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Lifelines: Biology, Freedom, Determinism (Lane Science) [Hardcover]

Steven Rose
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

25 Sep 1997 Lane Science
Steven Rose offers a response to those enthusiasts of the gene who insist that all aspects of human life are in our genes and the inevitable consequences of natural selection. He argues that life depends on the elaborate web of interactions that occur within cells, organisms and ecosystems, in which DNA plays a part among many. If we are to understand life, we must recapture an understanding of the entire organism and its trajectory through time and space - it is these trajectories that Rose calls "lifelines".

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (25 Sep 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713991577
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713991574
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 16.2 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,165,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

For the uninitiated, Darwin's theory of evolution is usually seen as survival of the fittest, with one species gaining ascendancy over another in nature's brutal war of attrition. For most biologists, however, evolution is far more complicated. Advanced studies in genetics have given rise to the theory of evolution on a genetic scale, with "selfish genes" battling for supremacy within organisms. Taken to its most extreme, species themselves become almost incidental to the genetic warfare that rages within them. Other biologists take a less narrow view of evolution, believing that many factors--both genetic and environmental--affect how an organism evolves; in Lifelines: Biology, Freedom, Determinism, author Steven Rose comes firmly down on this side of the argument.

Rose, a biochemist, specializes in how memory works, and his book includes some fascinating information about the influence of chemistry in the development of our bodies. So delicate is the balance of DNA chemistry and environment, in fact, that Rose finds the periodic announcements that scientists have "found" a gene responsible for sexual orientation or criminal behaviour, for example, to be outrageous and downright dangerous. Simple answers to complicated processes worry him, which may be why he strenuously attacks the genetics-as- destiny stance championed by such well-known scientists as Richard Dawkins.

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An antidote to dogmatism 12 Dec 2004
Scientific journalism and some scientists are responsible for a simplistic view of the way in which living things reproduce themselves. Steven Rose shows how biochemical analysis has moved far beyond the early ideas about genetic determination large-scale properties. He shows that the much quoted examples of such determination are the exception and not the rule. The 5th chapter explains very clearly that a gene is a highly complex thing which cannot be reduced a particular sequence of DNA. The process of transcription and editing of DNA means that the information required for reproduction is not contained in the DNA alone. Rather its is the result of the interaction of the DNA and its cellular environment.
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By Jeremy Bevan TOP 500 REVIEWER
Are we nothing more than vehicles for our ‘selfish’ genes ? In this lucidly-argued book, Steven Rose, one of Britain’s foremost biologists, argues that this widely-touted view is a serious distortion of a far more complex reality. Although genes and natural selection are undeniably key, Rose argues that interactions at a range of other levels, from the intracellular to the ecosystemic, all play a vital part in shaping the future path of the organism in both time and space. I’m not a scientist, but I found Rose’s explanations easy to follow, compelling and persuasive. For example, the notion that even proteins exhibit structures that are not a ‘given’ arising from the molecular form dictated by the amino acids that build them, arising instead from a finely-choreographed interplay with the water, ions and acidity or alkalinity of their environments. Genes function in a ‘molecular democracy constrained by cellular organisation, a cellular democracy constrained by the needs of the organism’ (307).

Rose’s argument, while necessarily diverting into reflections on the nature of socially-contextualised scientific knowledge and the use (or abuse) of metaphor, analogy and simile in popular science books, remains resolutely scientific throughout. He was fascinating on the possible origins (pre-DNA) of the mechanisms by which life would become able to replicate itself, and in explaining speciation. Alert to a ‘vulgar’ ultra-Darwinism and the misuse of ‘genetic’ explanations for complex traits such as criminality or a propensity to violence, Rose also makes a strong philosophical case against seeing reductionist science as a ‘cure-all’.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 10 Aug 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Great job, would recommend
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3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Puzzling 21 July 1999
By A Customer
I found this a most puzzling book. On the one hand, Rose argues that claims of finding genes involved in sexual orientation, criminal behavior and the like are "outrageous and dangerous". On the other hand, he spends a great deal of time explaining just how the proteins and enzymes that are produced by genes interact with one another and the environment to produce all sorts of wonderful characteristics and behaviors in divers organisms. It almost seems that Rose judges scientific claims not on the basis of the evidence but on their social implications. Despite the title, this is more a book about politics than about biology.
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2 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Nanny-ish 5 Jun 2001
By A Customer
Rose's earlier writings (e.g. "Science and Society") were a very good introduction to the social implications of science. However, in recent years, he... seems to give his readers no credit that they might come to responsible conclusions on how science, particularly genetics, will be used. This turns into a book on politics, but Rose seeks to rubbish the science behind the issues...
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