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November 17, 1989

Better Living Through Brain Chemistry?

JAMA. 1989;262(19):2682. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03430190061020

To the Editor.—  The viewpoint expressed in "Peace Through Mind/Brain Science"1 is based on three serious misconceptions: it equates mind with brain, it equates group aggression with individual aggression, and it assumes that cultural problems are amenable to technological fixes.It is only in the past century that western science has moved beyond a simplistic mind/body dualism. Dr Wagner proposes that we adopt an equally simplistic mind/body monism. Although understanding the functioning of the brain is necessary to the understanding of the functioning of the mind, it is not, and never will be, sufficient to that understanding. Homo sapiens' single most distinguishing feature, our capacity for self-reflective linguistic thinking, is entirely dependent on cultural forces for its expression. Whether we wage war will depend on the nature of the cultural forces that determine how our minds function, not on the physiological forces that determine how our brains function.Individual aggression