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A Companion to GenethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Cooperative SpeciesA Mind So RareA Natural History of RapeAcquiring GenomesAdapting MindsAgeing, Health and CareAlas, Poor DarwinAn Introduction to Evolutionary EthicsAncient Bodies, Modern LivesAnimal ArchitectsAping MankindAre We Hardwired?Bang!BehavingBeyond EvolutionBeyond GeneticsBlood MattersBody BazaarBoneBrain Evolution and CognitionBrain StormBrave New BrainBrave New WorldsChoosing ChildrenCloneCloningConceptual Issues in Evolutionary BiologyConsciousness EvolvingContemporary Debates in Philosophy of BiologyControlling Our DestiniesCooperation and Its EvolutionCreatures of AccidentDarwin Loves YouDarwin's Brave New WorldDarwin's Gift to Science and ReligionDarwin's UniverseDarwin's WormsDarwinian ConservatismDarwinian PsychiatryDarwinism and its DiscontentsDarwinism as ReligionDebating DesignDecoding DarknessDefenders of the TruthDo We Still Need Doctors?Doubting Darwin?Early WarningEngineering the Human GermlineEnhancing EvolutionEnoughEntwined LivesEthical Issues in Human CloningEthical Issues in the New GeneticsEvil GenesEvolutionEvolutionEvolution and Human BehaviorEvolution and Human BehaviorEvolution and Human Sexual BehaviorEvolution and LearningEvolution and ReligionEvolution and the Human MindEvolution in MindEvolution, Gender, and RapeEvolution: The Modern SynthesisEvolutionary Ethics and Contemporary BiologyEvolutionary Origins of MoralityEvolutionary PsychiatryEvolutionary PsychologyEvolutionary Psychology and ViolenceEvolutionary Psychology as Maladapted PsychologyExploding the Gene MythFaces of Huntington'sFlesh of My FleshFrom Chance to ChoiceFrom Darwin to HitlerGenesGenes in ConflictGenes on the CouchGenes, Environment, and PsychopathologyGenes, Environment, and PsychopathologyGenes, Women, EqualityGenetic Nature/CultureGenetic PoliticsGenetic ProspectsGenetic ProspectsGenetic SecretsGenetics of Criminal and Antisocial BehaviourGenetics of Mental DisordersGenetics of Original SinGenetics of Original SinGenomeGenomeGenome: Updated EditionGenomes and What to Make of ThemGlowing GenesHow Women Got Their Curves and Other Just-So StoriesHuman CloningHuman Evolution, Reproduction, and MoralityImproving Nature?In Our Own ImageIn Pursuit of the GeneIn the Name of GodIngenious GenesInheritanceInside the Human GenomeInside the O'BriensIntegrating Evolution and DevelopmentIntelligence, Race, and GeneticsIs Human Nature Obsolete?Language OriginsLess Than HumanLiberal EugenicsLiving with Our GenesMaking Genes, Making WavesMaking Sense of EvolutionMan As The PrayerMean GenesMenMood GenesMoral OriginsMothers and OthersNature Via NurtureNever Let Me GoNot By Genes AloneOf Flies, Mice, and MenOn the Origin of StoriesOrigin of MindOrigins of Human NatureOrigins of PsychopathologyOur Posthuman FuturePhilosophy of BiologyPlaying God?Playing God?Portraits of Huntington'sPrimates and PhilosophersPromiscuityPsychiatric Genetics and GenomicsPsychologyQuality of Life and Human DifferenceRe-creating MedicineRedesigning HumansResearch Advances in Genetics and GenomicsResponsible GeneticsResponsible GeneticsScience, Seeds and CyborgsSex and WarSociological Perspectives on the New GeneticsStrange BedfellowsStrange BehaviorSubjects of the WorldSubordination and DefeatThe Age of EmpathyThe Agile GeneThe Ape and the Sushi MasterThe Biotech CenturyThe Blank SlateThe Book of LifeThe Bridge to HumanityThe Case Against PerfectionThe Case for PerfectionThe Case of the Female OrgasmThe Century of the GeneThe Common ThreadThe Concept of the Gene in Development and EvolutionThe Debated MindThe Double-Edged HelixThe Epidemiology of SchizophreniaThe Ethics of Human CloningThe Evolution of CooperationThe Evolution of MindThe Evolution of MindThe Evolved ApprenticeThe Evolving WorldThe Fact of EvolutionThe Folly of FoolsThe Future of Human NatureThe God GeneThe Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe Impact of the GeneThe Innate MindThe Innate MindThe Innate Mind: Volume 3The Limits and Lies of Human Genetic ResearchThe Lives of the BrainThe Maladapted MindThe Meme MachineThe Misunderstood GeneThe Moral, Social, and Commercial Imperatives of Genetic Testing and ScreeningThe Most Dangerous AnimalThe New Genetic MedicineThe Nurture AssumptionThe Origin and Evolution of CulturesThe Origins of FairnessThe Paradoxical PrimateThe Perfect BabyThe Robot's RebellionThe Selfish GeneThe Shape of ThoughtThe Shattered SelfThe Stem Cell ControversyThe Story WithinThe Stuff of LifeThe Talking ApeThe Temperamental ThreadThe Terrible GiftThe Theory of OptionsThe Top 10 Myths About EvolutionThe Triple HelixThe Triumph of SociobiologyThe Woman Who Walked into the SeaTwinsUnderstanding CloningUnderstanding the GenomeUnnatural SelectionUnto OthersUp From DragonsWar Against the WeakWhat Genes Can't DoWhat It Means to Be 98 Percent ChimpanzeeWho Owns YouWhose View of Life?Why Evolution Is TrueWhy Think? WondergenesWrestling with Behavioral GeneticsYour Genetic Destiny
Perhaps the first thing that should be said about this book is that
it does not make for light reading. All nineteen essays composing Brain
Evolution and Cognition address cutting-edge issues in the evolution
of brains and cognitive functions, and as one might easily expect the discussion
is pitched at a high level. This is not to say that the book won't be accessible
to non-specialists. For the most part, authors have been careful to explain
less common technical jargon and all essays stand out for the clarity of
argument. Still, the curious reader should be warned that the 'obvious'
target-audience of this book falls more naturally among post-graduates
and researchers in subjects like Evolutionary Biology, Neuroanatomy, Neurology,
Zoology, and Cognitive Sciences. Lay readers should thus come to it with
their science-encyclopedias refreshed in their minds (or close at hand).
Warning made, Brain Evolution and Cognition is one of the best
testimonies to the liveliness and richness of the debate on brain evolution
and cognition as it stands today. Some of the essays provide up-to-date
reviews of what is currently known - and debated - on developmental and
adult brain evolution (e.g., Demski and Beavers), others present case
studies of vertebrate brain evolution (Macphails chapter is highly recommended),
while the opening essays go through the hot topic of how-much-is-in-the-genes
in connection to brain design. Considerable attention is given to comparisons
between the avian and the mammalian brains, more specifically to whether
there are comparable structures and functions, and what their common origin
might be (see, for example, Delius and al.) Mention should also be made
to the two essays specifically dedicated to the cognition in insects, both
for the illuminating insights they bring into the discussion on the evolution
of brains and the beautifully presented studies of insect cognitive architecture.
For those more interested on the evolutionary details of particular cognitive
systems, there are chapters dealing with motor systems (Donkelaar) and
sensory systems in vertebrates. The last chapter by one of the editors
- Gerhard Roth - on the evolution of consciousness provides a fine ending
to this collection. It both reminds us of how the study of brain evolution
has so often been tempted by convictions about the superiority of
the human brain, and brings out the many difficulties (theoretical and
practical) that attend research on this topic. In particular, Roths chapter
should be recommended for its balanced analysis of the empirical data
on what-may-count-as-awareness in animals, and his acute sense of where
the arguments may run. In a subject (consciousness) where people so often
from thought-experiments and intuition, its particularly gratifying to
read such rigorously grounded thinking.
All in all, this book offers a state-of-the-art view of a subject-field
that is beginning to break through the many myths that still infect contemporary
thinking about brain evolution and cognition. As most authors point out,
the idea of a scala naturale (i.e., that nature aimed at perfection
by successively adding to the brains of the lower up to the higher vertebrates)
has been amply disproved by evidence of widespread commonalties in general
brain organization and behavior of vertebrates. Likewise, the all too popular
belief that human abilities and capacities are unique or far superior to
those of other animals has received a heavy blow by the discovery that
the human brain is a fairly typical primate brain. As a last example,
studies on insect cognition give clear indication that (sometimes) smaller
is better. What will replace such myths is yet too early to tell. What
this book leaves us with is the impression that a lot is being learned
about brain evolution and cognition, and all we know for sure at this stage
is that the results are surprising. As the debate goes on about what to
make of these discoveries, this book is certainly a welcome contribution
and a valuable read to all of those puzzled by that most amazing of organs
- the brain. Difficult, but worth the effort.
© 2001 Isabel Gois
Isabel Gois is a
PhD student at Kings College London working on Consciousness. Her research
interests include Philosophy of Mind, Neuropsychology and Mental Disorder.
She has articles published on emotions, computationalism, and consciousness.
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