Blog 9

Comparison: Pinker and Lehrer

The view on the word reductionism is widely disputed because of its derogatory meaning.  Jonah Lehrer, an American author, said, “…the logic of reductionism implies that our self-consciousness is really an elaborate illusion, an epiphenomenon generated by some electrical shudder in the frontal cortex. There is not ghost in the machine; there is only the vibration of the machinery” (3). Reductionism, in Lehrer’s view, is only looking at the pieces of a concept or idea and never the whole picture. The real truth can be lost because the whole picture is not being addressed. However, Steven Pinker, an American cognitive psychologist, disputes the use of reductionism to describe how scientists explain concepts. In his article, “Science Is Not Your Enemy”, he states, ” demonizers of scientism often confuse intelligibility with a sin called reductionism. But to explain a complex happening in terms of deeper principles is not to discard its richness” (4).  In order to explain complex ideas from the science world it is imperative to know the basics and all the parts that make a system work. This can help everyday people understand foreign ideas because they know how the parts work together in order to make the whole.  Therefore, the opinion on the word reductionism depends on the person you speak to. One may use it in a negative way to show that the bigger picture is lost or it can be use to create a better understand of a difficult concept.


Comparison: Pinker and Self-to-text

Science is used to explain and discover new ideas about our world.  Ideas of science and religion have come into contact and there is a discrepancy between them. Each have their own beliefs on how the world came about and what our purpose is within it but some believe this a boundary that science should not cross into. Steven Pinker, an American cognitive psychologist stated, “Though everyone endorses science when it can cure disease, monitor the environment,  or bash political opponents, the intrusion of science into the territories of the humanities has been deeply resented. Just as reviled is the application of scientific reasoning to religion: many writers without a trace of a belief in God maintain that there is something unseemly about scientists weighing in on the biggest questions” (pg.2). The biggest questions in our society include who we are , where we came from, and what is the purpose of us being here. When science attempts to answer one of these questions, for example, proposing the Big Bang Theory as a way to explain how the Universe was created, is seen as overstepping its boundaries in the eyes of religion. Most religious individuals believe there is only one way we became a Universe and that is by God. If science attempts to step into this world people of religion turn their back on the idea of another possibility on the origin of life. A friend of mine has some religious roots within her family and the conversation of how life began was a topic of conversation. Anytime I would attempt to bring up a theory of science about how this world came to be, she would dispute and couldn’t wrap her head around the idea that something, other than God, could have created this world. Science should be accepted by all as a way to explain our world’s biggest questions and it should not be shunned against based on the sole reason of it being different than our own personal opinions.



1 Comment

  1. Elisha M Emerson

    Ha! It looks like you revisited Lehrer’s writing on reductionism! Good work! You chose two wonderful quotes to put into conversation.

    Your second paragraph is passionate and interesting. You can make it stronger if you explicitly explore how your experience with your friend connects with Pinker’s quote.

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