Best 142 of Lewis Thomas quotes - MyQuotes

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Lewis Thomas
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 13 Sep

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.

By Anonym 15 Sep

Lewis Thomas

We are at our human finest, dancing with our minds, when there are more choices than two. Sometimes there are ten, even twenty different ways to go, all but one bound to be wrong, and the richness of the selection in such situations can lift us onto totally new ground.

By Anonym 13 Sep

Lewis Thomas

Chemical waste products are the droppings of science.

By Anonym 13 Sep

Lewis Thomas

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.

By Anonym 16 Sep

Lewis Thomas

It is hard to feel affection for something as totally impersonal as the atmosphere, and yet there it is, as much a part and product of life as wine and bread. Taken all in al, the sky is a miraculous achievement. It works, and for what it is designed to accomplish it is as infallible as anything in nature. I doubt whether any of us could think of a way to improve on it, beyond maybe shifting a local cloud from here to there on occasion. The word 'chance' does not serve to account well for structures of such magnificence... We should credit it for what it is: for sheer size and perfection of function, it is far and away the grandest product of collaboration in all of nature. It breathes for us, and it does another thing for our pleasure. Each day, millions of meteorites fall against the outer limits of the membrane and are burned to nothing by the friction. Without this shelter, our surface would long since have become the pounded powder of the moon. Even though our receptors are not sensitive enough to hear it, there is comfort in knowing the sound is there overhead, like the random noise of rain on the roof at night.

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

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 15 Sep

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.

By Anonym 13 Sep

Lewis Thomas

Cats - a standing rebuke to behavioural scientists . . . least human of all creatures.

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 14 Sep

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.

By Anonym 13 Sep

Lewis Thomas

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.

By Anonym 13 Sep

Lewis Thomas

Good science is done by being curious in general, by asking questions all around, by acknowledging the likelihood of being wrong and taking this in good humor for granted, by having a deep fondness for nature, and by being made jumpy and nervous by ignorance.

By Anonym 15 Sep

Lewis Thomas

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

By Anonym 15 Sep

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.

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

Maybe there is a single spot, just one, where living organisms are holed up. Maybe so, but if so this would be the strangest thing of all, absolutely incomprehensible. For we are not familiar with this kind of living. We do not have solitary, isolated creatures. It is beyond our imagination to conceive of a single form of life that exists alone and independent, unattached to other forms.

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 14 Sep

Lewis Thomas

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.

By Anonym 15 Sep

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.

By Anonym 15 Sep

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.

By Anonym 14 Sep

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.

By Anonym 14 Sep

Lewis Thomas

It is in our collective behavior that we are most mysterious.

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 14 Sep

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.

By Anonym 15 Sep

Lewis Thomas

We owe our lives to the sun... How is it, then, that we feel no gratitude?

By Anonym 14 Sep

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.

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 13 Sep

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.

By Anonym 15 Sep

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.

By Anonym 15 Sep

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.

By Anonym 14 Sep

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.

By Anonym 13 Sep

Lewis Thomas

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.

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 13 Sep

Lewis Thomas

All of today's DNA, strung through all the cells of the earth, is simply an extension and elaboration of [the] first molecule.

By Anonym 14 Sep

Lewis Thomas

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

By Anonym 15 Sep

Lewis Thomas

We pass thoughts around, from mind to mind, so compulsively and with such speed that the brains of mankind often appear, functionally, to be undergoing fusion.

By Anonym 15 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 in the idea of dying, unable to sit still.

By Anonym 14 Sep

Lewis Thomas

Man is embedded in nature.

By Anonym 15 Sep

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.

By Anonym 14 Sep

Lewis Thomas

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

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 15 Sep

Lewis Thomas

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

By Anonym 14 Sep

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.

By Anonym 15 Sep

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.

By Anonym 15 Sep

Lewis Thomas

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.

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

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 15 Sep

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.