Precautionary Detention of “Broken Brains”

What yesterday evening appeared to be one of the most embarrassing things I have ever done to a university teacher, turned out to be the trigger for my writing this post—in both a state of mental rage, and the deep fulfilling conviction that there is so much more to be done in the History, Philosophy, and Sociology of the Neurosciences (HPSNS), i.e., that my work is not expendable.

Here is the story: Yesterday I worked late (as I do pretty often because I am just not productive in the mornings), and already tired, I checked my spam folder where I found a newsletter of Penn’s Center for Neuroscience and Society (CNS) that had been forwarded to our grad students listserve by a member of the faculty. Unaware of what I was doing, my sleepy finger clicked once, and I found myself redirected to the “Thank you – We have received your unsubscribe request” website of CNS—for my professor’s email address, of course.1 Since I learned many years ago from Betty Laurel that “[h]onesty is the best policy,” I emailed him to report myself.

This morning, he responded in a quite unexpected way: While signing up again, he spotted an announcement of a recently published CNS featured book written by Adrian Raine, and sent me the link to a New York Times review of it. Check this out, and pay attention to the date it was published: It is not April 1st.

Screenshot of the CNS home page 09/14/2013
(Tabea Cornel, CC BY 2.0)

Biological determinism, sexism, trivialization of human rights encroachment—you might want to continue finding many more terms for what I am unable to articulate right now. I just wanted to let you know that phrenology has not ceased to exist, and that I am more than disappointed by the Times publishing this review. Researchers suggesting these kinds of attention-grabbing and unethical policies are one thing, but backing them by writing and publishing a review like Paul Bloom’s is quite another. Sometimes science and writing about it are a mere continuation of politics by other means.

1 Learn your lesson and delete the link before you forward anything in the future!


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