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At a chance meeting in 2005, Brower, a geneticist, posed an unusual idea to Varki that he believed could explain the origins of human uniqueness among the world's species: Why is there no humanlike elephant or humanlike dolphin, despite millions of years of evolutionary opportunity? Why is it that humans alone can understand the minds of others?
Haunted by their encounter, Varki tried years later to contact Brower only to discover that he had died unexpectedly. Inspired by an incomplete manuscript Brower left behind, Denial presents a radical new theory on the origins of our species. It was not, the authors argue, a biological leap that set humanity apart from other species, but a psychological one: namely, the uniquely human ability to deny reality in the face of inarguable evidence - including the willful ignorance of our own inevitable deaths.
The awareness of our own mortality could have caused anxieties that resulted in our avoiding the risks of competing to procreate - an evolutionary dead-end. Humans therefore needed to evolve a mechanism for overcoming this hurdle: the denial of reality.
As a consequence of this evolutionary quirk we now deny any aspects of reality that are not to our liking - we smoke cigarettes, eat unhealthy foods, and avoid exercise, knowing these habits are a prescription for an early death. And so what has worked to establish our species could be our undoing if we continue to deny the consequences of unrealistic approaches to everything from personal health to financial risk-taking to climate change. On the other hand, reality-denial affords us many valuable attributes, such as optimism, confidence, and courage in the face of long odds.
Presented in homage to Brower's original thinking, Denial offers a powerful warning about the dangers inherent in our remarkable ability to ignore reality - a gift that will either lead to our downfall, or continue to be our greatest asset.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By mminto on 02-19-16
An interesting but nascent concept.
This book starts off with an extremely scientific perspective but then, in my opinion, makes claims which are not supported by anything other than the author's perspective and hypothetical examples. The idea contained inside this book is definitely a worthy subject of discussion but the length of this book is not required to introduce that idea. It spends most of its time justifying its obscure thesis with nothing more than repetition of the theme.
The worst part is the reader, I listened to it at 3x speed. The reader was plain, humdrum, and lifeless. Honestly one of the worst I've heard, when played at 1x speed.
Skippable. The idea can be grasped by reading the online reviews. The author is a genius, but this book is unjustifiably long.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
By Cassandra on 04-04-15
Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?
As someone who spends a fair amount of time studying the nature of reality, I was drawn to this book because of the title. Even though it turned out to be not at all what I expected, it had some interesting info and because of that I would give it a lukewarm recommendation.
What could Ajit Varki and Danny Brower have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?
I would have liked a deeper understanding and conversation about reality.
What does Bob Walter bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
Narrator did an excellent job.
If this book were a movie would you go see it?
It would probably make a good documentary.
Any additional comments?
What really turned me off about the book was the author's facile treatment of Buddhism. He states that the objective of the practice of Buddhism and meditation (specifically zazen) is the denial of reality, when in fact it is the total opposite. Zen is ALL about the integration of the relative and absolute, and the mundane suffering world is where that happens. Zazen is even done with eyes open in order to facilitate that.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful