Can anyone provide a source for this quote, supposedly from Robert Heinlein or from one of his works? "I never learned from a man who agreed with me." Or similar wording. I don't recognize it, and I've read almost everything by RAH at one time or another.

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    I found a bunch of websites attributing that line to Heinlein, without giving a source. Found another bunch of sites attributing it to Dudley Field Malone, without giving a source. (There seems to be an unwritten law of the internet against sourcing quotations.) I haven't (yet) found any attributing it to Einstein or Franklin or Lincoln. Malone's Wikipedia page hints that he said it at the Scopes "monkey trial". I couldn't find it in Malone's speech at that trial. – user14111 Sep 8 '17 at 5:25
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    I also do not remember it from a Heinlein work. – Organic Marble Sep 8 '17 at 13:14
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    @user14111 - I found much the same. Lots of attribution, but never with a source. What I've read of Dudley Field Malone's speech in that trial doesn't contain that quote. – Valorum Sep 8 '17 at 14:20
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    Just an impression, with no evidence, but it doesn't really sound like something Heinlein would say or write. I see him as a fairly literal and logical thinker. This quote doesn't make a lot of sense. If you don't know something and are able to learn it, then you can't have a position on it such that someone else could disagree with that position. If the concept to be learned is not related to the nature of the dis/agreement, then it makes even less sense. A political ally could certainly teach me mathematics. – Todd Wilcox Sep 9 '17 at 4:44
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    The sentiment would be more likely for Heinlein pre 1950, when he was more mentally flexible, but I know his writing from that era pretty well, and it doesn't ring a bell. I could imagine this being buried inside dialog in one of his later novels, but it would be spoken by someone who was not the RAH alter ego character, because that character's function is always to dispense the author's infallible wisdom. – Ben Crowell Sep 10 '17 at 3:17

It does not appear in any book I can find. I tried smaller subquotes including "never learned" and "man who agreed". So while I cannot 100% guarantee that he never said or wrote this quote or anything to the same effect, it seems unlikely.

List of checked works:

  • 6xH
  • A Bathroom of Her Own
  • A Tenderfoot In Space
  • All You Zombies
  • Assignment In Eternity
  • Between Planets
  • Beyond Doubt
  • Blowups Happen
  • Bulletin Board
  • By His Bootstraps
  • Citizen of the Galaxy
  • Common Sense
  • Coventry
  • Delilah and the Space-Rigger
  • Destination Moon
  • Discovery of the Future
  • Door Into Summer
  • Double Star
  • Expanded Universe
  • Farmer In The Sky
  • Farnham's Freehold
  • Friday
  • Gentlemen Be Seated
  • Glory Road
  • Goldfish Bowl
  • Grumbles From the Grave
  • Gulf
  • Have Space Suit Will Travel
  • I Will Fear No Evil
  • If This Goes On
  • It's Great to Be Back
  • Jerry Was a Man
  • A Comedy of Justice
  • Let There Be Light
  • Life-Line
  • Logic of Empire
  • Lost Legacy
  • Magic, Inc
  • Man Who Sold the Moon
  • Menace from Earth
  • Methuselah's Children
  • Misfit
  • Ordeal in Space
  • Orphans of the Sky
  • Pied Piper
  • Podkayne of Mars
  • Red Planet
  • Requiem
  • Revolt in 2100
  • Rocket Ship Galileo
  • Searchlight
  • Shooting Destination Moon
  • Shorts Vol 1
  • Shorts Vol 2
  • Sixth Column
  • Sky Lift
  • Space Cadet
  • Space Family Stone
  • Space Jockey
  • Starman Jones
  • Starship Troopers
  • Stranger in a Strange Land
  • Take Back Your Government
  • The Black Pits of Luna
  • The Cat Who Walks Through Walls
  • The Discovery of the Future
  • The Door into Summer
  • The Future Revisited
  • The Good News of High Frontier
  • The Green Hills of Earth
  • The L-5 Society
  • The Long Watch
  • The Man Who Sold the Moon
  • The Menace from Earth
  • The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
  • The Number of the Beast
  • The Past Through Tomorrow
  • The Puppet Masters
  • The Roads Must Roll
  • The Rolling Stones
  • The Star Beast
  • The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag
  • This I Believe
  • Time Enough For Love
  • Time For The Stars
  • To Sail Beyond the Sunset
  • Tunnel In The Sky
  • Universe
  • Waldo
  • We Also Walk Dogs
  • Worlds of Robert A. Heinlein
  • Year of the Jackpot
  • Impressive research, thank you! – Pixel Sep 11 '17 at 18:04

The quote (or rather a variation of it) is strongly attributed to the American economist Paul Samuelson by his long-time friend A. M. C. Waterman, Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of Manitoba and former member of the Canadian National Executive Council.

I attended the inaugural meeting of ACE, and was one of those who preferred to avoid, so far as possible, any attempt to spell out just what might count as “Christian” in our title. My dear friend, the late Paul Heyne, was so disaffected even by the minimalist definition eventually adopted that he declined full membership and preferred an Associate status, at least at first. It pleases me that the Association now includes such a wide variety of Christians that it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for all of us to reach agreement on almost any article of the faith. Why am I pleased? Because an Association such as ours, like the Church itself, can and ought to be a society in which we continually learn from one another. And as the great Paul Samuelson said to me a few years ago,

“I never bother to talk to anyone who agrees with me. I learn nothing from them.”

Looking Back, Looking Forward Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Remembrances of the Association of Christian Economists

  • That is such an original thought. This Paul Samuelson guy really knew what's what. – user68762 Dec 10 '17 at 16:03
  • @Morrigan - For all we know, he was the originator of the concept. Someone's gotta be first – Valorum Dec 10 '17 at 16:44
  • @Morrigan I think you mean "This Paul Samuelson guy really knew where his towel was". – Rand al'Thor Feb 22 '18 at 1:35

The Heinlein Society's web site has a concordance and a page that displays random quotes, but neither seems like it's of any help here. The source code of the quote page is viewable in a browser, and it only contains a small number of quotes coded into the javascript. None of the quotes is this one.

UCSC houses the Heinlein Archives. It seems that if you know specifically what you want, they will sell you access to it. However, they do not seem to have OCR'd anything, so you can't search for text.

A Google Books search turns up nothing with the full quote visible from earlier than 1992, which was four years after Heinlein's death. The Google Books search also gives two hits on books by Heinlein, Glory Road and The Notebooks of Lazarus Long.

Google let me search inside Glory Road for "never learned," but each of the four hits actually uses those words in some other phrase. I don't know what Google's algorithms are doing here.

The Notebooks of Lazarus Long, would be a very logical place to look for an aphorism such as this one. In a comment, Valorum has posted a link to an online copy of the text, and this quote doesn't appear there.

It seems pretty unlikely to me that this quote is from Heinlein.

  • Actually, the Notebooks of Lazarus Long were an excerpt from the late novel Time Enough for Love. – Organic Marble Sep 11 '17 at 1:13
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    There's an online copy here; angelfire.com/or/sociologyshop/lazlong.html – Valorum Sep 11 '17 at 6:18
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    Great research, thank you! I've read all of the Notebooks, and I'm pretty confident it's not in there. – Pixel Sep 11 '17 at 18:03

It is not in his fiction. I have not yet read all of his published letters multiple times, nor all of his published interviews, so cannot say whether or not he said it in a different setting. It sounds entirely like something he would have said; and, being that he was widely read, it is also possible that he said it in an interview or letter or private conversation as a quotation of someone else. However, it does not appear in any fiction in the Virginia edition, not from having read it, and not in the index, either.


A very similar quote is attributed to Dudley Field Malone (a lawyer of the early 20th century):

I have never in my life learned anything from any man who agreed with me.

However, I can find no better evidence that he actually wrote or said it than we can find for R.A. Heinlein.

  • If you scroll up, you'll see that both User14111 and I were unable to find any relevant attribution for that quote. It seems to have credited to him without any real justification. – Valorum Apr 17 '20 at 16:16

It is from Robert Heinlein's novel "Between Planets" and was (as I recall) said to the young protagonist (Donald Harvey) by a dragon from Venus, Sir Isaac Newton, a Venerian. It was an expression of respect. Sir Isaac was a direct descendant of the Great Egg which was placed at one end of Venus on the day of creation.

This was one of Heinlein's earlier works (copyright 1951).

I just scanned my paperback copy and found the terminology, but did not wish to reread the entire book, so cannot give you a page number.

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    I have this book and I can't find the quote – Valorum Oct 5 '18 at 20:50
  • Sir Isaac has a very distinctive style of speech, which the quote doesn't resemble. I flipped through two of the scenes where Sir Isaac appears (one near the beginning, one near the end), and couldn't find this quote. I just scanned my paperback copy and found the terminology, but did not wish to reread the entire book, so cannot give you a page number. I don't understand. If you found it, then why don't you know what page it's on? – Ben Crowell Oct 7 '18 at 2:42

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