Enough with the ‘brain is a computer’ analogy | Letters

Enough with the ‘brain is a computer’ analogy | Letters

Enough with the ‘brain is a computer’ analogy | Letters 150 150 icnagency

By: Letters | Enough with the ‘brain is a computer’ analogy | Letters | Neuroscience | The Guardian

It’s at least 20 years since the analogy and the so-called Cartesian error were thrown out by many neuroscientists and philosophers, says Cary Bazalgette. And Frank Jackson was horrified to see it used in schools

I was very surprised by Matthew Cobb’s long read (Why your brain is not a computer, 27 Feb) and even more shocked by Dr Dodds’ letter (Give some thought to brain theorising, 3 March). It’s at least 20 years since the “brain as computer” analogy and the so-called Cartesian error were thrown out by many neuroscientists and philosophers (read Damasio’s Descartes’ Error, for a start) and since then there’s been a huge and exciting debate going on internationally about the diverse and growing field of embodied cognition. It has major implications for education, child development, social science, aesthetics, psychology and more, and has been driven by remarkable work in neuroscience, especially in Italy. I was amazed that neither Cobb nor Dodds make any reference to it. Cue for another long read maybe?
Cary Bazalgette
Honorary research fellow, UCL Institute of Education

• Yes, the human brain, or any animal’s brain, is not a computer, and, as Dr Allan Dodds points out, there is still a long way to go to resolve the mind/brain problem. Conversely, a computer is not a brain and thinking about it in this way does not help. In my last year of teaching physics, prior to retiring, we were preparing a new integrated science course to replace the separate sciences. Regardless of the pros and cons of this scheme in general, I was horrified to see the computer described as a “giant brain” in the physics section. I wrote a memo giving my objections, but I have no knowledge of whether they had any influence on what was taught in the following years.
Frank Jackson
Harlow, Essex

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