In his new act The Brain Show British comedian Robert Newman targets the failings of neuroscience in assuming that brain equals mind, saying “the idea that the brain is a wet computer is a philosophical assumption, not a scientific idea”.
After volunteering for a brain-imaging experiment meant to locate the part of the brain that lights up when you're in love, Rob emerges with more questions than answers. Can brain scans read our minds? Are we our brains? If each brain has more connections than there are atoms in the universe, then how big will a map of the brain have to be?
“Maybe what we’ve discovered is the bit of the brain that lights up when we spot an elementary conceptual blunder in experimental design.”
Kerri Smith of Nature's Books and Arts blog A view From the Bridge posted about the show in: Humour on the brain: Robert Newman reviewed. While not agreeing wholeheartedly with his premise, the author gives us a respectful treatment of the show.
[Robert Newman] lays out the shortcomings of these projects’ best-known predecessor, the Human Genome Project, which, he bemoans, never did find half the genes it promised. There was no “gene for getting into debt”; no “low voter turnout” gene. And he explains what the rest of his argument will be: that humans cannot be thought of as machines, and that scientists devalue us all by conceptualising people in this reductive way.
You can catch The Brain Show at the Wells Comedy Festival on June 4th, the Cyc du Soleil Benefit Gig in Oxford on June 9th and the Edinburgh Festival in August. See Robert Newman's website for details.