- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Free Press (November 14, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0684865785
- ISBN-13: 978-0684865782
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 33 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #257,108 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Undiscovered Mind: How the Human Brain Defies Replication, Medication, and Explanation
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What are the limits of self-knowledge? Acclaimed science writer John Horgan takes a penetrating look into the world of neuroscience in The Undiscovered Mind, a follow-up to his more general The End of Science. Already pessimistic about the long-term prospects for the grand endeavor of scientific progress, he finds even more reason for skepticism about the claims of those who study the brain and the mind. Will we ever cross the explanatory gap between our reductionist neuroanatomical knowledge and our everyday awareness of the qualities of our perceptions, thoughts, and feelings? Horgan's answer is no.
He's no neo-Luddite, though--his aim is not to disillusion the public, not to reduce funding, but to address the hubris of the neuroscientists, evolutionary psychologists, and artificial-intelligence researchers who all proclaim a new golden age just around the corner thanks to an imminent grand unified theory of consciousness, a theory Horgan believes unlikely and far off at best. His clear, entertaining prose is more conversational than polemic, and his verbal portraits of luminaries such as Eric Kandel and Lewis Wolpert make for engrossing, thoughtful reading. Even if you disagree with him, as many neuroscientists do, his point of view is refreshing and challenging, and hence well worth consideration. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
With a gadfly's stinging sense of human limitations, Horgan, author of the controversial and bestselling The End of Science, turns a quizzical eye to the claims of contemporary scientists, psychologists, philosophers and medical researchers who, through mind and brain science, hope to explain rationally human consciousness and behavior. His extraordinarily provocative and wide-ranging treatise moves from an analysis of modern social science's belief in the subjectivity of all research to a near apologia for Freud's profound skepticism of the scientific method, to an exposure of the reductionist claims of evolutionists, genetic theorists, psychopharmacology and cybernetics. During his rollicking stroll though the varied creeds that compose the terrain of consciousness studies, Horgan both educates and entertains. He employs anecdotes drawn from quirky personal encounters with leaders of consciousness theory, including Frederick Crews, an anti-Freudian who arrives at one meeting "dressed like an executioner"; Steven Hyman, the self-described "equal opportunity sceptic" who's the director of the National Institute of Medical Health; Peter Kramer, author of Listening to Prozac; and Harold Sackheim, a specialist in electroshock therapy. These anecdotes are complemented by Horgan's own erudition, which is considerable. Here is a writer equally at home with the canonical assertions of literary critic Harold Bloom and language philosopher Noam Chomsky's critique of Locke's epistemology and its subsequent behaviorist adherents. Horgan's light but never shallow journalistic style keeps his skepticism from descending into grim cynicism, and he concludes on an optimistic note: we are, he contends, capable of epiphanies that transcend the bonds of mere scientific method. How true, for readers of this contrarian, challenging book may themselves experience an epiphany as Horgan celebrates what he sees as the fundamental mystery of consciousness, of life, of the universe itself. Agent, John Brockman. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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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.