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Tag: neuroscience

Review: Kevin J. Mitchell’s “Innate”

People who study the classic scientific debate between nature and nurture tend to reach some version of this conclusion: It’s complicated, both sides make significant contributions to human behavior, and we should never be too quick to attribute a particular outcome solely to genetic or environmental factors. Kevin J. Mitchell’s Innate doesn’t completely overturn this paradigm, but it definitely modifies [...]

Review: Peter F. Hamilton’s “Judas Unchained”

Peter F. Hamilton’s Commonwealth Saga would be a strong contender for the most disappointing work of science fiction I’ve ever read. This 2000-page duology, which begins with Pandora’s Star and concludes with Judas Unchained, reads like the product of an incorrigibly-garrulous and testosterone-poisoned 16-year-old boy with doctoral degrees in materials science and particle physics. It’s a dismal example of what happens when [...]

Review: Yuval Noah Harari’s “21 Lessons for the 21st Century”

Last week, I was one of the lucky audience members who witnessed a live discussion between Yuval Noah Harari and Sam Harris in San Francisco. Harris opened the conversation by saying, “So, Yuval, you have these books that just steamroll over all other books.” That’s pretty much how I felt about Harari’s two previous works, [...]

Review: Peter Godfrey-Smith’s “Other Minds”

As humanity finally learns (or is forced) to confront the reality and imminent dangers of climate change, we’re going to need every bit of mental flexibility and creativity we can muster. There has probably never been a moment in history when it was more critical for us to explore and appreciate types of intelligence different from [...]

Review: Cixin Liu’s “Remembrance of Earth’s Past”

Cixin’s Liu’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past is a perfect and peerless narrative achievement. Not only is it the best piece of science fiction I’ve ever read, but it would also be a strong contender for my favorite story of all time. I think that giving away any major plot points or world-building features would do a disservice [...]

Review: Antonio Damasio’s “The Strange Order of Things”

Antonio Damasio’s impact on my intellectual development would be difficult to overstate. I first encountered his work when I was assigned The Feeling of What Happens for a philosophy of mind course in college. That book fundamentally transformed how I understood myself as a thinking, feeling being, and when I read Self Comes to Mind a few years later, [...]

Review: Robert M. Sapolsky’s “Behave”

Books that examine the relationship between science and morality have become ubiquitous, so readers interested in these important subjects need to choose carefully. It is not an overstatement to say that one could do no better than to alight on Robert M. Sapolsky’s Behave. This engrossing, encyclopedic examination of the causal mechanisms that determine human behavior is [...]

Review: Daniel Suarez’s “Daemon”

The modern book market is oversaturated with technothrillers, so it’s always a risk to pick one from the pile and give it a whirl. Fortunately for me, one of my closest friends identified Daniel Suarez’s Daemon as one that would be worth my time. But even my high expectations couldn’t prepare me for how much I was [...]

Review: Yuval Noah Harari’s “Homo Deus”

“Who could heed the words of Charlie Darwin Fighting for a system built to fail Spooning water from their broken vessels As far as I can see there is no land” So sings Ben Knox Miller in The Low Anthem’s “Charlie Darwin,” one of the best songs I discovered during my college years. The track [...]

Review: Owen Flanagan’s “The Bodhisattva’s Brain”

It’s been nearly a decade since my favorite undergraduate philosophy professor introduced me to Owen Flanagan. Flanagan is part of a vibrant but relatively new philosophical niche: naturalized ethics. The field plumbs the depths of philosophical history, plucks out tidbits that harmonize with modern findings about the capabilities and constraints of the embodied mind and [...]