Synopses & Reviews
One of our most brilliant social critics — author of the bestselling The Middle Mind
— presents a scathing critique of the “delusions” of science alongside a rousing defense of the tradition of Romanticism and the “big” questions.
With the rise of religion critics such as Richard Dawkins, and of pseudo-science advocates such as Malcolm Gladwell and Jonah Lehrer, you’re likely to become a subject of ridicule if you wonder “Why is there something instead of nothing?” or “What is our purpose on earth?” Instead, at universities around the world, and in the general cultural milieu, we’re all being taught that science can resolve all questions without the help of philosophy, politics, or the humanities.
In short, the rich philosophical debates of the 19th century have been nearly totally abandoned, argues critic Curtis White. An atheist himself, White nonetheless calls this new turn “scientism” — and fears what it will do to our culture if allowed to flourish without challenge. In fact, in “scientism” White sees a new religion with many unexamined assumptions.
In this brilliant multi-part critique, he aims at a TED talk by a distinguished neuroscientist in which we are told that human thought is merely the product of our “connectome,” a map of neural connections in the brain that is yet to be fully understood.... He whips a widely respected physicist who argues that our new understanding of the origins of the universe obviates any philosophical inquiry... and ends with a learned defense of the tradition of Romanticism, which White believes our technology and science-obsessed world desperately needs to rediscover.
It’s the only way, he argues, that we can see our world clearly... and change it.
Taking Johan Lehrer, Antonio Damasio, and Sebastian Seung asrepresentative of popular science writers promulgating a mechanical mental model of human behavior, White suggests that their claims arebased on assumptions many of which are dubious if not outright deluded, and laments the kind of political culture their delusionshave brought about and support. He covers what a good lunch is; romanticism as counterculture; whether DNA is a parasite that buildsits own host; this bit of neural matter; we insiders; and in praise of play, dissonance, and freaking out.Annotation ©2014 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
”A symptomatic tour of the real sense of anxiety about the disenchantment of all those qualities that make us feel most alive and unique in the world.” The New York Times Book Review
“A witty critique of scientific overreach that celebrates the totality of human achievement.” Kirkus Reviews
"There’s certainly a very real need to march on that citadel, because the idea that there can be only one kind of truth has to be deeply damaging to the intellectual development of a culture.” Slate
"His brisk takedowns of Hitchens, Hawking, Krauss, Lehrer and others are sharp and necessary, wielding elementary logic against figures who should know better. [White shows] just how easily good science can shade into the self-aggrandizing ideology of scientism." Mark Kingwell, The Globe and Mail
About the Author
Curtis White is the author of the novels Memories of My Father Watching TV and Requiem. A widely acclaimed essayist, his work appears regularly in Context and Harper's. He is an English professor at Illinois State University and the current president of the Center for Book Culture/Dalkey Archive Press. His The Middle Mind: Why Americans Don't Think for Themselves was a national bestseller in 2003.