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Brains: Consciousness studies in the popular media | - On Philosophy of Mind and Related Matters - 2011-03-02

One thing that I find frustrating, as I'm sure many of us do, is the quality of attempts to bring the study of consciousness (and the mind/brain more generally) to those outside of academia. I don't just mean oversimplifications (God brain area found!), but how much of what is said is simply false (I've included an example from a while back below). Many people, more qualified than I, have discussed the impact of this on education (e.g. classes where once the students have read lord of the flies the girls discuss the mental states of the characters and the boys make a map of the island...) and attitudes toward gender differences (under the amusing title of 'neurosexism'). So, I don't think this is a problem of mere academic interest, but a problem that can have real impact on people's lives. I take it that, as we are discussing things in blog form here, many of us are interested in brining the study of the mind to a wider audience, so my question is this: what can we do to improve the standard of public discussions of the mind, brain and consciousness (etc!)?

and now as promised an example and a retort (well, a list of mistakes is perhaps a better term) by Laura May Bottrill and I:

Having read Ray Tallis’ article “consciousness, not yet explained” (or ‘you won’t find consciousness in the brain’- depending on whether you get the e or print version) (New Scientist No2742, 9 January 2010) we felt obliged to respond, for we would hate for the wider public to believe that this gave an accurate view of consciousness studies. Consciousness studies is, in fact, progressing nicely and whilst we feel we could simply recount notable recent discoveries and progress, we would like here to point out what we think are some mistakes in Tallis’ presentation so that the public are not duped.


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