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Genome: The Autobiography Of Species In 23 Chapters: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters Paperback – 16 Mar 2000
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?Remarkable. . . . Hops from one human chromosome to the next in search of the most delightful stories.?--"New York Times Book Review?A fascinating tour of the human genome. . . . If you want to catch a glimpse of the biotech century that is now dawning, and how it will make life better for us all, Genome is an excellent place to start.?--"Wall Street Journal?A superb writer whose exquisite, often moving descriptions of life's designs remind me of the best work of the late Lewis Thomas. . . . He crafts some of the clearest explanations of complex biological processes that I have encountered. What's more, he captures their slippery beauty.?-- Susan Okie, "Washington Post Book World?Ridley is a lucid, engaging and enthusiastic guide to the double-helical DNA that comprises our inheritable human essence.?-- "Los Angeles Times Book Review?Ridley can explain with equal verve difficult moral issues, philosophical quandaries and technical biochemistry; he distinguishes facts from opinions well, and he's not shy about offering either. Among many recent books on genes, behavior and evolution, Ridley's is one of the most informative. It's also the most fun to read.?--"Publishers Weekly (starredreview)?Superb popular science writing and cogent public affairs argumentation.?--"Booklist (starred review)?An engrossing account of the genetic history of our species. . . . This book will be particularly relevant to lay readers, providing insight into how far we have come and where we are heading in the understanding of our genetic heritage.?--"Library Journal?Ridley . . . deftly takes up the story of the genome in 23 chapters in clear entertaining prose. Eminently readable, compelling and important.?--"Kirkus Reviews?A lucid and exhilarating romp through our 23 human chromosomes that lets us see how nature and nature combine to make us human.?--James Watson?With riveting anecdotes, clever analogies and compelling writing, Matt Ridley makes the human genome come alive for us. I was left in awe at the wonder of the human body, and the scientists who unravel its mysteries.?--Abraham Verghese, author of " The Tennis Partner ?Clever, up-to-the-minute informative, and an altogether spellbinding read. Ridley does just what a first-rate journalist should do: get it right, make in interesting, then wisely put it all in perspective.? --SarahHardy, author of " Mother Nature?"Genome is a tour de force: clear, witty, timely and informed by an intelligence that sees new knowledge as a blessing and not a curse. . . . A cracking read.?--"Times (of London)?Matt Ridley's brilliant new book is eloquent and up-to-date. . . . A much needed breath of fresh air.?--"Daily Telegraph?Compelling. . . . Spectacular. . . . This is one of those rare books in which the intellectual excitement continues to rise from what already seems an almost impossibly high plateau. . . . Not even the scientifically purblind will fail to perceive the momentous nature of the issues he raises.?--"Spectator? A dazzling work of popular science, offering clarity and inspiration. . . . Witty erudition.?--"Guardian?Erudition, intriguing sequences of anecdotes and . . . stylish prose. The combination has resulted in the best popular science book I have read this year, a worthy autobiography of mankind.?--"Observer?An exciting voyage . . . very much up-to-date . . . Ridley includes just the right amount of history and personal anecdote to spice up science. He's a good storyteller.?-- "ScientificAmerican?An extraordinarily nimble synthesist, Ridley leaps from chromosome to chromosome in a handy summation of our ever increasing understanding of the roles that genes play in disease, behavior, sexual differences, and even intelligence. More important, though, he addresses not only the ethical quandaries faced by contemporary scientists but the reductionist danger in equating inheritability with inevitability.?-- "The New Yorker?Matt Ridley [writes] with a combination of biblical awe, scientific curiosity and wit about what many consider the greatest scientific breakthrough of the 20th century and the greatest technological challenge of the 21st: the discovery of the molecular basis of life and its many applications in medicine, law, and commerce.?-- "Dallas Morning News?Thoroughly fascinating. . . . A sophisticated blending of science and public policy certain to educate, entertain, challenge and stimulate even the least technologically inclined reader.?--"Philadephia Inquirer?Lively phrasing and vivid analogies . . . I gained an appreciation for the incredible complexity of human beings.?--"Minneapolis Star-Tribune?With skillful writing and masterful knowledge of his subject matter, Ridley conveys a wealth of information about what we currentlyknow, or think we know, about the human genome?No well-educated person can afford to remain ignorant of this advancing science. GENOME provides a sound and engaging introduction.?--Austin American-Statesman
The genome is our 100,000 or so genes. The genome is the collective recipe for the building and running of the human body. These 100,000 genes are sited across 23 pairs of chromosomes. "Genome", a book of about 100,000 words, is divided into 23 chapters, a chapter for each chromosome. The first chromosome, for example, contains our oldest genes, genes which we have in common with plants. By looking at our genes we can see the story of our evolution, what makes us individual, how our sexuality is determined, how we acquire language, why we are vunerable to certain diseases, how mind has arisen. Genome also argues for the genetic foundations of free will. While many believe that genetics proves biological determinism, Ridley will show that in fact free will is itself in the genes. Everything that makes us human can be read in our genes. Early in the next century we will have determined the function of every one of these 100,000 genes.See all Product description
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This is a quite informal read, as he uses the central idea of 23 chromosomes as a vehicle without being hidebound over where the content goes. It is very entertaining as well as being informative and inevitably leads to more reading, of other authors, as ideas open up.
Ridley not only succeeds but does so in a rather cute fashion. This is ‘an autobiography of a species in 23 chapters’. The number 23 is no random selection – it corresponds to the number of chromosome pairs we have, and Ridley picks out a gene to feature from each chromosome pair in each chapter.
This approach enables his book to be far reaching, looking at our relationship to other owners of the gene, from bacteria to great apes, spanning from the earliest forms of life to the genes that could be responsible for intelligence and language.
Evolutionary theory, biology’s great triumph, is put across very effectively alongside good background material on genetics, and of the many books around the human genome, this has to be one of the best.
Particularly attractive is Ridley’s style – effortlessly informative, yet light enough to almost always be enjoyable. If there’s anything to criticize it is an over use of something to the effect of “to go through all of this would bore you to tears, but I just want to show you this little bit because…” – but that is a very minor moan.
This reviewer has a physics background and expects biology-based popular science to often be an necessary chore rather than a pleasure – this is a definite exception!
It’s interesting to read it alongside Andrew Brown’s In the Beginning was the Worm.
New snippets of the evolutionary story are revealed. Head-tail and back-front differentiation genes are very similar throughout the animal kingdom, implying a common ancestry. Infidelity is a highly prevalent behaviour in many species.Genes from different animals (including humans) are to a surprising extent actually interchangeable.
We glean further insights into the nurture/nature interplay. Environmental triggers can actually switch genes on and off; genes in turn can make us more or less sensitive to our environment. Ridley relates how, with age, as we often become increasingly able to select our own influences, the `genetic' proportion of our intelligence thus tends to increase. In another chapter again, he explores the construction of intricate `genetic geography' which reveal some racial `characteristics'.
Conundrums are explored: why do inherited diseases persist in the gene pool? Because gene mutations (changes in the base sequence) often have two separate effects, one beneficial and one harmful. What is the function of all the `junk' (seemingly useless) DNA? A lot of it is random, `phenotype-free' : `hitch-hiking' a ride from generation to generation, on the back of the genes that bother to make the survival machines(bodies)that serve to reproduce DNA so effectively.
What you learn depends on what you already knew; but there'll certainly be something for everyone here. I found most gripping the sections towards the end, as we become gradually more aware of the fantastic possibilities of genetic engineering. The account of the (gene-carrying) retrovirus therapy and other genetic `engineering' tricks was riveting. The principles of what had seemed a highly esoteric field became much clearer and more straightforward.
He extends his discussions into philosophical areas also. I discovered that many countries - including the US and the UK - took significant steps towards developing and supporting eugenic customs and laws in the 20's and 30's. In another section Ridley briefly discusses the relationship between behavioural genetics and the problem of free will - does chaos theory have a relevance here, explaining the smaller scale unpredictabilities in our decisions ?
Overall, this is a key modern topic to obtain some kind of grasp of, and Ridley's book must be as good a way as any of achieving that.
The writing is very clear and well-structured. Great for anyone wanting to understand more about how our genes affect us (and not just causes diseases!).