Heckling as a Public Service

Here is another very good essay in The New Atlantis that speaks to the mind/brain issue. In reaction to the ubiquitous practice of placing “neuro” in front of almost every designation one could think of the author writes:

There is a host of cultural entrepreneurs currently grasping at various forms of authority through appropriations of neuroscience, presented to us in the corresponding dialects of neuro-talk. Such talk is often accompanied by a picture of a brain scan, that fast-acting solvent of critical faculties.

That last sentence made me laugh out loud. And there was this:

it becomes apparent that the current “neuro” enthusiasm should be understood in the larger context of scientism, a pervasive cultural tendency with its own logic. A prominent feature of this logic is the overextension of some mode of scientific explanation, or model, to domains in which it has little predictive or explanatory power. Such a lack of intrinsic fit is often no barrier to the model nonetheless achieving great authority in those domains, through a kind of histrionics. As Alasdair MacIntyre has shown in another context (that of social science), all that is required is a certain kind of performance by those who foist the model upon us, a dramatic imitation of explanatory competence that wows us and cows us with its self-confidence. At such junctures, the heckler performs an important public service.

The evangelists of scientism such as Dawkins, Dennett, and company are performers, but in a reverse sort of way. The pretense, part of the performance, is the cold, sober, and measured presentation of pure “fact” and “logic.” It is the charisma of the local evening news anchor.

Thank God for the hecklers.

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1 Response to Heckling as a Public Service

  1. frthomas says:

    Thanks for the lead to this article. In Seminary we were warned about “isogesis”. The “neuro-” reductionist tendency can be “isogesis” if it tries to be the absolute definition for the human identity and “explain everything.” We are “wonderfully and mysteriously made” as Psalm 139puts it. That includes neuro functions but is not limited to them.Lets hear it for those who know isogesis when they see,smell, taste, hear, and touch it.Fr. ThomasFr. Thomas


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