Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Tides of Mind by David Gelertner **

Don't be confused: not brain science. The Tides of Time: uncovering the spectrum of consciousness by computer scientist David Gelertner (61) unfortunately reminded me of How to Live Longer and Feel Better by Linus Pauling and many popular business books. Linus Pauling because his training and fame (Nobel Prize Chemistry 1954) gave him a platform to expound far and wide, beyond to realms of science, sometimes with success (Nobel Peace Prize 1962) and others without (vitamin C advocacy).

And business books? When I was in business school, I was advised that be proper way to read popular business books was introduction, first and last chapter. Scanning what came between was suggested to be optional.

The author often assumes the professorial voice making broad statements with no scientific support. Here is an example from a chapter on dreams reminiscent of Freud and the Old Testament, both of which are referenced.
“The dream demands total attention. The is no room (or not much) for anything else, and thus we reach pure being…” 
As someone who regularly experiences lucid dreaming knows, this is a romantic fantasy. This is not the brain science I was looking for. Could be my fault, for the book is cataloged as philosophy, psychology, religion, not brain science.

When this 21st century author revisits neuroses, years after Karen Horney and Sigmund Fried, he returns to repressed feelings, completely ignoring the modern science of brain chemistry and function. Psychology is moving beyond this basis for therapy and treatment.

What does he base these traditional explanations on? The bulk of his supporting evidence is from classical novels by great authors like Austen and Hemingway, not the imaging and biochemistry which is today's standard.

He closes with this strangely prescient statement:
"Nothing is sadder than an eminent thinker's making a fool of himself by explaining or denouncing things he doesn't understand."
If you are interested in theories of mind and consciousness, and don't mind theories based on introspection and novels, this could be the book for you. In a century where so many are doing hard observational science on this topic, I found this book to be oddly old fashion in the style of the brilliant Freud whom the author takes as one of his inspirations.

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