Monthly Archives: December 2011

‘The Self Illusion’ is Revealed Today – A Dangerous Book?

To coincide with the broadcast of the Christmas Lectures, my UK publishers are giving away a free electronic extract of my new book, “The Self Illusion” today on amazon today. If you have an iPad or a Kindle, then you can read the opening chapters and a later one about the way we represent our selves on the internet.

I think that the message of “The Self Illusion” is going to be very controversial and upset a number of people. I already know that some colleagues disagree with the premise. In effect, I am challenging the idea that we are autonomous individuals but that rather we are a product of the history and influences of those around us.

The notion of no self will be familiar to Buddhists and philosophers alike. Buddha of course, taught that the path to enlightenment required attaining ‘annatta’ (no self) and Hume argued that there was no single core self but rather a bundle of experiences and sensations. There are not many neuroscientists who disagree with this as we are constantly reminded that the experience of the self is a product of the brain and as such, is an emergent property out of a constellation of separable processes – processes that can fail and fragment revealing the composition of the self.

I think the controversial aspect of the denial of a self is the implications and ramifications of this idea. However, there are many aspects of human experience that are similarly more apparent than real. Just because something is an illusion – not what it seems- that is no reason to try to ignore it. After all, it is there for a reason. We interact with individuals and selves – not apparitions and collective histories that define who someone is. And of course, the greatest illusion is the self illusion. Even when you know this, you cannot get rid of your self.


Filed under book publicity

My Impression of Bing Crosby

It is late on Christmas Day, and I have taken a break from the feasting and festivity to check online. Big mistake. There is a lot starting to appear on the web about the forthcoming lectures with really high expectations and I am genuinely starting to feel nervous. A couple of friends and family have commented on the following trailer and said it reminded them a bit like a Bing Crosby-type of “come over and join us” Christmas message. It is very weird seeing oneself doing this kind of thing. Still can’t say that I didn’t ask for it.

Christmas Lecture Trailer

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Filed under General Thoughts

Trailer Teaser for the Lectures

I am not fully recovered yet – also getting over a darn cold but here is a teaser of the lectures which will be broadcast next week. They were sent to the BBC today for technical review so there’s no turning back now! YIKES!!!!


Filed under Television

Me and the Living Legend, Sir David Attenborough

Me and the living legend, David AttenboroughLast Friday I had the privilege to meet Sir David Attenborough. He is not only a personal hero of mine but also to millions of viewers who have watched him bring the glory of the natural world into our living rooms. What you may not know is that David is also responsible for making the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures part of this nation’s heritage. As the first controller of BBC2, he recognized the value of broadcasting Faraday’s vision of bringing science to the masses and commissioned the first broadcasts. He even presented the Ri Christmas Lectures himself in 1973.

We chatted for about half an hour when he visited the Ri to record an interview for their new website that is launching tomorrow. David told me that doing the Ri Christmas Lectures had been the most difficult television he had ever done and that months before he was due to deliver them, he had contemplated dropping out. This was both reassuring and terrifying at the same time. After all, I consider him to be one of the giants of science broadcasting.

I introduced David to Kate, my PhD student and his eyes lit up when we started talking about her research on children’s foraging behaviour. Not surprisingly, David was well acquainted with animal foraging in the natural world and took a keen interest in Kate’s work. I had to get back to rehearsing, but we left as two very young adults who had met their childhood idol


December 9, 2011 · 6:41 pm