Auburn, WA, United States | Member Since 2008
is being aware of what the truth is in any given moment..." This is perhaps the most pivotal line in Sam Harris' challenging essay on lying and truth telling. We must first be perfectly honest with ourselves before we can be honest with others. (Consider Emily Dickinson's "...we hide ourselves behind ourselves..." or a line from the sitcom "Community:" the biggest lies are told six inches from the bathroom mirror...") Then it all boils down to "do unto others." Harris very poignantly asked us how we would want people to deal with us on a daily basis. All, right, in way, we want politicians to "tell us what we want to hear," but if we go by rule one, being aware of the truth in any given moment, wouldn't we want the truth always given to us straight? Of course, where we are going to cringe is not with extramarital affairs, financial cheats and calculated harm, but rather with the everyday, work-a-day social lying. "Do I look good in this dress?..." "Does my son's behavior bother you?..." "Are you free to come to my party on Friday night?..." Harris makes a compelling argument--if one not all of us are probably going to run out and implement immediately--that the truth can be told in ALL situations, that these little social situations can be handled TACTFULLY, but that tactfully doesn't have to skirt the truth. In a writing class I teach based in Theories Of Morality, I tell this true story: One evening, I was teaching a five-hour block of college English classes, and it was 6:50, and I had not had any dinner and only a fairly sparse lunch. My only chance was to get to the student union and the commissary for a quick slice of dried out pizza before it closed at 7:00 and my next class started. I had ten minutes to cram some bad food in my mouth before pressing on to my next class, and a female student was leisurely strolling beside me, speaking to me about a personal manner of no earth-shattering import. I was trying to be polite and listen and respond appropriately, barely able to make out the words being spoken for the screams of hunger my body was giving forth. The student would not pick up the pace or pick up the silent visual cues that usually say "all right, got to get going! [we are done here]." And so, automatically, with no due calculation, I said, smiling gently and touching her on the arm, "you know, I have to hurry by the office to get some papers real quick before my next classes, can I catch you later?" With that, I darted toward Salish Hall, and then, when out of sight of the student, I made a mad dash for the union and got my pizza. At the time, I rationalized that this was simply sparing the student hearing, "getting a slice of crusty, sun-lamp desiccated veggie is more important right now than listening to you babble on!" But Harris says I was not being polite, but rather lazy. And it's true. I could have carefully and tactfully explained my situation to the student in the time it took to reroute to Salish and then back to the union. The small becomes the big after all, and we should not get too used to misrepresenting things, or, before long, we ]might take to George Costanza's immortal [immoral] advice to Jerry: "it's not a lie, if you believe it."
Exercise makes you feel better and perform better. Exercise is the best treatment for depression and can replace many meds with harmful side effects. About all that can be said about this is...it's about time!
A comprehensive study of Emerson! How long have we been waiting for that! Back in the 90's, I read everything by Emerson, the essays, the poetry, the travel books, absolute every delicious metaphor and trope. I have read bios of the man before, but none so in-depth and comprehensive as this marvelous volume. If Emerson had written a formal autobiography, I suspect it would have been much like this book. An absolute must read for the Emerson fan!
I have encountered Graziano's "Attention Schema" theory of consciousness before in other books, but this volume explains it thoroughly and decisively. While it comes somewhat short of the Holy Grail of the FINAL EXPLANATION of what makes us conscious--one questions if such a thing is ever at last possible, any more than the fish explaining how its bowl was made, ultimately unable to escape its confines--Attention Theory is about the best psychological and neurological theory that we have at present. It is a definite step forward over all former theories. A book well worth reading.
refuting the notion of the Tabula Rasa (Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate, Nicolas Wade's A Troublesome Inheritance, and Edward O. Wilson's On Human Nature, for example), Moalem's Inheritance continues this idea with an important twist: she shows not only how genes shape how we respond to the environment but also explores how the environment shapes the gene. Cutting edge and well written. An important read.
of the neo-Darwinean movement. If you know the work of Pinker, Dawkins, Dennett, Wright and other writers who have expounded on the evidence that an innate, biological human nature is a real and tangible thing (as opposed to the concept of the "blank slate" put forth most famously by Skinner, Watkins and the behaviorists during the early part of the century), you should know the work of Edward O. Wilson, a man who was so far ahead of the now accepted modern decriers of the "tabula rasa" that his early work was deemed scientific heresy. Wilson does not deny the influence of the environment on the genetic basis of human nature, but wipes away the absurd notion that a human being is shaped soley and absolutely by culture and surroundings. On Human Nature is a fine summation of his main ideas and comes highly recommended from these quarters.
First, I guess I, unlike the other reviewer, did not find the narrator "cocky," nor could I imagine how that could influence the listening to a book on neurology... That aside, the book itself contains a lot of important, if basic, ideas about neurology and the current knowledge concerning human consciousness. It tends, perhaps, to be a bit on the computational side of things, but the theories presented here are pretty sound. (There is debate as to what extend the mind really works like a computer, and I am one who is more in the Jonathan Haidt camp, believing that the mind is more complex, and much more emotionally driven, than the computational model allows for--listen to a couple of books by Haidt after finishing with this one.) I would recommend this as a beginning or even as an intermediate book on consciousness and neurology. Michael Gazziniga or Rhawn Joseph (the latter not yet in audiobook) might be better advanced studies in this subject.
than the other reviewer concerning what this book is--and isn't about. Just to start, it is NOT a book about religion, so interest in religion is not a prerequisite. It is a book about genetic inheritance. (I read this book on the heels of Wade's very compelling A Troublesome Inheritance, in which he discusses race/society and genetics.) Taking up the work up Pinker, Newberg and other neo-Darwinians with a neurological bent, Wade explores the biological tendencies toward religious and philosophical thought. Brain science has shown that those with greater right temporal lobe development tend to have greater religious tendencies than others and that those with right temporal lobe epilepsy tend to experience great flights of fancy, philosophical and artistic insights--and religious visions (think Van Gogh). Now, does this mean religion is the representation of an empirical reality? Of course not! It simply means humans are evolutionarily geared for ideas about philosophical and religious principles, and, for that, reason (sorry Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Richard Dawkins!) religion, for good or for bad, is probably not going away any time soon. But there is no value judgment here, simply a description of the tendency in humans for religion. As I said of Newberg's The Spiritual Brain: there are two groups of people who will misunderstand this book--the religious...and the non-religious.
For decades, feminists railed against the very idea that there were any fundamental biological differences in males and females that would influence basic behavior and social roles (despite clear knowledge about the roles of testosterone and estrogen on behavior!), and along came brain science and showed that yes, there are differences in the male and female brains that lead to different behavioral and social tendencies. And now the same for race. Here is the simple fact, PC or not, like it or not: the closer you are to any group genetically, the more you are going to be like that group. Don't like it? Complain to God or the Big Bang or Darwin. Genetics are genetics. Now, does this excuse things like prejudice, social engineering, genecide? Of course not. Does this mean that there is NO role that envirornment plays in development? Of course not. Does this mean that every woman is the same as every other woman and that every black person is exactly the same as the next? Of course not. It does mean that biology plays a big role in behavior and that the closer you are to someone genetically, the more of their behavioral tendencies you will inherit. That's science. Live with it.
Definitely not the author's best work. And this story is only twenty minutes. Then you get five minutes of music and ads! What the crap???
I found Fallon at times the slightest bit self-indulgent (should we expect otherwise, given the theme?), but, for the most part, this is an interesting and entertaining book. If you want something more serious and scientific, read Without Conscience or The Science Of Evil, but this book serves nicely for an up-to-date primer for the neurology of psychopathy, and it also serves its purpose well: the story of one man's dealing with the realization that he has the brain structure and innate tendencies of the very people he has been studying for years: the psychopath.
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