Who Is James Le Fanu?
Part I: Darwin Doubter Signals Paradigm Shift in Evolution Debate

David Klinghoffer

Though he’s fairly prominent character, I admit James Le Fanu was not till recently on my radar screen or that of anyone else around here that I know of. 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), Dr. Le Fanu turns out to be a flaming Darwin doubter, too. He comes out with a vengeance in his new book, Why Us?: How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves,” which hammers scientific materialism to bits. It really is a book you shouldn’t miss buying and reading.
What’s so notable? First of all, the man writes like an angel. Second, his book appears under the imprint of Pantheon, a very mainstream venue that I’ve never associated with conservative, religious, unconventional, or other dangerous types of authors. Third, while in his Acknowledgements, Le Fanu thanks a bunch of fellow writers who will be well known to readers of ENV — Michael Behe, Jeffrey Schwartz, Jonathan Wells, Phillip Johnson, and others — again, as far as I know his acquaintance with them was not personal but through reading their books and then thinking his own thoughts.
Le Fanu doesn’t mention intelligent design or Discovery Institute, which is just as well. It probably explains how he flew under not only our radar but that of Pantheon Books.

Before getting to the content of his book in future posts in this series, a word about how paradigms shift. The appearance of this book is significant as a cultural event. Unknown to us, Dr. James Le Fanu has been assimilating the scientific critique of Darwinism and adding to it his own insights about the history of science. He now appears before us, fully formed in his views — kind of like the periodic sudden radiations of novel forms of life that have been going on, contrary to Darwinian expectations, for the past 500 million years or so. Of course there are multitudes of other Darwin doubters — including most Americans — but Le Fanu is a surprise doubter because of his previous credits and his professional associations, someone that, if we knew nothing else about him, you’d assume to be most likely another unthinking go-along Darwinist.
If his thoughts and doubts were quietly bubbling all this time without our knowing it, there are surely many other such individuals from backgrounds like his own whose doubts about Darwin, similarly, will emerge in due time. When enough have done so, the whole framework in which people who like to think of themselves as smart and educated will massively shift, almost overnight.
As Le Fanu himself writes, “It cannot be long before a proper appreciation of the true significance of the findings of the recent past begins to sow doubts in inquisitive minds.”
More on those recent findings in the next installment.