A view of science worth reflecting upon

After watching the movie “The Challenger Disaster” on the Discovery channel tonight, I thought it would be good for WUWT readers to read Feynman’s famous address. At the end, there is a quote from Feynman, which appeared at the end of his Challenger appendix report. – Anthony

Cargo Cult Science


Richard Feynman

From a Caltech commencement address given in 1974. Also in Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!

During the Middle Ages there were all kinds of crazy ideas, such as that a piece of of rhinoceros horn would increase potency. Then a method was discovered for separating the ideas–which was to try one to see if it worked, and if it didn’t work, to eliminate it. This method became organized, of course, into science. And it developed very well, so that we are now in the scientific age. It is such a scientific age, in fact, that we have difficulty in understanding how witch doctors could ever have existed, when nothing that they proposed ever really worked–or very little of it did.

But even today I meet lots of people who sooner or later get me into a conversation about UFO’s, or astrology, or some form of mysticism, expanded consciousness, new types of awareness, ESP, and so forth. And I’ve concluded that it’s not a scientific world.

Most people believe so many wonderful things that I decided to investigate why they did. And what has been referred to as my curiosity for investigation has landed me in a difficulty where I found so much junk that I’m overwhelmed. First I started out by investigating various ideas of mysticism and mystic experiences. I went into isolation tanks and got many hours of hallucinations, so I know something about that. Then I went to Esalen, which is a hotbed of this kind of thought (it’s a wonderful place; you should go visit there). Then I became overwhelmed. I didn’t realize how MUCH there was.

At Esalen there are some large baths fed by hot springs situated on a ledge about thirty feet above the ocean. One of my most pleasurable experiences has been to sit in one of those baths and watch the waves crashing onto the rocky slope below, to gaze into the clear blue sky above, and to study a beautiful nude as she quietly appears and settles into the bath with me.

One time I sat down in a bath where there was a beatiful girl sitting with a guy who didn’t seem to know her. Right away I began thinking, “Gee! How am I gonna get started talking to this beautiful nude woman?”

I’m trying to figure out what to say, when the guy says to her, “I’m, uh, studying massage. Could I practice on you?” “Sure,” she says. They get out of the bath and she lies down on a massage table nearby. I think to myself, “What a nifty line! I can never think of anything like that!” He starts to rub her big toe. “I think I feel it,” he says. “I feel a kind of dent–is that the pituitary?” I blurt out, “You’re a helluva long way from the pituitary, man!” They looked at me, horrified–I had blown my cover–and said, “It’s reflexology!” I quickly closed my eyes and appeared to be meditating.

That’s just an example of the kind of things that overwhelm me. I also looked into extrasensory perception, and PSI phenomena, and the latest craze there was Uri Geller, a man who is supposed to be able to bend keys by rubbing them with his finger. So I went to his hotel room, on his invitation, to see a demonstration of both mindreading and bending keys. He didn’t do any mindreading that succeeded; nobody can read my mind, I guess. And my boy held a key and Geller rubbed it, and nothing happened. Then he told us it works better under water, and so you can picture all of us standing in the bathroom with the water turned on and the key under it, and him rubbing the key with his finger. Nothing happened. So I was unable to investigate that phenomenon.

But then I began to think, what else is there that we believe? (And I thought then about the witch doctors, and how easy it would have been to check on them by noticing that nothing really worked.) So I found things that even more people believe, such as that we have some knowledge of how to educate. There are big schools of reading methods and mathematics methods, and so forth, but if you notice, you’ll see the reading scores keep going down–or hardly going up–in spite of the fact that we continually use these same people to improve the methods. There’s a witch doctor remedy that doesn’t work. It ought to be looked into; how do they know that their method should work? Another example is how to treat criminals. We obviously have made no progress–lots of theory, but no progress–in decreasing the amount of crime by the method that we use to handle criminals.

Yet these things are said to be scientific. We study them. And I think ordinary people with commonsense ideas are intimidated by this pseudoscience. A teacher who has some good idea of how to teach her children to read is forced by the school system to do it some other way–or is even fooled by the school system into thinking that her method is not necessarily a good one. Or a parent of bad boys, after disciplining them in one way or another, feels guilty for the rest of her life because she didn’t do “the right thing,” according to the experts.

So we really ought to look into theories that don’t work, and science that isn’t science.

I think the educational and psychological studies I mentioned are examples of what I would like to call cargo cult science. In the South Seas there is a cargo cult of people. During the war they saw airplanes with lots of good materials, and they want the same thing to happen now. So they’ve arranged to make things like runways, to put fires along the sides of the runways, to make a wooden hut for a man to sit in, with two wooden pieces on his head to headphones and bars of bamboo sticking out like antennas–he’s the controller–and they wait for the airplanes to land. They’re doing everything right. The form is perfect. It looks exactly the way it looked before. But it doesn’t work. No airplanes land. So I call these things cargo cult science, because they follow all the apparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but they’re missing something essential, because the planes don’t land.

Now it behooves me, of course, to tell you what they’re missing. But it would be just about as difficult to explain to the South Sea islanders how they have to arrange things so that they get some wealth in their system. It is not something simple like telling them how to improve the shapes of the earphones. But there is one feature I notice that is generally missing in cargo cult science. That is the idea that we all hope you have learned in studying science in school–we never say explicitly what this is, but just hope that you catch on by all the examples of scientific investigation. It is interesting, therefore, to bring it out now and speak of it explicitly. It’s a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty–a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you’re doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid–not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you’ve eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked–to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.

Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can–if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong–to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it. There is also a more subtle problem. When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else come out right, in addition.

In summary, the idea is to give all of the information to help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgement in one particular direction or another.

The easiest way to explain this idea is to contrast it, for example, with advertising. Last night I heard that Wesson oil doesn’t soak through food. Well, that’s true. It’s not dishonest; but the thing I’m talking about is not just a matter of not being dishonest; it’s a matter of scientific integrity, which is another level. The fact that should be added to that advertising statement is that no oils soak through food, if operated at a certain temperature. If operated at another temperature, they all will–including Wesson oil. So it’s the implication which has been conveyed, not the fact, which is true, and the difference is what we have to deal with.

We’ve learned from experience that the truth will come out. Other experimenters will repeat your experiment and find out whether you were wrong or right. Nature’s phenomena will agree or they’ll disagree with your theory. And, although you may gain some temporary fame and excitement, you will not gain a good reputation as a scientist if you haven’t tried to be very careful in this kind of work. And it’s this type of integrity, this kind of care not to fool yourself, that is missing to a large extent in much of the research in cargo cult science.

A great deal of their difficulty is, of course, the difficulty of the subject and the inapplicability of the scientific method to the subject. Nevertheless, it should be remarked that this is not the only difficulty. That’s why the planes don’t land–but they don’t land.

We have learned a lot from experience about how to handle some of the ways we fool ourselves. One example: Millikan measured the charge on an electron by an experiment with falling oil drops, and got an answer which we now know not to be quite right. It’s a little bit off because he had the incorrect value for the viscosity of air. It’s interesting to look at the history of measurements of the charge of an electron, after Millikan. If you plot them as a function of time, you find that one is a little bit bigger than Millikan’s, and the next one’s a little bit bigger than that, and the next one’s a little bit bigger than that, until finally they settle down to a number which is higher.

Why didn’t they discover the new number was higher right away? It’s a thing that scientists are ashamed of–this history–because it’s apparent that people did things like this: When they got a number that was too high above Millikan’s, they thought something must be wrong–and they would look for and find a reason why something might be wrong. When they got a number close to Millikan’s value they didn’t look so hard. And so they eliminated the numbers that were too far off, and did other things like that. We’ve learned those tricks nowadays, and now we don’t have that kind of a disease.

But this long history of learning how to not fool ourselves–of having utter scientific integrity–is, I’m sorry to say, something that we haven’t specifically included in any particular course that I know of. We just hope you’ve caught on by osmosis

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself–and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that. After you’ve not fooled yourself, it’s easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that.

I would like to add something that’s not essential to the science, but something I kind of believe, which is that you should not fool the layman when you’re talking as a scientist. I am not trying to tell you what to do about cheating on your wife, or fooling your girlfriend, or something like that, when you’re not trying to be a scientist, but just trying to be an ordinary human being. We’ll leave those problems up to you and your rabbi. I’m talking about a specific, extra type of integrity that is not lying, but bending over backwards to show how you’re maybe wrong, that you ought to have when acting as a scientist. And this is our responsibility as scientists, certainly to other scientists, and I think to laymen.

For example, I was a little surprised when I was talking to a friend who was going to go on the radio. He does work on cosmology and astronomy, and he wondered how he would explain what the applications of his work were. “Well,” I said, “there aren’t any.” He said, “Yes, but then we won’t get support for more research of this kind.” I think that’s kind of dishonest. If you’re representing yourself as a scientist, then you should explain to the layman what you’re doing– and if they don’t support you under those circumstances, then that’s their decision.

One example of the principle is this: If you’ve made up your mind to test a theory, or you want to explain some idea, you should always decide to publish it whichever way it comes out. If we only publish results of a certain kind, we can make the argument look good. We must publish BOTH kinds of results.

I say that’s also important in giving certain types of government advice. Supposing a senator asked you for advice about whether drilling a hole should be done in his state; and you decide it would be better in some other state. If you don’t publish such a result, it seems to me you’re not giving scientific advice. You’re being used. If your answer happens to come out in the direction the government or the politicians like, they can use it as an argument in their favor; if it comes out the other way, they don’t publish at all. That’s not giving scientific advice.

Other kinds of errors are more characteristic of poor science. When I was at Cornell, I often talked to the people in the psychology department. One of the students told me she wanted to do an experiment that went something like this–it had been found by others that under certain circumstances, X, rats did something, A. She was curious as to whether, if she changed the circumstances to Y, they would still do A. So her proposal was to do the experiment under circumstances Y and see if they still did A.

I explained to her that it was necessary first to repeat in her laboratory the experiment of the other person–to do it under condition X to see if she could also get result A, and then change to Y and see if A changed. Then she would know the the real difference was the thing she thought she had under control.

She was very delighted with this new idea, and went to her professor. And his reply was, no, you cannot do that, because the experiment has already been done and you would be wasting time. This was in about 1947 or so, and it seems to have been the general policy then to not try to repeat psychological experiments, but only to change the conditions and see what happened.

Nowadays, there’s a certain danger of the same thing happening, even in the famous field of physics. I was shocked to hear of an experiment being done at the big accelerator at the National Accelerator Laboratory, where a person used deuterium. In order to compare his heavy hydrogen results to what might happen with light hydrogen, he had to use data from someone else’s experiment on light hydrogen, which was done on different apparatus. When asked why, he said it was because he couldn’t get time on the program (because there’s so little time and it’s such expensive apparatus) to do the experiment with light hydrogen on this apparatus because there wouldn’t be any new result. And so the men in charge of programs at NAL are so anxious for new results, in order to get more money to keep the thing going for public relations purposes, they are destroying–possibly–the value of the experiments themselves, which is the whole purpose of the thing. It is often hard for the experimenters there to complete their work as their scientific integrity demands.

All experiments in psychology are not of this type, however. For example, there have been many experiments running rats through all kinds of mazes, and so on–with little clear result. But in 1937 a man named Young did a very interesting one. He had a long corridor with doors all along one side where the rats came in, and doors along the other side where the food was. He wanted to see if he could train the rats to go in at the third door down from wherever he started them off. No. The rats went immediately to the door where the food had been the time before.

The question was, how did the rats know, because the corridor was so beautifully built and so uniform, that this was the same door as before? Obviously there was something about the door that was different from the other doors. So he painted the doors very carefully, arranging the textures on the faces of the doors exactly the same. Still the rats could tell. Then he thought maybe the rats were smelling the food, so he used chemicals to change the smell after each run. Still the rats could tell. Then he realized the rats might be able to tell by seeing the lights and the arrangement in the laboratory like any commonsense person. So he covered the corridor, and still the rats could tell.

He finally found that they could tell by the way the floor sounded when they ran over it. And he could only fix that by putting his corridor in sand. So he covered one after another of all possible clues and finally was able to fool the rats so that they had to learn to go in the third door. If he relaxed any of his conditions, the rats could tell.

Now, from a scientific standpoint, that is an A-number-one experiment. That is the experiment that makes rat-running experiments sensible, because it uncovers that clues that the rat is really using– not what you think it’s using. And that is the experiment that tells exactly what conditions you have to use in order to be careful and control everything in an experiment with rat-running.

I looked up the subsequent history of this research. The next experiment, and the one after that, never referred to Mr. Young. They never used any of his criteria of putting the corridor on sand, or being very careful. They just went right on running the rats in the same old way, and paid no attention to the great discoveries of Mr. Young, and his papers are not referred to, because he didn’t discover anything about the rats. In fact, he discovered all the things you have to do to discover something about rats. But not paying attention to experiments like that is a characteristic example of cargo cult science.

Another example is the ESP experiments of Mr. Rhine, and other people. As various people have made criticisms–and they themselves have made criticisms of their own experiements–they improve the techniques so that the effects are smaller, and smaller, and smaller until they gradually disappear. All the para-psychologists are looking for some experiment that can be repeated–that you can do again and get the same effect–statistically, even. They run a million rats–no, it’s people this time–they do a lot of things are get a certain statistical effect. Next time they try it they don’t get it any more. And now you find a man saying that is is an irrelevant demand to expect a repeatable experiment. This is science?

This man also speaks about a new institution, in a talk in which he was resigning as Director of the Institute of Parapsychology. And, in telling people what to do next, he says that one of things they have to do is be sure the 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.


For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.

– Feynmans closing words, Appendix F – Personal Observations on Reliability of Shuttle


I have to wonder, with what we observe today about how government funded science operates, what would Dr. Feynman say about it?


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Check these Calgary protesters against global warming… warmly lodged in the plus 15 while outside it was snowing and a windchill of -20C!!!!
The go solar woman alone was worthy of admission tickets… LOL

john robertson

Feynman would probably not get hired in todays academia, thanks for posting this.
Surely you’re Joking is one of the best reads out there.

Jeff L

Count the number of ways the CAGW crowd violates these principles.
I think the principles outlined by Feynman are like a “motto”, for lack of a better term, here at WUWT. Scientific thinkers trying to honestly examine a scientific issue.
On the other hand , the CAGW crowd are political thinkers dishonestly examining a scientific issue.
In the end, “nature cannot be fooled”


This should be blazoned on the walls at every place of education , and every politician should be forced to be able to quote it verbatim before they can hold any high office.

Janice Moore

utter honesty” — It’s that simple and that difficult.
Since the great Dr. Feynman was Jewish, and since today is the Sabbath, some relevant quotes from ancient Jewish writings are, I believe, apropos.

All a person’s ways seem innocent to him or her
but motives are weighed by the Lord.

Proverbs 16:2

The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?

Jeremiah 17:9
Take heart, O weary Science Giants of WUWT, the climastrologists had their day, but truth is rapidly passing them by…

Truthful lips endure forever,
but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.

Proverbs 12:19
Truth in science WILL win.
Remember, as the most famous Jew who ever lived said:
“… With people, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.'”
Matthew 19:26.
(See also Genesis 18:14a “‘Is anything too hard for the Lord?'”)
Shalom, dear WUWT friends,


Feynman was also not internally consistent with his own philosophy as he was with other people’s methods. He created a process called renormalization which is required to allow quantum mechanics to agree with experiment. However, he himself called it ‘hocus pocus’ or a ‘dippy process’ and admitted it was not mathematically valid. Renormalization basically allows you to take an infinite answer and trim it heuristically (this is called hand waving) into a finite answer that agrees with experiment. It is not a mathematically or scientifically valid process, but it allows the infinitely wrong answers of QM to agree with experiment. Feynman also was extremely fond of sleight of hand tricks and fooling and manipulating people whenever he could… which does not bode well for those who take him too literally. In his more lucid moments he did recognize fraudulent methodology (he didn’t think much of string theory since it didn’t actually predict anything) “I don’t like that they’re not calculating anything,” he said. “I don’t like that they don’t check their ideas. I don’t like that for anything that disagrees with an experiment, they cook up an explanation—a fix-up to say, ‘Well, it still might be true.'” …hmmm…. he was referring to String Theory in the quote, but it applies remarkably well to ‘Global Warming’ hysteria too.

Janice Moore

Honesty (by Billy Joel)

“…. what I need from you.”

This is the famous video of Feynman explaining what scientific method actually entails: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OL6-x0modwY .
The theory must agree with experimental data. If it disagree with it, it’s wrong.

I particularly liked his investigations into how to treat women. It has evolved today into what we call “game” or Pick Up Artists (PUA).


I feel moved to post this from a Daily Telegraph article by Sean Thomas….
Laugh?…..I nearly passed a brick…
“First, I asked Stephen Belcher, the head of the Met Office Hadley Centre, whether the recent extended winter was related to global warming. Shaking his famous “ghost stick”, and fingering his trademark necklace of sharks’ teeth and mammoth bones, the loin-clothed Belcher blew smoke into a conch, and replied, “Here come de heap big warmy. Bigtime warmy warmy. Is big big hot. Plenty big warm burny hot. Hot! Hot hot! But now not hot. Not hot now. De hot come go, come go. Now Is Coldy Coldy. Is ice. Hot den cold. Frreeeezy ice til hot again. Den de rain. It faaaalllll. Make pasty.” –Sean Thomas, The Daily Telegraph, 19 June 2013”

He discredits reflexology. But there is actually some truth there. See:


Also science education. Because the Establishment view on the causes of climate change is not scientific, there has been ideological pressure to deny good scientific education to children through experiment-based learning of the scientific method. If they learnt what good science was, they’d be able to identify bad science – like AGW.

And we do know how to teach reading:
Phonics. I was taught how to read at age 4 by my mother using that method. The trouble is that the method was not “trendy” so after at least several hundred years of use it fell out of favor. Evidently it is coming back.
It was funny. I was given a “Dick and Jane” reader on my first day of First Grade – with my mother watching. I finished the whole book (the First years work) in less than one hour (might have been 1/2 hour). I was excused from reading class.
This guy, John Taylor Gatto, helped bring back phonics.

Janice Moore

“(Senator Howard) Baker: ‘Did you ever have any qualms about what you were doing? … did you ever think of saying, “I do not thing this is quite right.” … Did you ever think of that?’
(Herbert L.) Porter: ‘Yes, I did.’
Baker: ‘What did you do about it?’
Porter: ‘I did not do anything.’
Baker: ‘Why didn’t you?’
Porter: ‘In all honesty, probably because of the fear of the group pressure that would ensue, of not being a team player.’
(c. 1973, from The Mind of Watergate by Leo Rangell, M. D., quoted in C. Swindoll’s The Finishing Touch, pp. 396, 97, (1994))
It takes a lot of courage and strength of character to stand alone.
God bless you, Murry Salby and Dr. Carter and Dr. Soon and many others, for standing up and saying, “Something is wrong, here.” You, and not “the team,” are the winners.

A description of the “You Just Ask Them” chapter of “Surely You Are Joking….”

And note: The PUA (Pick Up Artist) technique for treating women (in this case used to develop a long term relationship) was described (by the action in the play) by none other than William Shakespeare in “The Taming Of The Shrew”. There is so much we have forgotten and are just relearning.
You can watch the Burton/Taylor version of “Shrew” here – free.


Anthony have to disagree with you on one of your comments. You state “Another example is how to treat criminals. We obviously have made no progress–lots of theory, but no progress–in decreasing the amount of crime by the method that we use to handle criminals.” This statement is simply not true. In most cases crime is at its lowest point in decades.
Take the murder rate, it’s lower today than in 1964, almost 40 years ago (per capita basis). Violent crime today is lower than in 1971 (per capita basis). Property crime is lower today than in 1968, lowest point in over 40 years (per capita basis). Many think a crime like vehicle theft is out of control, yet according to the FBI it’s at its lowest point (per capita basis) since 1963. Burglary is at its lowest point (per capita basis) since 1965.
Of course with the 24/7 news cycle crime is always a lead news story, the news mantra is still true today, if it bleeds it leads. Perhaps this is why most people believe crime is at an all time high However the simple fact is according to the FBI, crime is at its lowest point in decades.
Source: FBI, Uniform Crime Report

I made no such statement, you are conflating it with Feynman’s comment – Anthony Watts


Well, I guess the test of astrology is to examine the lives of those of > 35 yrs old who have never been exposed to its contentions and see if a professional astrologer, who has never met the person nor read about their life or otherwise know anything about them, can use their time and date of birth (and place) to predict the outcome of their life.
I”ve studied what astrology is all about (which is a very different thing to believing in it) and, as an April Fool joke, did an astrological analysis of a UK Nobel Prize winner. Only they can say what truth is in it, but it wasn’t a ‘double blind’ as I knew quite a bit about the person in question, having worked in the organisation they headed up.
But I did suggest a very specific population-based scientific experiment in that skit to see if any specific astrological predictions might be true.
I have no idea whether anyone bothered to follow up on that, but I can assure you that it is possible to frame specific, testable scientific hypotheses based on the astrological creed and, if you have the time, money or inclination, you might be able to test them out.

As to ESP. It works. I used to be a Tarot Card reader (for amusement – no cash exchanged hands). What you do is go through the usual rigamarole (shuffling and laying out the cards) and then start talking about the cards (you should study the standard meanings so you have something to begin talking about). If you are paying attention to the non-verbal signals of the “mark” you can find out what is bothering them and give advice. More than once (frequently in fact) I was told how good I was by those I read for. And they all thought it was ESP. I only told a few people what I was doing. After a while the game bored me and I gave it up.


God bless Richard Feynman, my hero.

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Ulaanbaatar

@M Simon
It was funny. I was given a “Dick and Jane” reader on my first day of First Grade – with my mother watching. I finished the whole book (the First years work) in less than one hour (might have been 1/2 hour). I was excused from reading class.
My brother learned to ready using phonics at the age of 2 and was reading at a Gr5 level by the age of 5 when they decided he should go to school. They put him in Gr2 to start and he put his reading talent to work reading to the other students the explanatory and lesson notes for the teacher written in fine print at the bottom of each assignment page. This of course had the effect of letting the students know what the teacher was going to do and ask of them.
There is surely the practical equivalent of phonics for teaching science. In the same way that teaching someone to read does not teach them to think, teaching someone how to create experiments does not mean they know how to perform a rational analysis of the results.
Climate science, perhaps better called ‘climate studies’, is long on rationalization and short on rational analysis. It should not be necessary at all for us to repeat such basic lessons from Feynman as cautionary tales.


“…It’s a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty–a kind of leaning over backwards.”
Utter honesty. Which explains why so many liberal scientists espouse CAGW–they’re completely incapable of utter honesty. Liberal means free, and the first things they free themselves from are honesty, truth, scientific method, and logic.

George Hoggarth

We often forget that people use emotional cues as powerful evidence. irrational beliefs are often linked with ideas of people having hidden potential or powers and help our self esteem.We are also motivated to believe that our actions can influence things outside of our control which might threaten us. Religion has been defined as “mans attempt to communicate with the weather”. Likewise in rejecting evidence emotion plays its part, if the sources are perceived as dishonest, manipulative or behaving in a belittling way, the message is rejected. The behaviour of people involved in promoting belief in global warming has in fact been associated with eroding support from when initially it was very high.

If your internal noise is quieted (silenced) you can “feel” the places where the muscles are locked up and go right to them and work out the pain/locked energy. There are schools for this. I never went to one. I’m told (by the very few I practice on) that I’m very good at it. My Dad was also a “natch”. People still remember him for that (especially my Mother) and he has been dead for 12 years.
I had a masseuse once who could go right to those spots on me. And then she would move off them. Frustrating. But she needed the money so I paid her until she moved away.

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Ulaanbaatar says:
There is surely the practical equivalent of phonics for teaching science.
PSSC Physics. Now bypassed for “better” methods.


Luboš has a comment on this at

We were only shown 31 seconds but my preliminary feeling is that it might be enough to say a rather unexpected thing – that what this actor is missing to really resemble Richard Feynman is playfulness, some charisma (visually, in the behavior, gestures, as well as voice), and showmanship.

William Hurt? Really? Somebody cast a stiff stereotype scientist, not Feynman.
Stanley Tucci could have done it.

what would Dr. Feynman say about it?
Thank you for posing the question
… and NOT putting words in a person’s mouth
— who is no longer here to object. (I hate that!)


M Simon
I analysed the ‘astrological chart’ for NYC at various times in the morning of 9/11 (I did the analysis a few days after, lest you wonder!) and posted them on an astrological blog.
I was being referred to soon as a ‘professional astrologer’.
Nothing professional about me. But I did the analyses and it was possible to assign meanings which might be relevant to the situation at hand.
Once again I was analysing retrospectively, not making future predictions.
Just because you were ‘cheating’ doesn’t prove rightness or wrongness.
It just proves that you are cynical!!
Perhaps you might like to consider the foetal and early-life experiences of humans in places where either temperature, water access and/or food scarcity vary considerably during the annual calendar?? It’s the only practical and logical basis to consider that there might be something physiological to astrology. Beyond that, you’d have to be invoking gravitational forces affecting the development of the human brain.
It’s not impossible, just rather far-fetched for the current scientific mindset.

Note: I was taught PSSC Physics in high school in ’61 and ’62. I was good at it and so was “allowed” to take two years of Physics and 4 1/2 years of Math (including Calculus and Solid Geometry in the same semester – two semesters were in a year.
I went to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omaha_Central_High_School
My Physics Teacher was Roy Bush – he taught PSSC Physics and Physics to Pilots in WW2. And My Math teacher (Calculus and Solid Geometry) was Virginia “something”. She won awards I learned later.
I knew http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saul_A._Kripke
My Junior Year I took Chemistry with Gayle Sayers’ brother Roger. He sat next to me in Chemistry Class. Football that year was a LOT of fun to watch. The football coach was also my English teacher.

rtj1211 says:
Perhaps you might like to consider the foetal and early-life experiences of humans
Interesting you should mention that. I remember (did I?) being in my mothers womb and thinking “What a comfortable place but I have to get out. I have things to do”. I was born about 6 weeks premature. About the limit of what the technology of the time (October 1944) could handle. I can still remember the felling and that thought. Who knows if there is any validity there. Still. It is a good story. Oh. Yeah. I grew up to be 186.69 cm tall (yeah I’m into numerology some. It amuses me.)
BTW I don’t think my methods of Tarot and Astrology were “cheating” I think that is how it is done by all good practitioners. But that method is why “scientific” analysis of Tarot and Astrology comes up a cropper. They aren’t measuring what is actually done.

BTW I may have dates/events from that time a little crossed up. It has been a long time (over 50 years) and the time line gets hazy. The memories I have recounted are solid( as they can be given the passage of years).


M Simon
Your immaturity is really sad. No-one is suggesting that individuals are personally aware, the suggestion is that external effects could affect subsequent attitudes/behavioural responses. If you knew about science, you would realise that. No-one is saying that it is true, one is saying that it is a significant possible raison d’etre why such beliefs might have come into existence.
The whole point of this article is that sneering, deriding and otherwise being a bully doesn’t affect scientific truth or not. You can sneer and deride all you will, but it does not answer the questions.
Now grow up.

I found my Math teacher’s name: Virginia Lee Pratt

rtj1211 says:
November 17, 2013 at 1:00 am
All I can do is recount my experiences and what I think about them. Make of them what you will.
As to “sneering” you should look in a mirror my friend.

rtj1211 says:
November 17, 2013 at 1:00 am
As to the Occult “Sciences” – I was once a member of this organization: http://occultchicago.blogspot.com/2012/05/sabaean-religious-order.html and well respected by Ordun.
It was located here: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-jpMwicAieMo/T8gFOZeGABI/AAAAAAAAAzw/iWDLDxgxEhc/s320/IMG_3222.jpg
I was no dabbler. I have also been deep into Aleister Crowley. In my other life I’m an Aerospace Engineer. I bring a rather odd perspective to everything I do. Glad you like it. I do have that effect on people. Some love. Some hate. No one ever forgets.

rtj1211 says:
November 17, 2013 at 1:00 am
Some time I will have to tell you of my time with a motorcycle gang. Also known as the Diggers. Willis E. knew those people from his contact with their ranch which we referred to as Olema. He did a post about that here. You can look it up. I knew the Actor Peter Coyote quite well. He was a Digger at the time and also into motorcycles. A rough crowd back then. And seriously into leftist enviornmentalism. They were pioneers into regionalism.
I dropped all that leftist crap a long time ago. But I do get the mind set.

Here is the Willis article about Olema:


I am a retired scientist. Most of my family are sales people. They usually line up all the arguments in favor of what they want to do. I often say, “but what are the counter arguments.” They look at me with a little pitying smile (after all, the guy is getting old you know) and go on piling up arguments in favor of their plans.
I conclude from this totally nonscientific experiment that there are people born to be scientists and others born to be in sales. God love them all. But can we please get the sales people the heck out of science?

Don K

An excellent article Anthony. As for what Richard Feynman might have said about Climate Science. There’s no way to tell of course, but we do know what he thought of “Nuclear Winter” theology as it stood in the 1980s — a subject that IMO somewhat resembles modern climate science. Feynman’s take “I don’t think these people know what they are talking about.”
In fairness to modern nuclear Winter theorists, I expect they have learned a great deal about the behavior of particulates from their confident, but incorrect, predictions of the results of the 1991 Kuwaiti oil well fires in 1991 and the observed results of the Mt Pinatubo eruption in the same year. Their theories today may well be better found. Hard to tell what Feynman would think today. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_winter

Kelvin Vaughan

The sad thing is that we work on a system of you must not question what you are told. Anyone who questions anything the majority have accepted with blind faith are labelled STUPID.
I have always been given the stupid label by teachers except one who told me I was either stupid or a genius. He didn’t tell me which one he thought I was though.


Jones quoting Sean Thomas at 10 40 pm.
You are right, it is one of the funniest pieces I’ve read on global warming / climate change. Always worth reiterating.

Ed Zuiderwijk

Where did he say that jacuzi was?

In 2003 I read an JPL-NASA press release in which Feynman’s sister Dr. Joan Feynman ( well known astrophysics scientist in her own right) spoke of the solar magnetic ‘memory’. At the time, I had just formulated something that looked like a mathematical approximation of the sunspot cycle. I found enough courage and emailed my results.
She was very helpful, first she spoke of the importance of physical mechanism but not having one worked out it shouldn’t be a barrier to any further work, advised to refine details and get it published, and finally advised that the future progression (starting with the next sunspot cycle) should be a decisive element. The mechanism is still an unknown, the rest has been successively accomplished.
Alas, if she was more critical in a negative, rather than the positive sense, it is very likely that the wuwt’s readers may have not suffered at all from my frequent intrusions.

Tony Mach

“I have to wonder, with what we observe today about how government funded science operates, what would Dr. Feynman say about it?”
You quote Feynman at length, and then put such a turd on it? Do you want to say that people do not do “stupid” things, as long as the source of funding is “private”? Is your working hypothesis that government funding is the main problem in (climate) science today? Is that what you take away from that text by Feynman? Have you tried to understand it? Have you even read it? Sorry for blurting out, but you’re a helluva long way from understanding the problems in (climate) science, man!
I do not have a overarching theory of everything wrong in climate science (and I agree that the government does play some role in the mess we see), but personally, I think “alarmism” combined with a few “science divas” does a way better job of explaining the mess we are in than “its the evil government”. If you still think that getting rid of public funding is the solution, then I have some really cool investment for you – just send me money, and tell me if you want tulips, sub-prime housing credits, cars that run on water or cold fusion reactors.


I have a great admiration for Feynman but must point out it was easy for him to be 100% honest and display something close to 100% integrity:
1. He worked in physics, a “firm” subject if ever there was one, “fuzzy” only on the border of the unknown.
2. He was a very clever (both as researcher and lecturer) professor at prestigeus university and could allow himself to be 100% honest with no fear of consequences for job or prestige.
Compare that to someone working in pedagogy: Very strong and highly political waves of fashion at different phase at different institutions, a very “fussy” field on many borders and with many interactions. You must interact with politicians for your funding, with the eductation system for implementation and with collegues for your research, teaching and publication. If by the design of your experiments or by the reported results or by your discussions you challenge the ortodoxy you are “out”: You will not get published (bad research, wrong), no tenure (quarrelsome, bad student feedback), no funding (subject already fully investigated). Unless you are lucky enough to find institutions that agree with you are out. Yet a generation later all in the field scratch their hair and wonder how their predesessors could be so wrong all the while they repeat the folly.
I work in physics and technology and must admit I have failed Feynmans tests myself to pass project gatways or get next project. If you are in Pedagogy or another highly politicised field like say Climate Science not only are you expected to come up with good results but the recruitment and career processes also produce a strong confirmation bias to the ever prevailing “truth”.
It’s not easy to remember Feynman then, not to say abide by him.


There are more people alive today who believe that rhino horn increases potency than there were in the Middle Ages.

Tony Mach

While we are at it: The tendency of people believing in BS, and of people trading in BS, buying and selling BS, does a helluva better job than “it’s the evil government”.
And BTW, here is the deal with believing in BS, that many people don’t appreciate: The bullshitter does not know that he is a bullshitter. (cf. Harry G. Frankfurt “On Bullshit). The bullshitter is not consciously lying – after all, he believes it. That is the problem with people like Mann and Jones and Lewandowsky and all the other activists. They don’t lie, they simply believe in BS, and they are good at selling BS.
(On a related note: I would go so far that “it’s the evil government, that is the root of all our problems” is a prime example for the BS being believed by people – YMMV.)