Barash, David P.

Through a glass brightly: using science to see our species as we really are - New York Oxford University Press 2018 - iii, 203p. With index

Table of Contents
Part 1: The Allure of Human Centrality, or, How we Persistently Try to Deny Our Place in the Natural World
1. The Journey to Brobdingnag
2. From Centrality to Periphery
3. The Meaning of Life
4. Well Designed?
5. The Anthropic Principle
6. Tardigrades, Trisolarans and the Toughness of Life
7. Of Humanzees and Chimphumans
8. Separateness of Self
Part 2: New Ways of Understanding Human Nature
9. Uniquely Thoughtful
10. Conflict between Parents and Offspring
11. True or False?
12. The Myth of Monogamy
13. War and Peace
14. About Those Better Angels ...
15. Who's in Charge?
16. The Paradox of Power
Conclusion: Optare aude

Human beings have long seen themselves as the center of the universe, the apple of God's eye, specially-created creatures who are somehow above and beyond the natural world. This viewpoint--a persistent paradigm of our own unique self-importance--is as dangerous as it is false.

In Through a Glass Brightly, noted scientist David P. Barash explores the process by which science has, throughout time, cut humanity "down to size," and how humanity has responded. A good paradigm is a tough thing to lose, especially when its replacement leaves us feeling more vulnerable and less special. And yet, as science has progressed, we find ourselves--like it or not--bereft of many of our most cherished beliefs, confronting an array of paradigms lost.

Barash models his argument around a set of "old" and "new" paradigms that define humanity's place in the universe. This new set of paradigms range from provocative revelations as to whether human beings are well designed, whether the universe has somehow been established with our species in mind (the so-called anthropic principle), whether life itself is inherently fragile, and whether Homo sapiens might someday be genetically combined with other species (and what that would mean for our self-image). Rather than seeing ourselves through a glass darkly, science enables us to perceive our strengths and weaknesses brightly and accurately at last, so that paradigms lost becomes wisdom gained. The result is a bracing, remarkably hopeful view of who we really are.


Philosophical anthropology
Human ecology
Human beings - Animal nature

599.9 / B2T4

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