BNFO 300 
Molecular Biology Through Discovery
Words of Wisdom
Spring 2017 

The gods did not reveal, from the beginning,
All things to us; but in the course of time
Through seeking we may learn and know things better.
These things are, we conjecture, like the truth.
      But as for certain truth, no man has known it,
Nor will he know it; neither of the gods
Nor yet of all things of which I speak.
And even if by chance he were to utter
The perfect truth, he would himself not know it
For all is but a woven web of guesses.
- Xenophanes
Quoted by Karl Popper
Myth of the Framework: In Defence of Science and Rationality, p.39 soon as I had finished the entire course
of study at the close of which it is customary
to be received into the order of the learned...
      I found myself involved in so many doubts and
errors, that I was convinced I had advanced no
farther in all my attempts at learning, than
the discovery at every turn of my own ignorance.
- René Descartes
Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting
the Reason, and Seeking Truth in the Sciences
, p.4

Crick and Watson together developed a surprisingly
efficient approach. They would often uncritically
brainstorm about possibilities, whereupon they
switched gear and ruthlessly scrutinized the
result - of themselves or of each other.
      Both men appeared to have an unusual tolerance
for criticism, in the sense that they were able to
disconnect the critique from the person behind
it - an ideal situation in science but seldomly
- Ullica Segerstrale
Critical Fun with Francis Crick
J Biosci (2004) 29:381-384

Science alone of all the subjects contains within
itself the lesson of the danger of belief in the
infallibility of the greatest teachers in the
preceding generation...
      Learn from science that you must doubt the experts...
Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.
- Richard Feynman
The Pleasure of Finding Things Out (1999), p187

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself
-- and you are the easiest person to fool...
After you've not fooled yourself, it's easy not to fool
other scientists. You just have to be honest...
- Richard Feynman,
Cargo Cult Science: Some remarks on science,
pseudoscience, and learning how to not fool yourself

(Caltech's 1974 commencement address)

Science is the topography of ignorance.
- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
Border Lines of Knowledge in Some Provinces of Medical Science
Medical Essays 209-272 (p.211)

All the great revolutions in science start with
an unexpected discrepancy that wouldn't go away.
- Matthew Strassler.
Reported by Brian Vastag in
"Particles faster than light: Revolution or mistake?"
Washington Post, September 23, 2011

The best way to prepare for a heroic voyage in science is to start
- Sydney Brenner (maybe)
Quoted by Biotechin.Asia
Voyage of Sydney Brenner-Singapore celebrates Sydney's legacy

A person with one watch knows exactly what time it is - and he's surely wrong.
A person with two watches is never certain - and he's closer to the truth.
- Anonymous

It may be true, that as Francis Thompson noted,
"Thou canst not stir a flower without troubling
a star", but in computing the motion of stars
and planets, the effects of flowers do not loom large.
It is the disregarding of the effect of flowers
on stars that allows progress in astronomy.
- Herman Shugart
Plant Functional Types (1997), p. 20

The test of a first-rate intelligence is
the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind
at the same time and still retain the ability
to function.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald
"The Crack-Up", Esquire Magazine (February 1936)

John Maddox, former editor of the journal Nature
was asked "How much of what you print is wrong?"
His response:
All of it.
Related by Brenda Maddox, 2012 John Maddox Prize

'I can't believe that' said Alice.
'Can't you?' the Queen said in a pity tone.
'Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes'.
Alice laughed. 'There's no use trying' she said,
'one can't believe impossible things'.
      'I dare say you haven't had much practice'
said the Queen. 'When I was your age I did it
for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've
believed as many as six impossible things
before breakfast'"
- Lewis Carroll
Through the Looking Glass (1871)