New research suggests that radiation from smartphones is negatively impacting teenagers’ memories, leaving them with short-term memory loss. The concern is that a year’s worth of radiation could be enough to damage the part of the brain that interprets images and shapes.
According to the study, which was published Monday, researchers found that there is a negative impact on memory performance after exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) radiation.
We tend to accept these sorts of research studies uncritically. Most of us do — but I don’t.
First of all, correlation is not causation. In plain English this means: Just because two events coincide, it does not prove that one caused the other. Just because declining teenage memories coincides with the heavy use of smartphones doesn’t mean it’s radiation causing the problem. It could be cognition.
Think about what gives rise to memory. Good memory is the product of an organized, clear-thinking mind, psychologically and cognitively speaking. How do we know that poor cognitive habits are not the cause of declining memory in teenagers? How do we know it’s not something to do with teaching methods at high schools, personal or familial habits of teens in their households, or an over-dependence on smartphone technology at the expense of — let’s say — books, novels and other means of absorbing and holding conceptual information?
These are hypotheses worth investigating. That’s what science is supposed to do: Form multiple hypotheses and test them. All we get today are superficial and largely inconclusive studies on the brain. Whatever happened to psychology?
It makes sense to look at the cognitive habits of teenagers as well as examining the state of their brains. I’m not saying the brain doesn’t matter. Neurology is the study of the brain, and it’s a critically important science. But I am saying that the mind coexists with the brain. The mind is our software and the brain is our hardware. Studies like this take it for granted that we all possess hardware, and there’s nothing else guiding or influencing our cognitive and behavioral functioning. That’s ridiculous. It would be like saying the physical components of a computer — crucial components, to be sure — are all that make your computers run, and the vastly complex software running the machines has nothing to do with it.
“The most relevant exposure source to the brain is the use of a mobile phone close to the head,” the statement added. “Several studies have been conducted to identify potential health effects related to RF-EMF, though results have remained inconclusive.”
Doesn’t the inconclusiveness of this research suggest other factors than brain chemistry are involved in the declining memory capacity of teens? Why do we never look at the cognitive habits of teenagers or any other demographic or age group, for that matter? The way we think, conceptualize and utilize our minds — our software — might actually affect some of the brain chemistry too.
Civilizations rise or fall on the presence or absence of ideas. America came about because of the pro-reason, pro-science, pro-liberty ideas of the Enlightenment. Nazi Germany and Communist societies came about because of extremely different ideas. Primitive cultures come about because of no ideas at all. Individuals are like civilizations. We tend to become what we absorb. And if we fail to think rationally, logically and clearly, otherwise functional cognitive capacities such as memory start to go by the wayside.
Let’s be real. The vast majority of teenagers have nothing wrong with their brains. Most of them are healthy, well-nourished and enjoy the promise of living lives of unprecedented prosperity and enlightenment, at least from where we sit now. If anything is going wrong with their memories, it’s most likely an indication of a deficiency of some sort — a cognitive deficiency.
Let’s try to discover what that is.
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