Lubna Abdel Aziz, Aristotle, Baierlein, Barfield, Bevan, Mary J. Blige, Craig F. Bohren, Darwin, Eddington, Erhardt, Fisher, Gamow, Goethe, Greenfield, Hall’s Ireland, Oliver Heaviside, Malcolm Jeeves, Martin Luther, Rose Macaulay, Flannery O’Connor, Plato

I’ve moved C.S.Lewis into a separate file, ’coz I’ve got so many from him.

I’ve also put Math Quotes in a separate file of their own.

Here’s also a list of short essays by G.K.Chesterton.

Lubna Abdel Aziz

There is no denying that gossip has destroyed lives, broken hearts, wrecked homes, relations, friends and communities. So while you can enjoy the endorphins of a gossip session, it can curl its ugly head and bite. Remember the transference theory and the boomerang effect. If you can't think of anything nice to say, say nothing at all, for words can kill and so can gossip. The tongue can manufacture poison for which there is no antidote.

Al-Ahram Weekly Online, 28 Nov. - 4 Dec. 2002


If water itself sticks in a man’s throat, what will you give him to wash it down with?

Ralph Baierlein

The syllabus tells my students that “homework is for learning, not for testing.  The staff and I will correct your homework, not grade it.  The only record we keep about each question is whether or not you made a serious attempt to answer it.”  My students find this policy supportive; it reduces their fear of science.  And the policy enables me to pose some quite challenging questions.

Newton to Einstein”, Preface.

That Einstein cut classes  wholesale is proverbial.  A few courses held his interest intensely, but he often found that the lectures were not on the portions of physics that fascinated him – and he stopped going to class.  What is less often realized is the Einstein spent his time in the lab. And in reading the primary literature, the research literature of physics.  Einstein’s route was not the easy way out.

Newton to Einstein”, Chap. 9 sect. 7.

Owen Barfield

On the whole it is a safe rule to assume that those who speak most contemptuously of such thinkers as Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus are the nearest modern representatives of their own idea of what these Schoolmen were; that is to say, they are those whose imaginations are most completely imprisoned within the intellectual horizon of the passing age. ... Nobody who understands the amount of pain and energy which go to the creation of new instruments of thought can feel anything but respect for the philosophy of the middle ages.

History in English Words, Chap VII

The influences which go to make up the outlook of an age are sometimes seen working most powerfully – though beneath the surface – in the very minds which believe them selves to be combating that outlook most stubbornly.  The closing years of the eighteenth century produced Paley’s famous watch, a popular cosmic allegory which, in proving the existence of a Creator, at the same time relegates all His activities to the remote past.

History in English Words, Chap IX (nr. end)

on poetry and science

Edwyn Bevan

Symbolism and Belief

The Stoics only took the step of bringing God into the world from outside it, of identifying him with the element composing the outermost sphere. They did not commonly distinguish this element as a fifth from the ordinary four; they called it fire; but they explained that it was a fire of a finer sort than the earthly fire we know, which burns; so that their view practically differed little from that which called it a fifth element, ether.

We can call the attempt to refute Theism by displaying the continuity of the belief in God with primitive delusion the method of anthropological intimidation. . . . Rashdall used to remind us that the mathematical conceptions of the most advanced mathematicians at the present day were connected with rudimentary ideas of primitive men about numbers by a process of gradual correction and expansion.  That does not cause us to regard the conceptions of mathematicians to-day as a survival of primitive fancy.

There is indeed a conception of revelation which it is hard for a modern man to accept.  We cannot think of any apprehension of the truth which primitive man had as a miraculous putting into his mind of a belief about the universe framed in the logical and metaphysical conceptions at which man in his later progress arrived.  Such a bit of advanced thought thrust into a primitive mentality would be a monstrosity not at all corresponding with the mode of God’s working which human history leads us to expect.

Lecture 2 – Height

Most people, I suppose, would now recognize that the beautiful was something ultimate which could not be resolved into anything else.  An attempt was made by Grant Allen, forty years ago, to find the origin of beauty in sexual attraction. Certain colours and shapes had come to have a particular kind of appeal because they once served in animal evolution to attract the female to the male, or vice versa.  A little thought shows that such a theory is a ridiculous putting of the cart before the horse.  The tail of the peacock could not impress the peahen unless the peahen had already found such colours impressive independently.  It is only with creatures who have already a sense of the beauty of bright colours that bright colours could be used as a means of sexual attraction.  No doubt, different species of creatures, even different individual men, may differ very much in what they think beautiful: the huge red beak of the toucan looks to us grotesque, perhaps even repulsive; but the toucan of the opposite sex evidently admires it.  This variation of judgment, however, in regard to the question: What particular things are beautiful? does not show that beauty does not mean something definite which is fundamentally the same for all.

Lecture 6 – Light

If religion means a relation between each individual spirit and other spirits it can no more be enough for religion to apprehend values in general than it is enough for a man to apprehend the general value of parenthood and have unsatisfactory relations with his own individual father and mother. 


In a great deal of modern architecture, which discards classical or medieval traditions, there is plainly the suggestion of primitive strength shown in piling great block upon great block, careless of adornment, or you seem to be getting back to something older than Greek elegance, to something Babylonian or Egyptian, in its bare geometrically-ruled extension, the kind of building which the children of men might have put up when they first built great cities upon the earth in the land of Shinar.

The question whether, or how far, any religious conceptions are true raises the more fundamental question, what is meant by Truth.  The plain man understands by truth the correspondence between the belief in someone's mind and a fact outside his mind, existing or happening independent of his belief.  This is called the correspondence theory of truth, and it has been strongly attacked by certain idealist philosophers .  .  The theory set up in opposition to the correspondence theory is the coherence theory.  A belief is true when it coheres logically with the whole system of experience which constitutes the universe.  When we strive for truth, we strive to make all our beliefs a logical harmony.  Another theory of truth is offered by the Pragmatist school.  “Truth is what works.” If, in practice, to act on a belief is found to give the results desired, that belief is so far true.  If another belief is found to work better, the former belief is pronounced to be so far untrue.


But religion is concerned with Spirit, conceived as extending beyond the world we feel and see, extending, according to Christian theology, infinitely beyond it; it is concerned with the relation of my individual spirit to that all-encompassing Spirit and to the other human spirits included, with me, in His embrace.  And perhaps one ought not to limit the other finite spirits with whom religion brings us into right relations to human spirits.  Even if the established philosophy of the Roman communion teaches that the animals inferior to men have no rights, it seems incredible that, if God is at all what Christian theology believes Him to be, the infliction of unnecessary pain upon any of His sentient creatures is not an offence to Him.

Lecture 13 – Pragmatism and Analogy

A religious apprehension of God may owe little of its positive content to the critical intellect, but unless critical thought has played upon it and searched what weak elements there may be in it, it is not likely to be strong and healthy.

Reason alone can never tell us whether anything exists.  If we ask someone to give us a rational ground for his belief that something unseen exists, all he can do is to lay hold of some concrete bit of reality which we know already by direct experience, or in whose existence we believe already on rational grounds, and show us that if the world has a pattern, as reason affirms, and if our view of the pattern, as at present advised, is correct, then that bit of reality which we see or believe to exist implies the existence of another bit of reality of a particular character which we do not see.  The man who finds the watch in the lonely place recognizes that, according to the pattern of the universe as he has come to read it by previous experience, the kind of order exhibited by a watch goes with a constructing mind.  This is to say, all rational inference of the existence of anything unseen is inference from one part of the world-pattern to another part of the world-pattern.  But when you ask for rational proof that God exists, or that the world-pattern as a whole is due to Mind, you are asking to be shown the relation of the pattern to something other than itself, something outside it, extending beyond it, prior to it.  You can argue from the watch to the human craftsman because both watch and craftsman are parts of the pattern, but you cannot argue from the order found in the pattern as a whole to a constituting Mind, unless you make that Mind itself part of the pattern it is supposed to constitute.  If you say: “Order always implies Mind,” your assertion is drawn from experience within the pattern.  That cannot give you rational ground for an inference from the pattern as a whole to what is outside it.  You can say, of course: Supposing the world-pattern as a whole is constituted by an ordering Mind, then the relation between the world and the Reality outside it is analogous to the relations found to obtain within the world-pattern; and since it is reason which tells us “The world has a pattern,” it would be a gratification to us, as rational beings, to discover that the principle which holds good for the world extends beyond the world to the relation between the world and the Supreme Reality.  That might be a gratification to us as rational beings, but the inference from the order of the world to the supreme ordering Mind can hardly be logically cogent, since it is based on the postulate: “The world has a pattern,” which applies in reason only to the world.  No cogent rational inference can be made from the world to what is outside it.  If this is so, when the Rationalist asks for a rational proof of the existence of God, he is asking for something which in the nature of the case it is impossible to have.  A rational proof would draw God into the world and make Him a part of the pattern He is alleged to create.

Lecture 15 – Rationalism and Mysticism

It is highly improbable that anyone who had no belief in God was ever led to believe in God by any of the standard “proofs” of God's existence-the ontological, cosmological, teleological proof.  They were thought of by men who already believed in God as considerations harmonizing their belief, for themselves, and for others, with a general view of the universe.  .  .  .  What actually causes anyone to believe in God is direct perception of the Divine.

Lecture 16 – The Justification of Belief

Mary J. Blige

[how … married life will be different]  ‘I think it will be better.  Before you get married, you can’t really have sex.  It’s hard not to, but I believe in that.  Because once you start sleeping together something happens.  There’s a kind of disrespect that comes. After a while you start getting tired of each other.  But if this person can prove to you that they love you by waiting... I mean this is something that might sound far-fetched, or like a fairy tale, but it’s something I believe.  When you’re married you get your reward.  This is your husband.  You get to have sex with him, you get to be best friends with him.  Without people saying you’re... fornicating, or whatever the case may be.’

‘I can’t be doing with all that clapping and hollering.  I go to a church to be taught something about the Bible. I don’t wanna be doing no gospel singing.’

Interview with ‘Telegraph’ Magazine, 9th Aug 2003

Craig F. Bohren

The world was not designed for the convenience of those who frame multiple-choice examinations.

I must say, however, that I am not opposed to scientific conservatism.  Indeed, it is necessary (although when faced with it myself I chafe and writhe and say bad words).  We forget that many cockeyed ideas that were resisted by the savants of the day – the Establishment is the pejorative term used – are often shown to have been – cockeyed.  Every now and then a rare genius turns out to have had a good idea despite initial resistance to it.  And subsequently, hordes of crackpots try to make capital out of this: Arrhenius was ridiculed, he was right; I am ridiculed, therefore, I, too, am right.  A manifestly faulty syllogism, but one widely appealed to nevertheless.

To answer this question (about boiling) I begin with the kind of thought experiment found in textbooks of thermodynamics, a field that has never completely lost the smell of engines.

Charles Darwin

Descent of Man

This sense ... has a rightful supremacy over every other principle of human action; it is summed up in that short but imperious word ought, so full of high significance.

Ch.IV. beginning.

A man who was not impelled by any deep, instinctive feeling, to sacrifice his life for the good of others, yet was roused to such actions by a sense of glory, would by his example excite the same wish for glory in other men, and would strengthen by exercise the noble feeling of admiration.  He might thus do far more good to his tribe than by begetting offspring with a tendency to inherit his own high character.

Ch.V, 5/18

Notebook M (1838)

He who understands baboon would do more towards metaphysics than Locke.

A. S. Eddington

The Nature of the Physical World

(based on a series of lectures given in Edinburgh in 1927.)

Leading up to relativity: “We have certain preconceived ideas about location in space which have come down to us from ape-like ancestors”

On relativity and our inability to visualize hyperspace: “You are using a conception of space which must have originated many years ago and has become rather embedded in human thought.  But the space of physics ought not to be dominated by this creation of the dawning mind of an enterprising ape”

Post quantum mechanics and general relativity: “One of our ancestors, taking arboreal exercise in the forest, failed to reach the bough intended and his hand closed on nothingness.  The accident might well occasion philosophical reflections on the distinctions of substance and void – to say nothing of the phenomenon of gravity.  However that may be, his descendants to this day have come to be endowed with an immense respect for substance arising we know not how or why”.

Heinz Erhardt


Vom Alten Fritz, dem Preußenkönig,
weiß man zwar viel, doch viel zu wenig.
Es ist zum Beispiel kaum bekannt,
daß er die Bratkartoffel erfand.
D´rum heißt er auch, das ist kein Witz
Pom Fritz

About Old Fritz, the Prussian king,
we know so much, but much too little.
It is, for example, little known
that he invented potato chips.
That’s why he’s also known, no joke,
as Pom Fritz.

*     Well, almost.  “Old Fritz” was the nickname of Frederick the Great of Prussia, who introduced the potato to his country.  In the original poem, “Pommes Fritz” refers to sauté potatoes, but in the spirit of “1066 and All That” I have altered “sie” to “er” to make the name refer to the man himself.

R. A. Fisher

the Natural Sciences can only be successfully conducted by responsible and independent thinkers applying their minds and their imaginations to the detailed interpretations of verifiable observations.  The idea that this responsibility can be delegated to a vast computer programmed with Decision Functions belongs to the phantasy of circles rather remote from scientific research.

Statistical Methods and Scientific Inferences

George Gamow

A Star Called the Sun (1964)

One cubic centimetre of this condensed plasma or nuclear fluid would weight one hundred million tons, but there is no evidence that nuclear fluid exists anywhere in the universe today.

(note: The first pulsar was observed in July 1967 by Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Anthony Hewish.)

The author cannot help relating here an amusing story changing, for the purpose, to the first person. Soon after the end of World War II I took my family to a ranch near Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies. We planned a long pack trip, and the question arose which of the ranch horses was strong enough to carry me through a long mountain trip (6 feet 3 inches and 220 pounds my height and weight, not the horse’s). The only animal qualified for the task was a tall red stallion, called by the cowboys Big Red for lack of a better name. I decided to rename him Betelgeuse, which is a typical Red Giant star in the constellation of Orion. The star was given its name millennia ago by Arab astronomers and Betelgeuse in Arabic means Shoulder of a giant a most appropriate name for my horse. The pack trip turned out to be very successful, and my Betelgeuse carried me faithfully each day from dawn to dusk. A number of years later we revisited that ranch. All the cowboys were new, but Betelgeuse was still there. What is the name of that horse? I asked. Battle Goose, sir, answered the stable boy. But why Battle Goose? Don’t know, sir, but he always was called that.


Mein Kind, ich hab’es klug gemacht,

Ich hab’ nie über das Denken gedacht


Susan A. Greenfield

Perhaps the modern lifestyle, emphasizing as it does the immediate multicoloured universe of the CD, the in-your-face technology that requires little conceptualization and still less imagination, is breeding a generation that cannot use their minds sufficiently to get engrossed in a book.  Instead, the new generation more readily ricochets from one moment to the next as outgrown and misplaced prisoners of the here and now, a here and now so heavily overexperienced that it is easily bankrupt of sensual novelty and impact: a gloomy prospect indeed.

The Private Life of the Brain, near end Chap. 3

Oliver Heaviside

The prevalent idea of mathematical works is that you must understand the reason why first, before you proceed to practise.  That is fudge and fiddlesticks.  I know mathematical processes that I have used with success for a very long time, of which neither I nor anyone else understands the scholastic logic.  I have grown into them, and so understand them that way.

Hall’s Ireland

Queen Elizabeth, with a good sense not participated in by her chief minister, although that minister was the great Burleigh, saw that giving that education to the [Irish] people, which she intended when she founded Trinity College, her purpose would be aided through the medium of their spoken language, and suggested the appointment of an Irish professorship.  But the idea found no favour with her premier.  “What!” said Burleigh, “encourage a language more nearly akin to canine barking than to the articulation human;” and he illustrated his calumnious assertion by pronouncing, as a specimen, the cacophonous alliteration —

Dibh dubh damh obh amh —

pronounced div duv dav ov av, i.e. “a black steer drank a raw egg.”  The unhappy phrase lost to the University the intended professorship, and to literature such benefit as might have resulted from it.  But against a weapon of this description no language would be invulnerable.  The English town [?] itself should be doomed, for giving utterance to such a Pierian gargle as “strange struggling steers struggled in strenuous strife.”

Hall’s Ireland, ca. 1842, chap. “Cavan”

Malcolm A. Jeeves

In some of this there is, perhaps, a lesson for those of us who, as Christians, wish to emphasize, assert, and defend the uniqueness of humankind.  Ws should start from the biblical teaching . . . rather than following a late-twentieth-century version of Richard Owen’s late 1858 claim that “the great ape does not possess a hippocampus minor.” . . . We have no religious stakes in the outcome any more than we should have had any religious stakes in 1963 of claiming the uniqueness of cerebral asymmetries in humans (which, by 1983, had been revealed in monkeys).

Human Nature at the Millennium, Chap. 7

Martin Luther

“Tell thine iniquities that thou mayest be justified,” and again: “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth, and a barrier to fence my lips, That mine heart incline not to words of evil to cover over sins by excuses” (Ps. 141:3-4).

Heidelberg disputation, XII

Oh, it would be a presumption for anybody to call himself holy and fit; and yet they teach that man of himself has a “certain preparation” for prayer.
      They also teach prayer according to this doctrine in their chants and say: I have prayed in despair as a poor sinner.  Oh! stop that kind of praying!  It would be better to drop such praying altogether if you despair.  For despair ruins everything and if you go to baptism, prayer, and the sacrament without faith and in despair, you are actually mocking God.  What you should quickly say, however, is this: I am certain that my dear God has so commanded and that he has assured me of the forgiveness of sins; therefore I will baptize, absolve, and pray.  And immediately you will receive this treasure in your heart.  It does not depend on our worthiness or unworthiness, for both of these can only make us despair.  Therefore do not allow yourself by any means to be driven to despair.

Sermon in Castle Pleissenberg, Leipzig, 1539

For there are very few princes who are not reckoned fools or knaves.  That is because they show themselves to be such; the common man is learning to think, and the prince’s scourge, which God calls contemptum, is gathering force among the mob and with the common man.

Secular Authority: to what Extent it should be Obeyed, 1523

“We know that music is hateful and intolerable to devils.  I really believe, and am not ashamed to assert, that next to theology there is no art equal to music, for it is the only one, except theology, which can give a quiet and happy mind, a manifest proof that the devil, the author of racking care and perturbation, flees from the sound of music as he does from the exhortation of religion.”

Denn wir wissen, daß die Musik auch den Teufeln zuwider und unerträglich sei. Und ich sage es gleich heraus und schäme mich nicht, zu behaupten, daß nach der Theologie keine Kunst sei, die mit der Musik könne verglichen werden, weil allein dieselbe nach der Theologie solches vermag, was nur die Theologie sonst verschafft, nämlich die Ruhe und ein fröhliches GemüteDafür ist ein klarer Beweis, dass der Teufel, der Vater der traurigen Sorgen und des unruhigen Umtreibens, bei der Stimme der Musik ebenso flieht wie beim Wort der Theologie.“

to Lewis Senfel at Munich, 4 October 1530

Rose Macaulay

Fathers, of course, are less frequent than mothers; they are often, on the other hand, more prolific.  Their importance in the joint enterprise is equal, their responsibility for it usually greater, their retribution considerably less.  Yes! fathers on the whole deserve more attention than they have received.

Staying with Relations

Flannery O’Connor

It is generally supposed, and not least by Catholics, that the Catholic who writes fiction is out to use fiction to prove the truth of the Faith, or at the least, to prove the existence of the supernatural.  He may be.  No one certainly can be sure of his low motives except as they suggest themselves in his finished work, but when the finished work suggests that pertinent actions have been fraudulently manipulated or overlooked or smothered, whatever purposes the writer started out with have already been defeated.  What the fiction writer will discover, if he discovers anything at all, is that he himself cannot move or mold reality in the interests of abstract truth.  The writer learns, perhaps more quickly than the reader, to be humble in the face of what-is.  What is is all he has to do with; the concrete is his medium; and he will realize eventually that fiction can transcend its limitations only by staying within them.

Mystery and Manners


Tis the common belief that men who busy themselves with such schemes are made infidels by their astronomy and its sister sciences, with their disclosure of a realm where events happen by stringent necessity, not by the purpose of a will bent on the achievement of good.

Laws, Book XII. 967 (A. E. Taylor's translation).