We've had the "Junk DNA" debacle; now it is the turn of the brain to be analysed as endowed with "anachronistic junk". According to David Linden, the brain is a product of the tinkering blind watchmaker espoused by Darwinist biologists. Unfortunately, few readers will realise that this "central thesis" is a deduction from dogma and not empirical evidence. The data that is discussed is perfectly capable of being understood within a design perspective, including the tendency for our minds to distort reality and to act foolishly.
The reviewer, although sympathetic, baulks at the crassness of the thesis: "More difficult to show is that the use of pre-existing parts imposes functional constraints or 'bad design'." Also: "Linden is right to stress that brains evolved, but hasty to conclude that they are flawed in their design. We still know too little about the brain's inner workings to judge how well it does its job. What we do know, and what The Accidental Mind helps us to realize, is that the human brain is not designed as many have imagined."
Some of us look at the biology of the brain and find exquisite design, not an organ full of flaws. It is true to say that the science of understanding the brain is in its infancy: without hesitation, a prediction can be offered that, as research develops, exquisite design will replace "an imperfect amalgam of shoddy components" in the minds of researchers. This book tells us more about the ideology of its writer than it does about the human mind.
Books like this, and reviews like this, demonstrate yet again how unlevel the playing field is in contemporary science journals. Contributions that deny design, meaning and intelligent agency are given space, whereas proponents of design, meaning and intelligent agency are excluded (and told they have abandoned the scientific method). This is a good example of the tendency for "our minds to distort reality and to act foolishly"!
Nature 447, 640 (7 June 2007) | doi:10.1038/447640a
A review of The Accidental Mind: How Brain Evolution Has Given Us Love, Memory, Dreams, and God by David Linden, Harvard University Press: 2007. 288pp.
The human brain, and hence the human mind, is not an optimal, designed-from-scratch apparatus. Rather, it is an imperfect amalgam of shoddy components. That is the central thesis of David Linden's new book The Accidental Mind. Neurons are slow, leaky, and unreliable - hardly ideal computing elements. The whole brain, too, is not designed to the plan of some omnipotent engineer. Instead, evolution has endowed it with plenty of 'anachronistic junk': Which is why, according to Linden, our minds often distort reality and can lead us to act foolishly. [snip]
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