Looking around the paleosphere I can't help but notice explanations and arguments are becoming more and more neuro. Leptin-dominated satiety signaling explains everything, neurobiological food reward pathways, fMRI, reference to brain geography, etc. etc. I've even seen a few commenters express sentiments along the line of "this is a good explanation because it is brain-centered."
This is, for me, discouraging but understandable. Neuroscience as a theoretical explanatory framework for psychological (or cognitive or behavioral or social) causation is fraught with serious conceptual and methodological problems. Systemic circular analysis, causation confusion, poor statistical method, poor external validity, fragmented physiological consideration, acute-chronic conflation, it goes on and on. Neuroscience is a mostly very young and largely very soft "science." Yet...
Irrelevant neuroscience information in an explanation of a psychological phenomenon may interfere with people???s abilities to critically consider the underlying logic of this explanation. Subjects in the two non-expert groups additionally judged that explanations with logically irrelevant neuroscience information were more satisfying than explanations without. The neuroscience information had a particularly striking effect on non-experts??? judgments of bad explanations, masking otherwise salient problems in these explanations.
Deena Weisberg et al. "The seductive allure of neuroscience explanation", Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 20(3): 470-477, 2008.
asked bywhakahekeheke (948)
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on August 20, 2011
at 02:09 PM
To answer your question...yes, of course, many folks within this rapidly-growing community seem to be limited to the realm of neuroscience in a somewhat reductionistic manner, but, in fairness in many cases this micro-focus has already been set upon a more holistic and interdisciplinary stage with an established set of "givens" that need not be repeated in each discussion.
But, your question can be used to present a reminder about science in general. Good science, involves BOTH reductionism and holism. Good science, involves BOTH extrapolation and interpolation, BOTH induction and deduction. BOTH the "long view' and the 'short view' are equally necessary. One angle/perspective is NOT more important than the other.
Good science zigs when it should zig and zags when it should zag! (you quote me on that).
Currently, in our society, reductionism and holism are "out of balance" and reductionism (unfortunately) absolutely "rules the roost". This fact is 100% indisputable when we simply look at the nature of American higher education. As one advances up the educational ladder/hierarchy, one is be expected to have a more refined/narrow focus. One becomes more micro-focused and reductionistic as you go from undergraduate to graduate to post-graduate. Very, very few Ph.D.s are earned by becoming more holistic as you advance upward. Those with a narrow-focused educational expertise are the ones we call "smart" and end up teaching our kids, etc.
So, back to your question, "highly-educated" people in the USA just tend (rather heavily) toward reductionism. In addition, neuro-science (the westernized and reductionistic study of the brain and mind) obviously is a "comer" in the scientific realm. It is a "hot" area. So when you combine these two facts, it is no surprise where the conversation regarding Paleo often seems to go.
So I would not say we are "blinded" by neuroscience per se. But I would say that the vast majority of us are are "visually impaired", in that we suffer from a culturally-induced scientific myopia. And we do indeed suffer for it.
on August 20, 2011
at 03:27 PM
Any person or group can become particularly enamoured by their particular theory, experience or point-of-view. This is not necessarily a bad thing. I am not too bothered right now by the neuro focus, but only when it is rammed down people's throats (without seasoning, of course) even when it is based on theory that counters actual experience. There are also some who seem to think because they understand the brain, that they have a bigger better brain themselves.
on August 21, 2011
at 04:27 AM
Leptin resistance is a form of endocrine derangement that is measurable. We know that leptin is a satiety hormone and that its passage across the blood-brain barrier is restricted by elevated triglycerides (which are likely elevated due to excessive fructose intake). When you try to tie that into food reward, sure, that becomes tenuous, but dismissing "leptin" as being neuropseudoscience is terribly misguided.