Who Is James Le Fanu? Part V: Darwin’s Three Monkeys

Anyone who raises doubts about evolution in public discussions with non-scientists knows the automatic response you always get from the Three Monkeys crowd. Hands wrapped tightly over eyes, ears, and mouth, they chant: See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil — about Darwin! That’s not exactly how it comes out. People will say things more like: But science has spoken! Scientists say! Science wins! Which sounds reasonable at first, until you reflect that it’s a little like a Roman Catholic fending off some challenge to his faith by pointing out that 98 percent of Catholic priests agree with Catholic doctrine, and who knows more about Catholicism than Catholic priests? So it must be true. (Or substitute rabbis and Read More ›

Who Is James Le Fanu? Part IV: Taking Away the “Comfort Blanket” of Darwinism

We have a 2 year old, Saul, who is very attached to his comfort jacket. It’s like a security blanket for him, blue and quilted and thoroughly stained. He doesn’t wear it, since it is too small for him by now anyway. He holds it and sleeps with it, and if you try to take it away from him when he’s in bed — say, to put it in the laundry — watch out. He will be extremely ticked off, crying, fussing. In an important new book, Why Us? How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves (Pantheon), British physician and historian James Le Fanu speculates that Darwinism works that way for many people. It’s a “comfort blanket,” explaining everything about Read More ›

Who Is James Le Fanu? Part III: An Intruder in the Church of Darwin

Baron Georges Cuvier (1769-1832), who served as director of Paris’s Musee d’Histoire Naturelle, held that there was an unknown biological “formative impulse,” an organizational principle of some kind, that directed the formation of diverse kinds of life. It is such an idea that James Le Fanu seeks to revive in his excellent new book, Why Us?: How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves (Pantheon). It does appear that something is guiding life’s evolution toward intelligible ends. Dr. Le Fanu, in appreciation of whom I am writing this series, urges us to be comfortable with saying science does and perhaps cannot know the nature or source of that impulse. Darwin, of course, sought to identify the principle or law behind evolution Read More ›

Who Is James Le Fanu? Part II: The Book to Buy for Your Darwin-Devoted Friends

When the novelist, biographer and literary critic A.N. Wilson came out recently as a Darwin skeptic, in comments to the New Statesman the book he mentioned as substantiating his skepticism is James Le Fanu’s new and outstandingly readable and informative book Why Us?: How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves (Pantheon). For the moment, this is probably the one book you should buy for your Darwin-devoted friends — if you are going to buy just one. In this little series, continued from last week, I am just trying to give a flavor of the book. Le Fanu is a distinguished British physician and author of peer-reviewed medical journal essays. He exemplifies the Talmud’s note of advice that a person should Read More ›

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

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 Read More ›