The Century of the Gene

Harvard University Press
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In a book that promises to change the way we think and talk about genes and genetic determinism, Evelyn Fox Keller, one of our most gifted historians and philosophers of science, provides a powerful, profound analysis of the achievements of genetics and molecular biology in the twentieth century, the century of the gene. Not just a chronicle of biology's progress from gene to genome in one hundred years, "The Century of the Gene" also calls our attention to the surprising ways these advances challenge the familiar picture of the gene most of us still entertain.

Keller shows us that the very successes that have stirred our imagination have also radically undermined the primacy of the gene--word and object--as the core explanatory concept of heredity and development. She argues that we need a new vocabulary that includes concepts such as robustness, fidelity, and evolvability. But more than a new vocabulary, a new awareness is absolutely crucial: that understanding the components of a system (be they individual genes, proteins, or even molecules) may tell us little about the interactions among these components.

With the Human Genome Project nearing its first and most publicized goal, biologists are coming to realize that they have reached not the end of biology but the beginning of a new era. Indeed, Keller predicts that in the new century we will witness another Cambrian era, this time in new forms of biological thought rather than in new forms of biological life.

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About the author

Evelyn Fox Keller is Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at MIT. She is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and numerous honorary degrees.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Harvard University Press
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Published on
Jun 30, 2009
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Pages
192
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ISBN
9780674039438
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Language
English
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Genres
Science / Life Sciences / Genetics & Genomics
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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The announcement in 2003 that the Human Genome Project had completed its map of the entire human genome was heralded as a stunning scientific breakthrough: our first full picture of the basic building blocks of human life. Since then, boasts about the benefits—and warnings of the dangers—of genomics have remained front-page news, with everyone agreeing that genomics has the potential to radically alter life as we know it.
For the nonscientist, the claims and counterclaims are dizzying—what does it really mean to understand the genome? Barry Barnes and John Dupré offer an answer to that question and much more in Genomes and What to Make of Them, a clear and lively account of the genomic revolution and its promise. The book opens with a brief history of the science of genetics and genomics, from Mendel to Watson and Crick and all the way up to Craig Venter; from there the authors delve into the use of genomics in determining evolutionary paths—and what it can tell us, for example, about how far we really have come from our ape ancestors. Barnes and Dupré then consider both the power and risks of genetics, from the economic potential of plant genomes to overblown claims that certain human genes can be directly tied to such traits as intelligence or homosexuality. Ultimately, the authors argue, we are now living with a new knowledge as powerful in its way as nuclear physics, and the stark choices that face us—between biological warfare and gene therapy, a new eugenics or a new agricultural revolution—will demand the full engagement of both scientists and citizens.

Written in straightforward language but without denying the complexity of the issues, Genomes and What to Make of Them is both an up-to-date primer and a blueprint for the future.
"A lucid, thought-provoking account of the case for 'nature' as a determinant of personality."
—Peter D. Kramer, Author of Listening to Prozac and Should You Leave?

Nowhere is the nature-nuture controversy being more arduously tested than in the labs of world-renowned molecular scientist Dean Hamer, whose cutting-edge research has indisputably linked specific genes to behavioral traits, such as anxiety, thrill-seeking, and homosexuality. The culmination of that research os this provocative book, Living with Our Genes. In it, Dr. Hamer reveals that much of our behavior—how much we eat and weigh, whether we drink or use drugs, how often we have sex—is heavily influenced by genes. His findings help explain why one brother becomes a Wall Street trader, while his sibling remains content as a librarian, or why some people like to bungee-jump, while others prefer Scrabble. Dr. Hamer also sheds light on some of the most compelling and vexing aspects of personality, such as shyness, aggression, depression, and intelligence.
   In the tradition of the bestselling book Listening to Prozac, Living with Our Genes is the first comprehensive investigation of the crucial link between our DNA and our behavior.

"Compulsive reading, reminiscent of Jared Diamond, froma scientsit who knows his stuff and communicates it well."
—Kirkus Reviews

"A pioneer in the field of molecular psychology, Hamer is exploring the role genes play in governing the very core of our individuality. Accessible...provocative."
—Time

"Absolutely terrific! I couldn't put it down."
—Professor Robert Plomin, Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry Research Center, Institute of Psychiatry
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