In Britain’s New Statesman, Steven Poole laments the glut of what he calls “neurotrash” — the attempt to explain every human thought and action in terms of neuroscience and cognitive psychology:
An intellectual pestilence is upon us. Shop shelves groan with books purporting to explain, through snazzy brain-imaging studies, not only how thoughts and emotions function, but how politics and religion work, and what the correct answers are to age-old philosophical controversies. The dazzling real achievements of brain research are routinely pressed into service for questions they were never designed to answer. This is the plague of neuroscientism — aka neurobabble, neurobollocks, or neurotrash — and it’s everywhere.
Free Will, by Sam Harris, must now take its place in this plague of panegyrics to the pre-frontal cortex.
The first thing we must get clear about the book is something that Harris himself, given his thesis, must certainly agree with: he had no choice in writing it. But that has little to do with the neurological state of his brain. He operates under a necessity only a little less deterministic: the necessity that follows on the nature of his dogma.
As an atheist and a materialist, Harris really has no choice but to champion the idea that free will is a delusion. The materialist, said Chesterton, “is not allowed to admit into his spotless machine the slightest speck of spiritualism or miracle.” Materialists like Harris keep asking why we make the decisions we do, and what explanation there could be other than the physiological. The answer, of course, is the psychological, the philosophical, the whimsical, and about a thousand others.
🙂 The rest is here.