Friday, August 07, 2009

Subversive Thinking blog's interview with me

Here's my interview at Jime Sayaka's Subversive Thinking blog.

4) Materialists complain that science is based on naturalistic assumptions; and enabling supernatural religious ideas like the soul or similar into science is giving a unjustified concession to religious dogmatism and obscurantism. What do you think about this idea?

Well, first we need to ask, what is and isn't part of nature. Quantum mechanics and relativity showed clearly that what people thought was nature - a clockwork regularity - wasn't really a good description of nature.

In medicine (a key focus of The Spiritual Brain), the question of what the patient thinks about a treatment is often critical to its effect. The brain is highly plastic, reorganizing itself in relation to the mind's focus of attention.

I certainly wouldn't wish to give a free pass to superstition, but clinicians have not always done a good job of understanding how the mind and the brain interact.

Medicine is the point at which most humans interact regularly with science, so I would suggest looking there first. Basically, most humans will go with a treatment that, in their experience, "works", whether it is digitalis or Lakota Indian horse medicine (excellent for arthritis). It is difficult to fool people about whether they experience less anxiety or pain; that's why I wouldn't, in general, worry too much about religious dogma or obscurantism, provided we just stick to medicine. People's own bodies will tell them whether a treatment works or not.
More here.

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