Copyright © Michael Clark. All rights reserved.
Here’s a quote from a brain imaging story in Mail Online that seems to overstep its bounds.
Professor Jeste admitted the possibility that wisdom and free will are based on the make-up of someone’s brain rather than metaphysics is unsettling (Full article » http://tr.im/irbJ).
Not that we should overlook our bodies and our brains. But there are so many problems with this story that it’s hard to know where to begin.
First, assuming the article accurately represents the published research we’d do well to remember that any observed links between brain activity and wisdom are correlations. And any good high school science teacher will note that correlation is not the same thing as causality.
This is so basic to science yet so often glossed over or completely ignored in brain imaging stories that sometimes it seems overzealous researchers get a bit too excited over flashy, photoshopped looking brain images instead of being primarily concerned with doing sober and responsible scientific research.
But not only that. Sociology or Philosophy 101 professors tell us, rightly so, that the whole definition of science is still wide open to debate. There’s no single definition. How easily we forget that ‘science’ is a manmade word and a diverse human enterprise, one rooted in and influenced by a myriad of cultural biases.
In fact, some argue that a truly scientific perspective would also allow for the possibility of spiritual factors in human thought and behavior. And some theologians, like Hugh of St. Victor, even go as far to say that theology is the purest and noblest of all the sciences.
The debate goes on. But one thing seems certain. When it comes to reductive interpretations of brain imaging studies and their dazzling high-tech pictures, we’d be wise to realize that seeing is not necessarily believing.