Wednesday, May 25, 2016


This morning I was reading on the BBC News about a man who didn’t realize that his mind was blind. He can’t make mental pictures, can’t visualize anything. The interesting article had me remembering a blog I posted four years ago. I thought I’d rerun it for you today. Researchers are discovering more and more about our brains. It’s a fascinating subject.

“The more we discover about the circuitry of the brain, the more we tip away from accusations of indulgence, lack of motivation, and poor discipline—and toward the details of biology. The shift from blame to science reflects our modern understanding that our perceptions and behaviors are steered by deeply embedded neural programs.”

So now I know why I am as I am: the above quote from an article in The Atlantic, “the Brain on Trial”, tells me that my brain’s circuitry is wired a certain way: my way. I suppose I am fortunate that my brain isn’t wired to make me a sneak thief or a murderer, or even on a milder basis, a gossip or hypochondriac.  Now I know what happens when I stand in front of the refrigerator looking for a snack: intellectually I know I should shut the door because I really don’t need the snack, but my circuitry overrides it all and I go ahead and eat. “I can’t help myself.” Well, I could, but I rarely do.  For such a relatively smart person, this is really dumb.

They call this a brainbow, and it shows
nerve activity
These latest discoveries about our biological makeup are opening up a huge can of worms. We’d think that intellectually, likely taught as youngsters, criminals would know right from wrong. What they know and how they behave are two different things – but should they be punished for how they act?  How their brains are wired? The worlds of medicine, law, and ethics are going to have to hash this out. 

Until these recent discoveries, criminals were criminals and were punished according to the law. Now, much like with the insanity defense, it will be a question of the criminal’s wired state of mind. No more: “he’s depraved on accounta he’s deprived.” It’ll be “he’s depraved on accounta he’s not wired too tight.” The wiring’s the thing.

Yes, I know this is a Phrenology bust, but even though it 's
about the outside of the head, not the inside, I'd never seen
such a thing before I visited Historic Brattonsville. I've been
saving this photo for quite a while. Today is the day to use it.
In the near future there may be laws not for pre-marital blood tests, but pre-marital mental tests. They say that DNA testing may be able to tell us a child’s future proclivities - that’s one of my favorite fancy words for habitual tendencies or inclinations.  Another can of worms: what will society do when confronted by evidence that a child may grow up to be, shall we say, anti-social?  Hoo-boy! 

So now that I know I think the way I do because it’s the way I’m wired, boy would I like to get inside and rewire some other folks brains. Unfortunately I can’t do that, so I’ll just have to be more understanding about the less-than-lovely traits of others. I’ll just have to say “Poor dear, she really can’t help herself. She’s wired that way.”  And I guess they’ll say that about me too!

…while googling for brain-wiring illustrations to accompany this essay I came upon The Connectome: A New Way to Think About What Makes You You, also in The Atlantic. I first read that to be connect-to-me, and actually it does connect to me.  The article gets into a little more serious stuff than I wanted to cover in my light essay, but it is quite intriguing.

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