I am in the process of preparing a lecture and remember that some of the Gods (highly esteemed researchers of the past) said, “Either you speak maths or you speak nonsense.” Perhaps is was “Either you talk maths or you talk nonsense.” Any idea of the exact quotation and its original source, including the author?


Googling around, I have found this quote somewhere on facebook:

John McCarthy:
Those who don't speak math are doomed to speak nonsense.

However, this apparently are not the actual words. Wiki quote claims that the actual wording was:

He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense

dated ~1995, so.. it is possible that somebody said it earlier too

  • $\begingroup$ @MarkMcGregor: your original quote says math not logic. For me, actually, the "feeling" a random person would get from "math" is closer to "arithmetics" than "logic". Of course that's not true, math is much broader term, but "general feel" of a word does not need to be and the common guy picked at random from the crowd will probably understand it like arithmetics.. $\endgroup$ – quetzalcoatl Jun 2 '16 at 8:30
  • $\begingroup$ Also, may thanks for that link! It was a very interesting read. There's even a quote slightly touching this question which made me lauch :) With no more than six levels of misquotation, any statement can be made to say whatever you wish. - jmc 2002 I wonder how different will the original quote will turn out to be! :) $\endgroup$ – quetzalcoatl Jun 2 '16 at 8:31

Are you sure it was a short quote? The page http://zapatopi.net/kelvin/quotes/ has the following quote from Kelvin in 1883 (more precise information is on the web page): "I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely in your thoughts advanced to the state of Science, whatever the matter may be."

At the same time, you'll see at that link that Kelvin said several times that flying machines other than balloons were impossible and the idea of commercial aviation was inconceivable, even as late as 1902 (the year before the Wright Brothers first flew their aircraft).


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