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Neuroscience And Neuromania

Professor Raymond Tallis in conversation with Professor Robin Dunbar FBA, on 14 June 2011 (venue: The British Academy).

Neuroscience is making astounding progress in helping us to understand how the brain works and this will deliver advances in the management of brain disease. Unfortunately, it has a Dark Companion - Neuromania - which is founded on the belief that brain activity is not merely a necessary but a sufficient condition for human consciousness and that consequently our behaviour in every day life can be entirely understood neural terms. This has resulted in wild claims about the potential of neuroscience to cast light on art, to explain economic behaviour, to inform social policy and the justice system, and even to account for religious belief. The talk will show why such hype is bad for the reputation of neuroscience and may have dangerous consequences.

About the speakers:
Raymond Tallis trained as a doctor before going on to become Professor of Geriatic Medicine at the University of Manchester. He was elected Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences for his research in clinical neuroscience.

He retired from medicine in 2006 to become a full-time writer. He has published fiction, poetry and over a dozen books of cultural criticism and philosophical anthropology including, most recently, The Kingdom of Infinite Space (2008) and Michelangelo's Finger (2010).

Robin Dunbar is currently Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Oxford and Director of its Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology. He is a Fellow of Magdalen College and was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1998. He is co-Director of the British Academy’s Centenary Research Project, ‘Lucy to Language: The Archaeology of the Social Brain’, a multi-disciplinary project involving research groups at the Universities of Oxford, Liverpool, Royal Holloway (University of London), Southampton and Kent. His principal research interest is the evolution of sociality, with specific focus on humans, nonhuman primates and ungulates.

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