I see this all the time… There seems to always be some language personifying the non-personal in the rhetoric of Science (capital S intended ironically). Have you wondered why this occurs?
Crick spelled Nature with a capital N, Sagan spelled “C”osmos. Even Dawkins, although he identifies this behavior as the very start of religion in our world, does this (subtlety) in some of his writings. Certainly they each would not actually say there is a “person” behind or encompassing the material universe, yet the personifying language seems to naturally flow out for some reason.
Science does not actually ever “do” anything… people do things with science. Evolution does not ever “decide” anything, people have will and make personal choices with it – a strictly material universe has no such thing by definition as I understand “strictly material”. Evolution is an idea that only has existence in the mind of people, but people personify it (and if I can go so far…) worship it.
I’ve been working on an analogy for this – if I may share?
I have a toolbox. In the tool box I have a hammer and some nails. I look in my toolbox and I get the inspiration to build a bird house, and so I do using the hammer and nails. I might say my inspiration came out of the toolbox, but really only the hammer and nails did. I perhaps used the tools twice – first (maybe) for inspiration, and second to build – but only the second use came out of a physical material universe – and would not have at all without the first “use”.
Now suppose I see birds feeding from my bird house and I get an inspiration to draw a picture of them. I look in my toolbox for something to use. No paint or color-markers so I grab a nail and start scratching a picture of the bird onto a rock. It’s not the best birdy picture you ever did see, but I was able to follow the inspirations calling with the tools at hand. I begin to wonder where that calling actually comes from – where did the inspiration to build and draw originate? I find myself lost in my fascination and I write a poem in my head about the inspiration. I like my poem in my head and decide to share it. I remember using the nail (which was intended for holding wood together) to draw a picture so I try using it also to make words on bones.
I accidentally drop one of the bones onto another and my ears delight me with the sound they make. I intentionally reproduce that sound over and over, and I also hit the rock (you know, the one with the birdy picture) until a rhythm develops and I now have a song played on bones (upon which is found a poem of the wonder of building a birdhouse) and stones (upon which is a beautiful birdy picture). Do rocks and bones give birth to delight by themselves, or is there an unknown at play here?
This all started with a hammer and some nails. But they themselves, by themselves, did nothing. Inspiration came from somewhere – no one knows exactly where from still – and a person (namely “I” – which is a curious thing and somehow different from rocks and birds) used them in a blend with my own creativity (whatever that is).
Science is a tool in a toolbox – it is not a bird, bone or stone. Nor is science the actual inspiration that compels us to build things with science. Evolution is a picture drawn of a bird with a somewhat crude misuse of the science tool but it kinda works – although it lacks the color of the real thing.
Philosophy is another tool. It can write poems of wonder and stretch our experience beyond the confines of science where certainty gets lost, but it is still only a tool. Using the science tool *as* a philosophical tool is a crude misuse which often results in silliness such as spelling cosmos with a capital “C”. This is also how science proper morphs into Scientism and usurps a position of authority in our lives it does not deserve.
If I may suggest… personifying the non-personal is really just a natural response to a mysterious call – and I suspect, that same calling of inspiration that sparks birdhouses, pictures, poems and music. It is a call to worship.
We were made to worship, you and I. We disagree at times (okay…, most of the time) about what is worthy of our worship. We can all tell stories of worshiping the wrong things in our lives yet still not really know the right thing. We worship hammers and nails. We worship birds and birdhouses, bones with etched poems and stones with birdy pictures. Some of us go so far as to worship the inspiration itself, but even that may be falling short of the true worth. It is where the inspiration comes from – that mystery we cannot touch (or draw, or spell correctly) – that unknown source of what is known – that is what we are actually trying to worship with everything we do. That is where the calling is coming from.