- Hardcover: 400 pages
- Publisher: Acumen; 1 edition (2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1844652726
- ISBN-13: 978-1844652723
- Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 22 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,534,561 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity 1st Edition
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"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).
Top customer reviews
Perhaps the most effective part of his critique is that which deals with "neuromania" and its dependence upon fMRI brain scans. Tallis defends the view that the mind is not the brain, and that brain scans reveal nothing of interest about mental activity beyond a vague correlation - yes, our neurons do fire when we think, but no, this is not what thinking actually is.
There is also a valuable and enlightening discussion of what makes humans different from the other animals. Tallis relies upon commonsense here, but also highlights the idea that humans are explicit animals. The striking idea that a human tool is a "sign of itself" - in other words, it looks like a designed artifact rather than something sculpted by nature - was worth much more space than he gives it. This may provide a key to understanding the whole network of signs and symbols, the objects and practices that transcend animal awareness and provide the basis for human existence.
Raymond Tallis is a fascinating philosopher whose latest work is stylish, provocative, and intellectually rewarding. Four stars.
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.
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. Tallis convincingly demonstrates why evolutionary psychology and its spin-offs neuroaesthetics, neuroethics, neurolaw and neurotheology, among others, are thoroughly misguided (and in part dangerous) pseudo-science -- even if some of the studies have been published in the most reputable top scientific journals like Nature and Science. He also refutes the popular but unfounded idea that the human mind is (like) a computer, and shows how hollow the assertion is that one day computers may acquire consciousness once they are "complex enough". Tallis affirms that the mind is not identical with the brain, but that it is far more than just the brain. His arguments to that effect, which do not invoke an immaterial soul, are original, and while I do not by any means think they tell the entire story, they certainly appear to have considerable merit.
Tallis also affirms the profound and common-sense reality of human freedom, against all the facile and pseudo-scientific dismissals, born from nothing more than plain naturalistic dogma, that it is just an illusion of our brains. He tries to argue for freedom from the perspective of intentionality which, he appears to think, simply allows us to somehow step back from the laws of nature and make choices by "aligning ourselves for our means" with one law or another. Yet Tallis treats intentionality as a brute given, and it seems hard to envision how intentionality, even from his particular view of how the mind is more than just the brain, somehow might escape the web of determinism without the assumption of an immaterial soul. This section appears rather contrived, and to me clearly shows some of the limitations of an atheistic world view. Tallis shines the right light on the common-sense reality of human freedom and he does it so well; the more stunning it seems how his solution appears so flawed. Yet this is an exception in a book that is otherwise soundly reasoned (a few remarks here and there also reveal a crude lack of understanding of theistic philosophy; yet these remarks are not directly relevant to the ideas discussed in the book).
Tallis rightfully rejects scientism, the silly and dogmatic idea that science is the only valid source of human knowledge and understanding (just like him, I reject the idea also as a scientist, knowing the limitations of science). He restores proper authority to philosophy which, while it should be informed by science, is not subservient to it. Interestingly, while as an atheist the author repeatedly dismisses dualism and what he calls "supernaturalism" as unnecessary alternative, he ultimately has to admit that he has no good explanation for the mysteries of the human mind himself -- which puts into question if dualism is really as unnecessary an alternative as he wants it to be. It makes the impression that Tallis does protest a bit too much. It is refreshing, however, that he exhibits the intellectual honesty, the profound philosophical thought and the common sense to admit to these mysteries, rather than being content with modern materialistic pseudo-explanations.
This book should be considered mandatory reading for atheists who are interested in genuine reasoning about the reality of the uniqueness of the human mind, rather than in superficial pseudo-scientific reasoning that is rooted in Neuromania and in a simplistic biologism that seeks to minimize what distinguishes us from the remainder of the animal world, including apes. It should also be considered mandatory reading for theists who want to inform themselves how a convincing case can be made that evolutionary psychology, Neuromania and Darwinitiis are terribly mistaken, simply by reasoning "from within", without having to invoke an immaterial soul (I do believe that correct philosophy about human rationality and freedom is ultimately impossible without the concept of a soul, but that is another issue). Be prepared though to invest some mental energy into following the arguments, which can be demanding at times. But it is worth it.
I recommend this well-reasoned and exciting book in the highest terms.