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Neuroscience of Change

Science: the surprising story of why it's hard

According to the dynamic philosopher of working people Eric Hoffer, “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future.” But it turns out that learning is not easy. It may not even happen in the way we think it does.

Beginning thirty years ago, researcher Kevin Niall Dunbar analyzed the scientific process at four biochemistry labs at Stanford. His results are deeply unsettling.

Most of us have grown up thinking of science – and of the civilizations based on the technology made possible by it -- as an orderly process of gradual revelations about the world. Based on their observation and experience in a field, someone develops a theory. Then methodical testing leads an accumulation of experimental data to offer insights into improving the theory.

But in his research, apparently half or more of the results don’t make any sense, and are discarded, even if they indicate important new directions for the theory.

From fMRI scans, Dunbar...

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