An explosive popular science book that brings to life the overwhelming evidence contradicting the perception we have of ourselves as independent beings
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.
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
As a recovering individualist, I need to be reminded of the dangers of the self delusion and the benefits of dispelling it, and THE SELF DELUSION is a fascinating and compelling presentation of the scientific evidence
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
Tom Oliver is a Professor at the University of Reading, leading their Ecology and Evolution research group. He is a prominent systems thinker, advising both the UK government and the European Environment Agency. He is a frequent contributor to broadcast media and regularly gives talks on environmental science to general audiences. He has published more than seventy scientific papers in world-leading interdisciplinary journals and won two first-place prizes for essays communicating science to a broader audience. THE SELF DELUSION is his first book.