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Monday, September 17, 2007

Your brain is a kludge - especially if you are religious

Here’s a review of David J. Linden’s recent Accidental Mind, according to which, the brain is a kludge and - wait for it! - the religious right in the US is a menace.

Reviewer Konrad Talmont-Kaminski thinks that the combination of topics doesn’t quite work (hullo?):
... it feels unfair to the reader that Linden does not explain more clearly where he is taking them at the start -- otherwise they may be left feeling like a very personable taxi driver had just taken them for a ride to a part of town they'd rather not visit. The turns of phrase that previously were so charming now sound forced and out of place: his breezy patter -- most appropriate for a lively introduction -- undermines the more serious matter. While I understand Linden's aim given the very difficult position of scientists such as him within the United States at this point in time, I do not even think that such an approach is effective. It would be better to have taken the readers most of the way to the conclusion he wishes to reach and to let them make the final leap of imagination themselves.

But Konrad, Linden can’t risk the possibility that your kludge of a brain might not get the point strongly enough that the Religious Right is a menace..

Anyway, Talmont-Kaminski goes on,
On the other hand, in attempting to make his point about religion Linden ends up outside of his area of expertise, losing his sure-footedness in the process. Whereas he had been able to bring in lively examples from the neurosciences whenever he'd needed them, Linden tries to go it alone when dealing with issues in philosophy or the cognitive study of religion.

Aw you know, Konrad, that happens all the time. People like Linden start with the assumption that religion is all nonsense and treat it that way and then, when they make a mess of their explanations, well, guess what - it’s all the fault of the Religious Right!

With their formula, you can’t go wrong. On the other hand, you can’t go right. Or anywhere at all, actually ...

Hat tip to Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose.

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