http://hydrodictyon.eeb.uconn.edu/people/angelini/

  Quotes

 

The arthropods are unique in that their feeding organs have been fashioned from a pair or several pairs of legs behind the mouth. The forelimbs or fingers of some quadruped or biped vertebrates, of course, are often used for grasping food and putting it into the mouth, but they have never become modified for biting and chewing. The primitive arthropods, however, had so many legs they could well spare a few for purposes other than that of locomotion.

-R.E. Snodgrass (1960)

 

The idea that nature is, or should be, "in balance" is deeply ingrained. But there is not, and never has been, a balance of nature. Balance is a seductive concept as it suggests that opposites can be equated and, in the final analysis, traded. But it is not possible to equate humans and elephants, woodlands and meadows, tonnes of carbon emissions with hectares of new forest, and so on, unless it is by reference to an arbitrary, external concept. In the marketplace, this arbitrary concept is money. Economists are now attempting to balance natural processes, habitats and species using the abstraction of their monetary value, on the assumption that cash can be the final arbiter of the difficult value judgments necessary for custody of the planet and its natural processes. It is now surely time to abandon this way of thinking. We now need to embrace — in science, popular culture and politics — the phrase "the dynamic diversity of nature".

-Graham Martin, Nature 423: 115 (2003)

 

There is another answer which has the same effect as the resolving of things into chance." Paley proposes that "the eye, the animal to which it belongs, every plant, indeed every organized body which we can see, are only so many out of the possible varieties and combinations of being which the lapse of infinite ages has brought into existence; that the present world is the relict of that variety; millions of other bodily forms and other species having perished, being by the defect of their constitution incapable of preservation, or of continuance by generation.

-James Hutton (1794), An Investigation of the Principles of Knowledge and of the Progress of Reason, from Sense to Science and Philosophy, chapter 5

 

Our ignorance of the laws of variation is profound

            - Charles Darwin, Origin of Species (1859).

 

The amoeba and the paramecium are potentially immortal...But for Volvox, death seems to be as inevitable as it is in a mouse or in a man. Volvox must die because it had children and is no longer needed. When its time comes it drops quietly to the bottom and joins its ancestors.

            -Joseph Wood Krutchfield, 1956

 

Flies almost certainly evolved from insects with four wings instead of two and insects are believed to have come from arthropod forms with many legs instead of six. During the evolution of the fly, two major groups of genes must have evolved: "leg-supressing" genes which removed legs from abdominal segments of millipede-like ancestors followed by "haltere-promoting" genes which supressed the second pair of wings of four-winged ancestors. If evolution indeed prodeeded in this way, then mutations in the latter group of genes should produce four-winged flies and mutations in the former group, flies with extra legs.

            -Edward B. Lewis (1978, Nature 276:565); 1995 Nobel Prize winner

 

One of the critical differences between you [as an embryo] and a machine is that the machine is never required to function until after it is built. Every animal has to function as it builds itself.

            -Scott Gilbert, 2000 [p. 3, Developmental Biology, 6th Edition]

 

We have good news and bad news. The good news is that by the end of this decade, we may know most, if not all, of the transcriptions factors active in many cell types and how they interact to initiate or repress transcription. The bad news is that many of us will have to learn physical chemistry to understand these data.

            -Scott Gilbert, 1997 [p. 424, Developmental Biology, 5th Edition]

 

Studying the period of cleavage we approach the source whence emerge the progressively branched streams of differentiation that end finally in almost quiet pools, the individual cells of the complex adult organism.

            -Ernest Everett Just, 1939

 

Whenever it is possible to find out the cause of what is happening, one should not have recourse to the gods.

            -Polybius, 203-120 BC

 

Without beauty and mystery beyond itself, the mind by definition is deprived of its bearings and will drift to simpler and cruder configurations. Artifacts are incomparably poorer than the life they are designed to mimic. They are only a mirror to our thoughts. To dwell on them exclusively is to fold inwardly over and over, losing detail at each translation, shrinking with each cycle, finally merging into the lifeless faŤade of which they are composed.

- Edward O. Wilson, Biophilia (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1984), [2000 printing, p 115]

 

People can grow up with the outward appearance of normality in an environment largely stripped of plants and animals, in the same way that passable looking monkeys can be raised in laboratory cages and cattle fattened in feeding bins. Asked if they were happy, these people would probably say yes. Yet something vitally important would be missing, not merely the knowledge and pleasure that can be imagined and might have been, but a wide array of experiences that the human brain is peculiarly equipped to receive. Of that much I feel certain, and I will offer it in the form of a practical recommendation: on Earth no less than in space, lawn grass, potted plants, caged parakeets, puppies, and rubber snakes are not enough.

- Edward O. Wilson, Biophilia (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1984), [2000 printing, p 118]

 

...the intelligence, properly speaking, is little influenced by the effects of training. What is profoundly susceptible of training is the imagination...

            - R.A. Fisher, The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection, 1930

 

We would like to think ourselves necessary, inevitable, ordained from all eternity. All religions, nearly all philosophies, and even a part of science testify to the unwearying, heroic effort of mankind desperately denying its own contingency.

- Jacques Monod, Chance and Necessity, 1971

 

Where then shall we find the source of truth and the moral inspiration for a really scientific socialist humanism, if not in the sources of science itself, in the ethic upon which knowledge is founded, and which by free choice makes knowledge the supreme value — the measure and warrant for all other values? An ethic which bases moral responsibility upon the very freedom of that axiomatic choice. ... A utopia. Perhaps. But it is not an incoherent dream. It is an idea that owes its force to its logical coherence alone. It is the conclusion to which the search for authenticity necessarily leads.

- Jacques Monod, Chance and Necessity, 1971

 

The ancient covenant is in pieces; man knows at last that he is alone in the universe's unfeeling immensity, out of which he emerged only by chance. His destiny is nowhere spelled out, nor is his duty...it is for him to choose.

- Jacques Monod, Chance and Necessity, 1971

 

Listening to bible tales – I don't know why – I always thought that archangels should look like insects. Because archangels were sort of the tough guys of God's army. And I always imagined them looking like these shelled, armored creatures.

- Guillermo del Toro, Director, 18 May 2007

 

The older writers on evolution were often staggered by the seeming necessity of accounting for the evolution of fine details ... for example, the fine structure of all of the bones ... structure is never inherited as such, but merely types of adaptive cell behavior which lead to particular types of structure under particular conditions.

-   Sewell Wright 1931, Genetics 16: 97–159

 

There is nothing which can better deserve our patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness.

            -George Washington, 1790 address to Congress

 

Why should we subsidize intellectual curiosity?

            -Ronald Reagan, 1980 campaign speech

 

We also know how cruel the truth often is, and we wonder whether delusion is not more consoling.

            -Henri Poincare

 

I'd rather be doing something profound that no one else has the wisdom or the stupidity to be doing.

-John Bonner

 

Here many neckless heads sprang up... naked arms strayed about, devoid of shoulders, and eyes wandered alone, begging for foreheads.

            -Empedocles, from his description of the origin of humankind

 

Everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded as real.

-Neils Bohr

 

It is doubtful if anyone would have ever felt any need to resist the notion of evolution if all it implied was that the exact chemical constitition of hemoglobin gradually changed over the ages.

- Conrad H. Waddington

 

I do not say think as I think, but think in my way. Fear no shadows, least of all in that great spectre of personal unhappiness which binds half the world to orthodoxy.

- Thomas Henry Huxley

 

Irrationally held truths may be more harmful than reasoned errors.

- Thomas Henry Huxley

 

    Copyright 2007 David R. Angelini