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All in the brain - The Ex-Communicator

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October 26th, 2010


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09:08 am - All in the brain
This is just the latest example of a fallacy that annoys me whenever I see it. This time it's about sex, but I've seen it said about depression and anger (though always in women).
(Brain) Scans appear to show differences in brain functioning in women with persistently low sex drives, claim researchers... The US scientists behind the study suggest it provides solid evidence that the problem (of low libido in women) can have a physical origin.

So, because a psychological experience (lack of sexual desire) has a physical corollary (electrical activity in the brain) this is 'solid evidence' that low libido is caused by the physical structure of women's brains, not by emotional and social influences on them?

This is garbage. If - as I think we all believe - mental events are brain events, then all mental events will have a physical corollary. If you have a toothache, there will be associated electrical activity in the brain. That doesn't prove the toothache is the result of the physical structure of the brain, and there's no need to go to a dentist.

I'd also ask what kind of 'erotic videos' women were shown, that they 'failed' to react to. Because most of the mainstream porn I have ever seen is designed to appeal to men, and does very little for me. Whereas watching Spooks last night... well.

Anyway, ray of sunshine: 'Other experts in psychosexual medicine are not entirely convinced'. Thank heavens for that.

(15 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:altariel
Date:October 26th, 2010 08:36 am (UTC)
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I don't know how people get away with peddling this stuff. Utter bobbins.

I didn't watch Spooks, was there some beautiful Armitage suffering?
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:October 26th, 2010 08:51 am (UTC)
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I think it shows the degree to which supposedly objective issues like 'proof' are grounded in emotional feelings of anxiety, or relief of anxiety.

I put on a mulish scowl when I feel someone is too obviously supposed to pander to the ladies, which is partly why I was all *humph* about David Tennant for about five years, but I must say they are going full-out in Spooks at the moment.

I was just saying yesterday on Abigail's blog that I can't understand why they are CGI-ing him into a dwarf in The Hobbit. What a waste.
[User Picture]
From:altariel
Date:October 26th, 2010 09:02 am (UTC)
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I wish they'd just take all the dialogue off Spooks and simply present me with a series of images like that, accompanied by pounding music. Then I could just enjoy the spectacle and not be disappointed on account of my old-fashioned expectation of decent storytelling. Everyone happy. I wonder if there's a woman producer?

Complete waste casting him as Thorin. Why not Bard the Bowman, dour prophet of doom, sweatily drawing his last arrow to heroically slay Smaug? The part seems made for him.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:October 26th, 2010 05:37 pm (UTC)
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I think the plot last night was quite clever - just posted something about it before I left work earlier - but I have to say that 'a series of images like that, accompanied by pounding music' could not be bettered as an evening's entertainment.
[User Picture]
From:archbishopm
Date:October 26th, 2010 08:57 am (UTC)
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The women were asked to watch a screen for half an hour, with everyday television programmes interspersed with erotic videos.

I, I, what? The possibilities. Dallas/Debbie Does Dallas? Spongebob/Snuff?

Also yeah, those porn people always have that cheap weiner texture to them, I've got more cheap thrills off of fanfiction.net than I ever had from that massive industry. I mean, uh

*smoke bomb*
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:October 26th, 2010 09:03 am (UTC)
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I think it shows the strength of the female sex drive that in a world where there isn't porn for us, we make our own.
[User Picture]
From:spacefall
Date:October 26th, 2010 09:09 am (UTC)
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Bad 'Science' R Us

Gotta love the headline. So, "brain not mind"? Wow, glad to hear that's been cleared up then ;D The philosophers can go home now.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:October 26th, 2010 09:20 am (UTC)
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And here's the Telegraph on the same story.
There were differences in blood flow to the insular cortices, which are involved with interpersonal relationships and emotion.

And this apparently 'proves' that desire is not influenced by relationships and emotion?

This is why scientists need philosophers. Not that philosophy isn't mired in complacency too.
[User Picture]
From:spacefall
Date:October 26th, 2010 09:49 am (UTC)
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or in other words 'generic porn leaves some women cold.' Who'd have guessed!

To be fair, it's not entirely the fault of scientists that the media grabs onto the utter crap while ignoring the many more rigorous and 'boring' investigations. Science works on the basis that a lot of what we think we've 'discovered' is total bollocks. The bollocks generates more discussion, as demonstrated here XD but even the Torygraph has locked onto the main point of 'is this really science, or just an attempt to shove more things into a physical, pill-friendly model.'

Philosophy and science can be more or less continuous, but that makes for less 'crazy' news stories. :P
[User Picture]
From:iainjcoleman
Date:October 26th, 2010 10:24 am (UTC)
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While I do agree with what you say here, I don't think the article is so bad: it makes it clear that there's a range of views and scepticism about this particular claim.

My only real problem with it is that it does the usual science journalism thing of reporting exciting-sounding conference presentations, a large percentage of which simply vanish, never making it anywhere near the peer-reviewed literature.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:October 26th, 2010 10:31 am (UTC)
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In general I think the fault in articles like this is largely with the journalist. I have taken on board what scientists have said about that problem. But - yes - in this case the article itself is not too bad (even the Telegraph article isn't too bad). This time I think the model which underlies the research is bad.
[User Picture]
From:gummitch
Date:October 26th, 2010 12:55 pm (UTC)
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And here's a concrete example where people thinking stuff caused concrete changes in their brains: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/677048.stm

So let's recast the above:

(Brain) Scans appear to show differences in brain functioning in people who drive taxis, claim researchers... The scientists behind the study suggest it provides solid evidence that the problem (of taxi-drivers) can have a physical origin.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:October 26th, 2010 01:48 pm (UTC)
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Oh, yes, I remember that story. Good example.
[User Picture]
From:hafren
Date:October 27th, 2010 11:58 am (UTC)
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I'd also ask what kind of 'erotic videos' women were shown, that they 'failed' to react to.


I think it's absolutely vital to know this. See, I bet none of those vids showed Napoleon and Illya, or Horatio and Archie, or Blake and Avon....
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:October 27th, 2010 01:21 pm (UTC)
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A key scene in this season of Mad Men is a young girl experiencing her first sexual frisson, on looking at Illya tied to a chair. I doubt she would have been quite so thrilled by some repellent 'erotic video'.

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