Stranger In An Even Stranger Land - blog by Gurdur


A blog of random jottings on events, science, renfairs, travel, reading, music, humanism, religion, atheism, and even the odd spot of gardening.


You won't find ISIS in the brain or genes. The Daily Beast tries to sell you an imaginary Brooklyn Bridge

Posted 17-Mar-2015 at 07:01 PM (19:01) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

Some people have big problems living with uncertainty, so they like to drastically amputate parts of reality till they find a vision they can live with. Perhaps in line with that, David Ewing Duncan (@Duncande) has written an article on the Daily Beast, in which it is generally opined you may find ISIS in the brain, or the genes, or both. No cliché remains unspurned in it, but it's the theology of the article that is the main problem. He starts off by saying:
"Call it a tale of two brains:
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A clerihew for @Iittlelamb - on neurobollocks, dopamine and oxytocin

Posted 06-Sep-2012 at 04:00 PM (16:00) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 06-Sep-2012 at 04:25 PM (16:25) by Gurdur

Lammie Oostenbrink
Said, "Dopamine is driving me to drink.
The poetry molecule is MY finding,
But oxytocin hampers my versifying."

The explanation for all this is a tweet from @Iittlelamb (Lammie Oostenbrink) in reply to me in the course of a Twitter conversation prompted by various things. The most immediate cause is Naomi Wolf, who has written yet another exercise in self-praise disguised as a book; this new one is also full of neurobollocks, the incorrect...
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The seductive but wrong allure of the brain: fMRI brain pics, gullibility, now with added neuro-history and neuro-aesthetics, i.e. neuro-scientism, neuro-bollocks

Posted 24-May-2012 at 05:39 AM (05:39) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 13-Feb-2015 at 01:32 AM (01:32) by Gurdur

Pictures of the brain will tend to make you believe silly things. That includes a new subject called neurohistory (in short, an attempt to describe neurological effects from human cultural history), which came up yesterday when Stephen T. Casper (@TheNeuroTimes) blogged briefly about an initial look at issues of enviromentalism and attempts at looking at the effect of cultural evolution on the human brain. While interesting, the whole effort Casper describes strikes me as missiing out badly on two...
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Neurobollocks! A talk about neuro-scientism and neuro-realism in London, UK, 15th of June

Posted 26-Apr-2012 at 08:48 AM (08:48) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 26-Apr-2012 at 09:44 AM (09:44) by Gurdur

There will be a talk on neuro-scientism and neuro-realism in London, Britain, on the 15th of June this year. The talk will be between @hugospiers (Hugo Spiers, who has also done a bit on art/neuro projects), and @MakingLondon (Sebastian Groes). It takes place at the UCL Festival of London and Literature: One Day In The City packet of events and happenings, which can also be followed on Twitter on @onedayinthecity.

Hugo Spiers defines
neuro-scientism as the stance that, "all behav...
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At the Science Online London conference so far, and @BoraZ throws a ball

Posted 02-Sep-2011 at 01:33 PM (13:33) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

Now it's just past midday, and the Science Online London conference has been underway all morning. The opening talk by Michael Nielsen was excellent, looking at how to make cooperative effort succeed in Open Science atttempts, using for example parallels between trade-unions and Open Science projects. However, there was some feedback afterwards to the effect that he had not sufficiently allowed for rivalry in science and science-journal publishing.

Then there was a panel, then a...
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New bookcover designs for Oliver Sacks books (neuroscience, psychiatry and philosophy)

Posted 05-Aug-2011 at 04:15 PM (16:15) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 06-Aug-2011 at 06:02 AM (06:02) by Gurdur

There are apparently new releases of old Oliver Sacks books coming out, the new releases with new cover art. These new designs are apparently done by the Carbon Webb designer (and thanks to the blog "The Beautiful Brain" for the alert); they're made to fit together very well - see the picture below of six Sacks books with their new covers. I can't find the relevant editions yet on British Amazon (, but on USA Amazon, the relevant editions that are now available include paperbacks, "Uncle...
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A guest blog post of mine over on LabSpaces, courtesy of Brian Krueger

Posted 25-Apr-2011 at 05:30 AM (05:30) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 25-Apr-2011 at 03:53 PM (15:53) by Gurdur

Owing to the courtesy of Brian Krueger and others, there is now a guest blog post of mine up over at LabSpaces. It's: "How does biochemistry determine brain function? It's complicated".

And with grateful thanks to JadeBio, who has been enormously kind to me.

Comments are welcome! Please keep in mind if you are...
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Sunday/Monday blogs round-up - 28/29 November 2010

Posted 29-Nov-2010 at 12:39 AM (00:39) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 01-Dec-2010 at 08:01 AM (08:01) by Gurdur

The weekly blogs round-up. So first up, an elegant defence of the humanities on the blog Terra Sigillata. So nice after some of the Inquisition-type nonsense around. Then Chad Orzel gets quite skeptical about it, one of the few times I disagree majorly with Chad Orzel. You can also listen to a panel on the humanities.

Lisy Babe's Blog talks about everyday haphazard discrimination against those with a disability. Well-worth reading and considering. The blog Cancer Culture...
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More on nosology - when the mind goes wrong, sometimes the cause is only a germ, sometimes not.

Posted 13-Nov-2010 at 07:34 AM (07:34) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 13-Nov-2010 at 07:41 AM (07:41) by Gurdur

For those that work in counselling, the care of the body may come right behind the care of the mind or soul. For example, imagine the following situation:

Imagine you are a counsellor of whatever sort, or even just a good friend, and someone, a client or friend, walks in on you, and looks quite intent, maybe a little flashing of the eyes, not too much, otherwise seemingly in control, and just straightaway explains to you, reasonably calmly, that he's thinking of ways to kill his...
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Sunday/Monday blogs round-up - 07/08 November 2010

Posted 08-Nov-2010 at 05:12 AM (05:12) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 18-Nov-2010 at 03:18 AM (03:18) by Gurdur

As usual, ten topics and associated blog posts from around the net. Please keep in mind I may completely disagree with any blog post mentioned here.

The blog Edible Geography has a long, involved post up with lots of science and some recipes for cocktails and cooking, in "Cross-Species Dining: An Interview with Natalie Jeremijenko and Mihir Desai".

David Kroll of the Take As Directed blog talks about science-writing and book-writing, and segues into the music...
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The science of the Phantom Sausage; after the theology comes the ghost wurst. Erst kommt das Fressen, dann kommt die Moral

Posted 03-Nov-2010 at 08:32 AM (08:32) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 03-Nov-2010 at 10:36 AM (10:36) by Gurdur

After I yesterday blogged on flame-burnt theological sausages, now comes in the science, and this time with the question of the phantom sausage. After the feast of crisped sausage-fests, "erst kommt das Fressen, dann kommt die Moral". You may have heard of "phantom limb" problems, where the person can feel a limb that isn't there, long after amputation, and can "feel" flexing the limb, or pain in the limb.

Well, that goes for ghost peckers too. The science is there; and what's more,...
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Alzheimer's Disease - just what is it? The dangers of over-medicalization and over-diagnosis

Posted 10-Aug-2010 at 04:19 PM (16:19) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 10-Aug-2010 at 04:26 PM (16:26) by Gurdur

Continuing on the subject of Alzheimer's from my last blog post: The whole model of Alzheimer's as a separate disease entity is under debate; some go so far to deny it exists at all, e.g. Peter Whitehouse and Daniel George in their book The Myth of Alzheimer’s (USA edition, British edition). Denying it exists at all seems to me to be taking things a fair bit too far, though it's undeniable...
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If you don't want to be told you have Alzheimer's, eat fruit, and use it or lose it; the diabetes link

Posted 10-Aug-2010 at 03:57 PM (15:57) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 10-Aug-2010 at 04:37 PM (16:37) by Gurdur

There's a new study (citation below) out , reported about in the Guardian, that shows that almost 40% of those at risk for developing Wikipedia link for Alzheimer's Disease Alzheimer's Disease could undertake actions to avoid falling prey to Alzheimer's, the main actions discussed in the new study being:
  1. Use your brain or lose it - research consistantly shows that those who simply read more, or who do other intelligence-improving pastimes, are at much lower risk for developing Alzheimer's (more on this below).
  2. Eat more fruit
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Mistaking the means for the cause; can you prove love?

Posted 06-Aug-2010 at 02:16 PM (14:16) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 13-Feb-2015 at 01:41 AM (01:41) by Gurdur

If I bopped you over the head with a rolled-up newspaper, and you asked me, "Why the hell did you whack me over the head?", and I replied to you, "Well, you see, my motor neurons sent a message to my arm muscles, and here's a handy diagram of how the arm and shoulder muscles work, and here's a nice little peice all about neurons and how they work", would you be happy or satisfied? Would you think your question has been answered?

No, of course not.

If you asked me, "Why...
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The new Twinkie defence: abuse and misuse of fMRI's and science, and using the label psychopath as an excuse

Posted 06-Jul-2010 at 04:27 PM (16:27) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 06-Aug-2010 at 02:09 PM (14:09) by Gurdur

In 1978, Wikipedia link for Dan White Dan White murdered by shooting George Moscone, the then mayor of San Francisco, and Harvey Milk. At his trial, psychiatrist Martin Blinder testified that in his opinion Dan White was of Wikipedia link for diminished capacity diminished capacity owing to depression, or in other words Dan White's mental functions were allegedly "diminished" or impaired. Blinder argued that Dan White's change of diet to snack foods and drinks high in sugar was allegedly evidence of White's depression, and thus alleged evidence of his alleged diminished...
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