Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"Lucy" perpetuates the "10 percent of your brain" myth

Scarlett Johansson's new movie "Lucy" is unfortunately is based upon the myth that humans only use 10 percent of their brain.

A quick Wikipedia search turns up evidence against the idea. My personal favorite is this one:
Studies of brain damage: If 90% of the brain is normally unused, then damage to these areas should not impair performance. Instead, there is almost no area of the brain that can be damaged without loss of abilities. Even slight damage to small areas of the brain can have profound effects. [Editor's note: It seems like a no-brainer, doesn't it?]
For more refutations of this myth, go here, here, and here.
Screenshot of Scarlet Johansson in the "Lucy" trailer
This is a myth so important to me that many years back I set my intellectual goals based upon this myth, goals that I still have today (see the last picture and you can infer what my goals are).

And yet, I didn't find out until this year that this wasn't true.

I am not, however, embarrassed by my ignorance. It's easy to believe that was the case because of what I was reading because of this myth, or at least with this myth in mind (Buzan's book below being the most influential).

Coupled with my readings of Jesus' teaching of the greatest commandment to "Love The Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and" -- especially this next one -- "with all thy mind," a teaching which itself was a reiteration of Deuteronomy 6:5, this myth propelled me into the pursuit of Christian intellectualism.

 Or at least, it gave it some new steam.

But at this point the details of my college years when all this began becomes murky.

My Religion Shelf
That is I do not remember what came first, my discovery of this myth, or my discovery of this Bible verse being interpreted in that way, but I think can make some pretty good deductions (Without a doubt I read that bible verse many times before).

As for the myth itself, I think someone told it to me in college.

I was spending a lot of time on the ChristianLogic website in 2008 and 2009, which emphasized Christians use of logic. 

I ordered the "God Delusion Debate DVD" featuring John Lennox and Richard Dawkins from a creationist online store in 2008 and no later than 2009 (I think it was 2008 because my campus ministry had a discussion based on this DVD and I think that was in the fall semester). It was either in that DVD or in the "Science and the God Question" DVD that Lennox emphasized that Jesus told us to love God with our whole mind (or maybe it was an internet video with him). And I checked out the above book "Habits of the Mind: Intellectual Life as a Christian Calling" by James W. Sire on an interlibrary loan in 2009 (some other college in Pennsylvania had it), although I don't think I completed it until the summer of 2010 (different copy).

A few years back in South Carolina, definitely before 2011, I purchased Tony Buzan's Memory Boot Camp from the Barnes and Noble near Northwoods Mall in North Charleston, South Carolina. I remember it like it was yesterday. The book was in the very front of the store before you walked in. After purchasing it, I started reading the book but then put it down (I usually preview all my books this way).

Buzan's Memory Improvement Book and one of the earliest Evelyn Wood Speed Reading Books
It was Buzan's book that I think did the most to reinforce this myth unintentionally (I don't recall -- no pun intended -- Buzan reciting this myth in the book). For example he writes, "Each of your brain cells is more powerful than a standard personal computer" (p.15). In a true or false quiz, he says that it is false that "the world's best computers are now better than the human brain in their basic potential."

He does write "we use our brains all the time" (p.8) which is line with "we use 100% of our brains." I haven't finished the book but so far he doesn't seem to go as far to say that we use "all of our brain." And the memory expert also says that it is false that "the great geniuses in history such as Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton, Marie Curie, and Albert Einstein probably reached their maximum potential (p. 9). In the answer key, he writes: "False -- the potential of the human brain is limitless."

See, the human brain is limitless (ha! That movie "Limitless" which plays on the same idea of not using all of your brain, was the first thing I was reminded of when the "Lucy"preview came out). Lucy has been vindicated, right? No. Because potential is not the same as function. As a matter of function we use all of our brain. It is active all the time.

But it does serve as a personal case study of when pseudoscience mixes with religion, and in this case the Christian religion. It is no knock on Christianity to have believed in this. As as finite creatures with God's gift of eternal life yet-not-redeemed (not resurrected) there is always potential to know God more intimately than the day before, and to glorify your creator in the exercising of your mind.

It is a knock on popular culture, the media outlets that repeated this claim, and perhaps the scientific establishment for letting the claim proliferate (granted, brain science probably had to catch up).

Am I better off because of this myth? Yes, because it motivated me to stuff my brain with all sorts of interesting things and exercise my brain in new kinds of ways.

Do we need a little myth in our life to all be better off as a society? No. 

I mean, it's not like people still debate in 2014 whether we should lie to improve society or promote ideas right?

No comments:

Post a Comment

WCF Chapter One "Of Holy Scripture" Sunday School (Sept.-Oct. 2021)

Our text for Sunday School (also "The Confession of Faith and Catechisms") Biblical Theology Bites What is "Biblical Theology...