The Self Delusion

The Self Delusion

We like to believe that we exist as independent selves at the centre of a subjective universe; that we are discrete individuals acting autonomously in the world with an unchanging inner self that persists throughout our lifetime.

This is an illusion.

On a physical, psychological and cultural level, we are all much more intertwined than we know: we cannot use our bodies to define our independent existence because most of our 37 trillion cells have such a short lifespan that we are essentially made anew every few weeks; the molecules that make up our bodies have already been component parts of countless other organisms, from ancient plants to dinosaurs; we are more than half non-human, in the form of bacteria, fungi and viruses, whose genes influence our moods and even manipulate our behaviour; and we cannot define ourselves by our minds, thoughts and actions, because these mainly originate from other people – the result of memes passing between us, existing before, after and beyond our own lifespans.

Professor of Ecology Tom Oliver makes the compelling argument that although this illusion of individualism has helped us to succeed as a species, tackling the big global challenges ahead now relies on our seeing beyond this mindset and understanding the complex connections between us. THE SELF DELUSION is an explosive, powerful and inspiring book that brings to life the overwhelming evidence contradicting the perception we have of ourselves as independent beings – and why understanding this may well be the key to a better future.
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Genre: Mathematics & Science

On Sale: 23rd January 2020

Price: £20

ISBN-13: 9781474611749

Reviews

THE SELF DELUSION is a book of wonders. It articulately explores the infinite web of connection that humans have with one another, as well as with those that lived before them and those yet to be born. But Oliver also takes us beyond the body to tease out our many connections with the world around us and far, far beyond it. How can we really be individuals when trillions of atoms from the farthest reaches of the galaxy can be found in our bodies? A timely, fascinating and quite brilliant book
Vybarr Cregan-Reid, author of PRIMATE CHANGE
As a recovering individualist, I need to be reminded of the dangers of the self delusion and the benefits of dispelling it, and this book is a fascinating and compelling presentation of the scientific evidence
Michael Foley, author of THE AGE OF ABSURDITY
Tom Oliver tells a compelling story, firmly rooted in biological evidence, that will make you think differently about yourself and your relationship with the world around you
Sir Prof. Ian Boyd, Chief Scientific Advisor, UK Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (2012-2019)
As Tom Oliver takes us through this enlightening tour of our interconnectedness, from microscopic interactions to our collective cultural mind, he mercilessly dissects the very notion that our cherished individuality exists at all. Entertaining and thought-provoking, this book offers an urgently needed revaluation of our place in the world and what the next steps in our evolution might be
Nathan H. Lents, author of HUMAN ERRORS
Until you've read Tom Oliver's delightful THE SELF DELUSION you'll never have guessed that, from the ground up, you and your self-identity are constructions, built like an Arcimboldo painting, but of cells from many sources, neurons, ideas and finally connections to others. Read this book for a compelling way of thinking about how and why the 'you' that you see when you look inside yourself arises, and its place in the universe
Mark Pagel, author of WIRED FOR CULTURE
Consciousness is one of the greatest of scientific mysteries . . . Fascinating
MAIL ON SUNDAY
The idea of the self as a relatively closed system is a delusion that has often conferred advantage, but is now a dangerous trap. Moving through difficult science with valuable clarity, Oliver tells us why . . . [a] timely, challenging book
Richard Kerridge, GUARDIAN
Ambitious . . . it has several important messages, many of which need to be more widely understood . . . a thought-provoking and worthwhile read
Tom Chivers, THE TIMES
Humans are less discrete entities than mash-ups of microbiota and shifting beliefs, declares ecologist Tom Oliver in this rich, intriguing book. We are, he shows, so interfused with the environment that all life might be seen as a web of genes, and all minds a web of memes. Oliver reframes the self as a fleeting union of molecules, a target for manipulation by parasites, a cooperative co-creator who is also destroying the biosphere. But by recognizing our connectedness, he argues, we enable needed societal and environmental change
Barbara Kiser, NATURE
A vision of a connected society - one that is conscious of its dependency on nature - is a glistening beacon in a gloomy ecological present. In an era that will be defined by its planetary action, Oliver's argument is timely and thorough
GEOGRAPHICAL
Interweaving the natural sciences with case studies from neuroscience and psychology, The Self Delusion assembles a compelling thesis.... It's easy to see why he has won awards for communicating science to a general audience
SUNDAY BUSINESS POST, IRELAND
If there was ever a book that connected us to current world it's this one. From how our bodies are made, the life of bacteria and its transmission between us, to how we create identity and what that means, and our connection and relationship to the natural world. Tom Oliver takes us on a revealing and important journey
Alan Moore, author of DO DESIGN: Why beauty is key to everything
Heraclitus famously said that no man can step in the same river twice. Oliver has the science to back up the philosophy
Christopher Bray, THE TABLET