Is Neuroscience the New Eugenics?

I have written previously about how the science of eugenics prevailed upon the scientific consensus of the early 20th century and held sway throughout the Western world corrupting science, law, culture and ultimately leading to one of the worst holocausts in history. Only then was it decried by intellectuals and scientists and fell into disfavor. Many have attempted to link the theory to various influences from the evolutionary theory of Darwin to the racism that prevailed in Western societies. In the end the motivation for the widespread imposition of eugenics theories was the same motivation men always have – the desire to impose their will on others. In this case they did so with the sheen of scientific respectability –the ‘consensus’ of the scientific community was simply the clothing the oligarchy wrapped itself in.

Now this is not to say science doesn’t play an important, even critical role in decision making in our society. But like all factions it is self-interested and should never be given the privileged place desired by advocates of scientism since like all human interests it is marred with the selfishness, unbridled ambition, and the desire for power. The reality that power corrupts should be sufficient to realize this. This is of course contrary to the wishes of many secularists who see science as the only proper basis for decisions in our society, and so are always seeking a means to do so. Having failed miserably in the implementation of eugenics, and lost influence more recently with the global warming fiasco, they appear to have found a new candidate for exploitation for advancement of the influence of scientism – neuroscience.

Raymond Tallis, a doctor experienced with both the neurosciences and the philosophy of the mind sums up the current position of the scientific community on the neuroscience and it’s concurrent problems this way in an article in the New Statesman:

The word is out that human consciousness – from the most elementary tingle of sensation to the most sophisticated sense of self – is identical with neural activity in the human brain and that this extraordinary metaphysical discovery is underpinned by the latest findings in neuroscience. Given that the brain is an evolved organ, and, as the evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky said, nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution, the neural explanation of human consciousness demands a Darwinian interpretation of our behaviour. The differences between human life in the library or the operating theatre and animal life in the jungle or the savannah are more apparent than real: at the most, matters of degree rather than kind.

These beliefs are based on elementary errors. Just because neural activity is a necessary condition of consciousness, it does not follow that it is a sufficient condition of consciousness, still less that it is identical with it. And Darwinising human life confuses the organism Homo sapiens with the human person, biological roots with cultural leaves. Nevertheless, the coupling of neuromania and Darwinitis has given birth to emerging disciplines based on neuro-evolutionary approaches to human psychology, economics, social science, literary criticism, aesthetics, theology and the law.

In brief, a segment of scientific community (with the full support of many secularists) is attempting to impose on our culture a view of the human mind that renders it fully mechanical, rendering notions of self, personhood, and conscious will obsolete. To say this will have an impact on every aspect of our society if widely adopted is an understatement. Tallis describes how neuroscience proponents are already advocating for the implementation of the science on society:

This is modest compared to the usual hyping of neuroscience. The head of the RSA, Matthew Taylor, has urged that we look to neuroscience to guide social policy and move on from the old ideologies of right and left to the right and the left hemispheres of the brain. The evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson has argued that we should “connect the world of evolutionary science with that of public policy formation”. Professors Semir Zeki and Oliver Goodenough anticipate a “millennial future, perhaps only decades away” when “a good knowledge of the brain’s system of justice and of how the brain reacts to conflicts may provide critical tools in resolving international political and economic conflicts”. Untidy decision-making processes in the law courts will be replaced by a “biological justice” that can link actions with the neural activity that drove them as well as the biological bases of that activity.

We have heard all these utopian daydreams before with eugenics, how it would eliminate illness and poverty only to ultimately commit vast resources to combating the excesses of unbridled scienticism. Neuroscience taken within limits offers us great insight into the human brain with the possibility of dealing with those conditions which negatively affect human health. But taken as another broad prescription for the ills of society as desired by secular adherents of scientism, neuroscience represents yet another threat to freedom and the health of our society with the potential for much corruption.

We have been here before, with a group attempting to utilize science as a crowbar to insert itself into a position of power and influence. Previous lessons on this should be sufficient to cause most to discount such attempts out of hand – but ours is society which quickly forgets it’s past, so vigilant skepticism remains a necessity.


3 Responses to Is Neuroscience the New Eugenics?

  1. […] Author: Share this:EmailFacebookPrintDiggRedditStumbleUpon Tagged with: Eugenics • Neuroscience  If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it! You might also like Nature Neuroscience 2010 Hotfile Fileserve Rapidshare Downloads Nature… Is everything written on Wikipedia true and written by real journalists?Everyone thinks since… What is a good online resource site to learn about science in general other than Wikipedia?I would greatly appreciate… Tech history at the Science Museum … […]

  2. Justin says:

    Unfortunately, eugenics has never really gone away, since Darwinian biology is still alive and well. You still find the occassional scientist willing to voice support for eugenics. And certainly there are those who all but demand eugenics (i.e. Dawkins, who wants to eradicate religion and thinks “eugenics may be okay”).

    It’s clear refutation of any form of subjective morality, which always boils down to “might makes right”.

  3. jackhudson says:

    True; considering the use of pre-natal testing the implementation of it seems to have moved to the abortion clinic.

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