Holism is colloquially summarized as “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” […] Hence, I think that the scientific concept that would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit is holism: the abiding recognition that wholes have properties not present in the parts and not reducible to the study of the parts.
For example, carbon atoms have particular, knowable physical and chemical properties. But the atoms can be combined in different ways to make, say, graphite or diamonds. The properties of those substances—properties such as darkness and softness and clearness and hardness—are properties not of the carbon atoms but rather of the collection of carbon atoms. Moreover, which particular properties the collection of atoms has depends entirely on how they are assembled—into sheets or pyramids. The properties arise because of the connections between the parts. Grasping this insight is crucial for a proper scientific perspective on the world. You could know everything about isolated neurons and be unable to say how memory works or where desire originates.