I just started reading a fascinating book called The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge. So far I’ve read the first chapter which is about a Jewish scientist called Paul Bach-y-Rita (born to Anne Hyman) who changed the way we think about the brain. Scientists used to believe that different parts of the brain perform different functions and each part can only perform one function. Paul showed this isn’t true and the brain is a lot more adaptable than first thought. The brain can rewire itself, so that for example, the part of the brain that is initially used by someone for hearing can be used for sight. This is part of the reason why a person that has lost a certain sense, usually has other senses that are a lot more sensitive than average.
What this means is that people with disabilities caused by brain damage can learn to use another part of their brain to perform the function that the damaged part used to carry out. Paul helped many people and with his inventions and research. There are people that have been born with only half a brain and survive and live long and fairly normal lives. Read the book for more. It’s very interesting.
One of the major lessons we can take from this is just because people assume something to be true, even if it’s very clever people, experts in a field, that doesn’t necessarily make it true. You often hear people attributing the success of the Israelis to their chutzpah. They’re not afraid to question the “facts” and this leads to new breakthroughs. People often assume we know nearly everything their is to know about everything. That we’re just working out the final details. That there will be no more major scientific breakthroughs or paradigm shifts. I think this is unlikely. Nobody knows where the breakthroughs will occur and there are certainly scientific “facts” that seem highly unlikely to change in the future, but there will certainly be major changes in the future.