For many hundreds of years, thinkers have been divided on the
subject of nature versus nurture. Which is more powerful? Are we
merely pre-programmed automatons or free-thinking individuals,
moulded by our environment, circumstances and experiences? For Matt
Ridley, bestselling author of Genome: The Autobiography of a
Species in 23 Chapters, the truth is far more complex. We are, he
argues, the product of a subtle fusion of both genetics and our
environment. Drawing on the work of philosophers, behaviourists,
psychologists and geneticists, Ridley builds his argument with
panache. Encompassing over a hundred years of scientific
experimentation and discussion, including up-to-the-minute
research, Ridley's case is a complex one. Darwin, Pavlov, Freud and
Dawkins all had something to say on the topic. Yet, Ridley suggests
that none of these eminent figures have been completely correct.
Neither were they entirely wrong. Genes, Ridley argues, affect
human behaviour, and behaviour influences our genetic heritage.
Ridley is not the first to make such a claim. He does so with both
the benefit of well-advised hindsight and insight into the latest
genetic research. Published to coincide with the 50th anniversary
of the discovery of the double helix, his book stands to radically
re-write our pre-conceptions about how DNA works. Studies are only
now beginning to allow us to understand how genes 'build' and shape
our bodies before birth. What will surprise many is that it seems
that they continue to respond to experience and environment
throughout our lives - truly nature via nurture. This is an
impressive, ambitious and thought-provoking volume which rewards
careful reading. (Kirkus UK)
Acclaimed author Matt Ridley's thrilling follow-up to his
bestseller Genome. Armed with the extraordinary new discoveries
about our genes, Ridley turns his attention to the nature versus
nurture debate to bring the first popular account of the roots of
human behaviour. What makes us who we are?In February 2001 it was
announced that the genome contains not 100,000 genes as originally
expected but only 30,000. This startling revision led some
scientists to conclude that there are simply not enough human genes
to account for all the different ways people behave: we must be
made by nurture, not nature. Matt Ridley argues that the emerging
truth is far more interesting than this myth. Nurture depends on
genes, too, and genes need nurture. Genes not only predetermine the
broad structure of the brain; they also absorb formative
experiences, react to social cues and even run memory. after the
discovery of the double helix of DNA, Nature via Nurture chronicles
a new revolution in our understanding of genes. Ridley recounts the
hundred years' war between the partisans of nature and nurture to
explain how this paradoxical creature, the human being, can be
simultaneously free-willed and motivated by instinct and culture.
Nature via Nurture is an enthralling, up-to-the-minute account of
how genes build brains to absorb experience.
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