Quotes from book
The Meaning of It All

The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen Scientist is a non-fiction book by the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman. It is a collection of three previously unpublished public lectures given by Feynman in 1963. The book was first published in hardcover in 1998, ten years after Feynman's death, by Addison–Wesley. Several paperback and audiobook editions of the book have subsequently been published.The Meaning of It All is non-technical book in which Feynman investigates the relationship between science and society.


Richard Feynman photo
Richard Feynman photo
Richard Feynman photo
Richard Feynman photo
Richard Feynman photo
Richard Feynman photo
Richard Feynman photo
Richard Feynman photo
Richard Feynman photo

„Suppose two politicians are running for president, and one goes through the farm section and is asked, "What are you going to do about the farm question?" And he knows right away - bang, bang, bang. Now he goes to the next campaigner who comes through. "What are you going to do on the farm problem?" "Well, I don't know. I used to be a general, and I don't know anything about farming. But it seems to me it must be a very difficult problem, because for twelve, fifteen, twenty years people have been struggling with it, and people say that they know how to solve the farm problem. And it must be a hard problem. So the way I intend to solve the farm problem is to gather around me a lot of people who know something about it, to look at all the experience that we have had with this problem before, to take a certain amount of time at it, and then to come to some conclusion in a reasonable way about it. Now, I can't tell you ahead of time what solution, but I can give you some of the principles I'll try to use - not to make things difficult for individual farmers, if there are any special problems we will have to have some way to take care of them," etc., etc., etc.
Now such a man would never get anywhere in this country, I think. It's never been tried, anyway. This is in the attitude of mind of the populace, that they have to have an answer and that a man who gives an answer is better than a man who gives no answer, when the real fact of the matter is, in most cases, it is the other way around. And the result of this of course is that the politician must give an answer. And the result of this is that political promises can never be kept. It is a mechanical fact; it is impossible. The result of that is that nobody believes campaign promises. And the result of that is a general disparaging of politics, a general lack of respect for the people who are trying to solve problems, and so forth. It's all generated from the very beginning (maybe - this is a simple analysis). It's all generated, maybe, by the fact that the attitude of the populace is to try to find the answer instead of trying to find a man who has a way of getting at the answer.“

—  Richard Feynman, book The Meaning of It All

lecture III: "This Unscientific Age"
The Meaning of It All (1999)

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