Bob Nichols's Reviews > The Meaning Of It All

The Meaning Of It All by Richard Feynman
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May 05, 11

Read in May, 2011

These three lectures by Feynman are not particularly interesting. The most engaging lecture is on the uncertainty of science where Feynman stresses the value of doubt for the integrity of the scientific process. In this lecture, Feynman states, interestingly, that "The rules that describe nature seem to be mathematical....Why nature is mathematical is...a mystery."

In his second lecture on the uncertainty of value, Feynman argues that science and values are two separate realms and that science is not helpful in the realm of values that require some sort of ultimate judgement. On the question of values, such as love, individuality, self-interest, the human race, respect,freedom and equality, are these off limits to (biological) science, leaving them to the mysteries of religion and metaphysics?

Feynman closes that lecture by stating, "No government has the right to decide on the truth of scientific principles, nor to prescribe in any way the character of the questions investigated. Neither may government determine the aesthetic value of artistic creations, nor limit the forms of literary or artistic expressions. Nor should it pronounce on the validity of economic, historic, religious, or philosophical doctrines. Instead, it has the duty to its citizens to maintain the freedom, to let those citizens contribute to the further adventure and the development of the human race." There are a lot of Feynman values in this statement. They all seem reasonable enough, but what is 'reasonable'? As to why his personal opinion should hold sway, he doesn't say and this lecture seems to remove him from that kind of debate. Is the science relating to our evolutionary origins relevant?

The third lecture, on the "unscientific age," doesn't offer much.

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