Speaking of Science

April 2011's selection of notable quotes

By | April 1, 2011



The achievement is impressive, but it is a wholly formal achievement that involves no knowledge…and it does not come within a million miles of replicating the achievements of everyday human thought.

—Law professor Stanley Fish, on Watson, the I.B.M.–built computer that won a game of “Jeopardy” (The New York Times Opinionator blog, Feb. 21, 2011)

By 2029, we’ll have reverse engineered and modeled and simulated all the regions of the brain. And that will provide us the software/algorithmic methods to….create machines that really do have the subtlety and suppleness of human intelligence.

—Futurist Ray Kurzweil, explaining what he calls the “coming singularity” (BigThink.com video, #14532)

There is something uncanny and creepy about the way the brain intrudes on the mind, as if the mind has been infiltrated by an alien life form.

—Philosopher Colin McGinn, in a review of V.S. Ramachandran’s The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Quest for What Makes Us Human (NY Review of Books, Mar. 24, 2011)

Hell—is sitting on a hot stone reading your own scientific publications.

—Fish biologist Erik Ursin, quoted in a Kaj Sand-Jensen paper in Oikos on how to write boring scientific manuscripts (Free F1000 Evaluation)

Reasoning was not designed to pursue the truth. Reasoning was designed by evolution to help us win arguments.

—Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, referencing H. Mercier and D. Sperber (Edge.org conference “The New Science of Morality”)

The time in which we now live would then, sadly and justly, surely become known as the “Anthropocene.” We have received an important message from a warm planet. We can understand it, and we should respond—as if people mattered.

Bryan Lovell, president of the Geological Society of London, in his 2010 book Challenged by Carbon

Send us timely and interesting quotes, along with context, to quotes@the-scientist.com.

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