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The Agile Gene: How Nature Turns on Nurture Paperback – July 6, 2004
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Ridley writes that the switches controlling our 30,000 or so genes not only form the structures of our brains but do so in such a way as to cue off the outside environment in a tidy feedback loop of body and behavior. In fact, it seems clear that we have genetic "thermostats" that are turned up and down by environmental factors. He challenges both scientific and folk concepts, from assumptions of what's malleable in a person to sociobiological theories based solely on the "selfish gene."
Ridley's proof is in the pudding for such touchy subjects as monogamy, aggression, and parenting, which we now understand have some genetic controls. Nevertheless, "the more we understand both our genes and our instincts, the less inevitable they seem." A consummate popularizer of science, Ridley once again provides a perfect mix of history, genetics, and sociology for readers hungry to understand the implications of the human genome sequence. --Therese Littleton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
So...great book, just don't shell out any money if you already read "Nature Via Nurture".
The discussions in this book are dramatically and importantly different from other discussions of "Nature/Nurture", and I can hardly recommend it strongly enough. What is different is the degree of specificity that Ridley brings to the conversation. He demonstrates from a dozen different points of view HOW causality flows both ways, from the genes to the environment and back. He also pokes holes in logical fallacies one hears all the time - for example, the assertion that a feature is not genetic because the specific genes have not (and in some cases may not ever) been identified. A well-constructed twin study positively identifies heritability of traits; tracking that heritability back to a spot on a chromosome is useful and interesting but not necessary.
There is also basic science here that the lay reader might not otherwise learn for years. For instance, until very recently it was thought that there was a one to one correlation between genes and their proteins. It was also unknown what, if any, purpose breaking genes apart into exons on the chromosome served. Now we have discovered that many - ninety five on one mouse gene - different versions of one exon can exist on the chromosome, allowing one gene to make many different versions of its protein. Different versions mediated by... environment, of course.
Much of the information here is counter-intuitive.Read more ›
As Ridley points out, the ideological question of whether human behavior is more the product of heredity or environment has distinguished not just scientists, but fascists and communists, just as surely as any of their political theories. During the well-known sociobiology debates, technical issues were rarely discussed much less resolved. Rather politics and the question of hidden agendas always raised its head.
While virtually all scientists and indeed anyone with a modicum of learning, observational skills, and common sense, have long known that heredity and environment were interacting factors in human nature, that answer truly satsifies almost no one. We still argue over the many implications of being either victims of our genes, victims of our environment, or somehow free of both. We still seek the answer to the technical question of *how* exactly biology and environment interact to produce living things, especially ourselves. And more abstractly, we still want to know what defines us as individuals, and what determines our fate.Read more ›
The thesis he puts forward, that nature and nurture are intextricably interwoven is undoubted. I believe he stops short of making the argument even more strongly. From a human standpoint, we can differentiate between "nature" and "nurture" but from the standpoint of the germ cell nature and nurture blend together. Is mitochondrial DNA nature or is it nurture? Surely we overstate the importance of the genetic "code" in the DNA. It can only be expressed because of all the other cellular components. So the distinction between code and non-code, and the individual and its environment is a lot blurrier than we suppose.
Matt Ridley has penned some of the best books on evolutionary science ever written. Nature via Nurture is at least as good, perhaps better than the best of his others, Genome and The Red Queen.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great book, walks the line between social studies and science like a master, and does not simply come to the conclusion that "both nature and nurture matter. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Murray Eiland
What a brain-bender! Matt Ridley makes you think so hard about what he's writing that it helps to put down the book every now and again just to clear your head. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Catherine S. Vodrey
Not my favorite of Matt's books, but I learn a lot from each of his books. Superbly researched. Interesting positions. Thought provoking.Published 8 months ago by Robert Westcott
Clear and compelling account of the interdependence of genes and environment. Ridley's book effectively makes the nature vs. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Tikrai
Arrived quickly; content very interesting. My book group is riveted.Published 17 months ago by mary brogan-sizemore
Enjoyed my exploration of the area of Nature via not versus Nurture. If anyone has ever wondered which is the more influential this is a book to browse through. Read morePublished 21 months ago by AmazonArcher
What there is is fine and interesting bit he stops right when your interest is peaked!Published 22 months ago by Liz Jelinek