- 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 (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,303,730 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Missing Moment: How the Unconscious Shapes Modern Science First Edition Edition
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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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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. Although Pollack discusses some fascinating aspects of how the mind works and how it affects human behavior, he is not a psychotherapist and--more to the point--he did not examine the scientists he is analyzing in anything resembling a clinical setting (other than, I gather, to read their publications and mingle with them at conferences).
Completing lacking from his analysis is either proof that the research conducted by most scientists is motivated primarily by an unconscious fear of death (rather than any of a dozen other intentions) or--more important--a causal connection between that fear and their research. There are dozens of possible, obvious reasons the medical establishment pursues its death-defying agenda--and Pollack simply ignores all of them. For example, a cynic would cite the profit motive: after all, the amount of money made on preventing or curing smallpox last year was exactly $0.00, while trillions were made by corporations on medicines that treat or cure (rather than prevent or eradicate) most other diseases. Or, alternatively, an idealist might point out that devoting the resources of the last two decades to finding an AIDS vaccine would barbarically have required doctors to abandon the hundreds of thousands of people whose immune systems were already compromised. As Pollack himself points out in his appendix, "the purpose of medicine [is] to alleviate or cure the suffering of a person already here among us"--by concentrating first on the development of protease inhibitors and other treatments, isn`t that exactly what scientists did (however myopic it might seem to us now)?
What's baffling about Pollack's attempt at collective psychotherapy is that it is not essential to his basic agenda--changing the priorities of the world's health systems. The net effect is that his intriguing and humane entreaty is undermined by the alienation most of his colleagues must experience when reading his blanket condemnation of their motives.
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.