Among America’s most valuable authors are a diverse set of science authors – here are excerpted insights from just a few!
Rachel Carson (conservationist), Silent Spring
We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road — the one less traveled by — offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.
Rachel Carson (conservationist), Acceptance speech for the 1952 National Book Award for Nonfiction (1952) for The Sea Around Us
The aim of science is to discover and illuminate truth. And that, I take it, is the aim of literature, whether biography or history or fiction. It seems to me, then, that there can be no separate literature of science.
Stephen Jay Gould (paleontologist), Natural History; Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History
A man does not attain the status of Galileo merely because he is persecuted; he must also be right.
Stephen Jay Gould (paleontologist), ‘Evolution as Fact and Theory,’ Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes
Facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world’s data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts do not go away while scientists debate rival theories for explaining them. Einstein’s theory of gravitation replaced Newton’s, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air pending the outcome.
Edwin Powell Hubble (astronomer), The Realm of the Nebulae
With increasing distance, our knowledge fades, and fades rapidly. Eventually, we reach the dim boundary—the utmost limits of our telescopes. There, we measure shadows, and we search among ghostly errors of measurement for landmarks that are scarcely more substantial. The search will continue. Not until the empirical resources are exhausted, need we pass on to the dreamy realms of speculation.
Edward O. Wilson (biologist), Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge
We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely.
Edward O. Wilson (biologist), Biophilia
The worst thing that will probably happen—in fact is already well underway—is not energy depletion, economic collapse, conventional war, or the expansion of totalitarian governments. As terrible as these catastrophes would be for us, they can be repaired in a few generations. The one process now going on that will take millions of years to correct is loss of genetic and species diversity by the destruction of natural habitats. This is the folly our descendants are least likely to forgive us.
Carl Sagan (astronomer/astrophysicist), Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium
A central lesson of science is that to understand complex issues (or even simple ones), we must try to free our minds of dogma and to guarantee the freedom to publish, to contradict, and to experiment. Arguments from authority are unacceptable.
Nathaniel Egleston (forester), Harper’s Magazine 1882
Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath.
Benjamin Franklin (scientist and inventor), Letter to “Dr Priestley,” 8 Feb 1780
The rapid progress true science now makes, occasions my regretting sometimes that I was born so soon: it is impossible to imagine the height to which may be carried, in a thousand years, the power of man over matter; we may perhaps learn to deprive large masses of their gravity, and give them absolute levity for the sake of easy transport. Agriculture may diminish its labour and double its produce; all diseases may by sure means be prevented or cured (not excepting even that of old age), and our lives lengthened at pleasure even beyond the antediluvian standard. Oh! that moral science were in as fair a way of improvement; that men would cease to be wolves to one another; and that human beings would at length learn what they now improperly call humanity!