Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter

Terrence W. Deacon. Norton, $27.95 (544p) ISBN 978-0-393-04991-6
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In a tour de force encompassing biology, neurobiology, metaphysics, information theory, physics, and semiotics, Deacon, a neuroscientist and chair of anthropology at UC-Berkeley, attempts to resolve the issue of how life and mind arose from inanimate matter. As he did in his previous book, The Symbolic Species, Deacon asks a very big question and provides the framework for an answer. He argues persuasively that complexity can comfortably emerge as a higher order function from simplicity and extends this point to discuss how nonmaterial entities such as ideas and emotions can generate physical consequences. He believes that by bridging the divide between the material and the nonmaterial, a more robust understanding of the world will be developed and some of the largest shortcomings of science will be addressed. “It’s not just that we have failed to uncover the twists of physics and chemistry that set us apart from the non-living world. Our scientific theories have failed to explain what matters most to us: the place of meaning, purpose, and value in the physical world.” One caveat: although the topics covered by Deacon are important and fascinating, his language is so technical that the book is likely to be accessible only to experts. 12 illus. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/26/2011
Release date: 11/01/2011
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