Monday, August 17, 2009

Of Decision Making and Scientific Integrity

Taken from the book "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!", and mainly for my own future reference.

...That was tremendously exciting and very important – that was a fundamental discovery. And I realized, as I finally got to my office, that this is where I’ve got to be. Where people from all fields of science would tell me stuff, and it was all exciting. It was exactly what I wanted, really.

So when Cornell called me a little later, and said they were setting everything up, and it was nearly ready, I said, “I’m sorry, I’ve changed my mind again.” But I decided then never to decide again. Nothing – absolutely nothing – would ever change my mind again.

When you’re young, you have all these things to worry about – should you go there, what about your mother. And you worry, and try to decide, but then something else comes up. It’s much easier to just plain decide. Nevermind – nothing is going to change your mind. I did that once when I was a student at MIT. I got sick and tired of having to decide what kind of dessert I was going to have at the restaurant, so I decided it would always be chocolate ice cream, and never worried about it again – I had the solution to that problem. Anyway, I decided it would always be Caltech.
- pp 235.


(An outgoing Director of the Institute of Parapsychology) in telling (instructors) what to do next, he says that one of the things they have to do is to be sure they only train students who have shown their ability to get PSI results to an acceptable extent – not to waste their time on those ambitious and interested students who get only chance results. It is very dangerous to have such a policy in teaching – to teach students only how to get certain results, rather than how to do an experiment with scientific integrity.

So I have just one wish for you – the good luck to be somewhere where you are free to maintain the kind of integrity I have described, and where you do not feel forced by a need to maintain your position in the organization, or financial support, or so on, to lose your integrity. May you have that freedom.
- pp 346.

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