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The Missing Moment: How the Unconscious Shapes Modern Science Hardcover – September 9, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-0395709856 ISBN-10: 0395709857 Edition: First Edition
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a stimulating critique of modern science, Pollack (Signs of Life), a Columbia University biology professor, challenges conventional notions of consciousness by arguing that the past is an inextricable component of the mind's grasp of the present. He begins with a look at sensation: our five senses, he maintains, are products of ancient choices, fixed in the human genome millions of years ago through natural selection. With a nod to Freud, whom he calls an experimental psychologist, Pollack then points to strong evidence that repressed memories, hidden from consciousness in untapped neural networks, do exist, setting the stage for conflicts in adult life. He also reports that within the past few years scientists have discovered how a 40-cycle-per-second wave, arising from deep inside the thalamus, sweeps through the entire brain, constantly binding together sensory information and memories. Synthesizing these findings, Pollack contends that our minds function only via continual reference to the past. The whole scientific enterprise, he argues, is just as prone to unconscious fears and fantasies as is any person. The collective myth of science and of biomedicine, in Pollack's diagnosis, involves misplaced beliefs in the omnipotence of rational thought, absolute control over nature and triumph over death. With eloquence and wit, he contends that biomedicine's heroic goals of beating infectious microbes into total submission, of eradicating cancer and of dramatically extending life expectancy should give way to emphasis on disease prevention and methods to slow the aging process. Full of liberating insights, his provocative study calls on hard-core rationalists, establishment physicians, behaviorists, neurobiologists and life-extension researchers to rethink entrenched positions. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In the half-second between a physical stimulus and its conscious perception, Pollack (biology, Columbia Univ.) explains, the signal passes first through the unconscious. There, it filters through stored memories and primal experiences. This psychological process affects the substance of thought itself and, by extension, scientific research. According to Pollack, the bias of modern medicine toward aggressive and intrusive treatment over prevention and support is, at root, an unconscious denial of human mortality. Separately, both of these main points are compelling; Pollack's emphasis on the role of the unconscious in the workings of the mind and senses expounds upon an often overlooked field. Likewise, his manifesto for more humane medical sciences should be taken seriously. The putative connection between the two seems strained, however, and diminishes Pollack's other excellent discussions somewhat. For academic and larger public libraries.AGregg Sapp, Univ. of Miami Lib., Coral Gables, FL
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (September 9, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395709857
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395709856
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,018,720 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 23, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book is truly a thinker's delight. It challenges traditional notions of science and examines our 'scientific' pursuits in relation to our own consciousness. This is a book that is instrumental in our evolution as we develop into more self-conscious beings in the future. Another delightful book that discusses this phenomenon so clearly and interestingly is 'The Ever-Transcending Spirit' by Toru Sato. It explains this material in relation to human relationships as well. I must say that both books are quite astounding if you are a true thinker.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By D. Cloyce Smith on August 10, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Pollack's fascinatingly presented--and infuriatingly argued--book makes two contentions: that medical science spends most of its efforts on defying the inevitability of death (rather than preventing disease and alleviating suffering), and that the reason for this lopsided strategy is a collective unconscious fear of death by most health professionals. "The Missing Moment" of the title refers both metaphorically to the gap between knowledge and wisdom and literally to the half second during which unconscious machinations affect and transform the thoughts and actions of everyone--including scientists.
Pollack's first argument is expertly and cogently presented in, strangely enough, the second half of the book. The author discusses infectious diseases, cancer, and aging; he convincingly (and rightly) shows that the medical establishment has come to rely too heavily on antibiotics to cure infection (rather than vaccines to achieve deterrence), risky and painful procedures to treat cancer (rather than behavioral and environmental changes to prevent it), and attempts to delay death (rather than efforts to improve the quality of one's remaining life). The informative notes are not to be skipped, and a must-read appendix outlines Pollack's views for a more humane medical agenda.
In the first half of the book, however, Pollack dilutes the force of his appeal by waving a Freudian wand and suggesting that health professionals are blinded by a collective unconscious desire: their own fear of death.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The Missing Moment is a fascinating book. It sweeps through different areas of biology and psychology with all the excitement a professor giddy about his field can muster. The book begins by laying a theme of the human condition's impact on where science is going and where it's been. He goes into a an interesting description of the senses and the roles they play in our interaction with the world, while also touching on the "magical" half-second delay (better explained in books like Tor Norretranders' The User Illusion). After this, he delves into a little more psychology and tries to show explicitly why science is handicapped (or bolstered, he lets the user decide for himself) by the brain's unique perspective of the world.
One complaint: he doesn't seem to follow the initial goal he sets for himself in the book's first few sections. The several latter chapters, while extremely interesting and pointed, laced delicately throughout by fascinating personal anecdotes, miss the book's central point by a noticeable amount. But, this by no means detracts from its overall message, just cuts into it a bit. The book is still marvelously fascinating and really gives the reader an illuminating perspective on the three pound universe lurking between his ear drums.
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By Steven Ravett Brown on December 10, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Silly book, don't buy it if you're a professional in the field.
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