Doidge is, if not the inventor, then at least the populariser of a brand new science. That science is called neuroplasticity, and it develops from a growing understanding that the human brain – for centuries thought a fairly fixed and unregenerative organ that, if injured or diseased, is subject to only very limited recovery – is in fact capable of much more significant self-repair and healing. Not only that, but much of the healing – for conditions that range from Parkinson’s disease, to autism, to stroke, to traumatic head injury – can be stimulated by conscious habits of thought and action, by teaching the brain to “rewire itself”.
Free Norman Doidge abuse from Myers here:
So I’m reading this interview with Norman Doidge, huckster of neuroplasticity, and I could not control my eyebrows, which started climbing up my forehead and felt like they were ascending the crown and considering a descent down to my neck. It’s not just that Doidge is so full of shit that it’s dribbling out his ears, it was the shamefully ignorant questions of the interviewer, Tim Adams. Look at this question:
One of the things that struck me, reading your books, is how entrenched our ideas of the brain’s essential fixed and unregenerative nature are. Why are those ideas so powerful?
Whoa right there. How could anyone have the idea that neuroscientists think the brain is essentially fixed and unregenerative? That’s painfully counterfactual, the precise opposite of the actual position of the field of neurobiology. Conveniently, Adams has already answered how he came by such a bogus idea: by reading Doidge’s books. That should tell you something about the worth of Doidge’s stories.
Worth of Doidge’s stories?:
O’Leary for News was a Red Cross volunteen in 1966 in a large chronic care hospital in downtown Toronto where exactly what Doidge is saying was assumed to be true.
Little serious rehabilitation of the rows on rows of stroke patients was offered; learned helplessness reigned supreme. Neurosurgeons would aver that the brain doesn’t regenerate.
Worse, a scientist who later showed that the brain does regenerate had his career ruined, as Doidge tells it, by animal rights activists:
Taub spent the next six years of his life working sixteen hours a day, seven days a week, to clear himself, often functioning as his own lawyer. Before his trials began, he had $100,000 in life savings. By the end he had $4,000. Because he was blackballed, he couldn’t get a job at a university. But gradually, trial by trial, appeal by appeal, charge, by charge, he refuted PETA. (p. 145)
Animals benefited, to say nothing of humans, from his findings—no thanks to establishment science, which let the activists rage!
Today, Myers has thousands of adoring new atheist fans, as he slings mud at Doidge for spreading a simple message: Yes, the brain does regenerate.
Incidentally today, O’Leary for News visits a very aged person who had a stroke in 2010. He has the benefit of good care in an Ottawa, Canada, assisted living residence, where staff are aware of new findings.
Every time the advance of senility takes a brain connection, another seems to grow somewhere.
The results can be odd, admittedly. These new connections don’t always link up with a sense of the passage of time. Last night, it became necessary to explain to him at dinner re his father (d. 1986), whom he was surprised to learn was deceased: But, as we will visit with your great-grandson tomorrow, why should we expect that your father is still alive?
Response: Why shouldn’t he still be alive? Well… okay, let’s talk about how the baby is growing…
But more practically, readers, can anyone think of a single use for cultural Darwinism, apart from advancing backward agendas and fronting scurrility on the Internet?
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Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose