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Nature via Nurture: Genes, experience and what makes us human Paperback – 4 May 2004


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Nature via Nurture: Genes, experience and what makes us human + Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters + The Epigenetics Revolution: How Modern Biology is Rewriting Our Understanding of Genetics, Disease and Inheritance
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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; New Ed edition (4 May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841157465
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841157467
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 18,798 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Matt Ridley received his BA and D. Phil at Oxford researching the evolution of behaviour. He has been science editor, Washington correspondent and American editor of The Economist. He is the author of bestselling titles The Red Queen (1993), The Origins of Virtue (1996), Genome (1999) and Nature via Nurture (2003). His books have sold over half a million copies, been translated into 25 languages and been shortlisted for six literary prizes. In 2004 he won the National Academies Book Award from the US National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine for Nature via Nurture. In 2007 Matt won the Davis Prize from the US History of Science Society for Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code. He is married to the neuroscientist Professor Anya Hurlbert.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Nature Via Nurture follows on from Matt Ridley's bestselling Genome. He takes on a centuries-old question: is it nature or nurture that makes us who we are? Ridley asserts that the question itself is a "false dichotomy". Using copious examples of human and animal behaviour, he presents the notion that our environment affects the way our genes express themselves.

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 behaviour. 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 populariser 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, Amazon.com --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

‘This clever and ambitious book is full of novel insights and reflections.’ James Le Fanu, Sunday Telegraph

‘Ridley belongs to the coterie that truly pushes science forward and brings it within the broader purlieus of “culture”. Nature via Nurture is another fine contribution to an already outstanding oeuvre.’ Colin Tudge, Independent Magazine

‘An unrivalled view of cutting-edge research into the roots of human behaviour.’ Clive Cookson, Financial Times

‘A balanced, entertaining gallop through the world of environmental influences and genetic impulses.’ Robin McKie, Observer

‘Eminently readable.’ Dylan Evans, Evening Standard

‘Profoundly intelligent and persuasive.’ John Cornwell, Sunday Times


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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Keith Appleyard VINE VOICE on 12 July 2004
Format: Paperback
Following on from Genome (which I've reviewed), I find Matt Ridley very easy to read.
Here he selects 12 'Hairy Scientists', some famous (eg Freud, Pavlov, Darwin), some not so famous, and weaves a wonderful story as he takes us through the highs and lows of their research & that of their contemporaries, bringing us right up to date with the Genome. With interesting anecdotes he brings each individual to life.
The 7 moral conclusions at the end were particularly useful, especially No. 2 'being a good parent still matters.'
Given I'm now in the process of reading a similar book with some very poor illustrations, it was only afterwards looking back, that I see that I was entertained & educated without the need for any sketches or diagrams, and yet didn't feel cheated, deprived or confused.
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103 of 106 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 13 Oct 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having bought this along with Nature via Nurture (a wonderful book) I was surprised to discover that it's the *same* book, it just has a different name.
Perhaps this is obvious from the available information, but since I managed to miss it, I thought it was worth warning others. I love Matt Ridley's books (hence the 5), but not enough to want two copies...
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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on 4 Jan 2005
Format: Paperback
Many similes have been used to introduce us to our genome; our DNA. It's a plan. It's a recipe. It's a blueprint. It's a code. Ridley shows how these metaphors miss the point - they're all too fixed to compare with the dynamics of the fundamental molecule of life. He shows how our genome, indeed, the genome common to all life, uses the same elements to say many things. Instead of terms identifying fixed elements, he suggests the image of language. The genome has a limited lexicon of phrases with which to build bodies and personalities, yet manages an immense variation in the results. How like a chimpanzee are you?, he asks. Depending on how you make the comparison - very little or very much. If you count the entire number of "base pairs" making up chimpanzees and humans, the difference is minimal - perhaps 30 thousand out of 3 billion. If, instead, you visit the zoo [or, better, Gombe] the differences are striking.
In Ridley's view, the striking differences are due to "word order" contained in the genome. All the words are essentially the same, but different locations and different interactions produce different characteristics. Including behaviour. In the six or seven million years since the chimpanzee-human line diverged, lifestyles, diet, social structure and living environment have helped guide how the genome produces a body and how that body will likely act in a given situation. Environment and the genome, then, are in a constant interactive flux. They feed signals through the organism to determine whether the organism will survive and reproduce. Nature isn't in the driver's seat, and if we fail to learn or adapt to the vagaries of environment, we won't survive to have descendants. Nature, then, is achieved via nurture.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on 4 Jan 2004
Format: Hardcover
Ridley opens this superb summation of the impact of genetics and environment with a literary allusion. How can J.D. Salinger and Charles Dickens ever be compared? Easily - they both write in the same language. A few terms used today won't appear in Dickens' work, just as words common in the Victorian era have been abandoned. The root language remains the same, but is in constant flux. Ridley uses this metaphor to disabuse us of the ideas that either genes or environment are the sole drivers of our development. Rather than separating those two elements, Ridley wants to integrate them. From the literary metaphor, he moves on to a vivid overview of the latest finds in genetics and how environment can impact their operation.
Ridley's incomparable command of language is applied in explaining arcane concepts. Ridley relates hard science with a touch of humour. In avoiding jargon, he introduces catchphrases aiding explanation. Instead of weaving scientific terminology into his descriptions, he provides unforgettable little terms to guide the reader. Genes, he notes, are merely "cogs" in a complicated machine - the organism. In explaining how these cogs interact to produce bodies and minds, he conceives the Genome Organizational Device [work out the acronym]. All these tools of Ridley's trade turn puzzling mechanisms into easily comprehended biological functions.
Of the many facets introduced by this book, Ridley's summation of the causes and impact of schizophrenia is the most informative. Not long ago, he notes, "the gene" causing this disturbing affliction seemed to have been isolated. Ridley wants to "throw the whole concept of 'cause' into confusion". He devises a schema to present a string of "witnesses", each presenting a "position" on schizophrenia.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Richard Marsh on 15 May 2005
Format: Paperback
This book will get you thinking, guaranteed. The accesible writing style combined with the analogies, stories, and up to date views on the origins of so much of what makes us human is fascinating and it is barely an exagerration to say there is a revelation on every page for the reader new to the subject. Doing Pavlov, Skinner, and others for A Level Biology, the book provides an interesting view of the big names of behavioural science from a perspective outside a textbook. Deconstructing both science and accepted folk wisdom on the origins of personality, psychosis and homosexuality among so many other topics, 'Nature via Nurture' presents the cutting edge of its topic in an endlessly intriguing style.
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