Neuroscience sometimes explains the how of a fact we shouldn't have needed neuroscientists to tell us. Often, though, the significance of the how is misunderstood.
Example one. Lots of connections are still being made in the frontal lobes of the brain right through the ‘twenties. That’s not surprising. You don’t need brain science to understand that young people take a long time to develop mature judgment.
Unfortunately, the fact that it takes time to become mature leads some people to the mistaken conclusion that young people shouldn’t take on any commitments or responsibilities until the process is complete. This ignores the fact that we develop mature judgment only by taking on and sticking to commitments and responsibilities. Besides, frontal lobes or no frontal lobes, good judgment doesn’t magically reach completion at age twenty-five or thirty. We are learning and relearning all our lives.
Example two. A number of researchers have written that pornography rewires the brain. Of course it does. But we already knew, or should have known, that pornography is habit-forming, and this phrase merely tells us what the brain is doing when a habit is formed. All habits rewire the brain, just as all knowledge and belief do the same.
Unfortunately, talk about brain wiring leads some people to the mistaken conclusion that habits are fates – that the brain makes people keep doing the same thing, so that they can’t reform their habits or get out of bad ruts. What a counsel of despair.