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Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique [Hardcover]

Michael S. Gazzaniga
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. As wide-ranging as it is deep, and as entertaining as it is informative, the latest offering from UC–Santa Barbara neuroscientist Gazzaniga (The Ethical Brain) will please a diverse array of readers. He is adept at aiding even the scientifically unsophisticated to grasp his arguments about what separates humans from other animals. His main premise is that human brains are not only proportionately larger than those of other primates but have a number of distinct structures, which he explores along with evolutionary explanations for their existence. For instance, a direct outgrowth of the size and structure of the human brain, along with their origins in the complexity of human social groups, was the development of language, self-awareness and ethics. (Gazzaniga offers some surprising comments on the evolution of religion and its relation to morals.) Throughout, Gazzaniga addresses the nature of consciousness, and by comparing the intellectual capabilities of a host of animals (chimps, dogs, birds and rats, among others) with those of human babies, children and adults, he shows what we all share as well as what humans alone possess. (July)
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From Booklist

Thinking through human characteristics, and deciding whether they are in fact distinctly human, is the aim of this popular work about neuroscience. Gazzaniga is a prime name in the field, and in jaunty, colloquial language, he mediates the research of neurobiologists as well as evolutionary and cognitive psychologists. Opening with a run through the gross anatomy of the brain and concluding that, yes, ours really is a bigger, more complex noggin than that of any other species, Gazzaniga asks: “Would a chimp make a good date?” Meaning: Are we justified in imputing humanlike thought to animals such as chimps or dogs? No, is Gazzaniga’s general conclusion. They fail tests for theory-of-mind, the ability to act on the knowledge that other creatures have their own thoughts. Humans innately acquire that skill—as Gazzaniga demonstrates through descriptions of cognitive studies of children—so what’s it for, he asks? He finds answers in the universal proclivity to talk, mostly about other people. From gossip to morals to art, Gazzaniga pays scientific compliments to what makes us human. --Gilbert Taylor

Review

“Gazzaniga, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara (and one of the inventors of the field), takes us on a lively tour through the latest research on brain evolution.” (New York Times Book Review)

“The book is an intellectual romp through the cognitive neurosciences . . . a rich testimony to the incredible accomplishments of the human brain in coming to understand itself.” (New York Sun)

“In this book, Gazzaniga uses science AND some truly engaging, witty writing to explain us to us.” (CNBC.com)

“A savvy, witty guide to neuroscience today.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Brilliantly written and utterly fascinating. Gazzaniga stands as a giant among neuroscientists, for both the quality of his research and his ability to communicate it to a general public with infectious enthusiasm.” (Robert Bazell, Chief Science Correspondent, NBC News)

“One could ask for no better guide... compelling, wide-ranging tour.” (Daniel Henninger)

“[Readers] will enjoy the science he unravels.” (Floyd E. Bloom)

“Michael Gazzaniga shares his considerable insight... compelling, and at the same time, clear.” (Dr. Steven E. Hyman)

“Gazzaniga is one of the founders of the field of cognitive neuroscience... full of dazzling insights... engaging.”-- (V.S. Ramachandran)

“...[A] shimmering new book...[Gazzaniga] explains the latest findings from the sciences of mind and brain in a coherent and satisfying narrative. This is the place to look to learn about our best scientific understanding of what it means to be human.” (Steven Pinker, author of THE LANGUAGE INSTINCT and HOW THE MIND WORKS)

“As wide-ranging as it is deep, and as entertaining as it is informative, the latest offering from UC–Santa Barbara neuroscientist Gazzaniga (The Ethical Brain) will please a diverse array of readers. (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“Readers of Gazzaniga’s intriguing insights into the realm of neuroscience are certain to have their consciousnesses pleasantly piqued in numerous ways.” (Saturday Evening Post)

“Wonderfully smart and often funny...I recommend [HUMAN] highly. This book combines succinct views of how we became the amazing animals that we are, the biological bases of morality, and some atonishing futurology.” (Titlepage.tv)

“As wide-ranging as it is deep, and as entertaining as it is informative, the latest offering from University of California at Santa Barbara neuroscientist Gazzaniga (The Ethical Brain) will please a diverse array of readers.” (Washington Examiner)

“Sweeping, erudite and humorous. . . If you are looking for one book that gives you a Cook’s Tour of the human brain, where it came from and where it is heading, this would be an excellent choice.” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

About the Author

Michael S. Gazzaniga is the director of the SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the president of the Cognitive Neuroscience Institute, the founding director of the MacArthur Foundation's Law and Neuroscience Project, and a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Academy of Sciences. He lives in California.

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