Jeanette Cibelli & Ali Luchini | Students, ’17
Instead of your average run-of-the-mill lunch in the school cafeteria, our Honors students shared lunch with Dr. James Giordano, an esteemed neuroscientist and neuroethicist, on Tuesday, Sept. 16. Dr. Giordano later delivered his lecture “Brave New Brain: Neuroscience and Neuroethics for the 21st Century” to the Quinnipiac community that afternoon.
Several students attended, and first-year Ali Luchini shared some of her thoughts with us.
“Lunch with Dr. Giordano was both intriguing and insightful,” she said in written response. “Two concepts were particularly interesting to me, [one of which is] the fact that the more we know, the more we feel like we don’t know. As Dr. Giordano explained, we know much about the biological and physiological aspect of the brain (the substrates, the neurotransmitters, and other concrete information from testing and experimentation), but we have yet to figure out the mind. Some of Giordano’s words to describe this concept were ‘how the gray stuff creates the great stuff’ and ‘we have a brain, but we are a mind.’”
Ali also wrote that she was interested in Giordano’s comments about spirituality and the physiological impact of thoughts on our brains. According to Ali (based on comments from Giordano), “there is physical proof that thinking good thoughts and reflecting or participating in the ‘act of being spiritual,’—however you define ‘spiritual’—actually creates a natural medicine within us. So, the thoughts that the ‘gray matter’ conjures up are actually physically capable of bettering our physiological health.” Giordano seemed to be saying that “Our mind is a strong medicine.”
Ali continued, “I also thought what he said about predicting the beings of the future was interesting, that we have these resources, but should we use them? Giordano said, ‘Should we alter our human genome to make us “better”—what is “better?’ Today, we have so many tools to theoretically “better” ourselves and society as individual people, such as ways of cognitively enhancing our thoughts, abolishing sadness and suffering. However, we draw a line between ‘what we can do, and what we should do.’”
“I also loved how Giordano talked about how neuroethics and technology can be weapons. He said that all of us are fighting a war for a cause, and although I didn’t fully grasp this concept, I do believe that we can use our minds, knowledge, and cognitive thinking abilities as weapons. Giordano said, ‘With great knowledge comes great power,’ and I hold this to be entirely true.” But also, “With great power comes great responsibility.”