Mind Shut Closed

Steve Johnson‘s Mind Wide Open gets a bad review. Although the review is great fun to read, it’s because it contains more about the review than the book. It concludes:

The idea that brain science is somehow going to do something which will “exceed the wildest dreams of poets and philosophers” is very light and very ignorant. It is, however, a characteristic idea of our time.

Which is true, as far as it goes, but he also says:

Equally, our minds work on the basis of myriad assumptions. If these are exposed as the deterministic workings of mere chemistry, then we might not even be able to get through the day, never mind the next million years.

which Paul Myers characterises well as

Well. I guess we’d better stop studying the brain then, shouldn’t we? Who knows, we might actually learn things about how it works that don’t involve angels or ghosts, and then people will get depressed.

The great thing about consciousness is it’s sheer obstinacy in the face of contradictory evidence. We don’t need to worry too much about the existential dangers of too much scientific information (the damage has already beeen done in that respect). We do need to worry about the social use, misuse and abuse of scientific information…But that’s another story.