My head has been on the verge of explosion all day listening to the talk about Obama’s comments in San Fran and the claim that he is an “elitist”. I’ve been trying to write a post about this for several hours now and am too mad to express my sentiments accurately. Luckily, The Field Negro has already said what I’m feeling in a more elegant fashion than I can… check it out..
I would just like to add that I think Obama was exactly right. White, small town Americans are bitter about their economic situation and they are clinging to extremist views and prejudices to rationalize their bitterness. Something has to be done about this, it is in no ones interest to allow the world to pass these people by economically. They need to be appealed to rationally and truthfully and their fear-of-the-other immigration and protectionism views must be shown to be wrong (in the strongest possible fashion). The good-old-days are never coming back for these people in the way they imagine they will (thankfully). That does not mean that there is not a way forward for them and it is not looking down on these people to search for ways to bring them back on board with economic and social advancement. Quite the contrary.
I spent the majority of the last week at a conference called “Toward a Science of Consciousness 2008” in Tucson, Arizona. I had several reasons for going to the conference, none of which had to do with my research program (let’s get that straight right off the bat). Many parts of the conference were excellent. There were several really thought provoking talks given by neuroscientists on the neural correlates of different types of attention. Also in the mix where several talks, given mostly by European imaging groups, on what the brain looks like on a variety of psychotropic drugs — these were interesting, but not particularly well done so I’m not sure I really learned anything new from their data. There were even a few good talks by philosophers about experiments that they feel would help advance toward a better understanding of consciousness. On the other hand, I sat through what had to have been some of the worst “scientific” talks I have heard in my lifetime.
First, what the heck is up with physicists and their attempts to incorporate quantum mechanics into the brain? Now, I have no problem with this idea in general but its not enough to just talk about it… some experiments must be done to support the position. I think I sat through at least 4 hrs worth of lectures on quantum effects in the brain. I may have seen 1 data slide, but I’m not too sure that even that single slide was actually data. Instead of data, I heard all manner of overly complicated drivel about how time has no directionality, how ion channels may have quantum properties and truly wild quantum mechanical explanations for why humans may have precognition (as if the idea of precognition isn’t wild enough by itself). I wasn’t convinced that any of these exotic ideas were needed in the first place and the total lack of experiment didn’t help persuade me otherwise. Continue reading