Today is the start of the Science and Metaphysics blog event organized by Pete Wolfendale, Reid Kotlas and myself. Ben Woodard provides us with the inaugural post, setting the stage for some of the implications of a speculative realism chained to the inexorable logic of science.
Ben Woodard, ‘Lovecraftian Science/Lovecraftian Nature’
One of Lovecraft’s more entertaining literary habits is to totally and irreparably demolish the academic mind. Again and again Lovecraft disappears, kills, or transforms the academic into a babbling madman sent off to grow the population of Arkham Asylum. This is not because he has malicious feelings for thinkers (quite the contrary) but simply because the professor, the researcher, the scientist, the philosopher, test the limits of reality and this, in Lovecraft’s world, is a dreadful and dangerous task.
But this image of the mad-brained academic does not appear in our everyday existence and even the mad thinkers of the most popular fictions are not driven mad by their science but by personal traumas. Mad scientists, overwhelmingly, do not have occupational madness. We will probably not (unfortunately) see scientists ripping out their hair at the LHC at the possible sight of stranglets or even more fantastically a portal to another dimension(maybe hell whether demonological or hyperchaotic). Does Lovecraft merely underestimate the mental fortitude of modern day intelligentsia or is it that nothing Lovecraft imagined has ever, and will never, appear, that nothing fundamentally horrifying in the field of research can tear itself from the mundane and singe the nerve endings of a few eggheads?
This gap, I want to argue, comes from a fundamental chasm in conceptual framing, from the treatment of onto-epistemlogical indistinction (and that this leaps from the fictional to the non-fictional). This indistinction means that what is unknown is both unknown as to whether its unknownness is a result of our epistemological limits (we haven’t seen that type of fungus yet) or ontological limits (we cannot say what kind of entity it is). Taking from an earlier blog entry this appears in horror in the statement ‘What is that?’ which indexes the horror of the weird (or the weirdness of horror) in several dimensions.
‘What’ is the epistemological dimension of horror or the very questioning of the identity of the creature or thing before the thinking entity subject to horror. Whatness assumes possibly belonging to a taxonomy in that ‘what’ already assumes an ontology, an isness.
‘Is’ is the dimension of ontology proper interrogating the being of the thing and even the very bounds of the thing’s thingness or identifiability once an epistemological schema has been thoroughly employed.
‘That’ speaks to the spatio-temporal location of the thing that is questionably known/unknown, or solid/gelatinous and so forth.
‘What is’ marks an indistinction of thinking and being, not their ontological distinction, but the ontic fuzziness resulting from the mad stacking of countless epochs driven by rabid nature. In other words, unknowability (epistemological limitation) can result from temporal or spatial distance (too old, too new, too close, too far), an underdeveloped schema of knowledge (unclassifiables, unobservables, dark matter, and so on and so forth) resulting from malformed tools or instruments, or the weirdness of grounding/ungrounding activities themselves troubling the very operation of binding, separating and so forth. Or the problems of discernment could be called proximity, the second blindness, and the third forces and mixtures.
For Lovecraft the soft gray matter which humans cherish so deeply cannot stand up to such an assault. Yet asylums have long been closed and the psychiatric wards are not overflowing at the rate he would expect. It is because, in part, that the naturalism of philosophies of science treat nature as an innocuous container or cheery factory of things which the scientist can rearrange accordingly. That is, even if the Promethean attitude towards nature is no longer exploitative, a view of nature as still mechanistic lingers even in ecological thinking.
Even Roy Bhaskar’s Realist Theory of Science, sweeps nature into a rhetorical corner as only a generative mechanism or in Cohen and Stewart’s wonderful Collapse of Chaos, nature is left somewhere in the clutches of real patterns. But there always lingers an epistemological wedge which keeps nature from fleeing into ontological obscurity. Of course we know what nature is and if we do not know we worship it or respect to the limit of our own poetical fancy. This split is what the late Pierre Hadot referred to as the Promethean/Orphic split.
This split covers over a more sinister division, the belief that we are in fact separate from nature as both the Promethean and Orphic attitude pre-suppose that nature is over there somewhere either to be exploited or deified. Our new found unnaturalness does not mean that we are suddenly made of tin and diodes but it reinforces the fact that the world, and particular the world of the scientist (according to philosophy), is one composed of epistemological limits and not ontological or natural curiosities. ‘What is that’ is deprived of all its teeth in the post-Renaissance conceptualization of nature where nature = ineligibility. Against this conceptualization Bhaskar argues:
“Science is not an epiphenomenon of nature, for knowledge possesses a material cause of its own kind. But neither is nature a product of man, for the intelligibility of the scientific activities of perception and experiment presupposes the intransitive and structured character of the objects of knowledge, viz. that they exist and act independently of the operations of men and the patterns of events alike” (185).
Lovecraft’s textual ambiguity over his frequent use of the word nature – whether it means nature-as-we-know-it or nature-as-it-is reinforces Bhaskar’s almost Laruelleian statement. But again, the possibility of the mad academic suggests the possible penetration of the insularity of any epistemological circle whether or not it takes cues from nature as a storm of forces. Take the second to last passage of “The Colour Out of Space”:
“What it is, only God knows. In terms of matter I suppose the thing Ammi described would be called a gas, but this gas obeyed laws that are not of our cosmos. This was no fruit of such worlds and suns as shin on the telescopes and photographic plates of our observatories. This was no breath from the skies whose motions and dimensions our astronomers measure or deem too vast to measure. It was just a colour out of space—a frightful messenger from unformed realms of infinity beyond all Nature as we know it; from realms whose mere existence stuns the brain and numbs us with the black extra-cosmic gulfs it throws open before our frenzied eyes” (Lovecraft Complete, 616).
Lovecraft lands, perhaps a bit too far, on the ontological side of onto-epistemological indistinction. Lovecraft is not demeaning the real developments made possible by modern science, but merely remarking that, in the end, nature wins. Again quoting from “The Colour Out of Space”:
“Then the dark woods will be cut down and the blasted heath will slumber far below blue waters whose surface will mirror the sky and ripple in the sun. And the secrets of the strange days will be one with the deep’s secrets; one with the hidden lore of old ocean, and all the mystery of primal earth” (594).
To avoid a Hegelian equivocation of mind and nature, or a Fichtean destruction of nature as not-I at the hands of technological progress, the epistemological and ontological must feed into one another – not in a correlationist fashion, but a way in which the un-prethinkable nature breaks into the epistemological circle not only as limitation but as course correction – turning thought itself into a force of nature as opposed to a force on a nature designed for it.
The madness-rotted brain of the Lovecraftian thinker which is the rule of description in his tales appearing as “mental strain” (Dagon), a dazed brain (Polaris), as overtaxed (The Temple), as “mad thoughts” (The Nameless City), as too sensitive (Herbert West) and on and on, is one who breaks the nature-determining epistemology of thinkers on science and, no doubt, some scientific thinkers too. Philosophy would seem something equally susceptible to the creative madness of the world, yet the epistemological circle, firmly encrusted by the bastions of academia, fend off the dark winged things lurking on the age-curled texts of the dusty stacks. This is why Land remarks that Kant’s system is the greatest fit of panic in the history of the Earth and why Badiou dismisses Kant as succor to the academy and a salve against madness and this, unfortunately, is why Kant is still endlessly entertained in the halls of proper philosophy.
Science is frequently charged with letting bloom a disenchanted world and continental philosophy with trying to infuse quotidian mishaps with a anthrocentric vitality but both accusations presuppose that the world is not much of a target for these epistemological exercises, that nature is waiting or that nature is itself, that the world, is not producing that very capacity for thought. A thinking nature requires a deeply rooted weirdness in the thinker, it forces an impossible escape attempt from itself which, in actuality, is a scanning and probing of nature, across the blindingly infinite stratifications of existence. Thinking is nature’s failed attempt at diagnosis, a failure which for a time appears as finitude or individuation, but such appearances soon fold back into the torrid roar of process, of onto-epistemological indistinction.
Madness is to be expected, and maybe suicide as well. Perhaps Lovecraft can only offer the sentiment that the narrator of “From Beyond” offered in regards to his friend: “That Crawford Tillinghast should ever have studied science and philosophy was a mistake. These things should be left to the frigid and impersonal investigator, for they offer two equally tragic alternatives to the man of feeling and action; despair if he fail in his quest, and terrors unutterable and unimaginable if he succeed.” (115)
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A thinking nature requires a deeply rooted weirdness in the thinker
Why? We are part of nature – we think – our thinking is part of nature. This is mainstream, completely standard scientific naturalism. What’s weird about it?
the epistemological circle, firmly encrusted by the bastions of academia, fend off the dark winged things lurking on the age-curled texts of the dusty stacks
What dark winged things? Are you claiming that there are actual dark winged things – bats, say – in academic libraries, which academics haven’t noticed because of the epistemological circle? If you’re not claiming this, what on earth are you saying?
I won’t pretend to speak for Ben, but I think his article pretty clearly sets out the weirdness of nature and why it’s not encountered within scientific naturalism.
My own take: the idea that we are a part of nature may be commonsense today, but at the same time it is always immediately domesticated into everyday existence in such a way that it disturbs virtually nothing. Take two examples: the New Atheists and modern physics. The New Atheists are the most vocal defenders of science against irrationality today; yet despite their full adherence to science, they still talk about the wonder and beauty one experiences in perceiving a rainbow, for instance. There’s still a romanticism of the world which assumes that phenomenological experience holds up under scientific scrutiny, and assumes some sort of magical correspondence between nature and mind. Science, for them, attacks all irrationalities, but leaves aside the first-person experience as being immutable and irreducible.
Similarly, in modern physics, it’s common to argue for the virtues of particular theories based upon how ‘elegant’ and ‘beautiful’ they are – the presumption of course being that nature is well-ordered and just happens to perfectly accord with our cognitive abilities.
If you don’t believe that science is merely an extension of human conceits – and instead that it is a threat to everyday experience, then people like Lovecraft or Scott Bakker’s Neuropath are doing important literary work in expanding our imagination. Or if you believe that what science abstractly reveals as knowledge may only be truly lived in extreme states that border on non-consciousness, then people like Metzinger and Brassier are doing crucial theoretical work.
As for your second question, surely you’ve heard of metaphors and poetic imagery? (A snarky response, admittedly, but Duncan your original question is clearly snarky too! And if you meant the question seriously, I apologize – but I’m just not sure how to take your question seriously.)
Hi Nick – yes, I was being snarky, & of course it’s cool to snark back. But my point was that the metaphors here seem to be carrying more argumentative weight than they can bear. In Lovecraft’s fictional universe, such metaphors of course have a function, because they’re not just metaphors – they’re descriptions of fantastical creatures, which are real within the fictional fantasy universe Lovecraft’s imagining. When Lovecraft’s protagonists go mad, it’s generally because they’ve run into many-tentacled monsters, or strange fish-men creatures, or indeed a colour out of space. I’m asking what the parallel is here – what the metaphor is a metaphor for. What are the dark winged things a metaphor for? In Lovecraft’s fiction darked winged things have the capacity to unhinge reason because Lovecraft has decided by authorial fiat that there in fact exist dark winged things, in the fictional world of his stories – Ancient Ones and their indescribably awful minions, etc. etc. – who are so appallingly horrific that a person would go mad just to see them, etc. etc. Lovecraft can fiat that because he’s writing fantasy horror. But outside the fictional world of Lovecraft’s stories, we can’t fiat that. So what is the invocation of dark winged things doing – what is this metaphor actually saying? It doesn’t seem to me to be saying anything that can withstand a non-metaphorised scrutiny.
W/r/t Metzinger etc. – I of course disagree that there’s anything inconsistent about being a naturalist and invoking subjective experience. But I’m not sure it’s worth arguing about that, because I’m not totally convinced that the kind of eliminativism you’re interested is what’s going on in Ben’s piece. (Happy to be corrected, obviously.) As far as I can tell, the post is making two different claims about the madness that’s supposedly generated by real contact with nature.
1) Scientific reason is premised on the idea that thought is somehow separate from nature. This seems to me to be an obviously false claim: the massive, overwhelming trend w/r/t scientific reason is and has been for generations treating human thought as a natural phenomenon. I just don’t think it’s credible to claim that everyone is incapable of thinking this, when this thought is so very mainstream and widespread.
2) Nature itself, if really thought in itself, is horrific. Here the metaphors do the work: nature is “rabid”, involves “creative madness”, a “torrid roar”. And these metaphors are associated with the specifically Lovecraftian metaphors about features of an invented fantasy horror universe: nature is associated with dark winged things, with alien madness-inducing colours, etc. etc. Why? In Lovecraft’s stories, scientists go mad because they run into specific madness-inducing things, which Lovecraft has invented – things like tentacled alien gods. If we’re not claiming that tentacled gods and so on exist – if that’s not the nature of the horror that scientific investigation is liable to expose us to – what is the nature of the horror? It’s not enough just to say that the piece is being metaphoric. What’s the idea that the metaphor is adding its evocative power to?
OK, I understand your point much better now. Again, not speaking for Ben but instead articulating what I see in his piece, I’d argue that what is being attempted is less a use of a strict metaphor, and more a matter of invoking a mood. The use of Lovecraftian themes and actors is to give sense to the theoretical issue, but not to make it explicit in linguistic terms. Instead it operates more at an affective level, invoking the feeling of Lovecraftian horror in order to parallel the horror and weirdness invoked by nature.
This leads on to your second point, about what precisely causes this weirdness and revulsion. I gave my reasons above, which may or may not be in line with Ben’s reasons, but I certainly don’t think one needs to subscribe to eliminativism (a position I don’t think Metzinger even actually holds) to believe this is the case. Not being particularly knowledgeable about Lovecraft, I’ll quote a commenter at Reddit as well, who notes that the peculiarly horrifying aspect of Lovecraft is not the idea that nature is indifferent, but rather that nature is malevolent and conniving. (And spookyparadigm gives a pretty great explication below as well.)
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“nature = ineligibility”
I pondered for a while over that one, until I realized a “t” was missing. Still, it’s oddly suggestive.
I’m not sure the metaphors fall apart that easily. In physics the response to the discoveries of the early to mid 20th century has been to talk of numerous dimensions, observer effects on experiments, and other weirdness straight out of “Dreams in the Witch House,” stuff that would be considered ravings in the context of such a tale. Some adaptations of evolutionary theory suggest we are enslaved to our genes, and even our ideas act like a virus independent of us. Other scholars just give up on the concept of an approachable or independent reality altogether. And rather than have their minds crack at the disjunction, as Nick points out, mainstream science/rationalists/atheists simply live as they would anyway, rationalizing these insights away from everyday existence. This last point would have particularly baffled Lovecraft I think. On the one hand, he rationalized his own at times jovial, other times repugnant mores and actions despite science he was or should have been aware of. But in the last decade of his life, as he started to approach however amateurishly economic and political theory, it was distinctly from the perspective of trying to match current realities to social organization, and not ignoring painful facts (hence his discussion of the “machine age” in both his letters and some of his last stories).
Duncan asks what the creatures of Yogsothothery are metaphors for, what are they about, and the findings of science indeed are the root of it. I think it can be argued fairly persuasively that the majority of Lovecraft’s works and ideas, especially the best and most persistent ones, are reactions to some of the basic scientific discoveries of the 19th century and early 20th century. In order of importance, these are deep time geology and cosmology, evolutionary biology, archaeological culture history, and various discoveries in physics. The overwhelming fear for Lovecraft is a fear of time. His horrors are not just ancient, they are the very embodiment of how we are dwarfed by time and space. Cthulhu is the very past of the planet embodied in quasi-physical form, able to squash us like a bug (as it eventually will no matter what we do). The Elder Things and Yithians are stand ins for the vast fossil time depth of life, but even they fall to entropic forces of decay and death (respectively shoggoths and flying polyps). In addition to the effect of the fossil record showing how much of Earth life has died, archaeology during Lovecraft’s lifetime put a spotlight on how the Earth is a graveyard of dead cities and civilizations, many forgotten to the history books. It’s no accident that even when Lovecraft wants to talk about vast gulfs of time, he uses archaeological imagery (dead cities, ancient artifacts) to convey this, rather than the purely geological. On a smaller scale, the horrors of Lovecraft country still have serious time depth, issuing out of ancient houses, megalithic ritual sites, and decayed family lines (only the Colour Out of Space is new).
This last point brings in evolution. The ghouls of Pickman’s Model are quite nicely evolved for their horrifying niche, and they evolve from us, as do the Martenses, the delaPoers, and so on. Further on, the Fungi and Great Old Ones and what not, as much as they are made out to be alien from humans, they’re not. The Elder Things are “men,” as Dyer describes them. The Great Old Ones are titanically old, but they’re just evolved far beyond our ken, and they can teach us how to be like them. Unlike space opera and traditional sf, the aliens of Lovecraft aren’t like humans of colonial fantasy or the imagined past, or for political factions or ideals. They are what we can become if we continue to evolve, horrifying powerful and strange beings.
And while scientists may not have gone mad from the revelations, millions upon millions of people have, when confronted with deep time and evolution, have gone screaming back into a new dark age. They deny evolution, declare it corrupting to the soul and destructive of morality in the youth and society, organize to topple it from the schools, and use it to drive their political actions. Heck, some even go hunting in Indonesia or Congo looking for living dinosaurs to prove their point (when in reality its just easier to use photoshop to cross a crocodile and a duck). Sticking with the introduction to “The Call of Cthulhu,” it can be argued that these people have gone mad from the revelation, whereas moderate rationalists are still full of bland optimism like the Theosophists.
Nice comment, spookyparadigm! Lovecraft’s Yog-Sothothery a metaphor for scientific discovery… that’s a fascinating angle. The 20th century overturned the 19th century’s worldview in various ways. On some level, that probably disturbed Lovecraft a great deal.
And I just wanted to say this was a very interesting blog to star with. Thanks for posting it, Ben.
Nick: “if you believe that what science abstractly reveals as knowledge may only be truly lived in extreme states that border on non-consciousness…”
It’s interesting to contrast Lovecraft here with PK Dick, who at least in the late works does present us with upheavals of consciousness but tending in a fundamentally hopeful, albeit gnostic, direction. Both Lovecraft and Dick give us minds unhinged, but for Dick, there’s a potentially redemptive dimension. What strikes me, though, is that this is just what makes Dick’s sci-fi founder as literature. There’s something about this optimism that resists being compelling as literary art. I’m not claiming that art is inherently a downer, but I am saying that a total, sweeping vision of restitution or apocatastasis is more than literature can present convincingly; whereas on the other hand the vision of a cosmic (dis)order, of indifference-bordering-on-malevolence, does seem to be something we can digest in lit. Is this a mistake? is it something that inheres in the nature of (literary) representation? Is it just us and our zeitgeist?
or is it really that the dark side is more compelling for ontological, not just mimetic, reasons?
Thanks for the comments – and thanks Nick for the defense.
A couple of things I do want to address – while there is a plethora of studies, facts, etc that thought/scientific reason is a natural phenomenon it would be hard to argue that the work of scientific reason has overcome the formal distinction of thought from nature or the world in our head from the world ‘out there.’
As for the winged dark things and other tentacular horrors and the resulting madness was that Lovecraft believed that extreme examples of materiality can break the formal gap between thinking and being – nature is horrorific for us (or at least it should be) if we give up our minimum safe distance. For Lovecraft madness is a too much of the world – an excess which can lead to a zero madness (the madness at the edge of space in sci-fi) because the abyss begins to look into you – the nothingness of the outside nests itself in the head. This is where Ligotti really takes off – people are ultimately self conscious nothings hence the fact that his favorite artifact for inducing madness is the doll or the puppet.
Lovecraft’s cosmicism combined with deep time forms a materialism that he believes can no longer be contained by the formal shields of anthrocentrism.
Thanks for the replies.
extreme examples of materiality can break the formal gap between thinking and being – nature is horrorific for us (or at least it should be) if we give up our minimum safe distance.
Yes, exactly, this is the claim – very clearly phrased, thank you – and this is what I’m disputing. We can all agree that some people react to the idea that there’s no formal gap between thinking and being with horror. And we can all agree that there are some people who don’t react to this idea with horror. You’re arguing that the first response is the correct one – that people should have this response. And in fact, you’re also arguing an even stronger claim – not just that people should have this response, but that they should have it in virtue of the very content of the idea of human thought as natural (and the idea of time and space as being very expansive) – that these ideas are intrinsically horrifying, such that anyone who accepts these ideas and yet does not react to them with horror must have failed to comprehend the conceptual content they’re endorsing.
I’m disputing both of these claims. I think they’re really implausible, and that they rest on a bunch of hidden premises and on a bunch of unremarked social and psychological prior commitments and attitudes. I think it’s perfectly possible to fully accept the lack of any formal, ontological, metaphysical, etc., gap between human thought and biological human existence – and to reject such a gap without having to react to the world thereby understood with horror. I think lots of people already do this. I think that lack of horror is a perfectly reasonable, legitimate and quite common response to these insights, and that it doesn’t require any kind of suppression of the relevant conceptual content.
What leads to the ‘(human = nature) = horror’ line, imo, is a prior and overriding commitment to a set of really problematic ideas – a confidence, most often, that rational human thought can only exist if human thought is in some sense separable from the physical/biological. This claim is what’s actually being argued for using the metaphorics of horror. So spookyparadigm above invokes social movements that oppose the teaching of evolutionary theory. Members of these social movements are indeed often convinced that our status as moral agents is dependent on a philosophical distinction between mind and body – or soul and body, usually. The premise is often: there must be a firm boundary of some sort between rational / ethical thought and corporeal being if rational / ethical thought is to be sustained. But this is precisely the claim under contention – it can’t just be asserted, metaphorically or otherwise. (And among other things this line of thought can lead to spookyparadigm’s absurd conclusion that creationists understand evolutionary biology better than evolutionary biologists, as evidenced by the fact that they reject evolutionary biology, whereas evolutionary biologists’ lack of comprehension of evolutionary biology is evidenced by their acceptance of evolutionary biology.)
Is the fact that humans are natural creatures so intrinsically horrifying that anyone who accepts it should go mad? Or is this latter idea itself a highly culturally and psychologically specific one, which can legitimately and indeed easily be rejected? A lot of the rhetoric advancing this set of ideas in the speculative realist theoretical space is based on the idea that virtually everyone else in the whole world is failing fully to understand what it means for humans to be natural creatures, for time and space to extend beyond the limits of human experience, etc.: that speculative realism is the only philosophical position to wrestle with these intrinsically horrifying facts. And that we can tell that speculative realism is the only philosophical position wrestling with these horrifying facts, because so many other people are apparently accepting the facts without feeling their intrinsic horror.
My claim is that these facts aren’t intrinsically horrifying. That they only seem so from a specific, in some ways quite idiosyncratic, social/psychological perspective, and that it’s actually this perspective that pieces like the original post above are promoting/advocating.
Superstition strikes back.
Instead of vanishing in the “dustbin of history” it leads a life on its own and evolves together with philosophy and mainstream science. Lovecrafts scientists ( methodical thinkers ) worked hard on the avoidance of too many things in the world but now those things are leaking into our realm and are here to stay. The methodical thinker becomes overwhelmed by alien matter and its manifestation and/or one of its tools.
Despite its horror moments it is still relatively harmless because the suffering is individualized: scientists become crackpots because they are contaminated with otherness – shit happens. The aliens impact on the scientist is shown but not that on science. Stanislav Lem was both more concrete in the description of going crackpot ( The Lymphater formular ) as well as the end of science in botany and filling libraries with observations about psychic matter ( Solaris ) or speculations with no end ( His masters voice ). However, even there test arrangements included alien beings which cracked the distinction between a neutral undistorted channel without feedback loops ( nature ) and a self-interested mind. Lems reality cracks were inspired by cybernetics and they were not reactionary like the modernized Lovecraftian Gothic.
One can sweep out all this alien stuff and still ends up with an incoherent universe being made coherent by inventing a bigger context where all statistically possible but theoretically constrained alternatives are realized. This is the most likely end of science and for some it has already happened. One compromises Occams Razor in favour for rationality: the world isn’t cracked by otherness and becomes irrational but it is mildly irrational/inconsistent at its foundations and being made regular by the introduction of a few more worlds. There are still no UFOs in the multiverse and the end of science is socialized and domesticated.
Very shrewd to bring Lem into this; he’s the other major name (aside from Dick & Lovecraft) showing ‘the mind at the end of its tether’ in sci-fi. (There are lots of lesser-known ones too, some quite good). In rough schematic: PKD is gnostic and believes in a benevolent universe; HPL puts forward a gnosticism in which the universe is worse than Kafkaesque (they’ll allow you — even lure you — into the Castle, but the cost of entry is your mind); Lem is sober-minded about the limits of thought — science finally crests and breaks and its fractal limits are like the froth of a mighty wave that was, after all, never infinitely tall.
You write: This is the most likely end of science and for some it has already happened. One compromises Occams Razor in favour for rationality: …the end of science is socialized and domesticated.
It’s rather as if it were an uncomfortable marriage between Lem and Huxley’s Brave New World.
I was reminded of this documentary today that covers a lot of the similar themes from Ben’s piece – the madness of scientists facing up to nature-in-itself. (h/t Paul Ennis for the link)
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