Quotables: On Pluto, guilt, oil, population, scientific consensus, etc.

Ross Mackenzie
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Posted: Jan 25, 2007 10:27 AM
Quotables: On Pluto, guilt, oil, population, scientific consensus, etc.

A potpourri of quotes generally on topics currently in the news:

Novelist Michael Crichton, in a 2003 speech at the California Institute of Technology, on the repeated declarations of consensus among scientists about global warming: "Let's be clear. The work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. . . . The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with consensus. . . . The examples can be multiplied endlessly: Jenner and smallpox, Pasteur and germ theory, saccharine, margarine, repressed memory, fiber and colon cancer, hormone replacement therapy. Consensus is invoked only in situations when the science is not solid enough."

Leonardo Maugeri, author of "The Age of Oil: The Mythology, History, and Future of the World's Most Controversial Resource: "During the last 25 years more than 70 percent of exploration has taken place in the United States and Canada, mature areas that probably hold only 3 percent of the world's reserves of crude. The Middle East, on the other hand, has been the scene of only 3 percent of global exploration, even though it harbors 70 percent of the earth's reserves. In the Persian Gulf, holding 65 percent of the region's reserves, fewer than 100 exploration wells were drilled between 1995 and 2004. During the same period, 15,700 such wells were drilled din the U.S."

Edmund Phelps of Columbia University, the reigning Nobel economist, writing in 1968 on the importance of population growth: "One can hardly imagine, I think, how poor we would be today were it not for the rapid population growth of the past to which we owe the enormous number of technological advances enjoyed today. . . . If I could redo the history of the world, halving population size each year from the beginning of time on some random basis, I would not do it for fear of losing Mozart in the process."

David Malpass, chief economist for Bear, Stearns: "Lost in the talk of malaise, small businesses, innovation and labor flexibility are driving an economic juggernaut that sailed past Katrina, rate hikes and energy prices. The 'wrong-path' U.S. proudly led global relief to victims of the tsunami, Pakistan's earthquake, Saddam and African AIDS, with our private-sector donations often outweighing the rest of the world's entire contribution. For bold growth policies to blossom in Washington, the hesitant self-congratulation needs to turn into a deep conviction that the economy is sturdy and successful. Inflation and dollar weakness are the biggest risks, not the slowdown that dominates the news."

Author and Planet Definition Committee member Dava Sobel, on the reclassification of Pluto: "Pluto will lend its name to a newly defined category of planets - the 'plutons' - which differ from the other planets by virtue of their highly inclined, elongated orbits, which take more than two centuries to complete and which suggest a different origin. As the prototype of this class, Pluto may still attract funny remarks, but it will have gained new significance."

The late novelist E.M. Forster ("A Passage to India," "A Room With a View"): "Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon."

Syracuse University Professor Arthur Burns, on Harvard's decision to end its early admissions program: "When Harvard abandons early admissions it incurs little cost, but enhances a useful tool for second-tier universities competing for good students - those sufficiently ambitious and on-the-ball to write applications in October."

National Review Online's Mark Goldblatt, on the guilt inhering in contemporary liberalism: "The trappings of achievement - prestigious job titles, comfortable homes, swollen bank accounts - are a kind of inverse torment for such people, an ongoing crisis of authenticity, a sign of the dissolution of their identity within the marginalized group. They feel compelled, therefore, to demonstrate that their sympathies still reside with the underclass."

Scholar and author Shelby Steele: "White guilt affects everything having to do with race in America. . . . (It) undermines black progress and race relations because it generates disingenuous racial policies - diversity, affirmative action and welfare without expectations (until the late'90s). These policies enable whites to fend off the racist stigma they live with but rob blacks of the incentive to work harder for their own advancement. All these 'white guilt' policies ask nothing whatsoever of blacks. They are an incentive to weakness rather than strength."