February 18, 2005

Feynman, on Uncertainty.

"I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much
more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be
-- Feynman

The man of the hour, my guy Richard Feynman (1918 - 1988), a scientist (physicist, to be precise) and author of a good many books. Ray (my boyfriend) adores the man, and I must admit, I have a certain fondness for him, as well. Why am I including a bit about him here, in a blog about religion? Because his stance on "living with uncertainty," although mostly pointed advice to his fellow scientists, is important for everyone to take to heart. Perhaps you noticed the rather disengaged tone of my previous entry? For the past several hours, I've been struggling with an undefined frustration, and it's only just hit me what it grew from: the realization today that the general assumption made by many philosopher-types is that it's better to have a good, solid argument in support of an untruth than to remain admittedly unsure. I can't accept that. I am in love with Mystery, with paradox. And it's comforting to know that Feynman, a cooky but clever man, a scientist--not some silly student poet who can be easily brushed aside--would understand where I'm coming from. I highly recommend his book, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out.

And now, without delay, I give you just a taste.

"It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you
are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong."

"The idea is to try to give all the information to help others to judge the
value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgment in
one particular direction or another."

"Our imagination is stretched to the utmost, not, as in fiction, to imagine
things which are not really there, but just to comprehend those things which
'are' there."

"You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when
you're finished, you'll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird... So
let's look at the bird and see what it's doing -- that's what counts. I learned
very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the
easiest person to fool."


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