BN.com Gift Guide

Agile Gene: How Nature Turns on Nature

( 5 )

Overview

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...

See more details below
Paperback (First Perennial Edition)
$10.21
BN.com price
(Save 27%)$13.99 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (58) from $1.99   
  • New (14) from $4.16   
  • Used (44) from $1.99   
The Agile Gene: How Nature Turns on Nurture

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$9.99
BN.com price

Overview

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.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Booklist (starred review)
“Terrific popular science.”
Hartford Courant
“Ridley is simply one of the best science writers in the business.”
Salon.com
“Thoughtful and entertaining.”
New York Times Book Review
“Fascinating and important information from the world of science.”
Washington Post Book World
“NATURE VIA NURTURE proposes a new way of looking at an ongoing debate.”
Booklist
"Terrific popular science."
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060006792
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/6/2004
  • Edition description: First Perennial Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 458,002
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

Matt Ridley is the author of several award-winning books, including Genome, The Agile Gene, and The Red Queen, which have sold more than 800,000 copies in twenty-seven languages worldwide. He lives in England.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Prologue: Twelve Hairy Men 1
1. The Paragon of Animals 7
2. A Plethora of Instincts 38
3. A Convenient Jingle 69
4. The Madness of Causes 98
5. Genes in the Fourth Dimension 125
6. Formative Years 151
7. Learning Lessons 177
8. Conundrums of Culture 201
9. The Seven Meanings of "Gene" 231
10. A Budget of Paradoxical Morals 249
Epilogue: Homo stramineus: The Straw Man 277
Acknowledgments 281
Endnotes 283
Index 307
Read More Show Less

First Chapter

The Agile Gene
How Nature Turns on Nurture

Chapter One

The Paragon of Animals

Is man no more than this? Consider him well: Thou owest the worm no silk, the beast no hide, the sheep no wool, the cat no perfume: -- Ha! here's three of us are sophisticated! -- Thou art the thing itself: unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor, bare, forked animal as thou art. King Lear

Similarity is the shadow of difference. Two things are similar by virtue of their difference from another; or different by virtue of one's similarity to a third. So it is with individuals. A short man is different from a tall man, but two men seem similar if contrasted with a woman. So it is with species. A man and a woman may be verydifferent, but by comparison with a chimpanzee, it is their similarities that strike the eye -- the hairless skin, the upright stance, the prominent nose. A chimpanzee, in turn, is similar to a human being when contrasted with a dog: the face, the hands, the 32 teeth, and so on. And a dog is like a person to the extent that both are unlike a fish. Difference is the shadow of similarity.

Consider, then, the feelings of a naive young man, as he stepped ashore in Tierra del Fuego on 18 December 1832 for his first encounter with what we would now call hunter-gatherers, or what he would call "man in a state of nature." Better still, let him tell us the story:

It was without exception the most curious & interesting spectacle I ever beheld. I would not have believed how entire the difference between savage & civilized man is. It is much greater than between a wild & domesticated animal, in as much as in man there is greater power of improvement ... [I] believe if the world was searched, no lower grade of man could be found.

The effect on Charles Darwin was all the more shocking because these were not the first Fuegian natives he had seen. He had shared a ship with three who had been transported to Britain, dressed in frocks and coats, and taken to meet the king. To Darwin they were just as human as any other person. Yet here were their relatives, suddenly seeming so much less human. They reminded him of ... well, of animals. A month later, on finding the campsite of a single Fuegian limpet hunter in an even more remote spot, he wrote in his diary: "We found the place where he had slept -- it positively afforded no more protection than the form of a hare. How very little are the habits of such a being superior to those of an animal." Suddenly, Darwin is writing not just about difference (between civilized and savage man) but about similarity -- the affinity between such a man and an animal. The Fuegian is so different from the Cambridge graduate that he begins to seem similar to an animal.

Six years after his encounter with the Fuegian natives, in the spring of 1838, Darwin visited London zoo and there for the first time saw a great ape. It was an orangutan named Jenny, and she was the second ape to be brought to the zoo. Her predecessor, Tommy, a chimpanzee, had been exhibited at the zoo for a few months in 1835 before he died of tuberculosis. Jenny was acquired by the zoo in 1837, and like Tommy she caused a small sensation in London society. She seemed such a human animal, or was it such a beastly person? Apes suggested uncomfortable questions about the distinction between people and animals, between reason and instinct. Jenny featured on the cover of the Penny Magazine of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge; an editorial reassured readers that "extraordinary as the Orang may be compared with its fellows of the brute creation, still in nothing does it trench upon the moral or mental provinces of man." Queen Victoria, who saw a different orangutan at the zoo in 1842, begged to differ. She described it as "frightful and painfully and disagreeably human."

After his first encounter with Jenny in 1838, Darwin returned to the zoo twice more a few months later. He came armed with a mouth organ, some peppermint, and a sprig of verbena. Jenny seemed to appreciate all three. She seemed "astonished beyond measure" at her reflection in a mirror. He wrote in his notebook: "Let man visit Ouranoutang in domestication ... see its intelligence ... and then let him boast of his proud preeminence ... Man in his arrogance thinks himself a great work, worthy the interposition of a deity. More humble and I believe true to consider him created from animals." Darwin was applying to animals what he had been taught to apply to geology: the uniformitarian principle that the forces shaping the landscape today are the same as those that shaped the distant past. Later that September, while reading Malthus's essay on population, he had his sudden insight into what we now know as natural selection.

Jenny had played her part. When she took the mouth organ from him and placed it to her lips, she had helped him realize how high above the brute some animals could rise, just as the Fuegians had made him realize how low beneath civilization some humans could sink. Was there a gap at all?

He was not the first person to think this way. Indeed, a Scottish judge, Lord Monboddo, had speculated in the 1790s that orangutans could speak -- if educated. Jean-Jacques Rousseau was only one of several Enlightenment philosophers who wondered if apes were not continuous with "savages." But it was Darwin who changed the way human beings think of their own nature. Within his lifetime, he saw educated opinion come to accept that human bodies were those of just another ape modified by descent from a common ancestor.

But Darwin had less success in persuading his fellow human beings that the same argument could apply to the mind ...

The Agile Gene
How Nature Turns on Nurture
. Copyright © by Matt Ridley. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 5 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(4)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 22, 2011

    Love it

    Matt Ridley is my favorite author so far. He makes it sooo easy to understand concepts that seems so hard. Really, check it out!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The Agile Gene -- Informative For All Readers

    No matter what your reading level is, The Agile Gene will make sense and will be understood in all areas of its discussion. My intellect is tested by many books I've studied recently but in most of this book's portions, I was not challenged in by ability to understand the content or the point of Matt Ridley's conversation. It explains easily the purpose of its content and helps any reader with any purpose, whether recreation or research, to better understand our own agile genes and all that surround us.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2008

    Evolution by practice

    The debate between evolution and creationism has continued unabated for over a century. The author reveals at the beginning of the book that humans and chimpanzees share 98.5% of their DNA. When I mentioned this startling fact to my wife, she replied: ¿Maybe God was practicing.¿ When you also consider the original title of the book, Nature via Nurture, many may come to realize that human development is not straightforward but consisting of many interacting elements of unforeseen origin. The author covers a lot of ground, beginning with such basics as the definition of a gene, their interactions, and their expressions. He then proceeds to explain how human development is both a product and a summation of gene expressions and the environment. In that endeavor, he explores such areas as differences in personality, intelligence, and aging. He later advances into applied medicine, or behavior and personality disorders. If you are interested in finding out which has the greater influence, nature or nurture in human development , then this book will reveal the mechanisms involved in the processes.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2004

    Reprint of Nature Via Nurture

    This is my husband's favorite Ridley book. He liked it even better than Genome and Red Queen. It is the same book as Nature Via Nurture, just with a new title for the paperback edition, so please don't buy both or you will be buying the same book twice!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)