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The Value of Science by R. P. Feynman

Of all its many values, the greatest must be the freedom to doubt

Science enables us to do and make things. Those things may be for good and for bad, so scientific endeavor is also a moral question. But despite the fact that science enables us to do and make horrible things in the world, it is of value because it can produce something.

Science is fun, intellectual enjoyment through reading, learning, thinking, and doing. Enjoying science is important as as to do and make things that people enjoy.

I stand at the seashore, alone, and start to think. There are rushing waves, mountains of molecules, each stupidly midning its own business, trillions apart yet forming white surf in unison. Ages on ages before any eyes could see, year after year thunderously pounding the shore as now. For whom, for what? on a dead planet, with no life to entertain. Never at rest, tortured by energy, wasted prodigiously by the sun, poured into space. A mite makes the seas roar. Deep in the sea, all molecules repeat the patterns of one another till complex new ones are formed. They make others like themselves and a new dance starts. Growing in size and complexity, living things, masses of atoms, DNA, protein, dancing a pattern ever more intricate. Out of the cradle onto the dry land, here it is standing, atoms with consciousness, matter with curiosity. Stands at the sea, wonders at wondering, I a universe of atoms, an atom in the universe.

Science is thrill and awe and mystery of the deep unknown. The more we know, the more we realize that we do not know and how much there is to know. It is a deep rabbithole, a grand adventure. The scientific age is when poets write and artists portray about the wonderful questions, mysteries, and marvels of science.

Science tests us with ignorance and doubt and uncertainty. Often we do not know the answer to a problem so we are ignorant. Then we are uncertain when we do not know the result. Doubt arises when we get sure of what the result is going to be. To progress, we must recognize insightful, conscious ignorance and give room for doubt.

Our freedom to doubt was born of a struggle against authority in the the early days of science.

Science does not teach good and bad. Education, applied sciences, and even peace can be good or bad depending on how you use it. Because there are no clear instructions on how to use these forces, we are left with life devoid of meaning. We must frankly admit that we do not know the meaning of life. And in admitting we become open-minded and not descend into ideology battles, but instead follow reason, doubt, and develop ideas by trial and error.

We must leave the door to the unknown ajar.

Science dies if we let authority dictate. We must resist authority that inevitably limits our imagination. We have to be responsible to do what we can, learn what we can, and improve the solutions and pass them on. We have to be responsible not to suppress philosophy of ignorance, freedom of thought, and freedom to doubt.


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