Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Neuroscience and the Reductionist Temptation

In C.S. Lewis’s book The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, there is a fascinating dialogue that happens after the company from Narnia voyage to an island at the beginning of the end of the world. The Narnians meet a star named Ramandu, who dwells on the island with his beautiful daughter.

When the company are told that Ramandu is “a retired star”, Edmund announces, “In our world a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.”

Ramandu replies: “Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is but only what it is made of.”

That’s an important distinction. What a thing is made of is not always the same as what a thing actually is.

I thought of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader last week when I came across an intriguing article by Dr. Michael Merzenich, one of the leading pioneers in the burgeoning field of neuroplasticity.

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