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Human Nature: Fact and Fiction - Literature, Science and Human Nature Paperback – 30 Mar 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Continuum; annotated edition edition (30 Mar. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826485464
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826485465
  • Product Dimensions: 12.1 x 1.9 x 18.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 705,225 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Johnjoe McFadden was born in Donegal, Ireland but brought up in the UK. He obtained his PhD at Imperial College London and went on to work on human genetic diseases and then infectious diseases, at the University of Surrey in Guildford, UK. For more than a decade, Professor McFadden has specialised in examining the genetics of microbes such as the agents of tuberculosis and meningitis. He has published more than 100 articles in scientific journals on subjects as wide-ranging as bacterial genetics, tuberculosis, idiopathic diseases and computer modelling of evolution and has edited a book on the genetics of mycobacteria. He has lectured extensively in the UK, Europe, the USA and Japan and his work has been featured in radio, television and national newspaper articles. His present post is Professor of Molecular Genetics at the University of Surrey. He lives in London and is married with a young son.

Product Description


'... the book contains many sensitive and sensible little essays.' --Financial Times

About the Author

Robin Headlam Wells is Professor of English Literature at the University of Roehampton. Johnjoe McFadden is Professor of Molecular Genetics at the University of Surrey.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mr. I. B. Mott on 20 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback
Some of the accompanying hyperbole on the cover of this book is irritating - this is not a 'major new contribution on human nature, set to be required reading' etc.. This book grew out of presentations by ten serious (but entertaining) thinkers about the intersection of fiction and science. I think that anthologies like this are not only fun, partly because each writer has only a short amount of time to expound on their ideas and the variety therefore in such a collection, but I like to be challenged by ideas that I wouldn't normally come across.

I hadn't read any Ian McEwan before and his contribution is a delight, but far from standing out against a mediocre backdrop, I thought that all but one writer was of the first order. As for the writer I didn't enjoy, it was not the the quality of the ideas, but the effort of reading someone with whom I was not in-tune, rather than someone whose words were offensive - the 'fault' if it needs ascribing, is mine.

The issue of human nature is of great importance to me as I suffer from a brain disorder and find it very difficult to communicate with those who use language so differently to myself when talking about their experiences in the world. I found this book fun and thought provoking and, if not of much particular use to myself, I think that for a lot of people not so grounded in the science may well find this a good way into a set of problems that arise in our species. In many respects, it's a shame that this book is so short - if each speaker had twice the time/space for their contributions, there would be a lot more detail, and that's where the devil lay.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
[Five fun non-fiction reads. Numero Uno]

Fiction plays second fiddle here to fact. The dutiful postmodernism of AC 'rent-a-boff' Grayling's intro is not generally shared by the ten contributors. The only one of my fun five where 'God' does not deign to put in an appearance; free will, or its ghastly simulacrum, is the spectre at the feast and a pretty good time is had by all, considering.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2 reviews
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A must read if you are interested in the Nature-Nurture debate; or neuroscience. 27 Oct. 2009
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
IF, and this is a big if, you are fairly literate in the literature on the Nature-Nurture (also called Gene-Culture) debate, then this is a must have book. I am very fond of collections; they allow you access to multiple perspectives on a single issue - quickly. And this collection, although published in 2006, is about as recent as you can get on the issue of Nature-Nurture.

There are ten contributors: Steven Pinker, Ian McEwan, Joseph Carroll, Gabriel Dover, Simon Baron-Cohen, Catherine Belsey, Rita Carter, Ania Loomba, Kenan Malik and Philip Pullman. As explained in the Acknowledgements, "In May 2004 an international group of distinguished writers, scientists and literary theorists met at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London to debate one of the most controversial topics of our time - the problem of human nature. The papers in this volume are based on the talks given at the symposium." After a great Introduction by Wells and McFadden, Steven Pinker begins with his essay, The Biology of Fiction; he is, without a doubt, the most widely known of all the contributors. That said, if you want to go further into this issue, a great place to start would be any one of these four best-selling books: The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature - I would read this first, The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature, The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language (P.S.) and How the Mind Works - this one is very dense. Nevertheless, one of the central points of the book is to explore, in varied ways, in what ways Nature/ Genes impacts Classic Literature (such as Shakespeare). Some contributors take the side of Nature and some side with Nurture. Many of the other contributors set themselves up against Steven Pinker in various ways - I happened to believe they are mostly right (that is, Nurture is ultimately more important than Nature), but that is the fun of the debate. Read the essays and see who makes the best argument. I highly recommend this book. Very informative.

I would also recommend reading: Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies and The Central Liberal Truth: How Politics Can Change a Culture and Save It from Itself.
2 of 13 people found the following review helpful
An intresting read 5 Aug. 2006
By Philosophical individual - Published on
Format: Paperback
So far I have read about 7/10ths of the book, and thus so far it has been rather intresting. It at times seems rather chopped up and bouncing around from one chapter to another, seeing as each chapter was written by different authors. At times it can seem increasingly rough transitions between some chapters that can make it somewhat difficulkt to read, atleast for me. As well as the words can at times seem forced, and perhaps at times seems ill-written. As the human philosophys can seem to clash with common thoughts, which can lead to disbelief at some of the claims of the authors, which is not such a bad thing.

On the good side the book does share multiple interesting views. A credit to it is that it indeed delivers many seperate types of ideas and philosophys. It does a pretty admirable job at giving a wide perspective of human nature. It gives many variations and thoughts on the subject, and objectively dissects parts of human nature to try to see it from a realistic perspective.

All in all, not a bad book, an intresting read, indeed, but I think perhaps that there are better books out there, but if you feel the need, pick it up.
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