So, another millennium, another blissful dawn. How do we get there this time? No problem: human brains in all their fallibility will analyse the brains of others by means of fallible machinery and produce fallible theories, to be implemented by those same fallible brains. The time to watch for is when neuroscientists claim they can tinker with our heads to make us more creative, rectify harmful thinking or "cure" homosexuals (machines are not of the Left or Right), such improvements in our condition to be overseen, as with Lysenko, by scientised bureaucrats.
Paranoid? Only mildly. Remember we have been there already: the dark "science of eugenics" was practised in Sweden as well as the US well before the Führer took a more active interest. And ask yourself what use Stalin or Mao might have made of machines capable of identifying and eliminating what the Chinese called "black thoughts".
Meanwhile the neuro industry will grow and grow, together with its claim for investment and state subsidies. Particle physics, I was assured when I visited CERN in Geneva armed with a programme of budget cuts, is the ne plus ultra of understanding the universe, but not any more: the existence or otherwise of the Higgs Boson particle is presumably a percept of the human brain, whose study must logically be awarded a prior claim to cash.
Fortunately, powerful critics are lining up to deflate the worst neuro-pretensions, including Tallis, Robinson and Bryan Appleyard, the Sunday Times writer. As well as being in different degrees scientifically literate all are highly cultivated folk. Listen to Tallis, himself a neuroscientist, Darwinian and atheist, in his remarkable book Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity (Acumen, 2011):
Even if we accepted (which I do not) that brain activity is a complete explanation of ground-floor phenomena such as sensations, neuroscience cannot capture what happens to the human world created by the joint activity of hundreds of millions of brains created over tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of years.
An obvious area of interest for the new utopians is criminality, and Tallis has fun with the advocates of biological justice. The idea that criminals are in thrall to their amygdala (the seat of aggression, it seems) is no more, he says, than a materialist updating of demonic possession. And instead of justice taking an understanding view of offenders, logically they should be given longer sentences, because nothing can change them. When Zeno whipped him, a thieving slave protested: "But I was fated to steal." "Yes, and be whipped for it too," the philosopher replied. Getting a moral grip on oneself is possible, Tallis believes, but that cannot be the view of those who insist there is no "self" to grip, or do the gripping.