For Christmas my brother gave me a copy of “The Meaning of it All” a book containing a series of three lectures Richard Feynman gave in April of 1963 at the University of Washington. Here is an excerpt from his first speech titled “The Uncertainty of Science” and although he is talking directly about the field of science Feynman knows how the application of this lesson reaches far beyond that.
“And it is of paramount importance, in order to make progress, that we recognize this ignorance and doubt. Because we have the doubt, we then propose looking in new directions for new ideas. The rate of development of science is not the rate at which you make observations alone but, much more important, the rate at which you create new things to test.
If we were not able or did not desire to look in any new direction, if we did not have a doubt or recognize ignorance, we would not get any new ideas. There would be nothing worth checking, because we would know what is true.”
Feynman later speaks on the importance of having the freedom to doubt and the struggle to be permitted to doubt. He does not want us to forget the importance of doubt and recognizing ignorance, he even “demand[s] this freedom for future generations.” Sure we have doubt and an abundance of ignorance, but I feel far too often I don’t use it to seek a new path or ask more questions. It is far more often something to be ashamed of or a way to complain without taking any action.
If we are to believe what Feynman says than we must accept “…doubt is not a fearful thing, but a thing of very great value.”