(Simon and Schuster), 1999
The Undiscovered Mind
, John Horgan, one of the America's
leading science journalists, questions the limits of science in
the quest to understand the human mind. He discusses achievements
and shortcomings of mind-related science and presents a brilliant
literature review and eloquent report on a number of scientific
convocations. He acquaints the reader with members of a divaricate
family of brain-related sciences: two "fraternal twins"
psychoanalysis and neuroscience, which engenders a number of next-order
"relatives" such as behavioral genetics, evolutionary
psychology, sociobiology, and cognitive science.
Mr. Horgan's portrayal is skeptical
about the future of psychoanalysis. In his view, it persists only
because "science has been unable to deliver an obviously superior
theory of the mind" and some contend that Freud's deep insights
into the human psyche are more literary than scientific in nature.
In fact, he contends, neuroscience has not yet overgrown its juvenile
age of dividing, separating, and analyzing.
Mr. Horgan discusses the effectiveness
of psychological treatment and the role of belief, shows how the
development of chemical treatment of psychoses has culminated in
the introduction of Prozac. However, a symbol of the limitations
of psychiatric drugs is the persistence of two notorious biological
treatments -- lobotomy and shock therapy.
The search for a gene for any
behavioral trait gave birth to behavioral genetics, selective breeding,
and identical twins studies. However, scientists have not been able
to agree on the role of heredity in the definition of such human
traits as intelligence. Nature and nurture (hereditary and environmental
factors) are entangled so tightly that they cannot be easily separated.
Mr. Horgan warns us against
a trend in evolutionary psychology that attempts to explain any
human behavior, including violence, racism, and sexism, through
evolutionary selection. Perhaps in the distant future, Mr. Horgan
muses, evolutionary psychology will answer the question about how
far evolution can take us.
The quest for "plain old
common sense" in the realm of the human mind led scientists
in search of "artificial common sense" and the creation
of artificial intelligence. However, Mr. Horgan contemplates, the
failure of artificial intelligence to mimic the mind reflects the
larger failure of psychology to comprehend it. The view that reason
and logic are the keys to intelligence is challenged by notions
that the complexity of biological behavior derives from an organism's
interaction with the environment. The mind's success is that it
employs many strategies for solving problems.
The Undiscovered Mind
is a combination of memorable case studies and powerful generalizations
written in the witty, earnest and enthusiastic manner of a passionate
investigator. Mr. Horgan introduces to us leading scientists, giving
highly visual and sympathetic portraits of every person. He presents
his own view of a variety of brain-related problems. Though some
of his points are removed and sarcastic, some much too biased, his
arguments are always appealing.
The future "Scientific
Savior" will have to arrange a welter of findings into finding
an order that has been elusive. So far only easy problems have been
solved. "Regardless of the power of our scientific explanations
of human consciousness," Mr. Horgan concludes, enough questions
will be left unanswered to keep us on a rapturous quest of understanding
ourselves for a long time to come.