SCIENCE AND MORAL PRIORITY: A Merging of Mind, Brain, and Human Values by Roger Sperry

SCIENCE AND MORAL PRIORITY: A Merging of Mind, Brain, and Human Values

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Speculations by the 1981 Nobel-laureate neuroscientist on the relationship between his findings and the grand scheme of things--with a postscript by ""Convergence"" series editor Ruth Nanda Anshen. Sperry's research showed that when the cerebral hemispheres were disconnected, each half behaved independently; the two shared many capacities, but also had specialized functions. So Sperry came to think of mind and consciousness as emergent causal forces: not parallel systems in a mind-brain dualism, and not reducible to nerve cells and brain structure either. Now, expanding on the causal theme, he expresses the hope that mind will be used in the conscious creation of a science of moral values. Such a science would replace the narrow earth-centered or man-centered myths and religions (and Marxist ideology) with notions of the interdependence between all living things and the biosphere as a whole. Protection of life and the planet from war, overpopulation, and depletion of resources would be axiomatic. Recurrent motifs are today's world crises; dissatisfaction with traditional reductionist science and technology; a conviction that brain research is moving toward a more mentalist and holistic atmosphere; and the feeling that mankind should further the work of evolution toward progress, complexity, and moral order. One can agree with Sperry that science is not (and should not be) divorced from moral values and concerns--but still question whether science itself can be the basis for moral precepts. One must question, too, whether scientists--especially neuroscientists--are moving toward hierarchical emergent-force thinking. Sperry's moral science seems rather to be an amalgam of humanism, ethical culture, and perhaps some of Teilhard de Chardin's mysticism. Moral, yes; science, no.

Pub Date: Jan. 17th, 1982
Publisher: Columbia Univ. Press