Metaphors of Science

“We proceed in step-by-step discussion from inference to inference, whereas He conceives through mere intuition. Thus, in order to gain insight into some properties of the circle, of which it possesses infinitely many, we begin with one of the simplest; we take it for a definition and proceed from it by means of inferences to a second property, from this to a third, hence a fourth, and so on. The divine intellect, on the other hand, grasps the essence of a circle senza temporaneo discorso (without the use of the profane reasoning) and thus apprehends the infinite array of it’s properties.”

— Galileo quoted in An Introduction to General Systems Thinking (Silver Anniversary Edition).

What Galileo discusses in this quote is the human inability to conceive of two properties at the same time. Similarly, we are incapable of thinking about two causes acting simultaneously. Instead, we are forced to break them out and think of them one at at time. Incidentally, this was a primary factor in my dissatisfaction with history. By our nature, humans are incapable of writing a coherent history of any event. Instead, we can merely contribute one of many complementary views. But God, as Galileo notes, is defined by his ability to conceive of a thing as a whole; rather than by a sequential consideration of properties. Now, what Galileo defined as Godly, will soon, I believe, be true of computers. One day, machines will have a richer view of the world than humans do, and will think of it in ways we cannot.

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