"In case you are beginning to believe that some of the things I said before are true because I am a scientist and according to the brochure that you got I won some awards and so forth, instead of your looking at the ideas themselves and judging them directly--in other words, you have some feeling toward authority--I will get rid of that tonight. I dedicate this lecture to showing what ridiculous conclusions and rare statements such a man as myself can make. I wish, therefore, to destroy any image of authority that has previously been generated." (p. 61)The Meaning of It All is a collection of three lectures Feynman gave in 1963. Although the words are now old--most of the ideas presented are timeless.
The first lecture, entitled The Uncertainty of Science, deals with the beautifully undogmatic nature of the scientific method. Feynman discusses how we should apply this 'uncertainty principle' to more aspects of life if we are to find better ways to live and improve life. New ideas don't blossom in an environment that encourages conformity and a reliance on tradition. Good ideas aren't found from these new ideas unless some sort of scientific analysis is performed.
The Uncertainty of Values probes the religious history of morality and how people can now accept the good aspects of religious values while rejecting the mythological elements of traditional religions. In fact, people can have better values by not forcing their actions into any particular religious vacuum. In this section, Feynman shows that science doesn't provide a value system, but science can provide a starting point which will be beneficial when we are faced with difficult choices to make since it can more accurately determine the situation involved.
The final chapter, This Unscientific Age, covers some of the same ground explored later by Carl Sagan and Michael Shermer. Since Feynman is lecturing, rather than writing a book, his thoughts aren't nearly as concise or well-organized as the above two authors. However, the colloquial style is entertaining, easily accessible, and allows the reader to imagine that they have gone back in time to actually experience the lectures first hand.
from the publisher:
In these remarkable lectures--never before published--the brilliant scientist reveals his thinking on life, religion, politics, science--and everything in between.
Many appreciate Richard P. Feynman's contributions to twentieth-century physics, but few realize how engaged he was with the world around him--how deeply and thoughtfully he considered the religious, political, and social issues of his day. Now, a wonderful book--based on a previously unpublished, three-part public lecture he gave at the University of Washington in 1963--shows us this other side of Feynman, as he expounds on the inherent conflict between science and religion, people's distrust of politicians, and our universal fascination with flying saucers, faith healing, and mental telepathy. Here we see Feynman in top form: nearly bursting into a Navajo war chant, then pressing for an overhaul of the English language (if you want to know why Johnny can't read, just look at the spelling of "friend"); and, finally, ruminating on the death of his first wife from tuberculosis. This is quintessential Feynman--reflective, amusing, and ever enlightening.
"Feynman [is] one of the century's premier intellectual optometrists: After only a few minutes, he adjusts your mental vision so that previously fuzzy concepts stand out in stunning clarity." -- Washington Post Book World, in a review of Six Not-So-Easy PiecesRichard P. Feynman (1918-1988) was one of the most famous and most beloved physicists of all time. His many contributions to physics earned him the Nobel Prize; his iconoclastic outlook on life and his many curious adventures earned him the status of an American cultural icon.