Alan Lightman begins his article, “Nothing but the Truth; Science’s and Greatest Weakness Is Also Its Greatest Strength” (Popular Science, May 2015) with an anecdote about Richard Feynman. “40 years ago, the legendary physicist Richard Feynman gave the commencement address at my graduation from the California Institute of technology… Feynman told us that before we went public with new scientific results, we should consider every conceivable way we might be wrong. It was a tall order.” 1
The gravity of Feynman’s insight is missed on us if we limit it to just scientists. This failing is true of all of us. Our failure to consider every conceivable way we might be wrong is our greatest failing personally and as a species. It keeps us stuck in lousy circumstances, preventing us from seeing the solutions that may be right in front of our faces. Our failure to consider every conceivable way we might be wrong is rooted in our ego: we think it is a sign of weakness; the opposite is true: it is a sign of strength.
“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.” —Richard P. Feynman
- Alan Lightman, “Nothing but the Truth,” Popular Science, May 2015