Localization as evidence for natural selection
Chapter 8 endnote 25, from Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context is:
Broca’s idea [that language was localized to one brain area] prevailed anyway because it was protected by Darwin’s magical cloak reinforced by a healthy dose of essentialism.
During the late 19th century, the roots of the classical view, also known as faculty psychology, became inextricably linked to Charles Darwin; localizing a psychological phenomenon like language to specific regions of the brain (and then claiming that those brain regions performed that function) was seen as the best evidence for a "natural" (vs. religious) explanation of the human mind. The connections were made by Darwin himself, but also by many other scholars of the time who were committed to the view that humans, as a species, belonged within the animal kingdom. If the bodies of humans and all other creatures were products of the natural world, sculpted by natural selection, they reasoned, then the human mind was likewise a product of evolution. With this scientific boost, faculty psychology soared above other more spiritual or unscientific approaches of the day. It reduced the mind to its most basic, biological essences—the brain regions that computed each mental ability—and thereby acquired the same scientific authenticity as physics or engineering or any other “real” science.
Notes on the Notes
- Harrington, Anne. 1991. "Beyond Phrenology: Localization theory in the modern era." In The Enchanted Loom: Chapters in the History of Neuroscience, edited by Pietro Corsi, 207-215. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Darwin, Charles. (1871) 2004. The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. London: Penguin Classics.
- Harrington, Anne. 1987. Mind, Medicine and the Double Brain: A Study in Nineteenth-Century Thought. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
- Lorch, Marjorie Perlman. 2008. "The merest Logomachy: The 1868 Norwich discussion of aphasia by Hughlings Jackson and Broca." Brain 131 (6): 1658-1670.
- Tizard, Barbara. 1959. "Theories of brain localization from Flourens to Lashley." Medical History 3 (2): 132-145.