Richard Feynman 1998. The Meaning of it all. Penguin: London, 132 pp.

This little book contains the text of 3 lectures given by Feynman in April 1963 by invitation (the John Danz lectures). They contain plenty of gender bias examples that would have passed unremarked just a few decades ago, but they don’t distract much from Feynman’s deep humanity. The titles of the lectures are the three chapter titles, which are indication enough that they remain relevant:

  1. The uncertainty of science
  2. The uncertainty of values
  3. This unscientific age

It is a useful reality check in an age where right-wing commentators routinely dismiss science that Feynman chose to talk about “This unscientific age” in 1963, although of course there have been plenty of other times and places in history where such a talk would have been even more topical (sometimes suicidal). In 1963 Feynman’s examples, or targets, were Russia, false advertising, and various anecdotes that could be termed examples of sampling bias.

The first two lectures revolve around undercainty and The importance of doubt and comprise a modern manual on how to argue with deniers of climate science or antivaxers or others who for various narrow reasons choose to adopt doctrinaire positions in defiance of evidence.

The full text of the lectures is, I now discover, available online.