it would give the investigator an opportunity to obtain a
part or the whole of the secret. Thus. ... it seems likely that through the
study of the abnormal or unusual, some insight may be obtained into that
mystery of mysteries, the development of an organism."
"An unflinching determination to take the whole evidence into
account is the only method of preservation against the fluctuating extremes
of fashionable opinion."
On the subject of applied vs. basic research (e.g., regenerative
medicine vs. developmental biology vs. artificial life): "The
death of Archimedes by the hands of a Roman soldier is symbolical of a
world-change of the first magnitude: the Greeks, with their love of abstract
science, were superseded in the leadership of the European world by the
practical Romans. The Romans were a great race, but they were cursed with
the sterility which waits upon practicality. They did not improve upon the
knowledge of their forefathers, and all their advances were confined to the
minor technical details of engineering. They were not dreamers enough to
arrive at new points of view, which could give a more fundamental control
over the forces of nature. No Roman lost his life because he was absorbed in
the contemplation of a mathematical diagram.
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