Internetrules Reading and Commenting on Feynman Cargo Cult Lecture

Topic Summary: Me reading and posting comments about Feynman’s Cargo Cult lecture

Goal: Post comments about the Feynman lecture. I will start a 30 minute timer when I create this topic and I want to write 5 messages before the timer ends.

CF Relevance: I don’t know. It seems like me trying to write comments about Feynman’s lecture would have some sort of CF relevance but I don’t know what the relevance is, or if it actually does have relevance.

This is the link I will be reading from: Cargo Cult Science . I think it’s a lecture by Feynman about Cargo Cult science. I read most of it about a month ago but I didn’t write any comments at the time.

Some remarks on science, pseudoscience, and learning how to not fool yourself. Caltech’s 1974 commencement address.

Ok so it’s going to talk about generally science related stuff.

During the Middle Ages there were all kinds of crazy ideas, such as that a piece of rhinoceros horn would increase potency. (Another crazy idea of the Middle Ages is these hats we have on today—which is too loose in my case.)

I think the parenthetical comment is mostly a joke, but why is he wearing a hat if he doesn’t like it? I can’t see the hat cuz it’s text. Maybe it’s a fancy university hat that he has to wear.

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 sounds a lot like Yes/No philosophy. this “method” for testing ideas only has 2 outcomes, it works, or it doesn’t work. Presumably there is going to be a goal which it would either work or not work at.


You’ll learn how to judge ideas as yes (non-refuted) or no (refuted), and to make decisions accordingly.

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.

I feel like he might be exaggerating how much of a scientific age it is. IDK if that’s why people think witch doctors were a dumb thing. He does downplay this sentence on the next paragraph tho.

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 to talk about that I can’t do it in this talk. I’m overwhelmed.

huh so he found so many like superstitious or like non science based stuff to talk about, that it would be hard to talk about each of them individually. Elliot has an article in Yes/No philosophy which I havn’t read before but it seemed relevant called: Libraries of Criticism

In this article he wrote (NOTE: I had trouble copy and pasting from the PDF so there might be typos or formatting errors due to that. Also I inserted ellipsis in square brackets at the end of the sentence to show there are more sentences in the same paragraph that were not includded. I think that is fine):

Some criticisms are worth remembering and using again in the future. They apply to multiple issues. […]

Next paragraph:

Over time, you can build up useful criticisms that you remember (and write down or bookmark). Then you’ll be better at criticizing. Instead of trying to invent new criticism each time you hear an idea, you can use existing concepts you already know. This makes criticism faster and more effective.

So when you have a bunch of pseudoscience stuff you can have a single idea which could criticize most of them at once. I might be able to write more on this but I need to finish writing this message and right 2 more in 5 minutes for my goal.

I was sitting, for example, in a hot bath and there’s another guy and a girl in the bath. He says to the girl, “I’m learning massage and I wonder if I could practice on you?” She says OK, so she gets up on a table and he starts off on her foot—working on her big toe and pushing it around. Then he turns to what is apparently his instructor, and says, “I feel a kind of dent. Is that the pituitary?” And she says, “No, that’s not the way it feels.” I say, “You’re a hell of a long way from the pituitary, man.” And they both looked at me—I had blown my cover, you see—and she said, “It’s reflexology.” So I closed my eyes and appeared to be meditating.

I looked up what pituitary was (its something in the brain)) and I thought this paragraph was pretty funny. It seems bad that his instructor didn’t correct him that it was something in the brain, and if they didn’t know what the pituitary was they should have said so.

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 mind reading and bending keys. He didn’t do any mind reading 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.

So he was unable to investigate the phenomenon because Uri Gellar failed to do what he claimed he could. i have watched The Amazing Randii debunking stuff like Uri Gellar, and it seems like, magically, when ever there are proper controls put in place to investgate these ESP phenomen, the people who claim to have the powers can not do what they claim.

I finished writing my last message with 15 seconds left on my 30 minute timer.

The fact that it is reflexology is the relevant part about why the instructor didn’t “correct” the student.

Ok I looked up pictures of reflexology on google and I see diagrams showing the foot with different body parts on different parts of the foot. So it shows the big toe being the head/brain, and the middle of the big toe being the pituitary.

So in the field of reflexology the pituitary is somewhere on the foot, so that was not wrong of the instructor given they were working in the field of reflexology.

Feynman’s lecture has relevant philosophical ideas in it related to topics like rationality. I’ve written about some of it before.

Also you’re trying to work on CF-related skills like writing posts and reading articles.

Yeah, for example, tons of people today (including in countries like the U.S.) believe in horoscopes or star signs. And it’s not something that is heavily skewed to older people, like certain forms of racism or homophobia. Those might kinda die out in another 50 years (which, for many other ideas, would be viewed as practically cultural genocide, but in this case most young people want to eradicate it). But lots of young people care about star signs. Similarly, some asian cultures care a lot about blood type.

But, as you quote, Feynman knows that or similar.

Right. I think Feynman’s point was that there is something wrong with reflexology itself though.