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Why Us? How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves

James Le Fanu

Hardback, 303 pages, 2010

Item# B141
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James Le Fanu, is a British medical doctor who publishes in peer-reviewed medical journals like the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine and the British Medical Journal, a columnist for the London Telegraph, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Award for his book The Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine (2001). In Why Us? we discover Dr. Le Fanu is also a Darwin doubter. Le Fanu's main point is that the more science reveals about the most important question a human can ask--What is man and how did he come to be?--the more we have to admit that we don't know. Le Fanu demonstrates this by masterfully recounting the epic demise of expectations that prevailed until recently for the prospects of three scientific enterprises. Darwinian evolution, genetics, and brain research were supposed to combine to give a compelling, coherent and united naturalistic account of man's origin and nature. They did no such thing and the prospect of their doing so in the future appears hopeless.  This is a great book to give your Darwin-devoted friends. Intelligent design is never mentioned, but the foundation for the materialist, reductionist worldview is systematically dismantled by a well-known authority on science and medicine.

Table of Contents

  1. Science Triumphant, Almost
  2. The Ascent of Man:  Riddle in Two Parts
  3. The Limits of Science 1: The Quixotic Universe
  4. The (Evolutionary) ‘Reason for Everything': Certainty
  5. The (Evolutionary) ‘Reason for Everything': Doubt
  6. The Limits of Science 2: The Impenetrable Helix
  7. The Fall of Man: A Tragedy in Two Acts
  8. The Limits of Science 3: The Unfathomable Brain
  9. The Silence
  10. Restoring Man to His Pedestal



James Le Fanu
James Le Fanu was born in 1950 and spent his childhood in Scotland, East Africa, Yugoslavia and Cyprus. He studied the Humanities at Ampleforth College before switching to medicine, graduating from Cambridge University and the Royal London Hospital in 1974. 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 twenty years he has combined working as a doctor in general practice with contributing a weekly column to the Sunday and Daily Telegraph. He has contributed articles and reviews to The New Statesman, Spectator, GQ, The British Medical Journal and Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. He has written several books including ‘The Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine' that won the Los Angeles Prize Book Award in 2001 and ‘Why Us?: How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves' that was published in Britain and the United States in February 2009.
He has made original contributions to current controversies over the value of experiments in human embryos, environmentalism, dietary causes of disease and the misdiagnosis of Non Accidental Injury in children. He is married to the publisher Juliet Annan, has two children Frederick and Allegra, and lives in south London.


“Simple and compelling; a bold attempt to reunite science with a sense of wonder.”
--The Sunday Times (London)

“An extraordinary work of science. . . . Quite wonderfully refreshing.”
--A. N. Wilson, Reader's Digest (UK)
“[Le Fanu reminds us] that life is finally inexplicable, and the universe full of mysteries that are inaccessible to scientific probing. The fact that these rarely stated realities are so superbly brought to life here makes this a brave, brilliant and fascinating book.”
--The Sunday Telegraph (London)

“Excellent. . . . An important, luminously written book. . . . Carefully-documented, scrupulously fair-minded. . . . It deserves a very wide readership. . . .  A careful reader, analyst, and conveyor of this body of research, and an admirer of its revelations and the ingenuity of those who have made them, LeFanu is also possessed of something even rarer than a gift for luminous explication of scientific complexity: he has what the great, polymathic thinker Blaise Pascal called 'l'esprit de finesse,' or a philosophical mind.”
--Modern Age

“James Le Fanu's lively literary imagination makes this book such a stimulating and challenging read.”
--Literary Review (UK)
“Erudite and beautifully written. . . . Le Fanu lucidly analyses the limitations of that narrow intellectual prison in which science has languished too long.”
--The Spectator (UK)
“Le Fanu sets his stall out with admirable clarity, and not a little brio. . . . [He is] a lucid and compelling writer.”
--Evening Standard (UK)
“This challenge is so knowledgeable, so meticulously constructed that mere prejudice will not be enough to undermine this major work.”
--Catholic Herald
“A bold synthesising polemic.”
--Standpoint Magazine
“Le Fanu eviscerates salvation by science. The Double Helix is impenetrable, the brain unfathomable, the genome over-rated, the self a mystery.”
--World Magazine
“An outstandingly readable and informative book. . . . Le Fanu knows a lot but wears his erudition lightly.”
--David Klinghoffer, The Discovery Institute

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