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Soul on the slab: is there no limit to what neuroscience can do?


Souls thumb

Despite the tremendous potential of breakthroughs in neuroscience, there is now increasing disquiet at the alleged exaggerations made in its name. Critics argue the overzealous application of brain science undermines notions of free will and responsibility, reducing all human behaviour to crude determinism. Meanwhile, the supposed unlocking of the human mind has attracted fashionable enthusiasm far beyond science: policy makers, pollsters, artists, lawyers now see neuroscience as the key to unlocking everything from why consumers make certain choices to crime. Are they spouting ‘neurobollocks’ or are we less autonomous than we think? Filmed at the Battle of Ideas festival at the Barbican, this debate will fire more than a few neurons. The speakers are: Julian Baggini; Dr Bill Durodié; Professor Geraint Rees; Dr Sally Satel and the Chair is Claire Fox.

Recommended link: Battle of Ideas debate page

Related topics: Debates

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Randolph Ferry said:

I thought that Sally Satel was right at first, until I finally heard Bill Durodie, who was even more right! Other speakers didn’t seem to fully appreciate the current problem of scientism. I remember when human DNA was sequenced and a number of commentators were quick to ‘discover’ a gene for crime or homosexuality (both of which turned out to be rubbish scientifically) and so it’s not a surprise to her neuroscientists or their followers come out with claims about how men and women think differently. The science is new and contested but some of the contests are political differences being fought out in a discussion of neuroscience rather than in the political sphere proper. Maybe we could try and separate the two?

Rachel said:

Mind=blowing stuff.

Scientists need to get out more.

Sian said:

God, the soul is more difficult to understand than I’d ever imagined.

I need to watch this again. My brain hurts. Or does it?


Mind the gap said:

Wow. I always think of the caution
“Don’t open your mind so much that your brain spills out!”
when I hear this debate with neuromantics.

Our neurons don’t think, they don’t like, they are simoly part of the machinery of the nervous system (epsecially the brain). You don’t need to become a Carteesian duailst to accept that the brain doesn’t parse information. That’s a unique capacity of human persons not human bodies.