The First Principle

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool. 

Richard P. Feynman

I heard this when listening to “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character)” and it really resonated. It is from a commencement speech Richard Feynman gave at Caltech in 1974.

The entire speech is worth reading or listening to (link) but here is the context in which the speech begins:

During the Middle Ages there were all kinds of crazy ideas, such as that a piece 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 UFOS, 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.

Since I’ve heard this I’ve realized that this can apply to anything: from science experiments, to a fad new diet and hopefully this serves as a reminder to be honest with myself and ask: “am I fooling myself?”

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