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The Undiscovered Mind: How the Human Brain Defies Replication, Medication, and Explanation
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Jim Holt The Wall Street Journal The Undiscovered Mind is full of fascinating vignettes in which noted brain researchers are caught thinking out loud....Riveting [and] eye-opening.
Walter A. Brown Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Brown University School of Medicine and Tufts University School of Medicine John Horgan has done it again. In this rich, irreverent, thorough, and entertaining tour of mind-science, Horgan makes complicated lines of research accessible and compelling.
Abraham Verghese Chicago Tribune Compelling....The Undiscovered Mind is a well-researched and important book.
About the Author
John Horgan is the author of The End of Science, a U.S. bestseller that has been translated into ten languages. He has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Times (London), The New Republic, Lingua Franca, Slate, The Sciences, and Discover, among other publications in the United States and Europe. He lives in Garrison, New York.
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Freudian theory is unable to validate its concepts scientifically. Freudian psychoanalysis, as well other psychotherapies find it difficult to demonstrate and empirically prove their clinical benefits. Similarly, psychiatric drugs struggle to validate the principles of how they work and science has yet to provide uncontroversial evidence that they are effective in treating most kinds of mental illness. Scientists have been unable to identify any specific genes that can be attributed to causing significant human mental capacities such as intelligence or mental disorders such as schizophrenia. Evolutionary psychology provides explanations of human behaviours that can be made to fit any type of observed widespread human behaviour. Artificial intelligence is unable to model "common sense" human reasoning and other 'simple' human behaviours. Consciousness researchers are unable to bridge the "explanatory gap" between consciousness as a physical process and consciousness as subjective 'felt' experience. None of Horgan's criticisms are either new or unexpected (especially the criticisms of Freudian psychoanalysis). Current trends in theories of gene expression in human behaviour now tend toward understanding epigenetic processes and may have steered science clear of some of the arguments against the simplistic genetic causes of behaviour that Horgan critiques. Nonetheless, Horgan's critique of mind sciences is to me entirely valid almost 15 years on. I would recommend this book to anyone looking to discover what is really the state of play in the sciences of the mind beyond the hyperbole and "neuro-bunk" we often see in the media.
The strength of this book is that Horgan was very careful about going to representative sources in each science, to show each in its best light rather than simply debunking them. This results in a very good review of basic neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, psychotherapy, psychopharmaceutical effectiveness, and other research areas of importance that claim to tell us something fundamental about ourselves. We don't get the sense in this book that Horgan is simply arbitrarily skeptical of science, but that he respects what science can accomplish yet finds some aspects of reality simply beyond our ken. Seemingly reasonable, yet easy to forget when we get caught up in the excitement over the stream of promising new findings from research.
The weakness of this book is that he doesn't give any indication at all that any view of the mind is better or more useful than any other, something of profound importance when we try to make decisions on what is known, such as deciding what to do when feeling overwhelmed and unsure of our sanity. The reader might be left at the end of the book in frustration with the conclusion that we don't really know _anything_ at all about the mind and brain, which wouldn't be true, even according to the contents of Horgan's books. It does however deserve a place on the bookshelf of anyone who suspects that we don't know everything yet, and who wants to better understand where the limits of our knowledge of the mind are now. It will probably attract many skeptics of science, but its real value is to remind scientists of our own limitations and the depth of the mysteries of nature.
Most recent customer reviews
With wit and depth of reporting he shows just how far off we are from understanding the mind.