“Points on Blogs” returns this week, with a visit to The Neuro Times, “an historical blog dedicated to neurology and neuroscience.” The Neuro Times is the work of Dr. Stephen T. Casper, an Assistant Professor in the History of Science at Clarkson University, along with a small group of contributors. Casper recevied his doctorate in the History of Medicine from University College London, where he studied the history of British neurology. Here’s how he describes the blog:
The Dictionary of Neurology Project seeks to inform scholars, physicians, scientists and the wider public about trends in the history of neurology and neuroscience. While it is foremostly concerned with promoting history for the sake of history, the project also seeks to inform about and critique the growth of “neuroculture,” a trend that has emerged in various quarters in the last two decades to ascribe complex elements of culture and society to human neurobiology.
Our contributors provide commentary, critique, and high quality content about the neurosciences, and we seek to establish and build a broad and global community that engages in historical and sociological studies devoted to the many sciences (clincial and basic) that primarily focus on the nervous system. This blog, in consequence, serves university and medical communities as well as wider publics.
Should Points readers care? Not long ago, David Courtwright urged fellow historians to
“take a hit” of neuroscience, adding in good pusher fashion, “just don’t get addicted.” David made it clear what he meant: “Suspicion of scientific arrogance and imperialism ought not to prevent anyone from the selective appropriation of research insights, especially those that illuminate the common or synergistic features of drug action.” (1) Meant as a provocation of sorts, David’s call for common ground between history and neuroscience certainly does not go so far as to suggest that historians drop their posture of suspicion (nor do posts like this one suggest any impending sense of mutuality between fields). And that, it seems to me, is where The Neuro Times helps, by creating a space for well-informed suspicion.
Readers of The Neuro Times will find a fairly steady and very often thought-provoking series of posts interrogating the history of neuroscience, often with a close eye on present-day dialogues. Consider this post from April, 2011–“Neuroscience on Art and Law: A Reflection on Recent Essays by David Eagleman and Mark Changizi”–which takes us here: “Until neuroscience can define “thought” (or “mind”) in non-metaphoric language, it offers at best observations about how human beings experience reality.” We humble observers of the observers of human behavior might well consider Casper’s “The Neuroscience of Procrastination Made ‘Real Simple'” from March, 2011.
The Neuro Times packs in thoughtful, long-form book reviews, profiles of notable figures in the history of neurology, and plenty of helpful references to other recent works of scholarship. It also offers the occassional reflection on the art of academic blogging, of interest to even those who are otherwise indifferent to all things “neuro.” Take a look at another April, 2011 post: “Why Academics Should Blog: A College of One’s Own.” Casper begins:
Every now and then I make the mistake of confessing to a colleague that I blog. They usually greet this confession with an uneasy smile and follow it with a look that says: “do you really have time for that?” I understand what they really mean: a serious tenure track assistant professor does not have time for blogging. With respect to my colleagues, they’re wrong: graduate students, post-docs, young faculty, and senior faculty too, should do more blogging not less. And, moreover, institutions of high education ought to start recognizing such work as an important component of a scholar’s profile.
Needless to say, that’s a line that resonates strongly with your Points editors. Read the rest of the post for Casper’s explantion of why more is better than less when it comes to academic blogging!
(1) David T. Courtwright, “Mr. ATOD’s Wild Ride: What Do Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs Have in Common?” The Social History of Alcohol and Drugs 20 (2005), 37.
Joe Spillane is Professor of History at the University of Florida. He has authored Cocaine: From Medical Marvel to Modern Menace in the United States (Johns Hopkins Press, 2000) and co-edited Federal Drug Control: The Evolution of Policy and Practice (Haworth Press, 2004). More recently, he authored Coxsackie: The Life and Death of Prison Reform (Johns Hopkins Press, 2014). His current drug-related research agenda includes: the history and development of drug abuse liability assessment; reflections on the nature of drug epidemics; and examinations of drug war “harms” in historical context.