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- "Think of how stupid the average person is and realize that half of everybody is stupider than that." Comedian and writer George Carlin
- "Nearly all men can stand adversity. But if you want to test a man's character - give him power." US President Abraham Lincoln
- "Dante once said that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality."
- US President John F. Kennedy, said in Bonn, West Germany, at the signing of a charter establishing the German Peace Corps, 1963. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1963, p. 503. While Dante did not say this as such, JFK was paraphrasing Dante's quote from La Comedia Divina, canto 3, lines 35–42: “They are mixed with that repulsive choir of angels … undecided in neutrality. Heaven, to keep its beauty, cast them out, but even Hell itself would not receive them for fear the wicked there might glory over them.” Trans. Mark Musa, p. 21 (1971).
- "...Everybody has opinions: I have them, you have them. And we are all told from the moment we open our eyes, that everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. Well, that's horsepuckey, of course. We are not entitled to our opinions; we are entitled to our informed opinions. Without research, without background, without understanding, it's nothing. It's just bibble-babble..." Writer Harlan Ellison
- "We know nothing except through logical analysis, and if we reject that sole connexion with reality, we might as well stop trying to be adults and retreat into the capricious dream-world of infantility." H.P._Lovecraft, in a letter sent to Robert E. Howard, 8/16/1932
- "Whoever preserves the life of a single human being ... it is as if he had preserved an entire world" Mishnah, Sanhedrin 4:5
On the role of scientists and those who do not value them
- Our speculations on the growing antipathy toward academic radicalism on the part of scientists are influenced by a certain sense of how the humanities and the arts enter into the actual lives of our scientific colleagues. On the whole, scientists are deeply cultured people, in the best and most honorable sense. The image of the scientific monomaniac, of science departments devoted to a "naive scientism" is, to say the least, highly misleading. The range of knowledge of music, art, history, philosophy, and literature to be found in a random sample of scientists is, we know from long experience, extensive, and in some fortunate venues, enormous. Most of this learning has been acquired, of necessity, at odd moments here and there -- not through formal or systematic study. As humanists, therefore, scientists are autodidacts. One obvious consequence of this fact is to undercut the argument that traditional humanities departments, in their role as educators, are indispensable bearers of the great treasures of our cultural heritage. There are other, albeit less efficient, routes to education.
- Let us be blunt: Having come so far, we have little left to lose. If, taking a fanciful hypothesis, the humanities department at MIT...were to walk out in a huff, the scientific faculty could, at need with enough released time, patch together a humanities curriculum, to be taught by the scientists themselves. It would have obvious gaps and rough spots, to be sure, and it might with some regularity prove inane; but on the whole it would be, we imagine, no worse than operative. What the opposite situation -- a walkout by the scientists -- would produce, as the humanities department tried to cope with the demand for science education, we leave to the reader's imagination.
- This little exercise in oneupmanship is, of course, utter fantasy. But it does point to something real. The notion that scientists and engineers will always accept as axiomatic the competence and indispensability for higher education of humanists and social scientists is altogether too smug. Other sentiments are clearly astir. How these matters play out in American intellectual life will depend, to some degree, on the ability of the non-scientists to rein in the most grotesque tendencies in their respective fields.
- Higher Superstition, Paul R. Gross and Norman Levitt, p.243-244.
A Liberal Defense of Zionism
The following quote is excerpted from a book by the physicist Steven Weinberg.
- I write about Zionism as one who has no interest in the preservation of Judaism (or, I hasten to add, any other religion), but a great deal of interest in the preservation of Jews. There always were two different ways that Zionists viewed the return to Zion: as a duty for all Jews, imposed by their religion, or as an opportunity for those Jews who want or need to live in a Jewish nation. As an unreligious American Jew, I feel no desire or duty to change my nationality, and I am in no position to deplore the fact that few other American Jews want to become Israelis. But I very much hope that the land of Israel will continue to provide an opportunity for Jews to flee oppression in any country, as it has since 1948. This refuge was needed in the twentieth century far more than could ever have been expected in 1897, but because of Arab and British opposition it was tragically not available at the time of greatest need, in the 1930s and 1940s. Zionism today in part reflects the determination that Israel will be available as a refuge the next time it is needed.
- Zionism also represents the intrusion - by purchase and settlement rather than conquest, at least until Arab assaults made military action necessary - of a democratic, scientifically sophisticated, secular culture into a part of the world that for centuries had been despotic, technically backward and obsessed with religion. For me, it is this essentially Western character of Zionism that gives it an attraction that goes beyond its defensive role. It will be betrayed if Orthodox zealots succeed in making Israel a theocratic state, but I can't believe that this will happen.
- It is in part the Western character of Zionism that makes it so hateful to many others - not just to Muslims, but also to Westerners who for one reason or another find it comfortable to line up with the adversaries of Western civilisation. By attacking Zionism, it is very convenient to express solidarity with the poorer non-Western people of the world, without having actually to make sacrifices to help them. In this way, anti-Zionism has come to play the role of a gutter multiculturalism.
- Of course, this is not the whole story. Anti-Zionism also serves to give vent to deep-seated anti-Semitic feelings, and helps in maintaining Middle Eastern oil. Out of this tangle of motivations came the hysterical anti-Zionism of the last decade of Stalinism; the resolution of a 1975 world congress on women at Mexico City that Zionism is oppressive to women; the infamous resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations that same year equating Zionism with racism; and the continuing one-sidedness of international opinion regarding the relations between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs.
- As a liberal I especially deplore a peculiar evenhandedness on the part of many fellow liberals, an evenhandedness that sees no moral difference between the efforts of Israel to preserve existence in a fraction of a fraction of the original Palestine mandate, and the attacks of those who wish to destroy it, and that views the building of housing projects in Jerusalem as being on a moral plane with the firing of machine guns at school buses. Do I need to say that there is in fact a great moral distinction between the democratic secular Israel created by Zionism, whose long-range aim is simply to be left in peace, and the enemies that surround it? It is a distinction that ought to make liberals see Zionism again as they used to, as a natural part of the liberal agenda.
Source: Steven Weinberg, “Facing Up,” Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2001, p. 182.
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