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Who Are You?

The Biological Mind: How Brain, Body, and Environment Collaborate to Make Us Who We Are by Alan Jasonoff
Basic Books, 2018. 304 pp. $30. ISBN-13: 978-0465052684

THE STATED MISSION OF THE MIT Center for Neurobiological Engineering is “to reverse engineer the human brain.” The director of the center, Alan Jasonoff, is a biophysicist and the author of The Biological Mind, the stated mission of which is to refute “a false idealization of this organ and its singular significance—a phenomenon I call the cerebral mystique [emphasis in the original].” Jasonoff explicitly acknowledges Betty Friedan’s pivotal Feminine Mystique as the predecessor he means to echo. I’d guess that The Cerebral Mystique was the book’s original title, as its present title doesn’t really convey what the book is actually about, and the subtitle (“How Brain, Body, and Environment Collaborate to Make Us Who We Are”) is even further off the mark.

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About Skeptic

WHY IS THERE SOMETHING RATHER THAN NOTHING? COLUMNS The SkepDoc: Health Freedom, Right to Try, and Informed Consent, by Harriet Hall, M.D. • The Gadfly: Do You Have Traits or Are You a Type? by Carol Tavris • SPECIAL SECTION ON TACTICS FOR DISCUSSING CONTENTIOUS ISSUES Personhood and Abortion Rights: How Science Might Inform this Contentious Issue, by Gary Whittenberger • How to Teach Evolution to Religious Students, by Surat Parvatam • The Arguments for Creationism and the Arguments for Evolution: A Study in Contrasts, by Ralph M. Barnes • Meeting Our “Enemies” Where They Are: The Advantage of Understanding Your Adversary’s Arguments, by Andrew Cooper-Sansone ARTICLES The Grandest of Questions Why is There Something Rather Than Nothing? by Michael Shermer • Reports of Mysterious Attacks on U.S. Diplomats Continue: Separating Fact from Fiction by Robert E. Bartholomew • The God Damners: The Now Not-so-New Atheism by Michael Cohen • Quackery in America: An Inglorious and Ongoing History, by Morton Tavel, M.D. • What Is It like to Be a Human? by Colin McGinn REVIEWS Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress • The Equations of Life: How Physics Shapes Evolution • The Human Instinct: How We Evolved to Have Reason, Consciousness, and Free Will • SCAM: So-Called Alternative Medicine • Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life • The Biological Mind: How Brain, Body, and Environment Collaborate to Make Us Who We Are JUNIOR SKEPTIC Secrets of the Ouija Board, by Daniel Loxton