Life for these Fir seedlings began in unfortunate circumstances. Perhaps they germinated underneath power lines, or in lots slated for development. These youths sprout as wayward and neglected weeds. They are highly at-risk for future delinquency: blocking views, disrupting power lines, and worse. Society generally chops them down before they have a chance. These yearlings must be rescued and nurtured.
Mind, Brain and Big Science
Fascinating read. BAM struck me as problematic from the beginning; not that it shouldn’t be done, necessarily, but it seemed like the wrong choice for a Big Science project, especially one with an ostensible public health goal.
I’d argue that BAM proceeds from the possibly faulty assumption that it’s possible to understand mind by partitioning brain at ever more discrete levels. Not that “mind” and “brain” are separate, but the distance between them is filled by as-yet-undetermined processes more likely to be understood by looking at circuitry and psychology.
(Mithra gets at that with “the authors imply that this correlated or collective behavior cannot be deduced from other levels of observation,” though with some reservations about the troublesome nature of ‘emergent.’ FWIW, I’d embrace the idea; the problem is the fuzzy nature of emergence, but the idea of studying it at the wrong scales. You don’t understand the forest by looking at each tree with ever-larger magnifying glasses.)
There are also just too many differences between the brains of model organisms and our own, especially when it’s unlikely the BAM methods will ever be used in a human. Add the hype-machine circumstances — billions of dollars, Presidential promotion — and there will be enormous indirect pressure to skew the science, or at least its public communication.
Or, to make an analogy to the genome efforts, tagging every SNP won’t teach you about network structures or chromosome geometry. Moving one scale up, epidemiology gives us far more meaningful information about common disease than GWAS have, and likely than even large-scale rare variant surveys will. But at least the genome efforts have been tremendously beneficial in many other ways. The BAM efforts are far more speculative.
And, again, there’s nothing wrong with speculation. In an ideal world, we’d take our military budget and use it to fund speculations of all sorts. But putting an amount equivalent to nearly half the National Science Foundation’s yearly budget into something like BAM should happen after, not before, an open and public discussion of the science.