For millennia, humans have sought to understand the world and our place within it. Philosophers, priests, and psychologists have speculated about all aspects of our human experience, from our sensations and perceptions, to our thoughts and memories, to our feelings and aspirations, but after all this time and a myriad of acrimonious debates between scores of competing theories and perspectives, adequate explanations have been few and far between.
Only in the last decade or two has Neuroscience emerged with the tools capable of truly addressing these ancient questions of why we perceive and think and behave and feel the way that we do. In some cases, neuroscience has answered these ancient questions, while in other cases it has rendered questions moot or ill-conceived. And with 100 billion neurons in the brain and an average of 10,000 connections per neuron, the vast majority of questions still remain unasked, much less answered.
Year by year and little by little, neuroscience shines a brighter light in a dark place once filled with a lot of smoke and a lot of mirrors. Research indicates again and again that experiences that seem obvious or self-evident turn out to be immersed in illusions, albeit very helpful ones most of the time. Ultimately, however, because our personal everyday models of ourselves are not accurate, most of us find it necessary to invoke other abstract concepts about ourselves and reality to fill in the gaps that our everyday models don't account for. These fill-in concepts become apparent after only a few minutes into a discussion about topics such as spirituality, sexuality, politics, or how to create a healthy society. Words like "love", "evil", "God", "spirit", "natural", and "real" will show up in sentences wherein the speaker and the listener clearly apply different meanings to the same terms, thereby failing to actually communicate with one another.
So, if we are to endeavor to answer ancient questions about ourselves and to make the world a better place, neuroscience provides an improved starting point where we can look at what is actually going on "under the hood" and build a new language wherein we can communicate WITH (rather than PAST) each other about these topics.
In this exploratory spirit, I invite you to delve with me into what Neuroscience can inform us about the human condition. The Courses page is the best place to start.
© Copyright 2010 - 2012 Dr. Mark Olson