A prolific author (Making Sense of Sex, etc.) and professor of psychology and zoology at the University of Washington, David Barash teams up with his daughter, an M.D./Ph.D. student, to produce a superb primer on human biology that provides accessible descriptions of basic science alongside thoughtful discussions of the ethical dilemmas posed by recent advances in technology. Their opening chapter, for example, describes the rudiments of DNA while introducing controversial topics like cloning, DNA fingerprinting and the human genome project. Viruses and prions are covered in the second chapter, along with descriptions of many of the diseases attributed to both, including AIDS, Ebola and mad cow disease. The book's middle section focuses on neurobiology, sex and reproduction, and energy use with fascinating asides on medical imaging technology, assisted reproductive technology and dieting fads. The final third of the book places humans in ecological context. The Barashes do not shy away from controversial yet important topics, ably taking on those who refuse to accept the premises of evolution and sociobiology. Their writing is straightforward and concise, though the book could have used some illustrations, especially in discussions of complicated cellular structures. With so many topics, none are presented with great depth, but the authors do succeed in their goal: to offer enough information to enable every reader to understand current biological debates. (Nov.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Barash (psychology and zoology, the Univ. of Washington) and his daughter (an M.D./Ph.D. student) have written an intelligent overview of the human animal. They explain human biology from DNA to sex--pausing, along the way, to look at viruses, cells, the brain and memory, food as fuel, how we interact with the environment and each other, and the ethics of modern reproductive technologies. They use excellent analogies and clear language to explain complex systems and processes: they compare viruses, for example, to pirates or vampires, and the immune system to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The final chapters, in which they look at ecology, evolution, and sociobiology from a molecular perspective, are also excellent. Volumes like Judith Eve Lipton and David Barash's Making Sense of Sex: How Genes and Gender Influence Our Relationships (Island Pr., 1997) provide in-depth coverage of many of the subjects discussed here--but the Barashes do a fine job unifying their subject matter in this highly readable book. Recommended for all public libraries.--Margaret Henderson, Cold Spring Harbor Academics, NY Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
This is a paperbound reprint of a 2000 book about which Book News wrote: Father David (zoology, U. of Washington-Seattle) and daughter Ilona (medicine, U. of California-San Diego) offer educated but not scientifically sophisticated readers an overview of human biology on three levels: DNA, viruses, and other tiny things; the mid-range of brain, behavior, and biochemistry; and the larger realms of ecology, evolution, and sociobiology. They make a lot of analogies to literature. Unfortunately they include no illustrations. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
A clear, thorough, and challenging bioliteracy primer from David Barash (Making Sense of Sex, 1997, etc.) and his daughter Ilona. Of course, one person's biology primer is another's quagmire, calling up every manner of high school science anxiety. And while the Barashes are on a mission to educate the masses in the workings of the body as lucidly as possible, they can't avoid descriptions of "harnessing the power of an electrochemical gradient of hydrogen ions across the mitochondrion's inner membrane." To their credit, by the time readers get to that sentence, they will easily grasp its import—if they have been paying attention. For as the authors make their way from the nuts and bolts of cell structure to the DNA strands that become chips off the old block, through reproduction and brain chemistry and the greater ecological web of life, our understanding of biology is explicated by stages and presented as gratifying instances of detective work. Nor are they afraid to say contemporary science hasn't all the answers, or even all that many. What led to multicellular bodies? To consciousness? To concealed ovulation? Dunno. The material is presented not selectively but processionally, and it can be a beautiful thing to watch as the writers follow the daily routine of a fat cell or the act of a neural transmitter jumping a synaptic cleft, or debunk prejudices crippling valuable aspects of sociobiology. It can also be daunting. It isn't easy to grab and juggle all the ATPs, HIVs, DNAs, ADHs, and CCKs that get tossed the reader's way, despite the claim that "you don't have to be a rocket scientist or even a biological scientist to enjoy a basic familiarity with today's biology." Forthose who can match them step for step, the Barashes are good Sherpas, elegantly and expertly guiding readers up the gnarly, precipitous slopes of human biological science.