Saturday, January 12, 2008

Richard Feynman on Doubt

[Fill in she instead of he as appropriate...]

"The scientist has a lot of experience with ignorance and doubt and uncertainty, and this experience is of very great importance, I think. When a scientist doesn't know the answer to a problem, he is ignorant. When he has a hunch as to what the result is, he is uncertain. And when he is pretty damn sure of what the result is going to be, he is in some doubt."

A scientific theory that withstands that kind of scrutiny for over a hundred years is a damn good theory.

(Quote is from The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, p. 146 - the book, not the TV documentary transcript of the same name.)

5 comments:

Bob said...

Hu-m-m-m!!your depiction for a scientific theory sounds like the same approch one should have for understanding say, the "Shroud of Turin" ,or the, " Tunic of Guadalupe", or any other Miracle that has been scrutized for hundreds of years!! Don,t ya think?

Mike said...

I think it's just the opposite - devotees of the shroud of turin are pretty damn sure of themselves.

Feynman's point is that successful theories have to meet a high standard of evidence.

Bob said...

How so Mike ? By the way ,I was not speaking of the devotees of the Shroud of Turin, but the fact that many Scientist for and against the shroud have tested and studied it and still withstands this type of scrutiny on its own merit.

Mike said...

I have no clue what you mean by:

"and still withstands this type of scrutiny on its own merit."

What exactly about the shroud is withstanding scrutiny? Someone religious beliefs?

Bob said...

No, not necessarily for someones religious beliefs,although that too. but just as "a high standard of evidence" for the person it witnesses to and an accurate discription of accounts that surrounded that persons history.