The two languages of science

Daniel Dennett is one of the most inspiring thinkers you will find. In this fascinating correspondence with Alex Rosenberg on purpose in nature, Dennett cites our Night Science piece on the two languages of science.

Dennett writes:

“Do not anthropomorphize genes, they do not like it.” (Yanai and Lercher, 2020)

This joke nicely needles the overreactions to excess anthropomorphism among biologists. As Richard Dawkins showed us almost fifty years ago, we can cash these terms out, and since we can, we may help ourselves to a little “deficit spending,” taking out intelligence loans that we can pay back later, once we get a better picture of the whole system (Dennett, 1971). Yanai and Lercher propose a distinction between day science (which shuns the intentional stance) and night science (which is when the new hypotheses get hatched for testing), but as long as we keep track of our obligations, we can avoid theoretical bankruptcy without making this drastic divide. 

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