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Sat Nov 24, 2012, 11:12 AM

Neuroscience: Under Attack

THIS fall, science writers have made sport of yet another instance of bad neuroscience. The culprit this time is Naomi Wolf; her new book, “Vagina,” has been roundly drubbed for misrepresenting the brain and neurochemicals like dopamine and oxytocin.

Earlier in the year, Chris Mooney raised similar ire with the book “The Republican Brain,” which claims that Republicans are genetically different from — and, many readers deduced, lesser to — Democrats. “If Mooney’s argument sounds familiar to you, it should,” scoffed two science writers. “It’s called ‘eugenics,’ and it was based on the belief that some humans are genetically inferior.”

Sharp words from disapproving science writers are but the tip of the hippocampus: today’s pop neuroscience, coarsened for mass audiences, is under a much larger attack.

Meet the “neuro doubters.” The neuro doubter may like neuroscience but does not like what he or she considers its bastardization by glib, sometimes ill-informed, popularizers.


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Reply Neuroscience: Under Attack (Original post)
groovedaddy Nov 2012 OP
Igel Nov 2012 #1
mzteris Nov 2012 #2

Response to groovedaddy (Original post)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 01:17 PM

1. Psychology had the same problem.

Still does.

Once there's a political spin given to a science, once it moves from seeking knowledge and structure to seeking political power and the ego-building is more than building individual, isolated egos in an effort to show that their view of some arcane portion of a field is right, the science is under attack.

Once the ego-building isn't petty (whatever the size of the ego-retention edifices individuals build to house their own egos) but systemic, once it's a public fight for funding and power, the risks of fraudulent, misrepresented, mischaracterized, cherry-picked research are unlimited.

Even self-correction becomes difficult. Neuroscience was affected strongly by having a dead salmon show brain activity. Oops, bad stats, need to redo scores of studies (or at least re-analyze the data). Now, had lots of money and policy rested on the results that also showed a dead salmon had brain activity, that study wouldn't have seen print and the statistical methods wouldn't have been upgraded.

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Response to groovedaddy (Original post)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 03:22 PM

2. "eugenics" is a bad connotation

and the reason people don't want to even THINK about the genetic differences inherent men/women and people from different parts of the globe.

Scientific truths are good things to know. It helps us understand ourselves and others better. It's not a weapon to be used nor a tool to divide.

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