Thursday, January 24, 2013

Conflicting Mind Compartments

An article in “Scientific American” suggests that the mind is composed of compartments or modules that can conflict with one another. According to author Michael Shermer, “The module that leads us to crave sweet and fatty foods in the short term is in conflict with the module that monitors our body image and health in the long term.” The same is likely true for modules related to cooperation versus competition, or lying versus honesty, and play versus homework. Similarly, there may be compartments in the brain for beliefs. Researchers at Northwestern University found that when closely held beliefs of study participants were shaken, the subjects were even more enthusiastically persistent about those beliefs. That reminds one of stories about Galileo, who ran up against commonly held (and theological) beliefs. Reportedly, when he proposed that the earth moved around the sun, it got him house arrest for the remainder of his life. (There's also a common myth--one I was taught growing up--that Galileo was censured for saying the world was round.) Although the telescope had already been invented, Galileo apparently was responsible for some refinements or enhancements that assisted him in discovering several heavenly bodies and built his own telescope in 1608. It sure would be great if there was a historic library of DVDs so one could go back in time and "see" what really happened ...

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