As we humans evolved under relatively straightforward conditions, our minds are adapted for simplicity. Complexity, as Feynman himself understood only too well, usually eludes us. The vast majority of people therefore are capable of only limited cognition, and tend to hold on to one or two simplistic ideas by means of which they view everything they encounter. Thus for more ardent proponents of #metoo, Feynman’s contributions are not only incomprehensible but irrelevant, just as the Mona Lisa would be incomprehensible and its significance as art irrelevant to someone with diarrhea whose only thought is to find something with which to wipe their posterior.

Confusing two very different things (Feynman’s behavior as a person, and his contribution to physics) leads to silly and rather trite mistakes not only of reason but of utility. Funnily enough, it is precisely the same mistake we saw other ardent proponents of orthodoxy make back in the 1930s, when Nazi Germany expelled its greatest minds because they were Jewish. It’s interesting how the same kinds of simple-minded approach to complexity often result in the same kinds of folly.

Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.

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