Although Berry specifically targets the scientific establishment in “Life is a Miracle,” he does not claim that science created the social problems he identifies in it, and by no means does he think that society’s problems are consigned to that sphere. Berry also takes to task the literary establishment for buying into similar myths that parallel the myth of self-directing scientific progress. Artists and authors often describe art as a means to uncover all the dirty little secrets of the human condition. Books that touch on some new, edgy subject are often considered milestones. As a result, the ability of authors to “unmask” what real individuals would otherwise keep private is highly revered in Western literary culture. The problem with this steamy, iconoclastic project is that it leads to a crass reductionism whereby characters, and by implication actual individuals, become mines from which authors extract precious resources. Berry points out that this attitude is incredibly myopic- we don’t love characters or other individuals because we want to distill a special characteristic from them. We love people and characters because of the experiences we share with them, and the personhood we see in them. Good art, art that promotes human understanding and solidarity, cannot rest on reductionism.
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