Here we begin to sense the chill that emanates from the hottest field in the academic world. The unspoken and largely unconscious premise of the wrangling over neuroscience's strategic high ground is: we now live in an age in which science is a court from which there is no appeal. And the issue this time around, at the end of the twentieth century, is not the evolution of the species, which can seem a remote business, but the nature of our own precious inner selves. The elders of the field, such as Wilson, are well aware of all this and are cautious, or cautious compared to the new generation. Wilson still holds out the possibility—i think he doubts it, but he still holds out the possibility—that at some point in evolutionary history, culture began to influence the development of the human brain in ways that cannot be explained by strict Darwinian theory. But the new generation of neuroscientists are not cautious for a second. In private conversations, the bull sessions, as it were, that create the mental atmosphere of any hot new science—and I love talking to these people—they express an uncompromising determinism. They start with the most famous statement in all of modern philosophy, descartes's "Cogito ergo sum "I think, therefore i am which they regard as the essence of "dualism the oldfashioned notion that the mind is something distinct from its mechanism, the brain and the.
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Neurometrics's investors were rubbing their hands and essay licking their chops. They were about grey to make a killing. In fact—nobody wanted their damnable iq cap! It wasn't simply that no one believed you could derive iq scores from brainwaves—it was that nobody wanted to believe it could be done. Nobody wanted to believe that human brainpower at hardwired. Nobody wanted to learn in a flash e genetic fix. Nobody wanted to learn that he was. A hardwired genetic d that the best he could hope for in this Trough of Mortal Error was to live out his mediocre life as a stressfree dim bulb. Barry Sterman of ucla, chief scientist for a firm called Cognitive neurometrics, who has devised his own brainwave technology for market research and focus groups, regards brainwave iq testing as possible—but in the current atmosphere you "wouldn't have a chinaman's chance of getting a grant". Science is a court from which there is no appeal.
Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale or, in the case of children, the. Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children —all from sixteen seconds' worth of brain waves. There was nothing culturally biased about bill the test whatsoever. What could be cultural about staring at a thumbtack on a wall? The savings in time and money were breathtaking. The conventional iq test took two hours to complete; and the overhead, in terms of paying testgivers, testscorers, testpreparers, and the rent, was 100 an hour at the very least. The iq cap required about fifteen minutes and sixteen seconds—it took about fifteen minutes to put the electrodes on the scalp—and about a tenth of a penny's worth of electricity.
I spoke to one researcher who had devised an iq cap himself by replicating an experiment described by giannitrapani. The Electrophysiology of Intellectual Functions. It desk was not a complicated process. You attached sixteen electrodes to the scalp of the person you wanted to test. You had to muss up his hair a little, but you didn't have to cut it, much less shave. Then you had him stare at a marker on a blank wall. This particular researcher used a raspberryred thumbtack. Then you pushed a toggle switch. In sixteen seconds the cap's computer box gave you an accurate prediction (within onehalf of a standard deviation) of what the subject would score on all dillard eleven subtests of the.
The recent ruckus over Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein's. The bell Curve is probably just the beginning of the bitterness the subject is going to create. Not long ago, according to two neuroscientists i interviewed, a firm called neurometrics sought out investors and tried to market an amazing but simple invention known as the iq cap. The idea was to provide a way of testing intelligence that would be free of "cultural bias one that would not force anyone to deal with words or concepts that might be familiar to people from one culture but not to people from another. The iq cap recorded only brain waves; and a computer, not a potentially biased human testgiver, analyzed the results. It was based on the work of neuroscientists such. Roy john 1, who is now one of the major pioneers of electroencephalographic brain imaging; duilio giannitrapani, author. The Electrophysiology of Intellectual Functions ; and david Robinson, author. The wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale and Personality Assessment: Toward a biologically based Theory of Intelligence and Cognition and many other monographs famous among neuroscientists.
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Dingell's Michigan colleague, representative john Conyers, then chairman of the government Operations Committee and senior member of the congressional Black caucus, demanded goodwin's resignation—and got it two days later, whereupon the government, with the department of health and Human Services now doing the talking, denied. It disappeared down the memory hole, to use Orwell's term. A conference of criminologists and other academics interested in the neuroscientific studies done so far for the violence Initiative—a conference underwritten in part by a grant from the national Institutes of health—had been scheduled for may of 1993 at the University of Maryland. Down went the conference, too; the nih drowned it like a kitten. Last year, a university of Maryland legal scholar named david Wasserman tried to reassemble the troops on the qt, as it were, in a hall all but hidden from human purview in a hamlet called queenstown in the foggy, boggy boondocks of queen Annes county. The nih, proving it was a hard learner, quietly provided 133,000 for the event but only after Wasserman promised to fireproof the proceedings by also inviting scholars who rejected the notion of a possible genetic genesis of crime and scheduling a coldshower session dwelling. An army of protesters found the poor cringing devils anyway and stormed into the auditorium chanting, "Maryland conference, you can't hide—we know you're pushing genocide!" It took two hours for them to get bored enough to leave, and the conference ended in a complete muddle.
The present moment resembles that moment in the middle Ages when the catholic Church forbade the dissection of human bodies, for fear that what was discovered inside might cast doubt on the Christian doctrine that God created man in his own image. Even more radioactive is the matter of intelligence, as measured by iq tests. Privately—not many care to speak out—the vast majority of neuroscientists believe the genetic component of an individual's intelligence is remarkably high. Your intelligence can presentation be improved upon, by skilled and devoted mentors, or it can be held back by a poor upbringing—i. E., the negative can be well developed or poorly developed—but your genes are what really make the difference.
He was not pc or liberal enough. Feminist protesters invaded a conference where wilson was appearing, dumped a pitcher of ice water, cubes and all, over his head, and began chanting, "you're all wet! You're all wet!" The most prominent feminist in America, gloria steinem, went on television and, in an interview with John Stossel of abc, insisted that studies of genetic differences between male and female nervous systems should cease forthwith. But that turned out to be mild stuff in the current political panic over neuroscience. In February of 1992, Frederick. Goodwin, a renowned psychiatrist, head of the federal Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental health Administration, and a certified yokel in the field of public relations, made the mistake of describing, at a public meeting in Washington, the national Institute of Mental health's tenyearold violence Initiative.
This was an experimental program whose hypothesis was that, as among monkeys in the jungle—goodwin was noted for his monkey studies—much of the criminal mayhem in the United States was caused by a relatively few young males who were genetically predisposed to it; who were. Out in the jungle, among mankind's closest animal relatives, the chimpanzees, it seemed that a handful of genetically twisted young males were the ones who committed practically all of the wanton murders of other males and the physical abuse of females. What if the same were true among human beings? What if, in any given community, it turned out to be a handful of young males with toxic dna who were pushing statistics for violent crime up to such high levels? The violence Initiative envisioned identifying these individuals in childhood, somehow, some way, someday, and treating them therapeutically with drugs. The notion that crimeridden urban America was a "jungle said goodwin, was perhaps more than just a tired old metaphor. That may have been the stupidest single word uttered by an American public official in the year 1992. The outcry was immediate. Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Representative john Dingell of Michigan (who, it became obvious later, suffered from hydrophobia when it came to science projects) not only condemned goodwin's remarks as racist but also delivered their scientific verdict: Research among primates "is a preposterous basis".
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Conservatives, meantime, have fastened upon studies indicating that men's and women's brains are wired so differently, thanks to the long haul of evolution, that feminist attempts to open up traditionally male roles to women are the same thing: a doomed violation of Nature. Wilson himself has wound up in deep water on this score; or cold water, if one need edit. In his personal life wilson is a conventional liberal, pc, as the saying goes—he is, after all, a member of the harvard faculty—concerned about environmental issues and all the usual things. But he has said that "forcing similar role identities" on both men and women "flies in the face of thousands of years in which mammals demonstrated a strong tendency for sexual division of labor. Since this division of labor is persistent spondylolisthesis from huntergatherer through agricultural and industrial societies, it suggests a genetic origin. We do not know when this trait evolved in human evolution or how resistant it is to the continuing and justified pressures for human rights." "Resistant" was Darwin ii, the neuroscientist, speaking. "Justified" was the pc harvard liberal.
Every human brain, he says, is born not as a blank tablet (a tabula rasa) waiting to be filled in by experience but as "an exposed negative waiting to be slipped into developer fluid." you can develop the negative well or you can develop. The print is the individual's genetic history, over thousands of years of evolution, and there is not much anybody can do about. Furthermore, says Wilson, genetics determine not only things such as temperament, essay role preferences, emotional responses, and levels of aggression, but also many of our most revered moral choices, which are not choices at all in any freewill sense but tendencies imprinted in the hypothalamus and. Wilson (no kin to Edward.). The neuroscientific view of life, this, the neuroscientific view of life, has become the strategic high ground in the academic world, and the battle for it has already spread well beyond the scientific disciplines and, for that matter, out into the general public. Both liberals and conservatives without a scientific bone in their bodies are busy trying to seize the terrain. The gay rights movement, for example, has fastened onto a study published in July of 1993 by the highly respected dean Hamer of the national Institutes of health, announcing the discovery of "the gay gene." Obviously, if homosexuality is a genetically determined trait, like lefthandedness.
already devoutly believed in by scholars in what is now the hottest. Granted, all those skeptical"tion marks are enough to put anybody on the qui vive right away, but Ultimate skepticism is part of the brilliance of the dawn I have promised. Neuroscience, the science of the brain and the central nervous system, is on the threshold of a unified theory that will have an impact as powerful as that of Darwinism a hundred years ago. Already there is a new Darwin, or perhaps I should say an updated Darwin, since no one ever believed more religiously in Darwin I than he does. His name is Edward. He teaches zoology at Harvard, and he is the author of two books of extraordinary influence, the Insect Societies and Sociobiology: The new Synthesis. Not "A" new synthesis but "The" new synthesis; in terms of his stature in neuroscience, it is not a mere boast. Wilson has created and named the new field of sociobiology, and he has compressed its underlying premise into a single sentence.
But something tells me that hotel within ten years, by 2006, the entire digital universe is going to seem like pretty mundane stuff compared to a new technology that right now is but a mere glow radiating from a tiny number of American and Cuban (yes. It is called brain imaging, and anyone who cares to get up early and catch a truly blinding twentyfirstcentury dawn will want to keep an eye. Brain imaging refers to techniques for watching the human brain as it functions, in real time. The most advanced forms currently are threedimensional electroencephalography using mathematical models; the more familiar pet scan (positronemission tomography the new fmri (functional magnetic resonance imaging which shows brain bloodflow patterns, and mrs (magnetic resonance spectroscopy which measures biochemical changes in the brain; and the even. Used so far only in animals and a few desperately sick children, the pet reporter gene/pet reporter probe pinpoints and follows the activity of specific genes. On a scanner screen you can actually see the genes light up inside the brain. By 1996 standards, these are sophisticated devices. Ten years from now, however, they may seem primitive compared to the stunning new windows into the brain that will have been developed.
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From neuroscience to nietzsche. A sobering look at how man may perceive himself in the future, particularly as ideas about genetic predeterminism takes the place of dying Darwinism. This article was first published in "Forbes asap" in 1996. Being a bit behind the curve, i had only just heard of the digital revolution last February when louis Rossetto, cofounder of Wired magazine, wearing a shirt with no collar and his hair as long as Felix Mendelssohn's, looking every inch the young California visionary. As his text, he chose the maverick jesuit scientist and philosopher pierre teilhard de Chardin, who fifty years ago prophesied that radio, television, and computers would create a "noösphere an electronic membrane essay covering the earth and wiring all humanity together in a single nervous system. Geographic locations, national boundaries, the old notions of markets and political processes—all would become irrelevant. With the Internet spreading over the globe at an astonishing pace, said Rossetto, that marvelous modemdriven moment is almost at hand.