Saturday, March 29, 2008

Reviews: American Psychological Association reviewer likes The Spiritual Brain!

The Spiritual Brain has received a very nice review from David A. Miller in The American Psychological Association's PsycCRITIQUES. He thinks Montreal neuroscientist Mario Beauregard and I are a bit daring, but he says, nonetheless,
Does the book make its case? For the most part, I think it does. And for psychologists, I believe this is good news. It seems that there is a psyche, after all. And not only that, it looks like psychotherapy actually works—inter alia, it changes brain metabolism—so that mental illnesses cannot simply be reduced to nothing more than “brain diseases.” But the authors have a larger point to make. It is that if we dismiss each and every phenomenon for which there is no current materialist explanation as misleading or bogus, we are at risk for failing to understand the world as it really is. On the other hand, if we are open-minded enough to follow the evidence wherever it leads, we may be surprised at the direction we take. This, surely, is what science has been about since its beginning.

I am very glad that Miller sees so clearly what is at stake here.

Materialist approaches to medicine, to take the obvious example, worked well enough when we wanted to wipe out smallpox. If there is no smallpox virus around, we can't get smallpox - and it doesn't matter at all what we think about it.

However, precisely because diseases like smallpox are declining in importance, many parts of the world now have aging populations. Materialist approaches are of little use in managing the chronic diseases that characterize old age. An approach to health that acknowledges the importance of mental attitudes becomes critical because an elderly person cannot simply solve all his or her problems by taking an ever-growing number of - sometimes antagonistic - drugs.

Note: You need to be a member, so far as I can see, to read the review.

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