Archives For Brain


Jonah Lehrer - ImagineThe Imagination of Faith

A Feature Review of

Imagine: How Creativity Works

Jonah Lehrer

Hardback: HMH Books, 2012.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Greg Schreur.

[ Watch the Book Trailer for Imagine here.. ]


As Christians, we believe we are created in the image of the Creator, meaning we ourselves are creators, instilled with seemingly endless creative potential. Unfortunately, we often think of only a select few as the “creative types,” and we do essentially the same pigeonholing to creativity itself, assigning it as a character trait of writers and artists—rather than as a necessary and inherent ability that is not only God-given but is also a fundamental building block of faith.

One of the primary tenets of Jonah Lehrer in his latest book Imagine: How Creativity Works is that we are all creative. It is not that some of us are endowed with inventive imaginations and a propensity for insights and inspirations. Rather, he argues, we are all blessed with much the same mental hardware (from the familiar right and left brains to the more obscure Anterior Superior Temporal Gyrus), and thus the differences in creative output are more a result of nurturing, environment, and the recognition of problems to be solved. There are, he explains, even beneficial side effects to creativity associated with conditions like ADHD.
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“Shaping and Being Shaped

A Review of
The Shallows:
What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.

By Nicholas Carr

Reviewed by Jonathan Schindler.

The Shallows:
What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.

By Nicholas Carr
Hardback: W.W. Norton, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

THE SHALLOWS - Nicholas CarrIn The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, Nicholas Carr fittingly quotes John Culkin: “We shape our tools, and thereafter they shape us” (210). Culkin’s observation and Carr’s article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” provide the thesis for The Shallows: The Internet is changing us for the worse.

Carr’s argument begins with anecdotal evidence. After frequent Internet use, he suspected that his mind was changing. He could no longer read lengthy articles and books with the same attention he was once able to devote. Was the Internet really causing this?

Carr provides several neurological studies and historical examples to prove the first part of his thesis. The neurological studies were especially fascinating, illustrating “neuroplasticity,” our brain’s ability to adapt to new situations and stimuli. (For example, people who have lost use of one of their senses often have their other senses heightened. The brain rewires itself, forming new connections, so that what was formerly used for the now-dormant sense can be used to boost the other, still-operating senses.) Another aspect of neuroplasticity is that the more an action is performed, the more connections between neurons are formed, and the skill is solidified. Repeated actions form habits, basically. From these more modern studies, Carr moves on to historical examples (the map, clock, and book, as well as others) in which new technologies changed behavior and the way people thought. He paraphrases Marshall McLuhan in saying that “technologies numb the very faculties they amplify. . . . alienation is an inevitable by-product of the use of technology” (212). By becoming used to a tool that makes things easier, we risk losing the skills and relationship with the work that we had before the tool.

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America’s fundamental problem with health care isn’t economic. It’s moral. So believes T. R. Reid, a longtime Washington Post correspondent who recently completed a yearlong study of health-care systems in wealthy nations around the globe. “If we want to fix American health care,” he writes, “we first have to answer a basic question: Should we guarantee medical treatment to everyone who needs it?”

Reid’s book should be required reading for every senator, member of Congress, religious leader and talk-show host in America. By describing how health care works in other technologically advanced societies, he allays ideology-based fears (socialism! government takeover! higher taxes!) and offers a variety of options that we could choose among if we ever get serious about reforming our disaster-bound system.

Read the full review:

The Healing of America:
A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care.

T.R. Reid.

Hardback: Penguin, 2009.
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by Gordon Hempton and John Grossmann.

One Square Inch of Silence was published at the end of March 2009 in time for the authors, Gordon Hempton and John Grossmann, to appear at the Earth Day events in New York’s Central Park on April 26th, at the end of their book-launch tour. I was only halfway through the book at that date, reading it over coffee, sitting in the sun by the river in the old Swedish university city of Uppsala during the mid-morning rush-hour of students cycling to classes. In spite of the modest traffic I could enjoy the sounds of river water running, birds singing, and trees soughing in a light breeze on a glorious spring day, in sight of a hillside of blue scillas reaching up towards the castle. It would be hard to find the equivalent relative quiet in an outdoor café in the center of London or New York, or even Cambridge, England, another ancient seat of learning, where the pavements are as congested as the roads and the traffic noise is deafening. The contrast with less densely populated Sweden was thought-provoking. One Square Inch of Silence is a thought-provoking book. It makes you listen to the world with different ears and question the inevitability of the background cacophony you take for granted.

Read the full review:

One Square Inch of Silence:
One Man’s Search for Natural Silence in a Noisy World.

Gordon Hempton and John Grossman.

Hardback: Free Press, 2009
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From Powells Review-A-Day

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a baby, or how a young child’s perceptions and introspections might differ from those of an adult? Reading Alison Gopnik’s new book, The Philosophical Baby, is probably the closest you will ever come to knowing.

Gopnik is a leading developmental psychologist, an expert on philosophy of mind and an excellent writer. What distinguishes this book from others on children’s cognition is the author’s emphasis on philosophical issues such as consciousness, identity and morality. She argues that the psychological study of children provides a rich source of insight into these issues, one that philosophers have traditionally overlooked.

Within developmental psychology, Gopnik is perhaps best known for promoting (with Henry Wellman, Andrew Meltzoff and others) the “theory theory” — the idea that children construct implicit causal models of the world (theories) using the same psychological mechanisms that scientists use to construct explicit scientific theories. In other words, children are like little scientists — or, as Gopnik prefers to put it, scientists are like big children. The focus in this book is broader. Gopnik argues that although young children’s thinking may seem illogical and their play functionless, their imagination and exploration actually reflect the operation of the same powerful causal learning mechanisms that enable our uniquely human achievements in areas such as science or art.

Read the full review:

The Philosophical Baby:
What Children’s Minds Tell Us about
Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life
Alison Gopnik.

Hardback: FSG, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]