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Praise for Denial

"Quite a book, with a revolutionary point of view that I find critically interesting. An enormous effort — an intriguing message and a major contribution."
— Roger Guillemin, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, Salk Institute for Biological Studies

"Groundbreaking new ideas often come from the most unexpected sources. Here is such an instance, wherein two scholars from disparate disciplines unrelated to human origins have come up with a completely novel theory--to explain one of the most fundamental of human questions: where did we humans come from, and how did we get here? A must read for anyone interested in this age-old quest."
— Peter Agre, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

"A tremendously engaging story - full of human interest, wit, scientific detective work, and imaginative speculation. It's great to see Varki and Brower pushing the limits. It makes us fellow-travelers into the field of the known unknowns."
— Nicholas Humphrey, Author of Soul Dust and The Mind made Flesh

"A highly readable manifesto for anthropogeny (the study of human origins), DENIAL is written in a lively and engaging style that communicates the excitement of asking the big questions: how are humans different from all other species, and why did other species not evolve a full theory of mind, given the wide-ranging benefits that this brings to humans? Issuing a provocative challenge to future scientists, Ajit Varki's scholarly journey leads him to speculate about the role of our awareness of our mortality, and our simultaneous tendency to live in denial of it."
- Simon Baron-Cohen, Director, Autism Research Centre, Cambridge University

"This book answers the never-ending quest of what sets our species apart with a delightful suggestion. It is not so much our awareness of mortality that is special, the authors' claim, but rather our ability to push this awareness to the farthest recesses of our minds. The ostrich has nothing on us."
- Frans de Waal, author of The Bonobo and the Atheist

"This is perhaps the most exciting idea in evolution that I have read since Darwin. Danny Brower's manuscript survived his untimely death and how it came to Ajit Varki's hands is an evolutionary story in itself. Varki is a renowned physician-scientist, and what Ajit is doing is to take this manuscript and reworking it, producing a work of beauty and simplicity. It is the tale of the very thing that makes us human. A marvel."
- Abraham Verghese, Author of Cutting for Stone; My Own Country & The Tennis Partner

"I found Denial intriguing at first, while perusing it. It soon became fascinating as I started to read it in earnest. I have long held that once they acquired the advanced intelligence characteristic of Homo sapiens, our ancestors became aware of their mortality. Anxiety about death leads to belief in the afterlife and other religious and ethical tenets. That is what I had learned from philosophers, theologians and others. Denial turns these ideas on their head. Denial forcefully argues that it was awareness of mortality and its ensuing denial that prompted the evolution of our exalted intelligence. Original, engaging, and beautifully written."
— Francisco J. Ayala is University Professor and Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of California, Irvine and a recipient of the National Medal of Science and the Templeton Prize. His most recent book is The Big Questions: Evolution

"A magnificent scholarly work, both in terms of the science and the manner in which Varki has ethically tackled a gigantic path opened up by Brower. Wherever one dips into it, one gets involved almost immediately into some fascinating question. A superb book."
— Derek Denton FRS, University of Melbourne, Author of Primordial Emotions

"A surprising and stimulating book that explores a deep insight into those psychological innovations that make us human."
— Peter Lawrence, Cambridge University, Darwin Medalist of the Royal Society.

"A gifted scientist with an encompassing humanitarian vision, Ajit Varki suggests that our blithe but false supposition that we will just go on living, day after day, is an evolutionary adaptation--one that has played a crucial role in the evolution of the human brain. Clear, cogent and compelling, Denial makes you ponder our habitual death-denial and why it is so robust. Does this hypothesis convince me? I am constitutionally a tough sell, especially when it comes to big ideas. Still, I do take this one very seriously. The more I kick its tires, the more sturdy it seems."
— Patricia Smith Churchland, MacArthur Fellow, University of California Presidential Professor of Philosophy, Author of Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells us About Morality

"Engaging and intellectually exciting. Almost as fascinating as the novel ideas of Brower on the evolutionary origins of a distinctly human consciousness is Varki's story of how he stumbled upon them, and became preoccupied with their potentially profound implications about what differentiates humans."
— Sanjay Nigam, Author of Snake Charmer and Transplanted Man

"Denial isn't often regarded as a positive thing, but according to this stimulating speculation on consciousness and evolution, it could be the key to human intelligence…An engaging tour of evolutionary biology, anthropology, and cognitive psychology, touching on everything from animal intelligence to autism, religion, and extraterrestrial life. Theirs is a provocative and philosophically rich…account of human origins."
— Publishers Weekly