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The Discovery of the Brain and How It Changed
the World

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Book Club Guide:

Soul Made Flesh is an excellent choice for book clubs who enjoying talking about science, history, or the mind. Here are some discussion points for your reading group.

The ideas that ancient Greeks had about the mind and body dominated Western thought for 2,000 years, although many were fundamentally wrong. How do ideas survive?

What must it have been like for doctors to see strange disorders such as epilepsy or narcoplepsy without the knowledge we have today of how the brain works? How do we deal with the unknown today?

How did Thomas Willis and his friends overturn so much conventional wisdom in so little time? What does their experience say about the power of groups working together?

Discuss how the religious and political strife of the age influenced Descartes, Harvey, Willis, and Locke. How do you think social influences shape science today?

What did the soul mean to someone like Thomas Willis? What does the word mean to you?

To modern eyes, the experiments carried out by Thomas Willis and his friends on dogs and other animals look very cruel. How did these natural philosophers justify the suffering they caused? Do you think animal experiments are necessary today?

Thomas Willis used his great neurological insights to justify many medical procedures that would have been laughed at today. How is that scientific breakthroughs and traditional ideas can coexist in the same mind? Do we use new discoveries in science to justify our own prejudices about the mind?

To the first neurologists, science and religion were considered one and the same. How has the relationship of science and religion changed since then?

We live in an age when Ritalin, Prozac, and other mind-altering drugs are regularly prescribed to millions of people. How did Thomas Willis help make this tradition?

How do new breakthroughs in neuroscience influence the way you think about yourself? Compare their influence to the way Thomas Willis changed the way his contemporaries thought about themselves.