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Lewis Thomas

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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.



Ants are so much like human beings as to be an embarrassment. They farm fungi, raise aphids as livestock, launch armies into war, use chemical sprays to alarm and confuse enemies, capture slaves, engage in child labour, exchange information ceaselessly. They do everything but watch television.



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



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.



If you want to use a cliche you must take full responsibility for it yourself and not try to fob it off on anon., or on society.



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.



Very few recognize science as the high adventure it really is, the wildest of all explorations ever taken by human beings, the chance to glimpse things never seen before, the shrewdest maneuver for discovering how the world works.



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.



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.



Much of today’s public anxiety about science is the apprehension that we may forever be overlooking the whole by an endless, obsessive preoccupation with the parts.



The cloning of humans is on most of the lists of things to worry about from Science, along with behaviour control, genetic engineering, transplanted heads, computer poetry and the unrestrained growth of plastic flowers.



The cloning of humans is on most of the lists of things to worry about from Science, along with behaviour control, genetic engineering, transplanted heads, computer poetry and the unrestrained growth of plastic flowers.



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.



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.



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.



Survival, in the cool economics of biology, means simply the persistence of one’s own genes in the generations to follow.



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.



A multitude of bees can tell the time of day, calculate the geometry of the sun’s position, argue about the best location for the next swarm. Bees do a lot of close observing of other bees maybe they know what follows stinging and do it anyway.



A lot of people fear death because they think that so overwhelming an experience has to be painful, but I’ve seen quite a few deaths, and, with one exception, I’ve never known anyone to undergo anything like agony. That’s amazing when you think about it. I mean, how complicated the mechanism is that’s being taken apart.



The dilemma of modern medicine, and the underlying central flaw in medical education and, most of all, in the training of interns, is the irresistible drive to do something, anything. It is expected by patients and too often agreed to by their doctors, in the face of ignorance.



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.



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.



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.



It is only when you watch the dense mass of thousands of ants, crowded together around the Hill, blackening the ground, that you begin to see the whole beast, and now you observe it thinking, planning, calculating. It is an intelligence, a kind of live computer, with crawling bits for its wits.



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.



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.



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.



Doctors, dressed up in one professional costume or another, have been in busy practice since the earliest records of every culture on earth. It is hard to think of a more dependable or enduring occupation, harder still to imagine any future events leading to its extinction.



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.



A lot of people fear death because they think that so overwhelming an experience has to be painful, but I’ve seen quite a few deaths, and, with one exception, I’ve never known anyone to undergo anything like agony. That’s amazing when you think about it. I mean, how complicated the mechanism is that’s being taken apart.