That is, why do I continue to visit Mark Vernon’s blog? After all, the chances that he has written something that will make me want to bang my head against the wall are, on past performance, pretty high. Perhaps it’s because I must have a streak of masochism.
Mr. Vernon has done it again with his praise over James Le Fanu’s book “Why Us?” The book clearly speaks to his prejudices. e.g.:
“The brain looks much more like the medium through which mental activity ripples, rather than the source of that mental activity itself”.
“The vivid and liberating experience of consciousness also suggests, to Le Fanu, the need for the language of the soul, and of a natural sympathy not enmity between science and religion. Further, the apparently information rich operations of genes, and the syntactical nature of language, raises the possibility of a God-like intelligence, required as a kind of top-down, causative factor – he moots, sensibly towards the end”.
“To my mind, reductionist materialism has pretty clearly almost exhausted its explanatory powers in these fields, though it’s had a great run. (That’s something physicists have long had to contemplate.) We might live to see a new science emerge”.
Hmm. While I think we may see a new science emerge, it will not be along the lines of a “god of the gaps” that Le Fanu and Vernon would dearly like to see. It will be because the data that the reductionist approach continues to reveal will be refined into information and then knowledge. Frankly, I think Amanda Gefter is more on target with her New Scientist review of Le Fanu’s book:
“I am all for a good mystery, but there is an important difference between revelling in the excitement of the unknown and turning away from knowledge because you simply don’t like the facts”.