Brrraaaiiinnnsss

I’ve been an avid fan of recent popular science books that delve in to the workings of our brains. Eagerly I’ve been devouring books like ‘Het Slimme Onderbewuste‘ and ‘Wij Zijn Ons Brein‘ as well as English language counterparts such as Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Blink‘.

So reading this rather excellent demolition of the entire popular neuroscience genre was more than a little uncomfortable, though probably very necessary:

“So, instead, here is a recipe for writing a hit popular brain book. You start each chapter with a pat anecdote about an individual’s professional or entrepreneurial success, or narrow escape from peril. You then mine the neuroscientific research for an apparently relevant specific result and narrate the experiment, perhaps interviewing the scientist involved and describing his hair. You then climax in a fit of premature extrapolation, inferring from the scientific result a calming bromide about what it is to function optimally as a modern human being. VoilĂ , a laboratory-sanctioned Big Idea in digestible narrative form.”

While I do believe that neuro-scientific endeavours will, eventually, provide us with meaningful (if unpalatable for some) answers about the nature of thought and consciousness, it’s good to remind ourselves that this is a science in its infancy and we shouldn’t let ourselves be carried along by overly optimistic commercially-incentivised book writers.