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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.
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.
If, as Matt Ridley suggests, science is simply the search for new forms of ignorance, then perhaps it follows that with science's advances come new questions. Will human genetic engineering become commonplace? Will human cloning ever be safe? Are there many universes? How much will the climate change during the coming century? The Best American Science Writing 2002 gathers top writers and scientists covering the latest developments in the fastest-changing, farthest-reaching scientific fields, such as medicine, genetics, computer technology, evolutionary psychology, cutting-edge physics, and the environment. Among this year's selections: In "The Made-to-Order Savior," Lisa Belkin spotlights two desperate families seeking an unprecedented cure by a medically and ethically unprecedented means -- creating a genetically matched child. Margaret Talbot's "A Desire to Duplicate" reveals that the first human clone may very likely come from an entirely unexpected source, and sooner than we think. Michael Specter reports on the shock waves rippling through the field of neuroscience following the revolutionary discovery that adult brain cells might in fact regenerate ("Rethinking the Brain"). Christopher Dickey's "I Love My Glow Bunny" recounts with sly humor a peculiar episode in which genetic engineering and artistic culture collide. Natalie Angier draws an insightful contrast between suicide terrorists and rescue workers who risk their lives, and finds that sympathy and altruism have a definite place in the evolution of human nature, David Berlinski's "What Brings a World into Being?" ponders the idea of biology and physics as essentially digital technologies, exploring the mysteries encoded in the universe's smallest units, be they cells or quanta. Nicholas Wade shows how one of the most controversial books of the year, The Skeptical Environmentalist, by former Greenpeace member and self-described leftist Bjorn Lomborg, debunks some of the most cherished tenets of the environmental movement, suggesting that things are perhaps not as bad as we've been led to believe. And as a counterpoint, Darcy Frey's profile of George Divoky reveals a dedicated researcher whose love of birds and mystery leads to some sobering discoveries about global warming and forcefully reminds us of the unsung heroes of science: those who put in long hours, fill in small details, and take great trouble. In the end, the unanswered questions are what sustain scientific inquiry, open new frontiers of knowledge, and lead to new technologies and medical treatments. The Best American Science Writing 2002 is a series of exciting reports from science's front lines, where what we don't know is every bit as important as what we know.
The New York Times bestselling author of The Rational Optimist and Genome returns with a fascinating argument for evolution that definitively dispels a dangerous, widespread myth: that we can command and control our world.Human society evolves. Change in technology, language, morality, and society is incremental, inexorable, gradual, and spontaneous. It follows a narrative, going from one stage to the next; it creeps rather than jumps; it has its own spontaneous momentum rather than being driven from outside; it has no goal or end in mind; and it largely happens by trial and error--a version of natural selection. Much of the human world is the result of human action but not of human design: it emerges from the interactions of millions, not from the plans of a few.Drawing on fascinating evidence from science, economics, history, politics, and philosophy, Matt Ridley demolishes conventional assumptions that the great events and trends of our day are dictated by those on high, whether in government, business, academia, or organized religion. On the contrary, our most important achievements develop from the bottom up. Just as skeins of geese form Vs in the sky without meaning to and ter-mites build mud cathedrals without architects, so brains take shape without brain-makers, learning happens without teaching, and morality changes for no reason other than the prevailing fashion. Although we neglect, defy, and ignore them, bottom-up trends shape the world. The Industrial Revolution, cell phones, the rise of Asia, and the Internet were never planned; they happened. Languages emerged and evolved by a form of natural selection, as did common law. Torture, racism, slavery, and pedophilia--all once widely regarded as acceptable--are now seen as immoral despite the decline of religion in recent decades. In this wide-ranging and erudite book, Ridley brilliantly makes the case for evolution, rather than design, as the force that has shaped much of our culture, our technology, our minds, and that even now is shaping our future.As compelling as it is controversial, as authoritative as it is ambitious, Ridley's deeply thought-provoking book will change the way we think about the world and how it works.
Francis Crick--the quiet genius who led a revolution in biology by discovering, quite literally, the secret of life--will be bracketed with Galileo, Darwin, and Einstein as one of the greatest scientists of all time. In his fascinating biography of the scientific pioneer who uncovered the genetic code--the digital cipher at the heart of heredity that distinguishes living from non-living things--acclaimed bestselling science writer Matt Ridley traces Crick's life from middle-class mediocrity in the English Midlands through a lackluster education and six years designing magnetic mines for the Royal Navy to his leap into biology at the age of thirty-one and its astonishing consequences. In the process, Ridley sheds a brilliant light on the man who forever changed our world and how we understand it.
Francis Crick--the quiet genius who led a revolution in biology by discovering, quite literally, the secret of life--will be bracketed with Galileo, Darwin, and Einstein as one of the greatest scientists of all time. In his fascinating biography of the scientific pioneer who uncovered the genetic code-the digital cipher at the heart of heredity that distinguishes living from non-living things-acclaimed bestselling science writer Matt Ridley traces Crick's life from middle-class mediocrity in the English Midlands through a lackluster education and six years designing magnetic mines for the Royal Navy to his leap into biology at the age of thirty-one and its astonishing consequences. In the process, Ridley sheds a brilliant light on the man who forever changed our world and how we understand it.
The genome's been mapped.<P> But what does it mean?<P> Arguably the most significant scientific discovery of the new century, the mapping of the twenty-three pairs of chromosomes that make up the human genome raises almost as many questions as it answers. Questions that will profoundly impact the way we think about disease, about longevity, and about free will. Questions that will affect the rest of your life.<P> Genome offers extraordinary insight into the ramifications of this incredible breakthrough. By picking one newly discovered gene from each pair of chromosomes and telling its story, Matt Ridley recounts the history of our species and its ancestors from the dawn of life to the brink of future medicine. From Huntington's disease to cancer, from the applications of gene therapy to the horrors of eugenics, Matt Ridley probes the scientific, philosophical, and moral issues arising as a result of the mapping of the genome. It will help you understand what this scientific milestone means for you, for your children, and for humankind.<P> Chosen for Mark Zuckerberg's "A Year of Books"
Life is getting better--and at an accelerating rate. Food availability, income, and life span are up; disease, child mortality, and violence are down -- all across the globe. Though the world is far from perfect, necessities and luxuries alike are getting cheaper; population growth is slowing; Africa is following Asia out of poverty; the Internet, the mobile phone, and container shipping are enriching people's lives as never before. The pessimists who dominate public discourse insist that we will soon reach a turning point and things will start to get worse. But they have been saying this for two hundred years.<P><P> Yet Matt Ridley does more than describe how things are getting better. He explains why. Prosperity comes from everybody working for everybody else. The habit of exchange and specialization--which started more than 100,000 years ago--has created a collective brain that sets human living standards on a rising trend. The mutual dependence, trust, and sharing that result are causes for hope, not despair.<P> This bold book covers the entire sweep of human history, from the Stone Age to the Internet, from the stagnation of the Ming empire to the invention of the steam engine, from the population explosion to the likely consequences of climate change. It ends with a confident assertion that thanks to the ceaseless capacity of the human race for innovative change, and despite inevitable disasters along the way, the twenty-first century will see both human prosperity and natural biodiversity enhanced. Acute, refreshing, and revelatory, The Rational Optimist will change your way of thinking about the world for the better.<P> Chosen for Mark Zuckerberg's "A Year of Books"
Referring to Lewis Carroll's Red Queen from Through the Looking-Glass, a character who has to keep running to stay in the same place, Matt Ridley demonstrates why sex is humanity's best strategy for outwitting its constantly mutating internal predators. The Red Queen answers dozens of other riddles of human nature and culture -- including why men propose marriage, the method behind our maddening notions of beauty, and the disquieting fact that a woman is more likely to conceive a child by an adulterous lover than by her husband. Brilliantly written, The Red Queen offers an extraordinary new way of interpreting the human condition and how it has evolved.
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