You Don’t Have a Lizard Brain

Just shows how easy it is for junk science to become canonized.

Daniel Toker

Despite our best intentions, scientists sometimes make a very basic mistake: we look for what makes humans unique.

Certainly, humans are not just unique, but extraordinary. Nothing else in the known universe has produced art, science, technology, or civilization. But, our history of searching for how, precisely, we came to be exceptional has often led to bad science – and to popular acceptance of bad science. Nowhere is that clearer than in the hugely popular – and entirely wrong – theory called the Triune Brain Hypothesis. 

You may have heard of it as the proposal that we have “lizard brains.”

The triune brain hypothesis, developed by the neuroscientist Paul MacLean between the 1960s and 1990s and widely popularized by the astronomer Carl Sagan, asserts that we have a “lizard brain” under our “mammal brain,” and that our “mammal brain” is itself under our primate/human brain. Under this…

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