Book review: Surely you’re joking Mr Feynman (Feynman)

Richard Feynman was an American theoretical physicist, known for his work with quantum mechanics, the atom bomb and receiving the Nobel prize in physics, but also one of the greatest Doubters of our time. In his speech at Caltech YMCA Lunch Forum 1956 he said this which made me curious of his book:

“For the student, when he learns about science, there are two sources of difficulty in trying to weld science and religion together.  The first source of difficulty is this – that it is imperative in science to doubt; it is absolutely necessary, for progress in science, to have uncertainty as a fundamental part of your inner nature.  To make progress in understanding we must remain modest and allow that we do not know.  Nothing is certain or proved beyond all doubt.  You investigate for curiosity, because it is unknown, not because you know the answer.  And as you develop more information in the sciences, it is not that you are finding out the truth, but that you are finding out that this or that is more or less likely.”

This autobiography has many anecdotes, and one part is about what he calls Cargo Cult Science, which I have found as an antipattern in Psychological Safety as well. An example of Cargo Cult Science Is a scientific experiment that uses another researcher’s results instead of challenging them, assuming the other researcher’s conditions are accurate and can be taken as input.

This review is a part of the book Psychological UNsafety from the trenches you can order or read more about here.

Ove Holmberg

Doubter, gaffer, author