Tuesday, 26 May 2009

James Le Fanu, Why Us?


James Le Fanu
Why us? : how science rediscovered the mystery of ourselves
Hammersmith, London. Harper Press, 2009
xv + 303 pp. ; ISBN 9780007120277; Hardcover RRP $45.00

James Le Fanu is a London based medical practitioner (since 1974), a published author (since 1986), and a regular journalist (since 1992).

He has written an excellent work here, not so much entering the already over-stocked field of “Christianity v. Science” or “Creation v. Evolution” type of book, but actually penning a fact-filled exploration of what science has NOT been able to answer, despite all of its advances. In fact, this is not a “Christian” book at all, but rather an exploration of the power and limits of science to penetrate the deep mysteries of existence, challenging the certainty that Darwin’s Origin of Species seemed to provide, that we are no more than the fortuitous consequence of a materialist, evolutionary, process.

Le Fanu sees the challenge arising, unexpectedly, from the two major projects that promised to provide definitive proof for this most influential of theories: the astonishing achievement of the Human Genome Project which, it was anticipated, would identify the genetic basis of all human distinguishing characteristics; and, the phenomenal advance in brain imaging that now permits neuro-scientists to observe the brain ‘in action’ and thus account for the remarkable properties of the human mind.

But that, he says, is not how it has turned out! It is simply not possible, he states, to get from the monotonous sequence of genes in the Double Helix to the near infinite diversity of the living world. Nor to translate the electrical firing of the brain into the creativity of the human mind.

This is not a matter, he assures us, of not knowing all the facts, but rather science has inadvertently discovered that its theories are insufficient to conjure the wonder of the human experience from the bare bones of our genes and brains. The brain, it seems, may now be thought to not actually contain the mind, so much as the ‘mind’ may contain the brain.

He finishes with a prediction of a major shift in our understanding of ourselves that will witness the eclipse of Darwin’s materialist evolutionary theory and the rediscovery of the idea that there ‘is more than we can know’.

Hopefully good Christian apologists will be at hand when science gets to this point, and can introduce Christian truths of our God and His creation into their debate.

An excellent and very honest overview of scientific advances and the claims that can no longer (and, possibly, never could) be explained by the available facts.

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