A cerebral ride into the world of the unorthodox.
Sallying forth to take on the benighted creationists, novelist and Esquire contributing editor Storr (The Hunger and the Howling of Killian Lone, 2014, etc.) takes pause and realizes that his way of thinking is not all that different from what is being presented from the pulpit of the church. Yes, his chosen approach is that of a rationalist, but how biased and compromised is it? What, really, does he know about the nitty-gritty of evolution, unmediated by the fine reasoning of a Darwin or a Dawkins? And where do our beliefs come from? It is unproductive and deluding to simply dismiss a belief as stupid; intelligence does not arbitrate against odd beliefs, for some clearly bright people hold some curious, complex, elusive notions. So Storr ventures with new eyes into their territory, to the outlandish and the heretical, all the while exploring theories of the brain and how it perceives the world. As he notes, each of us is a concoction of sensory pulses that fashions a unique vision: “Cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias, the brain’s desire to have the outer, real world match its inner models—it takes us part of the way there,” he writes. “It tells us that a properly functioning brain cannot be trusted to think rationally….” The author presents superb stories of visiting with voice-hearers, smug skeptics, sufferers of the Morgellon itch, Holocaust deniers, recovered-memory confabulators, and he combines these stories with his often humorous personal tale—which included experiencing his own murder through the process of hypnosis. Storr’s piercing narrative is piquant and full of surprises and reversals of circumstance, as well as plenty of undeniably valuable information.
“The mind remains, to a tantalizing degree, a realm of secrets and wonder,” writes the author, and so, too, does the world around us, which he entertainingly scours for the possibility of crucial anomalies.