Why has putative neuroscience flooded the culture? And why don't some people recognize how much brain science is over-hyped? What is that people are really seeking when they buy the pop-science books or attend the neuro-this and neuro-that presentations? What do readers of these books (and articles) and attendees of these events think neuroscience can provide? Chances are high that whatever is being sought will not be delivered by brain science.
Everyday this neuro thing becomes more widespread; the number of pilgrims to Mount Brain grows; the promises of what the brain can tell us increase in outlandishness. Fortunately, articles and blog posts are being written to warn us about the growing brain silliness. Today I call your attention to two.
From "Your brain on pseudoscience" (NewStatesman):
An intellectual pestilence is upon us. Shop shelves groan with books purporting to explain, through snazzy brain-imaging studies, not only how thoughts and emotions function, but how politics and religion work, and what the correct answers are to age-old philosophical controversies. The dazzling real achievements of brain research are routinely pressed into service for questions they were never designed to answer. This is the plague of neuroscientism – aka neurobabble, neurobollocks, or neurotrash – and it’s everywhere.
Distortion of what and how much we know is bound to occur, Paul Fletcher points out, if the literature is cherry-picked.
“Having outlined your theory,” he says, “you can then cite a finding from a neuroimaging study identifying, for example, activity in a brain region such as the insula . . . You then select from among the many theories of insula function, choosing the one that best fits with your overall hypothesis, but neglecting to mention that nobody really knows what the insula does or that there are many ideas about its possible function.”
But the great movie-monster of nearly all the pop brain literature is another region: the amygdala. It is