John Santelli

Professor Emeritus, School of Psychology

So long as authority inspires awe, confusion and absurdity enhance conservative tendencies in society. Firstly, because clear and logical thinking leads to a cumulation of knowledge (of which the progress of the natural sciences provides the best example) and the advance of knowledge sooner or later undermines the traditional order. Confused thinking, on the other hand, leads nowhere in particular and can be indulged indefinitely without producing any impact upon the world.

--Stanislav Andreski, Social Sciences as Sorcery

[As opposed to erroneous, epidemiological, social beliefs]. . . the selective forces that scrutinize scientific ideas are not arbitrary or capricious. They are exacting well-honed rules that do not favor pointless self-serving behavior. They favor all the virtues laid out in textbooks of standard methodology: testability, evidential support, precision, quantifiability, consistency, intersubjectivity, repeatability, universality, progressiveness, independence of cultural milieu and so on.

-Richard Dawkins

We should try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue.

--Rainer Maria Rilke

The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.

--Steven Weinberg

Those who reject the scientific conception of man must, to be logical, oppose the methods of science as well.

--B. F. Skinner

It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.

--Sherlock Holmes

Thus do pretenders to science vainly and preposterously seek for remedies, ignorant of the true nature of things.

--William Gilbert, De Magnete

Learn from science that you must doubt the experts.

I'm going to describe to you how Nature is--and if you don't like it, that's going to get in the way of your understanding it. It's a problem that physicists have learned to deal with. . .whether they like a theory is not the essential question. Rather, it is whether or not the theory gives predictions that agree with experiment. . . . The theory of quantum electrodynamics describes Nature as absurd from the point of view of common sense. And it fully agrees with experiment. So I hope you can accept Nature as She is--Absurd

--Richard Feynman

Consciousness is the biggest mystery. It may be the largest outstanding obstacle in our quest for a scientific understanding of the universe.

Experience is information from the inside; physics is information from the outside.

--David J. Chalmers

What a wonderful thing, to be conscious! I wonder what the people in New Jersey do?

--Woody Allen

[We]will in the end have to admit that some things can only be grasped up to a certain point, and that Nature always retains behind her something problematic which it is impossible to fathom with our inadequate human faculties.


Yes, many things there are, which seem to be Perplexing, though quite falsely so, because They have good reasons which we cannot see....

--Dante, Purgatorio

It is truly extravagant to define God, angels, and minds, and to know precisely why God defined the world, when we do not know why we move our arms at will. Doubt is not a very agreeable state, but certainty is a ridiculous one.


A tolerably clever man began his book with these words "Man, like all animals, is composed of two distinct substances, the soul and the body. If anyone denies this proposition it is not for him I write." I nearly shut the book. Oh! ridiculous writer, if I once admit these two distinct substances, you have nothing more to teach me.


Everything in the world has changed except our way of thinking.

--Albert Einstein

I never think. My thoughts think for me.

--de Lamartine

"Logic! Good Gracious! What Rubbish!" she exclaimed. "How can I tell what I think till I see what I say?"

--E. M. Forster

...while some areas of human life show great diversity, in others, human behavior stays fairly constant across the whole range of human cultures, and some aspects of our behavior are also shared with our closest nonhuman relatives. . . .those seeking to reshape society must understand the tendencies inherent in human beings, and modify their abstract ideals in order to suit them. . . .for the first time since life emerged from the primeval soup, there are beings who understand how they have come to be what they are. To those who fear adding to the power of government and the scientific establishment, this seems more of a danger than a source of freedom. In a more distant future that we can still barely glimpse, it may turn out to be the prerequisite for a new kind of freedom.

--Peter Singer, A Darwinian Left

We're human beings, with the blood of a million savage years on our hands. But we can stop it. We can admit that we're killers, but we won't kill today.

--Capt. James T. Kirk

Man will become better when you show him what he is like.

--Anton Chekov

The beast does but know, but the man knows that he knows.

--John Donne

If we had to offer the briefest explanation of all the evil that men have wreaked upon themselves and upon their world since the beginnings of time right up until tomorrow, it would not be in terms of man's animal heredity, his instincts and evolution: it would be simply in the toll that his pretense of sanity takes, as he tries to deny his true condition.

--Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death

Several years ago a thought struck me that at first seemed so aberrant as to embarass me. That was that mind, rather than being. . .a late product of evolution. . .had been there from the start.

A physicist is an atom's way of knowing about atoms.

--George Wald

When you can measure what you are speaking about and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind.

--Lord Kelvin

. . .if we always insisted on precise definitions we all would be speechless almost all the time. Definitions and precise theoretical constructs are the final products, not the starting point of inquiry.

--Lawrence Weiskrantz

In psycho-analysis there is no choice but for us to assert that mental processes are in themselves unconscious, and to liken the perception of them by means of consciousness to the perception of the external; world by means of the sense-organs.

--Sigmund Freud

We cannot, indeed, directly will to be different from what we are; but neither did those who are supposed to have formed our characters directly will that we should be what we are. Their will had no direct power except over their own actions. . . We are exactly as capable of making our own character, if we will, as others are of making it for us.

--John Stewart Mill

For specific links to material that I found interesting and relevant over the years, check-out my Alphaserver Webpage.

Links of interest:

Classics in the History of Psychology
Cognitive Brain Imaging

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