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Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity Hardcover – 2011

ISBN-13: 978-1844652723 ISBN-10: 1844652726 Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Despite its mischievous title, Aping Mankind is a very serious book, and represents the author's current location in his decades-long stream of multifaceted thinking. Tallis has been called a polymath — he is a physician, philosopher, public speaker, and a prolific writer … Much of his speaking and writing over the past several decades has been deliberately controversial and engagingly argumentative, and Aping Mankind is no exception … The breadth of Tallis's familiarity and facility with the positions of others both in his own field and in others (such as the arts) is impressive throughout the book … The reader will find it richly rewarding, packed with thoughts worth sharing and ideas worth considering, and quite a lot of fun. For what more could we reasonably ask?" – Metapsychology Online

"This is an immensely valuable book because it makes us think hard about what we are and 'if any ideas are important, then ideas about the kind of creatures we are must be of supreme importance'. My bottom line is buy it and read it and then read it again and again and again … A landmark book." – Network Review

"A triumph of rational thought over the Darwinian afflictions that the author argues against in such an eloquent fashion" – The Quarterly Review of Biology

"A terrific book, though readers must be prepared to read it at least twice, not because it is in any sense obscure, but fully to appreciate the richness and subtlety of Tallis’s novel insights, with all their implications for our understanding of humanity’s precious attributes of freedom, intentionality and moral responsibility." – James Le Fanu, The Tablet

"A trenchant, lucid and witty attack on the reductive materialism of many scientific accounts of consciousness – not from a religious point of view, but that of an atheist humanist with a distinguished record in medicine and neuroscience." – David Lodge, The Guardian’s Books of the Year 2011

"Neuroscience, we are implausibly informed by white-coated Simon Baron-Cohen, will help dispense with evil. Who better to debunk its pretensions while instructing us in its uses than wise, literate Raymond Tallis, a neuroscientist himself, in his entertaining Aping Mankind." – George Walden, Evening Standard’s Best Books of the Year

"With erudition, wit and rigour, Tallis reveals that much of our current wisdom is as silly as bumps-on-the-head phrenology." – Jane O’Grady, The Observer

"Impassioned and intensely erudite." – Dominic Lawson, Sunday Times

"Brilliantly written . . . renowned polymath Raymond Tallis puts the picture back into much clearer perspective in his scathing exposé of neuroscientific narcissism." – Human Givens

"A pleasure to read. . . Tallis is fighting for a good cause." – Willem B. Drees, Times Higher

"This kind of personhood – the capacity, in fact the compulsion, to bring things together into some kind of coherent narrative, without which experience is not just senseless, but almost impossible, is what Tallis believes science cannot now explain. Anyone tempted to suppose that science has explained it even in principle – and that means almost all of us – should read him, and realise we’re wrong." – Andrew Brown, The Guardian

"an all-out assault on the exaggerated claims made on behalf of the biological sciences . . . an important work. Tallis is right to point out that a fundamental shift in our self-perception is under way and frequently going too far." – Stephen Cave, Financial Times

". . . a relentless assertion of common sense against a delusive but entrenched academic orthodoxy. Few books evince their authors’ complete mastery of his subject like Aping Mankind." – The New English Review

"A provocative, fascinating, and deeply paradoxical book. . . Tallis displays a wit and a turn of phrase which often made me howl with laughter." – Allan Chapman, Church Times

"A major and erudite statement of a position that is intellectually, morally and spiritually of the first importance to us living now." – Roger Scruton

"A splendid book. Tallis is right to say that current attempts to explain major elements of human life by brain-talk are fearfully misguided. He is exceptional in having both the philosophical grasp to understand what is wrong here and the scientific knowledge to expose it fully. He documents the gravity of this menace with real fire, venom and humour." – Mary Midgley

"A wonderful book and an important book, one that all neuroscientists should read. Tallis’s fearless criticism of the work of some distinguished contemporary academics and scientists and the rather ludicrous experimental paradigms of fMRI work needs to be made." – Simon Shorvon, UCL Institute of Neurology

"I strongly recommend this work to existential therapists and indeed to anyone who has ever asked the question of what it is to be human...Tallis writes eloquently and argues brilliantly" – Existential Analysis

About the Author

Raymond Tallis trained as a doctor before going on to become Professor of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Manchester. He was elected Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences for his research in clinical neuroscience. He retired from medicine in 2006 to become a full-time writer. He has published fiction, poetry and over a dozen books of cultural criticism and philosophical anthropology including, most recently, the acclaimed The Kingdom of Infinite Space (2008).
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Acumen; 1 edition (2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844652726
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844652723
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,154,170 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

104 of 111 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on September 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is a rare and remarkable work of synthesis of scientific fact and philosophy from a medical professional immersed in the neurological and biological sciences. Although Tallis is one of the most literate and clear writers in science and philosophy, it is important to acknowledge that portions of the book are "heavy" and require serious concentration due to the density and uniqueness of the ideas he is presenting. But, by contrast, there are many places where one can't help but laugh out loud sometimes at his inventive phrases and words to help describe and drive home his essential viewpoints.

The book strikes me as having two basic goals:

1) A withering critique of reductionists who believe
---a) that our great conceptual abilities as humans can be reduced to (is equivalent to) the neural firings in our brain. These he call neuromaniacs.
---b) and those intellectuals who seek to minimize human differences from other animals by either anthropomorphizing animals or animalizing humans, in wrong ways. This phenomenon he calls Darwinitis. [However he is a committed Darwinian in the original meaning of the term.]
2) A fascinating theory of human origins that involves explaining the origin of free will in humans, the origins of self-consciousness, the origin of conceptual development and language development, resulting from the *nature* of our entire body and its unique set of features.

The first five chapters are devoted to item (1) above, and is largely a sustained and intense attack on many commonly promulgated and accepted scientific/philosophical myths, misconceptions and mistakes of the 20th and 21st centuries (and some earlier).

In chapter 6 he starts into his positive theory phase, and it is worth waiting for.
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51 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Real Name on November 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Negative scientific studies, studies that demonstrate negative findings (like showing that a drug does not lower blood pressure any more than a sugar-pill), aren't as sexy as positive studies. Very few professors have gotten tenure by only showing what is not true. No one has won a Nobel prize for solely criticizing other people's research. That said, negative research can be as practical and useful as positive research. Look at recent research on vitamins--there is now good evidence that several vitamins and anti-oxidants decrease your life-expectancy rather than make you more healthy. It is important to know that vitamins can be bad for your health, even though it is a negative finding.

Aping Mankind is negative research. While most popular-science writers attempt to weave compelling stories from the latest neuroscience experiments to explain 'why we are the way we are', Tallis attempts to show why these stories simply cannot be true. If you are skeptical of media--and scientific journal--headlines such as "Researchers discover the location of love in the brain", then you may enjoy Aping Mankind. In this work Tallis exposes the odd proclivity of scholars, from biologists to literary critics, to anthropomorphize pieces of matter while simultaneously dehumanizing human beings. In effect we are systematically transferring our humanity to matter, and this may not be good for our health--just like vitamins.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Albrecht Moritz on September 4, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a neuroscientist, Tallis writes with obviously intimate insider knowledge of the field, and he argues with a lot of common sense as well as with deep philosophical understanding and reasoning regarding the issues. He shows the severe methodological and conceptual limitations of brain scans and he refutes in detail what he calls Neuromania, the tendency to reduce the human mind and consciousness to the firing of neurons, and "Darwinitis", the attempt to minimize the profound differences between humans and animals via a misguided biologism. While he debunks Darwinitis, Tallis is a full-blown Darwinian (as am I, except when it comes to the human soul). He is also an atheist, which may make his knowledgeable and fearless attacks against Neuromania and Darwinitis, which are in themselves mostly rooted in atheistic views, considerably more devastating than if they had come from a theist (of course there is no shortage of effective theistic rebuttals of these intellectual tendencies, but they usually follow different avenues of argumentation).

Against popular modern philosophical thinking, the author strongly affirms the obvious realities of consciousness, qualia and intentionality. It is most impressive and intellectually delicious how, with razor-sharp reasoning, Tallis lays waste to Dan Dennett's ideas who seeks to explain these issues "away" (at some point he rightfully argues why Dennett's book "Consciousness Explained" should rather be called "Consciousness Evaded"). He also superbly demolishes Dawkins' meme theory and, while he does not mention his name that frequently, Steven Pinker's ideas as well.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By HA Den Boer on February 23, 2013
Format: Paperback
I have never read a book that demonstrate more blatantly how atheism can operate like a religious believe, as in this book.

Tallis make a crushingly good argument why consciousness could never be explained by purely materialistic processes, and why future discoveries of the brain will not overcome this problem. By carefully considering what is required for consciousness, and by comparing those requirements with what we know about matter, it is quite clear that the modern idea that consciousness arise from informational processing power is absurd. In fact, I found many of his arguments a bit drawn out because I intuitively know that they are true. I actually find it amazing that it is necessary to defend this intuitive knowledge with detailed arguments. Maybe that's why it felt drawn out, because few people actually think about consciousness in so much depth as Tallis explained it in his book.For that reason, the concepts he's talking about is not easy to put in words, and he often explains the same concept in many different ways to make sure the reader understands what he is talking about.

However, the clear thinking and sound logic comes to a screeching halt when it is about to challenge Tallis's metaphysical preferences. From his book, it is clear that consciousness is
1) localised and somehow intimately associated with the brain, but also..
2) cannot be the result of purely materialistic brain processes.
Clearly, if consciousness cannot be explained by material processes, then it must be immaterial. In other words, he is providing a strong case for the existence of a soul.
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