The Social Brain
by Michael Gazzaniga

So I bought this book at the Stone Ridge Library fair because I wanted to see whether it would confirm the statements in Brain Sex about how our brains are structured. The author is one of the leading scientists in the field of brain research. The book does not mention any differences between male and female brains, so it implies that there are none worth mentioning. He never says that there are no differences. It is as if the idea that there might be differences has never occurred to him. I noticed that the majority of his subjects are men. He doesn't comment on this fact either. Scientists are amazingly unimaginative.

Dr. G. is interested in proving his theory that the human brain has multiple modules that operate somewhat independently and concurrently. We are multiprocessors. It would be harder to prove this if he did not assume that we all have brains with the same structure. I don't know whether he is trying to sneak this past the public, hoping they won't notice, or whether the possibility of different structures never occurred to him. (The only difference he mentions is the difference between left-handed people and right-handed people. He assumes that left-handed people have brains that are mirror images of the structure of right-handed brains, so it doesn't worry him.) I suspect that he is a plodding scientist who has a severely limited focus in his field. Outside his field he has a good imagination.

In computer terminology, his theory is that the human brain is a multiprocessor with modules that can operate in parallel on the same or different problems, and that the part of the brain that controls speech is linked closely with the part that interprets our actions, but these two modules do not do all the thinking and do not make all the decisions even though they think they do.

It is an interesting book. It is written clearly, without unnecessary technical terms. It gives an inside look at the professional life of a top scientist.

At the end of the book he presents an interview between himself and an imaginary student. The basic topic of the interview is how his brain theory relates to social policy. He has noticed, after years of experiments, that each person has a brain. Not only that, but each brain likes to do its own thinking. He concludes from this that central control of the economy and central decision making regarding social policy are unscientific and ineffective. He reaches libertarian conclusions on his own, with no evidence that he has ever read any libertarian literature!

Year Read: 1992


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