John Clark in Bookslut:
Can you define “consciousness”? Most of us understand the word in context and can use it properly in a sentence. But asked to define it, we are suddenly rendered mute or at best unintelligible. It’s a word that is both vague (cannot be precisely measured) and ambiguous (having multiple meanings). No wonder scientists, philosophers and religious scholars have debated the source, meaning and nature of consciousness for all of recorded history. The argument continues, but a fascinating new book, Second Nature, Brain Science and Human Knowledge may bring us one step closer to resolution.
Nobel laureate Dr. Gerald M. Edelman offers a tantalizing theory of consciousness aimed at satisfying both the scientist and philosopher alike, but also appealing to the reader, like me, who is neither. There isn’t much here for the fundamentalist though. By naming his theory Neural Darwinism, and invoking evolution throughout, I suspect believers in the literal truth of religious texts will summarily reject the book before they get through the preface. Deeper into the book, Edelman does cleverly use the word GOD as an acronym for “Generator of Diversity.” Who can argue with that?
The title, Second Nature, is intended to distinguish human nature from nature in general. It calls “…attention to the fact that our thoughts often float free of our realistic descriptions of observed nature.” Edelman aims to communicate his proposed theory of consciousness without resorting to complex technical detail. Even so, it is not for the faint of heart in terms of vocabulary.