'Fascinating’   - DAILY MAIL          ‘Thought-provoking’  - THE TIMES          'Intriguing' - NATURE;   

'This book is absolutely fantastic'  -       'Timely and challenging' - THE GUARDIAN

Professor Tom Oliver has written a new book, The Self Delusion, which explores how people, animals, plants and the planet we live on are all intimately connected – and why that matters.

The critically acclaimed book has received widespread coverage in The Times, Guardian, Telegraph, Daily Mail, Business Post, Nature magazine, The Geographical, New Humanist, and The Tablet. See below for testimonials.

Here Professor Tom Oliver introduces his new book:


Read on to find how connected you are...

About the book:

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.

Read a full book review in The Guardian

Other media reviews

'Consciousness is one of the greatest of scientific mysteries . . . Fascinating' Mail on Sunday

Moving through difficult science with valuable clarity...a timely, challenging book.’ The Guardian

‘...several impor­tant messages, many of which need to be more widely understood; it is a thought­ provoking and worthwhile read.’ The Times

“Interweaving the natural sciences with case studies from neuroscience and psychology, THE SELF DELUSION assembles a compelling thesis…. It's easy to see why [Oliver] has won awards for communicating science to a general audience.“ Sunday Business Post, Ireland

"A vision of a connected society — one that is conscious of its dependency on nature — is a glistening beacon in a gloomy ecological present. In an era that will be defined by its planetary action, Oliver’s argument is timely and thorough."   The Geographical

“Heraclitus famously said that no man can step in the same river twice. Oliver has the science to back up the philosophy.” The Tablet

‘a rigorous ode to interdependence rooted as firmly in science as in spirituality’  Resurgence

Humans are less discrete entities than mash-ups of microbiota and shifting beliefs, declares ecologist Tom Oliver in this rich, intriguing book. We are, he shows, so interfused with the environment that all life might be seen as a web of genes, and all minds a web of memes. Oliver reframes the self as a fleeting union of molecules, a target for manipulation by parasites, a cooperative co-creator who is also destroying the biosphere. But by recognizing our connectedness, he argues, we enable needed societal and environmental change, NATURE

If there was ever a book that connected us to current world it’s this one. From how our bodies are made, the life of bacteria and its transmission between us, to how we create identity and what that means, and our connection and relationship to the natural world. Tom Oliver takes us on a revealing and important journey. Alan Moore, author “Do Design. Why beauty is key to everything”

The Self Delusion is a captivating and important book. Oliver presents an eye-opening scientific and philosophical discussion about the illusion of self and the tragic errors that stem from excessive self-centeredness. Bill Sullivan, author "Pleased To Meet Me: Genes, Germs and The Curious Forces That Make Us Who We Are"

Professor Oliver’s breadth of knowledge and creativity of thinking are impressive, and his book makes you want to continue the conversation with him and the world. We are all connected and it matters. Minna Hartikainen, Royal Society of Biology

Infographic of ideas in the book. Click here for high res version (feel free to share)

Advance reviews:

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’ Vybarr Cregan-Reid, author of Primate Change

‘As a recovering individualist, I need to be reminded of the dangers of the self delusion and the benefits of dispelling it, and this book is a fascinating and compelling presentation of the scientific evidence’ Michael Foley, author of The Age of Absurdity

‘As Tom Oliver takes us through this enlightening tour of our interconnectedness, from microscopic interactions to our collective cultural mind, he mercilessly dissects the very notion that our cherished individuality exists at all. Entertaining and thought-provoking, this book offers an urgently needed revaluation of our place in the world and what the next steps in our evolution might be’ Nathan H. Lents, author of Human Errors

‘Until you've read Tom Oliver's delightful THE SELF DELUSION you'll never have guessed that, from the ground up, you and your self-identity are constructions, built like an Arcimboldo painting, but of cells from many sources, neurons, ideas and finally connections to others. Read this book for a compelling way of thinking about how and why the 'you' that you see when you look inside yourself arises, and its place in the universe’ Mark Pagel, author of Wired For Culture

‘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’ Sir Prof. Ian Boyd, Chief Scientific Advisor, UK Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (2012-2019)

Amazon reviews: 

“A transformational book! This is one of the most profound and beautifully written books I've read” Steven D'Souza, UK, Author of 'Not Being'

“One of my favourite reads of all time” Kyle, Australia

“I plan to give copies to my children with the hope that it makes their lives better”, Cheryl Lesar, USA

Book launch video (c. 20 mins; Waterstones, Reading, 23rd Jan 2020):

Interested to hear more? Here are some questions and answers following the talk:

Q1. Why is the illusion of our individuality so convincing?

Q2. How is the digital era affecting our self identity?

Q3. Is the idea of connectedness like a new religion?

Q4. How can we develop our sense of connectedness?

Public lecture at the University of Reading (c. 1 hour) 


Euronews interview relating ideas in the book to interlinked global crises (3mins)


How connected are you?

Purchase the book at Blackwells , Waterstones , Amazon, from your local bookstore or get the audiobook here

Upcoming events this space!

Recent events/news

SeptemberSong Festival Oxfordshire, UK- 14th Sept, 2023

Euromarine Foresight Webinar (Ocean sciences, arts and philosophy), video here, 18th Sept, 2023

Cafe Scientifique, Wallingford, UK - 5th Sept 2023

New song inspired by the Self Delusion! Listen to Sally Seltmann's Your Energy here

Finding Genius US podcast- available here

Article in The Idler magazine - available here

Linnean Society - Linnean Futures podcast here April, 2022

Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) Review article, special issue on 'Re-thinking Nature' available here Mar 2022

Leadership coach and author Steven D'Souza reads a two page synopsis from The Self Delusion on MBS Works podcast, Feb 2022

Brains and Banter, US podcast, Jan 2022

Something you should know Podcast (Mike Carruthers, USA) Aug 21 (25m30s in)

US Podcast 'Dunc tank' - available here Oct 2021

UNFIX art festival - talk and panel discussion,  June 2021

The Weekend University -Science and Spirituality event 25th April 2021. Two hour seminar now openly available here

Cambridge University BioSoc seminar Feb 2021. Infographic here and talk here

Extended interview with US Posthoc Salon and Templeton World Charity foundation, where we covered the ethics of climate change, how Covid-19 reveals human connectedness, programming Self Delusion into AI, and even a question about aliens coming to earth!  Jan, 2021

Russell Brand Podcast- Oct 2020, short video excerpt here and a longer one here

Geographical's 'Pick of the Books' May 2020 review here

New Humanist magazine interview transcript here

Previous presentations/dialogues

21st Nov Eden Project Festival of Discovery

Oct- Cafe Culture North East (date TBC)

24th Aug - Edinburgh Literary Festival MOVED ONLINE

16th April Blackwell's virtual book festival. Twitter thread HERE

28th March- Oxford Literary festival CANCELLED

24th March- CPH:DOX Documentary festival, Copenhagen [changed to Online conference]

18th March - Interview with Environment Journal (Pippa Neil) read here

12th Mar- Public lecture at Environmental Crisis, Science and Art exhibition, Eltham College, London

2nd March- Interview on Talk Radio Europe. Listen here

9th March - Book talk at All Saints Church, Wokingham

26th Feb- Public lecture University of Reading

26th Jan- Book Launch Waterstones, Reading


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