- "It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness"
- William L. Watkinson, 1907.
It has been used by Peter Benenson, founder of Amnesty International
(hence AI's emblem).
This is so fundamentally important a concept, and one apparently not grasped by a great many people, that I should explain what it means. It is this: if you don't like the way something is, don't just complain about it, do what you can to make it better.
- "If ever there were a cause which should unite us all, old or young,
rich or poor, climate change must be it."
- Kofi Annan Secretary General of the United Nations from 1997
- "Between 1945 and 2005 the United States has attempted to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, and to crush more than 30 populist-nationalist movements struggling against intolerable regimes. In the process, the U.S. caused the end of life for several million people, and condemned many millions more to a life of agony and despair."
- William Blum, third edition of Rogue State. See Real USA, on this site, for more of the crimes of this rogue state.
- "The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will
- Robert Swan, OBE, Explorer and Environmentalist
- "Life has no remote. Get up and change it yourself."
- Sukhraj Dhillon
- "Do to others what you would have them do to you."
- anonymous, often called The
Golden Rule, in one form or another it
is common to most major religions.
This – and the question, "What if everybody behaved that way?" –
could practically be called the basis of all
- "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire."
- William Butler Yeats, 1865 to 1939
- "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one
persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.
Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."
- George Bernard Shaw, 1856 to 1950
I remember once being advised to not worry about that which I cannot change;
it seemed good advice at the time.
But one must be very sure that one cannot change it;
if something needs to be changed and is not being changed, then why should
anyone else change it if I am unwilling to try?
- "Since the dawn of our species, an unquenchable curiosity has driven us to
ask and re-ask the same questions: Who are we?
Where do we come from ? Are we alone?
Myths offered the first answers: myths of creation and of spirit worlds.
From here, one trail led to religion and to answers grounded in faith.
But another trail led to philosophy–to reasoning.
Pure reasoning at first, then reasoning aided by observation and
experiment–what we now call science."
- David Koerner and Simon LeVay
from Here be Dragons: The Scientific Quest for Extraterrestrial Life
- "Every nation has the government
that it deserves."
- Joseph de Maistre [Letter on the subject of Russia, Aug. 1811]
Very applicable in the modern world where apathetic, selfish and short-sighted
voters have allowed democracies to become plutocracies.
- "I am a citizen, not of Athens or Greece, but of the World."
- Socrates [Plutarch, De Exilio, v]
A remarkably applicable, even essential, attitude for the modern world.
What Socrates could see in c. 300BC the G.W. Bush administration of the
USA and the Howard Government of Australia were incapable of seeing in the
early 21st century
- "An unexamined life is not worth living."
- Socrates, Plato's Apology.
- "Magna est veritas et praevalebit": Truth is great and shall prevail.
- Book of Edras (Ezra), Latin Vulgate Bible
(Unfortunately, in regard to climate change, by the time the truth prevails
it will be too late for thousands or millions of species and billions of
- "Every time I see an adult on a bicycle I no longer despair for the
future of the human race."
- H. G. Wells, Born 1866/09/21, died 1946/08/13.
How much more relevant is this now, when we must greatly reduce the amount
of fossil fuels we burn!
- "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can
change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
- Margaret Mead, American Anthropologist (1901 – 1978)
- "It is foolish to wait until you reach the summit before enjoying the
- Author unknown, Chinese proverb.
- "When the wind of change blows some build walls while others build
- Author unknown, Chinese proverb.
- "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend.
Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."
- Groucho Marx
- "If you think you are too small to make a difference, you've never been
in a room with a mosquito."
- Annita Roddick (of The Body Shop), from "Business as Unusual"
Consider this before you say that your country (or the world) is a mess but
you cannot do anything about it.
- "Good people will do good things, and bad people will do bad things.
But for good people to do bad things – that takes religion."
- Steven Weinberg, Nobel laureate.
(The above saying would be more accurate if the word 'religion' was replaced with the word 'delusion'.
Religion certainly will serve as the needed delusion, but it is not the only delusion that will cause good people to do bad things; for example there have been several people, at least one of whom was well-meaning, who did great harm spreading a deluded belief that wind turbines caused illnesses.
Fortunately this particular delusion seems to have died a natural death.)
- "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit
- Voltaire, French author, humanist, rationalist, and satirist
(1694 - 1778)
- "Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events.
Small minds discuss people."
- Eleanor Roosevelt, US politician, diplomat and activist (1884
- "I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death
your right to say it."
- A summation of Voltair's beliefs on freedom of thought and expression,
actually written by Evelyn Beatric Hall
Contrary to that, I would doubt that anyone has the right to knowingly lie.
- "We can evade reality, but we cannot evade the consequences of evading
- Ayn Rand
Very pertinent in an age in which we can see what must be done (eg.
in regard to climate change) but are not doing it.
- "The day may come, when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those
rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of
The French have already discovered that the blackness of skin is no reason
why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a
It may come one day to be recognized, that the number of legs, the villosity
of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum, are reasons equally
insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate.
What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of
reason, or perhaps, the faculty for discourse?...the question is not, Can
they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer? Why should the law
refuse its protection to any sensitive being?..."
- Jeremy Bentham, 1748-1832
On discussing whether animals should have rights as people have rights.
- "In reality one could
say that never have so many stayed in school so long to learn so little."
- Stanislav Andreski, Social Sciences as Sorcery, 1972
- "The lesson of history is that you must not despair, that if you
are right, and you persist, things will change.
The government will try to deceive the people, and the newspapers and
television may do the same, but the truth has a way of coming out.
The truth has a power greater than a hundred lies.
My hope is that you will not be content to be successful in the way our
society measures success; that you will not obey the rules, when the rules
are unjust; that you will act out the courage that I know is in you."
- Howard Zinn – Address to Spelman College, 2005. (Also see a Howard Zinn quote on civil disobedience on another page.)
- "Not to know is bad; not to wish to know is worse."
- African proverb
- "The essence of science is skepticism. The essence of religion is faith."
"Science is not a set of beliefs, it is a method."
- Author unknown
- "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men
to do nothing."
- Edmund Burke
The alternative is to leave running the world to politicians and the various
The executives in charge of multinational
companies that employ many of the lobbyists have enormous power and very
- "The opinions that are held with passion are always those for which no
good ground exists; indeed the passion is the measure of the holder's lack
of rational conviction."
- Bertrand Russell (1872 to 1970), from Let the People Think,
Religion comes to mind.
- "Hitherto species of mankind have survived because however foolish their purposes might be they had not the knowledge required to achieve them. Now that this knowledge is being acquired, a greater degree of wisdom than heretofore as regards the ends of life is becoming imperative. But where is such wisdom to be found in our distracted age?"
- Bertrand Russell, from his introduction to the book The New Generation, written in 1930. In 2022 we are obviously a long way from achieving the needed wisdom.
- "It seems to me that science has a much greater likelihood of being
true in the main than any philosophy hitherto advanced (I do not, of course,
except my own).
In science there are many matters about which people are agreed;
in philosophy there are none.
Therefore, although each proposition in science may be false, yet we shall
be wise to build our philosophy upon science, because the risk of error
in philosophy is sure to be greater than in science.
If we could hope for certainty in philosophy the matter would be otherwise,
but so far as I can see such a hope would be chimerical."
- Bertrand Russell, Logical Atomism
Russell was in my opinion possibly the pre-eminent philosopher of the twentieth century.
I don't think this should be thought of as diminishing the importance of
philosophy; if we are to truly understand science we must understand
some philosophy, and how could we make any sense of life without philosophy?
- "I wish to propose for the reader's favourable consideration a doctrine which may, I fear, appear wildly paradoxical and subversive. The doctrine in question is this: that it is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true. I must, of course, admit that if such an opinion became common it would completely transform our social life and our political system; since both are at present faultless, this must weigh against it."
- Bertrand Russell
Skeptical Essays, I (1928)
There are obvious implications to religion. The claim that wind turbines make people
sick also comes to mind.
- "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the
intelligent are full of doubt."
- Bertrand Russell
Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt come to mind in the first group.
Look up the
- This one is not a quote in the same sense as the others. Russell's Teapot; "an analogy, formulated by the philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872–1970), to illustrate that the philosophic burden of proof lies upon a person making unfalsifiable claims, rather than shifting the burden of disproof to others." Wikipedia gives a full explanation. It has particular reference to the god delusion.
A number of quotes from Russell about the importance of evidence can be read on AZ Quotes.
- Bertrand Russell
- "I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."
- Isaac Newton
- "If a thousand people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing."
- Chinese proverb
Very apposite to religion.
believe that Jesus was the Son of God and that all the
are wrong; a billion Muslims believe that all the Christians are
wrong and Mohammed had all the answers.
They all believe a foolish thing.
- "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way
its animals are treated."
- Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi
- "An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind"
- Mohandas Gandhi
Bombing a nation in return for a terrorist attack is only going to achieve
- "Live simply so others may simply live"
- Mohandas Gandhi
Consume less so that you are responsible for less environmental damage.
- "But I have not met anyone who seriously argues that the world could
support 12 times the current [human] impact, although an increase of that
factor would result from all [current] Third World inhabitants adopting
First World living standards."
"In the long run, rich people do not secure their own interests and those
of their children if they rule over a collapsing society and merely buy
themselves the privilege of being the last to starve or die."
- From Collapse by Jared Diamond, 2005
- "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because
he hears a different drummer.
Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away."
- From Walden by Henry David Thoreau, 1854
- "When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty"
- Author unknown: variously attributed to Henry David Thoreau and
- "I believe that the proper utilization of time is this, if you can,
serve other people, other sentient beings. If not, at least refrain from
harming them. I think that is the whole basis of my philosophy."
- The Dalai Lama, From "The Art of Happines: A Handbook for Living"
I would go further and say that we should try to serve the biosphere;
that is, work for the welfare of all life on earth.
The damage that Man is doing to the planet harms all living things.
Compassion for all is the key.
- "The only part of the conduct of any one, for which [a citizen] is
amenable to society, is that which concerns others.
In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right,
Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign."
- John Stuart Mill, in On Liberty
Pertinent to the right to voluntary
euthanasia, assisted dying and
suicide as a rational decision
- "The condition upon which God hath given liberty
to man is eternal vigilance."
- John Philpot Curran, Lord Mayor of Dublin
The reference to God is a bit archaic, but the concept is very true.
- "One has to realize that the powerful industrial groups concerned in the
manufacture of arms are doing their best in all countries to prevent the
peaceful settlement of international disputes ..."
"Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth."
"The only two things that are infinite in size are the universe, and human
stupidity. And I'm not completely sure about the universe."
- Albert Einstein, 1879 to 1955
(He might have replaced 'human stupidity' with 'human selfishness'.)
- "Causes shall not be multiplied beyond necessity."
- William of Occam (alternatively spelled Ockham), 1285 to about
Why hypothesize a god when the hypothesis serves no useful purpose?
- "What is morally wrong cannot be economically right."
- Gordon Brown (PM of Britain), 8th December 2004.
The Pope Paul VI memorial lecture, CAFOD, London.
Why can so few
politicians see this?
- "When you are trying to change people's ethical views, you accomplish
nothing by clashing your views against theirs – all you get is a
It is far better to show that the conclusion you wish them to draw is
implicit in what they already believe, albeit unnoticed."
- Bernard E Rollin; Science and Ethics
- "A busy woman is a happy woman"
- Zac Sibenaler; not entirely seriously
- "Pardon him, Theodotus: he is a barbarian, and thinks that the customs
of his tribe and island are the laws of nature."
- Cæsar in Cæsar and Cleopatra by George Bernard Shaw,
Religion leads us to such barbaric ideas.
- "There are perhaps 5% of the population that simply can't think.
There are another 5% who can think, and do.
The remaining 90% can think, but don't."
- Robert Heinlein, 1907 to 1988
rejected the idea of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent god. There are several interpretations of what is called the "Epicurean paradox" (or trilemma):
- Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
- Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
- Is he both able and willing? Then where did evil come from?
- Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
As summarised by David Hume
- If God is unable to prevent evil, then he is not all-powerful.
- If God is not willing to prevent evil, then he is not all-good.
- If God is both willing and able to prevent evil, then why does evil exist?
It is worth my mentioning here that Epicurus lived about 300 BC.
- "I aimed to make the Earth a better place – and failed miserably"
- Professor Harry Messell
(However, the world was probably a better place for his having lived.)
- "A reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent
repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguishable from the truth."
- Daniel Kahneman
Relivant to climate science denial
- "I don't understand why when we destroy something created by man we call
it vandalism, but when we destroy something created by nature we call it
- Ed Begley, Jr.
- "People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
The kindness you show today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Be kind anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the
smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway."
- Kent M. Keith The Paradoxical Commandments, 1968
- "I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it for I shall not pass this way again"
- Generally credited to Stephen Grellet, but without proven attribution
- "Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of
the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to
drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship,
or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the
people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy.
All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce
the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to
- Herman Goering, Nazi Reichsmarshall and commander of the Luftwaffe,
at the Nuremberg trials.
Pertinent to the way President George W. Bush and Prime Minister
John Howard treated their respective peoples just before the second
- "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will
eventually come to believe it.
The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the
people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie.
It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to
repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by
extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State."
- Joseph Goebels, Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from
1933 to 1945
- "Have you allowed all the women to live?" he asked them.
"They were the ones who followed Balaam's advice and were the means of
turning the Israelites away from the Lord in what happened at Peor, so that
a plague struck the Lord's people.
Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man,
but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man."
- Moses instructing the captains of Israel in the
Chapter 31, verses 15 to 18; and yet many people
claim that we can learn ethics from the Bible!
Some of the above were from