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Customer Review

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Doctrine of DNA, November 1, 2004
This review is from: Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA (Paperback)
Despite some shortcomings, I was thoroughly impressed by this book that I read it two times in a row. I also chose to base a school project on it. I am quite convinced that "Biology as Ideology" might actually have been one of the most important books of the previous century (Yes, I mentioned this in my project). And although it is atypical of me to comment on other people's reviews, some things just warrant correction. Contrary to what one reviewer said, Lewontin never once suggests that "there is no such thing as race" in this book. And although Lewontin has a thing or to two to say about reductionism - - he does not completely resent it. He talks about an ideal view "that sees the entire world neither as an indissoluble whole, or as isolated bits and pieces". It's easy to miss this message because Lewontin does tend to have a propensity for veering off-topic once in a while. I also don't think that it's far-fetched at all to call Lewontin a Marxist. Although he only mentions Karl Marx once in this book, most of his views on society strongly cohere with Marx's.

In our world today, any product of science is claimed and treated as a universal truth. Lewontin encourages the reader not to be mystified by science (don't just leave it to the experts!) And science has never been as "objective" and "nonpolitical" as it claims because it's a product of society. Scientists will view nature through lens molded by social experience.

I thought it daring (and brave) that Lewontin - a luminary in the study of genetics today - should question Darwin's "natural selection", and see more sense in Lamarck's inheritance of acquired characteristics. This book is good because it makes you observe the other side of things. It makes you think.

Perhaps the most excellent point made by Lewontin in his book is that of biological determinism as a way of social legitimization. Biological determinism has been used to explain and justify the inequalities within and between societies and to claim that those inequalities can never be changed. We are being taught that there is genetic differentiation between racial groups in characteristics such as behavior, temperament, and intelligence. We are also being taught that people's genes are connected to things like unemployment, eroticism, dominance, poverty, and homelessness. It really getting ridiculous! There is too much power being blunderingly put on the DNA molecule.

I however, disagree with Lewontin that the genome project was a waste of time and billions. It has helped not only consolidate the theory of evolution...but it has also helped in areas like systematics, phylogeny, and taxonomy. Another shortcoming is that Lewontin's book is more than a decade old - many discoveries and advancements have occurred since then in molecular genetics.
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