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Why Us?

James Le Fanu (HarperPress: April 29, 2010), 320 pages.

In ‘Why Us?’, James Le Fanu explores the major implications of the most recent findings of genetics and neuroscience, challenging the common assumption that they must ultimately explain all there is to know about life and man’s place in the world. On the contrary, he argues, they point to an unbridgeable explanatory gap between the genes strung out along the Double Helix and the near infinite beauty and diversity of the living world to which they give rise, and between the monotonous electro-chemistry of the brain and richness and creativity of the human mind. “There is,” he writes, “a powerful impression that science has been looking in the wrong place, seeking to resolve questions that somehow lie outside its domain. It is as if we – and indeed all living things – are in some way different, profounder and more complex than the physical world to which we belong.” A N Wilson in his review described it as ‘an extraordinary work of science … quite wonderfully refreshing’; for Christopher Booker in The Spectator it was “enthralling”: “one of the glories of Le Fanu’s erudite and beautifully written book is that a sense of wonder is evident on every page, even as he lucidly analyses the limitations of the narrow intellectual prism in which science has languished too long.” ~ Publisher’s Description

Table of Contents

  • List of illustrations vii
  • Introduction: A Mystery to Ourselves xiii
  • 1 Science Triumphant, Almost 1
  • 2 The Ascent of Man: A Riddle in Two Parts 24
  • 3 The Limits of Science 1: The Quixotic Universe 59
  • 4 The (Evolutionary) ‘Reason for Everything’: Certainty 72
  • 5 The (Evolutionary) ‘Reason for Everything’: Doubt 110
  • 6 The Limits of Science 2: The Impenetrable Helix 126
  • 7 The Fall of Man: A Tragedy in Two Acts 148
  • 8 The Limits of Science 3: The Unfathomable Brain 176
  • 9 The Silence 230
  • 10 Restoring Man to His Pedestal 253
  • Acknowledgements 263
  • Notes 265
  • Index 293