Richard Feynman – The Uncertainty Of Knowledge
From The Pleasue of Finding Things Out, BBC Horizon 1981
If you expect science to give all the answers to the wonderful questions about what we are, where we are going, what the meaning of universe is and so on, then I think you could easily become disillusioned and then look for some mystic answers to these problems.
We are exploring, we are trying to find out as much as we can about the world. People say to me are you looking for the ultimate laws of Physics? No, I am not. I am just looking to find out more about the world. Then if it turns out that there is simple ultimate law that explains everything, so be it. That would be a very nice discovery. If it turns out that it is an onion with millions of layers and you are sick and tired of looking at the layers, then that’s the way it is. But whatever way it comes out, it’s nature and she’s going to come out the way she is. Therefore, when we go to investigate we shouldn’t pre-decide what it is we are trying to do except to find out more about it.
So altogether I can’t believe the special stories that have been made up about our relationship to the universe at large because they seem to be too local, too provincial. The earth, He came to the earth. One of the aspect of the god came to the earth, mind you. And look at what’s out there. How can it… It isn’t in proportion.
There’s also another thing. It has to do with how do you find out if something is true? And if you have all these theories of different religions and all different theories about the thing, then you begin to wonder. Once you start doubting, which I think, to me it is a very fundamental part of my soul is to doubt and to ask. When you doubt and ask, it gets little harder to believe.
I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of certainty about different things, but I am absolutely not sure of anything and there are many things I don’t know anything about. But I don’t have to know an answer. I don’t feel frightened by not knowing things. By being lost in the mysterious universe without having any purpose, which is the way really is as far I am tell possibly. It doesn’t frighten me.