Genetics and Evolution

 email page    print page

All Topic Reviews
A Companion to GenethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Cooperative SpeciesA Mind So RareA Natural History of RapeAcquiring GenomesAdapting MindsAgeing, Health and CareAlas, Poor DarwinAn Introduction to Evolutionary EthicsAncient Bodies, Modern LivesAnimal ArchitectsAping MankindAre We Hardwired?Bang!BehavingBeyond EvolutionBeyond GeneticsBlood MattersBody BazaarBoneBrain Evolution and CognitionBrain StormBrave New BrainBrave New WorldsChoosing ChildrenCloneCloningConceptual Issues in Evolutionary BiologyConsciousness EvolvingContemporary Debates in Philosophy of BiologyControlling Our DestiniesCooperation and Its EvolutionCreatures of AccidentDarwin Loves YouDarwin's Brave New WorldDarwin's Gift to Science and ReligionDarwin's UniverseDarwin's WormsDarwinian ConservatismDarwinian PsychiatryDarwinism and its DiscontentsDarwinism as ReligionDebating DesignDecoding DarknessDefenders of the TruthDo We Still Need Doctors?Doubting Darwin?Early WarningEngineering the Human GermlineEnhancing EvolutionEnoughEntwined LivesEthical Issues in Human CloningEthical Issues in the New GeneticsEvil GenesEvolutionEvolutionEvolution and Human BehaviorEvolution and Human BehaviorEvolution and Human Sexual BehaviorEvolution and LearningEvolution and ReligionEvolution and the Human MindEvolution in MindEvolution, Gender, and RapeEvolution: The Modern SynthesisEvolutionary Ethics and Contemporary BiologyEvolutionary Origins of MoralityEvolutionary PsychiatryEvolutionary PsychologyEvolutionary Psychology and ViolenceEvolutionary Psychology as Maladapted PsychologyExploding the Gene MythFaces of Huntington'sFlesh of My FleshFrom Chance to ChoiceFrom Darwin to HitlerGenesGenes in ConflictGenes on the CouchGenes, Environment, and PsychopathologyGenes, Environment, and PsychopathologyGenes, Women, EqualityGenetic Nature/CultureGenetic PoliticsGenetic ProspectsGenetic ProspectsGenetic SecretsGenetics in the MadhouseGenetics of Criminal and Antisocial BehaviourGenetics of Mental DisordersGenetics of Original SinGenetics of Original SinGenomeGenomeGenome: Updated EditionGenomes and What to Make of ThemGlowing GenesHow Women Got Their Curves and Other Just-So StoriesHuman CloningHuman Evolution, Reproduction, and MoralityImproving Nature?In Our Own ImageIn Pursuit of the GeneIn the Name of GodIngenious GenesInheritanceInside the Human GenomeInside the O'BriensIntegrating Evolution and DevelopmentIntelligence, Race, and GeneticsIs Human Nature Obsolete?Language OriginsLess Than HumanLiberal EugenicsLiving with Our GenesMaking Genes, Making WavesMaking Sense of EvolutionMan As The PrayerMean GenesMenMood GenesMoral OriginsMothers and OthersNature Via NurtureNever Let Me GoNot By Genes AloneOf Flies, Mice, and MenOn the Origin of StoriesOrigin of MindOrigins of Human NatureOrigins of PsychopathologyOur Posthuman FuturePhilosophy of BiologyPlaying God?Playing God?Portraits of Huntington'sPrimates and PhilosophersPromiscuityPsychiatric Genetics and GenomicsPsychologyQuality of Life and Human DifferenceRe-creating MedicineRedesigning HumansResearch Advances in Genetics and GenomicsResponsible GeneticsResponsible GeneticsScience, Seeds and CyborgsSex and WarSociological Perspectives on the New GeneticsStrange BedfellowsStrange BehaviorSubjects of the WorldSubordination and DefeatThe Age of EmpathyThe Agile GeneThe Ape and the Sushi MasterThe Biotech CenturyThe Blank SlateThe Book of LifeThe Boy Who Loved Too MuchThe Bridge to HumanityThe Case Against PerfectionThe Case for PerfectionThe Case of the Female OrgasmThe Century of the GeneThe Common ThreadThe Concept of the Gene in Development and EvolutionThe Debated MindThe Double-Edged HelixThe Epidemiology of SchizophreniaThe Ethics of Choosing ChildrenThe Ethics of Human CloningThe Evolution of CooperationThe Evolution of MindThe Evolution of MindThe Evolved ApprenticeThe Evolving WorldThe Extended Selfish GeneThe Fact of EvolutionThe Folly of FoolsThe Future of Human NatureThe God GeneThe Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe Impact of the GeneThe Innate MindThe Innate MindThe Innate Mind: Volume 3The Limits and Lies of Human Genetic ResearchThe Lives of the BrainThe Maladapted MindThe Meme MachineThe Misunderstood GeneThe Moral, Social, and Commercial Imperatives of Genetic Testing and ScreeningThe Most Dangerous AnimalThe New Genetic MedicineThe Nurture AssumptionThe Origin and Evolution of CulturesThe Origins of FairnessThe Paradoxical PrimateThe Perfect BabyThe Robot's RebellionThe Selfish GeneThe Shape of ThoughtThe Shattered SelfThe Stem Cell ControversyThe Story WithinThe Stuff of LifeThe Talking ApeThe Temperamental ThreadThe Terrible GiftThe Theory of OptionsThe Top 10 Myths About EvolutionThe Triple HelixThe Triumph of SociobiologyThe Woman Who Walked into the SeaTwinsUnderstanding CloningUnderstanding the GenomeUnnatural SelectionUnto OthersUp From DragonsVoracious Science and Vulnerable AnimalsWar Against the WeakWhat Genes Can't DoWhat It Means to Be 98 Percent ChimpanzeeWho Owns YouWhose View of Life?Why Evolution Is TrueWhy Think? WondergenesWrestling with Behavioral GeneticsYour Genetic Destiny

Related Topics
Genetics of Original SinReview - Genetics of Original Sin
The Impact of Natural Selection on the Future of Humanity
by Christian de Duve
Yale University Press, 2012
Review by Paul-Gabriel Sandu
Feb 5th 2013 (Volume 17, Issue 6)

In his recently published book, Genetics of Original Sin, Christian de Duve takes us on a journey back in time, through the whole evolutionistic process which started more than 3.5 billion years ago, with the so-called LUCA (Last Universal Common Ancestor) and finally led to us, humans. The main purpose of this journey is not, as the author himself puts it in the very beginning of his book, just to tell once again the triumphant story of the most complex and well adapted organism ever to walk the earth, but rather to make us aware of the fact that, being the result of evolution by natural selection, we inherit a most dangerous legacy engraved in our very genes. According to de Duve, precisely those traits which natural selection favored since time immemorial because of their immediate usefulness are now endangering our existence as a species and our world as a whole.

Although the book's four parts (all of which are divided in numerous subsections) deal with distinct questions and stand more or less on their own, they all serve, albeit in different ways, the same purpose: that of making us aware of who we are and of the fact that we have -- and it is in our power -- to change. The first three parts of the book are more of an expository fashion, dealing with the history, origin and evolution of life on Earth, stressing its "semantical" (i.e. genetical) unity and thus dismissing -- with convincing evidence -- other accounts of life on earth such as the so-called theory of intelligent design (part one). It is here where de Duve emphasizes that the DNA molecule and its predecessor (ARN) -- which fulfills the fundamental function of harboring the genetic information of each and every cell -- as well as its reproduction mechanisms are common to all living beings, from the very simple single-celled organism, to the most complex ones. DNA is, so to speak, the universal language spoken throughout the living world, and the history of life can be deciphered by simply learning to read it and to analyze it "etymologically".

The second part's main focus is the mechanisms of life such as metabolism, reproduction, growth and development, while the third part discusses briefly what de Duve calls "the human adventure", that is the emergence of (pre)humans in Africa some two million years ago, their migrations and the clashes between distinct branches of hominids on their way to the modern human. The tenth chapter is probably the most interesting chapter of this third part, because it deals with the one of the most astonishing "miracles" of the evolution: the making of the human brain, its fourfold increase in size in a matter of only two to three million years. The last two chapters of this third part of the book highlights the evolutionary success of the human species while holding the warring instinct and the natural tendency towards immediate benefit at all costs and with no regard to later consequences -- both embedded in human nature -- accountable for this success, the cost of which are threatening to turn it into a failure. The original sin is therefore nothing but the result of natural selection which thought us the language of egoism, competition and war, and therefore failed to teach us the language of foresight and sacrifice for the greater good.

The daring question de Duve raises in the last part of the book concerns precisely the possibility of finding in us a wisdom which was not put there by the (otherwise resourceful) natural selection, but one which contradicts it, and furthermore, the strength to take immediate action. The only redemption from this original sin we can ever expect can come only from ourselves, and lies in our unique condition, which sets us apart from all other living beings: the possibility of purposely acting against natural selection. The options we face -- in de Duve view -- range from doing nothing -- which is, actually, not really an option, because it implies our surrendering to natural selection -- to rewiring the brain by means of education. One of the most insightful and interesting option he discusses in this chapter is best summarized by the words: "give women a chance". In this second to last chapter of the forth part de Duve argues that many negative traits selected by evolution are associated with maleness. It is a fact that, throughout the natural world the males are epitome of aggressiveness and egoism, while the females -- especially when it comes to mammals -- are the embodiment of caring for their young and resort to violence only to protect them. The aggressiveness of males often resulted in subjugation of women and in building societies mainly characterized by the masculine traits.

In this chapter, de Duve advocates for the need of promoting more women in as many key positions of society as possible, in the hope that the law of competition, by which the man's world is governed, might finally be replaced by the laws of cooperation and understanding. It is, nevertheless, debatable if the masculine traits which define our societies haven't already altered and tainted the feminine nature, and if the modern successful woman doesn't actually owe its success to the acquiring of precisely the same masculine traits. This is, however, a question that de Duve doesn't address in this book.

The book ends with a short epilogue, emphasizing once again the danger we are in, but nevertheless refuses to succumb to the fatalism conveyed by the famous words of the Marquise de Pompadour: "après nous le Déluge" which he cites in his conclusion.  


© 2013 Paul-Gabriel Sandu


Paul-Gabriel Sandu, PhD-Candidate, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg



Welcome to Metapsychology. We feature over 8200 in-depth reviews of a wide range of books and DVDs written by our reviewers from many backgrounds and perspectives. We update our front page weekly and add more than twenty new reviews each month. Our editor is Christian Perring, PhD. To contact him, use one of the forms available here.

Metapsychology Online reviewers normally receive gratis review copies of the items they review.
Metapsychology Online receives a commission from for purchases through this site, which helps us send review copies to reviewers. Please support us by making your purchases through our Amazon links. We thank you for your support!

Join our e-mail list!: Metapsychology New Review Announcements: Sent out monthly, these announcements list our recent reviews. To subscribe, click here.

Interested in becoming a book reviewer for Metapsychology? To apply, write to our editor.

Metapsychology Online Reviews

Promote your Page too

Metapsychology Online Reviews
ISSN 1931-5716