What constitutes evidence is rarely self-evident. We need theories to make sense of evidence—to transform patterns of physical occurrences into something meaningful, i.e., data. This relationship between theory and evidence is often at least partially opaque, particularly in a field like neuroscience that often aims to use physical evidence to characterize mental, and in some cases social, events. Neuroscience navigates this relationship by purporting to offer mechanistic descriptions of “how” mental processes operate. Yet, this inquiry relies on theoretical assumptions that are not fully tethered to data. Neuroscience can certainly generate predictions from theories that have practical implications and link them with mechanistic knowledge of the physical (e.g., anatomy and physiology). But changing the basis of our assumptions can change the kinds of questions we ask and how we interpret experimental findings. So, exactly what kind of knowledge does neuroscience offer? How independent is it from psychology? How do we navigate this potential divide, particularly in cases in which we would want to use neuroscience to characterize constructs that are heavily influenced by theoretical priors?
This event addresses this question from a range of perspectives in neurology, psychiatry, philosophy, and economics. We consider the relationship between theory and evidence by exploring how practitioners, theorists, and experimentalists negotiate the multiple dimensions of evidence in neuroscience.
Aniruddha Das, Associate Professor of Neuroscience, Columbia University
More speakers to be confirmed soon.