Have you ever found yourself indulgently smiling at the silly ideas humans used to have about how the earth was flat and you might sail off the edge, or how when we are sick it is because little demons have taken possession of us?
Well, stand back and look around, because not too much has changed!
This article about the way we can become addicted to sugar, is a case in point. While the subject of sugar addiction is important, the explanation is scientific nonsense. For example the authoress, Jordan Gaines Lewis, apparently a neuroscience doctoral candidate, invokes the fallacious Homunculus Argument when she writes things like:
"In order for us to survive as a species, things like eating, having sex and nurturing others must be pleasurable to the brain so that these behaviours are reinforced and repeated.
The experiences of eating and sex are not 'pleasurable' to the brain - the brain does not experience pleasure! The brain system (whatever that means) does not 'decipher' rewards for us. To decipher means to convert code into ordinary language. The 'natural rewards' are not encoded and cannot be decoded by the brain! The brain does not speak ordinary language!
That neural activities in the various pathways of the brain are correlated with and necessary for various psychological experiences and physiological functions is clearly true. But to say that the 'nurturing others' is 'pleasurable to the brain' is to confuse attributes of the whole person (love, hate, sexual desire, thinking, experience of pleasure etc.) with parts of the whole. We would not say that our legs took us for a run - they are clearly involved but not causal.
The mental model of Ms. Lewis clearly includes the notion that the brain contains a homunculus - a little person sitting in our head (who also presumably has a brain?) who experiences events, sees things and interprets the world on our behalf. Light strikes our retina which presents an image to the little man who sees and reacts to this image.
The problem with this thinking is that it is common amongst neuroscientists, inhibits sensible interpretation of their results and blocks real progress.
This way of thinking precludes any real understanding of the relationship between neurological phenomena and behaviour of the whole person. Which has serious implications for the development and use of drugs today.
For example, in the USA, 50% of Americans will experience mental illness during their life. This is most clearly seen in the criminal justice system, which is overwhelmed by such problems. With reports of up to 30% of inmates having serious mental issues, the system is breaking.
With reductionist attitudes such as those of Ms Lewis, that try to treat a homunculus with chemicals, the outlook is grim. The public is led down the wrong path by a confused scientific community and preyed upon by an unscrupulous and psychopathic drug industry.
In terms of understanding ourselves and what it is to be human, many of us are still in the dark ages.
Posted by Nicholas Moore 7:08:27 pm