Here’s a great illustrated lecture correcting misconceptions people have regarding what the right and left sides of the brain do, and arguing that we have built a culture that largely neglects the importance of right brain functions. It’s worth a few minutes, so check it out.
[HT The Daily What]
The Smithsonian has an excellent article on the Top 10 Myths about the Brain. It’s amazing how well-entrenched these are in the popular consciousness. So, before you say anything about the human brain (especially in a sermon), please consult this list.
My favorite insight from the article was that “There’s a long history of likening the brain to whatever technology is the most advanced, impressive and vaguely mysterious.” We describe the brain as a computer, earlier people described it as a steam engine or telephone. We’ve always been fascinated and confused by what makes the human person tick, constantly searching for some analogy that will make us make sense to ourselves.
You’ll want to read the entire article to get the explanation for why these are myths, but here are the Top 10 Myths.
- We only use 10 percent of our brains.
- “Flashbulb memories” are precise, detailed, and persistent.
- It’s all downhill after 40 (or 50 or 60 or 70)
- We have 5 senses.
- Brains are like computers.
- The brain is hard-wired.
- A conk on the head can cause amnesia.
- We know what will make us happy.
- We see the world as it is.
- Men are from Mars, women are from Venus.
That last one is contentious enough that it’s worth quote a bit of the article in full.
Certain sex differences are enormously important to us when we’re looking for a mate, but when it comes to most of what our brains do most of the time—perceive the world, direct attention, learn new skills, encode memories, communicate (no, women don’t speak more than men do), judge other people’s emotions (no, men aren’t inept at this)—men and women have almost entirely overlapping and fully Earth-bound abilities.
- This fun video explains the difference between the United Kingdom, Great Britain, and England. Living in Scotland for a while, I quickly realized that these are important distinctions to get straight lest you accidentally tell a Scot that he/she is “English”.
- Jesse Bering explains his argument that our belief in God is just a product of how our brains work.
What if I were to tell you that God’s mental states, too, were all in your mind? That God, like a tiny speck floating at the edge of your cornea producing the image of a hazy, out-of-reach orb accompanying your every turn, was in fact a psychological illusion, a sort of evolved blemish etched onto the core cognitive substrate of your brain? It may feel as if there is something grander out there . . . watching, knowing, caring. Perhaps even judging. But, in fact, that’s just your overactive theory of mind. In reality, there is only the air you breathe.
- Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie calls for more passion and less civility in public discourse.
All this talk about civility is beginning to make me uncomfortable. Civility refers to courteous and polite behavior. But courteous and polite behavior is not, in and of itself, a religious value. At times, it is to be subordinated to other, more important values.
- Joseph Black discusses why Eastern Orthodox churches claim to be the one true church.
Orthodox Christians believe they have managed to preserve and pass down the traditions of the church from those days through the rest of the Ecumenical Councils, through the ‘great schism’ with Rome, despite pressure and persecution from Muslims, Crusaders, Communists and Protestants (!) without deviation; they see themselves as having faithfully managed Christ’s blueprint and agenda for his people to the present day.
- Jim West reports that the church in Laodicea may have been uncovered by archeologists.
- Rod over at Political Jesus is going to be blogging through Black History Month. That should be a fascinating discussion to follow.
- Mubarak says that he won’t run for re-election, the Egyptian army calls for an end to the demonstrations, and there are reports that the internet has been partially turned back on. But, all of this has done little to stem the demonstrations.
- There’s a firestorm brewing in the Church of England over reports that Rowan Williams will now support Jeffrey John as the Church’s first openly gay bishop. At the same time, Stuart points out a good article warning about taking such reports too seriously.
- Justin Taylor links to an article by Vern Poythress that he calls “The Best Essay Ever Written on Spiritual Gifts Today.” According to Taylor, the thesis of the article is: “I maintain that modern spiritual gifts are analogous to but not identical with the divinely authoritative gifts exercised by the apostles. Since there is no strict identity, apostolic teaching and the biblical canon have exclusive divine authority. On the other hand, since there is analogy, modern spiritual gifts are still genuine and useful to the church. Hence, there is a middle way between blanket approval and blanket rejection of modern charismatic gifts.”
- Wired Magazine has an interesting article on the neuroscience of Alcoholics Anonymous and why their approach helps some people, but not others. (HT BoingBoing)
- Larry Hurtado links to an article he wrote on “Freedom in the NT.”
- And, Jim West has declared that he will bravely face the rigors of running the Biblical Studies Carnivals all by himself. So, apparently the Carnivals will return to the blogosphere on August 1.