Why Can’t We all Just Get Along, By Ourselves

             “Psychology and Neuroscience: Making Peace” by Miller and Keller brought up an enormous dilemma in the sciences that I, until now, hadn’t put much thought into. The inability to merge these two associated branches, biology and psychology, into a cohesive subunit, neuroscience, seems delirious to me. I don’t believe that a “noninteractive perspective” is the answer to the ‘great divide’ between biology and psychology. In order to fully explore and understand the brain, a middle path between the two sciences is necessary. Only by linking the biological systems to behavior will we have a grasp on why and how humans do what they do.
           However, I do agree with Miller and Keller when they say that biological and psychological need terms have distinct definitions. In fact, this reminds me of how the English language developed. Back in the day the upper-class lords employed the peasants to work in the fields. The peasants worked closely with animals, and therefore called them names familiar to us today: cow, pig, sheep, and deer. The lords, however, only encountered the animals as culinary dishes, thus calling the meat beef, pork, lamb, and venison. Therefore, it is from these two perspectives, the lords and the peasants, that the English language can discriminate between the two forms of animals, as living creatures and as meat on a dinner plate. As society before us has established these distinct definitions of animals, so too should present scientists provide distinct roles to biological and psychological concepts.
            On another note, Miller and Keller repeatedly mentioned the Decade of the Brain. Indulging my curiosity, I discovered that this decade occurred in the 90’s under former President Bush (http://www.loc.gov/loc/brain/). As their website states, the Library of Congress and the National Institute of Mental Health under the National Institutes of Health united “to enhance public awareness of the benefits to be derived from brain research through appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.” These appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities compromised of publications and programs to introduce the members of Congress on the “cutting-edge research on the brain”. I’m sorry, but if our government’s idea on creating national awareness on psychopathologies is to educate the Congress, I think there is a larger disconnect between Washington, D.C. and the public than I thought. It’s quite distressing to learn how much politics (and the funding that comes with it) influence the sciences. Miller and Keller mention that, in order to gain political support, “psychologists were tempted to repackage their phenomena to sound biological”, using phrases like biobehavioral marker or neurocognitive measure. I guess the more vague and all-encompassing your terms are, the more likely a politician’s aide will approve your lab for funding. I think, a large determinant in the direction the relationship between the biology and psychology fields rely on where the funding.

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2 thoughts on “Why Can’t We all Just Get Along, By Ourselves

  1. I really like how you referenced the politics involved in research funding. Also, giving us some background, and a more historical perspective, is really helpful to put things in perspective. Interesting post.

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  2. I agree that it is very unfair that psychology isn’t recognized as a “real” science. To a lot of people it is a joke that people who aren’t good at biology or chemistry go into. I hope that will change in the near future, because during my time here at Colby in the Psychology Department I have learned so much. I have come to know psychology has a lot to offer society.

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