As a scientist, I really do believe the scientific method is quite powerful for explaining the world but — at least for the foreseeable future — it is not very good at discussing the human condition. So I think the strength of the arts and the humanities is its ways of discussing the human experience and I hoped to pick up on this in my book choices. The Master and Margarita ?isn’t exactly a scientific book. When you’re looking at how people interact, the suffering, the pain, strife, love and all those crazy things, neuroscience doesn’t really have answers about that. That’s what we’re getting at in the introduction to our book. A neuroscience of love, for example, what does that even mean? Can you really reduce something as complex as love — about which untold numbers of stories and poems and songs and music have been written — to the density of some neurotransmitter in a brain region? Personal experience tells me, no. And from a scientific perspective it also doesn’t really make sense, because we don’t really have a good definition of what love is. And so, if you can’t operationalise things in a scientific way, if you can’t come up with a solid strong definition for the thing you’re studying, then you’re not really studying a thing.
Yes, the risk is creating an artifact like the selfish gene that the pop science world believes in, which does not exist apart from their specialty echo chamber. Readers?
See also: Neuroscience tried wholly embracing naturalism, but then the brain got away
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Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose