Neuroscientists win Nobels. They get years of the brain, presidents asking for billions of dollars for connectomes and brain atlases, and billion dollar grants (see here) to build computer brains to find out how we think. Neuroscience is a prestige science. Sadly, linguistics is not.
The paper noted above is the latest indication of the cachet that neuroscience has. However, buried in the article discussing this latest funding coup (btw, I have nothing against this, though I am envious, for none of this money would ever have come to me and better this than another fancy jet or tank) is an indication of how little contemporary neuroscience can tell us about how brains affect behavior or mental capacity. And not because we don't have a full fledge connectome or map of the brain. Consider the lowly roundworm: full wiring diagram and no idea why it does what it does. Don't take my word for this. Here's Christoph Koch one of the leaders in the field:
“There are too many things we don’t yet know,” says Caltech professor Christof Koch, chief scientific officer at one of neuroscience’s biggest data producers, the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle. “The roundworm has exactly 302 neurons, and we still have no frigging idea how this animal works.”
So, next time a neuroscientist tells you that linguistic representations cannot be right because they are incompatible with what we know about brains, worry not. We don't seem to know much about brains, at least where it counts: coupling the structure of brains to what we (or even roundworms) do.
"So, next time a neuroscientist tells you that linguistic representations cannot be right because they are incompatible with what we know about brains, worry not. We don't seem to know much about brains"ReplyDelete
How was this kind of reasoning called by Norbert? If the view of linguistic reps is not even compatible with the little we know about brains that would be a reason to be very worried! But even less negatively: If current knowledge about brains cannot provide evidence that the view of ling reps is wrong; this does not entail they are right either. And a concerned biolinguist would strive to provide evidence for the brain researchers so they may get a better idea about what to look for. This smug: 'they don;t know much either' is anything but scientific attitude...