Isaac Asimov with starry background

Top 10 Isaac Asimov Quotes on Science

As a science fiction fan who grew up in the 80s, Isaac Asimov was my favorite writer. His imaginative worlds and compelling narratives fueled my love for the genre. However, beyond his contributions to science fiction, Asimov was also a prolific scientist and author of numerous scientific books. He wrote more non-fiction than fiction, delivered hundreds of lectures, and played a significant role in popularizing science.

Like many children, I was exposed to an overwhelming amount of pseudo-scientific nonsense (UFOs, paranormal activities, etc.) when I was a kid. For a while, I was even influenced by these ideas. However, Asimov’s enlightening articles, from an author I greatly admired, helped me escape their toxic influence. Asimov guided me toward a scientific perspective and fostered my development as a skeptic.

Here, I present my top 10 Isaac Asimov quotes on science, reflecting his deep understanding and passion for the subject.

On Scientific Method

  1. There is not a discovery in science, however revolutionary, however sparkling with insight, that does not arise out of what went before. ‘If I have seen further than other men,’ said Isaac Newton, ‘it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants. [From “Adding a Dimension: Seventeen Essays on the History of Science”. Published May 1st, 1966 by Dobson Books Ltd – first published in 1964]
  2. The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ (I found it!) but ‘That’s funny…’ [It’s Been a Good Life, 2002]
  3. Creationists make it sound as though a ‘theory’ is something you dreamt up after being drunk all night.
  4. How often people speak of art and science as though they were two entirely different things, with no interconnection. An artist is emotional, they think, and uses only his intuition; he sees all at once and has no need of reason. A scientist is cold, they think, and uses only his reason; he argues carefully step by step, and needs no imagination. That is all wrong. The true artist is quite rational as well as imaginative and knows what he is doing; if he does not, his art suffers. The true scientist is quite imaginative as well as rational, and sometimes leaps to solutions where reason can follow only slowly; if he does not, his science suffers. [From “The Roving Mind” (1983), Prometheus Books, new edition 1997. It is a collection of essays on creationism, pseudoscience, censorship, population, philosophy of science, transportation, computers, corporations of the future, and astronomy.]

On ignorance

  1. Though knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them.
  2. There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge’.
  3. Uncertainty that comes from knowledge (knowing what you don’t know) is different from uncertainty coming from ignorance.
  4. Increasingly, our leaders must deal with dangers that threaten the entire world, where an understanding of those dangers and the possible solutions depends on a good grasp of science. The ozone layer, the greenhouse effect, acid rain, questions of diet, and heredity. All require scientific literacy. Can Americans choose the proper leaders and support the proper programs if they themselves are scientifically illiterate? The whole premise of democracy is that it is safe to leave important questions to the court of public opinion – but is it safe to leave them to the court of public ignorance? [From “I, Asimov”. Published on January 1st, 1995 by Bantam. First published on March 1st, 1994.]

On evidence

The following is my favorite Isaac Asimov quote, which I made the header of my blog: it also reminds me of the Sagan Standard – ‘Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence.’

  1. I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I’ll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be. [From “The Roving Mind”]

On science education

  1. Science can be introduced to children well or poorly. If poorly, children can be turned away from science; they can develop a lifelong antipathy; they will be in a far worse condition than if they had never been introduced to science at all.

Bonus quote:

The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom. [From Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations, 1988]

Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov, born on January 2, 1920, in Petrovichi, Russia, was a prolific author and biochemist, renowned for his vast contributions to science fiction and popular science literature. He and his family immigrated to the United States when he was three, settling in Brooklyn, New York. Asimov developed an early passion for reading, especially science fiction, and started writing his own stories as a teenager.

Asimov’s academic journey led him to Columbia University, where he earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1948. He later joined the faculty of Boston University School of Medicine, where he taught and conducted research. Despite his scientific background, Asimov is best known for his writing career, which spanned over five decades and produced nearly 500 books, encompassing science fiction, popular science, history, and essays.

Isaac Asimov with starry background
Isaac Asimov

In the science fiction world, Asimov is celebrated for his “Foundation” series, which tells the story of the fall of the galactic empire and the science of “psychohistory.” His “Robot” series, which introduced the famous Three Laws of Robotics, significantly influenced both literature and real-world discussions about artificial intelligence and ethics. Asimov’s ability to blend complex scientific concepts with engaging narratives made his work accessible and enjoyable to a broad audience.

Beyond fiction, Asimov was a tireless advocate for science education and literacy. His popular science books and essays covered a wide range of topics, from biology and physics to astronomy and chemistry. He had a unique talent for explaining intricate scientific ideas in a clear, engaging manner, making them accessible to readers of all ages and backgrounds.

Asimov’s impact extended beyond his writings. He was a sought-after speaker, delivering lectures worldwide and participating in numerous panels and interviews. His wit, intellect, and passion for knowledge left an indelible mark on the scientific and literary communities.

Isaac Asimov passed away on April 6, 1992, but his legacy endures through his extensive body of work, which continues to inspire and educate future generations about the wonders of science and the limitless possibilities of human imagination.

Sources

M. Özgür Nevres

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