Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience

Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless


In recent years, the advent of MRI technology seems to have unlocked the secrets of the human mind, revealing the sources of our deepest desires, intentions, and fears. As renowned psychiatrist and scholar Sally Satel and psychologist Scott O. Lilienfeld demonstrate in Brainwashed, however, the explanatory power of brain scans in particular and neuroscience more generally has been vastly overestimated. Although acknowledging its tremendous potential, the authors argue that the overzealous application of the burgeoning field of brain science has put innocent people in jail, prevented addicts from healing themselves, and undermined notions of free will and responsibility.

A provocative challenge to the use and abuse of a seductive science, Brainwashed offers an essential corrective to determinist explanations of human behavior.

From Booklist
*Starred Review* What do the bright and colorful splotches on brain scans tell us about the mind and human behavior? Not as much as we’d like to think, according to psychiatrist Satel and psychologist Lilienfeld, who caution against the overheated promises of neuroscience that have crept into commerce, law, sociology, and science itself. Could brain scans replace focus groups, counseling, and lie detectors to explain our actions, feelings, and potential? Focusing on the use of brain scans in marketing (to identify emotional triggers), addiction treatment (to look beyond efforts at self-control), and law enforcement (to mitigate responsibility for criminal behavior), they ponder the broader implications of relying too much on neurology—and not enough on psychology—to explain human behavior. Placing MRIs in historical context, including the phrenology fad, they question the scientific soundness of using brain scans in fields other than neurology. As interesting are important issues they raise, from worries about cognitive liberty to the right to protect yourself against incrimination and unreasonable searches and seizures. This fascinating book cautions against the appeal and seeming authority of the brain scan, which renders it vulnerable to conscription in the service of one or another political or social agenda. –Vanessa Bush
Wall Street Journal
“In their concise and well-researched book, [Satel and Lilienfeld] offer a reasonable and eloquent critique of this fashionable delusion, chiding the premature or unnecessary application of brain science to commerce, psychiatry, the law and ethics…. In a book that uses ‘mindless’ accusatively in the subtitle, you might expect an excitable series of attacks on purveyors of what’s variously called neurohype, neurohubris and neurobollocks. But more often than not Dr. Satel and Mr. Lilienfeld stay fair and levelheaded. Good thing, because this is a topic that requires circumspection on all sides.”

New York Times
“Dr. Satel and Dr. Lilienfeld offer a methodical critique of this oversimplified neuro-nonsense, convincingly arguing that in many ways the M.R.I.’s of today are simply the phrenology heads of yesteryear, laughably primitive attempts to wrangle human character and behavior into tractable form.”

“In this volume, these two prolific authors combine their talents to provocatively call for caution concerning many of the promises associated with neuroscience…A very readable, even entertaining, commentary on how neuroscience is beginning to change the world…A welcome reminder of the never-ending need for healthy skepticism as we encounter the various creative endeavors that so often accompany emerging scientific developments.”

The National Review
“[An] incisive and clearly written book…if you want to know where and why the neuroscientific used-car salesmen are wrong, if you want to arm yourself against their preposterous overselling, read this book.”

David Brooks, New York Times
“[A] compelling and highly readable book.”

“A well-informed attack on the extravagances of “neurocentrist” thought.”

The New Scientist
“The intrepid outsider needs expert guidance through this rocky terrain – and there’s no better place to start than Brainwashed by Sally Satel and Scott O. Lilienfeld. Satel, a practising psychiatrist, and Lilienfeld, a clinical psychologist, are terrific sherpas. They are clear-sighted, considered and forgiving of the novice’s ignorance”

Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing
“A smart and sometimes devastating critique of ‘neurobollocks’… this book is a brisk read, but a good one — and, I would argue, an important one.”

A Southern American

Although not a universal view it is an all too common perception of southerners in the USA. It is hard to understand how this kind of ignorance can prevail. It must come from an extreme self fixation not really permitting the perceiver to connect or empathize with the plight of another human. How do we promote a more realistic comprehensive perception and realisation.


A Ranchers Romantic Revisionism by Charles M Blo

Cutting Loose From the Story

Complete Transformation | April 22, 2014
If spirituality is only about self-transcendence—about seeing through the story of ‘me’ that we habitually inhabit—then it runs the risk of cutting us loose from that story so that we no longer take care of the human wounds of self and other. No matter how imaginary the self proves to be, we return to its world. If spiritual or transcendent insight doesn’t lead to healing and transformation in our actual daily lives, it is clearly incomplete.
—Henry Shukman, “Light and Dark”

Light and Dark by Henry Shukman from Tricycle

At 60 years of age I think that I am coming to have a more lucid  idea of what I am and I am not. I see the limitations and imperfections that have ruled and wonder now if I can lay them aside. Maybe in the accepting  and  letting go I can unfold in a more compassionate light. One wonders if it all has been more a product of age rather than a result of meditation and contemplation.

I also enjoyed this article for entertainment value  about Jeff bridges in Tricycyle. He seems to be an actor committed to practice.

Jeff Bridges Interview in Tricycle



The Truth is Simple, The Untruth is Not Simple

I came across a few interesting articles in the New York Times today which I have included. Some of what was presented by these writers  influenced my already leaning direction towards a pessimistic reality.

Abandon (Nearly) All Hope by Simon Critchley


Marx Rises Again by Mark Douthat


Capitalism and The Dalai Lama by Arthur C Brooks


I struggle to discover what I truly am in reality. As the title taken from Nisargadata suggests the truth is simple but humans take everything and make it into an untruth which is complicated. And I have become in part somewhat of an untruth.

I ask myself if in my search back to  truth if my actions are a reacting to the untruth that is dominant in this life that we have created or if the problem is that I in fact can not be separate from it, its collective force bigger than me.

Sometimes I think that maybe I should relax into wearing the mask that most seem to wear and just take it all as a game. But the search that I am on and the contemplation that I am involved in constantly points me back to the truth.

All that I have become in my conditioning and every attempt to fit in under all that pressure to be something and to have has taken me from the truth. Underneath all of this and all the desire and fear there is something more simple and vital and loving and connected that is a more authentic light by what I seek.

It seems that I am being drawn into a way that I am left without all that I have known. I can’t seem to pretend that the world has not become a place that collectively is blinded by the pursuit of desire and the avoidance of fear. I see so lucidly  a world where money seems to have replaced meaning for most. I don’t have the hope that helps me to engage in an optimistic way. But I can come to be in the world in a loving and compassionate way and if being in this way also involves this  clear and lucid seeing of this kind than I welcome and invite this pessimism.

Conditioned Ego or Ego

It is not that I don’t have faith in humanity to change it is that I do not have faith in the ego as it has been conditioned and there is no way for me to be gentle about that. So a lot of conclusions that we make about life that are concepts of the ego I do not identify with them as truth. I feel that as we come to touch our deepest self only than does the ego unfold naturally and authentically oriented to a way of truth. But I feel that collectively we are sleeping influenced by a dualism which for me is simply a disconnect from our core human essence and I realise that it will take a radical shift and possibly an extreme crisis before we can come to trust in something that is beyond the conditioned ego. It is only in trusting this that we can evolve. It can be a very difficult  realisation to awaken in this way  because it involves connecting with our sense of vulnerability and authentic acknowledgement of our  limitations. We have to be able to come to see and understand how the conditioned ego veils us from these truths and perpetuates a duality in this way.

I can identify with  what writers such as Krishnamurti, Osho, Jean Klein, Chogyam Trungpa, and Nisargadatta write about. They tell it like it is from their own perception and experience. The conditioned ego is manipulative and not to be trusted. It lurks in inaction and convention. There are many other writers that  guide humans towards a more whole way; writer such as Joko Beck, Toni Packer, Rachel Carson, Pema Chodron.