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The Pequod
Dr Alistair Brown | Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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New Essay

Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more

Susan Greenfield and Autism

Monday, August 08, 2011

I was interested to read today that a leading neuropsychologist, Dorothy Bishop, has criticised her fellow Oxford professor, Susan Greenfield, after the latter claimed that the rise in internet use has led to an increase in cases of autism. In an open letter to Greenfield, published in New Scientist, Bishop said she was "dismayed by the way in which your public communications have moved away from science." Bishop suggested that her views depended on a fundamental (perhaps deliberate?) misreading of the evidence, since the rise in cases actually precedes the widespread adoption of the internet, and is best accounted for by a change in diagnostic techniques.

Greenfield's skewing of the evidence to make a point seems to tally with what I felt in my review of Greenfield's ID: The Quest for Identity in the 21st Century. So many of the arguments in this book seemed to be unsubstantiated, deriving from her ideological opposition to new technology, rather than from careful scrutiny of the scientific and social data.

We often bemoan the state of science reporting in the mass media. It does not help when scientists like Greenfield seek to become the story themselves by making lavish and apocalyptic pronouncements about the way in which games, social media and so on can affect the health of children.

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Posted by Alistair at 2:14 pm


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