One of the many neuroX fields…all more or less dependent on fMRI data. Tom Bartlett’s piece in the Chronicle is here. Original article in New Atlantis by Roger Scruton is here. Scruton is a visiting professor at Oxford.
Money quote from Scruton:
But memetics possesses the very fault for which it purports to be a remedy: it is a spell with which the scientistic mind seeks to conjure away the things that pose a threat to it — which is also how we should view scientism in general. Scientism involves the use of scientific forms and categories in order to give the appearance of science to unscientific ways of thinking. It is a form of magic, a bid to reassemble the complex matter of human life, at the magician’s command, in a shape over which he can exert control. It is an attempt to subdue what it does not understand.
Popular neuroscience myths are now considered a risk to k-12 education in the UK, story here. Money quote:
“Teachers have a very enthusiastic attitude towards the brain, but there’s no neuroscience in teacher training at the moment and that makes teachers a little bit vulnerable to the very skilled approaches of entrepreneurs in selling products that are supposedly brain-based but actually are not very scientific in their basis and have not been properly evaluated in the classroom,” warned Dr Paul Howard-Jones, a leading expert on the role of neuroscience in educational practice and policy at the University of Bristol.
Adam Gopnik on the NeuroX wars in the New Yorker, here. Money quote:
Philosophy may someday dissolve into psychology and psychology into neurology, but since the lesson of neuro is that thoughts change brains as much as brains thoughts, the reduction may not reduce much that matters.
Point counter point on whether neuroscience is good for something. Gary Marcus in The New Yorker, here. The New York Times’ David Brooks here.
Marcus rightly points out that critiquing functional MRI brain scan data analysis is not the same thing as rejecting all of neuroscience–most of neuroscience (the parts not seen so much in the mass media) is knowledge obtained from a huge variety of robust and elegant methods, ranging from optogenetics to electrophysiology.
But it’s a good debate–perhaps it’ll prevent neuroscience from being oversold.
This year, we’ll be bringing together thought-leaders and discipline experts to talk about the current neuroscience meme that’s become ubiquitous…from neuromarketing, to neurolaw to…..neuroX. The deep question for our audience and speakers will be simply: how much of this stuff has substance? What’s hype? What’s not?
The context for the neuroscience meme extends from the concussion problem that the NFL may or may not have all the way to the promised replacement of the polygraph by the fMRI machine. Simply put, neuroscience occupies a central piece of the cultural zeitgeist in a way that it never really has before. For many decision-makers, investors, and members of the intelligent lay-public the practicality of becoming “very smart” about this new meme will play an important role in real choices: do I allow my child to play American-style football? Should I listen to those ads for brain training on Pandora? Do I chose 100 dollars right now or 200 next week?
Our speakers will be outstanding…Caltech’s Antonio Rangel, MIT’s Aude Oliva, FT’s Gillian Tett, Jim Ecklund of the NFL players’ Mackey-White TBI Committee and Phil Rubin of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy are among them….
We’ll convene on May 8-10 in George Mason’s Founder’s Hall….located conveniently proximal to the GMU/Virginia Square Metro Station on the Orange Line in Arlington. I’m looking forward to meeting many of our readers there.
In The New Statesman, Steve Poole’s excellent screed against the current vogue to use neuroscience as an explanation for everything, here.
At Huffington, here’s a classic example of what he’s worried about.
This is a real and present danger for the discipline. Overselling can lead to catastrophic loss of credibility for an entire field.
I’ll simply note this morning that today’s NYT op-ed piece on interpersonal neuroscience is the latest case of the NeuroX fad–applying a neuroscience framework to any and all social issues. This sort of journalistic conceit is becoming noxious I think–neuroscience as a field is still young, lacks a full theoretical underpinning and is simply not ready to be the explainer-in-chief for all human/animal social phenomena.
The last time a nascent discipline got over-exposed like this was I think the overselling of Artificial Intelligence. It wasn’t good at all for that field.
In the Chronicle, Marc Parry reviews Aping Mankind, Raymond Tallis’ new book on neurotrash, a term which I leave to your imagination….
Unless you want to read the review, which is here.