I find the Center's banner grotesque, like the banner for the Eichmann Center. Compare what they say on their website with the other work Davidson does:But here's another part of his work:
An experienced surgeon made an opening in the frontal bone posterior to the brow ridge to expose the frontal cortex. Both hemispheres were lesioned in a single procedure by lifting the brain to expose its ventral surface. Using microscopic guidance, electro-cautery and suction were applied to the targeted brain area.” From: Role of the primate orbitofrontal cortex in mediating anxious temperament. (Kalin N. H., Shelton S. E., Davidson R. J. Biological Psychiatry. 2007.)This just doesn't jibe with the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds stated mission:
Goals of the Center include the study of people's brains during contemplative practice and the use of contemplative practice to "nurture positive qualities of mind such as kindness [and] compassion...".
I suspect that there are kind and good people affiliated with the Center who intend to do good work. But imagine that the same could be said of people working at the imaginary Eichmann Center. Would the good works of some good people overshadow Eichmann's crimes or the nastiness of the Nazi's racial policies generally?
Maybe, like the carnage and monstrosities that occurred in South Africa and Rwanda, some forgiveness could be mustered if the perpetrators stepped forward and enumerated their crimes and asked for forgiveness; maybe. But that hasn't happened in the case of Richard Davidson. Davidson wants it both ways.
On the one hand, he wants to be seen and known as someone who has embraced the message in Einstein's quote: "Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty," while on the other, he argues that the potential benefit to humans from his highly invasive brain and behavioral experiments on particularly fearful young monkeys are excusable because he has "good intentions."
These two claims are mutually exclusive. It is highly unlikely that such diametric positions can coexist in a healthy mind. This leads me to wonder about possible research at the Center.
Richard Davidson should identify others who simultaneously hold similar contrary opinions regarding kindness and invasive experimentation (there are a number of such people.) This cohort should be randomly divided into two groups.
Group 1 should engage in a putatively compassion-enhancing contemplative practice while their brain is scanned, and once their brain activity settles and remains static for some period of time, they should be told of the details of Davidson's research on fear in young fearful monkeys and be asked to contemplate the monkeys' experiences.
Group 2 should begin by contemplating the details of the fear experiments and then be asked to stop thinking of that and begin the putatively compassion-enhancing contemplative practice, with their brains being scanned throughout.
Control Group 1 should be composed of random people selected only for age and gender similarity with Group 1. They should repeat the conditions in group 1.
Control Group 2 should be likewise composed and duplicate the the conditions in Group 2.
Post-screening by competent psychologists blinded to the participants' group assignments should attempt to identify those with healthy minds as defined by the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds and those who don't. I hypothesize that the psychologists will identify the majority of those in Groups 1 and 2 as individuals with unhealthy minds, and will identify a significantly larger number of individuals with healthy minds from Control Groups 1 and 2.
If my hypothesis is borne out, we will have a collection of brain scans from people with unhealthy minds that might lead us to possible therapies to cure them. There would finally be hope for people like Richard Davidson.