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Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity Hardcover – 2011
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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
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Contrary to what evolutionary psychologists have argued, our behavior is not just determined by our biology. "The reduction of human life to a chain of programmed responses of modules to stimuli overlooks the complexity of everyday experience and the singularity of the situations we find ourselves in, to say nothing of the role of conscious deliberation." The human brain alone does not account for all our actions, our most private thoughts and our beliefs.
Religious belief is not the result of certain parts of the brain, so-called "God-spots". We are not just "hard-wired" for religious belief.
Darwinism cannot give a satisfactory answer to the questions: how did consciousness emerge, and what is consciousness for, anyway? When Darwinists teach that natural selection is random, and that we have evolved without any intelligent design or purpose, they still have to account for the emergence of humans who have consciousness, and seek for meaning and purpose in their lives. The logic of human development presupposes purpose. Atheists cannot explain the fact that we are purpose-seeking beings. We have the need to ask "Why?" We seek reasons. We are rational beings. Random natural selection does not explain this feature of life.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Raymond Tallis is on top form in this amazing book, expertly describing the complexity and the uniqueness of being human, whilst exposing scientism’s leanings towards understanding... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Tristan Sherwin
Tallis is wonderful. He is very funny and very profound throughout. He deals with high-level scientific theories and methods very clearly and does as good as one can in presenting... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Israel Lutes
Reading ‘Aping mankind’ by Raymond Tallis is entertaining and frustrating at the same time. On the one hand, Tallis delivers a justified criticism of popular (evolutionary)... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Bart Klink
This is an excellent, though lengthy, description of how what the author describes as Neuromania and Darwinitis, has missed the boat when it comes to defining that mystery of all... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Robert Y. Ellis
Tallis fights “Neuromania” (“the appeal to the brain, as revealed through the latest science, to explain our behaviour”) and “Darwinitis” (“an inflamed mode of Darwinian thought”),... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Dmitry Sepety
Amazing book balancing between sciences limits and over exaggerations.Published 17 months ago by YOYOyo
Where do I begin in reviewing a book I both liked and disliked? First, as I think the author may have intended, I found myself recoiling whenever he used the word 'beast'; it was... Read morePublished 18 months ago by Mike De Freitas