Reflections On Voodoo Neuroscience

Seven years ago, neuroscientists Ed Vul and colleagues made waves with their paper on ‘voodoo correlations’ in social neuroscience. Now, in a new paper, historian of medicine Cornelius Borck looks back on the voodoo correlations debate and asks whether neuroscience might be likened to voodoo in another sense. Borck argues that neuroscience has something in common with animism, the religious belief that spirits inhabit various objects. In particular, he says, fMRI studies can be likened to the ‘soul catchers‘ of Native American animism, as like a soul catcher, the fMRI experiment seeks to localize and pin down a mental (some would say spiritual) phenomenon into a physical location: The soul catcher is a tool for capturing a soul, and for manoeuvring with a spirit like a material object… modern brain…


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