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Archive for the ‘Diffusion of Innovation’ Category

The Role of Amateurs in Science

Monday, November 19th, 2007

There is one field in which an extensive mutually beneficial relationship has existed between amateurs and professionals. It is in astronomy, and the phenomenon was recently taken up in Science Magazine by John Bohannon (Volume 318, 12 October 2007, pp 192-3). Significantly, this symbiosis is occurring in a science in which we have only limited ability to do experiments. Mostly the science is observational. Most of the scientific observations are specifically targeted and hypothesis-based. They are so numerous that time on the big observatories for each project is scarce and therefore precious. But there is another crucial aspect of astronomy that focuses on celestial events that are not predictable either in time or place. This is mostly where the amateurs come in. They represent a world-wide army of knowledgeable observers that is on watch every night around the globe. (more…)

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Another Inconvenient Truth

Tuesday, May 1st, 2007

Plant Truth ComicJonathan Chait, a senior editor at the New Republic, reports that when the National Journal asked Republican senators and members of the House last year “…whether it’s been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the earth is warming because of man-made problems,” only some 23% said yes. Since that time there has been a further strengthening of the scientific evidence, and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a study signed by 2000 scientists to the effect that the likelihood of man-induced global warming now lay at the 90% level. When a similar question was asked of the Congressmen this year, the percentage assenting had surprisingly dropped to only 13%.

This depressing development should be a cautionary tale for those who believe that the acceptance of neurofeedback is just going to be a matter of putting forward better and larger scientific studies. This might just possibly be true in an environment where entrenched interests are not involved. But when real economic interests or basic belief systems are threatened, the skills of scientists in making evidence disappear or look unconvincing are brought into play. Moreover, even if the scientists are of one mind, as they are on the matter of global warming, yet other interests can still manage to confuse the picture. (more…)

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The Case for Decency

Thursday, July 6th, 2006

An article in the current issue of “The New York Review of Books” by John Gray carries the above title as it surveys the intellectual legacy left by Isaiah Berlin, who died in 1997. Berlin was shaped by the major totalitarianisms of the twentieth century, and he was also shaped by a Russian liberalism that was skeptical of any monolithic system of values or claims of universal truth. Perhaps it takes an outsider to see so clearly how deeply imbedded in Western thought is the ideal of an ultimate harmony of a core set of values, rationally arrived at, to guide human affairs. The existence of such an ideal is almost a given, an assumption needing no further defense or verification. Our society’s contentious values debates are but imperfections and diversions on the pathway toward greater ultimate harmony.

The origins of this notion go back to the Enlightenment and the power of rationality that was its guiding light. It was believed that a society could be achieved in which all of the truly important values could be realized. For a rationally based set of values that had to be the case, in that a rational universe must be a harmonious whole. This utopian ideal of social harmony also drew its support from theology, in that God cannot embody internal contradictions. Both sides in the US civil war may have prayed fervently to the same God, but God himself cannot have been of two minds. (more…)

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Skepticism

Wednesday, June 28th, 2006

In reflection on last week’s recitation of considerable adaptive change in clinical neurofeedback strategies over a fairly short period of time [a score of years], one must also observe the countervailing tendency within our field to value consistency and steadfastness in clinical approaches and theoretical models. With respect to such standards, rapid change in one’s clinical approach seems almost reckless. Stasis in one’s position perhaps has even a certain amount of intrinsic merit. Evidence accumulates in the support of one proposition and eventually the proposition becomes a fact. But it may also be true that some of this sense of stasis is a problem of observation. Let me illustrate with an example.

As dusk descends on the freeways drivers gradually turn on their lights, and over a fairly short period of time (say, the length of an average LA commute) one witnesses the transition from nearly all lights being off to nearly all of them being on. Yet one almost never catches sight of a car with its lights just turning on. Similarly, minds may be changing without it being terribly apparent except in the eventual end result. Moreover, while cars don’t mind being seen turning on their lights, scientists may be less willing to let it be known that they have been compelled to change their views, or even worse, that their views may be in a state of flux. (We know how politicians are savaged for the sin of changing their minds!) So it is perhaps unsurprising that we should not actually be able to identify many instances where someone in our field has actually “changed his mind” on some salient issue or another and said so publicly. Mostly, “they” have all been right all along. (more…)

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Bioelectrical Remedies in Psychiatry

Wednesday, March 29th, 2006

The lead article in the current issue of the electrical engineer’s magazine, IEEE Spectrum, appears under the heading of “Psychiatry goes Electric” and is titled, “Psychiatry’s Shocking New Tools.” The article is remarkable not so much for what it covers as for the fact that it exists at all in this forum. The article covers vagal nerve stimulators, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), dc current stimulation, and finally deep brain stimulation.

The article illustrates the process by which bio-electrical therapeutic techniques will come to be accepted. Each of these procedures will contribute its piece to the growing realization that the brain must be understood in its bioelectrical functioning, and that such understanding will have important therapeutic implications. The article does dwell at length on the level of scientific evidence that supports each technique, but the cumulative weight of evidence–though individually fragmentary–may well carry the day before any one of the techniques independently reaches technical maturity. (more…)

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Service Delivery Models

Wednesday, January 18th, 2006

There has been a lot of discussion round and about with regard to professional ethics in the last few months, mostly as a reference standard for judging who may rightly deliver neurofeedback services. Essentially all of the relevant ethical criteria refer to the relationship of the clinician and the client. The only social dimension in these ethical constraints relates to those situations where that cocoon of mutuality can be broken and the professional may be mandated to report someone who may do injury to another, who may be responsible for ongoing child abuse. The other social dimension relates to the obligations the professional may have vis-à-vis other professionals.

This is somewhat similar to what we have in law, where the attorney-client relationship is privileged in such a manner so as to protect the client. The attorney is, however, also an officer of the court and as such bears responsibility for the integrity of the legal process. So most of the obligations prescribe the relationship to the client, but there is also the social dimension.

Consider, by contrast, the implicit obligations of the soldier in Iraq. Here there are very few individual rights whatsoever. The officer in charge can order to soldier to do virtually anything–even at the risk of his life–that it is somehow connected to the enterprise of war. The soldier’s obligations are entirely in the social realm. He is laboring on behalf of the society at large under circumstances in which his individual rights almost disappear. He has no personal interest in being in the war theater. (more…)

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