leaning over backwards


Senior Member
In a section called "Cargo Cult Science" Feynman, in his book "Surely, you're joking, Mr. Feynman" says that "But there is one feature I notice that is generally missing in cargo cult science and that is the idea that we all hope you have learned in studying science in school-we never explicitly say what that 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 is a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty-a kind of leaning over backwards.

Now what he means by saying "a kind of leaning over backwards." Thank you.
  • "to lean over backwards" is an idiom. Normally it is used as part of a longer phrase, e.g.

    Tom was really kind. He leaned over backwards to get his parents a ticket for the front stalls. (He expended a lot of effort. He went to great trouble.)

    If someone leans over backwards it means they are assiduous in whatever they are doing.
    In this case I take it to mean that scientists with integrity lean over backwards (go to great lengths) to be unbiased. Part of the scientific method is to try to disprove one's own hypotheses. This provides a rigour that is not present in cargo-cult science.