email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
"Are You There Alone?""Who Could That Be at This Hour?"3 Willows4th of July99 DaysA Beautiful MindA Change in AltitudeA Corner Of The UniverseA Frog ThingA Great and Terrible BeautyA People's History of ChristianityA Question of BloodA Slight Trick of the MindA Step Toward FallingA Thousand Miles from NowhereA Voyage Long and StrangeA Wedding in December Abraham LincolnAcross the River and Into the TreesAfter DarkAgainst EmpathyAgainst Medical AdviceAll the Bright PlacesAll the Way HomeAll Unquiet ThingsAlphavilleAlways Too Much And Never EnoughAmerica AmericaAmong the DepartedAn EducationAn Object of BeautyAnatomy of a MisfitAre You There, Vodka? It's Me, ChelseaBad BoyBad RatsBarbara the Slut and Other PeopleBeach RoadBeat the ReaperBeauty QueensBed of RosesBefore I DieBefore I FallBefore the FrostBig BrotherBiteBlack Elk SpeaksBlameBleed for MeBlonde FaithBlood, Salt, WaterBody SurfingBog ChildBoneMan's DaughtersBoomsdayBorder CrossingBorn Standing UpBoys Are DogsBoys Will Put You on a Pedestal (So They Can Look Up Your Skirt)Brava, ValentineBreak Through PainBreathingBridge of SighsBrief Interviews with Hideous MenBrutalBy BloodC StreetCalm Beneath the WavesCanadaCellCemetery DanceChange Your Brain, Change Your LifeCheeverCinnamon KissCleopatraClose Your EyesCompulsionCross CountryCyborgasmDakotaDancing at the Shame PromDarkest FearDavid Sedaris Live at Carnegie HallDead EvenDear Zoe,Death Without TenureDeceptionDefending JacobDefine NormalDeliriumDevil in the DetailsDiscovering Pig MagicDisturbing GroundDivergentDivine JusticeDivisaderoDoing ItDown the Rabbit HoleDr. Andrew Weil's Mindbody ToolkitDress Your Family in Corduroy and DenimDriftlessEven Dogs in the WildEvery Exquisite ThingEvery Little Thing in the WorldEye ContactFaith, Hope, and Ivy JuneFaking NormalFalling ManFamily FirstFans of the Impossible LifeFear of the DarkFellsideField of BloodFile Under: 13 Suspicious IncidentsFiregirlForest of the PygmiesFortunate SonFraudFreak the MightyFree RefillsFull Steam Ahead!Furiously HappyGenerosityGenomeGetting a Good Night's SleepGetting the Love You Want Audio CompanionGiftedGirl in TranslationGod Is DeadGod Is Not OneGods and BeastsGoing BovineGranny Torrelli Makes SoupGraysonHappy FamilyHappy Mutant Baby PillsHarmlessHe's Just Not That Into YouHealthy AgingHeartbeatHeftHigh HeatHolidays on IceHot MilkHotel on the Corner of Bitter and SweetHotel WorldHotels of North AmericaHow a Gunman Says GoodbyeHow Full Is Your Bucket?How Successful People ThinkHow to Build a HouseHow to See Yourself As You Really AreHow to Set a Fire and WhyHunger Makes Me a Modern GirlHurt Go HappyHypnography for MenHypnography for WomenI Am Not Joey PigzaI Can See YouI Drink for a ReasonI Feel Bad About My NeckI'd Know You AnywhereIdiot AmericaIf a Tree Falls at Lunch PeriodIf I StayIf You StayImagine Me GoneIn ZanesvilleInfinite JestInheritanceInnocentInside the O'BriensInvincibleInvisibleIt Takes OneJennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, ElizabethJust LifeKiss of Broken GlassKissing Ted Callahan (And Other Guys)Leaping BeautyLies My Girlfriend Told MeLife After LifeLife InterruptedLife of PiLife StrategiesLisey's StoryLitLittle Black LiesLittle ScarletLive For Your Listening PleasureLiving Your DreamLong Shadow of Small GhostsLooking for BobowiczLost in the ForestLove Is a Mix TapeLove Times ThreeLove, AubreyLowboyMadappleMade For YouMagical ThinkingMagnificenceMaliceMan in the WoodsMeditation in a New York MinuteMeetings with a Remarkable ManMiddlesexMind MappingMindfulness for BeginnersMirrorMaskMischlingMissing PresumedMolly Moon's Incredible Book of HypnotismMommies Who DrinkMunich AirportMy AbandonmentMy Life Among the Serial KillersMy Name Is RedMy One Hundred AdventuresMy Sister's KeeperName All the AnimalsNelson Mandela's Favorite African FolktalesNemesisNever Let Me GoNight FilmNina: AdolescenceNinety DaysNone of the AboveNurtureShockObjects of My AffectionOlive's OceanOn Chesil BeachOne Flew Over The Cuckoo's NestOutliersPaint It BlackPanicParadise LodgeParanoiaPeace Is Every BreathPeople Who Eat DarknessPharmakonPictures of Hollis WoodsPictures of YouPilgrim at Tinker CreekPlaying with FirePlease Stop Laughing at UsPositivityPresumed InnocentPretty Girl-13Prisoner of Night and FogPuddlejumpersPunkzillaRacing the DevilReady for AnythingRebuttalRequiemRescueRevolutionary RoadRoomRun for Your LifeSay You're SorryScatSchool of FearSeason to TasteSecrets of a Passionate MarriageSee How SmallSeeds of HopeSex and SpiritSide Effects May VarySilencedSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens AgendaSix Impossible ThingsSkelligSleeping BeautySnowSo Brave, Young and HandsomeSolitaireSomeday This Pain Will Be Useful to YouSourlandSquirrel Seeks ChipmunkStill MissingStory of a GirlStress ReliefSupreme CourtshipSurviving OpheliaSwimming to ElbaSworn to SilenceSymptoms of Being HumanTeaseTeaseTell the Truth, Shame the DevilTen Minutes to RelaxTestimonyThat Old Cape MagicThe Abortionist's DaughterThe AccidentalThe Accidental BillionairesThe AdultsThe Almost MoonThe Anatomy of HopeThe Art of ChoosingThe Art of Exceptional LivingThe Artist of DisappearanceThe Average American MarriageThe Bastard on the Couch CDThe Beat Goes OnThe Best AwfulThe Big LoveThe Boat RockerThe Book of JoeThe Book of LiesThe Book of the DeadThe Boy Who DaredThe Boyfriend ListThe Brass VerdictThe Breakout PrincipleThe Burden of ProofThe Case for GodThe Case of the Case of Mistaken IdentityThe Cemetery BoysThe Chosen OneThe ClosersThe Consciousness PlagueThe Conspiracy ClubThe Cuckoo's CallingThe Day I Ate Whatever I WantedThe Dead Fathers ClubThe Death of Bunny MunroThe Devotion of Suspect XThe Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-BanksThe Diviner's TaleThe DollmakerThe Dressmaker of Khair KhanaThe Dynamite RoomThe Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round ThingsThe EndThe Erotic EdgeThe Essential KamasutraThe First Fifteen Lives of Harry AugustThe Forgotten GirlsThe Geography of You and MeThe Gift of an Ordinary DayThe Gingerbread GirlThe Girl in 6EThe Girl in the GardenThe Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's NestThe Girl Who Played with FireThe Girl with the Dragon TattooThe Grief of OthersThe Grim GrottoThe Guise of AnotherThe Guy Not TakenThe Heart of YogaThe Hearts of MenThe Heretic's DaughterThe Ice QueenThe Ice TwinsThe Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe InseparablesThe InterestingsThe Keeper of Lost CausesThe Kings of LondonThe Language God TalksThe Language of SecretsThe Language Of YogaThe Last ChildThe Last MileThe Last Time We Say GoodbyeThe Male BrainThe Man from BeijingThe Man in My BasementThe Man Who Couldn't EatThe Map of True PlacesThe Marriage PlotThe Memory Book The Mermaids SingingThe Ministry of Special CasesThe MuralistThe Museum of InnocenceThe Mystery of the Third LucretiaThe Myth of LazinessThe NarrowsThe Necessary Death of Lewis WinterThe New YorkersThe NewleywedsThe NixThe NursesThe Opposite of InvisibleThe Other Side of the StoryThe Outcasts of 19 Schuyler PlaceThe Particular Sadness of Lemon CakeThe PastThe Penultimate PerilThe PostcardThe Pregnant WidowThe Promise of a LieThe PyramidThe Qi Healing KitThe ReaderThe Republican BrainThe Rule of FourThe Rules of SurvivalThe Savage CityThe ScarecrowThe Second GirlThe Secret Life of BeesThe Secret of Lost ThingsThe Secret ScriptureThe Secret SpeechThe Secret Wisdom of the EarthThe ShallowsThe Shock of the FallThe Silent BoyThe SisterThe Sound of Broken GlassThe SpindlersThe Story HourThe Story of Beautiful GirlThe Sudden Arrival of ViolenceThe Survivors ClubThe Sweet Relief of Missing ChildrenThe Sweetness at the Bottom of the PieThe Tail of Emily WindsnapThe Tenth JusticeThe Thing About JellyfishThe Third AngelThe TouristThe Treasure Map of BoysThe Trouble with Goats and SheepThe Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector ChopraThe Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia MossThe UnquietThe Unseen WorldThe View from SaturdayThe WaveThe Weed That Strings the Hangman's BagThe Weight of the NationThe Whole TruthThe WilloughbysThe Witch's BoyThe Wolves of AndoverThe Words We Live ByThe Wrong Side of GoodbyeThe Year of the FloodThe Year That FollowsThe Yin Yoga KitThirteen Reasons WhyThis Beautiful LifeThis Body of DeathThis Book Is Not Good For YouThis Full HouseThis Is HowThose GirlsThose Who Wish Me DeadTony & SusanToo Much HappinessTooth and NailTouchTransformation TriburbiaTrue BelieverTrue CompassTruth & BeautyTwinmakerTwistedTwo Can PlayTwo Little Girls in BlueUnaccustomed EarthUnder the HarrowUnder the InfluenceUnder WildwoodUniversal HarvesterUnlessUnthinkingUp in the AirVery ValentineVisits from The Drowned GirlVoid MoonWaiting for SunriseWalkingWarWatching the DarkWhat the Dog SawWhen We Were AnimalsWhen You Are Engulfed in FlamesWhen You Reach MeWhere She WentWherever You Go, There You AreWhite HotWild AwakeWild ChildWildwoodWill They Ever Trust Us Again?Wolf in White VanWomen's Murder Club Box SetYoga SanctuaryYou Look Different in Real LifeYou Should Have KnownYou Will Know Me
Although coming out some 10 years after the text was published, this new Harper Audio book is a very welcome addition to the library. For those wishing to come up-to-speed with the implications of modern genetics research, it is a must-read primer. However, I begin with a few comments as reviewer about what this book is NOT about. Ridley writes with ardent enthusiasm concerning the science, and the scientific applications of new biological knowledge, its principle actors and commentators - but this book is not about the human genome project (though without such, much of what he describes here would not be known). Neither is it a text aimed at teaching the reader biochemistry or molecular biology. Instead, Ridley presents an admirable review of the understanding of genomics (circa 1999), and the implications of that understanding for human development, disease, population dynamics, psychology, and the future of biomedical technology, any or all of which may well result in altering the course of evolution (if not only our understanding of it).
Presented as 22 chapters, each is named for, if not directly exemplifying, one of the 23 human chromosomal pairings -- X & Y are taken together between Chs 8-9. Lasting an average 33 minute segment, each discusses a different topic or expression of human behavior, often related to some specific gene sequence(s) (located on that chromosome), as thought at the time to be associated with the behavior being discussed. Delivered in the confident yet not authoritative voice of Simon Prebble (a good choice in my view), the text comes over as an easy listen, with lively and appropriate intonation, despite its frequent use of necessarily technical vocabulary and concepts. However, for the uninitiated, Ridley provides a more-than-adequate primer at the outset which covers as much as the novice geneticist might wish to know for the purposes of understanding the ensuing research findings and commentary review text, and their subsequent discussion(s) of their putative significance in our better coming to understand human nature.
My only concern with this audiobook release was its timing: whereas this book introduces much new knowledge, often imagined unknowable in the 3-5 years before it was written, much has changed since, and in the intervening years since its original publication (more than 10 years ago), as such is in need of significant updating. For example, in the chapter concerned with the development of intelligence ("Chromosome 6”), Ridley's principal thesis still stands available for experimental verification (or falsification if you prefer), but the key research offered in support of some of the claims made in this chapter have yet to be positively replicated, some even retracted by their authors, and thus remain to be vindicated. Likewise, much genetic work related to the cellular mechanisms thought to underlay learning, memory, and other higher cognitive functions, have now been further elucidated following the advent of new and very selective gene splicing techniques, recombinant knock-out vehicles and selective brain site expression markers. The inclusion of such new and exciting results derived from this new generation of transgenic animal experiments over the last 10 years, would revise much of Ridley's experimental data text considerably. Unfortunately, the Audiobook disc(s) received by this reviewer did not contains any bibliography or reference section, though I hope such is to be included in the commercial package for sale -- it would be useful to be able to check primary sources and papers for their original content.
These criticisms of the current reviewer are not to detract from the book's enjoyment, however, as an excellently narrated story. The author's repeated discussions of the nature-nurture debate (or rather the fallacy thereof), is introduced at several point throughout the book, and will (I hope) philosophically enlighten those still engaged in the discourse of biological determinism vs. social determinism. Ridley comes down firmly into neither camp for very long, is a critic of both, and suggests instead (correctly in my view), that the adherents of either would be more productive in their better understanding of human behavior if resolving their confusion between 'determinism' and inevitability. And without recourse to any Lamarckian notions or hereditary mechanism(s), it does still appear repeatedly to be the case that 'ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny', at least from a systems point of view.
So what else is there to read about here ? Be prepared for disappointment if hoping to discover a simple list of 'genes for xxx' (where 'xxx' is your favorite trait/behavior/disease of particular interest), with regards each chromosome of the human genome in this book -- this is neither the author's purpose (tho' useful and informative examples are occasionally offered), nor would it be very interesting if it was. Nor is it a textbook of DNA => germ cell => embryology => behaviour/trait recipe book. For those interested in the history of thought about evolution, and the changing influence of that thinking with our increasing knowledge of genetics (and the biological underpinnings of embryological development, cloning, maturation or programmed cell death), Ridley's text is chock full of the key characters -- their evidence, assumptions and conclusions -- each discussed in the context of the time (and its then current knowledge) in which they were proposed. For those interested in disease and the history (and future) of 'corrective' medicine, there is much likewise, with critical discussions of the extant additional commercial and ethical factors for consideration. For the eugenicists (and their opponents), every chapter offers much food for thought (and a special chapter ("Chromosome 21") to chew and digest upon !).
But whether one might prefer to look for the genes underlying the traits that might be of interest to them, or to instead investigate the structural/neurobehavioural 'effects' of a particularly focal gene of interest should it be expressed (deleted, swapped, recombined, or otherwise mutated), Ridley's text offers a much needed context for the discussions and implications of such research findings, and its relevance to the wider environment(s) in which genomes may present their effects -- whilst of course, not confusing its causality,... with inevitability!
© 2012 Tony Dickinson
Tony Dickinson, Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI, China).