The Mismeasure of Man; A Universe of Consciousness

The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen Jay Gould

If you’re skeptical about the idea of IQ as a perfect measure of intelligence, this is the book for you. This book, by one of the most important evolutionary biologists of all time, goes into painstaking detail on the uses and misuses of IQ throughout history. Over the last few hundred years, many have wanted to show that there is a biological justification for the differences between the haves and the have-nots. This book describes the history of those justifications and does its best to discredit them all.

Starting with phrenology and transitioning into Spearman’s G and IQ tests, it gives the history of those who wanted to reify and simplify intelligence into a linear measure. The book provides a gut-wrenching and sad history of subjugation where prejudice has been justified by problematic and unreliable measures of intelligence.

It’s a long and intense book. If you really want to understand the counter-perspective, read it alongside The Bell Curve. 

A Universe of Consciousness, Gerard M. Edelman and Giulio Tonini

I first heard about Gerard Edelman in Oliver Sacks’s biography, On the Move. Sacks lavishes praise on Edelman as the pre-eminent neuroscience scholar on the subject of consciousness. So I figured it was worth a read.

Unlike Sacks, I’m not qualified to opine intelligently on who is and who isn’t a pre-eminent scholar on consciousness. But I’ve read my fair share of philosophers, psychologists, and neuroscientists on the subject of consciousness. And from the perspective of an educated layperson, Edelman’s (and Tonini’s) book seems as compelling as anything I’ve read.

The book presents a major hypothesis, the “Dynamic Core Hypothesis,” which states that consciousness is highly integrated and unified state that cannot be subdivided into component parts, but that at the same time, it is highly differentiated or informative and that the differentiation can lead to a wide range of conscious states.

The book is scientific and rigorous but still readable for the educated layperson. Very informative.