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Intellectual honesty and Britain (and the west in general, from the USA to Eastern Europe).

British people love to see themselves as 'scientific' and assorted others (eg muslims) as 'irrational'. To begin with a glance at the wrongness of the British public will give you a sense of the degree to which British people are actual bona fide cretins - characters from "Little Britain".

And later click here to dig into some of the more head-knackering material from Noam Chomsky on the issue of thought and language which will give you a sense of how dramatic the gap is between Britain's dogmas and actual scientific truth insofar as it has been discerned by the "best scientists" (to use the prevailing and quaint sales-ape vernacular) in our societies worldwide.

But before that, Feynie. A Briton/American most Americans and Britons would twist truth if they had to to make his words mean something different rather than ever admit that at least according to their own beliefs Feynie 'was wrong' - eg about the morality of dropping the bomb on Hiroshima - eg about the fact that NASA, and by implication other western 'scientific agencies' are a joke, more like the Wizard of Oz than any serious and credible scientific body - eg Feynman on the state of geopolitics. And even, in the end, what Feynman and his ilk established about physical law - even that the majority of our society dogmatically contradicts. It's quite a lot to explain, so if you wish to make a judgment about it, do feel free to sit through all the evidence.

 

It is useful to pay attention to Mr Feynman's words in a television interview when summing up the problems at NASA which caused the Challenger disaster, in his opinion.

The interviewer asks 'was this an accident that did not have to happen?'

Feynman says 'Yes it was. It was an accident that we had many many warnings that there was something wrong and that it might sooner or later go off. The warnings were disregarded'.

Interviewer: 'Disregarded out of incompetence, out of a faulty system, out of bad judgment, out of - for what reason?'

Feynman: 'I had some difficulty with that. I kind of imagine that something like a child that runs in the road and the parent is very upset and says it's very dangerous and the child comes back and says but nothing happened, and he runs out in the road again, several times, and the parent keeps saying it's dangerous and nothing happens. If the child's view that nothing happens is a clue that there was nothing going to happen, that's going to be an accident.'

Feynman says that NASA's management were like the child and the engineers were like the parent.

The interviewer asks who should be blamed and Feynman explains that blame may not really be a productive road and that the key question to answer is 'how do you educate the child?'

 

Experiment is the sole judge of scientific 'truth.' (Feynman)

Richard Feynman lectured that 'The principle of science, the definition, almost, is the following: The test of all knowledge is experiment. Experiment is the sole judge of scientific 'truth.' But what is the source of knowledge? Where do the laws that are to be tested come from? Experiment, itself, helps to produce these laws, in the sense that it gives us hints. But also needed is imagination to create from these hints the great generalizations - to guess at the wonderful, simple, but very strange patterns beneath them all, and then to experiment to check again whether we have made the right guess. This imagining process is so difficult that there is a division of labor in physics: there are theoretical physicists who imagine, deduce, and guess at new laws, but do not experiment; and then there are experimental physicists who experiment, imagine, deduce, and guess.'

Feynman points out 'Now, how can an experiment be 'wrong'? First, in a trivial way: if something is wrong with the apparatus that you did not notice. But these things are easily fixed, and checked back and forth. So without snatching at such minor things, how can the results of an experiment be wrong? Only by being inaccurate.'

 

So, let's focus next on "Feynman, NASA, nukes, CBRN, GMOs, etc etc, exit pursued by climate change."

Feynman's assertion about NASA was that the management was like a stubborn ignorant child and the scientists had failed to assert themselves the way a parent could over a child. "How do we educate the child?" Feynman wondered, looking for a road to solving the puzzle. Musing, at any rate.

Feynman's assertion about atom bombs and nuclear weapons was that (a) he had been immoral and wrong to continue working on the bomb when Germany had surrendered and the threat of Hitler's using atom bombs was gone. It was not built to combat kamikaze pilots, in the view of its scientists. (b) Feynman felt that after the war he noticed that 'nothing had changed' and people were behaving 'just as they always did' and he felt that the existence of nukes/atom-bombs in a world where people were still prone to the stupid and ignorant mistakes etc that they always had been was one with a very short future - soon we would all suffer the consequences of nuclear war, he felt.

In the hands of such incompetents, incidents such as Fukushima or the widespread ignorance of science's actual position, collectively, insofar as one can be said to exist at all, on 'GMOs', would also, it is my theory, worry Feynman significantly. People to question (by reading what they have said about such matters) about this stuff could include Chomsky.

Feynman spoke of being remorseful - by continuing to work on the bomb, which per se he hadn't really wanted to have anything to do with but shown that nazis could use such a bomb against them he understood that he had to protect society - but when Germany was defeated he should have stopped and he regretted not realising it at the time.

So returning to what Feynman would make of all the stupidness corporations are up to at the moment, along with militarised governments, the world over, I think it makes sense to refer to his criticism of NASA and his criticism of the existence of 'atom bombs' after the war was over. I think we should consider what he'd say about Fukushima and nuclear power in general, as well as his views on solar and genuinely 'clean' energy, with safety as the absolute priority always. Would he think we should restrict nuclear physics to established research facilities and find ways to keep corporate power away from decisions relating to such an important field of human knowledge?

The issue widens to so many others but above all climate change. What would Feynman's view be of the treatment of evidence by the world's corporations and thus by being in cahoots with them, the so-called 'liberal' media eg the Guardian or BBC or other broad sheets, generally speaking?

Feynman's views on titles and 'lapels' (military insignia) are an important thing to note also when deciding what the often-correct scientist would say about the way things are today. It doesn't matter who you are, what your name is, how clever you are, or anything else, when you make an assertion, what matters is whether or not it agrees with experiment/experience. Nothing else. That, in a nutshell, Feynman explains across the internet from beyond the grave to some 'small' but not insignificant audience, is the key to 'science'.

And remember also, reader, that snarks can be boojums. As Feynman points out, some imagine that << the same conditions always produce the same results >> when in reality we find that much of what we thought was 'determined' is produced by 'probability' and not by any known cause and effect situation.

For example you know that a fixed percentage of the photons will reflect, you don't know which ones, you cannot in any instance at all predict whether it will be one of the photons to reflect or one which carries on through the glass or other reflective surface.

This means, Feynman explains, that "all" (in reality many, but he does say all, for he is often a tad glib or imprecise, in his non-mathematical remarks, is old Feynie) our notions about science (many dogmas YOU are groomed to treat as gospel truth, O reader) are thrown out - the universe, he is at pains to tell us, is 'nutty'. "I don't understand it either", he says, the audience laughs, but only partly aware that they are laughing at science itself, with him. And that audience was far far more intelligent than today's audiences, and Feynman didn't even think much (intellectually) of THAT one, let alone the hyperconsumer masses of today. Corbyn protects 'the many' and Johnson and Starmer protect 'the few' - but nobody tries to make ANY of them, many or few, one iota less stupid, or shall we be euphemistic and say 'more intelligent'?

 

So, let's look really closely now at where Feynman sees the real problem with scientific advancement in our western society and others like it - it lies in where administrators, politicians and capitalists call the shots and scientists, engineers, the people with the evidence and the details, are treated as 'grunts'. Have a wee look:

Extracts transcribed by me from a CNN interview of Feynman: << PRESENTER: Was this an accident that did not have to happen?

FEYNMAN: Yes it was. It was an accident where we had many many warnings that there was something wrong and that it might sooner or later go off and the warnings were disregarded.

PRESENTER: [..] disregarded for what reason?

FEYNMAN: I had some difficulty with that. I kind of imagined something like a child that runs in the road and the parent is very upset and says it's very dangerous and the child comes back and says 'but nothing happened' and he runs out in the road again, several times, and the parent keeps saying it's dangerous and nothing happens. If the child's view that nothing happened was a "clue" that there was nothing going to happen then that's going to be an accident. You could hear brakes squealing a couple of times: that's leakage and the gases going through the rings and so forth but again and again I saw in looking through this statements "this new flight is within our database" which just means "nothing happened before, it's about the same as we did before so it can't be unsafe because it was okay last time". And that is the kind of childish attitude - the mother corresponding to the engineers, the management corresponding to the children. That's the way I look at it and I don't know what you would say. Sooner or later the child gets run over, is it an accident? No, it's not an accident.

PRESENTER: [..] why is somebody not blamed?

FEYNMAN: I don't know how to assign blame and whether it does any good. The question is how do we educate the child? The question is you blame the child for being a little foolish, but it's very difficult - I tried to figure out why they had this attitude and why they weren't paying attention. I've tried various theories and I really don't know the ultimate cause.

PRESENTER What's your theory?

FEYNMAN: Well one of the - there's two theories - a lot of people say to me that there's some kind of an idea in management that the incompetence reaches its level or whatever, but I had another idea, but I don't know whether it's right. And that is that in the beginning, all kinds of exaggerations were made about what this thing can do, "it can fly 60 flights, it would only cost so much, it'll be recoverable, there'll be no real problems -" the engineers at the bottom are probably (this is my imagination) they're screaming up "no no, it can't be this way. It can't be this way - we can only go ten flights, we haven't got enough equipment to train that many crews a year" and so forth and so on - and the people at the top who were talking to congress don't want to hear this, so they discouraged information from moving up.

You see it was just after they were so successful with Apollo - and in that case they were doing a project which was just a little bit harder than they could do, just a little bit harder - so they could do it. (I'm imagining - ) somebody would say "how are we going to make a space suit?", finally they've got a solution to that, they get excited and tell the others, a fella who's working on some other problem gets a solution to his problem, and there's a lot of intercommunication because there's excitement and motivation -

PRESENTER: Which is not always necessarily a bad thing, right?

FEYNMAN: No, not at all, it's what makes it go, and that's why it worked okay with the Apollo, but then when they had this other project which is so to speak impossible from an engineering point of view, it's unrealistic - they don't want to hear what happens, it just goes up and each level in a bureaucracy kind of understands what it's supposed to do - keep it from the other guys, they don't have to hear it, they don't want to hear it, they don't want to hear it because it would be uncomfortable to be going and saying we're going to do 60 flights a year when just that morning they were told that it's impossible. That's the theory, now I as you know am a professor of physics and not of management and human relations so it's very likely not right, but you asked me for my theory.

PRESENTER: [..]

FEYNMAN: [..]

PRESENTER: How do you feel about the job your commission did, generally?

FEYNMAN: I think we did a pretty good job, it turned out to be easier in some respects than we could have imagined. It was easy to find out what happened.

PRESENTER: I was curious, why did Chairman Rogers say at the White House today that it turned out to be more difficult than he thought it was going to be? What was he talking about?

FEYNMAN: Well maybe we had different expectations. It's strange because at the very beginning of this commission's meetings I remember Mr Rogers saying "well of course we may never find out what made the accident occur" - that's what I meant was easy.

PRESENTER: I see, you know what happened.

FEYNMAN: We know what happened. Now what was difficult - and I think maybe he's referring to this - was the discovery of these weaknesses inside of NASA and their attitudes, this kind of illogic about safety and so forth which was so extensive from an organisation which had such a reputation in the country that it was hard for us to find it out, in a sort of emotional way, as to have to come around to say that the wizard of oz which everyone respects has nothing behind it. Or almost nothing. >>