Best 142 of Lewis Thomas quotes - MyQuotes

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Lewis Thomas
By Anonym 14 Sep

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.

By Anonym 13 Sep

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.

By Anonym 14 Sep

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.

By Anonym 14 Sep

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.

By Anonym 20 Sep

Lewis Thomas

Worrying is the most natural and spontaneous of all human functions. It is time to acknowledge this, perhaps even to learn to do it better.

By Anonym 14 Sep

Lewis Thomas

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

By Anonym 15 Sep

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.'

By Anonym 14 Sep

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.

By Anonym 14 Sep

Lewis Thomas

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.

By Anonym 15 Sep

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.

By Anonym 15 Sep

Lewis Thomas

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

By Anonym 13 Sep

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.

By Anonym 15 Sep

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.

By Anonym 14 Sep

Lewis Thomas

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

By Anonym 13 Sep

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.

By Anonym 19 Sep

Lewis Thomas

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 the idea of dying, unable to sit still.

By Anonym 13 Sep

Lewis Thomas

At this early stage in our evolution, now through our infancy and into our childhood and then, with luck, our growing up, what our species needs most of all, right now, is simply a future.

By Anonym 13 Sep

Lewis Thomas

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.

By Anonym 14 Sep

Lewis Thomas

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

By Anonym 15 Sep

Lewis Thomas

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

By Anonym 15 Sep

Lewis Thomas

When committees gather, each member is necessarily an actor, uncontrollably acting out the part of himself, reading the lines that identify him, asserting his identity.... We are designed, coded, it seems, to place the highest priority on being individuals, and we must do this first, at whatever cost, even if it means disability for the group.

By Anonym 15 Sep

Lewis Thomas

We're as clever as we think we are, but we'll be a lot cleverer when we learn to use not just one brain but to pool huge numbers of brains. We're at a level technologically where we can share information and think collectively about our problems. We do it in science all the time - there's no reason why we can't do it in other endeavors.

By Anonym 15 Sep

Lewis Thomas

We do not understand much of anything, from... the "big bang" , all the way down to the particles in the atoms of a bacterial cell. We have a wilderness of mystery to make our way through in the centuries ahead.

By Anonym 14 Sep

Lewis Thomas

My mitochondria comprise a very large proportion of me. I cannot do the calculation, but I suppose there is almost as much of them in sheer dry bulk as there is the rest of me. Looked at in this way, I could be taken for a very large, motile colony of respiring bacteria, operating a complex system of nuclei, microtubules, and neurons for the pleasure and sustenance of their families, and running, at the moment, a typewriter.

By Anonym 14 Sep

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.

By Anonym 13 Sep

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.

By Anonym 14 Sep

Lewis Thomas

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

By Anonym 14 Sep

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.

By Anonym 13 Sep

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.

By Anonym 15 Sep

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.

By Anonym 14 Sep

Lewis Thomas

It is when physicians are bogged down by their incomplete technologies, by the innumerable things they are obliged to do in medicine when they lack a clear understanding of disease mechanisms, that the deficiencies of the health-care system are most conspicuous. If I were a policy-maker, interested in saving money for health care over the long haul, I would regard it as an act of high prudence to give high priority to a lot more basic research in biologic science.

By Anonym 13 Sep

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.

By Anonym 13 Sep

Lewis Thomas

I suggest that the introductory courses in science, at all levels from grade school through college, be radically revised. Leave the fundamentals, the so-called basics, aside for a while, and concentrate the attention of all students on the things that are not known.

By Anonym 14 Sep

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.

By Anonym 14 Sep

Lewis Thomas

Medical knowledge and technical savvy are biodegradable. The sort of medicine that was practiced in Boston or New York or Atlanta fifty years ago would be as strange to a medical student or intern today as the ceremonial dance of a !Kung San tribe would seem to a rock festival audience in Hackensack.

By Anonym 14 Sep

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.

By Anonym 14 Sep

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.

By Anonym 13 Sep

Lewis Thomas

If an idea cannot move on its own, pushing it doesn't help; best to let it lie there.

By Anonym 14 Sep

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.

By Anonym 14 Sep

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.

By Anonym 13 Sep

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.

By Anonym 14 Sep

Lewis Thomas

The commas are the most useful and usable of all the stops. It is highly important to put them in place as you go along. If you try to come back after doing a paragraph and stick them in the various spots that tempt you you will discover that they tend to swarm like minnows into sorts of crevices whose existence you hadn't realized and before you know it the whole long sentence becomes immobilized and lashed up squirming in commas. Better to use them sparingly, and with affection, precisely when the need for each one arises, nicely, by itself.

By Anonym 13 Sep

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.

By Anonym 14 Sep

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.

By Anonym 14 Sep

Lewis Thomas

Perhaps the safest thing to do at the outset, if technology permits, is to send music. This language may be the best we have for explaining what we are like to others in space, with least ambiguity. I would vote for Bach, all of Bach, streamed out into space, over and over again. We would be bragging of course, but it is surely excusable to put the best possible face on at the beginning of such an acquaintance. We can tell the harder truths later.

By Anonym 13 Sep

Lewis Thomas

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

By Anonym 14 Sep

Lewis Thomas

It is my belief, based partly on personal experience but partly also arrived at by looking around at others, that childhood lasts considerably longer in the males of our species than in the females.

By Anonym 15 Sep

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

By Anonym 18 Sep

Lewis Thomas

Statistically, the probability of any one of us being here is so small that the mere fact of our existence should keep us all in a state of contented dazzlement.

By Anonym 13 Sep

Lewis Thomas

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