A psychiatrist might say my poor grades in science classes have made me unfairly skeptical about the accolades modern neurobiologista receive these days. Especially for their work mapping our brains. If you follow the Science pages or re-runs of “The Twilight Zone,” there is a galaxy of dazzling breakthroughs.
Maybe it’s all those poor grades, but I can’t help move past the dazzle on the surface to focus more on the social consequences underneath. For example, take the atomic bomb. At first we focused on what we wanted it to do for us, not on what it might someday do to us. Now decades later we can see the negatives as well as the positives 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 see it 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 these behaviors are actually just another evolved biological behavior which can be [or soon will be] managed with neurobiology tools like meds, genes, electrical stimuli and bio-engineering.
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, right? Don’t get sidetracked by that old medieval distinction with the mind, right? Why not improve our neurobiological being, right?
For some of us skeptics the real question is: How are we defining “improve?” Lets hope not the same dystopian way some of our futurists like H.G. Wells, George Orwell, and Rod Serling feared it. Theirs is a world that looms far more possible with each new scientific leap. Our plea would be the old fashioned one: Look before you keep leaping…
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