Mental Floss

Richard Feynman: "I Can Live With Doubt"

Chris Higgins

Here's a provocative little clip of physicist Richard Feynman talking about uncertainty. What an odd topic, right? Effectively Feynman obliquely addresses issues of religion versus science here, and seems to paint himself as the quintessential scientist -- someone to whom uncertainty is simply a normal state of being, and presumably the jumping-off point for most of life's explorations. Below is a complete transcription of the clip (it's under one minute) with some emphasis added, then the clip itself.

You see, one thing is, I can live with doubt, and uncertainty, and not knowing. I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of certainty about different things. But I'm not absolutely sure of anything, and there are many things I don't know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we're here, and what the question might mean. I might think about it a little bit; if I can't figure it out, then I go onto something else. 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 it really is, as far as I can tell -- possibly. It doesn't frighten me. [smiles]