Customer Reviews


9 Reviews
5 star:
 (6)
4 star:
 (1)
3 star:    (0)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:
 (1)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars eccentric and thought provoking
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...
Published 9 months ago by Prudence Patts

versus
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Great Pseuds of Today
I bought this book because I thought it might be about evolution, biology, history and stuff. In fact it's a self regarding and lazy conflation of quotes from physicists, philosophers, writers and the author himself, roughly arranged in the style of a renaissance commonplace book. There is no overarching argument which I could detect, so readers should perhaps regard it...
Published 7 months ago by James-philip Harries


Most Helpful First | Newest First

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars eccentric and thought provoking, 29 Mar 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: How to Make a Human Being: A Body of Evidence (Hardcover)
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Book packed full of wisdom and insight, imbues you with its own restless imagination, 3 July 2014
This review is from: How to Make a Human Being: A Body of Evidence (Hardcover)
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. The book, to quote its sub-title, is a body of evidence, but one from which no defining conclusions can be drawn, other than, as Potter asserts, to be open to multiplicity, diversity, and the creative fire of the human mind. As another British poet, John Keats, wrote long ago: I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart’s affections, and the truth of the imagination.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All the Big Questions you have thought of, and many you have not!, 1 April 2014
This review is from: How to Make a Human Being: A Body of Evidence (Hardcover)
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An intriguing book that circles around Q's of negative capability in the face of the inevitable existential angst of being human, 10 May 2014
By 
This review is from: How to Make a Human Being: A Body of Evidence (Hardcover)
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Great Pseuds of Today, 10 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: How to Make a Human Being: A Body of Evidence (Hardcover)
I bought this book because I thought it might be about evolution, biology, history and stuff. In fact it's a self regarding and lazy conflation of quotes from physicists, philosophers, writers and the author himself, roughly arranged in the style of a renaissance commonplace book. There is no overarching argument which I could detect, so readers should perhaps regard it as a dictionary of the most embarrassing quotations.
Here's two:
If less is more, is nothing too much?
Human beings like to make things, but when the universe makes things, what are they? Being in the universe calls the thingness of things into doubt.
And so forth. Some but not most of the quotes or the author's aperçus are too long to fit in a fortune cookie.

Nearly all the great pretentious dead people appear: the Dalai Lama (well, OK he's not dead but not likely to sue for copyright infringement) Virginia Woolf, Aristotle, Plato, Descartes, Freud, Jacques Derrida, Victor Hugo, D H Lawrence, J P Sartre... add a couple more and a few Guardian or NYRoB columnists and you'd have a few sets for happy families.
Of course scientists say stupid things from time to time. We all do, shame on us. It seems to be a bit harsh to quote them out of context, but in context of this tripe.
Avoid.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Extraordinary Piece of Work, 15 April 2014
This review is from: How to Make a Human Being: A Body of Evidence (Hardcover)
A delightful and engaging book. I find it less eccentric than wry, which, to me at least, seems a welcome sign of respect for the intelligence of the reader. (I'm afraid I tend to fall for that sort of thing, particularly in these days of hyper-excited, flashy science-related media.) I find it unusually perceptive and thought-provoking, pursuing ideas traditional and less so with equal articulation and a fair amount of charm...I'm at a bit of a loss as to how exactly he maintains such a clear center in a book with such a range of topics.

I'm in full agreement with previous reviewers on two points. One, I can also imagine this staying on my Kindle somewhat permanently, to be taken out at any moment of pause in one's day -- which is in fact what I've done with it since finishing it. Though I find its physical version much more pleasing for this purpose. Like a tiny handful of rare works which have gone before it, it doesn't seem "done" when one's finished reading it, I keep wanting to go back, bounce around to different spots and explore. It's almost a generative work that way.

Two, it feels very much to me like a fresh approach to science writing in general; being written from a perspective that, at least to my mind, abandons the (imagined) security of setting forth an explication of Things As They Are (with its attendant pomposities large and small) and somehow manages to place a realistically human point of view, perhaps it's more accurate to say *manner* of perceiving, at the center of these various arrays of facts -- the wildly imperfect, frequently imaginary, occasionally brilliant, bias-driven set of contradictions which is our actual human perspective, as one experiences it. And yet the book is clear and consistent, even rigorous in its pleasing at-arm's-length way, but certainly honest in this utterly recognizable way; I find it very refreshing. He doesn't declaim or lecture, and though possessing an extraordinarily sharp intelligence, he uses it almost exclusively to assist his seemingly indefatigable curiosity...it's as if you're a fellow traveler or colleague, discussing ideas on some train trip somewhere to an even more exotic destination. Well done.

I've been reading science non-fiction for decades, ever since falling under the spell of Cosmos, and I can't say I've been quite as thrilled by a new work in many years.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book to re-read for the rest of your life, 3 April 2014
This review is from: How to Make a Human Being: A Body of Evidence (Hardcover)
I read this in a night, and it was one of the most exhilarating reading experiences I've had. Though it's non-fiction, it reminds me of some of my favourite novels - 'The Waves', 'War and Peace' - in breadth and ambition. Potter is uniquely positioned to study life simultaneously from materialist and aesthetic perspectives - what comes through, progressively, is his rapt fascination with the nothing-simpler and nothing-more-mysterious fact of existence. It's unlikely that you'll read a book from which you will learn quite so much. I found myself scrawling note after note with the enthusiasm of a teenager. The bibliography alone is a treasure (surely the only book to feature both Lyn Margulis and John Cheever!). The format is reminiscent of David Shields's 'Realty Hunger', though this is much further reaching. It might also be compared to John Gray, whose own work is similarly a blend of essay, autobiography, science, philosophy and tribute to loved writers, though Potter's is a much more affable, positive, and lyrical voice, and he's much more more comfortable on the hard science. It's an incredibly generous book - an example in how to live without illusion and with gratitude and wonder. I really believe this is a necessary and timely addition to the contemporary debate on post-Darwinian 'meaning'; as well as being essential and challenging reading for anyone interested in Dennett, Dawkins, etc, it also starkly illuminates quantum physics, evolutionary biology and other disciplines for those who may not be so familiar with them. Potter is unique: he is neither trying to denigrate belief nor hide from the physical realities of transient matter; neither reducing the felt expansiveness of consciousness nor ignoring the humbling and spectacular advances of neuroscience and molecular biology. He is, instead, boundlessly curious, excited, and above all appreciative of being alive. And he writes in a witty, pithy style accessible to anyone. I can't recommend this highly enough, and look forward to seeing the impact it will undoubtedly make on current debate.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 27 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: How to Make a Human Being: A Body of Evidence (Hardcover)
Good for the inquiring mind.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Spirit leveller, 29 April 2014
This review is from: How to Make a Human Being: A Body of Evidence (Hardcover)
Simply, science is what we know (and how we came to know it); the rest is chanting in the dark. Potter likes to blur the line. He wants the thrill of unknowing without the inconvenience of subservience to an improbable deity. He's a time-waster

'Even if we did believe that some ultimate truth exists, we can have no idea what it might look like.' I've never seen Star Trek, but surely there speaks the authentic voice of Captain Kirk. Nothing wrong with the science here, but if this pick 'n mix were being published a hundred years ago it would be interspersed with then-fashionable waffle like 'Theist and Agnostic must agree in recognising the properties of Space as inherent.. It is impossible to imagine how the marvellous space-relations discovered by the Geometry of Position [note the capitals] came into existence' (Herbert Spencer - if it's impossible to imagine, why try?) or similar Khalil gibberish. AN Wilson, from whose God's Funeral I lifted that passage, contrasts the reassuring solidity of science (that which we know, in effect; if you prick me, do I not bleed?) with 'the other areas of discourse with which we entertain the vacant hours' and calls speculation about ultimate causes 'ultimately pointless'. But if you have a vacant hour..

I often think God's self-revelation would be an awful letdown - no more mystery! This is not a science-book but a God-book; as such it is borderline dishonest. 'Most of us, most of the time, confuse the material world with the real world, whatever that is.' Whatever that is? Potter's playing peekaboo with knowledge. He paddles in speculation, sustained by the occasional booster shot of fact. He courts perplexity where scientists prize clarity. The last sentence on page 21 implies - no, states - that the more we know the less we know - ah, the rear-guard actions of the credulous are indeed touching! Perhaps he would rather envisage God as a thunderbolt? Does he even define God? Does he hell - nor love either. ('What if the world is a world of love?'?? John Lennon did better.) Potter's looking for 'the point' (page 38). How pointless is that? He writes envisaged as envisioned when he's surely old enough to know better; I guess visions are more his thing. Body of evidence? What evidence, Potter? In my youth a book like this would have included that riddling casuist GK Chesterton - at least we're spared that

If Amazon are to be believed, this rag-bag or commonplace book is being retitled There There for the American market. I find that vaguely amusing. It should go down an absolute storm
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

How to Make a Human Being: A Body of Evidence
How to Make a Human Being: A Body of Evidence by Christopher Potter (Hardcover - 27 Mar 2014)
£15.19
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews