Author Topic: "The Accidental Mind"  (Read 8356 times)

Matt Koeske

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"The Accidental Mind"
« on: April 17, 2008, 03:41:41 PM »

I am half-way through the book, The Accidental Mind: How Brain Evolution Has Given Us Love, Memory, Dreams, and God by Johns Hopkins neuroscientist, David, J, Linden.  I just wanted to alert anyone out there interested in the relationship between the latest neuroscience and psychology (who, like me lives in the less technical, depth psychology district) that this is an excellent book on neuroscience that is very readable for a layperson.

I recommend it very highly (and I haven't even gotten to the parts about love, dreams, and God yet!).  There are many things that my previous dabbling in neuroscience reading left me fuzzy on that are easily cleared up in this book.  The author should also be commended for being very clear about what scientific research of the brain proves, what it does not prove, and what it merely suggests.  He is fair-minded (not overly ideological) and a good, clear writer.

I will eventually get around to recording some quotations from the book here and will try to add some (more speculative) depth psychology parallels when possible.  Thus far, I've found the scientific data presented by Linden to accord comfortably with my own more-intuitive, relevant depth psych. theories.  That's nice, I have to admit, but not necessary.  My objective is to develop theories that are compatible with strong scientific data from fields like neuroscience and evolutionary biology without either ignoring credible scientific data or co-opting scientific data that is still fringe or controversial in an attempt to seemingly advocate my views.  I like to only use the scientific data that is best understood and most widely accepted in the scientific field that generated or recorded it.

I am not a scientist, and most of the time I can make no claim to be able to determine the credibility of scientific data that scientists in the field are still debating.  I've seen other Jungians and New Age pseudoscience co-opters use a lot of highly questionable scientific data (and at the expense of other contradictory data), sometimes even misrepresenting them (or scientific criticisms of them), to seemingly support the pseudoscientific intuitive and foundationless spiritualistic claims.  As seductive as the allure of "data" might be, I think a truly scientific mind must resist this selfish temptation and do his or her best to use data accurately and responsibly, allowing it to express what it has to express and not molding it to say something it inherently doesn't.

The use of pseudoscience in depth psychology is becoming increasingly common . . . and regrettably, many depth psychologists and depth psychology readers don't have the ability to discern the credible from the incredible uses of scientific data.  As a result, our field (if it can even be called that anymore) has grown very muddied, even polluted by spiritualistic co-opting or literalization/misinterpretation of illegitimate or semi-legitimate claims.

This happens in many areas of literature, especially those areas that have less connection to scientific method and concrete data (and data collection means).  I saw it a lot in literary theory (that co-opts many sociological claims that are not founded in legitimate research or come from flawed and biases studies) and I see it even more in depth psychology and its hunger to appropriate any fringe drivel from the fields of theoretical physics and neuroscience it can get its hands on.  But notably, these attempts take only the data that serve the authors' pre-established ideas.  This is not scientific in the least.

Therefore, I have always been very cautious about trying to source elements of my theory to either "named thinkers" or studies . . . unless I feel fairly certain that I can verify the data these studies produced and understand why it is credible and why the studies were functional means of collecting such data.  For the most part, I prefer to argue and build my theories from logic and personal experience . . . while doing my best to look in on the credible scientific data from fields like neuroscience and evolutionary biology as helpful signposts.  But I come from an area (literature and creative writing) in which namedropping and unnecessary citation of one's "betters" and allies passes for real argument and scholarship.  And that was never acceptable to me.

In any case, please pick up a copy of The Accidental Mind if you have any interest in investigating the relationships between brain and psyche or if you are just looking for a good, laypersons' book on today's neuroscience.

I haven't had a chance to check it out yet, but there is also a website for this book: http://accidentalmind.org/

You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Matt Koeske

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Re: "The Accidental Mind"
« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2008, 05:08:28 PM »
Kafiri had previously linked to a podcast with a long interview of David Linden.

Whoops, looks like the link that Kafiri posted is now dead.  Try here or here for that podcast.

See also the below for more audio interviews:
http://accidentalmind.org/faith_and_the_brain.html
http://accidentalmind.org/events.html
« Last Edit: April 17, 2008, 06:39:36 PM by Matt Koeske »
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Matt Koeske

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Re: "The Accidental Mind"
« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2008, 10:57:13 AM »
You can download and read the Introduction and the 7th chapter ("Sleeping and Dreaming") of The Accidental Mind on David Linden's blog here: http://accidentalmind.org/free_chapters/

The chapter on sleeping and dreaming will, I think, be of some interest to Jungians and dream workers for two main reasons: 1.) it gives a nice outline of what we know scientifically about dreaming and sleep and why, and 2.) Linden (who does not think that dreams are symbolic codes or contain disguised sexual symbols, but still doesn't entirely dismiss some level of "meaning" or representation of the dreamers psychic situation and personality) provides a narrative/REM dream of his own that is rife with Jungian symbolism!

He doesn't recognize this, of course (and I don't think he is familiar with Jung's dream theories), but I found it quite fascinating.  It's an anima and snakes dream!  Very classic, the kind of dream we Jungians and dream workers see quite frequently.  It gave me a bit of hope that there could be some useful exchange made between neuroscientific dream researchers and depth psychologists.

I will write more about Linden's dream chapter later (addressing specific quotes), and I'm thinking about writing to him about the impression I and others have had regarding the potential merging of the neuroscientific and the depth psychological data pools and theories on dreams.  My main hesitation in doing this is that I feel I would have to "sell" my own, more-scientific Jungianism and could not merely point Dr. Linden to Jung's or other Jungians' writing (which is not quite up to snuff for a modern neuroscientist, in my opinion).  That's a heavy burden, and one I can't say I would choose, but the risk of verbosity and obfuscation is probably worth the attempt.


Oh, and I almost forgot.  Linden remarks in passing that his father is a psychoanalyst!
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Matt Koeske

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Re: "The Accidental Mind"
« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2008, 10:58:54 AM »
For the lazy, here is David Linden's "Jungian" dream:

Quote
Dream 3: I am waltzing with a beautiful woman in a vast space. The woman is not someone I recognize but she seems to know me well. In some respects the room where we’re dancing is like a large ballroom, but it’s also like a shop in my home town that I visited frequently as a teenager. This shop sold musical instruments, including many unusual ones from foreign countries. My dancing partner is beaming at me, but I’m distracted by the instruments in the cases, which are complex and inviting. I long to go tinker with them, but I’m aware that my dancing partner is getting annoyed that I’m not paying enough attention to her. She grows more and more upset as she senses my distraction. Soon, she’s furious and I’m running from her and the scene has changed to a long, hot road. I jump on a bicycle and pedal quickly, which allows me to pull away from her pursuit. I can no longer see her in the road behind me. However, after a minute or so, the road grows bumpy and I realize that I’m riding over live snakes. As I pedal, the snakes snap at my feet each time they reach the lowest point in the pedal’s revolution, so I put my feet up on the crossbar of the bike to avoid being bitten. Of course, I gradually lose speed and I realize that very soon, without forward momentum, I will lose my balance and fall into the snakes that now cover the road like a carpet.
         
          [p.209-210, The Accidental Mind]
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Keri

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Re: "The Accidental Mind"
« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2008, 01:26:07 PM »
Dear Matt,

Thanks for the reference.  I've been wondering how to go about dipping back into this stuff.  It's fun reading so far.

Do you have a similar reccommendation for an evo psych book?

Love, Keri
O gather up the brokenness
And bring it to me now . . .

Behold the gates of mercy
In arbitrary space
And none of us deserving
The cruelty or the grace

O solitude of longing
Where love has been confined
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind
  - Leonard Cohen, "Come Healing"

Let me be in the service of my Magic, and let my Magic be Good Medicine.  -- Dominique Christina

Keri

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Re: "The Accidental Mind"
« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2008, 01:29:17 PM »
Oh, whoops, I just saw again an earlier post in which you wrote about Pinker's book. ::)
Maybe I'll check this out too.
 :)
O gather up the brokenness
And bring it to me now . . .

Behold the gates of mercy
In arbitrary space
And none of us deserving
The cruelty or the grace

O solitude of longing
Where love has been confined
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind
  - Leonard Cohen, "Come Healing"

Let me be in the service of my Magic, and let my Magic be Good Medicine.  -- Dominique Christina