Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters

Article excerpt

Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters. By Matt Ridley. New York: Harper Collins, 2000. 334 pp. $14.00 (paper).

Recently, scientists announced that they had completed the identification of every gene in the human body. Matt Ridley takes the reader on a pageturning introduction to the new genetics, highlighting the magical possibilities of genetic research and delving into some significant medical, social, and ethical issues that it raises. Each of his chapters tours one of our twenty-three chromosome pairs, the structures inside the nuclei of our cells on which our genes are located. As he focuses on a particular gene at a time, Ridley takes a brisk run through everything from fate and immortality to sex, memory, and death. On the way, he illustrates how genes cause disease, direct the production of proteins, and influence intelligence, among other matters. Gene therapy remains tentative and results are inconclusive. Yet progress in genetic science has been exponential. Ridley explores how genomic research eventually will help physicians treat heart disease, cancer, dementia, arthritis, diabetes, and other diseases.

For those who believe that mapping the human genome now gives us full instructions for making human beings of whatever sort we choose, Ridley's book comes as a corrective. We are more than our genes, he maintains (for the most part), and what we have learned about them will not enable us to create new Frankensteins. Genes need to be switched on, he explains, and external events and free-willed behavior can do that. Thus, genes are not the key to the meaning of life. "You inherit not your IQ, but your ability to develop a high IQ under certain environmental circumstances," he observes. …

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