Thursday, December 17, 2009
Theocratic societies permit no curiosity.
Barbarians -- which is to say, most others -- seek to apply its practicality.
Science sees curiosity as its prime motive, and rewards freewheelingness of search so long as methods hold themselves trim and transparent, any practical results constituting only evidence, not purpose.
So, what to make of science that explores the brain, whose matter and organization so clearly relate to those traits we see distinguishing what's human?
Earlier intellectual examination of humanity speculated more or ideologically buttressed and justified itself. Both, maybe. What science might politely sequester-off as philosophy or, at moments of irritation or memory of persecution, superstition.
To avoid those, science held fast to what was empirical, could be sensed, and worked from there, always verifying from those tangible spots. Reducible to those tangibilities.
Method tended, therefore, to reductivism. That is the bias of science. Not wrong at all, necessarily, as a way of working. But finding firmer truth in what has been reduced most.
Brain science. Highly complex, a relatively new field. Valuable to medicine.
Has found where in the brain the senses 'reside' in order to coordinate perceptions. Has found some of the systemic interconnections among parts of the brain, between hemispheres of the brain, through layers of the brain.
Has speculated. Has speculated whether finding out 'where' higher human functions dwell within and among neural complexes, synaptic series -- whether finding 'where' tells us, simply, the 'just what'.
Consciousness. Morality. Compassion and self-sacrifice.
If we locate the 'substance' from which they operate, have we located 'them'?
Do we commit an 'idealist fallacy' if we see 'evolutionary structure' in such substance whose 'advantage' may allow development of something 'post-physical'?
Science, despite having a theoretical range, would not allow itself to go that far, seeing such a notion as a backward fall into superstition, a stepping too far away from the sensible.