Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters

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9780060932909: Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters

The most important investigation of genetic science since The Selfish Gene, from the author of the critically acclaimed and best-selling The Red Queen and The Origins of Virtue.

The genome is our 100,000 or so genes. The genome is the collective recipe for the building and running of the human body. These 100,000 genes are sited across 23 pairs of chromosomes. Genome, a book of about 100,000 words, is divided into 23 chapters, a chapter for each chromosome. The first chromosome, for example, contains our oldest genes, genes which we have in common with plants.

By looking at our genes we can see the story of our evolution, what makes us individual, how our sexuality is determined, how we acquire language, why we are vunerable to certain diseases, how mind has arisen. Genome also argues for the genetic foundations of free will. While many believe that genetics proves biological determinism, Ridley will show that in fact free will is itself in the genes. Everything that makes us human can be read in our genes. Early in the next century we will have determined the function of every one of these 100,000 genes.

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The most impo’rtant investigation of genetic science since The Selfish Gene’, from the author of the critically-acclaimed and best-selling ‘The Red Queen’ and ‘The Origins of Virtue’.

The genome is our 100,000 or so genes, the collective recipe for the building and running of the human body. These 100,000 genes are sited across 23 pairs of chromosomes. ‘Genome,’ is divided into 23 chapters, a chapter for each chromosome.

By looking at our genes we can see the story of our evolution, what makes us individual, how our sexuality is determined, how we acquire language, why we are vulnerable to certain diseases, how the mind has developed. ‘Genome’ also argues for the genetic foundations of free will. While many believe that genetics proves biological determinism, Ridley will show that in fact free will is itself is encoded – everything that makes us human can be read in our genes.

Review:

Science writer Matt Ridley's Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters is an elegant reflection on the significance of being able, for the first time in history, to read our own genes. The book is loosely organised around the stories of one gene per chromosome, rather than the whole genome. This enables Ridley to take in most of the usual topics associated with genes--our relations with other species, the nature of intelligence, the origins of behaviour--and add some new ones. Ridley is a fine writer and explains his selection of genetic stories exceptionally well. This is especially helpful when he is dealing with the intricacies of evolutionary theory or the tangled webs of genes influencing biochemistry influencing behaviour, influencing biochemistry influencing genes. His libertarian-right politics (state intervention bad, individual choice good) cut through many traditional worries about screening, testing and eugenics. The generally even tone only deserts him in a rather bad- tempered discussion of BSE (which starts with the gene for the protein implicated in the disease) and public attitudes to beef-eating. Otherwise, he is almost always persuasive, always interesting. By the time they finish cataloguing all our DNA, there look like being as many books on the subject as there are human genes. This is one of the ones worth having. --John Turney

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