Before the Bank Holiday - RSA

Before the Bank Holiday


  • Social brain
  • Social networks

First of all I would like to say a big thank you to the staff here at RSA for burning the midnight oil for the past week in the final push to launch the new website. It went live yesterday evening, but apparently takes 24-48 hours to propagate around the world to all the different servers. So keep checking the site, it will soon have a fresh face and greater functionality.

Thinking about brains, as I have been this week, I was interested in the Thought for the Day on the Today programme this morning. Abdal Hakim Murad explored the Muslim take on the Academy of Medical Sciences report about the use of brain enhancing drugs.

The issue of psychoactive substances is not a new debate in the Muslim tradition. For example, coffee is allowed because it enhances brain function, but alcohol is not because it impairs the mind. In his three minute slot Abdal Hakim Murad moved from this issue to a broader perspective arguing that humanity is distinguished by the God given miracle of consciousness.

Many scientists and philosophers would replace ‘God-given miracle’ with ‘evolution-given illusion’. One of the challenges in debates about the brain is the way empirical and policy questions about advances in neurological research jostle up against  what philosopher Owen Flanagan has described as ‘the really hard problem’ of meaning and consciousness.

This week I’ve been interviewing some excellent candidates for a new Fellow outreach coordinator for Scotland. It is clear that the Scottish Fellows are going full steam ahead, delivering not only the RSA mission, but thinking hard about how to build a distinctively Scottish brand identity and agenda.

So it was perhaps not surprising that at our excellent new Fellows evening last night, a Welsh Fellow was astonished to hear from me that the Welsh fellowship is subsumed into our West and Wales region. Of course, this reflects the pre-devolution development of the RSA and I don’t sense any unhappiness in the region with its current configuration. But I guess it’s only a matter of time before our Fellows in Wales are seeking to develop their own relationship with the devolved administration.

I’m on holiday next week for the school half term – but between my holiday postings and contributions of colleagues the daily blog will continue.

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