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Book recommendation for “Aping Mankind” by Raymond Tallis, FMedSci, FRCP, FRSA

 

APING MANKIND coverIf you have kept up with the flurry of books and papers on the nature of consciousness published in just the past decade alone, then you probably are under the impression that neuroscientists have made an overwhelmingly convincing case for brain activity as the source of consciousness and all else that is associated with this (“We are our brains”). And surely evolutionary psychologists have nailed down the most likely evolutionary influences and players that gave rise to key human mental and psychological traits. If you are tempted to say “Well, yes they have” to both, I want you to buy, beg or borrow a copy of “Aping Mankindby Dr. Raymond Tallis and give it a thoughtful, careful read. By the time you finish perusing it, you will probably find your confidence badly shaken.

Mind you, Dr. Tallis’s critical literary tour-de-force is informed by his own rich academic and professional background in medicine, clinical neuroscience and philosophy. And, he is an atheist (He thus came to his thesis without religious convictions or sentiments).

And, just in case there is someone reading this who suspects Dr. Tallis is a creationist or is in any way sympathetic to such pseudoscientific nonsense, he is most empathetically not.

“Aping Mankind” ably tackles (what Dr. Tallis terms) “Neuromania” and “Darwinitis” with hard-hitting reasoning and arguments based on secular science and empiricism, logic, and good sense. In addition, Dr. Tallis’s book serves as a powerful reminder that in science nothing is forever settled or final; which is to say, even well-established principles, theories or laws can be overturned by sufficiently compelling contrary evidence.

Summer Cloud gives “Aping Mankind” 5 out of 5 stars.

© 2017 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.

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Terrorist beheadings and other forms of inflicted, violent death: Are victims aware of what is happening around them after their heart and lungs have stopped working?

The many beheadings carried out by insurgents in Iraq during the past year or so not unexpectedly generated expressions of revulsion and denunciation far and wide. It is difficult for all but the most callous souls not to feel pangs of anguish for those who have been dealt this grisly fate. No doubt many of you have at one time or another found yourself trying to imagine the thoughts and feelings of the victims prior to and during decapitation. And then thinking, “Were they aware of anything following this despicable act?”

This concern has a lot to do with our human capacity to emphasize and sympathize with others, but there is an element of “enlightened self-interest” in our curiosity and even fascination with dying and death. When we ask “What did that poor soul experience?”, we are in some way seeking in the death of others some idea of what we might sense or think or visualize as we go through our own final, irreversible “systems failure”.

Modern science has amassed a great deal of evidence that the dying brain can and often does generate a wide range of images and such, not unexpectedly reflective of individual beliefs, expectation, and history. But what of the period immediately following cessation of heart and lungs? For example, does the brain of a just severed head continue to function?

Consider this account tendered by a French physician named Beaurieux who attended the state-sanctioned guillotining of a criminal named Languille during the early morning hours of June 28th, 1905 (France abolished the death penalty in 1981):

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