Not Through Ignorance

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Mission

Throughout my life, I have always been fascinated by science.  I was always drawn to the science fiction of Isaac Asimov, because Asimov almost always avoided the Frankenstein meme in the genre.  There is, of course, great drama in the mad scientist, or in science-gone-awry, or in the morality play of man-done-in-by-his-own-creation.  But for Asimov, while science and technology were certainly not problem-free, science represented man’s salvation far more than his undoing.  Asimov’s favorite protagonist, in fact, was the humanoid robot – a being that evolved to be greater, more moral, more wise, than its creators.

My interest in Asimov led me to an interest in science, first in astronomy, but later, as I went to college, in neuroscience.  I earned my Ph.D. in Psychobiology and later did post-doctoral research in a department of anatomy and neurobiology.  My area of research, throughout, has been in the neurobiology of the gustatory (taste) system, reflecting and stoking my academic interest in sensation and perception, nutrition, diet, and obesity.  My academic positions have been in departments of psychology exclusively, and it is through having to teach introductory psychology topics that I have earned a great appreciation for psychological research outside of the biological subdisciplines.  In particular I am fascinated by the cognitive and social influences on decision making.

In a sense, then, this blog represents an homage to Dr. Asimov in two ways.  Like Asimov, I have a curiosity that ranges far beyond my own discipline (though ironically, while Asimov’s fiction often involved psychological issues, particularly social psychological issues, he rarely wrote much non-fiction about psychology).  But second, the blog is my attempt to do a little of what Asimov did so well – write about science for a non-academic audience.  I am inspired by the many science-themed blogs on Word Press and elsewhere.

What I intend to do mostly is to write about the topics I am currently teaching about.  Currently, my teaching repertoire includes:

  • Introduction to Psychology
  • Statistics and Research Methods
  • The Limits of Rationality (science vs. pseudoscience)
  • Physiological Psychology
  • Neuropsychology
  • Sensation and Perception
  • The Mind-Body Problem
  • The Psychology of Eating

In general, then, I am interested in the connections between the fields of psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy, with a growing special interest in decision making and logic and in separating science myth from science fact.

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4 Comments

  1. SoundEagle says:

    SoundEagle is very impressed by your reply to Brhat Mrdanga das’ claim that evolution is invalid. And here is SoundEagle’s contribution to the discussion:

    To Brhat Mrdanga das and NeuroProf,

    It is very unfortunate that too often even those who claim to believe in and adopt the scientific method still cherrypick the data and refuse to examine contrary evidences. They fail to understand and address many valid points, perspectives, domains and dimensions, and hence it is impossible for them to evaluate and change their standpoints, approaches and behaviours. You might have heard of this quote:

    For those who do believe, no proof is necessary.
    For those who don’t, no proof is possible.

    All in all, it is important for, and also courageous and admirable of, us to confront these sensitive and polarising issues amidst social prejudice, ignorance and bigotry, to have lived an examined life, and to be inquisitive and open-minded, such that “On this blog: All forms of commentary are welcomed and published.” Perhaps some of us could take comfort in the fact that in recent years, the Catholic Church has had to accept evolution, though on a theistic basis.

    For one of the most recent takes on atheism, visit http://www.thesixwaysofatheism.com.

    As for the pitfalls and fallacies of the design argument, visit the following:
    http://www.iep.utm.edu/design/
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/evolution/intelligent-design-trial.html

    It will be nearly or altogether impossible to claim or prove that (the theory of) evolution is wrong or invalid, for it has been estimated that if evolution (both macro and micro) were wrong then more than 99% of all scientific disciplines would be wrong too due to the high degree of cross-collaborations and confluences of data. That is not (just) my claim; and it is from some scientists who have made the interconnections and stocktaking of disciplines and knowledges. When creationists try to debunk certain parts and/or the whole of evolutionists or evolutionary scientists, they have cited certain problems with some scientific claims and/or techniques which rely on or are founded on mathematics, measurements, instruments, various disciplines and so on in very interconnected ways, and have been reliably used for a long time. For example, many instruments rely on the veracity and reliability of quantum mechanics, electronics and electrical engineering, which in turn rely on other disciplines such as physics, mechanical engineering, optics and so on . . . . It is a very highly interconnected web.

    By “cross-collaborations” (whether by design or by accident, whether independently or co-dependently, and whether concurrently or not), I meant the cumulative results, benefits and synergies from the convergence of evidence from diverse disciplines and researchers who may or may not be collaborating and/or aware of each other’s findings and activities in the first place; and I also meant that research(ers) on/in evolution and evolutionary sciences have relied and benefited, both directly and indirectly, fertilizations, findings, paradigms and techniques from diverse disciplines. Let me quote Michael Shermer from his essay entitled “A skeptic’s journey for truth in science” as further examples:

    To be fair, not all claims are subject to laboratory experiments and statistical tests. Many historical and inferential sciences require nuanced analyses of data and a convergence of evidence from multiple lines of inquiry that point to an unmistakable conclusion. Just as detectives employ the convergence of evidence technique to deduce who most likely committed a crime, scientists employ the method to determine the likeliest explanation for a particular phenomenon. Cosmologists reconstruct the history of the universe by integrating data from cosmology, astronomy, astrophysics, spectroscopy, general relativity and quantum mechanics. Geologists reconstruct the history of Earth through a convergence of evidence from geology, geophysics and geochemistry. Archaeologists piece together the history of a civilization from pollen grains, kitchen middens, potshards, tools, works of art, written sources and other site-specific artifacts. Climate scientists prove anthropogenic global warming from the environmental sciences, planetary geology, geophysics, glaciology, meteorology, chemistry, biology, ecology, among other disciplines. Evolutionary biologists uncover the history of life on Earth from geology, paleontology, botany, zoology, biogeography, comparative anatomy and physiology, genetics, and so on.

  2. wilsb8 says:

    Now this is indeed a very cool blog.

  3. Julee K says:

    Hi, I found my way to your blog after you commented on my piece called “Science is Laughing at Us”. I’m happy to have found you and will stick around and do some reading. Your mission page has me hooked already! Very curious about “pyschology of eating” as a topic.

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