Closing lines of The Origin of Species: “There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having originally breathed into a few forms or one, … from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”
“Most people ‘see’ the world from both the Inside and the Outside, but we do not have a very good sense of how these two Ways of Looking fit together. We have a large amount of Know-How and lesser amount of Knowledge That these are causes for what we and other things “Do”.
There is a modern form of the dilemma. People-persons focus on people; Science types focus on science; Artists focus on their art, and many of us just bounce around between all these with no one focus. Artists and People-persons focus on the inside of things: about feelings and what things ‘mean’ or ‘imply’ to each other and to them. Science is about external connections: about bumping or pushing, or attracting or repulsing and these things in the most electrical and magnetic of senses. If Meaning exists at all, from the scientific point of view, it is not a unique addition to the world; it is just a confused way of talk about causes.
NATURALISTS, as opposed to BIOLOGISTSNaturalists tend to understand Nature from the inside. To them, Nature is like a poem or a religion; they feel themselves an intimate part of it.
(John Muir, the Father of America’s Natural Parks; Henry David Thoreau and his cabin On Walden Pond; Aldo Leopold argued for a “land organism”.)
Thoreau contended, “The naturalist must allow himself to be engulfed to his very ears in the odors and textures of sensible reality…He must become, like the muskrat…” Leopold wrote, when studying a mountain “think like a mountain.” Muir said, “The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.”
But SCIENTISTS are often crippled by a mis-taken philosophy of science and the world itself. They think it is all about causes.
“If all the world were Causes only, every single object would be further and further dissolved into the scientific objects around it and, finally, The Ultimate Scientific Background. Psychology, such as Behaviorism, tries to understand all our mental and emotional states as necessary outcomes of the patterns of our training and past experience. Neurology seeks to reduce ‘ideas’ and ‘feelings’ and ‘choices’ into complex associations of neural activity and chemical reactions. Biology seeks (to some points of view) to explain the existence of living things and their “unique” behavior by transducing it into behavior that is not so unique; into the chemical and mechanical responses of genes, selective environments, and chance. Chemistry is a further way-station in this program of reduction: All is a chemical formula, a collection of only the basic elements in relation to each other and determined by constant and everlasting lawful parameters. And finally, we come to Physics. It accomplishes the final, the grand, Reduction of all.“What physics teaches us is Real, but it is not all that is Real or even THE Ultimate Reality. It shows us A Background in which all things disappear into One Single Thing. The character of this single unity is “very sparse”, as physicist Sean Carroll tells us. Not even Time is fundamental to it; nor Causes. The only cause within the world of physics is The One Big Cause itself: The state of the entire universe at its Origin. To Carroll, this Ultimate Physical Background “simply is.” There is no explanation of it, or reason for it, because there is no other context — no other thing — to compare it to.
“But this is where Carroll, and many others, are “mis-taken”. Physics is a true way to “take” the world, but not a Complete Way to “take it.” It ‘paints us a picture’ of a Universe that has no place for a painter. ‘A view’ of things, that contains no viewer. ‘Knowledge’ of the universe but without a thing in it that is capable of knowing!
This is what the great American philosopher, John Dewey, called “the modern one-sidedness.” Persons are the painters, viewers, and “knowers” who synthesize the bits and pieces of the world, as known by science, into Meaningful Wholes: paintings, views, theories. The best philosophy needs room for meanings and causes, an inside and an outside to life, and both persons and the equations they make.