Speaker Series: A Skeptic's Guide to the Mind

"A Reason for Reason" skeptical speaker series, in association with CFI, guides you through that dark place between your ears...

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What Neuroscience Can and Cannot Tell Us About Ourselves

What if our soundest, most reasonable judgments are beyond our control?

Despite 2500 years of contemplation by the world’s greatest minds and the more recent phenomenal advances in basic neuroscience, neither neuroscientists nor philosophers have a decent understanding of what the mind is or how it works. The gap between what the brain does and the mind experiences remains uncharted territory. Robert Burton believes that while some neuroscience observations are real advances, others are overreaching, unwarranted, wrong-headed, self-serving, or just plain ridiculous, and often with the potential for catastrophic personal and social consequences. In his new book “A Skeptic’s Guide to the Mind”, he brings together clinical observations, practical thought experiments, personal anecdotes, and cutting-edge neuroscience to decipher what neuroscience can tell us – and where it falls woefully short. At the same time, he offers a new vision of how to think about what the mind might be and how it works.

The speaker will discuss recent advances in neurology and how a number of innate biological mechanisms shape the very act of thinking, and, more importantly, how we then think about the very act of thinking. Understanding how these sensations create certain essential limitations of thought allows us to better understand what neuroscience can and cannot tell us about ourselves, both now and in the future.

About the Speaker:

Robert A. Burton, M.D. graduated from Yale University and UCSF medical school, where he also completed his neurology residency. At age thirty-three, he was appointed chief of the Division of Neurology at Mt. Zion-UCSF Hospital, where he subsequently became Associate Chief of the Department of Neurosciences. His previous writings include three critically acclaimed novels, On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not, and a neuroscience and culture column at Salon.com.

NOTE: The speaker will bring a few copies of his books, but those wanting signed copies are encouraged to purchase before the talk and bring them. Dr. Burton will be happy to sign them...

WHEN: 7:30 PM, Monday, June 24, 2013 (Talk starts at 8 PM sharp)

WHERE: Downstairs at Kells Irish Pub, 530 Jackson Street, San Francisco, CA 94133

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  • Peter

    Three years ago, this group discussed Dr. Burton's book ON BEING CERTAIN, and subsequently I wrote up what I saw in that book as some offences against the goals of Reason4Reason:
    Might he be interested in getting into an argument over these points, or does he want to restrict discussion to the material in the new book?

    June 20, 2013

    • Jay D.

      I don't restrict our speaker's comments - the talk is theirs, and as a result I've disagreed with comments some of them have made. There are no restrictions on questions, and his older books are "fair game". I'd only encourage you to be respectful in the spirit of rational discourse.

      Personally I'd LOVE to hear your comments on this topic...

      June 20, 2013

  • Richard

    Anyone have pointers to any academic work he's done? I read his prior book, and I see plenty of stuff from Salon, but in the past few minutes I haven't uncovered anything from a peer-reviewed source.

    June 16, 2013

    • Jay D.

      That's a great question - I'll e-mail him to find out...

      June 16, 2013

    • Jay D.

      Dr. Burton published earlier in his career, but hasn't been doing publishable research for a number of years (he's a practicing neurologist). So the list of his peer-reviewed articles aren't really relevant to his talk... in fact much of his recent publications have been fiction (you can check the publications on his website here http://www.rburton.co...­)

      June 17, 2013

  • Peter

    I'll try to make it.

    1 · June 16, 2013

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