Now that most of us are Eurosceptics, it’s time that true conservatives also became neurosceptics.
Important claims are being made in the name of neuroscience – claims with profound political, ethical and cultural implications – but, which as Steven Poole explains in the New Statesman, are without foundation:
Seeing is believing and, so, when presented with the evidence of a brain scan showing different parts of our grey matter firing up in the course of different aspects of the human experience, we’re prone to accept claims that our choices, emotions and beliefs have been ‘explained’ or, rather, explained away as mere patterns of neural activity.
Poole exposes the various tricks pulled by the salespersons of popular neuroscience – the anecdotalism, the “premature extrapolation” and the cherry-picking from often conflicting evidence. But the point he really brings home is just how little the real scientists admit to understanding:
What is lacking in popular neuroscience is a sense of perspective. Whatever little scraps of correlation that might be gleaned from our measurements are floating on an immense ocean of deepest mystery. And, yet, this is the basis on which serious commentators and politicians – including some conservatives who really ought to know better – are beginning to make their arguments.
At the heart of all of this, of course, are the intellectual forces of materialism. Having killed- off God (at least, to their own satisfaction), the abolition of the human soul is the next thing on their to-do list.