Cover image for Man, beast, and zombie : what science can and cannot tell us about human nature
Title:
Man, beast, and zombie : what science can and cannot tell us about human nature
Author:
Malik, Kenan, 1960-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New Brunswick, N.J. : Rutgers University Press, [2000, 2002]

©2000, 2002
Physical Description:
x, 470 pages ; 25 cm
General Note:
Originally published: London : Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2000.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780813531229
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

A fascinating examination of what science can and cannot explain about human nature.

Are humans unique? Can animals think as we do? Will machines ever have consciousness? What is free will? For centuries, attempts to answer these questions have been the stuff of both bar-room debates and intense theological and philosophical dispute. Now scientists claim they can solve these riddles of human existence once and for all. In so doing, they promise to upset many of the accepted ideas about morality and human nature.

Man, Beast, and Zombie is an original and accessible book. Vast in its scope, it draws on cutting-edge sciences such as evolutionary biology, cognitive psychology, and artificial intelligence to assess what, precisely, science can and cannot explain about human nature. Kenan Malik explains the histories of these sciences (and the philosophies that underpin them) and analyzes the complex relationship between human beings, animals, and machines to explore what really makes us human.

Malik demonstrates that much current thinking about human nature is flawed: how there is more than one way to design a mind; why the lifestyles of contemporary hunter-gatherers do not illuminate the lives of our prehistoric ancestors; and what intelligent machines really reveal about human consciousness. He shows, too, how the scientific debate about human nature is as influenced by politics as by science.

Man, Beast, and Zombie is both a defense of scientific reason and a challenge to some of todays most cherished scientific theories. It deftly interweaves philosophy, science, and history to answer the most fundamental question of all: what is a human being?


Reviews 1

Choice Review

Malik (formerly, Sussex Univ.) provides a fresh and comprehensive treatment of humanness, interweaving the realms of the science of human nature, evolutionary biology, and the science of the mind into a thorough analysis of this complicated issue. Historical aspects of sociobiology, psychology, and biology and evolution, along with their leading researchers and theorists, are given extensive attention. Scientific investigations and knowledge must be viewed within cultural and social contexts. The relationships between humans, animals, and machines are considered. The author refutes thinkers and researchers who attempt to singularly view humans as sophisticated animals, or as beasts, and human minds as machines, or humans as zombies. As symbolic creatures with language, self-awareness, and social existence, all closely interconnected, the human experience is unlike any other, as is the human mind. Our consciousness and our rationality are vital for the quest for our scientific knowledge and political conduct. The author encourages us to have greater confidence or nerve to see ourselves more as humans than either beasts or zombies. Chapter notes and references (40 pages); 27 pages of bibliography. Appropriate for upper-division undergraduates through faculty. J. N. Muzio emeritus, CUNY Kingsborough Community College