I recently read an article at The Guardian that seemed to back up a few ideas I'd read about on weblogs and heard in podcasts. In the article, titled "Our brains, and how they're not as simple as we think," Vaughan Bell describes the prevalence of neuroscience lingo in our everyday perceptions of ourselves. Bell writes,
The popular interest in the brain means that we increasingly have a "folk neuroscience" that is strongly linked to personal identity and subjective experience. Like folk psychology it is not necessarily very precise, and sometimes wildly inaccurate, but it allows us to use neuroscience in everyday language in a way that wasn't previously credible for non-specialists.
Carol Tavris calles this "pseudoneuroscience." Pseudoneuroscience acts like a means of discourse where we make reference to neuroscience to back up our perceptions of ourselves. Naturally, we do this backwards. Unlike scientific discourse, pseudoneuroscience tends to select a conclusion and seek a semiscientific means to back it up. It's practically a type of apologetics, where we see a conclusion and then selectively choose the references that will fit our preconceived conclusions.
I'm not entirely certain about which term I like best. "Folk neuroscience" might fit the concept better on a common person-to-person level.
I get really excited about neuroscientific findings, especially when they're reported from credible sources. I often can't help but apply them to my own life. But take a look at the list of examples at the end of the Guardian article. Haven't we all grabbed onto one of these little folk neuroscience myths at one time or another?
■ The "left-brain" is rational, the "right-brain" is creative
People make medical and social decisions based on these myths, decisions for themselves, their children, their friends and family. And these ideas are myths.
But how can you work a myth out of the culture? I guess you can't. That's how myths work. Sigh.
I love the recording of "Gasoline and Matches" from Buddy and Julie Miller's Written in Chalk. I think the studio version has one of Buddy's best guitar solos. But this live version is solid as well.
I came across this wonderful "concert" the other day, with Lyle Lovett on Lyle and Luka Bella on fiddle. I would have loved to be at this gig.
The first song he plays, "Cowboy Man," is one of Lovett's best songs, with loads of ridiculous double-entendre and imagery. However, he recorded the song on his first album, and his first album drips with that reverby 80s production, when producers had forgotten how to record acoustic instruments. This version is much better than the studio recording. The performance of the song that he made for E-Town in 2001 is even better.
I live in Cairo right now. Most of the music I hear doesn't inspire me very much. I just don't seem to have much of this Arabic-sort-of music in me. Its beats throb and its melodies seem haphazard to me. I probably just don't get it; I'm really ignorant, it seems, of how it works.
Back in 1993 or so, my sister bought a copy of LifeSavers Underground's Wakin' Up The Dead. I listened to it a lot and inherited the CD when she left for the convent in 1997. The album has a few hits ("House of Love," "The Bomb," "Ocean Blue," and "Wakin' Up The Dead") and a few misses ("Revival Nineties," "Nineties Tease," and "Carry Me to Cairo").
"Carry Me to Cairo" is one of Mike Knott's more naïve tracks. Its impression of "Cairo" appears almost entirely based on Sunday School impressions of Egypt, with perhaps a little bit of influence from elementary school Social Studies. The pharaohs he speaks of might have spent very little time in Cairo or Giza, and his request to be "carried" there seems to be more of a request to be taken to another place, another time. It's kind-of built on a myth, sort of like the era of "traditional marriage."
Nonetheless, in spite of how little I like it, since I live near Cairo right now, the song ends up stuck in my head on a regular basis. Fortunately, "The Bomb" gets stuck in my head more often than "Carry Me to Cairo."
The feedback-guitarwork, perhaps performed by Chris Colbert, is probably the song's most endearing element.
YouTube: ephemeral ideas
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