Haidt & Gazzinaga on E. O. Wilson

E. O. Wilson’s latest book, The Social Conquest of Earth, has generated the usual firestorm. Wilson couldn’t publish a bus schedule without complaints from a large group of angry scientists who prefer the train.

So it’s a little unusual to encounter so close together two predominately positive references to Wilson.

The first is admiring passages in Jonathan Haidt’s new book, The Righteous Self. (Review to come — I’m still reading.) The second is last week’s Wall Street Journal article, “Evolution Revolution,” by Michael Gazzaniga.
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A free discussion of free will

Despite its frequent academic navel gazing and elitist condescension, The Chronicle Review manages to publish some pieces of broader scope and interest.

This time they’ve outdone themselves, producing a series of six short but engrossing articles on the subject of “free will.”

The articles, published online March 18th,  feature scientists, philosophers, and moralizers of various stripes– and these authors assume as wide a range of positions on the subject at hand. Taken together, the six short pieces are a useful summary of the key free will questions. Continue reading

Are human brains unique?

The point is that any human activity can be seemingly atomized.
But to be swooned by such a fact is to miss the point of human experience.
Michael Gazzaniga

Last time, I reported on Stanislas Dehaene’s speculation that we have higher-order consciousness because the brain evolved a dynamic interactivity that goes far beyond the this-part-does-that structure of other mammal brains.

One top-shelf neuroscientist with complementary views is Michael Gazzaniga, who declared in Human: The Science Behind What Makes Your Brain Unique that our rush to identify cognitive equivalancies in other species is understandable but may be misdirected. Continue reading