That’s what at least some research seems to say: Our brains become increasingly sluggish not because they’re deteriorating, but because we’re packing ‘em so full of experience and information.
So said authors Wayne D. Gray and Thomas Hills almost a decade ago in an article entitled “Does Cognition Deteriorate With Age or Is It Enhanced by Experience?” -- a review, apparently, of a landmark book entitled The Myth of Cognitive Decline.
At least I think that’s what Gray and Hills are saying when they claim that “our poorer memory for names as we age, over the last several decades at least, is a result of the massive cultural proliferation of novel names alongside the increasing number of names experienced over a lifetime.”
Right. We forget Mary’s name because of the proliferation of Kukulas and Thiagos and Zelias.
“Pretty much any cognitive theory with which we are familiar would have to predict that the more things you have in memory the longer will be your search time,” write Gray and Hills. They quote Myth: “’In information theoretic terms…. a measure of processing speed that ignores information load is meaningless.’”
Is that kind of like our Pastor Joe says, that all the information is still there in our brains – it’s just that the librarians in charge of retrieving it are slowing down? (To which I would add: These librarians store all this information in First In, First Out [FIFO] order, rather than Last In, First Out [LIFO] order, which is why we can remember what we were doing on July 4, 1959, but don’t have a clue what we had for lunch yesterday.)
This fuzzy old brain of mine may be too information-packed to adequately decode ultra-smart academic language like this:
“Many things covary as we grow up and grow older,” they write, “and, just as in the nature versus nurture debate over childhood development, a rush to judgment obscures and confuses the search for mechanisms and for the achievement of scientific, as well as personal, understanding of the changes that we all pass through.”
I think that means something along the lines of this: “Old people are encyclopedic in their knowledge rather than deteriorating mentally – so let’s not judge or disrespect them or toss them aside because they don’t seem to be as smart as we younger folks. Really, they’re practically geniuses.”
But you know what? These thoroughly educated researchers are missing the point. We are not valuable because of what we know. We are valuable because we are the Creator’s handiwork, because He loved us enough to die for us, and because He has commanded us to love others as we love ourselves and to care for widows in their affliction.
Of course, such commands will only be embraced by His children – that is, the born-again who have repented and trusted in Jesus. So perhaps it’s no surprise that, in an attempt to make us act godly without bringing God into the picture, we see the world’s experts building elaborate Rube Goldberg patches and workarounds for issues that are only problematic for those on the wrong side of the narrow gate.
Here's the truth: As the 2nd law of thermodynamics predicts, our aging brains are wearing out. But that does not decrease our value one iota in the eyes of our Creator. And His are the only eyes that matter.