I’ve used this quote before, but, in these days of science denial, science ignorance, and willful disregard for scientific findings when they don’t suit the agenda of the day, it seems increasingly important. With so many people doubling down on their absolute certainty of what is, it is necessary to remember that we fail to honor the past, and do a disservice to the future, when we stop looking for answers because we choose to believe that the answers have already been found.
So this weekend, I turn to the inimitable Richard Feynman for something to think about this weekend.
“We are at the very beginning of time for the human race. It is not unreasonable that we grapple with problems. But there are tens of thousands of years in the future. Our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions, and pass them on.
…It is our responsibility to leave the people of the future a free hand. In the impetuous youth of humanity, we can make grave errors that can stunt our growth for a long time. This we will do if we say we have the answers now, so young and ignorant as we are. If we suppress all discussion, all criticism, proclaiming “This is the answer, my friends; man is saved!” we will doom humanity for a long time to the chains of authority, confined to the limits of our present imagination. It has been done so many times before.
…It is our responsibility as scientists, knowing the great progress which comes from a satisfactory philosophy of ignorance, the great progress which is the fruit of freedom of thought, to proclaim the value of this freedom; to teach how doubt is not to be feared but welcomed and discussed; and to demand this freedom as our duty to all coming generations.”
Image of the Veil Nebula borrowed from nasa.gov