Neuroscientists study the brain in order to achieve more knowledge about the mind; but how realistic is such an approach? Isn’t it like opening a computer, to directly measure activity on the hard disk with the purpose to find the relation with what the user types? It completely bypasses the programming; as well as the context of the motivation of the user. So is it actually science?
Well, if it is, it is a poor, one-dimensional approach, as it misses the: ‘How’ is activity on the hard disk related to user input?, and the: ‘Why’ does the user come up with this input?
It is known for a long time already, most mental disorders cannot be treated with medicines alone, so solely on the physiological level. Treatment simply has to go together with psychotherapy, as mental disorders are just as well a matter of mental patterns. And they cannot be changed other than through training of the mind, which is changing our way of thinking.
The above indicates, the brain is only an interface. The way we humans have designed our computers point in the same direction. The managing function of the mind, this subtle level that goes beyond mere brain functions, cannot be built into a computer. Some may be convinced, one day we will, but until then, we cannot take any risks in trying to explain the workings of the mind with the aid of neuroscience alone.
Besides, there is a simple fact that is also being overlooked, which is the essential difference between humans and animals. Yes, animals too have intelligence and emotions; but they do not have a conscience, a warning signal against wrongdoing. They live by another kind of restraint that takes care of the species’ survival. Humans on the contrary, would extinguish themselves if they do not listen to the warning signals from their conscience. Maybe the best and most important observation made, is the fact that we have a flight-fight-freeze response, the primary instincts warning humans and animals alike against danger. Yet in humans, those instincts also work on the mental level as a warning system, generating uncomfortable feelings of shame and guilt that keep us from doing wrong or make us correct mistakes. We humans can invoke a feeling of shame upon ourselves by reflecting upon our own behaviour to conclude it was wrong. That is not something that can ever be found in animals.
It is a dangerous game to tamper with the brain without knowing more about the mind. Even though there is more research proving it is obvious, the brain is an interface between body and mind, many scientists refuse to see this fact.
Then there is the methodology used by neuroscientists. Firstly, using rats and then conclude, it must be similar for humans, is a very doubtful premisse. Secondly, when measuring brainactivity invoked by certain reactions of a person researched, it is clear each person has a different set of associations that are being triggered. So, apart from measuring the brainactivity itself, the person should be interviewed too, to explain what and how they feel and think as a reaction to the experiment (like watching pictures of suffering people). Thirdly, it is not sure, the observer is completely neutral and does not influence the person researched. It might make a difference when the observer asks the person to stay completely neutral, and then shows pictures of suffering people. As opposed to asking the person to feel compassion- or suggest it -, and then show pictures of suffering people. The mere suggestion, they have to feel compassionate might greatly influence the results as shown in the brainactivity.
Then, there is always an interaction between observer and subject of research, for example by subtle body language, tone of voice. Suppose, the observer suffers from a nasty headache while doing his research. Didn’t results of previous neuroscientific research already show, this invokes brain activity in another, even when the observer doesn’t say a word about his headache? There simply has to be found a way to cope with such interference. And maybe it would be a good idea too, to measure the observers brainactivity while measuring the subjects brain activity. It might even show possible interference.
Is science and are scientists perfect, ethical, working to the benefit of the wellbeing of society, or do they too suffer from corruption, violation of human rights, greed, the arrogance of speaking on authority, personal or party interests? If we are as reasonable and realistic as science asks us to be, then we have to conclude that of course we need some healthy scepticism towards science just like we need it towards anything else. And scientists should be reasonable enough to contemplate criticism, instead of censuring attempts to question their ways. Also in science, we find fundamentalism and sectarism; also in science there are emotional wars going on between those sects, that surely do not deserve the label ‘reasonable and realistic’ anymore.