"The Role of Doubt in Science" Feynman, Richard (1988)
"The Role of Doubt in Science"
Richard Feynman (1988)
SITE SUMMARY: This excerpt from the book Why Do You Care What People Think?: Further Adventures of a Curious Character, by noted physicist Feynman, features the author's view of science considered in relation to doubt or skepticism, or taking a closer look at and thinking again about, situations. It is also Feynman's look at other scientists, philosophers, and people in general, regarding what they think on the subject. Emphasis is on the subject and how it affects society. (Quotations on doubt by various types of thinkers are also provided.)
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS AND ACTIVITIES
- See paragraph one. How did Feynman define "scientific knowledge"? Scientists have "a lot of experience" with which three things, according to him? Identify three types of experience that, Feynman said, scientists encounter as they work. What, did he say, is "of paramount importance"?
- See paragraph two. What, according to Feynman, do scientists take for granted? What do people probably not realize? What should people be permitted to do?
- See paragraph three. Feynman said that "many answers must have been given to the question of the meaning of it all" as people "have tried to fathom the meaning of life." Those answers have been "of all different sorts." How, according to Feynman, have proponents of one answer looked at the answers of others, and why? What needs to be found because of such a situation? Where might "it" be found? (For help, see paragraphs five and six.)
- How did Feynman answer his own question: "What can we say to dispel the mystery of existence?" (Find it in paragraph four.) (Hint: Read, think about, ask yourself, then answer the following. As "science was already showing itself to be a successful venture at the end of the eighteenth century," an idea for a system arose. What is Feynman's definition of that system, and how were ideas involved? What, did he say, and conclude, are "essential to progress into the unknown"; what was clear to some people, and what, should people do to solve a problem that has never been solved? Next: How did he further define "great progress"? What should then be proclaimed, taught, and provided for "all coming generations"? Who should be responsible for doing what is referred to just above, and why?) (Tips: For help with the first group of questions/activities in the hint, see paragraph seven; and see paragraph nine for help with the hint's next second group of questions/activities.)
- See paragraph eight. Describe what Feynman was referring to when he said: "This is it …!" Which part of humanity, metaphorically, did he say, is responsible for this situation, and why? Do you agree, or disagree? Explain your answer.
- Think of a science problem, situation, or idea. (Hint: For help, visit any Web site referred to in this book.) Explain a hypothesis and suggested solution or possibility. (Note: Refer to, and apply, in your answers: Question/Activity no. 4, especially the first group in the hint and the next group's: What should then be taught? Also apply Questions/Activities no. 1, no. 2, and no. 3 [especially its Where might "it" be found?].)
- See this book's chapter featuring the Recommended Reading: Online Articles for the Society for Scientific Exploration Young Investigators Program, and the International Crop Circle Database at the Independent Research Centre for Unexplained Phenomena Web site. Adapt the note in no. 6 above using these Web sites.
RELATED INTERNET SITE(S)
This site defines, and details aspects of, skepticism and skeptics from ancient through modern times, featuring references to challenges to science from philosophers (general, religious-minded, science-minded). Follow the links at the bottom of the page for more details, modern and historical, plus outline with links to particular aspects of, or views on, the subject. See the brief definition, then sign up for seventy-two hours of free access to view the article.
Features quotations expressing skepticism on scientific theories, achievements, and inventions. See also the link to "Great Quotes From Great Skeptics."
Official Feynman Web Site
http://www.feynmanonline.com (scroll down right side to the Web Ring, click List Sites)
See links to various sites on Feynman, his work, writings, and life. Note especially: Interesting People—Richard Feynman, with quotations and links to some writings.
Science in Society: Skeptical Inquiry—Links