Brains, Consciousness, & Mental Health w/ Rob DeSalle
While it seems an obvious reality for people who are naturalistic in their world-view, understanding our brain as the source of all of our behavior, thoughts, and personality, is not necessarily the way most people think. It is surprising how many people have the belief that consciousness is – in one form or another – supernatural.
The enduring belief that consciousness is the manifestation of a nonmaterial phenomenon, such as a soul, and not directly the result of our brains interacting with our environment is an idea which we on ETFF think needs to be challenged.
This month, in particular, the horrific events in Arizona raises the issue of the way our society regards and responds to mental illness, and that seems to call into question whether we believe that our behavior is primarily the result of our brains responding to our environment, or something more.
While many media pundits are quick to use judgmental terms as regards the shootings – such as ‘crazy,’ ‘evil,’ ‘psycho,’ such language fails to get us close to any sort of effective method to prevent or at least reduce the number of such incidents.
The naturalistic alternative to understanding human behavior is embodied in the wonderful new exhibition called “Brain: The Inside Story” at AMNH.
Rob DeSalle is a Curator of Entomology at the American Museum of Natural History. He is affiliated with the AMNH Division of Invertebrate Zoology and works at the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics, where he leads a group of researchers working on molecular systematics, molecular evolution, population and conservation genetics, and evolutionary genomics of a wide array of life forms ranging from viruses, bacteria, corals, and plants, to all kinds of insects, reptiles, and mammals.
Rob is also Adjunct Professor at Columbia University (Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology), Distinguished Professor in Residence at New York University (Department of Biology), Adjunct Professor at City University of New York (Subprogram in Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Behavior), Resource Faculty at the New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology, and Professor at the AMNH Richard Gilder Graduate School.