Book review: God Soul Mind Brain

by Michael S. A. Graziano


Can a science book be also a feel-good book? This one is. Thank you, Graziano, for the lift.

Graziano brings to the table a professorship in social neuroscience, and builds atop the work of Dawkins and others in social memes, to explain what makes us human. He explains the workings of the brain to model the world around us, helping us interact socially and “feel” our way through life. Consciousness, the great mystery of our age, is merely “social perception applied inwardly.” It’s a process, not a thing. The book is short and very readable, but if you do find yourself struggling to grasp or appreciate the material, then skip over parts, but don’t put the book down before the final chapter.

Graziano is an atheist who thinks religion is complex and marvelous. That’s a good thing, because he also feels religion cannot be outgrown. He wants nothing to do with the aggressive new atheism which seeks to ridicule the religious into discarding dangerous beliefs for rational thinking. “I simply think that eradicating religion is not possible. It is a fallacy that ignores the specs of the human machine. We are not rational entities. Religion, like all culture, grows on the social machinery in our brains.”

God, it turns out, is the amygdala, though Graziano would never say this outright, and he’ll probably hunt me down for misrepresenting him. His own definition of God is “the perception of intentionality on a global scale. It is the perception of a single, unified mind behind every otherwise inexplicable event.” Don’t worry if this sounds like geek-speak, because the discussion of intentionality will make the definition clear and simple. In fact, everything in the book is clear and simple, enjoyable and unforgettable. Read it!

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