The history of science abounds with momentous theories that disrupted conventional wisdom and yet were eventually proven true. Ajit Varki and Danny Brower’s "Mind-Over-Reality" theory is poised to be one such idea—a concept that runs counter to commonly held notions about human evolution, but which may hold the key to understanding why humans evolved as we did, leaving all other related species far behind. In Denial: Self-Deception, False Beliefs, and the Origins of the Human Mind Ajit Varki and Danny Brower offer us their revolutionary theory that alters our understanding of human evolution.
At a chance meeting in 2005, Danny Brower posed an unusual idea to Ajit Varki that that he believed could explain the origins of human uniqueness among the world’s species in a revolutionary way. Haunted by this encounter, Varki tried years later to contact Brower, only to discover that he had died unexpectedly. Inspired by an unfinished manuscript Brower left behind, Denial represents a unique collaboration that integrates Varki's own knowledge on human origins to explain what sets us apart from other animal species: our ability to fully understand the minds of others. This single evolutionary leap, they argue, required crossing a psychological barrier: giving us the uniquely human ability to deny reality in the face of inarguable evidence-including the willful ignorance of our own inevitable deaths. However, our unique instinct for denial will also be our undoing, if we continue to disregard the consequences of unrealistic approaches to everything from personal health to financial risk-taking to climate change. Only in understanding this radical new idea can we hope to tackle the many vexing issues facing us today, and to imagine where our species might go from here.
Presented in homage to Brower’s original thinking, Denial offers a powerful warning about the dangers inherent in our remarkable ability to ignore reality—a gift that will either lead to our downfall, or continue to be our greatest asset.
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