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Broca's Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science

Carl Sagan

Top 10 Best Quotes

“But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”

“Understanding is a kind of ecstasy”

“All inquiries carry with them some element of risk.”

“Can you be sure that others have not come before you and destroyed the pristine state of the native myth? Can you be sure that the natives are not humoring you or pulling your leg? Bronislaw Malinowski thought he had discovered a people in the Trobriant Islands who had not worked out the connection between sexual intercourse and childbirth. When asked how children were conceived, they supplied him with an elaborate mythic structure prominently featuring celestial intervention. Amazed, Malinowski objected that was not how it was done at all, and supplied them instead with the version so popular in the West today – including a nine-month gestation period. “Impossible,” replied the Melanesians. “Do you not see that woman over there with her six-month-old child? Her husband has been on an extended voyage to another island for two years.” Is it more likely that the Melanesians were ignorant of the begetting of children or that they were gently chiding Malinowski? If some peculiar-looking stranger came into my town and asked ME where babies came from, I’d certainly be tempted to tell him about storks and cabbages. Prescientific people are people. Individually they are as clever as we are.”

“Both Barnum and H. L. Mencken are said to have made the depressing observation that no one ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the American public. The remark has worldwide application. But the lack is not in intelligence, which is in plentiful supply; rather, the scarce commodity is systematic training in critical thinking.”

“I believe that the extraordinary should certainly be pursued. But extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

“Anger at queries about our beliefs is the body’s warning signal: here lies unexamined and probably dangerous doctrinal baggage.”

“Might it be possible at some future time, when neurophysiology has advanced substantially, to reconstruct the memories or insight of someone long dead?...It would be the ultimate breach of privacy.”

“It was difficult to hold Broca's brain without wondering whether in some sense Broca was still in there—his wit, his skeptical mien, his abrupt gesticulations when he talked, his quiet and sentimental moments.”

“In any case, we do not advance the human cause by refusing to consider ideas that make us frightened.”

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Book Keywords:

humor, fraud, critical-thinking, understanding, inquiry, anthropology, ecstasy, gullibility, cleverness, genius, intelligence, knowledge, carl-sagan, myths, sagan, people, science, broca-s, psychology, life-after-death, brain, laughter, philosophy, primitive, carl, skepticism

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