As a follow on from yesterday's post, the other thing that Dawkins felt to address was the fact that he had received a number of communications along the lines of, as one woman put it, a desire for
unreading the book.
Reading the book had left some readers suffering from bouts of depression, troubled by its seemingly cold, bleak message, empty and without purpose.
I'm not surprised some readers had this response reading a book describing scientific understanding of complex but everyday processes.
Science is about cold hard facts no mater how ugly, distasteful and unpalatable they may be.
Science seeks to uncover the "what" and the "how" of the world around us. It has no tools to discern the "why".
Lets take something as a simple as a scatter of archaeological artifacts.
Scientific methods can be used to deduce much about and from those artifacts:
- what the artifacts are made of
- where the source material is found
- what techniques and processes were likely used in their manufacture
- what peoples are known to have employed these techniques
- what the stone artifacts where likely used for
- how they were used
- how old they are
- how many were utilized as tools and how many were discarded a waste
- etc. etc.
What scientific processes would not be able to glean is:
- how satisfied where the tool makers with their end product
- what emotions did making and using these tools evoke in the user
- why did these hunter-gatherers choose this nomadic lifestyle as opposed to their more settled counterparts
- where they happy
- etc. etc.
There simply is not sufficient physical evidence to determine these things and scientific processes evaluate the available evidence.
It is therefore not unusual to expect a scientific book to be "cold and bleak". Facts generally are exactly that. But, we are not just simply factual beings, we are not robots simply executing a pre-set program.
We are emotional, we have feelings, we are more than just a collection of brain cells acquiring facts, we are in turn shaped by these facts and choose to apply them in various ways. We seek purpose and meaning in our interactions with the physical world.
Looking to the scientific method to find the purpose and meaning in our lives is likely to be a fruitless exercise. We need to strike a balance by searching for purpose and meaning elsewhere.
There are two sides to the brain for a reason and we should strive to find our balance. Understanding how something is done should not leave us less inquisitive about why it was done and for what purpose.
Without purpose we may as well be silicon based robots.
There are things in this life that leave no physical evidence, these cannot therefore be evaluated using purely physical methods. We need to develop other methodologies and find what works for us.