It is a commonplace of university and college high table gossip that scientific researchers responsible for great intellectual advances in one area are not unlikely to be dull or inadequate in other fields of life. This is to be expected. When acting as part of their intellectual network scientists perform well, and contribute to the success of the collective enterprise, but when working alone, as individuals, are only average in their ability to complete a task with adequacy. One may further comment that: There is some reason for thinking that most scientists today are never required to complete a project, or even to design it. The problems they face professionally are pre-specified by the stage reached in an enterprise distributed geographically and temporally, involving several continents and many generations. The group often, as it happens, gives the impression of having direction, and this may on occasion arise from the exceptional contribution of a single person, one capable of synthesizing the field before them, redirecting it, but perhaps more often the aggregate endeavour only appears purposive because we trace its progress retrospectively by mapping intellectuo-technological successes, ignoring the dead ends and mediocre outcomes fading into the mists on either side.

Taking science, for the most part, as a group  activity whose achievements are not to be attributed to any one of its component parts enables us to approach and solve the puzzle presented by those such as John Eccles and Roger Sperry. Combined with their notable achievements as neurophysiological researchers there is an apparently contradictory and, at least to me, extremely unconvincing assertion of dualism. This combination gave them, quite understandably, a certain celebrity amongst other would-be dualists, who reasoned that if someone working within the materialist scheme at a high level cannot find an adequate account of consciousness, then surely there is none. But that reasoning may poorly founded. Perhaps the striking combination of views held by Eccles and Sperry is to be explained by reference to the dichotomy of competence familiar in other cases. Their work in physiology was supported by the research network in which they functioned, and with that context to guide and hold them up, they rarely stumbled. On the other hand, when they spoke as mystics they spoke for themselves, and were governed by fears and anxieties common to many men and likely to warp judgment.

Perhaps it is awareness of this precipitous intellectual cliff edge that makes so many scientists aggressively collectivist in their politics.