Who's in Charge?

Who's in Charge?

Free Will and the Science of the Brain

Book - 2011
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"The "father of cognitive neuroscience" makes a powerful and provocative argument against today's common wisdom that our lives are wholly determined by physical processes we cannot control"--
Published: New York, NY : HarperCollins, c2011.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780061906107
0061906107
Branch Call Number: 612.8233 GAZ
Characteristics: 260 p. :,ill. ;,24 cm.

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Jun 26, 2017

People who find themselves thinking along the lines (or even very sympathetic to) of 'as an X person, I think that I have been discriminated against' or anything similar to it, should carefully read pgs. 85ff.
The book starts off (about the first 30 to 40 pages) with pages filled with things like 'Dr. T and his associates Drs. P, H, and N at the University of L...' and then summarizes their discovery. It certainly could have used some more editing there. Thankfully that ends soon.
Its a well structured book, considering brain structures, whole persons, the cognitive aspects of sociality, and finally the law, dealing mostly with responsibility and punishment. The last third of the book is by far the best part. There is an excellent section (pg. 195-199) outlining the shortcomings of brain scanning and their analysis.
There are some disturbing things one learns from it: people who believe in determinism cheat more, transgress more rules, are less generous, and more selfish; people who believe (or are primed to believe) in determinism give less punishment than those that do not. It also clearly states that determinism is true. Now, most people who would read a book like this are probably much more intelligent than most, and more likely to earn more and have higher social status, and be more likely to be in a position of legitimate authority. What would happen to social stability if they behave hypocritically? or even merely tend to? (It seems that they already are).

rebekah_1209 Jun 19, 2012

Very interesting subject matter that crosses from pure science to pure philosophy.

roaddogg09 Dec 05, 2011

The free will debate as of late has piqued my interest. Author Sam Harris has written about it on his blog, along with other philosophers and scientists. Most have come to the consensus that we are not the arbiter of our actions; there isn't a "self" controlling our actions. Neuroscience has been able to show that our concept of self is an emergent property of the brain, and given this, a libertarian version of free will is an illusion.

Gazzaniga has done a wonderful job presenting the most up-to-date research in neuroscience and evolutionary psychology to argue that free will is an illusion and that we are still responsible agents. As he argues, even though most of our thoughts and actions are caused by unconscious processes (because conscious processes take time and energy), responsibility comes from the interactions between people, not in brains themselves.

Most of the book is dedicated to laying out the data and making the case that neuroscience gives us a fully physical view of how the brain works and how mind emerges out of it. From this, he shows that determinism is only half-correct, and finally, he shows why, even though our actions aren't consciously caused, we are still responsible for our actions. Gazzaniga even does a little political philosophy by showing how neuroscience will effect the future of law.

Many will claim that this book reduces humans to mere collections of atoms moving through time and interacting. This is a mistake, as Gazzaniga shows. Even though neuroscience, and science in general, cuts away at all the nonsense and makes our existence purely physical, this doesn't mean love or joy is less valuable or not worth attaining. The opposite is true.

This isn't the final word on the free will debate, but the information contained in this book, and the humor, is well worth the investment.

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