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Nature Via Nurture: Genes, Experience and What Makes Us Human

Nature Via Nurture: Genes, Experience and What Makes Us Human

Book rating: 05 Paperback

By (author) Matt Ridley

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  • Publisher: HarperPerennial
  • Format: Paperback | 352 pages
  • Dimensions: 128mm x 196mm x 24mm | 200g
  • Publication date: 4 May 2004
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 1841157465
  • ISBN 13: 9781841157467
  • Illustrations note: port
  • Sales rank: 42,931

Product description

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. They are consequences as well as causes of the will. Published fifty years 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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Author information

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 has a regular column in the Daily Telegraph. He is also the author of The Red Queen (1993), The Origins of Virtue (1996) and Genome (1999). Matt Ridley is currently the chairman of The International Centre for Life.

Customer reviews

By Julie 29 Sep 2010 5

I know this has been said a hundred times about this book, but it really does make a complex, scientific topic extremely accessable to an average Joe lacking a PhD in Human Genetics! It is humorous parts, although this does not in any way take from the seriousness of the topic at hand.
It does not provide all the answers to age-old genetic questions, but will certainly stimulate your internal dialogue and allow you to make your own conclusions.

Review quote

'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

Editorial reviews

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)