What It Means to Be 98% Chimpanzee: Apes, People, and Their Genes

What It Means to Be 98% Chimpanzee: Apes, People, and Their Genes

What It Means to Be 98% Chimpanzee: Apes, People, and Their Genes

What It Means to Be 98% Chimpanzee: Apes, People, and Their Genes

Synopsis

"In this clever, entertaining, and thoughtful book, Marks lays out some important limitations of science in general and genetics in particular. Using terms that everybody can understand, he demolishes the pretensions of scientists who try to use genetics to answer questions about the kinship of nations, the rights of animals, the racial identity of Kennewick Man, the hereditary Jewish priesthood, and the existence of God. Marks has a lot of fun with all this-and so will his readers."--Matt Cartmill, author of "A View to Death in the Morning: Hunting and Nature through History

""What It Means to Be 98% Chimpanzee "covers a range of contemporary issues that are likely to be with us for a long time to come. No book written by a geneticist comes anywhere close."--Jon Beckwith, Research Professor, American Cancer Society, Harvard Medical School, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics

"This witty book takes on perhaps the most fundamental biological, political, cultural, and epistemological question: How do we know what is similar to what, and when does it matter? Yet I hardly minded being dispossessed of a tale or two, left with a much better account of human genetic history and diversity, the triviality of too much that passes for science, and the important task of crafting a biological anthropology that takes both parts of its name seriously."--Donna Haraway, author of "Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science

"Marks provides an informed and powerful critique of reductionist claims about genetics as an explanation of human behavior, cognitive abilities, and racial differences. His colorful examples range from the common ancestry of humanswith daffodils and our similarities with fruit flies. A great book!"--Dorothy Nelkin, coauthor of "The DNA Mystique: The Gene as a Cultural Icon"

"Marks's superb teaching, lively wit, razor-sharp logic, and impeccable scie

Excerpt

C. P. Snow, who was both a scientist and a novelist, observed in a classic essay from the 1950s that the sciences and the humanities were coming apart at their academic seams and forming “two cultures. ” He meant this in a specifically anthropological sense—two communities that speak different languages, see the world in different ways, don't understand each other, and regard each other with suspicion. Each thinks itself superior to the other.

This rift is probably irreparable. As the frontiers of knowledge have expanded, it has become hard enough to keep up with the work in one's own ridiculously narrow field of expertise, never mind to read novels, philosophy, or particle physics besides. Scientists lament the lack of science education on the part of the public, but they have ceded to science journalists the responsibility of educating the public. Humanists lecture about the construction of knowledge, but scientists lecture that they are simply recording what is “out there. ”

This book is about a hybrid field that we can call “molecular anthropology. ” To a large extent, it epitomizes the insecurities of modern science. On the one hand, technology permits us to study aspects of the human condition in far greater detail than was previously thought possible—that's the meaning here of “molecular. ” On the . . .

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