We are going to have to be speculative, but there is good and bad speculation… Those scientists who have no taste for this sort of speculative enterprise will just have to stay in the trenches and do without it, while the rest of us risk embarrassing mistakes and have a lot of fun.
– Daniel Dennett on “The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind“
The idea of the Speculative Neuroscience Society is simple – there’s a lot of weird neuroscience stuff out there, and it’s a lot of fun to explore it. What do we mean by weird? Well, consider the following questions:
- How does meditation effect the brain? Have Buddhist monks been doing amateur neuroscience for millennia?
- Since the brain clearly uses information outside of itself, does it make sense to talk about the mind extending beyond the body?
- What does art do to the brain? Why are we drawn to art and can we use neuroscience to make it better?
- What is this whole consciousness thing anyway? (hint – probably not related to quantum mechanics)
These are questions we don’t have great answers to right now (and perhaps we never will), but more than a few students at Rice want to talk about them. SpecNeuro is our informal reading group that lets us discuss some of the more “out there” ideas in neuroscience. As a group, we decide on a paper/article/chapter we will read, and then we get together over coffee and tea to discuss it and its ramifications. We try to keep our discussions rigorous and within the realms of actual science (i.e., we avoid going full Timothy Leary), but we inevitably will make some embarrassing mistakes and have a lot of fun in the process.
If this interests you, please email Dr. Flynn (the faculty sponsor) at firstname.lastname@example.org.