In the wake of new research showing antidepressants don't work and that the brains of depressed patients don't seem genetically different from those of undepressed people, you have an opening to look at the mind with fresh eyes.
Depression is the smallest tip of a huge iceberg. The fad for focusing on the brain has overwhelmed science and society as a whole. It perfectly suits our materialistic belief system. As a result, science acts as if the mind is a fiction, a ghost or a superstition, very much like the soul. That is a straw man of the most obvious sort because how your life turns out depends very little on whether you believe in the soul—it depends a great deal on how you use your mind.
I realize this seems like an abstract or lofty debate to ordinary people. Brain or mind? It's all the same to them. But consider it a bit more deeply. If treating depression by looking inside was better all along, if popping millions of antidepressants was a dead end all along, what other issues might fit the same model?
Here are a few hot candidates:
- God: Researchers have been striving (in vain) to show that there is a faith gene, or that religion was a survival mechanism to protect our species, or that God is a holdover from ancient brain responses that used fear to keep people alert to danger when they lived in caves. Thus, fear of saber-toothed tigers morphed into fear of a punishing God. That there might actually be a God who lies outside the purview of science. This doesn't prevent scientists from thinking they are about to disprove God.
- Love: There is a ceaseless campaign to posit a love gene or, lacking that, a brain response that roots love in chemistry. Insofar as people deem love to be noble, uplifting or even meaningful, they are being fooled by a meaningless brain secretion. Once again, as with God, evolutionary biologists presume that primitive humans needed to bond together for survival and what they call love depends upon an atavistic holdover.
- Psychology: The basis of psychology is that the self can be normal or abnormal, healthy or sick. Brain researchers haven't found any location for such a self, however. Therefore, since the brain holds all the answers, there's a strong camp that declares the self to be a total illusion. If you feel like a person having experiences that matter to yourself, you are being deluded by clouds of chemical reactions in the brain that are so complex you cannot fathom them all. Therefore, you take the easy, and primitive, way out by telling yourself that you have a self. (Ironically, Buddhism and Hinduism deny the personal self, also, but for another reason: Identifying with the ego, or personal self, blocks our access to a higher self where true meaning abides.)
These are three big topics, but the brain is also given primacy in many other fields, including emotions (more chemical secretions), relationships (an evolutionary holdover), morality, aesthetics, philosophy and spirituality in general (all of these fields are illusory compared to the brain responses that cause them). It's as if someone discovered the radio and declared, "Good, now we know where music comes from. We can ditch all this nonsense about composers and genius."Why it's important to add the mind to the equation