Science As Wisdom

The Universe represented as multiple disk-shaped slices across time.

We have seen that science is a more dynamic and useful problem solver than philosophy and that, in our view, philosophical questions eventually are replaced by scientific answers. But what of religion? Might it hold out better hope for humankind and their descendents than science? I think not. Perhaps we should hope that Divine intervention will save us from the space debris that inevitably comes our way, but better to do something about it ourselves. We can wait for biological evolution to (maybe) make the species smarter; but better to pursue artificial intelligence, intelligence augmentation, and the like. Only knowledge will save us. If humans will not grow up, they will die as children.

Thus, to save ourselves, we must become more powerful and only hard-won knowledge will do that. Science has done more for humanity than any other human enterprise, and it does no good to long for a past Eden, or a hunter-gatherer or agricultural paradise—although I doubt that any of these ever existed. We simply must come to grips with our increasing power over life, death, matter, and mind. Neglect our duty, we pay the price; defer to the Gods, we seal our doom. We must not decry the forward march of our knowledge, as if calling it irreligious or secular will matter much. The river moves forward and we can navigate the currents, or be swept along or paddle upstream—but only navigators have a good chance of survival. Neither religious fervor or philosophical speculation will bring about wisdom because they bestow no knowledge. And though knowledge may not be a sufficient condition for wisdom, it is certainly necessary.

In the future, thinkers need no longer be content with mere speculation about the existence of souls or gods. Instead they will explain why we believe such things, and understand whether such beliefs promote or impede human progress. And the mysterious secrets of mind will also slowly emerge from the dark caves in which they have hid themselves. Science will ultimately reveal those secrets, granting us a thorough understanding of our own nature. Thus the Socratic mandate of “know thyself,” is now most thoroughly followed in the natural sciences.

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