Genome: The Autobiography Of A Species Essay, Research Paper
Genome: The Autobiography of A Species in 23 Chapters by Matt Ridley is an interesting book. It is written in a style that is very casual and very understandable. If someone who knew nothing about genetics or biology were to read this book, they would find it very interesting and informative. Ridley uses basic scientific terms so as not to confuse the average reader.
Ridley, who has a Ph.D. in zoology, is a big supporter of the Darwinian view of the world. He views the genome as a historical documentation of our species from its conception. He describes our evolutionary history. He tells about the mass extinctions that occurred in the past, and that it was by chance our cellular ancestors survived these events. Ridley gives us an insight into molecular biology by choosing one gene from each or our 23 chromosomes and elaborating on it. Along with evolution and microbiology, this book goes into other fields of biology, including medicine and biotechnology.
The book is very educational. I learned about the homeobox genes, which guide the development of the entire human body from a single cell.
I learned that the gene for telomerase is the focus for a discussion of aging and immortality. I also learned that the ethnic differences in the frequency of a particular breast cancer gene are used to describe the relationships among population genetics, prehistoric migrations, and linguistic groups. Also, the gene for the classical ABO blood group is the springboard for a discussion of genetic selection and drift. This book reveals genes that we share with all living creatures and those that are unique to our species. It describes genes that are essential to every cell and then those that seem to serve no useful purpose at all. It tells us about genes that predict disease with complete certainty and those that only tilt the scales.
Ridley seems to focus a lot on behavior and it’s evolutionary background. He writes about the recent evidence of genetic links to memory and intelligence, personality, and language. Ridley sees it as genes and the environment influence the brain.
It is clear that Ridley is a big fan of the Genome Project. He writes with enthusiasm about the rapid advancement and success of genetics. He is overwhelmed by the thrill of discovery and the power of the new technology it has unleashed. But, sometimes he’s a little irrational. For example, Ridley supports the fact that people should be tested for the APOE gene that is a determining factor of Alzheimer’s disease. Ridley’s argument is that people who are genetically at risk should avoid sports such as American football and boxing because of the connection between head injury and the disease’s onset. Since there is no true prevention or treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, to me, his rational would cause as much harm as good. It is evident that Ridley clearly understands the distinction between genetic determination and predisposition, however, he sometimes fails to consider the policy implications.
Ridley’s excitement about genetics shows, as the book is very much up-to-date. Many of the references are from the past year or so. He brings across many of his ideas by the use of metaphors. He relates his ideas in a way that the average person can understand the points he is trying to get across.
This book was very interesting to me as Ridley talked about many of the enzymes and proteins and all of that kind of stuff that we have studied in class. This book serves as good introduction to all who wish to enjoy a career of genetics. I think that Ridley includes just the right amount of history and personal anecdotes to add interest to the book. He’s a good storyteller. He writes in the kind of style that I enjoy reading and is very knowledgeable of the subject of evolution and genetics.
“A fascinating tour of the human genome…. If you want to catch a
glimpse of the biotech century that is now dawning…
Genome is an excellent place to start.”
– Wall Street Journal
Genome: The Autobiography of A Species in 23 Chapters by Matt Ridley