May 26, 2024

Do we need more “neuroscepticism”?

What about “open futures, distributive justice, and perfectionism”?

Last year British doctor and philosopher
Raymond Tallis published a cranky article in The New Humanist about
“neurotrash” which complained about the exuberant proliferation of neuros: “If
you come across a new discipline with the prefix ‘neuro’ and it is not to do
with the nervous system itself, switch on your bullshit detector. If it has
society in its sights, reach for your gun. Bring on the neurosceptics.”

Heeding his summons, Eran Klein, of Oregon
Health and Sciences University, has published an article in the journal
Neuroethics entitled “Is There a Need for Clinical Neuroskepticism?”

“It is far from clear that a future world
in which everyone wears neurospectacles is the best one available to us.
Neuroscience has changed the way we understand ourselves and no doubt will
continue to do so, often for the better. But it provides just one way to
encounter the world. Enveloping ourselves in a discourse of the ‘neuro’ —
though perhaps seductive at times — can also crowd out other valuable ways of
talking about and understanding ourselves and our place in the world. Sometimes
talk of neurons, synapses, and circuits must give way to talk of open futures,
distributive justice, and perfectionism. A healthy dose of neuroskepticism may
be just what’s needed for medicine to travel along neurotechnology’s golden
road.” ~ Neuroethics,
Aug 17

Michael Cook