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Why Us?: How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves
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Why Us?: How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  80 Ratings  ·  14 Reviews
The triumph of science in explaining man’s unique place in the universe might seem almost complete. But in this lucid and compelling account, James Le Fanu describes how in the recent past science has come face-to-face with two seemingly unanswerable questions concerning the nature of genetic inheritance and the workings of the brain–questions that suggest there is, af ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published March 17th 2009 by Pantheon (first published January 1st 2009)
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Oct 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Wow, this book was truly an adventure! The book opens with a recent history of the significant discoveries in the field of genetics and neurology as possessing immense potential and within which lie the secrets of life...alas, it wasn't found to be that easy. Le Fanu's central thesis is that science has foolishly reduced humans and animals to merely products of an aimless trajectory somehow always eventually proving positive to the species. Just as Marx reduced human history as stemming from ec ...more
Aug 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, science
A fascinating expose of the limits reached so far by mainstream science. Some reviews criticized Le Fanu for not providing an alternative to evolution, but I thought his debunking of it was more credible for its honesty in saying it doesn't work, and we don't have an alternative. His discussions of conciousness, the double helix/ genes, our ability to communicate, and brain development all point to some influence outside of our current knowledge - and he seemed at pains to ensure he wasn't advoc ...more
Cassandra Kay Silva
Mar 25, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science
This is not a creationist book, and I appreciate that. Le Faunu took a lot of time going through evolution piece by piece and taking a very realistic look at what he felt was known so far (he did miss a few things but we will let that slide for the time being), and given what information he had, he basically built a defense against a wholesale acceptance of Evolution. This is fine, and I think he did this fairly well. What I did not appreciate was two things. First of all as with EVERYONE who ha ...more
Fanu thinks along the same lines as Thomas Nagel. He does not believe the Neo-Darwinian thesis can account for all that it claims. He takes us through a history of science lesson in chemistry and neurobiology and argues that both fail to adequately explain a purely materialistic account of life.
Fr. Ted
Sep 06, 2011 rated it liked it
I had two distinct reactions to this book (and I want to acknowledge this is the 1st book I read on Kindle e-reader). I do have an interest in the relationship between science and religion. I think both science and religion should have a commitment to seeking truth. I am not a Biblical literalist. I do not go to the Bible when I want to learn about science. Though I believe in God, I am comfortable with studies in anthropology, biology, archaeology, evolution, etc. I do not feel threatened by th ...more
Jul 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book may seem like an argument for creationism, but it isn't. In truth, this book is about why science cannot reach the ultimate answers that mankind has been searching for since we've first separated ourselves from the rest of the animal kingdom.

By breaking down the limits of science, what happened with Human Genome Project that created more mysteries and questions than we had before the project started, and how the brain is more of an enigma than we originally thought, Le Fanu shows that
Joshua Johnson
Jul 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Le Fanu is a profound writer, and though I found much of this work somewhat heavy going, the ideas he expresses are worthy of much thought and contemplation. I especially appreciated his treatment of the history of materialist science, and explanations of its limits in light of modern work with the genome project, and with brain science, brain imaging, and the mind. I'm intrigued by his argument about the dual nature of reality, the material and the non material, and feel that further study woul ...more
May 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Definitely liked this book. The author took a chance and detailed the known science behind the genetic code and how little we know despite all the gene mapping about how this translates into the function of man and that our genetic code is only slightly less than the fruit fly.

His discussion of our advances in neurosciences with PET scans while remarkable, don't even touch on how the brain functions on a complex cellular basis with regard to cognitive function, feeling, sensing and calculation a
Very interesting story. The author brings in an enormous amount of information and arguments that there is an end to our knownledge. Good to read that others have also their doubts about many claims of scientists. In the first half of the book I had the hope that the author may give some alternative.
Clearly he is no supporter of the creationists, but I expected some philosophic considerations how to deal with his conclusions. He gave no such clues. Disappointing!
Dec 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
If you love science, nature, or history you should get this book. LeFanu is a wonderful writer and he conveys joy and wonder while he explains scientific things that I otherwise would not even try to read about.
Jan 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Easy to read science book about how the last decade with it's examination of the brain using PET scans and the breaking of the human genome has not answered the questions of the origin of man, but just created new questions.
I want to buy everyone I know a copy of "Why Us". In fact, I'm checking Amazon right now.A mind expanding presentation of life.
Heather Tomlinson

I really enjoyed this book. More info on my blog here:
Good for undergrads but too general for a grad student, good for general audience.
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James Le Fanu studied the Humanities at Ampleforth College before switching to medicine, graduating from Cambridge University and the Royal London Hospital. He subsequently worked in the Renal Transplant Unit and Cardiology Departments of the Royal Free and St Mary’s Hospital in London. For the past 20 he has combined working as a doctor in general practice with contributing a weekly column to the ...more
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