To her critics, Susan Greenfield is a loose cannon, using her influence to spread scare-stories about the influence of technology on the media as satirized in this blog last week. Her most recent comments in New Scientist, casually linking internet use with autism, angered Oxford neuropsychologist Dr. Dorothy Bishop, leading to a high-profile spat between the two.
Greenfield's defenders - and the scientist herself - say that she has been misrepresented, that sensationalist journalists may have distorted her measured attempts to prompt discussion and highlight gaps in research. Certainly headline writers have had a field day with her claims - a quick search of The Daily Mail finds:
- Facebook and Twitter are creating a vain generation of self-obsessed people with child-like need for feedback, warns top scientist
- Social websites harm children's brains: Chilling warning to parents from top neuroscientist
- Facebook and internet 'can re-wire your brain and shorten attention span'
- Modern technology is changing the way our brains work, says neuroscientist
- How Facebook addiction is damaging your child's brain: A leading neuroscientist's chilling warning
"I didn't say, and I've been misquoted universally, that [technology] rots the brain and it's bad, I've never given value judgements, ever."
"I've never given value judgments, ever" is a pretty strong claim, so let's look at two newspaper articles penned by Greenfield herself. These are articles which she presumably either wrote, or was willing to put her name to. Here is a selection of quotes from them:
Our brains are "under threat", the 21st century is "doing damage" to our brains, we are already seeing "fragmentation of our culture." If Greenfield doesn't stand by this stuff - written under her byline - then she should make it very clear; because if these aren't value judgements about the negative impact of technology then I'm an Ewok.