by Jesse Galef
Everyone can do with more Feynman in their lives. I hear tell that there’s a treasure trove of his lectures called project Tuva, but I haven’t investigated it yet. I found this video of him having a conversation in an interview. As such, he has more asides and tangents than he would have in lectures, but there were so many interesting points I decided I had to share:
I’ll try to type up some of my favorite parts:
I can’t believe the special stories that have been made up about our relationship to the universe at large. They seem to be… too simple to conn- too local, too provincial! The Earth! He came to the Earth! One of the aspects of God came to the Earth mind, you. Look at what’s out there! It isn’t in proportion.
Different religions have all these different theories and you begin to wonder. You start doubting just like you’re supposed to doubt. You ask me if the science is true and we say ‘No, no, we don’t know what’s true, we’re trying to find out, everything is possibly wrong’. Start out understanding religion by saying ‘everything is possibly wrong, let us see.’ As soon as you do that you start sliding down an edge which is hard to recover from… When you doubt and ask it gets a little harder to believe.
Well put. But it’s what immediately follows that I found most interesting:
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. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of certainty about different things, but I’m not absolutely sure of anything. For many things I don’t know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we’re here. … But i don’t have to know an answer. I don’t feel frightened by not knowing things. By being lost in a mysterious universe without having any purpose, which is the way it really is as far as I can tell, possibly. It doesn’t frighten me.
I like this sentiment, but there’s an undeniable unpleasant feeling called “confusion” when we don’t understand something. Feynman might not be ‘frightened’ by it, but he used to acknowledge that it was unpleasant:
How should we cope with uncertainty? We evolved to find it uncomfortable, but it’s an important part of truth-seeking. I guess we just have to suck it up.
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