The Undiscovered Mind: How the Human Brain Defies Replication, Medication, and Explanation

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9780684865782: The Undiscovered Mind: How the Human Brain Defies Replication, Medication, and Explanation

Gray Matter Under Investigation

In his acclaimed book The End of Science, John Horgan ignited a firestorm of controversy about the limits of knowledge in a wide range of sciences. Now in The Undiscovered Mind he focuses on the single most important scientific enterprise of all -- the effort to understand the human mind.
Horgan takes us inside laboratories, hospitals, and universities to meet neuro-scientists, Freudian analysts, electroshock therapists, behavioral geneticists, evolutionary psychologists, artificial intelligence engineers, and philosophers of consciousness. He looks into the persistent explanatory gap between mind and body that Socrates pondered and shows that it has not been bridged. He investigates what he calls the "Humpty Dumpty dilemma," the fact that neuroscientists can break the brain and mind into pieces but cannot put the pieces back together again. He presents evidence that the placebo effect is the primary ingredient of psychotherapy, Prozac, and other treatments for mental disorders. As Horgan shows, the mystery of human consciousness, of why and how we think, remains so impregnable that to expect the attempts of scientific method and technology to penetrate it anytime soon is absurd.

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Review:

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

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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