110+ Lewis Thomas Quotes On Education, Slavery And Religion

Top 10 Lewis Thomas Quotes (BEST)

  1. It is from the progeny of this parent cell that we all take our looks; we still share genes around, and the resemblance of the enzymes of grasses to those of whales is in fact a family resemblance.
  2. The capacity to blunder slightly is the real marvel of DNA. Without this special attribute, we would still be anaerobic bacteria and there would be no music.
  3. In real life, every field of science is incomplete, and most of them - whatever the record of accomplishment during the last 200 years - are still in their very earliest stages.
  4. We owe our lives to the sun... How is it, then, that we feel no gratitude?
  5. It is in our genes to understand the universe if we can, to keep trying even if we cannot, and to be enchanted by the act of learning all the way.
  6. I would send the complete works of Johann Sebastian Bach into outer space on the Voyager spacecraft. But that would be boasting.
  7. Animals have genes for altruism, and those genes have been selected in the evolution of many creatures because of the advantage they confer for the continuing survival of the species.
  8. Cats are a standing rebuke to behavioral scientists wanting to know how the minds of animals work. The mind of a cat is an unscrutable mystery.
  9. Music is the effort we make to explain to ourselves how our brains work. We listen to Bach transfixed because this is listening to a human mind.
  10. All of today's DNA, strung through all the cells of the earth, is simply an extension and elaboration of [the] first molecule.

Lewis Thomas Short Quotes

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  • If an idea cannot move on its own, pushing it doesn't help; best to let it lie there.
  • The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand.
  • For total greed, rapacity, heartlessness, and irresponsibility there is nothing to match a nation.
  • We are built to make mistakes, coded for error.
  • Cats - a standing rebuke to behavioural scientists . . . least human of all creatures.
  • I have always had a bad memory, as far back as I can remember.
  • Man is embedded in nature.
  • Left to ourselves, mechanistic and autonomic, we hanker for friends.
  • Human language... prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand.
  • Chemical waste products are the droppings of science.

Lewis Thomas Quotes On Science

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The cloning of humans is on most of the lists of things to worry about from Science, along with behaviour control, genetic engineering, transplanted heads, computer poetry and the unrestrained growth of plastic flowers. — Lewis Thomas

...the life of the planet began the long, slow process of modulating and regulating the physical conditions of the planet. The oxygen in today's atmosphere is almost entirely the result of photosynthetic living, which had its start with the appearance of blue-green algae among the microorganisms. — Lewis Thomas

I cannot think of a single field in biology or medicine in which we can claim genuine understanding, and it seems to me the more we learn about living creatures, especially ourselves, the stranger life becomes. — Lewis Thomas

We are a spectacular, splendid manifestation of life. We have language. . . . We have affection. We have genes for usefulness, and usefulness is about as close to a 'common goal' of nature as I can guess at. — Lewis Thomas

Good applied science in medicine, as in physics, requires a high degree of certainty about the basic facts at hand, and especially about their meaning, and we have not yet reached this point for most of medicine. — Lewis Thomas

Science is founded on uncertainty. Each time we learn something new and surprising, the astonishment comes with the realization that we were wrong before. — Lewis Thomas

I do not understand modern physics at all, but my colleagues who know a lot about the physics of very small things, like the particles in atoms, or very large things, like the universe, seem to be running into one queerness after another, from puzzle to puzzle. — Lewis Thomas

The overwhelming astonishment, the queerest structure we know about so far in the whole universe, the greatest of all cosmological scientific puzzles, confounding all our efforts to comprehend it, is the earth. — Lewis Thomas

I can say, if I like, that social insects behave like the working parts of an immense central nervous system: the termite colony is an enormous brain on millions of legs; the individual termite is a mobile neurone. — Lewis Thomas

The central task of science is to arrive, stage by stage, at a clearer comprehension of nature, but this does not at all mean, as it is sometimes claimed to mean, a search for mastery over nature. — Lewis Thomas

Lewis Thomas Quotes On Worry

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We are, perhaps, uniquely among the earth's creatures, the worrying animal. We worry away our lives, fearing the future, discontent with the present, unable to take in the idea of dying, unable to sit still. — Lewis Thomas

The cloning of humans is on most of the lists of things to worry about from science, along with behavior control, genetic engineering, transplanted heads, computer poetry and the unrestrained growth of plastic flowers. — Lewis Thomas

Worrying is the most natural and spontaneous of all human functions. — Lewis Thomas

Lewis Thomas Quotes On Fact

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Statistically, the probability of any of us being here is so small that you'd think the mere fact of existing would keep us all in contented dazzlement of surprise. — Lewis Thomas

The great secret of doctors, known only to their wives, but still hidden from the public, is that most things get better by themselves; most things, in fact, are better in the morning. — Lewis Thomas

Selfness is an essential fact of life. The thought of nonselfness, precise sameness is terrifying. — Lewis Thomas

Most things get better by themselves. Most things, in fact, are better by morning. — Lewis Thomas

Lewis Thomas Quotes On Music

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Given any new technology for transmitting information, we seem bound to use it for great quantities of small talk. We are only saved by music from being overwhelmed by nonsense. — Lewis Thomas

We are spectacular splendid manifestations of life. We have language. We have affection. And finally, and perhaps best of all, we have music. — Lewis Thomas

Any species capable of producing, at this earliest, juvenile stage of its development... the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, cannot be all bad. — Lewis Thomas

Lewis Thomas Famous Quotes And Sayings

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There's really no such thing as the agony of dying. I'm quite sure that pain is shut off at the moment of death. You see, something happens when the body knows it's about to go. Peptide hormones are released by cells in the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. Endorphins. They attach themselves to the cells responsible for feeling pain. — Lewis Thomas

Ants are so much like human beings as to be an embarrassment. They farm fungi, raise aphids as livestock, launch armies into wars, use chemical sprays to alarm and confuse enemies, capture slaves... They do everything but watch television. — Lewis Thomas

Sometimes you get a glimpse of a semicolon coming, a few lines farther on, and it is like climbing a steep path through woods and seeing a wooden bench just at a bend in the road ahead, a place where you can expect to sit for a moment, catching your breath. — Lewis Thomas

We pass the word around; we ponder how the case is put by different people, we read the poetry; we meditate over the literature; we play the music; we change our minds; we reach an understanding. Society evolves this way, not by shouting each other down, but by the unique capacity of unique, individual human beings to comprehend each other. — Lewis Thomas

If we had better hearing, and could discern the descants of sea birds, the rhythmic tympani of schools of mollusks, or even the distant harmonics of midges hanging over meadows in the sun, the combined sound might lift us off our feet. — Lewis Thomas

As evolutionary time is measured, we have only just turned up and have hardly had time to catch breath, still marveling at our thumbs, still learning to use the brand-new gift of language. Being so young, we can be excused all sorts of folly and can permit ourselves the hope that someday, as a species, we will begin to grow up. — Lewis Thomas

As a people, we have become obsessed with Health. There is something fundamentally, radically unhealthy about all this. We do not seem to be seeking more exuberance in living as much as staving off failure, putting off dying. We have lost all confidence in the human body. — Lewis Thomas

We live in a dancing matrix of viruses; they dart, rather like bees, from organism to organism, from plant to insect to mammal to me and back again, and into the sea, tugging along pieces of this genome, strings of genes from that, transplanting grafts of DNA, passing around heredity as though at a great party. — Lewis Thomas

The human brain is the most public organ on the face of the earth, open to everything, sending out messages to everything. To be sure, it is hidden away in bone and conducts internal affairs in secrecy, but virtually all the business is the direct result of thinking that has already occurred in other minds. — Lewis Thomas

The only solid piece of scientific truth about which I feel totally confident is that we are profoundly ignorant about nature... It is this sudden confrontation with the depth and scope of ignorance that represents the most significant contribution of twentieth-century science to the human intellect. — Lewis Thomas

Altruism has always been one of biology's deep mysteries. Why should any animal, off on its own, specified and labeled by all sorts of signals as its individual self, choose to give up its life in aid of someone else? — Lewis Thomas

I won't compare ants and people, but ants give us a useful model of how single members of a community can become so organized that they end up resembling, in effect, one big collective brain. Our own exploding population and communication technology are leading us that way. — Lewis Thomas

A multitude of bees can tell the time of day, calculate the geometry of the sun's position, argue about the best location for the next swarm. Bees do a lot of close observing of other bees; maybe they know what follows stinging and do it anyway. — Lewis Thomas

It hurts the spirit, somehow, to read the word environments, when the plural means that there are so many alternatives there to be sorted through, as in a market, and voted on. — Lewis Thomas

It would seem to me... an offense against nature, for us to come on the same scene endowed as we are with the curiosity, filled to overbrimming as we are with questions, and naturally talented as we are for the asking of clear questions, and then for us to do nothing about, or worse, to try to suppress the questions. — Lewis Thomas

On any Tuesday morning, if asked, a good working scientist will tell you with some self-satisfaction that the affairs of his field are nicely in order, that things are finally looking clear and making sense, and all is well. But come back again on another Tuesday, and the roof may have just fallen in on his life's work. — Lewis Thomas

The gift of language is the single human trait that marks us all genetically, setting us apart from the rest of life. — Lewis Thomas

Our behavior toward each other is the strangest, most unpredictable, and most unaccountable of all the phenomena with which we are obliged to live. In all of nature, there is nothing so threatening to humanity as humanity itself. — Lewis Thomas

Ants are so much like human beings as to be an embarrasment...They do everything but watch television. — Lewis Thomas

The future is too interesting and dangerous to be entrusted to any predictable, reliable agency. We need all the fallibility we can get. Most of all, we need to preserve the absolute unpredictability and total improbability of our connected minds. That way we can keep open all the options, as we have in the past. — Lewis Thomas

The body of science is not, as it is sometimes thought, a huge coherent mass of facts, neatly arranged in sequence, each one attached to the next by a logical string. In truth, whenever we discover a new fact it involves the elimination of old ones. We are always, as it turns out, fundamentally in error. — Lewis Thomas

We spend our time sending messages to each other, talking and trying to listen at the same time, exchanging information. This seems to be our most urgent biological function; it is what we do with our lives. — Lewis Thomas

If you want to use a cliche you must take full responsibility for it yourself and not try to fob it off on anon., or on society. — Lewis Thomas

The uniformity of the earth's life, more astonishing than its diversity, is accountable by the high probability that we derived, originally, from some single cell, fertilized in a bolt of lightning as the earth cooled. — Lewis Thomas

We can take some gratification at having come a certain distance in just a few thousand years of our existence as language users, but it should be a deeper satisfaction, even an exhilaration, to recognize that we have such a distance still to go. — Lewis Thomas

The earliest sensation at the onset of illness, often preceding the recognition of identifiable symptoms, is apprehension. Something has gone wrong, and a glimpse of mortality shifts somewhere deep in the mind. It is the most ancient of our fears. — Lewis Thomas

Doctors, dressed up in one professional costume or another, have been in busy practice since the earliest records of every culture on earth. It is hard to think of a more dependable or enduring occupation, harder still to imagine any future events leading to its extinction. — Lewis Thomas

Science will...produce the data..., but never the full meaning. For perceiving real significance, we shall need...most of all the brains of poets, [and] also those of artists, musicians, philosophers, historians, writers in general. — Lewis Thomas

Society evolves not by shouting each other down, but by the unique capacity of unique, individual human beings to comprehend each other. — Lewis Thomas

Most of the time I've worked in labs if I didn't encounter something in a week entirely unexpected and surprising I'd consider it a lost week. Lots of that is due to mistakes and stupidity, but it could open a new line of inquiry. Something really good turns up once in a hundred times, but it makes the whole day worthwhile. — Lewis Thomas

We habitually engage in meddling with nature. Until this century most of this meddling was good. Witness the preservation of the European countryside. But since then we've smoked it up and littered it and dumped too much in too many waters. I don't think it's our privilege to behave this way. — Lewis Thomas

I maintain, despite the moment's evidence against the claim, that we are born and grow up with a fondness for each other, and we have genes for that. We can be talked out of it, for the genetic message is like a distant music, and some of us are hard-of-hearing. Societies are noisy affairs, drowning out the sound of ourselves and our connection. — Lewis Thomas

I don't think that the permanence of the individual human soul is an indispensable part of religious thought. — Lewis Thomas

The need to make music, and to listen to it, is universally expressed by human beings. I cannot imagine, even in our most primitive times, the emergence of talented painters to make cave paintings without there having been, near at hand, equally creative people making song. It is, like speech, a dominant aspect of human biology. — Lewis Thomas

I am a member of a fragile species, still new to the earth, the youngest creatures of any scale, here only a few moments as evolutionary time is measured, a juvenile species, a child of a species. We are only tentatively set in place, error prone, at risk of fumbling, in real danger at the moment of leaving behind only a thin layer of of our fossils, radioactive at that. — Lewis Thomas

It's just plain learning something that you didn't know. There is a real aesthetic experience in being dumbfounded. — Lewis Thomas

We leave traces of ourselves wherever we go, on whatever we touch. — Lewis Thomas

Of all celestial bodies within reach or view, as far as we can see, out to the edge, the most wonderful and marvellous and mysterious is turning out to be our own planet earth. There is nothing to match it anywhere, not yet anyway. — Lewis Thomas

Animals, even plants, lie to each other all the time, and we could restrict the research to them, putting off the real truth about ourselves for the several centuries we need to catch our breath. What is it that enables certain flowers to resemble nubile insects, or opossums to play dead, or female fireflies to change the code of their flashes in order to attract, and then eat, males of a different species? — Lewis Thomas

Survival, in the cool economics of biology, means simply the persistence of one's own genes in the generations to follow. — Lewis Thomas

Things are bound to begin happening if you've got your wits about you. You create the lucky accidents. — Lewis Thomas

The literature has become too vast to comprehend...It is...difficult to grasp even for workers in closely neighboring fields. ...There is much more reliance on word of mouth for the transmission of scientific data...gossip. — Lewis Thomas

The greatest achievements in the science of this [twentieth] century are themselves the sources of more puzzlement than human beings have ever experienced. Indeed, it is likely that the twentieth century will be looked back at as the time when science provided the first close glimpse of the profundity of human ignorance. We have not reached solutions; we have only begun to discover how to ask questions. — Lewis Thomas

I don't want to be reincarnated, that's for sure. When you've had rewarding experiences in your life - a loving family, friends - you don't need additional reassurances that you're going to do something with a new cast of characters. I'd just as soon pass. — Lewis Thomas

It is not so bad being ignorant if you are totally ignorant; the hard thing is knowing in some detail the reality of ignorance. — Lewis Thomas

I will confess that I have no more sense of what goes on in the mind of mankind than I have for the mind of an ant. — Lewis Thomas

Given the opportunity, under the right conditions, two cells from wildly different sources, a yeast cell, say, and a chicken erythrocyte, will touch, fuse, and the two nuclei will then fuse as well, and the new hybrid cell will now divide into monstrous progeny. Naked cells, lacking self-respect, do not seem to have any sense of self. — Lewis Thomas

We still think of human disease as the work of an organized, modernized kind of demonology, in which the bacteria are the most visible and centrally placed of our adversaries. We assume that they must somehow relish what they do. — Lewis Thomas

Some of the shrewdest insight into natural processes have been greeted at the outset by the exclamation 'But that's ridiculous'. — Lewis Thomas

Viewed from the distance of the moon, the astonishing thing about the earth, catching the breath, is that it is alive. The photographs show the dry, pounded surface of the moon in the foreground, dry as an old bone. Aloft, floating free beneath the moist, gleaming, membrane of bright blue sky, is the rising earth, the only exuberant thing in this part of the cosmos. — Lewis Thomas

The greatest of all the accomplishments of 20th century science has been the discovery of human ignorance — Lewis Thomas

The human mind is not meant to be governed, certainly not by any book of rules yet written; it is supposed to run itself, and we are obliged to follow it along, trying to keep up with it as best we can. — Lewis Thomas

A lot of people fear death because they think that so overwhelming an experience has to be painful, but I've seen quite a few deaths, and, with one exception, I've never known anyone to undergo anything like agony. That's amazing when you think about it. I mean, how complicated the mechanism is that's being taken apart. — Lewis Thomas

It is the very strangeness of nature that makes science engrossing. That ought to be at the center of science teaching. There are more than seven-times-seven types of ambiguity in science, awaiting analysis. The poetry of Wallace Stevens is crystal-clear alongside the genetic code. — Lewis Thomas

We are told that the trouble with modern man is that he has been trying to detach himself from nature... In this scenario, Man comes on as a stupendous lethal force, and the Earth is pictured as something delicate, like rising bubbles at the surface of a country pond, or flights of fragile birds. — Lewis Thomas

I have been trying to think of the earth as a kind of organism, but it is no go. I cannot think of it this way. It is too big, too complex, with too many working parts lacking visible connections. The other night, driving through a hilly, wooded part of southern New England, I wondered about this. If not like an organism, what is it like, what is it most like? Then, satisfactorily for that moment, it came to me: it is most like a single cell — Lewis Thomas

Everything here is alive thanks to the living of everything else. — Lewis Thomas

Viewed from the distance of the moon, the astonishing thing about the earth, catching the breath, is that it is alive. ... It has the organized, self-contained look of a live creature, full of information, marvelously skilled in handling the sun — Lewis Thomas

In the fields I know best, among the life sciences, it is required that the most expert and sophisticated minds be capable of changing course - often with a great lurch - every few years. — Lewis Thomas

We have dominated and overruled nature, and from now on the earth is ours, a kitchen garden until we learn to make our own chlorophyll and float it out in the sun inside plastic mebranes. We will build Scarsdale on Mount Everest. — Lewis Thomas

We need science, more and better science, not for its technology, not for leisure, not even for health or longevity, but for the hope of wisdom which our kind of culture must acquire for its survival. — Lewis Thomas

The dilemma of modern medicine, and the underlying central flaw in medical education and, most of all, in the training of interns, is the irresistible drive to do something, anything. It is expected by patients and too often agreed to by their doctors, in the face of ignorance. — Lewis Thomas

The most solid piece of scientific truth I know of is that we are profoundly ignorant about nature. — Lewis Thomas

If we have learned anything at all in this century, it is that all new technologies will be put to use, sooner or later, for better or worse, as it is in our nature to do. — Lewis Thomas

As a species, taking all in all, we are still too young, too juvenile, to be trusted. We have spread across the face of the earth in just a few thousand years, no time at all as evolution clocks time, covering all livable parts of the planet, endangering other forms of life, and now threatening ourselves. — Lewis Thomas

The whole dear notion of one's own Self-marvelous old free-willed, free- enterprising, autonomous, independent, isolated island of a Self- is a myth. — Lewis Thomas

We have yet to learn how to retain our humaneness when assembled in masses. — Lewis Thomas

It is almost always a greater pleasure to come across a semicolon than a period. The period tells you that that is that; if you didn't get all the meaning you wanted or expected, anyway you got all the writer intended to parcel out and now you have to move along. But with a semicolon there you get a pleasant little feeling of expectancy; there is more to come; read on; it will get clearer. — Lewis Thomas

Mistakes are at the very base of human thought, embedded there, feeding the structure like root nodules. If we were not provided with the knack for being wrong, we could never get anything useful done. We think our way along by choosing between right and wrong alternatives, and the wrong choices have to be made as often as the right ones. We get along in life this way. — Lewis Thomas

Although I usually think I know what I'm going to be writing about, what I'm going to say, most of the time it doesn't happen that way at all. At some point I get misled down a garden path, I get surprised by an idea that I hadn't anticipated getting, which is a little bit like being in a laboratory. — Lewis Thomas

The act of smelling something, anything, is remarkably like the act of thinking. Immediately at the moment of perception, you can feel the mind going to work, sending the odor around from place to place, setting off complex repertories through the brain, polling one center after another for signs of re recognition, for old memories and old connection. — Lewis Thomas

We are not made up, as we had always supposed, of successively enriched packets of our own parts. We are shared, rented, occupied. At the interior of our cells, driving them, providing the oxidative energy that sends us out for the improvement of each shining day, are the mitochondria, and in a strict sense they are not ours. — Lewis Thomas

Well, biology today as I see it has an amiable look - quite different from the 19th-century view that the whole arrangement of nature is hostile, 'red in tooth and claw.' That came about because people misread Darwin's 'survival of the fittest.' — Lewis Thomas

Life Lessons by Lewis Thomas

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  1. Lewis Thomas taught that one should take time to appreciate the beauty of nature and the world around them. He also emphasized the importance of humility and the power of education to help us understand the world and our place in it. Lastly, he believed that science should be used as a tool to help us better understand the world and create a better future.

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