11. A Fork in the road

Summary: Humans begin their development with a unity of intellect and feeling, however through specialization and over-use of the intellect, we stray too far from this natural integrity until a crisis results. Then the individual is brought to his/her senses. The collapse of problem-solving skills can be averted by preventing the mind from becoming overspecialized to the point of losing touch with natural human instincts and feelings.

Excerpt

    So far the general focus has been on different areas of the brain and how they specialize in certain abilities. We know that overuse—or neglect—of these abilities can have undesirable side-effects. Indeed there are other considerations which are not only intriguing, but also lend support to the view that once we set out on the path of overdevelopment, it is very difficult to turn back. Our mental specializations are important for survival. They have evolved over millions of years, and through billions of cells in each living human. They are reflected in our culture and in our biology. Men differ from women regarding some abilities; children have innocence and energy that adults do not. Over the millennia women have generally raised young children and tended to domestic needs, often gathering food as well, while men have used their skills to hunt and provide for themselves in terms of food and protection. More recently, men have dominated the highly specialized technical and scientific fields.
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    Another unfortunate aspect of the intellectual/sensory divide is that external, natural realities are generally considered in negative terms while man-made realities are regarded more positively. The ‘accentuate the positive’ song of the fifties is a good, if trivial example. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is a bitterly satirical comment on this tendency. In philosophy, logical positivism and ‘empirical determinism’ are the schools of thought that typify this trend. Modern society frowns on expressions of negative emotion, of outrage or annoyance. We are allowed to go wild with joy when our favorite team scores a winning goal, but getting upset at losing one’s job for example, is a waste of energy. In fact, some left-right brain researchers place positive emotions as located with the left, intellectual hemisphere, while negative emotions are based in the right hemisphere.