Science, Science Club and the brain

Been pondering recently how and why (and just the surprise of) science becoming a mainstream cultural phenomenon.

Not just the CERN Hadron Collider (much of the tabloid conversation around which was more Sci-fi than science, more crazy physics professors trying to destroy the structure of reality…etc etc)

But also the more general excitement and enthusiasm around science and science-based content – BBC Radio 4's The Infinite Monkey Cage, the irrepressible Prof Brian Cox's Astronomy shows and Dara O Briain's Science club

Benturrin460

Some of this is clearly to do with the rise of the geek as a cultural identity, some of it a reaction to the terrible wibbly wobbly irrationality and superstition of the vaccine refusniks, homeopathy proseltysers and the religious fundamentalists.

But let's be honest, little of it has anything to do with actual rational & independent choice. 

Most of this – as yesterday's post about Alex & Mike's NYT piece suggested – is likely shaped by people copying each other, not by them making rational decisions based on the evidence. That said, it's a welcome development given the times.

How strongly this shift in attention to science and scientific work compares with the "personal opinions" on abortion and premature birth survival rates that certain UK ministers have expressed (which are clearly contradicted by the evidence).

And in our own part of the forest, with the over claimed certainties and inappropriate precision of so many vendors of what some call "neurononsense", "neuromania" or just plain "brain porn" (aka Neuromarketing).

How delightful then to watch Prof Uta Frith and other neuroscientists on the latest episode of Dara's show (particualry Frith) with their humour, humility and honesty remind us that we're really on at the beginning of understanding how individual brain activity relates to behaviour.

As my old headmaster would say, "mark and note".