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47 people found this helpful
I almost skipped this one but...
on July 11, 2003
"Nature via Nurture"; the title sounds like a dead horse that doesn't need to be beaten any more. I decided to pick this one up because I love Ridley's work, and because it is read by the author. What a treat that is! With the author reading the book, you know that the nuances are correct, and that the abridgement isn't harming the message.
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. For instance, the more egalitarian a society is, the more the heritabilaty of traits becomes manifest. Potentially confusing, certainly mind-bending, and who better than Ridley to explain it?
If you are interested in biology, read this book.