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Happy Fourth of July

Some 4th of July thoughts, reprinted from a few years ago, and still (as ever) relevant:

This, at least, I have observed in forty-five years: that there are men who search for it [truth], whatever it is, wherever it may lie, patiently, honestly, with due humility, and that there are other men who battle endlessly to put it down, even though they don’t know what it is. To the first class belong the scientists, the experimenters, the men of curiosity. To the second belong politicians, bishops, professors, mullahs, tin pot messiahs, frauds and exploiters of all sorts – in brief, the men of authority. . .All I find there is a vast enmity to the free functioning of the spirit of man. There may be, for all I know, some truth there, but it is truth made into whips, rolled into bitter pills. . .
I find myself out of sympathy with such men. I shall keep on challenging them until the last galoot’s ashore.

– H. L. Mencken, “Off the Grand Banks”, 1925

In those days the New York dockers were renowned for their truculence, inefficiency and sheer slowness. Four hours was supposed to be the standard and we got the standard. Neverthless, the difference from the British equivalent did not strike me as very marked, and by the time we sailed out into the dusk. . .among the wondrous multi-colored lights of the New Jersey Turnpike, at that time utterly unparalleled at home – by then I knew. . .that this was my second country and always would be.. . .I only ever spent a few nights in (New York City), but made a lot of day and evening trips and saw quite enough of the place to convince me that anyone who makes a business of hating it or being superior to it, and there were plenty then, home-grown and foreign, is a creep, and that anyone who walks up Fifth Avenue (say) on a sunny morning without feeling his spirits lift is an ***hole.
– Kingsley Amis, “Memoirs”, 1991

There must be no barriers to freedom of inquiry. There is no place for dogma in science. The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors. … Our political life is also predicated on openness. We know that the only way to avoid error is to detect it and that the only way to detect it is to be free to inquire. And we know that as long as men are free to ask what they must, free to say what they think, free to think what they will, freedom can never be lost, and science can never regress.
– J. Robert Oppenheimer, 1949

15 comments on “Happy Fourth of July”

  1. John Wayne says:

    You didn’t even make me mad. Bad trolling; you should work on it.

    1. John Wayne says:

      Oops, this was a reply to deleted comment

      1. Derek Lowe says:

        Yeah, I cleared that one out, but you were too quick for me (!) I don’t resort to that often, but pure ad hominem will do it.

        1. John Wayne says:

          You made the right call; that was clearly over the line.

  2. crh says:

    I would’ve thought you’d be in favor of rolling the truth into bitter pills.

  3. Anon says:

    H. L. Mencken…My hero and we need him more today to confront the wrong ones who are the purveyors lies, deceit and the forged narratives.

  4. Dr. Wood says:

    Thank you for these words. They do represent the true greatness of the United States. It’s nice to have someone put it this way. Leave it to Oppenheimer. Definitely relevant as ever.

  5. Pool daze says:

    🇺🇸 🇺🇸 🗽 🗽 👳🏾‍♂️👳🏾‍♂️

  6. Wavefunction says:

    And two other favorites:

    “As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” — H. L. Mencken

    “The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy. The people do not want virtue; but are the dupes of pretended patriots.” – Elbridge Gerry

  7. MoMo says:

    Here’s one for your confirmational bias Wavefunction,

    Yesterday’s weirdness is tomorrow’s reason why.
    Hunter S. Thompson

  8. Anonymous says:

    The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

  9. Jon says:

    Then I am proud to be a creep and an ***hole. Crowds are an example of everything wrong with humanity: Too many of them on too small a planet.


  10. Sean Fearsalach says:

    Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur.

  11. Donald Trump says:

    We will make America great again!

  12. ka1axy says:

    “For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.” — Richard Feynman

    “Our citizens may be deceived for awhile, and have been deceived; but as long as the presses can be protected, we may trust to them for light.” –Thomas Jefferson to Archibald Stuart. 1799.

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