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God Soul Mind Brain: A Neuroscientist's Reflections on the Spirit World (LeapSci) Paperback – August 31, 2010

4.5 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Michael Graziano is a professor of neuroscience at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute, and director of the Sensory Motor Laboratory. He is the author of 56 articles on the functioning of the brain. His work regularly appears in journals such as Science, Nature, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. He is internationally known for fundamental discoveries about sensory perception and motor control in the brain. His previous book on the brain, The Intelligent Movement Machine, was published by Oxford University Press (2008).
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Product Details

  • Series: LeapSci
  • Paperback: 170 pages
  • Publisher: Leapfrog Press; First Edition edition (August 31, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935248111
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935248118
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,000,090 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Peter Clarke on November 22, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As the title suggests, this short book deals with the role of the brain in thought, consciousness and religious experience (all in 170 pages!). The main claims are that certain parts of the brain contain "specialized social hardware" and that this is responsible for: 1) the perception of other people's intentions and emotions; 2) the illusory perception of "presences, spirits, ghosts and gods"; 3) the perception of our own conscious self. The first half of the book approaches these questions in rather general philosophical terms, and the second half focuses on brain function.

The book is an easy and interesting read, intended for those with no specialized knowledge. It has no references at all, but a short list of suggested further reading. As a neuroscientist myself, and therefore not a member of the target readership, I may be too critical, but I feel that new and controversial theses should first be debated before a specialist audience before being presented in a book with no references.

Not that all in the book is new or controversial. Indeed, the first of Graziano's claims is certainly not. He describes with admirable clarity some of the more interesting results of systems neurophysiology over the last fifteen years, including mirror neurons, and gives standard interpretations.

His second claim that "presences, spirits, ghosts and gods" result from the illusory attribution of mind to inanimate objects is also not new, because several anthropologists have made similar proposals since the 19th C to explain the origins of animism. But in claiming that all religious experience is illusory Graziano does brook controversy. He also states with almost no argument that "There are no fundamental moral truths of the universe.
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I really enjoyed this book. It introduced me to the basics of the current thoughts on the evolution of consciousness. The explanations are simple enough for the layman and it reads easily. Although this is clearly his first attempt, Graziano's "Consciousness and the Social Brain" is obviously a polished and better researched version of this book.
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Format: Paperback
Can a science book be also a feel-good book? This one is. Thank you, Graziano, for the lift.

Graziano brings to the table a professorship in social neuroscience, and builds atop the work of Dawkins and others in social memes, to explain what makes us human. He explains the workings of the brain to model the world around us, helping us interact socially and "feel" our way through life. Consciousness, the great mystery of our age, is merely "social perception applied inwardly." It's a process, not a thing. The book is short and very readable, but if you do find yourself struggling to grasp or appreciate the material, then skip over parts, but don't put the book down before the final chapter.

Graziano is an atheist who thinks religion is complex and marvelous. That's a good thing, because he also feels religion cannot be outgrown. He wants nothing to do with the aggressive new atheism which seeks to ridicule the religious into discarding dangerous beliefs for rational thinking. "I simply think that eradicating religion is not possible. It is a fallacy that ignores the specs of the human machine. We are not rational entities. Religion, like all culture, grows on the social machinery in our brains."

God, it turns out, is the amygdala, though Graziano would never say this outright, and he'll probably hunt me down for misrepresenting him. His own definition of God is "the perception of intentionality on a global scale. It is the perception of a single, unified mind behind every otherwise inexplicable event." Don't worry if this sounds like geek-speak, because the discussion of intentionality will make the definition clear and simple. In fact, everything in the book is clear and simple, enjoyable and unforgettable. Read it!
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Format: Paperback
Michael Graziano wrote a very interesting book about mind and brain. The "God" and "soul" part of the title is not directly addressed but implied: because a naturalistic explanation of the mind and brain can be found, there is no need to recur to a supernatural explanation. Dr. Graziano writes clearly and concisely and his hypothesis regarding how consciousness emerged is the best I have read so far. If you are remotely curious about consciousness, neuroscience and a naturalistic explanation about our mind and brain, this book is a must. I also recommend Zen, philosophy and science: an engineer's inquiry in our perception of reality by S.E. Geissbuhler and Free Will by Sam Harris.
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Format: Paperback
Michael S.A. Graziano continues to amaze. Having been completely entranced by his novels of fiction, THE LOVE SONG OF MONKEY, and THE DIVINE FARCE, this reader was under the impression that his success in the literary realm was solid enough that he could well become one of the next decade's foremost novelists, so strange and compelling were these two brilliant books. But suddenly up pops this new book GOD SOUL MIND BRAIN and Graziano appears healthy on the other end of the spectrum of art to science. As a matter of interest this book erases that arc of what we all thought was a dichotomy, and in addition to encouraging us to think along the lines of growing our appreciation for the organ Brain he escorts us through the No Man's Land of religion versus science.

The pleasure (or one of the many pleasures) of the book subtitled 'A Neuroscientist's Reflection on the Spirit World' is the non-confrontational manner in which Graziano approaches the concept that soul and spirit and God may be better understood by exploring the working of the human brain. He simply does not go where readers who are embedded in religion/spirituality/soul versus the devil of science stand guard of their beliefs. This small, immensely readable book is not a scientific treatise but instead is a book for the masses, a gently kind introduction to the concepts of Neuroscientific explorations that explore the neural mechanisms of the 'social brain' - the concept of perception that allows us to react to the world in an understandable way - that allow us to construct a reasonable explanation for where spiritual thoughts, the concept of soul, and indeed where the major impact that religion began and continues.
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