Quote of the Day, Science

QOTD: Richard Feynman on the Unknown

You see, one thing is, I can live with doubt, and uncertainty, and not knowing. I think it’s much more interesting to live, not knowing, than to have answers which might be wrong.

It comes at about the middle of this interview excerpt:

A man of science.  Not a religious man, but one who was smart enough to recognize that

…science [cannot] disprove the existence of God; I think that is impossible. And if it is impossible, is not a belief in science and in a God — an ordinary God of religion — a consistent possibility?

One thing I am [pretty] sure of is that Richard Feynman would find the contemporary invocation of, and reliance on, “settled science” to be deeply disturbing.  He said:

It is imperative in science to doubt; it is absolutely necessary, for progress in science, to have uncertainty as a fundamental part of your inner nature. To make progress in understanding, we must remain modest and allow that we do not know. Nothing is certain or proved beyond all doubt. You investigate for curiosity, because it is unknown, not because you know the answer. And as you develop more information in the sciences, it is not that you are finding out the truth, but that you are finding out that this or that is more or less likely.

That is, if we investigate further, we find that the statements of science are not of what is true and what is not true, but statements of what is known to different degrees of certainty… Every one of the concepts of science is on a scale graduated somewhere between, but at neither end of, absolute falsity or absolute truth.

“Oh Brave Old World, that had such people in ‘t!”

It makes me want him to have said what started out to be my Quote of the Day, but the provenance of which I can’t back up, although it’s attributed, all over the place, to Richard Feynman:

I would rather have questions that cannot be answered, than answers that cannot be questioned.

If he didn’t say it, he should have.  Curious character, Mr. Feynman.

So.  What do you think of the actual, or putative, quote of the day?  (It’s not a trick question.  And no answer is out of bounds.)

Leave a Reply Cancel reply