The Accidental Mind

  • by David J. Linden
  • Narrated by Ray Porter
  • 7 hrs and 57 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

You've probably seen it before: a human brain dramatically lit from the side, the camera circling it like a helicopter shot of Stonehenge, and a modulated baritone voice exalting the brain's elegant design in reverent tones... to which this book says: Pure nonsense.
In a work at once deeply learned and wonderfully accessible, the neuroscientist David Linden counters the widespread assumption that the brain is a paragon of design - and in its place gives us a compelling explanation of how the brain's serendipitous evolution has resulted in nothing short of our humanity.
A guide to the strange and often illogical world of neural function, The Accidental Mind shows how the brain is not an optimized, general-purpose problem-solving machine, but rather a weird agglomeration of ad-hoc solutions that have been piled on through millions of years of evolutionary history.
Moreover, Linden tells us how the constraints of evolved brain design have ultimately led to almost every transcendent human foible: our long childhoods, our extensive memory capacity, our search for love and long-term relationships, our need to create compelling narrative, and, ultimately, the universal cultural impulse to create both religious and scientific explanations. With forays into evolutionary biology, this analysis of mental function answers some of our most common questions about how we've come to be who we are. The book is published by Harvard University Press.

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What the Critics Say

"This is a terrific book that accomplishes its aim of presenting a biological view of how the brain works, and does so in a charming, fetching style." (Joshua R. Sanes, Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Best general-public Brain Science book to date

I have been a professional neuroscientist for the last 20 years. When asked for a book on this field aimed for the general public, however, I always found it very difficult to recommend one. Is not that there are few published books on the topic; but they tend to be too superficial, prone to groundless speculation, or both. Here you have a book that is well written, entertaining and superb at explaining the core ideas and principles of modern Neuroscience for the layman. Although brain science is not a simple subject, Dr. Linden does a superb job at making it understandable and interesting. Highly recommended.
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- Francisco

Brain - mind - humanity

This is what popular science writing is, or should be, all about... Making "real" science just that little bit more accessible to the keen reader with an interest in the field and the willingness to stretch themselves just enough for the journey. As always, it couldn't have been easy for the author to decide how much "nuts & bolts" biology and chemistry to include. Undoubtedly many readers will, like this reviewer, find some sections too technical, but they're always short enough that the reader can forge ahead and get to the "real world" implications of the chemistry -- the emergence of mind and its interaction with the body and environment.

Even though I'm quite a keen reader of accessible books, blogs and articles on neuroscience, psychology and philosophy of mind, I still learnt quite a bit from this book. A few examples that come to mind (!) are:

(1) The circadian ("approximately one day") timing circuit;
(2) The working of "blind sight," our second sight ability situated in the more primitive brain;
(3) The left brain's ability and predisposition to look for patterns, filling in the blanks even when they don't exist; ...and many more.

The narration by Ray Porter is engaging, more akin to an informal chat than a read speech.
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- Theo

Book Details

  • Release Date: 11-15-2010
  • Publisher: University Press Audiobooks