Richard Feynman’s 10 Commandments for Science and Life


March for Science will happen all over the world on April 22nd 2017 and is:

“…a celebration of science.  It’s not only about scientists and politicians; it is about the very real role that science plays in each of our lives and the need to respect and encourage research that gives us insight into the world.”

Science has much to teach us. Here are 10 lessons from perhaps one of the greatest scientists of all time, Richard Feynman:

1) Do not fool yourself

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”

2) We are all dumb

“I am smart enough to know that I am dumb.”

3) You cannot fool nature

“For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.”

“No government has the right to decide on the truth of scientific principles, nor to prescribe in any way the character of the questions investigated.”

4) Be curious

“Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough…study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.”

“Science is like sex: sometimes something useful comes out, but that is not the reason we are doing it. ”

5) Learn by understanding

“I don’t know what’s the matter with people: they don’t learn by understanding, they learn by some other way — by rote or something. Their knowledge is so fragile!”

“There’s a big difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.”

6) Evidence is King. Nothing is certain. Knowledge is fragile

“It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.”

“If you thought that science was certain – well, that is just an error on your part.”

“I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.”

7) Beware of honours

“I won’t have anything to do with the Nobel Prize … it’s a pain in the … (LAUGHS). I don’t like honors. I appreciate it for the work that I did, and for people who appreciate it, and I know there’s a lot of physicists who use my work, I don’t need anything else, I don’t think there’s any sense to anything else. I don’t see that it makes any point that someone in the Swedish Academy decides that this work is noble enough to receive a prize—I’ve already got the prize. The prize is the pleasure of finding the thing out, the kick in the discovery, the observation that other people use it [my work]—those are the real things, the honors are unreal to me.”

8) Do not fear failure. Learn from it

“We are trying to prove ourselves wrong as quickly as possible, because only in that way can we find progress.”

9) Learn to recognise the difference between science and pseudoscience

“There is one feature I notice that is generally missing in [pseudoscience]… it’s a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty—a kind of leaning over backwards… to give all of the information to help others to judge the value of [the] contribution; not just the information that leads to judgment in one particular direction or another.”

10) Don’t forget to be human

“The highest forms of understanding we can achieve are laughter and human compassion.”

“Stop trying to fill your head with science — for to fill your heart with love is enough. ”




1 thought on “Richard Feynman’s 10 Commandments for Science and Life

  1. I really enjoyed your “10 commandments for science and life”. Your 10th lesson in particular made me reflect on one of Sir David Attenborough’s memoirs about his life exploring the natural world which he summarised as something along the lines of “there is no greater beauty than that of a human child”. As a lover of the natural world I was disheartened. However as you so aptly state love and human compassion is the vehicle for us to achieve all things.

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