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USING STATISTICS: Spotting and Avoiding Them
More quotes about uncertainty
Attributed to Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes:
The longing for certainty ... is in
every human mind. But certainty is generally illusion.
From Albert Einstein:
" ... as far as the propositions of
mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they
are certain, they do not refer to reality."
and Experience, Lecture before the Prussian Academy of Sciences,
January 27, 1921
From Philosopher and Logician Bertrand Russell:
When one admits that nothing is certain
one must, I think, also add that some things are more nearly certain
Am I An
Atheist Or An Agnostic?, 1947
Attributed to John Henry Cardinal Newman:
If we insist on being as sure as is
conceivable... we must be content to creep along the ground, and can
From Astronomer and Writer Carl Sagan:
Humans may crave
absolute certainty; they may aspire to it; they may pretend ... to have
attained it. But the history of science—by far the most
successful claim to knowledge accessible to humans—teaches that
the most we can hope for is successive improvement in our
understanding, learning from our mistakes, an asymptotic approach to
the Universe, but with the proviso that absolute certainty will always
We will always be mired in error. The most each
generation can hope for is to reduce the error bars a little, and to
add to the body of data to which error bars apply. The error bar is a
pervasive, visible self-assessment of the reliability of our knowledge.
The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the
Dark ( 1995), p. 28.
From Physicist and Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman:
I have approximate answers and possible beliefs in
different degrees of certainty about different things, but I'm not
absolutely sure of anything.
in BBC program
The scientist has a lot of experience with ignorance
and doubt and uncertainty, and this experience is of very great
importance, I think. When a scientist doesn't know the answer to a
problem, he is ignorant. When he has a hunch as to what the result is,
he is uncertain. And when he is pretty damn sure of what the result is
going to be, he is still in some doubt. Scientific knowledge is a body
of statements of varying degrees of certainty -- some most unsure, some
nearly sure, but none absolutely certain.
Value of Science," address
to the National Academy of Sciences (Autumn 1955)
Some people say, "How can you live without knowing?"
I do not know what they mean. I always live without knowing. That is
easy. How you get to know is what I want to know.
Meaning of it All (1999)
We absolutely must leave room for doubt or there is
no progress and no learning ... People search for certainty. But there
is no certainty.
the lecture "What is and
What Should be the Role of Scientific Culture in Modern Society", given
at the Galileo Symposium in Italy, 1964.