Setting nature up in opposition to nurture makes for great headlines: remember the recent tabloid announcement that the gene for "genius" had been discovered? But the assumption that human qualities must be either innate
makes for confusing debate and downright bad science.
Bateson and Martin set out to explain the "real" picture--and it's one of mind-boggling complexity. If genes equip people with particular personalities, then we are jukeboxes stuffed to bursting with alternative selves just waiting for the right environmental factors for them to flourish. Genes are but the simple rules to life's complex and unpredictable chess-game.
And unpredictable it certainly is. Sometimes, identical twins behave more like each other when they are brought up apart. Genetically linked differences in behaviour can stand out like sore thumbs in one environment, disappear in another. The order in which siblings are born may be the most important influence on their subsequent development.
But if the picture seems confusing, luckily the authors have had the wisdom and imagination to illustrate their account with literary quotations and references that add tremendously to the reader's understanding. After all, they are talking about the same things: that dizzying mix of inherited behaviours and life experiences that we call human character.
Rarely has complex material been rendered so accessible and in so natural and mature a fashion. --Simon Ings
"If you have time to read only one book about human development, read this one" (Jared Diamond, Professor Of Physiology At Ucla And Pulitzer Prize Winner )
"This thoughtful and engaging book should be on everyone's reading list" (New Scientist
"Refresh your brows with the cool breeze of reason that is Bateson and Martin's overview... fascinating" (Guardian
"At last! In their sane and lucid - and much needed - corrective to the torrent of overblown genetic rhetoric, Patrick Bateson and Paul Martin take the reader on a journey through humanity's seven ages" (Steven Rose )
"Bateson and Martin have delivered what others have claimed to provide: a solid, signposted road out of the trench war between nature and nurture" (Marek Kohn Independent
--This text refers to the