Yes. So how are we to do this? How do we know that something has a certain influence on human behaviour? For example, suppose I gave two people the same dose of a substance, and asked them to decide which one would get them to sleep, even though they had not seen each other. The first would think that the other one had no interest in sleeping, but would still take the drug. The second person, of course, would think the thing was absolutely silly. There are a number of things that we do with a drug to control its effects. One of these actions is to create memory traces so that we can determine when our minds have been altered by a drug, and therefore know when such a change to our thoughts has taken place. The evidence for memory traces is the observation that people don’t just think the same things when they are on drugs as when they are off of them, but show the same change in their brain activity, such as in brain activity in the prefrontal cortex. The hypothesis of memory traces is to say that an effect of a drug is not simply caused by a decrease in blood flow. It is more subtle than that, and is, to repeat, the more subtle hypothesis. But all we can say with some confidence is that the more subtle hypothesis is also the better explanation of the results. That is to say, if we are to be right we can say that an effect of a drug is not simply caused by a decrease in blood flow. It is more subtle than that, and is, to repeat, the more subtle hypothesis. But all we can say with some confidence is that the more subtle hypothesis is also the better explanation of the results.
As to why this does not imply that drugs might never be useful – that they work purely by suggestion – we have no way of knowing. So how should we feel about this? Why should we be so confident that something can control human behaviour without even knowing what the drug is? That some kind of mind reading is not really possible is a very plausible argument, in that it would seem that there would almost certainly have to be some subtle modification of our genes, or the environment, for that to actually happen. But in fact a major objection is that we know there are things like gene modification that take place in the body, but which they have not yet been shown to have any effect on. We should have expected them to have some effect on, say, brain organisation. But that is the sort of thing in mind reading where we would
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