The Meaning of It All

meaning of it all feynman helix books 1998The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen-Scientist by Richard P. Feynman, 4/5

The rare combination of humility and genius is as beautiful as it is surprising, especially when encountered in one of the greatest physicists of the modern age.  These three lectures, given at the University of Washington in 1963, explore a variety of unscientific topics–from politics to religion–and surprisingly, do not provide any answers.  What they do give, however, is the opportunity to see non-scientific issues from the point of view of a scientific genius.   This point of view is very different from the arrogant, condescending, closed-minded attitude that comes across from many figures in popular science, who seem to feel that their expertise in a narrow field qualifies them to make pronouncements on everything.  In fact, the emotion that stands out most in these lectures is doubt.  Not a lazy, depressing, hopeless sort of doubt, but a humble, searching doubt that fuels relentless curiosity.  Feynman seems unwaveringly respectful of opinions and beliefs that contradict his own, while applying a formidable intellect and rational approach to the less scientific aspects of human existence.

Why I read it: I’ve enjoyed the two other books by Feynman I’ve read (QED and Six Easy Pieces) and jumped at the chance to read a less challenging book by him when I came across it in Henderson Books.


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