This Messy Universe

Page 202 from the book, Feynman.

Like a blind man in a cluttered room, we’re bumbling around blindly knocking our shins into coffee tables in the dark trying to figure out how this universe works. But as we wander and experiment we continue to discover small pieces of it that we can understand, eventually building up our knowledge of the confusing space enough to avoid the tables and construct a map of how the space fits together.

Robert Krulwich of PBS writes about Richard Feynman and this messy universe:

We think great scientists know so much, but really, they know very little. “Science,” said the physicist Richard Feynman, “is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”

Feynman told his audiences, even though the subatomic world looks so messy, so unintelligible, bit by bit, we are learning some of its secrets. They don’t add up yet. The rules Feynman and others discovered don’t even work all of the time, the parts don’t coordinate, but scientists learn to stay humble, roll with new information, we will learn more.

The key, he says… is accept the universe as it is. We must instruct our minds to live with the facts we discover.

The facts don’t make sense at first. They may never make sense, but hey, this is our universe. We’re stuck with it. We don’t have another one, not yet. So the best we can do is try to fit our minds to universe we find.

Isn’t this what we skeptics joyfully espouse? There is a humility and wonder in science that allows us to both embrace the unknown and mold our minds to the discoveries made along the way that help us explain this amazing  reality. It may not be a perfect understanding—in fact, I’m sure it isn’t. But just because it all seems jumbled at first doesn’t mean the solution is to dream up a supernatural puzzle piece to fit in where science has yet to tread.We should not be afraid of  neither the mess nor the mystery.

Dimidium facti qui coepit habet: sapere aude (“He who has begun is half done: dare to know!”) -Horace

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2 Comments


  1. Richard Feynman never failed to impress. The guy was brilliant.

    Hi, Joe from Livefyre here. I actually just came from another LF enabled blog (I’m doing the rounds, saying hello) with similar content and a fascinating TED talk by a guy named Sam Harris. Here is the link if you want to check it out: http://atheistslant.com/admin/2011/07/morality-without-god/

    I hope you’re enjoying our conversation platform. If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to email our team at support [at] livefyre [dot] com. Cheers!

  2. great write up.pondering the universe and knowing what you have grown up being told does not add up strengthens the mind and spirit for sure.

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