British neurologist with an interest in philosophy and some experience with the application of brain research to stroke treatment. Very interesting criticism of the recent move into neuroscience by specialists in other areas (Economics etc). Here the author is lambasting an literary critic’s use of neuroscience (he missed the opportunity to attribute her use as ‘neuroscientology’). Mr. Tallis picks apart the A.S Byatt’s use of neuro-physical reactions and Poetry. The literary critic is full of it. duh. The literary crowd had us searching for phallic symbols 20 years ago in literature. The analytical constructs English teachers shovel are still crap. However, Mr. Tallis must be more careful. I believe his neurology-protectionism was overly stimulated whilst attacking our English-teacher.
How can you hate the guy though, this kind of commentary is so very spot-on:
"For an academic, there are many reasons for going "interdisciplinary". You can, as John Bayley once said, "rise between two stools"."Most of the time you will be selling your product to an audience that is not in a position to judge the correctness, the validity, or even the probable veracity of the claims you are making about the guest discipline you exploit. Ingenious, not to say flaky, interpretations will pass unchallenged. A new paradigm also means lots of conferences and papers, and other ways of enhancing the path to professional advancement."
So then he says he "want(s) to make some brief observations about the (in)capacity of contemporary neuroscience to explain human consciousness." He proceeds to make valid points that aesthetics (seeing the color yellow) have yet to be understood. He observes Yellowness is intertwined with other properties of objects (yellow ducky v. yellow-bellied). He points out that neurons firing is necessary but not sufficient for thought to occur. true (duh!). He then unfortunately digresses from the specific (we don’t understand specifics like Yellow) to the general (we haven’t learned anything yet about the Mind-Brain problem). It appears his ideology precludes non-neurologists looking at the brain. His fears are unfounded. When scientists predict things, and then test those this, interesting results appear. Even if the hypothosis is from as unlikely a source as a Harvard or MIT psyche prof. I wish the author of this artical would relax though – As a tech-guy, I actually like it when people bring their logic to their PC…especially if they are interested enough to ask about the parts they don’t understand…
Economists, biologists, and behavior psych folks using tools to study behavior and choice theory have teamed up with some excellent neurologists to posit some good hypotheses. We do understand a good bit more in 1980. Examples of this include predicting some behaviors, and watching to see if experiments are accurately predicting outcomes. We can accurately predict what humans do in some situations, thanks to these economists. Mr. Tallis might peruse some of the research covered in survey books like Blink or The Tipping Point. Or if really interested, he could drill into the work by the researchers, such as Freakonomics, Mind of the Market, MoneyBall, How Doctor’s think, Animals in Translation, Predictably Irrational, Why People believe Weird things, The Executive Brain, et al. The people actually doing much of the research are neurologists working with social scientists and economists <heavens to Betsy, it’s cats and dogs sleeping together!>. These folks are ‘standing between two stools.’ as Tallis points out, but they are predicting behavior which can be observed…and they are stating their margins of error and their test results, and they are improving how we understand the cross-roads of neurology and behavior… "which is where our humanity lies" Mr. Tallis (how in the name of all that graduated in a HARD SCIENCE could you end your article with that pretentious babble…it reminds me of an English Teacher! 🙂