AC Grayling, Susie Orbach, Matthew Taylor, Steven Rose and many more experts debate what brain scans can reveal about who we are and how to liveby Prospect / February 24, 2010 / Leave a comment
Hinged crucifix and two plinths by Susan Aldworth
THE PROSPECT PANEL James Crabtree (chair) is managing editor of Prospect Tim Bliss is a neurophysiologist at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at UCL Zoe Drayson works in the philosophy department at Bristol University, where she researches consciousness Catherine Fieschi is director of Counterpoint, the British Council’s think tank, and a contributing editor of Prospect Daniel Glaser is an imaging neuroscientist and head of special projects at the Wellcome Trust AC Grayling is professor of philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London, and a member of Prospect’s advisory board Eva Hoffman is a writer and academic, and the author of “Time” (Profile) Henrietta Moore is a social anthropologist and director of the LSE’s culture and globalisation programme Susie Orbach is a psychotherapist and the author of “Bodies” (Profile) Steven Rose is emeritus professor of biology at the Open University Barbara Sahakian is a professor of clinical neuropsychology at Cambridge University Matthew Taylor is chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts
James crabtree: Over the last two decades neuroscience has become one of the most exciting and controversial areas of scientific endeavour, offering tantalising insights into how human beings think and behave. But how much can it tell us about wider questions of how we should live, and how to run our politics?
Matthew Taylor: The metaphor I like to use when thinking about neuroscience and human behaviour is of the rider of an elephant in a cultivated forest—the rider is our conscious brain, the elephant is our automatic brain (which is not just about genetic inheritance, it’s also about socialisation), and the cultivated forest is the rules and norms of the society in which we live. Public policy has only tended to think about the rider. Moreover, both public policy and the academic world have tended to work with completely different models of human behaviour, depending on which faculty of the university you happen to work in—the human being in the economics faculty is completely different from the human being in the sociology faculty, and the human being in the psychology faculty is different again. I think that this new conversation, which is based in neuroscience but also strays into other areas like evolutionary psychology and behavioural economics, is overcoming some of those boundaries. And it is good…