Cover image for The undiscovered mind : how the human brain defies replication, medication, and explanation
The undiscovered mind : how the human brain defies replication, medication, and explanation
Horgan, John, 1953-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Free Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
325 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library RC343 .H636 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The mystery of human consciousness, of how and why we think, has stimulated heated scientific inquiries throughout the world. In The Undiscovered Mind, John Horgan interviews scientists engaged in every aspect of the search for answers -- including neuroscientists, Freudian analysts, behavioral geneticists, and artificial intelligence engineers -- and lays bare the weaknesses, fallacies, and, sometimes, the absurdities of their conclusions.

As he investigates everything from the effectiveness of Prozac and other treatments for mental disorders to the robot designed at MIT to replicate human thinking, Horgan dismantles the myth that science can establish a final theory of the mind. Engaging, witty, and profound, The Undiscovered Mind presents a persuasive argument that understanding the essence of human nature transcends the most sophisticated methods of scientific inquiry.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Extending the thesis touted in his End of Science (1996) that science will encounter limits to its discoveries, journalist Horgan addresses problems in neuroscience. Compounding them are the "fractiousness" of its investigators, among whose internecine factions Horgan gallivants in his trips to mind-science's research institutes and conferences. Populated by talk therapists, drug therapists, behavior geneticists, evolutionary psychologists, and psychiatrists, the field makes small advances in understanding the human mind, but Horgan questions whether they will ever add up to a genuine understanding of what occurs in our noggins. He explains how roadblocks like the "binding problem" (how the brain integrates disparate inputs into a single perception), or the "explanatory gap" (the suspicion that a physiological description of the brain is insufficient to explain consciousness) are as immovable as ever. Psychotherapy is another mental arena of which Horgan is skeptical. Their advocates and debunkers fight each other vigorously, while Horgan presents their arguments in an informative fashion that will engage those curious about the state of research into the subcranial world. --Gilbert Taylor

Publisher's Weekly Review

With a gadfly's stinging sense of human limitations, Horgan, author of the controversial and bestselling The End of Science, turns a quizzical eye to the claims of contemporary scientists, psychologists, philosophers and medical researchers who, through mind and brain science, hope to explain rationally human consciousness and behavior. His extraordinarily provocative and wide-ranging treatise moves from an analysis of modern social science's belief in the subjectivity of all research to a near apologia for Freud's profound skepticism of the scientific method, to an exposure of the reductionist claims of evolutionists, genetic theorists, psychopharmacology and cybernetics. During his rollicking stroll though the varied creeds that compose the terrain of consciousness studies, Horgan both educates and entertains. He employs anecdotes drawn from quirky personal encounters with leaders of consciousness theory, including Frederick Crews, an anti-Freudian who arrives at one meeting "dressed like an executioner"; Steven Hyman, the self-described "equal opportunity sceptic" who's the director of the National Institute of Medical Health; Peter Kramer, author of Listening to Prozac; and Harold Sackheim, a specialist in electroshock therapy. These anecdotes are complemented by Horgan's own erudition, which is considerable. Here is a writer equally at home with the canonical assertions of literary critic Harold Bloom and language philosopher Noam Chomsky's critique of Locke's epistemology and its subsequent behaviorist adherents. Horgan's light but never shallow journalistic style keeps his skepticism from descending into grim cynicism, and he concludes on an optimistic note: we are, he contends, capable of epiphanies that transcend the bonds of mere scientific method. How true, for readers of this contrarian, challenging book may themselves experience an epiphany as Horgan celebrates what he sees as the fundamental mystery of consciousness, of life, of the universe itself. Agent, John Brockman. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Horgan (The End of Science), an award-winning science journalist, decries the ambiguous and often contradictory nature of the "mind sciences" in his latest work. His skepticism encompasses the study of consciousness ("arguably the most intractable and impractical problem"), the effectiveness of psychological or physiological therapies for mental disorders (characterized by the "Dodo hypothesis" where "all of the therapies [seem] to be equally effective or equally ineffective"), and the misguided efforts of the artificial intelligence community to mimic human reasoning and decision-making. While many scientists have at least considered that the brain may never be capable of understanding itself, Horgan makes that possibility the central tenet of his book. By sifting through a glut of paradigms and ambiguous research findings, and listening to some of the key players in the field, Horgan reveals a disturbing lack of rigor in the disciplines and a "fractiousness of mind-science [that] sets it apart from other fields." Written in a style that will engage the general reader, this book will undoubtedly raise the hackles of the scientific community and provoke some very interesting dialog. For academic and public libraries.ÄLaurie Bartolini, Illinois State Lib., Springfield (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Writer Horgan describes his task as a "... constructive criticism of mind-science, which is potentially the most important of all scientific endeavors." First considered is the broadly construed concept of "treatment" embracing various forms of talk therapy from traditional Freudian psychoanalysis to recovered memory therapy, cognitive therapies, etc. Next examined are the psychopharmacological treatments such as lithium and Prozac, and finally a miscellany of approaches including electroconvulsive shock therapy, lobotomy, and the placebo effect. Since there seems little difference in the outcomes, the result is "The Dodo Effect," where "everybody has won and all shall have prizes." The answer to "Why Isn't Freud Dead" is that science has not delivered an obviously superior theory of, or therapy for, the mind. The reader is taken through the maze of artificial intelligence models, expert systems, Turing machines, rule-based algorithms, neural networks, quantum theories of consciousness, and the philosophy of the "New Mysterians." The result in this case is "The Humpty Dumpty Dilemma," where even as we become more adept at taking the brain apart, we are no better at putting it back together again. Horgan's sense of humor and "hopeful skepticism" make this provocative book a welcome addition to the literature. All levels. R. M. Davis; Albion College

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