My topic is not so much the article itself as the fact that, like many SA articles, the author has left out a whole angle to the story in deference and obedience to America's anti-scientific Drug War, as if the Drug War prohibitions somehow provided a rational baseline for scientific inquiry. The fact is that the Drug War provides anti-scientific obstacles to research on many subjects about which Scientific American authors write, and I believe it's about time that SA started acknowledging that fact in the articles themselves, thereby shaming the Drug Warriors for impeding scientific progress in a supposed free country.
Thanks for the fascinating article about language acquisition ("At What Age Does Our Ability to Learn a New Language Like a Native Speaker Disappear?")
I'd like to suggest however that you've limited your inquiry, albeit unwittingly, in deference to America's Drug War.
If science were free to investigate and research all the products of Mother Nature (and not just the ones of which politicians approve), it would discover something that psychedelic rebels have known for half a century now: namely, that psychedelic plant medicines can create fascinating and useful new connections in the brain that provide the substance user with whole new ways of looking at the world and whole new ways to process previously unintelligible information about that world.
In other words, there is every reason to believe that one day, when America has finally cast off the anti-scientific slough of Drug War prohibitions, we will find ways to vastly improve the language learning abilities of older human beings through the strategic use of psychedelic substances that grow around us in the natural world. Right now, however, scientists who even broach such a topic must keep an eye over their shoulder lest their colleagues eye them askance for invoking the names of plants about which we are not even supposed to speak in so-called scientific America - let alone to speak positively.
I realize that this assertion is speculative, but it is a tantalizing hypothesis indeed, considering not only the anecdotal evidence of psychedelic-inspired mind expansion over the past 50 years, but the fact that there are hundreds - perhaps thousands - of promising plant medicines of this kind that are completely off limits to scientific investigation thanks to the DEA's mendacious and self-serving drug scheduling system, plants which a human being can be jailed for merely possessing, never mind that the substances in question grow unbidden at their very feet.
In short, I think that there is a whole angle to this story that scientists are ignoring thanks to Drug War sensibilities, and which they must ignore, since they are currently forbidden to even study the kind of plants that we're talking about here.
Yours in the name of true scientific freedom...
PS If I may make a suggestion: One way to change this anti-scientific status quo is for Scientific American's authors to start thinking about how their articles might change were the Drug War not in force with respect to psychoactive plants and their ability to change the mind (to better process new kinds of information, to ease depression, to help one make their peace with death, etc.). Then, once an SA author has determined that their story has angles that scientists cannot adequately pursue thanks to Drug War prohibitions, those authors should state this fact clearly and matter-of-factly in their articles, with a comment such as: "Note: Topic X will not be pursued further in this article thanks to American Drug War prohibitions which prevent scientists from studying such hypotheses in detail."
By thus acknowledging the censorship function of the Drug War viz scientific inquiry, the author can help bring about legal reforms by shaming the Drug Warriors who have shackled scientific investigation in this way.
PPS I will be publishing this letter on my website (abolishthedea.com) as an open letter to Scientific American, probably under the title (or at least subtitle) of: "How scientists self-censor in deference to America's Drug War." I realize that this self-censorship is not conscious, but that really just makes it all the more insidious.
Bone up on slam-dunk arguments against the drug war, starting with the fact that it was a violation of natural law to outlaw plant medicine in the first place. Check out
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for fun ways to learn more about the manifold injustice of the status quo, including many knock-down arguments never made before. Why? Because even the majority of drug-war opponents have been bamboozled by one or more of the absurd assumptions upon which that war is premised. See through the haze. Read on. Listen on. And Learn how tryants and worrywarts have despoiled American freedom, thereby killing millions around the world, totally unnecessarily, ever since the fateful day in 1914 when ignorant America first criminalized a mere plant -- and insisted that the rest of the world follow suit or else -- an act of colonialist folly unrivaled since the days of the genocidal Conquistadors.