The Sayings of John McCarthyHere are some of my sayings, which may appeal to some.
Mankind will probably survive even if it doesn't take my advice. - JMC
Equality of the sexes is more important than equality of the genders. - JMC 1985
As the Chinese say, 1001 words is worth more than a picture. - JMC
During the second millenium, the Earthmen complained a lot. - JMC
When there's a will to fail, obstacles can be found. - JMC 1983 March
There is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come. - Victor Hugo
Yes, even if it's a bad idea. - JMC
Everyone needs computer programming. It will be the way we speak to the servants. - JMC, 1966. Alas, it didn't come to pass.
Personal dishonesty is not needed to produce a dishonest business plan or research proposal. Wishful thinking suffices. - JMC 1986
People prefer dealing with machinery to dealing with bureaucracies. - JMC 1986
Your denial of the importance of objectivity amounts to announcing your intention to lie to us. No-one should believe anything you say. - JMC 1986
You are eager to defend rationality against the creationists. Fine. Are you also willing to defend it against the environmentalists? - JMC 1989
Cynicism is a cheap substitute for sophistication. You don't actually have to learn anything. - JMC 1989
We can't afford to waste money on crossing the ocean, Mr. Columbus, when Spanish society has so many unsolved problems. Why, most of those Jews and Moors we have converted aren't really sincere Catholics, and a lack of money to hire more inquisitors has put their questionings so far behind that many have died of natural causes before the Holy Inquisition ever got around to them. - JMC 1993
He who claims that affairs could not be worse is very likely to make them worse. - JMC 1989
Asking someone to recite his favorite modern poem is about as fair as asking him recite his favorite crossword puzzle. - JMC 1988
Malthus was right. It's hard to see how the solar system could support much more than 10^28 people or the universe more than 10^50. - JMC 1987
He has a tragic vision of life - as in a cigarette ad. - JMC
Writing a ``future work'' section of a paper is like a dog pissing on the trees at the boundary of its territory. - JMC 1991
Young men can readily be roused to fight. If the institutions of the United States and of California didn't prevent it, the middle-aged men of Palo Alto and Menlo Park could readily get the teen agers of these cities to shoot at each other across San Francisquito Creek over the proper location of the Willow Road extension. - JMC 1990
It doesn't matter if the children are illiterate, provided they are all equally illiterate. - JMC 1998
Comparing oneself with Galileo or Einstein is certainly good for the ego - provided one refrains from going into too much detail. - JMC 1996
God did not design human beings in accordance with Christian principles, fascist principles, feminist principles, socialist principles, romantic principles, secular humanist principles, vegetarian principles, deep environmentalist principles, biocentric principles, or libertarian principles. Any of these groups could have told God a thing or two. - JMC 1995
One can persecute with especial complacency if one regards one's victim as a representative of some great malevolent power. - JMC 1995
If you want to do good, work on the technology, not on getting power. - JMC 1995
The politicians have a most touching faith in technology - that it can make up for any dumb thing the politicians decide to do. - JMC 1993
A taste for Ingmar Bergman films is the modern substitute for attending hangings. - JMC 1994
An atheist doesn't have to be someone who thinks he has a proof that there can't be a god. He only has to be someone who believes that the evidence on the God question is at a similar level to the evidence on the werewolf question. - JMC 1992
Barnum predicted that most psychoanalysts would have a hard time making a living when he said, "There's a sucker born every minute and two to take him." One sucker isn't really enough to support two psychoanalysts. - JMC 1994
Asking Terry Eagleton whether he liked a particular book is like asking an entomologist whether he personally liked the beetle he has just finished dissecting. - JMC 1994
He who says he will die for a cause will probably lie for it and may kill for it. - JMC
No-one has yet built a monument so high that a bird can't fly over and shit on it. - JMC
The peace movement is a great force for peace. Some of the world's most quarrelsome people act out their aggressions through the peace movement. - JMC
When the policeman quits, each must provide for his own defense. Nuclear proliferation has become more likely. - JMC 1975
Governor Brown says nuclear power is the Vietnam issue of the 1980s. The difference is that if he prevails, the boat people will be Americans. - JMC
To keep the wilderness truly wild, all maps and publications should be suppressed - no more Sierra Club books and calendars. - JMC
When architects get prizes, the people suffer. - JMC
Self-righteousness is more dangerous than smoking. - JMC 1983 March
During the first three millenia, the Earthmen complained a lot. - JMC
Young tyrants are more genocidal than old tyrants - with the exception of Khomeini.
You say you couldn't live if you thought the world had no purpose. You're saying that you can't form purposes of your own - that you need someone to tell you what to do. The average child has more gumption than that. - JMC before 1983
If everyone were to live for others all the time, life would be like a procession of ants following each other around in a circle. - JMC before 1983
He's a man of principle. He'd cut his mother's throat for a principle. - JMC before 1983
As Marx should have said, the principle of communism is From each according to what he can't get out of doing. To each according to whom he knows. - JMC dec 1983
It is deplorable that many people think that the best way to improve the world is to forbid something. However, they're morally more advanced than the people who think the best way to improve the world is to kill somebody. - JMC, 1984 March
If Jesus were here today, he'd be a real revolutionary. Do you mean there'd be twice as many boat people? JMC, 1984 Aug.
That's not a book; it's a core dump. JMC 1984 aug, after Paul Heckel.
You say the only alternative to nuclear war is world government. There is only one possibility worse than nuclear war for the survival of modern civilization, and that is world government. Civilization might recover from the damage of a nuclear war, but judging by past static empires in Egypt and China, it might never recover from world government, there being no chance of external intervention. As it is, present governments are only prevented from becoming dominated by crazy ideas that will suppress all opposition by the existence of other governments. The only way a people can be sure that their government is substandard is that it does worse than those of other countries.
It's possible to program a computer in English. It's also possible to make an airplane controlled by reins and spurs. - JMC 196x
The reason why a professor does something has even less connection with why he says he does it than with most people - JMC 1985
It's a poor cause for which no-one will scuttle a ship or cut a throat. - JMC 1985
In this book masculine pronouns embrace not only the feminine but also the robotic. - JMC 1985
A true intellectual is a man who, after reading a book and being convinced by its arguments, will shoot someone or, more likely, order someone shot. - JMC 1985
As T. J. Sr. said to T. J. Jr., "remember my boy, every minute a future valued customer is born and two to meet his requirements". - JMC 1985
When he talks about "firing that loony" he reminds me of a robin attacking its image in a hubcap. - JMC 1985
Whenever I hear a dog continually barking, my reaction is one of relief---that it's not my dog making all that racket and inciting the neighbors to call the police. - JMC 1985
Amateur bureaucrats are often even worse than professional bureaucrats. - JMC 1985
The last ten percent of any reform is the most difficult to achieve. Moreover, it is often harmful. - JMC 1985
When thugs by nature meet thugs by political conviction, 5-0 is not surprising. - JMC 1982?
Note to Douglas Hofstadter and Raymond Smullyan: Excessive self reference is as dangerous as smoking. - JMC 1985.
The squabbles among linguists remind me of a saying of my mother-in-law, a retired farmer's wife. "When the chickens start cannibalizing one another, the only thing to do is to butcher the lot or sell them to someone else and start over".
Praising the Sandinistas while criticizing the Soviets is like loving kittens and deploring cats. Actually it's not such a nice kitty. - JMC 1986
Soccer riots kill at most tens. Intellectuals' ideological riots sometimes kill millions. - JMC 1986
You have to transcend your class interests. Since you belong to the class from which bureaucrats are recruited, you naturally favor making people deal with bureaucracies. - JMC
The peace advocates are more interested in beating the conservatives than in reaching agreement with the Soviets. - JMC 1987
Your statements amount to saying that if AI is possible, it should be easy. Why is that? - JMC 1987
Here's a way to tell scientific intelligence from legal intelligence. Both may start from the idea that something cannot be done and think up arguments to explain why. However, it is possible that the scientist may discover a flaw in the argument that leads him to change his mind and discover a way to do it. He will be pleased. The legal thinker will merely try to patch the flaw in the argument, because once he has chosen a side, all his intelligence is devoted to finding arguments for that side. - JMC 1987
I don't see as how this Marxist-Leninist is any different from any other Marxist-Leninist. - JMC 1987
We modern Marxists regard socialism as a historically brief transitional stage between feudalism and capitalism, necessary only in backward countries. - JMC 1987
An excessive knowledge of Marxism is a sign of a misspent youth. - JMC 1980s
To pop where no-one has pushed. - JMC 1987
Both politicians and journalists face situations which strain their honesty and humanity. My opinion is that politicians on the average stand up somewhat better than journalists. - JMC 1988
Ask not for whom the horn honks. It honks for thee. - JMC 1988
Imaginary dialog: Please explain why you are not to be regarded as a pompous fool. ...
Well, perhaps you are a pompous fool with power. Please explain what you want me to do and what harm you are threatening to do to me if I don't comply with your wishes. - JMC
He has the first half of the Golden Rule down pat: Do unto others. - JMC 1988
If I owned Marseilles and Hell, I'd rent out Marseilles and live in Hell. - Marcel Proust, 1989
The SCLC draft has a whole mile of good intentions. - JMC 1989
Foolishness is rarely a matter of lack of intelligence or even lack of information. - JMC 1989
An extreme optimist is a man who believes that humanity will probably survive even if it doesn't take his advice. - JMC 1989
- We should get him interested in the abortion issue.
- Which side?
- It doesn't matter which side. Both sides have relatively responsible leadership, and neither is likely to prompt him to kill for the cause.
- JMC 1989
Committing genocide on behalf of an institution generates greater loyalty to it than merely getting people fired from their jobs on its behalf. - JMC 1989
He divides up this subject the way a Chinese cook divides up a duck. - JMC 1990
It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self interest. - Adam Smith
Alas few socialists are either benevolent enough to work hard at these occupations out of benevolence or self-interested enough to work hard at them for money. - JMC 1991
It's just a pissing contest, but unfortunately the contestants never seem to run out of piss. - JMC 1991
There is only one thing more harmful to society than an elected official forgetting the promises he made in order to get elected; that's when he doesn't forget them. - JMC 1992
This is not the first time my views on some topic have inspired in someone the desire to psychoanalyze me. Previous experience leads me to ask about your couch. Is it comfortable? Are its springs in good shape? - JMC
My opinion is that he's a swindler and you're a sucker. - JMC 1993
Inside of many liberals is a fascist struggling to get out. - JMC 1993
The new class struggle will pit the workers and the bosses against the others. - JMC 1993
The Republican majority in 1994 was a coalition of the workers and the bosses against the others. - JMC 1995
Clinton can say: in my industry 5/6 of the experienced men are unemployed. - JMC 1993 and earlier
Oh, he's sincere all right. The question is: what is he sincere about? - JMC after 1986, perhaps about Gorbachev
His ambition is to be the spider in the World Wide Web. - JMC 1994
My hobby of not attending meetings about recycling saves more energy than your hobby of recycling. - JMC 1994
r.a.b. Needs an FFF - frequently flamed flames, each with a sampling of exchanges, culminating in an application of Godwin's law. [Godwin's law is that an exchange of flames ends when one poster compares his adversary with Adolf Hitler.]
Never abandon a theory that explains something until you have a theory that explains more. - JMC 1991
The gentlemen of the press smell blood. - JMC 1994
Do you wish to imprison the Native Americans in a re-invented primitive culture? - JMC 1994
Would you vegetarians like a rule that food stamps cannot be used to purchase products containing meat? Would you vegans like to also forbid their use to purchase eggs, fish or milk products? Some years ago some of my fellow conservatives grumbled about the purchase of filet mignon with food stamps, but their motives were economic, and they were easily beaten down with the usual charges of heartlessness. Maybe you vegetarians would have better luck, since your hearts are pure.
I mention this out of my customary helpfulness. - JMC 1994
The difference between a contemporary liberal and a socialist is that to a liberal the most beautiful word in the English language is "forbidden", whereas to a socialist the most beautiful word is "compulsory". - JMC 1994
When I hear the word Heidegger I reach for my axe. He may have swiped it. - JMC 1994
Measuring all costs in terms of energy is merely a religious exercise. - JMC 1994 and earlier.
Suicidal terrorists may have short shelf lives. - JMC 1994
Of course, Third World leaders love you. By ascribing third world ills to First World sins, you absolve them of blame for their countries' failure to advance. - JMC 1995
The slogan was "Don't trust anyone over thirty." Sixty years later the slogan became, "Don't trust anyone over ninety." - JMC 1995
In human history, the desire for revenge and the desire for loot have often been closely associated. - JMC 1995
Do you wish to do good for the Mexicans (Palestinians) or they merely a stick with which to beat the Americans (Jews)? - JMC 1995
Compassion is contempt with a human face. - JMC 1995, modified from Christopher Lasch
Don't try to talk anyone out of concentrating his hatred on Ayn Rand or any other dead person. It can't harm the dead. Diverted to a living person, it might actually do harm. JMC - 1994
In praise of philistines
It is said that man doesn't live by bread alone. Sometimes this is unfortunate, because people who cannot live by bread alone too often kill other people in consequence of the fights they get into.
The word ``philistine'' as a pejorative is used in a variety of senses, but a common one refers to a person interested only in money and the goods and amusements money can buy. Usually it doesn't refer to someone who will do anything for money but rather a person who if he makes a reasonable amount of money will spend his time enjoying it without considering either the arts, the advance of science, or righting the injustices of the world --- unless one of the above happens to be his job. It may not be presumed that the Philistine people of the Bible had this property any more than anyone else. Philistines do less harm than most ideologically motivated people. - JMC 1985
People mourn when a person dies, but no-one mourns the billions of intestinal bacteria that his death dooms. Speciesism, I calls it. - JMC 1995
If it doesn't work right, we can always try something else. - JMC 1996
Once a person has killed other people on behalf of an ideology, he becomes rather devoted to it. - JMC 1997
Proposals to forbid golf courses have about the same motivations as proposals to forbid skate boarding, although the rationalizations are different. - JMC 1997
Asking a critic to name his favorite book is like asking a butcher to name his favorite pig. - JMC 1997
Language is froth on the surface of thought. - JMC 1997
Slogans rarely convince the unconvinced. However, they do rally the troops already on your side. - JMC 1998
Hardly anyone has noticed that in the Northern Hemisphere people stir their drinks counterclockwise, whereas the same people stir their drinks clockwise when visiting the Southern Hemisphere. - JMC 1998
Honor among thieves is the ancestor of all honor. Likewise, democracy among tyrants is the ancestor of all democracy. Think Magna Carta. - JMC 1998
As we have recently seen, the function of the anti-trust laws is to protect the poor little fellow with a mere $5 billion from being bullied by the big guy with $50 billion. - JMC 2002
If a person can be said to have the wrong attitude, there is no need to pay attention to his arguments. - JMC 2002
Hard distinctions make bad philosophy. - JMC 2002
A declining institution often experiences survival of the unfittest. - JMC 1960s
With no more than six levels of misquotation, any statement can be made to say whatever you wish. - JMC 2002
You don't want to examine the basis of your computer's morality any more than you want to see sausage being made. - JMC 2002
When I see a slippery slope, my instinct is to build a terrace. - JMC 2003
You don't get to do unto others just anything you imagine they might want to do unto you.
You attack the religious reactionaries who oppose teaching evolution. Very good. Will you also attack Greenpeace and other idealizers of nature who oppose genetic engineering? - JMC 2006
He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense. - JMC 1970s or 1980s