Sunday, 18 May 2008

The Meaning of It All – Richard Feynman

This is perhaps the best first book to read if you want to understand how science works. It dispels the common belief that we know anything by pointing out how little we know and how amazing the Universe is. As well as pointing out some of the fallacies of probability it looks at the conflicts between political systems and religious systems and science. The key point of the book is that there are no certainties that can be imposed on others, and that means religious, political and scientific. The other key point is that the freedom to follow ideas and express beliefs is essential to Feynman's view. It is this idea that he uses to distinguish good and bad, to contrast the USA and Russia.

All in uncertainty but we must learn to embrace uncertainty.


I agree that science cannot disprove the existence of God. I absolutely agree. I also agree that a belief in science and religion is consistent. I know many scientists who believe in God. It is not my purpose to disprove anything. There are very many scientists who do believe in God, in a conventional way too, perhaps, I do not know exactly how they believe in God. But their belief in God and their action in science is thoroughly consistent. It is consistent, but it is difficult. P36.

It is a great adventure to contemplate the universe, beyond man, to contemplate what it would be like without man, as it was in a great part of its long history and as it is in a great majority of its places. When this objective view is finally attained, and the mystery and majesty of matter are fully appreciated, to then turn the objective eye back on man viewed as matter, to view life as part of this universal mystery of greatest depth, is to sense an experience which is very rare, and very exciting. It usually ends in laughter and a delight in the futility of trying to understand what this atom in the universe is, this thing – atoms with curiosity – that looks at itself and wonders why it wonders. Well, these scientific views end in awe and mystery, lost at the edge in uncertainty, but they appear to be so deep and so impressive that the theory that is all arranged as a stage for God to watch man's struggle for good and evil seems inadequate. P39.

The government of the United States was developed under the idea that nobody knew how to make a government, or how to govern. P49.