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How to Make a Human Being: A Body of Evidence

How to Make a Human Being: A Body of Evidence [Kindle Edition]

Christopher Potter
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Product Description


Praise for ‘You Are Here’:

‘One of the most entertaining and thoughtful pop-science books to be published for years’ Sunday Times

‘Anyone drawn to the big questions will enjoy this latest synthesis’ New Scientist

‘A wonderful, miraculous book …The whole universe bottled for your delight’ Stephen Fry

‘You Are Here will provide an antidote to existential vertigo, helping you find your feet in a limitless universe’ Matt Ridley

‘One of the best popular science books I have ever read’ Guardian

Product Description

A startling investigation of what it means to be human.

Human beings know how to make machines. But what kind of machine is a human being? And could we ever make one?

In order to answer these questions, other questions get in the way:

What is it like to be a human being?
What is it like to be some other kind of animal?
What is reality?
What is consciousness?
Is there a God?
What is love?
Why live?

The questions proliferate.

But all these questions can be viewed as facets of a single question:

What is science?

In ‘How To Make a Human Being’ Christopher Potter shows how, at every scale of description, human beings escape the net of scientific reductionism. What it is to be human can be glimpsed in the details: in the opening of a window, in a shared joke. But cannot be caught by any reductive scientific description.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1222 KB
  • Print Length: 337 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0007447795
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (27 Mar 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00FIUM104
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #172,652 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is an intriguing, exciting and challenging book that circles around Q's of negative capability in the face of the inevitable existential uncertainty of being human. To live with and through uncertainty demands challenging solutions from the engaged reader as well as the author, who provides us with those moments in his own pharmakon of sometimes idiosyncratic knowledge when the pendulum has swung between hope and despair,knowledge and admiration that man is often his own worst enemy. The title of the book suggests that readers will find out something specific but its text teases out the irony of any such claim as this 'body' of evidence is at the mightiest level invisible to scientists as well as spiritualists. The body is always disappearing. This is a book reminiscent of the poet/philosopher Pessoa that requires pause, reflection and digestion of its sometimes uncomfortable and sophisticated inventory that not only are we fallen creatures, fallen from grace - how little 'grace' do we see on the 10 o'clock News - but that also we blindly move between one hour and the next, never knowing when, or whether our bodies will surprise or terrify us. The author shares his own fears and pleasures generously with his readers.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars eccentric and thought provoking 29 Mar 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This attractively produced book is hard to categorise as it blends philosophy and literature with evolutionary theory, quantum physics and biology, in a witty speculation by a writer as much at ease with the world of science as he is with the arts. Divided into sections, each laced with quotes and epigrams from a wide variety of sources, makes for a stimulating read which one can take up and put down without losing any threads. Potter's unusual outlook on the meaning of life is conveyed with grace and flair.
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When, four hundred years ago, Francis Bacon made the case for experiment and measurement, thus inaugurating modern scientific method, his poet friend George Herbert asked: how do you measure love? This brilliant new book takes that dialogue further and wider perhaps than ever before, bringing together the wisdoms of scientists, philosophers, religions and artists to illuminating what our universe might be, and what it might mean to be human in it.
Christopher Potter’s deep and wide-ranging empathy for all these perspectives ensures that the experience of reading it is constantly to be surprised, moved, or delighted into new perceptions, and no side is stereotyped or reduced. While describing with wonder the recent astonishing progress in physics, biochemistry and neuroscience, he deploys the voices of eminent scientists to reveal how well they understand the limitations of their field of enquiry (things measurable “by a clock and a ruler”). New scientific advances can typically flow not from dry observation but acts of imagination as inspired as art. Like great artists, they destroy or constrict what were previously certainties. What our universe is, and what it means to be human, are always unravelling. We are an unstable field, and in this a microcosm of our cosmic surroundings, but one capable, at our best, of astonishing and unmeasurable perception, each holding, as Potter reveals, in a human brain, the most complex thing so far discovered in creation.
Meaning may belong more in metaphor, where poets and religious thinkers have often dwelt, questioning those who, from any side of the argument, have propounded narrow certainties.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I think this is a wonderful book. It really does go into all those questions about life and existence, but in a way that so unernest, and draws on the wisdom of so many people, and in such a digestible way, that I wonder it has not been done before. I think the format is perfect, with subjects, quotations and the author's observations (though not judgements) blending into a thought provoking, and often very funny, journey through..... well, everything really. I had always fancied myself as a bit of a philosophy/theology student, but this book made me realise I had not really thought about much about anything.

It is perfect for anyone who does not want to plough through pages of dense text, but who likes to be challenged, amused, informed, entertained, and possibly shown the Way - without having to work hard at it. It can be read on levels to suit anybody - and that is quite an achievement.
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