The Genetic Inferno: Inside the Seven Deadly Sins / Edition 1

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What makes us react or feel the way we do? If you have ever asked yourself this question, then let gifted writer John Medina take you on a fascinating tour of the questions involved in the quest to understand the biological basis of human behavior. By describing the gap that exists between a human behavior and a human gene, this captivating book both clarifies and debunks ideas about the genetic roots of behavior, form the genes of divorce to the tendency to eat chocolate. Using Dante's The Diving Comedy as an organizing framework, The Genetic Inferno explains each of the "seven deadly sins"—lust, gluttony, avarice, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride—in terms of twentieth century genes and brains. Written by a practicing research scientist, this book is not only for biologists, but for literature majors, business people, and parents—indeed anyone interested in how our genes work to make us behave the way we do.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Exploring a realm similar in complexity to Dante's Purgatorio, Medina (The Clock of Ages) skillfully uses the seven deadly sins to guide the lay reader through an ambitious discussion of the relation between genes and behavior. Although it is impossible to offer any definitive answers concerning the extent to which a personality is genetically predetermined, this illuminating survey examines the nature of consciousness as well as the biological basis of emotions. For instance, Medina explains how neurons can be primed by experience to release "fear response" signals, so that a childhood of poverty can dispose a person toward greediness, even in the absence of a financial threat. Similarly, an extended period of starvation may disrupt the body's regulatory system and cause gluttony, in which one overindulges despite an abundance of food. As Medina admits, however, we are far from identifying all the components involved in the process of learning these behaviors. Despite the long strides researchers have made studying circadian rhythms ("sloth") and the genetic basis of aggression ("wrath") in animals, extrapolating these findings to humans is controversial, and the reader may feel more overwhelmed by what we don't yet know than satisfied by the kernels of knowledge that we do possess. More a speculative introduction than a definitive investigation into the genetics of emotion, this survey is best suited for biopsychology buffs and, in the author's words, "literature majors, political science types, business people" with a scientific bent rather than research professionals. (Nov.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
"...this illuminating survey examines the nature of consciousness as well as the biological basis of emotions...More a speculative introduction than a definitive investigation into the genetics of emotion, this survey is best suited for biopsychology buffs and, in the author's words, 'literature majors, political science types, business people' with a scientific bent rather than research professionals." Publishers Weekly

"With lively imagination and ferocious wit, bioengineer Medina examines from a genetic and neurological perspective Dante's seven deadly sins. Teaser: The human brain is Hell." Discover

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521640640
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2000
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr John Medina is a molecular biologist on the faculty of the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Washington School of Medicine. He is also a consultant and regular columnist for an American psychiatric organization on the genetics and neurobiology of human behavior. In the course of his research career, which has included the isolation and characterization of genes involved in cardiovascular development, Dr Medina became concerned with the public communication of biological sciences to both lay and professional medical audiences. He was recently recognized as the Merrill Dow/Continuing Medical Education Teacher of the Year.

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Table of Contents

Introduction; 1. The power of physics envy; 2. Lust; 3. Gluttony; 4. Avarice; 5. Sloth; 6. Wrath; 7. Envy; 8. Pride; Conclusion; References; Index.

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