Any psychiatrist [or anyone under 30] might say my poor grades in science classes have made me inappropriately skeptical about all the accolades modern neurobiologista receive these days. Especially for their impressive work mapping our brains. If you track lay publications like the New York Times, there is at least one or two articles a week saluting another breakthrough by these brain researchers.
Being a non-scientist both by grades and choices, I can’t help but skim past the mathematical data on the surface to focus more on the underlying social consequences. Take the atomic bomb, for instance. At the time we focused on what we wanted it to do FOR us, not on what it might someday do TO us.
Now that 50 year score is coming in. Now we can tally both the positives and negatives in the social ledger. Will this not also be true of current achievements with the human brain? Neurobiologists are constantly discovering some new gene or chemical or code or lobe that helps shape [determine?] our daily behaviors. They say in on our loving, marrying, breeding, warring, voting, dressing, and damn near just about everything we once thought was a HUMAN behavior. Lately we are being advised they are really just another evolved BIOLOGICAL behavior which can [or soon will be] managed with neurobiology tools like meds, genes, electrical stimuli, bio-engineering, etc.
One hundred years ago a great many Western thinkers got excited about Eugenics as a way of speeding up evolution and creating a “new man.” The Nazis kidnapped that idea for an ugly time, but now it is back in academic disguise. What can be wrong with examining the brain –don’t get sidetracked by that old medieval distinction with the mind — and thereby learning how we can improve ourselves?
For some of us science-class skeptics the key question is: How are we defining “improve?” Lets hope not the same dystopian way some credible sci-fi pessimists have done, like H.G. Wells, George Orwell, and Rod Serling. Their’s is a world many of us would dread, even if we got A’s in our science classes.
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