Another pop science truism hits the, er, pop science truism pile
|October 22, 2013||Posted by News under Intelligent Design, Mind, Neuroscience, News|
You’ve heard about the left brain and the right brain, and how differently they think.
A flourishing industry of books, videos and self-help programs has been built on this dichotomy. You can purportedly “diagnose” your brain, “motivate” one or both sides, indulge in “essence therapy” to “restore balance” and much more. Everyone from babies to elders supposedly can benefit. The left brain/right brain difference seems to be a natural law.
Except that it isn’t. The popular left/right story has no solid basis in science. The brain doesn’t work one part at a time, but rather as a single interactive system, with all parts contributing in concert, as neuroscientists have long known. The left brain/right brain story may be the mother of all urban legends: It sounds good and seems to make sense—but just isn’t true.
An apparently endless river of neuro-nonsense flows from thinking of the brain as wetware, a sort of machine composed of chains of neurons that operates along the same materialist lines as natural selection. It is more useful to think of the brain as an ocean, with certain defined features—currents, for example, and trenches and seamounts you can name and identify—but most of the rest may be hard to define reductively in principle because it is always changing.
The author’s proposed top-bottom approach probably won’t work out either. One thinks of the recently fashionable claims made for the “reptilian brain,” a supposedly more primitive part of our brain that we share with reptiles, who are not very smart. People who did dumb things were said to be giving in to the reptilian brain.
The problem is, reptiles are actually not that stupid. The reptile’s major difficulty is that it is exothermic, which means that it can’t keep up any activity for long. In the linked story, anoles proved as smart as small birds (tits) at solving problems for a food reward, but they turned out to need vastly less food. Lack of need, rather than lack of brain capacity, may be the key barrier to reptilian learning.
Speaking of learning, forget materialism in general, and learn more.
See also: Language fraud alert: There is nothing “controversial” about materialism (Indeed, it is hard to get people to think about many key topics without employing its false assumptions.)
Hat tip: Philip Cunningham