9. Playing God

Summary: The power of the rational mind to function independently is not to be underestimated. The pursuit of scientific knowledge for its own sake, detached from reality, is not inherently good and pure, but potentially harmful and irresponsible. It is reasonable to conclude from split-brain studies, from dubious experimental practices and from biomedical gambles that the logical mind can function with considerable disregard for external realities.

Excerpt:

    It is reasonable to conclude from split-brain studies, from the accounts of dubious experimental practices, and from biomedical gambles, that the instrumental mind can function without regard for what lies beyond its own confines, or for the consequences. In addition, those skills we may have for regulating the instrumental mind are not part of the left brain’s repertoire. In the next chapter we will look at the neurological findings underlying the assertion that without the contextual resources of the right hemisphere, the calculating, instrumental mind can nonetheless function as an irresponsible automaton. The silent, coordinating role of the right hemisphere should be to the left brain as producers are to films or plays: we are not aware of them during a performance, and the quality of the production is a reflection of the coordinator’s role.

    Unemotional thinking is something we all do, every day, quite naturally. It provides the fabric of most social systems and becomes an obstacle only when we become locked in that mode. It is unfortunate that we have such great respect for rationalism that we can be persuaded by logic alone, whether it is based on truth or not. We all need the wisdom of Solomon to find the context of that logic and make just decisions that will enrich and extend the human experience. It is an inevitable fact of life that we will take rational knowledge, science and technology to whatever level we desire. That is what we do. Society can also ensure that progress is constructive by balancing ingenuity with good human judgement. We should do that because we can. Like Solomon.