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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2000
William Wright tackles the link between genes and behavior in plain language. He makes it clear that as human beings with consciousness and choice, genes do not dictate behavior, but contribute to it. He separates the politics of the fear regarding genetic research from what we know and how we know it and how we use new information. He also discusses how researchers might avoid some methodological hazards or the accusation of fudged data (document everything!).
He says, "Most scientists take the position that knowledge is neutral, value free; the use to which it is put might be good or bad, beneficial or hurtful to society in general. First, learn as much as we can, then let society decide how new information will be used. The opponents of behavioral genetics have consistently feared such a climate of unfettered inquiry." (p. 215)
Much of this book focuses on twin studies, but Wright also describes some of the research on hormone levels and their effects. He attempts to tease out the variables of nature and nurture on specific behaviors such as intelligence, depression, and a tendency toward violence.
My reading of this book sparked a frenzy of my reading other books on twins, homosexuality, and other research on the links between genes, environment, and behavior. I highly recommend this book.
~~Joan Mazza, author of Dream Back Your Life; Dreaming Your Real Self; Things That Tick Me Off; and Exploring Your Sexual Self.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 2006
I found this book worthwhile as a review of twin studies and recent work in behavioural genetics.

Unfortunately it gives the impression that Wright is a professional writer who does not understand his material all that well. For example, he treats manic depression aka bipolar disorder as if it is exactly the same thing as depression. The conditions are very different, and with quite different degrees of heritability.

It's probably a good idea to read this book with caution, always bearing in mind that Wright's interpretation of the studies he describes may not be reliable. Even so, it's a useful reference to the source studies.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2000
Unlike other scientific books related to psychology and behavioral genetics, Mr. Wright's book does not bog down in "techno-jargon". He does a superb job at simplifying and codifying years of legitimate scienctific research regarding the genetic nudges of behavior. Having spent years myself as a psychology graduate student combing the same research, Wright is on target. The two most interesting aspects of his book is that he actually interviewed,face to face, prominent researchers in this field. Moreover, Wright adeptly outlined the history behind this turbulent subject. He put into words what I have observed for years; that some well-educated psychologists can be blinded to convincing scientific evidence. It is courageous of Mr. Wright to actually name the researchers which might have ulterior motives not to examine the evidence with an objective eye. In the end, "Born that Way", may not be the definitive book on behavioral genetics. However, it is an outstanding reference for people who wish to know more about where psychology has been and where it will soon be grounded. I certainly recommend this book to psychology students.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 2004
William Wright does a terrific job of making a complex subject readable and readily understandable. The crux of the story revolves around Thomas Bouchard's, now famous, twin studies in Minnesota. As Wright tells the story of the remarkable similarities found between identical twins separated at birth and reunited after 20-30-40 years, one becomes stunned by the heritable clarity of traits, temperaments, abilities, intelligence, and metabolic rates and so on and so on. It's just breathtaking; so much so that's it's worth reading a second time just to make sure you didn't miss anything.

As the book progresses, Wright names the players on either side of the nature-nurture debate and what becomes clear from the outset is the astonishingly blinkered mindset of the environmentalists. Theirs is hardly a search for truth, but one of obstructing progress in order to further a socialist political agenda. Wright recounts the debates and the duels through the press, and the periodicals of the scientific community, until you're flustered with rage at the audacity of these obstructionists. Medical progress means less to these left wing scientists than the protection of their political agenda. Just amazing! It's reminiscent of the Catholic Church versus Galileo in the early 16th century. And, Wright makes it into a compelling story so easy to read, and to understand, as to make its perusal a delight.

I couldn't help seeing the same socialist obstructionist patterns in "Born That Way" as I've seen in "Constant Battles" by Leblanc re anthropology, in "Taboo" by John Entine re racial differences in athletic achievement, in Hayek's "Road to Serfdom" about free market economics vs. Socialism, in Fumento's book "the Myth of Heterosexual Aids", in Bjorn Lomborg's book "the Skeptical Environmentalist", in Charles Murray's book "Losing Ground" and Myron Magnet's book "the Dream and the Nightmare," both about the trials and failures of government policy in welfare, and in books on 30 other category's of social policy as practiced in America over the last 40 years. It's the same story of resistance that Wright found when he took it upon himself to write this excellent book about the profound debates ongoing in the nature-nurture arena.

I've enjoyed "Genome" and "Nature via Nurture" by Ridley, and "Living with our genes" by Hamer, and "The Selfish Gene" by Dawkins, but this is the book I'd recommend as the introductory read in what is becoming the biggest medical breakthrough in the history of man: the reading of the Gene String via the Human Genome project. Wow!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 1998
A wonderful book. Provides a detailed history of the nature/nurture controversy that has raged throughout the 20th century. Even though Wright makes no bones about his position (many characteristics are present from birth, although environment matters too) he gives thorough and fair coverage to the many arguments that arise over identical twin studies, adoption studies, etc.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 23, 1998
Wright's book points out the profound issues confronting behavioral geneticists during this century. Major genetic breakthroughs in explaing our behavior become easy targets for the opposition since these ideas are outside their accepted "paradigm." Where are you, Thomas Kuhn? By marking the existence of monumental social programs being constructed out of the environmentalists' control over behavioral thinking, he reminds us how a little common sense could solve our societal problems. He says that environmentalists look for external "problem" issues that allow the continuance of victim mentality. In addition, he brings us to the point where other groundbreaking questions need to be asked and answered. Can we anticipate behavior by an individual's appearance...since the way we look is hereditary?
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2000
Over all a very good book. It not only describes the twin studies in Minnesota, but also explains how genes influence, not determine, our behaviour.
Unfortunatly I was disapointed by the conclusion. Here the author makes some of his own speculations that really ignore facts.
He tries to state that the trouble in the former Yugoslavia is more genetic than cultural because they have been living in peace for so long. We actually don't know how they well they were getting along in a totalitarian society, and 50 years isn't even enough for one lifetime.
He also tries to say that anti-abortion sentiment might be natural, ignoring the fact that we have had ways of getting rid of unwanted children since at least the start of written history.
If it wasn't for the conclusion I would give it a 5.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 2005
The developing understanding of the human genome will bring us the most dramatic medical changes that humans have ever seen and this book serves as more than a solid introduction to the science which is and has been developing at a blinding pace. Psychological theory of the last 60 years has been turned on its head as biologists offer genetic evidence of inherited traits that go far beyond eye and hair color and into wild, specific intricacies that definitely will blow your mind if you haven't read other texts dealing with this exciting topic. Wright offers a comprehensive and thorough view of what has been the battlefield between behavioral geneticists and environmentalists - the conclusion, as Wright and his contemporaries see it: nature vs nurture is no longer of any consequence, but nuture operates through nature. This is a critical distinction made by Wright numerous times through the book which indicates that rather than being condemned by our genes, our understanding of them helps us eliminate the environmental attributes that also play a role in our development. Very highly recommended. If your thirst for behavioral genetics isn't sated after reading this, I recommend Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 23, 1999
This title is currently being recommended by the McLaughlin Group, the award winning public affairs televison program.
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3 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 1999
The study on monozygotic twins separated at birth is incomplete, since it totally disregards THE WHOLE PICTURE. This world doesn't only consist of RELATED LOOK-ALIKES (IDENTICAL TWINS), BUT ALSO OF NON-RELATED (PERHAPS GENE-RELATED?) LOOK-ALIKES. Therefore, the study would only be complete if the Minnesotans were to follow up with a scientific study of look-alikes, with a minimum of FOUR non-related look-alikes/built-alikes per set, studying them for similar expressions, vocal-chords, tendencies, etc.
Over the past few decades, I have always been all too aware of the narrow-scoped idiocy inherent in articles which analyze personality and environment to the exclusion of people's most IMMEDIATE environments (e.g., the limitations imposed upon people by their physical bodies & physical brains.)
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