December 8th 2022 at Rupert’s house in London. After more than a hundred hours of private conversations on Zoom, Rupert and physicist turned neuroscientist Alex Gómez-Marín meet in person to discuss some of their favourite themes.
In this new installment, Rupert and Alex reflect on the scientific enterprise itself. Starting by acknowledging that new paradigms are near but never quite seem to make it, they address some of the deep reactionary forces that oppose such changes. This leads beyond the naïve understanding that science is just about data; core assumptions can make evidence irrelevant. Science must then be observed also from a sociological and historical perspective – the politics of knowledge are at stake. Deeper roots may be found in The Reformation: the current dogmatic materialist worldview is a kind of amnesic Protestantism squared. The conversation then leads to the obvious but non-trivial point that scientific facts are literally made, involving a consensus amongst experts who share the same model of reality. Other models (and other experts) are excluded. In that sense, Science (with capital S) is probably too Catholic. The future scientist will not have an easy time. And yet, all those minority reports are of majority interest.
In this installment, they address the problem of memory localization. Rather than taking for granted that memories are "stored" inside our heads and rushing to speculate about where and how, they instead entertain the idea that memories could be both everywhere and nowhere in particular memories are in time, not in space. To make such thoughts more thinkable, they discuss the recurrent historical failures to find actual memory traces in brains and bring forth some of the pioneering ideas of the French philosopher Henri Bergson in the context of current neuroscience. They also discuss concrete experiments to test such hypotheses and reflect more widely on the nature of form and the idea that the laws of nature may be more like habits than eternal edicts. They end by discussing the need for scientific pluralism.
Rupert & Alex on The Future Scientist conversation series.
On the 10th anniversary of his banned TED talk, Rupert and Alex reflect on the effectiveness of heterodox critiques of mainstream scientific thinking. Do they make a difference? What has changed, if anything, since this clash?