“Most of us have no idea how our brain works. This has strange consequences. We try to talk on our cell phones and drive at the same time, even though it is literally impossible for our brains to multitask when it comes to paying attention. We have created high-stress office environments, even though a stressed brain is significantly less productive. Our schools are designed so that most real learning occurs at home. This would be funny if it weren’t so harmful.”
– John Medina, Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School (p.2)
I have been thinking a lot about how I can improve my thinking, learning, and doing, with the hopes of improving my academic, professional, and creative endeavors. I’ve only read about 20 pages of Brain Rules but so far I’d highly recommend it. Not only is it full of helpful information on how to improve our thinking and doing, it’s an incredibly interesting read. You can also check out the 12 Brain Rules here.
I’ve just started reading Louder Than Words: The New Science of How the Mind Makes Meaning. Since my husband Jimmy has absolutely devoured a ton of linguist books over the past year I asked him to suggest one for me to read. Louder Than Words by Benjamin K. Bergen was the book he chose so off I go.
Though my interests are not specifically linguistic at this point I am still very interested in how our brains work, how it is we learn and think, and especially how it is we make meaning. So far I’ve only read the epilogue but the following quotes from George Lakoff give you a hint of what the book is about:
They [Merleau-Ponty and Dewey] argued that—quite to the contrary of the traditional view—our bodies have absolutely everything to do with our minds. Our brains evolved to allow our bodies to function in the world, and it is that embodied engagement with the world, the physical, social, and intellectual world, that makes our concepts and language meaningful. (ix)
The Embodiment Revolution has shown that our essential humanness, our ability to think and use language, is wholly a product of our physical bodies and brains. The way our mind works, from the nature of our thoughts to the way we understand meaning in language, is inextricably tied to our bodies—how we perceive and feel and act in the world. We’re not cold-blooded thinking machines. Our physiology provides the concepts for our philosophy. (x)
Meaning is a slippery concept… how do we actually make meaning? And how does the making of meaning affect how we understand texts? Ancient texts?? Inspired texts???
And what does having bodies have to do with it all?
I am often amazed by how afraid we (Christians) are of the brain. Why are we so worried that if we use it we lose our faith? Whether it is said this way or not this means…if you learn too much you will surely lose your faith because no smart person would believe this stuff! Or more bluntly Christianity is for stupid people!
Oh the irony! One of the major critiques of Christianity by nonbelievers is it is a crutch for the weak or ignorant. And as much as we bristle at this notion when it comes from the “outside” we perpetuate it from the “inside.” The church is making the argument for them, our fear of learning is all the proof they need that Christianity is for stupid people!
Let us become a people who love God with all our mind!
Moreover, it’s not just Christian scholars and pastors who need to be intellectually engaged with the issues. Christian laymen, too, need to be intellectually engaged. Our churches are filled with Christians who are idling in intellectual neutral. As Christians, their minds are going to waste. One result of this is an immature, superficial faith. People who simply ride the roller coaster of emotional experience are cheating themselves out of a deeper and richer Christian faith by neglecting the intellectual side of that faith. They know little of the riches of deep understanding of Christian truth, of the confidence inspired by the discovery that one’s faith is logical and fits the facts of experience, of the stability brought to one’s life by the conviction that one’s faith is objectively true. – William Lane Craig
If what we claim about Jesus Christ is true, then evangelicals should be among the most active, most serious, and most openminded advocates of general human learning. Evangelical hesitation about scholarship in general or about pursuing learning wholeheartedly is, in other words, antithetical to the Christ-centered basis of evangelical faith. Mark Noll
At root, evangelical anti-intellectualism is both a scandal and a sin. It is a scandal in the sense of being an offense and a stumbling block that needlessly hinders serious people from considering the Christian faith and coming to Christ. It is a sin because it is a refusal, contrary to the first of Jesus’ two great commandments, to love the Lord our God with our minds. Os Guinness