He Said What???

Science isn't about authority. Among scientists, there is respect, but not deference (except when asking for money). A Nobel Prize would not exempt me from the rule that scientific claims have to be backed up by evidence.

However, if a famous scientist says something, outsiders will usually assume that he is a spokesman. That is what makes quotations important.

You may have heard that person X said Y. Or, you may have a book that says so. Is that the end of the story?

No, not always. Some authorities are more authoritative than others. Some have wandered outside their area of expertise. Some were speaking about a specific topic, not in general, and perhaps the context has been garbled. Some authorities have retracted or repudiated statements - that has happened. And, there's the fact that science moves on, and quotes can become out-of-date.

In short, a quote may be worth looking into. It may not be what you think.

Last modified: 5 November 2000

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