The Agile Gene: How Nature Turns on Nurture
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Armed with extraordinary new discoveries about our genes, acclaimed science writer Matt Ridley turns his attention to the nature-versus-nurture debate in a thoughtful book about the roots of human behavior.
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. With the decoding of the human genome, we now know that 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.
past, when it was poorer than it is now—to be plump was to be beautiful and to be skinny was to be ugly; today, in the West, those statements have been at least partly reversed. Other aspects of beauty are less variable. If people from different cultures are asked to judge the beauty of women from photographs of the women’s faces, a surprising degree of consensus emerges: Americans pick the same Chinese faces as Chinese people do; and Chinese pick the same American faces as Americans do.15 Yet
with literary acumen here.” —Booklist COPYRIGHT Published in Great Britain in 2003 by Fourth Estate, a Division of HarperCollins Publishers Inc. A hardcover edition of this book was published in 2003 under the title Nature Via Nurture by HarperCollins Publishers Inc. THE AGILE GENE. Copyright © 2003 by Matt Ridley. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the nonexclusive, nontransferable
affects mainly boys. Together with Alan Leslie, Baron-Cohen pioneered the theory that autistic boys have trouble theorizing about the minds of others, though he now prefers to use the term “empathizing.” Severe autism has many other features, including difficulty with language; but in what is probably its “purer” and less severe form, Asperger’s syndrome, autism seems mainly to consist of a difficulty in empathizing with other people’s thoughts. Since boys are less good at empathizing than girls
beings must be more instinctive, or animals must be more conscious than we had previously suspected. The similarities, not the differences, were what caught the attention. Of course, the news that Goodall had narrowed the Cartesian gap traveled very slowly across the divide between animal and human sciences. Even though the very purpose of Goodall’s study, as conceived by her mentor, the anthropologist Louis Leakey, was to shed light on the behavior of ancient human ancestors, anthropologists
were supposedly well known. Here was evidence that heart disease is influenced less by how much cream you eat as an adult than by how thin you were at one year old. Barker has gone on to confirm the same result in data from other parts of the world for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. For instance, among 4,600 men born in Helsinki University Hospital between 1934 and 1944, those who were thin or light at birth and at one year old were far more likely to die of coronary heart disease. Barker