13

votes

Have you been blinded by neuroscience?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created August 20, 2011 at 6:37 AM

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.

0c939bdddc3d8f8ef923ba8a72aeda71

on August 21, 2011
at 05:49 AM

I can't be a nerd as I was a football player in high school and an NCAA athlete in undergrad. I understand these categories to be mutually exclusive.

7c9f81d68c78de1a31eab9c91c17b4b8

on August 21, 2011
at 05:43 AM

This question answers Melissa's earlier question about the paleo community being full of nerds. Since I'm only a nerd wanna-be I had to google much of your question but I'm glad to be exposed to it.

0c939bdddc3d8f8ef923ba8a72aeda71

on August 21, 2011
at 05:30 AM

Sorry, I was pretty unclear there... I meant that leptin doesn't exist at all, *there is no leptin*, and neuro"scientists" just made it up to get published and get grants. jk yeah I meant specifically leptin deficiency/resistance as the explanatory causative factor of obesity and metsyn via its capacity as satiety signal. I.e. the leptin-dominant neuro causation story of common obesities. I'll edit the op. I wouldn't be so sure about the measurability or definition of "leptin resistance" based on my readings, however. See e.g.:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20846876

8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on August 21, 2011
at 03:52 AM

thanx, it's fixed

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on August 20, 2011
at 04:40 PM

cool study. i'm admittedly not immune to the allure, in spite of myself. I won't tolerate a circular argument though, with or w/o the neurosci.

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on August 20, 2011
at 04:23 PM

hells yes .

98bf2ca7f8778c79cd3f6c962011cfdc

(24286)

on August 20, 2011
at 03:35 PM

Great point of discussion. Thanks!

98bf2ca7f8778c79cd3f6c962011cfdc

(24286)

on August 20, 2011
at 03:35 PM

Good answers John and Rose!

417ac0e162dc468b8ca61a574e5cd3c0

on August 20, 2011
at 03:34 PM

Excellent point. Thanks.

98bf2ca7f8778c79cd3f6c962011cfdc

(24286)

on August 20, 2011
at 03:33 PM

"...even it is based on theory that counters actual experience.". Word.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on August 20, 2011
at 02:36 PM

Just to add one more "BOTH" to your string of good science indicators: good science is BOTH explanatory and predictive. People get very excited about the *explanation* side of things; that's the "AHA! Now it all makes sense!" impulse, but unfortunately, lots and lots of bad models (astrology, for example) have really malleable and fascinating explanatory properties, but the test of their worth is prediction. Carbs, insulin, leptin, food reward -- the only thing that will sort out the truth is time and closely-watched *in vivo* experience, not extrapolations from reductive bench science.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on August 20, 2011
at 01:33 PM

well any science outside of math and physics is relatively "soft" if you will.

0c939bdddc3d8f8ef923ba8a72aeda71

on August 20, 2011
at 07:25 AM

yes in the same way you still *couldn't see well* if you by chance found your way out of a dark forest

B4e1fa6a8cf43d2b69d97a99dfca262c

(10255)

on August 20, 2011
at 07:19 AM

am i blinded if the explanations end up being correct?

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4 Answers

best answer

12
417ac0e162dc468b8ca61a574e5cd3c0

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.

98bf2ca7f8778c79cd3f6c962011cfdc

(24286)

on August 20, 2011
at 03:35 PM

Good answers John and Rose!

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on August 20, 2011
at 02:36 PM

Just to add one more "BOTH" to your string of good science indicators: good science is BOTH explanatory and predictive. People get very excited about the *explanation* side of things; that's the "AHA! Now it all makes sense!" impulse, but unfortunately, lots and lots of bad models (astrology, for example) have really malleable and fascinating explanatory properties, but the test of their worth is prediction. Carbs, insulin, leptin, food reward -- the only thing that will sort out the truth is time and closely-watched *in vivo* experience, not extrapolations from reductive bench science.

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on August 20, 2011
at 04:23 PM

hells yes .

417ac0e162dc468b8ca61a574e5cd3c0

on August 20, 2011
at 03:34 PM

Excellent point. Thanks.

6
8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

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.

98bf2ca7f8778c79cd3f6c962011cfdc

(24286)

on August 20, 2011
at 03:33 PM

"...even it is based on theory that counters actual experience.". Word.

8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on August 21, 2011
at 03:52 AM

thanx, it's fixed

2
Medium avatar

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.

0c939bdddc3d8f8ef923ba8a72aeda71

on August 21, 2011
at 05:30 AM

Sorry, I was pretty unclear there... I meant that leptin doesn't exist at all, *there is no leptin*, and neuro"scientists" just made it up to get published and get grants. jk yeah I meant specifically leptin deficiency/resistance as the explanatory causative factor of obesity and metsyn via its capacity as satiety signal. I.e. the leptin-dominant neuro causation story of common obesities. I'll edit the op. I wouldn't be so sure about the measurability or definition of "leptin resistance" based on my readings, however. See e.g.:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20846876

2
1a98a40ba8ffdc5aa28d1324d01c6c9f

(20378)

on August 20, 2011
at 02:37 PM

I will read neuroscience based hypothesis however I favor hypothesis at the cellular level.

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