Reader Michael P. alerted us to this book review from the good doctor that we missed. In his analysis of Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman, Dalrymple again dissents from those who claim to have plucked out the heart of mankind’s mystery.
Here is an addition to the fast-growing genre of books that claim scientific authority for the idea that we are, at base, not much different from the bacteria. Of course, this idea depends on what we consider important, and importance is a non-natural quality. Over and over again, the author stresses the insignificance of self-consciousness and self-reflexivity. He is both right and wrong to do so. It is perfectly true that an awful lot goes on in our nervous system (and elsewhere in our bodies) of which we are unaware; it could hardly be otherwise. But it is also true that a plug is only a tiny proportion of a bath’s mass or volume. This does not make it unimportant, at least for a bath’s most obvious functions.….Modern neurosciences, he tells us, complete the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions. The earth is no longer the centre of the universe, and man is no longer the paragon of animals. ‘A mere 400 years after our fall from the center of the universe’, he tells us confidently, ‘we have experienced the fall from the center of ourselves’.But the whole argument of his book is that there is no ‘we’ to fall, because there is no ‘I’; there has never been an I, it is an impossibility that there should have been. But if we are capable of falling from the centre of ourselves, we must exist; therefore there is no metaphysical need for us to deny our own existence.