Brain science changes everything. For the first time in human history we are the first generation of people who can start to understand the biological, medical and physiological facts about the causes of behavior. We now know what causes the individual behaviors that creates history.
Certainly, history is the actions of masses of people across time and geography. But, individual medical and biological physiology determines common patterns of actions across humans, like any other animal. Some of the most dramatic actions of masses of individuals, across time and geography, is violence and warfare. Most of history is military history which we can attribute to our brains, like, again, all animal brains is hyper-focused on threats and fear triggers.
The most destructive humans behaviors are male violence and institutionalized male violence: killing, or warfare. Since we are focused on biology, let’s also underline that violence and warfare is pretty much exclusively a male behavior and males primarily of mating ages.
We don’t need to go too far back to see immense destruction caused by the biological drivers of violence by young men correlated with ideology of ethnic hatred and actual physical attacks and mass murder and torture of minority ethnic groups. The first half of the 20th Century is stunning in the horros of modernized ethnic hatred. More immediately, we have the government of the largest and richest “democracy” both in the world and the history of the world taken over by strong right-wing and anti-ethnic campaigns. The actions of the voter’s choices are dedicated to actions that remove resources from darker ethnic groups. We will look into both of these a bit further, a bit later.
If we believe that violence, in actions and language is a problem and that violent actions and language targeting specific groups based on pop(ular) culture notions of ethnicity or the, even more pop, idea of “race” is a bigger problem, potentially leading to even more violence and destruction….then, how can we start to solve these problems?
This article is proposing that biology, and especially the biology and medical physiology of the brain, is the most productive body of knowledge to understand AND remediate ethnic hatred and violence. In addition, biology is some of the best knowledge available and getting better at an accelerating rate. Biology has also been conspicuously ignored in favor of the humanities and the social sciences based in the humanities, including economics. The humanities and social sciences primarily support cultural beliefs/ideology of the moment so are going to take a priority. Brain science, medicine and biology, being fact and evidence-based, will likely debunk and disprove pop beliefs, myths and the ideologies so will face instinctive and strong denial, avoidance and dissociation.
It is naïve to expect brain science and biology to create anything but a hostile reaction, but for the few people serious about understanding and problem-solving, there aren’t any more powerful tools and set of facts. Let’s do a quick thought experiment.
The Ebola Test
Recently, the epidemic of Ebola, and also to a lesser degree Zika, became a crisis. It was managed and handled pretty well. We can look at the Ebola epidemic as a model for current problem-solving. How was it approached? What knowledge was used, what specialities? What actions were taken? What were the parts of the problem-analysis and problem solution building?
The knowledge that was used, the actions that were taken were pretty straightforward. Nothing unexpected. Ebola is a medical problem and the medical approach is the only useful and effective approach. For professional problem solvers, the kinds of knowledge not used and actions not taken and specialities not called upon is revealing. We see that the humanities, including economics, and the social sciences had no role to play in solving Ebola problems. For the proponents of pop culture, media and political beliefs and postmodern approaches we do not see philosophy, religion of subjectivity nor other pop cultural and supernatural approaches used – at all.
Paradoxically, but importantly, if we were to “ask” the general public and non-professionals, the media, the politicians and, perhaps, even most professionals about Ebola as an event and personal, subjective everyday experience, we would overwhelmingly, see reports of supernatural and mythical and cultural beliefs. The total reality of the everyday experience of Ebola would likely be entirely magical. The professional, problem-solving knowledge used and actions would be entirely un-supernatural and anti-magical.
It’s worthwhile to state this clearly – personal, and cultural experiences of life, culture including media, politics and most academic work, is largely subjective and solipsistic and magical. Problem-solving cannot be and must be the opposite. Not only is this true for Ebola and medical problems but also for any professional and critical domain. Cultural and magical beliefs are pretty much irrelevant to flying a plan, designing and engineering, electrical contracting and plumbing. These beliefs, and subjective experience, are not only irrelevant but are real obstacles to problem-solving and often dangerous.
80% of Americans may believe in Satan as a living being, miracles, guardian angels and that space aliens have visited the USA. But inside the cockpit…..of an airliner…….in flight….with a few hundred passengers… – those “beliefs” aren’t used and would be very dangerous if they were. Now, “beliefs” is put in quotes because what a “belief” is is very ambiguous and needs to be unpacked and defined carefully – or ignored. Lol. Our everyday ideas are often so incoherent and nonsensical they should just be ignored. No one has the time to debunk all bad ideas, beliefs and myths.
The Medical Model
By any measure the medical model of human problem-solving wins! Lives saved, disease and suffering avoided and moderated, wealth created and protected, quality of lives improved- any personal and social measure shows medicine and medical knowledge and practice to be the most beneficial of all professional human activities. Once could also look at engineering for the combination of knowledge and action. The best knowledge we call “science” but in the application of knowledge, facts and evidence medicine and the medical model for problem-solving, and professional training and practice is the most successful human activity. Also, probably unique among animals, but perhaps not. We would need teenie tiny micro analysis of social insect behaviors!
The regularity is NOT in what we imagine and fantasize that bad people do, the myth of them choosing to act a certain way to get a response. The pattern is in how many different individuals consistently act in response to types of actions, including statements, that are stimuli for regular behavior. Now, we don’t yet know what “causes” what but we can start to understand and build models and theories about causes by looking a measurable regularities in the actors and audience.
We don’t say the flower “acts” so as to attract the bee. So, we don’t need to create imaginary notions of agency to notice and measure, and build theories about, correlated behaviors among and between individuals. Like everything in biology, everything also occurs at the level of the individual organism, first and that is where we should look for the mechanisms that produce actions by that individual body. The medical physiology of each individual is the driver of action. “Higher order concepts” of social explanations are still speculative.
Human behavior is pretty limited. It follows the eons old pattern of moving 4 limbs, the structure fors feeding/reproduction, and homeostasis, etc. Most professional problems in business, the professions and policy – and the arts – are problems of action. Behaviors define most problems. Behavior is done by the body and controlled by the organ of the body – the brain. So most problems are problems of biology, medicine and physiology. Most problems, then, fall under the domain of medicine. Fortunately, the medical approach to problem solving and professional action is very robust, well proven and available. BTW, a medical problem solving model includes public health activities.
Think of a problem that is not one of humans action/behaviors!
Let’s go back to the Ebola example. In fact, it appears that the source of the epidemic was the harmful actions of a few “super spreaders.” While treatment of the infected individuals involved medical technology, the origin of the epidemic was, in fact, the harmful behaviors of individuals.
The epidemic could actually be said to be a symptom of the infection causing behaviors of a few individuals. How many problem follow a similar form? Quite a few it turns out. In primary care of theEbola, or Zika, disease any knowledge of professional practices related to behaviors, including the social science and anthropology can be tested fro usefulness. My view is that brain science is the most productive but let’s test the approacha dn knowledge and see what works best, shall we?
Now, if there isa better approach for problem-solving, then a fundamentally medical model – let’s see it and try it out! For example, some would argue that an educational approach is needed. Great, but let’s experiment and gather data on the success of teaching and the transferring of new technical information, to adults. Can we educate individuals about Ebola or Zika, or any other behavioral problem and get measurable results? Maybe. Maybe not.