Thursday, April 28, 2011
Assume you're just making it up ... because you are!
As if I didn't already spend a lot of time doubting my perceptions, this article from last week's New Yorker has convinced me, all over again, that most of what every one of us considers "real" is, as they say in the article, "the best possible story" our brains can come up with.
It's a long article, but well worth reading. Stick with it because at the very end there's a bit about Brian Eno wrangling a bunch of drummers so that the scientists can see if their brains are truly different than everyone else's (because their sense of timing is so precise). Guess what? Drummers' brains ARE different. Very cool.
The current trend in neuroscience, to think of the brain as plastic, (i.e. changeable, adaptable, an organ that can re-route as necessary to get its job done), is a very good thing, the best possible story to describe how the grey goop inside our skulls functions. Only a few years ago, we thought of the brain as a hardwired machine, a point of view that didn't give us a lot of wiggle room in terms of function, yes? Now that our brains are officially plastic (according to the people who study brain function), so many more things are possible. Just since the shift in the way we think about the brain, scientists and doctors have begun to notice that allegedly brain-dead patients might not be, and have found ways to help people who suffer from all manner of neurological disorders by re-routing their neural networks. I don't think it's a coincidence; I think the change in our baseline assumptions about the brain allowed those people to open their eyes, to think outside the hardwired box.
All I'm saying is, since we create reality by editing and judging sensory input, why not give ourselves as much space to evolve and adapt as possible, eh? Why not?
I wonder about the brain chemistry of the birthers, who will not, who can not, apparently, think of our president as a citizen of the United States. What is going on in their neural networks? Where's the road-block? The blind spot? It's interesting - and creepy - to think about.
No matter how you see the world, no matter how sure you are that you found your fourteen year old cat, for instance, cultivate a light-hearted skepticism. Take it all with a grain of salt. Yes? I say yes.