Living With Our Genes: Why They Matter More than You Think

Living With Our Genes: Why They Matter More than You Think

by Dean Hamer, Peter Copeland, Peter F. Copeland
     
 

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No two people behave exactly the same. There are overeaters and undereaters, alcoholics and teetotalers, over—and underachievers. We have adventurers and armchair travelers, Don Juans and wallflowers, the timid and the bold-and every possible mixture and variation. Living With Our Genes argues that genes are the single most important factor in the…  See more details below

Overview

No two people behave exactly the same. There are overeaters and undereaters, alcoholics and teetotalers, over—and underachievers. We have adventurers and armchair travelers, Don Juans and wallflowers, the timid and the bold-and every possible mixture and variation. Living With Our Genes argues that genes are the single most important factor in the wondrous variability of human behavior. In the past, studies of twins supported the assumption that inheritance plays a major role in why we feel or behave the way we do. Now, scientists are developing an impressive arsenal of research to identify the individual genes that guide human behavior.

Living With Our Genes will help readers understand their particular genetic make-up and decipher the mysteries of genetically inherited behavioral traits. Chapters are organized by various traits or characteristics so that readers can quickly turn to the issues most pressing in their lives, whether it's body weight or moodiness. Timid folks will investigate the molecular role in shyness. The flirtatious will turn to the chapter on sex. Am I angry because my dad is angry? What is it about my personality that prevents me from getting along with my coworkers? Hamer decodes the genetics of each trait, based on the very latest scientific findings, and then shows how the genes express themselves in real people.

In the tradition of Listening to Prozac, this is an anecdote-filled book that attempts to explain how we arrive at the idea of self in an ever-changing scientific landscape.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In a light, breezy style, Hamer, a biologist at the National Cancer Institute, and Copeland attempt to explain the extent to which our genes control our lives. In their second collaboration (following The Science of Desire), the authors devote chapters to the most compelling of human behaviors and conditions: sex, worry, anger, thrill-seeking, addiction, intelligence, eating and aging. They explore the biochemistry underlying the characteristics in question, and ask how much of that biochemistry is under genetic control. Along the way, a great number of fascinating pieces of information are relatede.g., that some researchers have proposed "that the brain has a set point for happiness just as the body has a set point for weight," and that "men with the high-anxiety form of the serotonin transporter gene had sex more often than those with the low-anxiety form." While the authors go to great lengths to remind readers that "predisposition is not predestination"that genes may well play a role regarding complex behaviors but not necessarily a determinative onein some instances, they seem to make claims not fully warranted by available data (e.g., "men are programmed to seek more partners and sexual novelty.... women want emotional attachment and financial security"), and they provide scant citations to the original literature. Nevertheless, from "Looking for Gay Genes" to "Making Brighter Babies," this thought-provoking book's explanations of how our genes "express" themselves is sure to capture the imaginations of readers. Author tour. (Mar.)
Library Journal
In recent years, the "nature vs. nurture" debate has focused on the influence of the former. So, if you're dealt a genetic hand that predisposes you to certain behaviors and influences, what can you do about it? Hamer and Copeland provide some answers and explanations. (LJ 4/15/98)
Kirkus Reviews
A fast-paced account for the general reader of the growing body of research into the genes that drive human behavior. Hamer, a molecular geneticist at the National Cancer Institute who previously collaborated with Copeland on The Science of Desire (1994), skillfully synthesizes not only his own discoveries but most of the important findings in the young field of behavior genetics. He shows how genes contribute at the molecular level to such far-flung personality traits and disorders as thrill-seeking, anxiety, sex drive, addiction, and anorexia—and explains how scientists know. The most exciting parts of the book detail the twin studies, personality surveys, and mutant mice experiments through which researchers painstakingly gathered their evidence; even a computerized statistical analysis in quest of a hypothetical gene for neuroticism is suspenseful. As the discoverer of "the so-called gay gene"—a term he debates—Hamer has first-hand acquaintance with the controversy that often greets claims about the heritability of homosexuality, criminal behavior, and intelligence. He shows good humor and reason in walking through these minefields, debunking some theories (such as those in The Bell Curve) while upholding the right to inquire. The book's awkward introduction misleadingly suggests a pop-psych book, replete with a vignette about a high-school reunion. Although such musings and advice are tendered throughout the book (e.g., how to stay in a relationship with a genetically driven novelty- seeker), they are usually acceptable as the conversational overflow of a scientist whose research has many implications for everyday life. His recurrent theme that "predisposition is notpredestination," nicely emphasized in a closing parable about cloning, is welcome. Compulsive reading, reminiscent of Jared Diamond, from a scientist who knows his stuff and communicates it well. (Author tour)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780385485838
Publisher:
The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/17/1998
Pages:
353
Product dimensions:
6.69(w) x 9.59(h) x 1.20(d)

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