Scientism and the Artistic Side of Knowledge (by Benjamin Cain)

by rsbakker

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How should someone who accepts the scientific picture think of the relation between the arts and the sciences? By “scientific picture” I mean the content of scientific theories, of course, but also the scientific methods of explanation and the questions that can be answered by those methods. One option, which I’ll call “scientism,” is to say that scientific explanations are the only stories worth telling, that if a statement can’t be tested or translated into precise, mathematical language, the statement should have no part in our view of what’s real. I’ll call a defender of scientism a scientific absolutist, since this defender says the scientific picture of reality is complete in that it exhausts everything we should say about the world; plus, “scientific imperialist,” which is sometimes used here, is pejorative and “scientist” is taken. Scientism is opposed to what I’ll call “pluralism,” to the view that scientific methods aren’t the only worthwhile ways of talking about the real world.

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Is Scientism Coherent?

There’s some reason to think that scientism isn’t a stable option, after all. The question is how exactly the scientistic thesis should be formulated. Let’s assume, for example, that the scientific picture includes Scott Bakker’s Blind Brain Theory or at least some theory in cognitive science that fulfills our worst fear about the conflict between what scientists say we are and what we intuitively, traditionally assume we are. In particular, let’s assume that the folk ideas of meaning and values are incompatible with science. That is to say, symbols don’t relate to the world in the way we naively think they do and nothing is really good or bad. On the contrary, let’s assume that cognitive scientists will soon be able to explain precisely how these folk illusions arise, in terms of biochemical processes. And we can even assume, then, that that knowledge will be disseminated in the business community, enabling the elites to exploit those processes as far as the law will allow. Just as scientists have no need of the God hypothesis, there will be no scientific reason to speak of the meaning of symbols, the truth of statements, or the value of anything. These folk ways of speaking will be deflated. To be sure, they might persist, just as there are still theists long after the dawn of the Age of Reason, but the folk concepts won’t add to the scientific picture of reality, they’ll make no sense within that picture, and they’ll be undercut by the scientific explanation of their appearance.

Notice that were the scientific way of speaking of the folk concepts to presuppose those concepts, scientism would undercut itself more than anything else. By “presuppose” here I mean to assume as part of scientism’s story of what’s going on. A scientific absolutist can grant that so-called meanings and values exist (as well as consciousness, freewill, and the other elements of the folk view of us), but the absolutist can’t endorse the folk way of speaking of these things. (In philosophy of language jargon, the absolutist can grant the extension but not the intension of “meaning,” “value,” and so on, which is to say that she can grant that those words apply to something, without subscribing to the way those words picture that thing.) So instead of saying that a symbol’s meaning is its representational relationship to what the symbol’s about, the absolutist might say that that relationship is an illusion caused by the brain’s ability only to caricature its real, neurological processes when the brain resorts to intuition or to any discourse that posits something other than a field of causally interacting material bodies.

But I think it’s difficult to sustain a counterintuitive way of speaking of folk concepts. For example, how would the absolutist define “illusion”? The intuitive, folk way would be to say that an illusion is a part of reality that a creature’s naturally led to misunderstand. Thus, when a stick in water appears bent, the appearance is an illusion because the stick is really straight and so there’s a mismatch between the perception and the reality. Now it’s just that sort of alleged mismatch which the absolutist is trying to call an illusion, which is to say that the absolutist needs a causal, counterintuitive idea of illusion to explain away the representational and normative folk understanding of the difference between reality and illusory (erroneous, misleading) appearance. So while the folk psychologist has the (seemingly unscientific) concepts of meaning, truth, and value at her disposal, the absolutist dispenses with those concepts, perhaps by redefining the relation between reality and illusion. So what would that redefinition entail?

Presumably, the absolutist would be able to explain how an illusion arises in causal terms. But even if we know exactly how the appearance of the bent stick in water is caused, in terms of how the brain processes the light that refracts as it passes through the water, do we thereby know everything there is to know about the effect of that process, that is, the appearance of that stick? Suppose our scientific knowledge of that process enabled us to predict how that appearance in turn would affect the creature that labours under it. Would this complete account of where an illusion lies in the causal nexus tell us what an illusion is? Whether that causal account would satisfy our curiosity or exhaust everything there is to say about the reality of illusions is a separate issue, to which I’ll soon turn. My worry at present is just about whether the scientific absolutist needs more than a causal understanding of illusions to formulate scientism as the thesis that the scientific picture of reality is the complete picture. In particular, if all we’re entitled to say about illusions is that they’re caused in a certain way and that they have certain effects, we certainly can’t infer that illusions are bad or therefore that a story which speaks favourably of illusions is necessarily worse than any other story.

Of course, as defined, the scientific theory of us would have no business speaking of the difference between “better or worse” or indeed of the act of “speaking of something” in the first place–at least, not if the theory were to employ those notions as they’re intuitively understood. The scientific picture would either eliminate those normative and semantic concepts or replace them with radically different ones. But can the scientific absolutist afford to be so radical? How can we formulate the exclusiveness of the scientific picture–indeed its completeness or its superiority to the intuitive one–without falling back on the normative and semantic notions? From the scientific viewpoint which presents only impersonal causes and effects, nothing would be superior to anything else nor would anything be complete in the sense of being an adequate representation. So is scientism itself a necessarily intuitive idea? How can we speak of the threat that science poses to the commonsense view of ourselves, once we accept the scientific picture which dispenses with the very notions that seem instrumental in making the relevant distinctions?

Well, we can start by looking at history and appreciating that there’s certainly been some conflict between our naive worldview and the one that scientists have developed. We can then induce that because scientific progress has left behind plenty of wreckage in the form of abandoned intuitions about how the world works, eventually no such intuitions will be left standing; that is, there will be nothing left merely for us to intuit, because the complete scientific story of what causes what will be at our fingertips–assuming our species survives long enough to complete the scientific picture, of course. In that case, the scientific account will eventually be the only one that’s actually used. Notice how this formulation avoids the normative talk of science’s superiority. Instead of saying that the scientific picture is a better representation than the prescientific one, a comparison to which the scientific absolutist isn’t entitled, we can say that as a matter of sheer causality, one way of talking will endure while all others will be left behind. This is to say only that science will persist in the natural process in which we engage with the world, whereas nonscientific narratives will not last as long. Crudely put: in a pissing contest, science wins.

Now if that’s all scientism amounts to, I see no illicit presuppositions in it, no hidden appeals to prescientific notions that are no part of the scientific picture. However, we’re not out of the woods yet, since now we should wonder whether that scientific picture of reality would be complete. If we know that all prescientific accounts would eventually be abandoned as a result of the unfolding of a natural process, do we thereby know why that would happen? We’d know that one thing would lead to another and some material bodies in the universe (naively thought of as persons) would stop engaging in some form of behaviour (talking about meaning and value), but would this be a complete theory of what’s going on in that part of the world?

Of course, our intuitions scream “No!” because we’ve evolved the instinct of seeing psychological and social patterns wherever we look, and thus, given just that dry causal story of science’s ultimate victory, we’d beg to be told why those future people would choose to favour the scientific picture to the exclusion of all other viewpoints. And then Pandora’s Box would be opened and out would fly all the intuitive concepts: would science prove to be better than all other viewpoints according to some epistemic or aesthetic ideals (the values of truth, simplicity, elegance, fruitfulness, and so on)? Would science be superior in pragmatic terms, empowering people more than any other viewpoint and more efficiently satisfying their desires? But those questions about the reasons why a process turns out as it does call for answers framed by the intuitive concepts. Therefore, someone looking just at the scientific picture would be as dismissive of those questions as she’d be of those concepts. If you think it’s hard to imagine how anyone could be so dismissive rather than seeing the point of asking the epistemic or folk psychological questions, you doubt scientism and may be in the grip of the illusion our species is destined to see past. In any case, the scientific absolutist must maintain that any semantic, normative, or pragmatic reason why science would outlast intuition is as excluded from the scientific theory as is any other prescientific notion.

So if scientism is the contention that science potentially provides us with the complete theory of the real world, we should interpret this as saying not just that science is the way of completing the causal account of the world, but that the causal account is the final one offered by a sufficiently intelligent and long-lived species, since any such species is part of a natural process that compels it to abandon intuition in favour of science.

The completeness of the scientific theory therefore isn’t a matter of semantic adequacy or of normative superiority, but of finality and endurance, which are matters merely of measurement. Take any sequence of causes and effects and you have the potential to measure which properties last longer than others. For example, have a look at those sped-up videos of people walking through a city, so that the individuals are blurred together, allowing the viewer to pick up on patterns such as whether brown hair is more prevalent than blonde in that region or how often people stop at a certain spot. This must be the sort of comparison that’s left to the scientific absolutist when she says that science threatens not just theism but all our commonsense notions, including our notions of meaning and morality. What she must mean isn’t that science is closest to the Truth or even that science is more useful than commonsense. If she appeals to those intuitions as part of what the scientific picture alone will compel us to say, she contradicts what she says about the counterintuitiveness of science. No, scientism as I’ve defined it implies only that the denuded, amoral, meaningless scientific picture is our destiny, our final portal on the world because of the natural process we’ve been part of all along.

And so the horror of scientific progress is that through science, nature inexorably dehumanizes us, stripping us of our cherished intuitions so that we’re blinded to illusions and we come to think like a computer that’s capable only of calculations and quantitative measurements, not of qualitative judgments. This is the old romantic complaint about science, except that instead of saying that science robs the world of its beauty, the scientistic point is that the real world is neither beautiful nor ugly and that that world will force us to behold that neutrality. Our illusions that we prop up with intuitions and cognitive biases are fantasies we distract ourselves with even as nature’s impersonality is all around us. Not even our personal identity will preserve us from that dread vision of the undead god, which is the mindlessly evolving natural plenum, the field of colliding material bodies, if our personhood too is an illusion of which science will relieve us.

Finally, there’s one more objection along these lines. As I said, the scientific picture includes the content of scientific theories but also the practice of science itself that produces them. After all, the point of scientism isn’t just that people will possibly have a complete understanding of nature, but that science alone makes that understanding likely. But at least as understood intuitively, scientific methods involve epistemic, aesthetic, and pragmatic standards that scientists want their theories to meet. So while we presently indulge in the prescientific talk of normativity, the suspicion is that science tends to conflict with our intuitions. And yet if science is the only kind of knowledge, how will scientists understand their scientific practice scientifically, if such methods appear normative? For the statement of scientism to be coherent, that appearance of how science itself works would likewise have to be illusory and so science would have to be part of a natural process that can be understood in purely causal, value-neutral terms.

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Intuition and Analogy: The Artistic Side of Knowledge

So much on the coherence of scientism. One objection that now presents itself is whether we should think it likely that science will be the last narrative standing, given that science is a product of brains like ours, brains of mammals that evidently enjoy and perhaps even need our illusions to survive long enough to complete the scientific picture. If we are as cognitive scientists describe, our rationality is quite imperfect; we’ve evolved numerous mental shortcuts, called “heuristics,” which produce cognitive biases and these are innate so they persist even as we’ve evidently learned to circumvent them with scientific methods. This is to say that the induction outlined above may be flawed. Yes, science has refuted a great many of our intuitive speculations, but this doesn’t mean science has made us more rational on the whole. One by one, our speculations are exposed as fallacious or delusory, but what if our capacity for such speculation is inexhaustible? What if the conflict between science and intuition isn’t zero-sum? Just because science advances, that needn’t mean intuition retreats. Indeed, most people are still religious even after the Scientific Revolution and the spread of the internet and communications technologies. Perhaps the growth of Islam is only a temporary backlash, but the larger point remains that although most people today are at least potentially better informed than the majority of any other period, that doesn’t mean we’re less attached to our delusions. Indeed, our delusions are still manifold and plentiful, be they religious, political, cultural, or personal (self-directed).

Notice the reason this doubt is relevant to scientism as defined: to ensure that scientism is coherent, I’ve had to reduce that thesis to a prediction about how we would all be talking, were our species to survive long enough to complete science. This is strictly a matter of probability, of what will likely be left at the end of a causal chain, ceteris paribus. We’ve had to eliminate folk notions of the truth or usefulness of science since although we may presently indulge in such illusions, the scientific absolutist is interested in science’s ultimate relation to rival conceptions of the world and in the final analysis, were only science left standing, the suspicion is that the finished scientific picture will provide no grounds for intuiting science’s superiority, since those naturalists will understand everything in terms of pure causality. Therefore, scientism is weak if its prediction is unlikely, and we have plenty of reasons to doubt that prediction–indeed, sterling scientific reasons. As I said, we’ve evolved mental modules that compel us to read psychological and social patterns into data, thus compelling us to survive by working together in groups. This is why we personify our surroundings and why we see ghosts, goblins, and gods around every corner. Mind you, we also have evidence in favour of scientism, including the fact that modern science is still a relatively young discipline and there’s also the transhuman prospect of using technology to alter our brains or genes, so that we’ll come to prefer the scientific picture to the illusions.

This point about transhumanism raises another problem with scientism, though, which is that the prediction is less interesting if it posits a future that’s radically different from the present, because the prediction might as well then invoke a miracle. The induction motivating the fear that science conflicts with our commonsense self-image says that because science–as commonly understood–has steadily undermined so many intuitions, science will eventually undermine them all. There’s no longer any such induction if “science” in the conclusion refers to posthuman science which is dissimilar from the present-day kind, since induction rests on our confidence that the future will be like the past. (That’s why miracles are improbable, according to the philosopher David Hume.) So the scientific absolutist must assume that the science responsible for completing the counterintuitive picture of the world will work like present-day science.

That may imply that we should have at least an inkling of how present-day science can be understood in strictly causal terms, without positing the ideals that motivate research and experimentation. We now understand scientific methods–both at the individual and social levels–in terms of certain epistemic, aesthetic, and pragmatic values that govern certain processes. For example, we think science is eminently rational and this calls to mind a normative view of logical rules we think we ought to follow. Perhaps this view of rationality is illusory and what’s really going on is that our concept of a rule is just a low-resolution caricature of actual neural processes. Perhaps, but I think the absolutist has a burden of proof here to show that the intuitive picture of science doesn’t add to our present understanding of science. The absolutist can’t appeal to a gulf between present and finished science, because that spoils the induction which is a key piece of evidence for the scientistic prediction that science and not any of the normative arts tells us all there is to know about reality. This means the absolutist must show that there’s currently no benefit to thinking of science in normative terms, that this way of thinking really is just an idle, illusory byproduct.

Frankly, what gives me pause here is the persistence with which the intuitive notions crop up even in the scientific picture, and to anticipate a bit, I see this pattern in roughly Kantian terms. For example, the scientistic fear is that science opposes our intuitions, so that our normative view of reason is belied by the cognitive scientific account of so-called neurofunctions, which are naturally selected processes in the brain. I am very suspicious of the biological talk of functions, since I think Darwin showed why the appearance of teleology in organic processes is illusory. And yet the talk persists; indeed, it’s irresistible. But without an intelligent designer, the cryptoteleological talk of biofunctions is misleading. Natural selection means only that environmental conditions don’t kill off the hosts of certain genes so that those genes keep replicating body types that have certain traits which enable them to cope with those conditions. That’s the real causal story in evolutionary biology, so we needn’t appeal to the metaphor of functionality when speaking of neural processes, such as those the brain can’t intuit well and so can only drastically simplify without doing science. The metaphor is a comparison of the relation between a person and a human-designed artifact, and that between God and all his creatures. Now, that metaphor may be undermined by Darwin, but it does speak to a ubiquitous practice we have of using metaphors for the cognitive purpose of exploiting our grasp of the familiar.

This is why even scientific theories are littered with metaphors. Just as the talk of biofunctions is anthropocentric, so too is the talk of mechanisms. The metaphor of the mechanism derives from the deistic assumption that nature is a deterministic machine built by God. Quantum mechanics has undermined the deterministic view of causality and thus the clockwork metaphor, just as natural selection has undermined teleological functionalism. And with the loss of determinism, our concept of causality might have to change. Most physicists think of causality in platonic terms, as reflecting a timeless, mathematical order, as though laws of nature were spelled out in a Book of Nature. Without a lawgiver, the very notion of a law of nature too becomes an anthropocentric metaphor, an outdated comparison of natural laws with social ones. Perhaps physical laws aren’t timeless but they evolve as the physicist Lee Smolin theorizes. In any case, his picture would require yet another metaphorical stretch of the imagination, a comparison of the evolution of life on our planet with the evolution of universes in a multiverse. Even the concept of a heuristic in cognitive science is a metaphor from computing that mixes up natural and social laws, when applied to modules in the brain. A heuristic is a programmed rule of thumb or educated guess, which acts as a fall-back plan so that the computer doesn’t have to follow every step of an algorithm when searching for a solution in a poorly understood domain. Certain neural processes are at best similar to heuristics in intelligently-programmed computers.

A scientific absolutist will want to remark at this point that these metaphors all betray intuitions that science will eventually overrun, but I think this misses the point. Again, our experience is that the metaphors and intuitions disappear only serially, one by one, but the reservoir of intuition seems bottomless. Moreover, we oversimplify matters when we contrast science with commonsense intuition, since metaphors which build on commonsense are found in science itself. Now, the absolutist can say that intuitions keep popping up in our theories because we evolved to fall prey to the cognitive illusion of projecting our naive self-image onto the unfamiliar. But this raises the question of just what knowledge is supposed to be such that science is the only source of it, according to scientism.

There seem to be at least two sides of knowledge. There’s the quantification side, the ability to measure a phenomenon, to describe it with great precision, which may allow us to predict how the phenomenon will change. If we can predict what something will do under certain conditions, that’s often a sign we understand the thing, but there’s a second side of knowledge which is harder to put into words because it’s just understanding itself. Measuring and predicting how a system works isn’t the same as identifying what the system is in reality. We might encounter an extraterrestrial artifact and be able to predict what it will do if we push one button rather another, after sufficient trial and error with the object, but we might still not know what the artifact was intended to do. What is it then to understand something, to know what it really is? More to the point, does a complete causal account of nature suffice for understanding?

If we can predict everything that will happen in the world, because we have a complete induction based on past experience of which observations followed which other ones as natural processes unfolded, do we understand what’s happening? The computer in philosopher John Searle’s Chinese Room argument can appear to speak a language by following algorithms for displaying certain messages when shown certain other ones, but the computer doesn’t speak the language at the semantic level. The computer blindly follows the algorithms while lacking the concepts that a natural language speaker would typically associate with the language’s vocabulary. The computer can calculate which messages should follow other ones, but it doesn’t understand what’s being said. Moreover, quantum mechanics furnishes us with an impeccable example of how measurement and prediction aren’t the same as understanding. Physicists can measure with great accuracy what happens at the subatomic level, but they have barely any idea what’s really going on there; they interpret the results of the experiments with a number of models (the multiverse, quantum logic, Copenhagen interpretation, and so on), and if any of these models offers a hope that physicists can understand the bizarre findings, that’s because the model translates the exotic mathematical statements into intuitive, natural language.

I think, then, that if the complete scientific picture were to include only a map of all natural processes, without any intuitive metaphors to classify the patterns, the picture would enable scientists to predict and to control processes but not to understand them. The scientific absolutist will say that any so-called understanding supplied by semantics, by usefully categorizing phenomena according to certain cognitive criteria is yet more illusion which science is bound to overcome. But now we arrive at a mere definitional matter, because this so-called illusion is the way that mammals like us tend to perceive things as a basis for understanding them. The illusion in which a stick appears bent in water isn’t exactly like the illusion of using metaphors to personify alien phenomena, because there’s no interesting variety in the way all our brains process the light exiting from the water, whereas there’s a rich variety in the way we use metaphors and other analogies. This is why translating an advanced use of language is so difficult, because mental associations link together in a network of subtle connotations that encompasses a whole cultural way of interpreting the world and you’re either in a culture or you’re not. Science is more universal and yet is sufficiently subjective that the metaphors in scientific theories express human experience.

So the absolutist is free to define “knowledge” in a way that excludes the work done by intuitions and analogies, but I think this violates the above principle about the need to preserve the scientistic induction by not appealing to posthumanity. There is, after all, a counter-induction, which is that because new intuitions always arise to replace the old ones (even in science), our knowledge will never be intuition-free. The Kantian point about knowledge, then, is that if we tend to anthropomorphize things, to understand them by extending our intuition-based caricature of a self-image onto less familiar parts of the world, using analogies to bridge the emotional gap and to make us comfortable with the alien Other, this tendency is a cognitive faculty in its own right. Our capacities for intuition, speculation, and anthropomorphic prejudgment are filters through which we interpret the world. You can call these interpretations laughable illusions, if you like, but that would be like calling even the finished scientific picture an illusion because that picture is something offered merely by a creature that does what it does rather than doing something else. We mammals do what we do, and that includes cognizing the world at emotional and analogical levels.

Where you have metaphors you have art and thus you have aesthetic ideals, and this is a serious problem for the scientific absolutist. Recall that scientism is the prediction that science will eclipse the arts when it comes to telling us about the real world. The assumption is that the arts, including philosophy and religion, deal with meaning and values, and so the absolutist infers that knowledge doesn’t require meaning or value. Again, perhaps if you confine knowledge to the abilities to measure, predict, and control, knowledge can be meaningless and amoral, and so fit for dehumanized automata, such as the drones that might make for efficient workers in a crony capitalistic dystopia. But knowledge as it’s been produced all around the world, including in Europe during the Scientific Revolution and since the very beginning of our rational endeavours, has been classified and so understood in intuitive, emotionally comforting terms. We understand things by humanizing them, by looking for patterns and seeing ourselves in those patterns, so that we can feel we’re not so alone after all, we’re similar somehow to everything that’s knowable by us. Our theories contain metaphors that express intuitive leaps of imagination that identify such similarities, and so our theories are stories we tell. That’s why scientists and mathematicians insist that elegance in theory-building counts in their fields. We’re mammals that enjoy telling each other stories, and this is where scientists benefit from an artistic sensibility, which is developed in the humanities, to create new theories, new leaps of imagination, and to evaluate which story establishes the best paradigm in revolutionary times. Knowledge isn’t just bean-counting, after all. Reason has an artistic, emotional side; the European Renaissance in the arts set the stage for the modern Scientific Revolution. We’re driven to understand the world in the first place, long after our evolutionary fitness has been secured, because we’re irrationally curious or greedy or we want to minimize our existential angst.

What about the scientific, mechanistic picture which seems to mock our manifest image, our intuitive view of ourselves as rational, free, conscious persons? Here we need to distinguish between elimination and reduction. If science shows that our personal qualities don’t really exist at all, we’ll be in big trouble, but this is next to impossible. Even at the end of Cartesian doubt, if we imagine we’re really brains in vats being tricked by a demon, we’re content to be pragmatic in assuming that such metaphysical reality doesn’t matter, because we live in the apparent world in which we’re rational, free, conscious people. Science has undermined our superstitious prejudices not so much by showing that what our ancestors were talking about was nothing at all, but by explaining the phenomena in more useful ways. Instead of thinking your house is haunted, think of shifts in the earth that make the walls creak. Instead of thinking the sun goes around the Earth, think of it the other way around. Instead of God, have a Big Bang quantum fluctuation. And instead of an immaterial spirit created by God, we have a complex natural history of causes and effects that evolved our brain which gives us certain abilities such as limited rationality, freedom, and consciousness. A mechanistic story about how intuitions form doesn’t eliminate intuitions from the face of the earth; instead, the story redescribes the origin of something that our ancestors spoke of in terms of simple dualism. Indeed, if nature were to build a person, we should expect there’d be a causal story about the process of evolution, but that story wouldn’t supplant the philosophical or religious one that just takes the natural origin for granted as at least a stage in some larger process, a process perceived by mammals that prefer the comfort of illusions.

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The Remaining Horrors of Scientific Progress

What I’ve just said in the last section amounts to a defense of pluralism. Still, even a pluralist should fear horrors of scientific progress, besides the potential for technological blowback. First, this pluralism shows at best that the scientistic prediction is improbable, but there’s a readily-understood way for the mechanistic picture to be the last one standing, after all. We might forget the artistic side of our thinking. As Nietzsche said, metaphors become concretized over time so that they lose their freshness and they’re eventually taken as literal rather than figurative. We forget the comparisons that gave rise to the metaphors that are implicit in the meaning of our words, and so we think our natural language gives us a transparent window on the world, whereas that language expresses human biases at every turn. Scientists prefer artificial languages that aren’t so burdened by parochial experiences, so even if their theories remain metaphorical, perhaps we’ll stop speaking natural languages, influenced as we are by the computers we interact with more and more. Maybe our imagination, emotion, intuition, and creativity will atrophy as our habits continue to be shaped by our artificial environments. Then again, we’d be looking not so much at a scientific revelation of what we’ve always really been, but at a transformation of human nature for the worse.

Second, although the mechanistic picture needn’t conflict with the intuitive one, since the former can explain how the latter emerges, the two may nevertheless conflict in certain instances. Not all values, ideals, meanings, and metaphors are equal, and so there’s a need for them to cohere with science’s causal picture of how things work. Thus, science continues to challenge our lazy, obsolete intuitions which aren’t so much falsified by the causal theory, but rendered counterproductive and uninspiring in philosophical or religious terms. Ancient myths of supernatural, personal dimensions and vain conceits of our centrality to the world are exceedingly hard to maintain alongside the scientific picture. I don’t think this means we should settle just for the scientific, causal point of view; instead, we should create better myths to satisfy our artistic side.

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