Home » Culture, Intelligent Design, Mind, Neuroscience » Here’s a first: A reviewer skeptical of airhead neuroscience claims

Here’s a first: A reviewer skeptical of airhead neuroscience claims

The Compass of Pleasure: How Our Brains Make Fatty Foods, Orgasm, Exercise, Marijuana, Generosity, Vodka, Learning, and Gambling Feel So Good

That’s Adam Hanft on the recent The Compass of Pleasure by neuroscientist David J. Linden, who writes at Barnes & Noble Reviews (June 27, 2011):

Disciplines from neuroscience to behavioral psychology to evolutionary biology have created a new cranial transparency that’s unleashed a gush of books like Blink by Malcolm Gladwell; Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori Brafman and Ron Brafman; Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein; and The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic and Work and at Home by Dan Ariely. (I interviewed Dan about his book for the Barnes & Noble Review.)David J. Linden, a professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins, and the author of The Accidental Mind, adds to this emerging, solipsistic genre with The Compass of Pleasure, a book that focuses entirely on how our brains pursue and process pleasure.

That one word “solipsistic” is  a bullet through the forehead of a writer. More telling:

I wish I could have thought more highly of The Compass of Pleasure. It’s hard to criticize a neuroscientist, but what Linden has published is a rehash that’s in denial of its own textbookishness. It’s like he left five graduate students alone with a Google search box and some Red Bull. A few weeks later, what you’ve got is a collection of some well-known studies and generally accepted neurological frameworks; a basic accounting of the mechanism by which multiple addictions emerge from the same genetic characteristics; and some zoological salacity, as in the presence of male-to-male anal sex in sheep and giraffes. My pleasure center is not even amused.

It’s easier to amuse brains than critics. Still, could we be seeing the dawn of critical thinking about all this neurobullshipping?

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3 Responses to Here’s a first: A reviewer skeptical of airhead neuroscience claims

  1. Denyse,
    The reviewer wasn’t skeptical at all. On the contrary, he was critical of the lack of original content. He was basically saying “yeah we know all this already, so what else is new?”

    A choice quote from his review:

    So it turns out that Linden’s gauntlet is pretty gaunt. I’m sorry, but I have real trouble with a science writer who confuses a bold thesis with a mechanical summary, who writes with faux courage “In this book I will argue” when there is no argument. This isn’t a cavil. You’re a professor of neuroscience at Hopkins, dude. If you’re writing a book that breaks no new ground but aggregates a lot of research and makes it understandable for the lay reader, then that’s what your prologue should say.

    So … what review were you reading? Or did you even read it?

  2. NormO: “So … what review were you reading? Or did you even read it?”

    You might begin searching for answers here:
    http://tinyurl.com/3f7bx3q

  3. 3
    Elizabeth Liddle

    It’s a funny review. But your headline should read:

    A reviewer bored by makeover of old neuroscience hat.

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