"Knowledge signifies things known. Where there are no things known, there is no knowledge. Where there are no things to be known, there can be no knowledge. We have observed that every science, that is, every branch of knowledge, is compounded of certain facts, of which our sensations furnish the evidence. Where no such evidence is supplied, we are without data; we are without first premises; and when, without these, we attempt to build up a science, we do as those who raise edifices without foundations. And what do such builders construct? Castles in the air."
"It is generally supposed that they who have long been conversant with the ocean can foretell, by certain indications, such as itsroar and the notes of sea-fowl, when it will change from calm to storm; but probably no such ancient mariner as we dream of exists; they know no more, at least, than the older sailors do about this voyage of life on which we are all embarked. Nevertheless, we love to hear the sayings of old sailors, and their accounts of natural phenomena which totally ignore, and are ignored by, science; and possibly they have not always looked over the gunwale so long in vain."
"Whether he sleeps or wakes,--whether he runs or walks,--whether he uses a microscope or a telescope, or his naked eye,--a man never discovers anything, never overtakes anything, or leaves anything behind, but himself. Whatever he says or does, he merely reports himself. If he is in love, he loves; if he is in heaven, he enjoys; if he is in hell, he suffers. It is his condition that determines his locality."
"What an admirable training is science for the more active warfare of life! Indeed, the unchallenged bravery which these studies imply, is far more impressive than the trumpeted valor of the warrior."
"Linnæus, setting out for Lapland, surveys his "comb" and "spare shirt," "leathern breeches" and "gauze cap to keep off gnats," with as much complacency as Bonaparte a park of artillery for the Russian campaign. The quiet bravery of the man is admirable."
"He who is conversant with the supernal powers will not worship these inferior deities of the wind, waves, tide, and sunshine. Butwe would not disparage the importance of such calculations as we have described. They are truths in physics because they are true in ethics."
"Let us not succumb to nature. We will marshall the clouds and restrain tempests; we will bottle up pestilent exhalations; we willprobe for earthquakes, grub them up, and give vent to the dangerous gas; we will disembowel the volcano, and extract its poison, take its seed out. We will wash water, and warm fire, and cool ice, and underprop the earth. We will teach birds to fly, and fishes to swim, and ruminants to chew the cud. It is time we looked into these things."
"Already nature is serving all those uses which science slowly derives on a much higher and grander scale to him that will be served by her. When the sunshine falls on the path of the poet, he enjoys all those pure benefits and pleasures which the arts slowly and partially realize from age to age. The winds which fan his cheek waft him the sum of that profit and happiness which their lagging inventions supply."
"It will be seen that we contemplate a time when man's will shall be law to the physical world, and he shall no longer be deterredby such abstractions as time and space, height and depth, weight and hardness, but shall indeed be the lord of creation."
"I exulted like "a pagan suckled in a creed" that had never been worn at all, but was brand-new, and adequate to the occasion. I let science slide, and rejoiced in that light as if it had been a fellow creature. I saw that it was excellent, and was very glad to know that it was so cheap. A scientific explanation, as it is called, would have been altogether out of place there. That is for pale daylight."
"Long enough I had heard of irrelevant things; now at length I was glad to make acquaintance with the light that dwells in rotten wood. Where is all your knowledge gone to? It evaporates completely, for it has no depth."
"The next day the Indian told me their name for this light,--artoosoq',--and on my inquiring concerning the will-o'-the-wisp, and the like phenomena, he said that his "folks" sometimes saw fires passing along at various heights, even as high as the trees, and making a noise. I was prepared after this to hear of the most startling and unimagined phenomena, witnessed by "his folks"; they are abroad at all hours and seasons in scenes so unfrequented by white men. Nature must have made a thousand revelations to them which are still secrets to us."
"Science with its retorts would have put me to sleep; it was the opportunity to be ignorant that I improved. It suggested to me that there was something to be seen if one had eyes. It made a believer of me more than before. I believed that the woods were not tenantless, but choke-full of honest spirits as good as myself any day,--not an empty chamber, in which chemistry was left to work alone, but an inhabited house,--and for a few moments I enjoyed fellowship with them."
"The science of Humboldt is one thing, poetry is another thing. The poet to-day, notwithstanding all the discoveries of science, and the accumulated learning of mankind, enjoys no advantage over Homer."
"The distinction between the truth of faith and the truth of science leads to a warning, directed to theologians, not to use recentscientific discoveries to confirm the truth of faith. Microphysics have undercut some scientific hypotheses concerning the calculability of the universe. The theory of quantum and the principle of indeterminacy have had this effect. Immediately religious writers use these insights for the confirmation of their own ideas of human freedom, divine creativity, and miracles. But there is no justification for such a procedure at all, neither from the point of view of physics nor from the point of view of religion. The physical theories referred to have no direct relation to the infinitely complex phenomenon of human freedom, and the emission of power in quantums has direct relation to the meaning of miracles.... The truth of faith cannot be confirmed by latest physical or biological or psychological discoveries--as it cannot be denied by them."
"True science investigates and brings to human perception such truths and such knowledge as the people of a given time and societyconsider most important. Art transmits these truths from the region of perception to the region of emotion."
"History cannot, like physical science, deduce causal laws of general application. All attempts have failed to discover laws of "cause and effect" which are certain to repeat themselves in the institutions and affairs of men. The law of gravitation may be scientifically proved because it is universal and simple. But the historical law that starvation brings on revolt is not proved; indeed the opposite statement, that starvation leads to abject submission, is equally true in the light of past events. You cannot so completely isolate any historical event from its circumstances as to be able to deduce from it a law of general application. Only politicians adorning their speeches with historical arguments have this power; and even they never agree. An historical event cannot be isolated from its circumstances, any more than the onion from its skins, because an event is itself nothing but a set of circumstances, none of which will ever recur."