The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen-Scientistby Richard P. Feynman
Pub. Date: 10/01/1999
Publisher: Basic Books
Many appreciate Richard P. Feynman’s contributions to twentieth-century physics, but few realize how engaged he was with the world around himhow deeply and thoughtfully he considered the religious, political, and social issues of his day. Now, a wonderful bookbased on a previously unpublished, three-part public lecture he gave at the University of
Many appreciate Richard P. Feynman’s contributions to twentieth-century physics, but few realize how engaged he was with the world around himhow deeply and thoughtfully he considered the religious, political, and social issues of his day. Now, a wonderful bookbased on a previously unpublished, three-part public lecture he gave at the University of Washington in 1963shows us this other side of Feynman, as he expounds on the inherent conflict between science and religion, people’s distrust of politicians, and our universal fascination with flying saucers, faith healing, and mental telepathy. Here we see Feynman in top form: nearly bursting into a Navajo war chant, then pressing for an overhaul of the English language (if you want to know why Johnny can’t read, just look at the spelling of "friend”); and, finally, ruminating on the death of his first wife from tuberculosis. This is quintessential Feynmanreflective, amusing, and ever enlightening.
Table of Contents
Publisher's Note ..... ix
The Uncertainty of Science ..... 1
The Uncertainty of Values ..... 29
This Unscientific Age ..... 59
Index ..... 123
About Richard Feynman ..... 131
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This short booklet is actually a typescript of a series of three John Danz lectures which professor Feynman delivered in April 1963 at the University of Washington. They show yet another of his many facets - aside from the ingenious scientist, the wonderful science teacher and the hilarious storyteller - one of an intellectual thinking of the interaction between the science and the society. The thread that can be followed throughout the series of lectures is the value of scepticism. Scepticism and doubt kept science sane for centuries. After describing what he considers the essence of science, Feynman tries to answer several questions arising at the boundary between science and the society. Is there a conflict between science and religion? Can science be applied to moral and ethical questions? How can the inspirational value of religion be preserved when the belief in God is uncertain? In the last lecture, Feynman elaborates some abuses of statistics he encountered, like mixing up the probability with the possibility, a posteriori statistical reasoning etc. The book will probably first and foremost attract Feynman devotees, who already have all the other books he has written and cannot miss one. The book also reflects some of the atmosphere of the cold war 60's, so it might be of some interest for those who either lived in that era or have some special historic interest in it. But aside from this, no collection of Feynman's papers published after his death has ever reached the mastership of books he actively prepared.